2:00PM Water Cooler 9/28/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Kashmir Nuthatch, Yusmarg Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir, India. “Calls from the male of a pair of birds, responding to playback of Collared Owlet, along with a large group of tits and other birds. While calling the bird was moving mid to high in a tall dead pine tree, in mixed conifer forest.”

“How an audience changes a songbird’s brain” [NewsWise].

In the new research, Dr. Gadagkar and colleagues at Cornell University [Yay!] measured variations in dopamine in situations where a bird is choosing between several objectives at once, say practicing its song but also finding water or winning a mate. The scientists found that whenever courtship became part of the mix, replete with the external reward of a female calling in response to the male’s song, the dopamine-based error signals linked to seeking water or song rehearsal were suppressed. Simultaneously, the reward signal for performing a song well enough to elicit return calls from a female intensified.

“We think this is the first demonstration of a socially driven shift of dopaminergic error signals,” said Dr. Gadagkar. “The big idea here is that your self-evaluation system, which you’re using to learn when you’re practicing, might be dialed down or switched off when you’re performing and your dopamine system instead becomes primed to receiving social feedback.”

“A big question for us now is whether these systems may be widely at play when it comes to learning many kinds of behaviors, including speaking, singing, playing an instrument and all kinds of behaviors where learning depends on internal self evaluations,” said Dr. Gadagkar. “Now I want to know if this same circuitry might be much more general-purpose than anyone previously had thought.”

* * *


“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

The Constitutional Order

“The Supreme Court Needs to Make a Call on Trump’s Eligibility” [The Atlantic]. “Trump, right now, is already being challenged as constitutionally disqualified, and these issues are going to have to be resolved, sooner or later. My point is that sooner is much better than later. A number of legal doctrines could lead courts to kick this issue down the road for some time. Maybe the provision applies not to primaries, but only to candidates in a general election. Maybe voters don’t have standing to sue, because they can’t show a particularized injury. Maybe this is a political question to be decided by the political branches, such as Congress, rather than by the judiciary. But courts should not dally, because judicial delay could result in disaster. Imagine this scenario: Election officials and courts take different positions on whether Trump’s name can appear on the ballot in 2024. The Supreme Court refuses to get involved, citing one of these doctrines for avoiding assessing the case’s merits. Trump appears to win in the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. Democrats control Congress, and when January 6, 2025, arrives and it is time to certify the vote, Democrats say that Trump is ineligible to hold office, and he cannot serve…. The pressure to disqualify Trump is only going to grow until there’s a final resolution of the question.”

“Secretaries of state get ready for possible challenges to Trump’s ballot access” [NBC News]. “‘We need to run an election,’ [Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat elected last year, told NBC News] said. “We need to know who is eligible, and this is of incredible national interest. We aren’t taking a position one way or the other.’… [New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan] made the same point Monday — that he is ‘not seeking to remove any names from the presidential primary ballot’ but is trying to figure out what to do about potential challenges that are brewing.”

“The important role played by secretaries of state in administering fair elections is changing – and not in a good way” [The Conversation]. From 2022, still germane. “I’m a scholar of public-sector governance and a former local government official. I believe there are some disturbing signs emerging related to our highly partisan election administration system that could erode the public’s confidence in the neutrality of elections…. Overall mistrust in the neutrality of the election process is high, and voters are losing trust in U.S. elections. Claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent have been repeatedly disproved through exhaustive audits, recounts, reports and reviews. Yet despite this fact, consistently about 70% of Republican voters suspect election fraud. This has led some states to alter the role of the chief election official. Some states have passed legislation that has shifted aspects of election administration to partisan bodies such as state legislatures or partisan-dominated election boards. When responsibility for an aspect of an election is changed in this way, it can intensify partisan gamesmanship, which in turn further erodes public trust. Further affecting their reputation for neutrality, from 2000 to 2020 almost 30% of state chief election officers publicly endorsed a candidate running in a race under their supervision.” • That 30% figure is disturbing. What are they thinking? A good explainer, worth a read. On our highly decentralized system, a handy chart:

* * *

“The Sweep and Force of Section Three” [William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, University of Pennsylvania Law Review]. I highly recommend this piece (and the ensuing discussion at NC, starting here). As a former English major and a fan of close reading, I’m not averse to “originalism,” of which Baude and Paulsen provide a magisterial example, in the sense that understanding the law as a text must begin with understanding the plain, public meaning of the words used when the text was written. That’s how I read Shakespeare, or Joyce, so why not the Constitution? Just as long as understanding doesn’t end there! In any case, I’m working through it. One thing I notice is that there do seem to have been rather a lot of rebellions and insurrections, not just the Civil War. To me, this is parallel to one lesson I drew from Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast (episode 1): There are rather a lot of revolutions, too. Alert reader Pensions Guy summarizes Baude and Paulsen as follows:

The authors go through an exhaustive textual and originalism analysis of Section Three, and their Federalist Society leanings do not deter them from reaching their conclusion that officials in every State who are charged with determining candidate qualifications should conclude that Donald Trump is disqualified from being on ballots because of the oath he took on Inauguration Day 2017 and subsequently violated through his role in the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021.

Taking “insurrection” as read (I need to do more reading), this has been more of my continuing coverage of Section Three.


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Trump Golf Courses Face Hazards in NY Judge’s Civil Fraud Ruling” [Sportico]. “Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump is liable for fraud, and his order cancels any certificates filed under New York General Business Law Section 130, which governs the filing of certificates by individuals conducting business under assumed name or as partners. The cancellation includes any certificates related not only to the former president, but also his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and others. Cancellation of certification doesn’t remove assets from Trump’s ownership, but it prevents the asset from conducting business. If Trump filed sports-related certificates under Section 130, they are cancelled. The order also instructs that the parties have 10 days to recommend the names of potential independent receivers to manage the dissolution of limited liability companies. Dissolution of an LLC does not take away a business or other asset from Trump, but it requires him to reorganize or relocate the asset or sell it…. As Sportico previously reported, Trump’s FEC disclosures reported him earning as much as $555 million through his golf course assets between January 2022 and April 14, 2023, roughly half of the $1.2 billion in income he specified as having received during that time period. Trump now has the right to appeal Engoron’s ruling and seek a stay, which would postpone the order taking effect until after an appeal. He can also ask for clarification from the judge regarding how he and his businesses must comply with it.” • As of this morning, Trump had sought “clarification,” not a stay, although his lawyers have said they will appeal. (I’m also really enjoying it that a sports journal has the best coverage I’ve seen, and the focus is Trump’s golf courses.)

“Did Judge Kill The Trump Organization? What Fraud Ruling Means For Ex-President’s Business” [Forbes]. “A lot about how the dissolution process will play out remains unclear, with Insider noting a company dissolution on this scale has only ever really been attempted before when New York Attorney General Letitia James—who brought the Trump Organization suit—unsuccessfully tried to shut down the National Rifle Association. There are still a lot of unknowns as part of the order, such as how it will impact Trump properties outside of New York and those that weren’t directly named as defendants in the lawsuit, such as Trump Tower. Ultimately, the issue is likely to take years to play out in court, and Trump and his family have already vowed to appeal Engoron’s ruling.” • Frankly, I’m still reeling that Engoron granted the prosecution summary judgment ion fraud; that really does sound like Third World stuff, to me. If inflated valuations in the New York real estate business be fraud, who shall ‘scape whipping?

“Explainer: What does New York fraud ruling mean for Donald Trump’s business empire?” [Reuters]. “The immediate impact of the ruling is unclear as Trump’s holdings comprise a network of roughly 500 entities spanning real estate, licensing and other business ventures. The ruling covers 10 Trump entities but includes pillars of Trump’s empire, including his commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, golf resort in Scotland and Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Independent receivers could continue to operate the properties as businesses or liquidate them, though Trump would likely be entitled the proceeds of any sale, legal experts say. Engoron declined to answer whether the assets would be sold or simply managed by an independent receiver when asked by one of Trump’s lawyers during a hearing on Wednesday, saying he would rule on that question later.” • It will be interesting to see who the recievers are (Schumer’s brother-in-law, Hochul’s mom, Cuomo’s cousin… Just spitballing here!).

“Judge denies Trump’s request to recuse herself in federal election subversion case” [Associated Press]. “In seeking Chutkan’s recusal, defense lawyers cited statements she had made in two sentencing hearings of participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol in which they said she had appeared to suggest that Trump deserved to be prosecuted and held accountable. They said the comments suggested a bias against him that could taint the proceedings. But Chutkan vigorously objected to the those characterizations of her comments. ‘It bears noting that the court has never taken the position the defense ascribes to it: that former ‘President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” Chutkan wrote. ‘And the defense does not cite any instance of the court ever uttering those words or anything similar.'”

* * *

“Donald Trump was a no-show for the second Republican debate. He still came out on top.” [Susan Page, USA Today]. “Donald Trump won. At the second Republican primary debate Wednesday, one that stretched for two hours, neither a question nor an answer mentioned the 91 criminal counts that the former president now faces in four jurisdictions. Juggling a broad range of issues, the seven candidates on stage spent more time and energy attacking Vivek Ramaswamy, a political newcomer now scoring in single digits in national polls, than they did on Trump. Who, by the way, has a yawning lead over all of them. There were more attacks on Trump this time than in the first debate in August, but the jibes were more often simply for failing to show up on stage than for anything he has done, as president or since then…. When the evening ended, there were no signs that the fundamental dynamic of the race had shifted. None of the contenders had effectively challenged Trump’s standing as Number 1. None even emerged as the clear Number 2, the leading alternative to Trump, a standing DeSantis has lost. And a muddled field of multiple contenders eases Trump’s path to claiming the nomination, as it did in 2016.”

“Trump Wants to Freeze the Election at Halftime” [Jack Shafer, Politico]. “Trump has largely discarded the hard, steady work of campaigning against his Republican opponents on the stump and limited his appearance to ‘spot’ events, TV interviews, or tele-rallies. Instead of fighting for votes, Trump people have worked the nomination process to make sure that rules that reward delegates tip his way. Where he can’t raise money, he tries to persuade potential donors not to give to his foes…. In short, he’s acting like he’s clinched both the nomination and the general election — about a year early…. Trump might want to pretend the rest of the campaign is a meaningless charade, but a lot of history is about to go down between today and November 2024.” • Or — given that one of Trump’s great strengths is sensing weakness in others — Trump thinks history is on his side. A debacle in Ukraine, and prices six months from now like they are today, and he could be right.

* * *

“Trump Tells Autoworkers ‘I Don’t Care What You Get’ in Bizarre Nonunion Rally” [New York Magazine]. “Throughout the rally, Trump tried to frame himself as the pro-union candidate for killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership that had the potential to take auto-manufacturing jobs abroad…. At one point during a long diatribe against electric vehicles, he said, ‘I don’t care what you get in the next two weeks, or three weeks, or five weeks,’ referring to the length of the strike. (According to Trump, it wouldn’t matter due to the Biden administration’s support of electric vehicles and the potential for the growing industry to undercut union jobs.) ‘I don’t think you’re picketing for the right thing,’ he added…. As for the Autoworkers for Trump signs in the audience, reporters at the rally found that Trump campaign staffers were passing them out to non-union workers.” • Notably, the reporting doesn’t give any crowd reaction. No quotes from the workers at all. (It sounds to me like Trump is trying to melt anti-EV conservative sentiment with the idea that EVs, no matter what, are going to give autoworkers the shaft simply because there’s not as much labor in them.)

* * *

“Biden takes his sarcastic side public to defuse age concerns and sharpen attacks on GOP” [CNN]. “As his reelection campaign lays the groundwork for a potential rematch with Donald Trump, Biden’s joke-telling is a way to keep him from coming off like a stodgy soon-to-be-81-year-old with a ‘stiffened gait,’ as some White House aides put it. It’s also a way of defusing some of the attacks about his age, which advisers felt he was feeding into by being so transparently sensitive about the topic…. But after years of running up against Biden’s desire to preserve a reverential feeling around the presidency, several in his inner circle spent the spring encouraging him to use his sense of humor more – and they’re pleased enough with the results that more than one privately claims credit for the idea. A sampling of those results: On being asked what he thought of Trump’s mug shot, last month: ‘Handsome guy.’ On the many doubts about his age, last week at a fundraiser: ‘I’ve never been more optimistic about our country’s future in the 800 years I’ve served.’ Then at another fundraiser: ‘I know I look like I’m 30, but I’ve been around doing this a long time.'” • Maybe Biden should start biting people, like his dog. That would squelch the rumors!

“Timeline: What Did the Feds Not Do About Alleged Biden Family Corruption and When Did They Not Do It?” [RealClearInvestigations]. • Timelines are now all the rage. Genuinely better than yarn diagrams!

* * *

“What the world should expect from a second Trump term” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “But there’s one possible leading indicator for 2024 that is currently looking very good for the Donkey Party: strong performances in this year’s special elections…. Historically, this level of performance in off-year special elections has had some significant predictive value, notes FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich. He calculates that Democrats have exceeded their past share of the vote in this year’s special elections by an average of 11 percentage points and suggests this may carry over to next year… If Democrats do continue to exceed electoral expectations in 2023, it may serve as a reminder that many Republicans love extremism more than victory. And that’s Biden’s abiding ace in the hole for 2024 as well.”

Republican Funhouse

“James Comer brings the MAGA circus to town: What the House GOP witness list says about impeachment” [Salon]. “Do we now tar presidents with the brush of an impeachment inquiry before we have a single fact that they profited from any abuse of office?” • Again, Hunter swans around invoking his loving Dad’s name as a branding exercise and placing calls to him while closing business deal. Loving Dad does nothing about it. That’s the bare minimum fact set, and how can it possibly be right?

“Impeachment memo: Biden family collected $15 million in foreign money, DOJ ‘obstructed’ probe” [Just the News]. “The memo said congressional investigators have tracked bank records showing $24 million in foreign funds flowed to Hunter Biden‘s businesses and those of associates between 2014 and 2018, with $15 million of that ending up in the accounts of Biden family members or their businesses.” • Here is the memo. From the memo, an important point:

Given that impeachment is designed, among other things, to protect the American people from corrupt public officials, it makes sense that the Constitution does not limit impeachable offenses to those an officer committed while serving in his current office. In fact, the Constitution says nothing at all about the timing of impeachable acts. An officer may be impeached for conduct in a former office as well as his current office. Indeed, the House has adopted articles of impeachment based on conduct occurring prior to an officer assuming his current position. As a result, President Biden may be impeached for any impeachable offenses he committed as Vice President in addition to any such offenses he has committed as President.

Obama Legacy


Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

“The biggest donor group in Democratic politics privately moves against No Labels” [Politico]. “A powerful network of liberal donors is joining the push to stop No Labels’ threatened plan to launch a third-party presidential run — warning major political funders to stay away from the group. The donors club, Democracy Alliance, shared its thinking about the bipartisan organization’s operation exclusively with POLITICO. Democrats have grown increasingly concerned that an independent No Labels ticket would function as a spoiler and help former President Donald Trump or another Republican candidate defeat President Joe Biden in 2024. ‘No Labels has no chance of winning the 2024 election. But it has a very real chance of tipping that election to Donald Trump and catapulting our country into MAGA authoritarianism,’ said Pamela Shifman, president of the Democracy Alliance. ‘They want to splinter the coalition of voters who banded together to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.'” • Any coalition that Joe Lieberman and some grey-skinned centrist can “splinter” wasn’t much of a coalition to begin with.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Senate unanimously passes formal dress code after uproar” [Axios]. • Dress codes. The Senate really is high school all over again, isn’t it? Maybe we could make them wear little uniforms. Might bring some discipline to the place.


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

“Covid hunters: the amateur sleuths tracking the virus and its variants” [Guardian]. “[T]he pandemic’s trajectory is becoming more difficult to predict – and decision-makers are increasingly reliant on the warnings of a diverse bunch of independent researchers. This week, Ryan Hisner, a teacher from Indiana, US, was listed alongside various academic co-authors on a paper in Nature, describing how the antiviral drug molnupiravir used to treat patients with Covid-19 may be fuelling the evolution of new variants by creating a specific set of mutations. The first of these mutated variants was identified by another amateur virus hunter – Nick Rose, 27, a software engineer from Wisconsin. While it is not clear whether such mutations help the virus to tolerate the drug, the findings could have implications for how antivirals are deployed, scientists say. In common with other self-taught Covid sleuths, Hisner has no formal education in virology – just a knack for spotting patterns and the motivation to wade through reams of genetic data each day. Now with several years of experience under their belts, experts argue that such individuals have become a crucial component of global virus surveillance.” • Excellent article that shows citizen science really is possible. Note also the key role played by Twitter: “During the early days of the pandemic, such work was the preserve of experienced scientists with the biological knowledge and technical skills to make sense of the tens of thousands of genetic sequences being uploaded each day. But as the pandemic has rolled on, they have been joined by people from all walks of life with the interest and motivation to learn these skills, aided by the interactions they have had with these experts on Twitter, now rebranded as X.” No other platform could have done this (other than the blogosphere, of course); Twitter’s universal address space enabled these interactions. Note also we have not advanced one millimeter from the fragile, volunteer-based system I described back in 2023; although, it has to be said, integrating a “a diverse bunch of independent researchers” with scientists has also avoided the corruption so prevalent in anything funded by, say, Big Pharma. Or CDC. Or NIH.

Covid is Airborne

For some definition of “work”:

Celebrity Watch

“COVID-19 rampant among musicians despite ‘end of the pandemic'” [WSWS]. “A remarkable number of musicians—from Ringo Starr to Harry Styles—have canceled concerts and other appearances in the past year due to acknowledged cases of COVID-19 or, more frequently, due to undisclosed illnesses. While governments have averted their eyes from the COVID pandemic, halting its reporting of cases and other crucial data, observable phenomena such as an epidemic of canceled shows demonstrate that the deadly, highly contagious disease is still very much with us…. the vast majority of artists, along with the population more generally, have not been able to withstand the ruling elites’ unrelenting propaganda campaign aimed at falsely portraying the pandemic as over and COVID-19 as no more harmful than the common cold or flu. This is understandable, as it has been driven from the highest levels of the state and involves the entire political establishment and corporate media.”

Immune System Dysregulation

“135 people at Kentridge High School recommended for testing after active TB case identified” [K5]. ” Over 100 people from Kentridge High School are now recommended to be evaluated for tuberculosis after a school community member was diagnosed with active tuberculosis, according to the Seattle & King County Public Health. The 135 people were contacted based on the time spent exposed to the diagnosed person within an indoor space. The exposure happened between March through September 2023. Tuberculosis is spread through coughs and sneezes but is less likely to spread than the cold or flu. In order to be infected with tuberculosis, a person typically must be exposed to it more than once and for a prolonged amount of time within a confined space.” • Commentary:

TB is bacterial. Nevertheless.

Science Is Popping

“Opteev Develops World’s First Multiplex Biochip That Precisely Identifies COVID, Flu, RSV, and Respiratory Pathogens in Under 1 Minute” (press release) [Opteev Technologies]. “Opteev Technologies, Inc., a pioneering technology company at the forefront of diagnostics, has filed a patent (Patent Application #63/513,007) for a revolutionary multiplex biochip for respiratory infection diagnostics. The groundbreaking polymer-based biochip offers the potential to test multiple pathogens responsible for respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2, RSV, and Influenza, and precisely identify the specific virus or bacteria in under 1 minute. This game-changing technology paves the way for an ultra-rapid, portable, and accurate syndromic diagnostic device to empower healthcare providers with immediate results at their fingertips. The tiny biochip can directly detect whole viruses in real-time in both processed and unprocessed samples such as saliva or nasal swab and has demonstrated an unprecedented accuracy rate of 99.49% with an impressive limit of detection in its analytical performance evaluation. Furthermore, the biosensor achieves fine-tuned specificity by carefully selecting specific virus-binding peptides, enabling accurate identification of target viruses in complex samples.” • Big if true. Miniaturize the chip so it goes in a cellphone, and you’d really have something; don’t just limit the tech to “healthcare providers.”

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

* * *

Lambert here: Wastewater data, ER visits, and positivity are all telling me the current peak is past; we dodged a bullet post-Labor Day/school opening. I wish the darned anecdotes — granted, Twitter’s algo amplifies my tendency toward doomscrolling — would co-operate:

Again granted, loss of taste is a ghost of Covid past, as is loss of smell with the Yankee candles indicator we posted recently. The problem is, we don’t really have national data gathering anymore, and worse, we don’t have national data from multiple sources that confirm (or disconfirm) each other. Even biobot is so partial as to be proxy, albeit a good one. Chants: “Just the flu (mild!)! Just the flu (mild!)! Just the flu (mild!)! Just the flu (mild!)!

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, September 25:

Lambert here: “Data last updated September 18, 2023 from samples collected during the week of September 11, 2023. This Thursday’s update is delayed. Visualizations are next expected to be updated on September 25, 2023. Most recent data are subject to change.” So even wastewater data is turning to garbage? (I checked CDC data, and it was updated on September 18, too? Funding issues? Everybody using the same lab behind the scenes, and there was a debacle of some kind?)=

Lambert here: Dropping everywhere but the Northeast.

Regional data:

Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, September 16:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“). Still BA.2.86 here, not even in the note, but see below at Positivity.

From CDC, September 2:

Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, September 23:

Drop coinciding with wastewater drop.

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


Bellwether New York City, data as of September 28:

Return to the upward climb. I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. September 16:

Lambert here: At least we can see that positivity and hospitalization correlate.

Lambert here: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, September 25:

-4.7%. Another big drop. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, September 23:

Lambert here: I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good*, and we’re starved for data, so…. NOTE * Even if hospital infection control is trying to kill patients by eliminating universal masking with N95s.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, September 4:

Back up again And here are the variants:

No BA.2.86 for three of the long-delayed collection weeks. We know BA.2.86 is in the country, so apparently it escaped CDC’s net.


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, September 20:

Lambert here: The WHO data is worthless, so I replaced it with the Iowa Covid Data Tracker. Their method: “These data have been sourced, via the API from the CDC: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Conditions-Contributing-to-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Stat/hk9y-quqm. This visualization updates on Wednesday evenings. Data are provisional and are adjusted weekly by the CDC.” I can’t seem to get a pop-up that shows a total of the three causes (top right). Readers?

Total: 1,176,595 – 1,176,310 = 285 (285 * 365 = 104,025 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease). 

Excess Deaths

The Economist, September 28:

Lambert here: This is now being updated daily again. Odd. Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

“United States GDP Growth Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.1% in the second quarter of 2023, unchanged from the previous estimate, and compared to an upwardly revised 2.2% growth in the first quarter.”

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits edged higher by 2,000 to 204,000 on the week ending September 23rd, well below market expectations of 215,000 to remain close to the over-seven-month low in the earlier week. In the meantime, continuing claims rose by 12,000 to 1,670,000, under market expectations of 1,675,000 and remaining close to the near-eight-month low recorded previously. The data added to evidence that the labor market remains at historically tight levels, pointing to added resilience to the Federal Reserve’s aggressive tightening cycle and adding leeway for a potential hike in November.”

Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production sank to -13 in September of 2023 from 12 in the prior month, pointing to the seventh negative reading year-to-date. The results were in line with other forward-looking indicators, pointing to a slowdown in the US industrial sector and suggesting that the economy is feeling a greater impact from the Fed’s aggressive tightening cycle. The decline in output was largely due to a faster deterioration in the volume of new orders.”

Tech: “GitHub CEO: ‘Wall Street relies on software that was developed under Eisenhower. Here’s how AI can prevent the next financial crisis'” [Fortune]. • Wait a minute. It’s worked for fifty years and that’s a problem?

* * *

Retail: “Costco CFO: Retail theft ‘not a big issue for us'” [Yahoo Finance]. “On a call following Costco’s fourth quarter earnings results, CFO Richard Galanti told investors that inventory shrink is ‘thankfully, not a big issue for us.’ While some retailers are reporting that theft is hitting profits and causing them to close stores and lock up merchandise, Galanti noted that Costco’s inventory shrinkage hasn’t dramatically increased, even after the company brought back self-checkout in 2019 after ditching it six years prior. ‘In the past several years, our inventory shrink has increased by a couple of basis points, in part, we believe, due to the rollout of self-checkout,’ he said. ‘Over the past year, it has increased by less than 1 basis point.’ One factor that may help to prevent theft — people are paying to go there. Costco’s Gold Star membership costs $60 per year while an Executive Membership goes for $120. And in its annual report, the wholesale retailer said it keeps inventory losses to a minimum by ‘strictly controlling’ entrances and exits….. It’s worth noting that as a percentage of sales, the average shrink rate increased only slightly to 1.6% in 2022 from 1.4% in 2021. It is yet to be seen what the rate will be for the full 2023 fiscal year.” • So much for the moral panic!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 30 Fear (previous close: 25 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 40 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 28 at 1:56:11 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

“YouTube prankster says he didn’t know he scared man who ended up allegedly shooting him” [FOX]. “YouTube prankster Tanner Cook said in court on Tuesday that he had no idea he had scared or angered Alan Colie, 31, who ended up allegedly shooting him during a prank…. Cook operates the ‘Classified Goons’ channel on YouTube, which has over 55,000 subscribers. The YouTube channel films ‘pranks’ in public settings…. During Tuesday’s hearing, jurors saw a video of the shooting that was recorded by Cook’s associates. In the video, Cook could be seen approaching Colie, a DoorDash driver, while he picked up an order. Cook, who is 6-foot-5, could be seen holding a cell phone about 6 inches from Colie’s face. The cellphone broadcasted the phrase ‘Hey dips—-, quit thinking about my twinkle’ through a Google Translate app several times. Colie could be heard saying ‘stop on three separate occasions and tried to back away from Cook, who continued to advance towards him. Colie attempted to knock the phone away from his face before he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Cook in the lower left chest. Cook said during the hearing that he tries to confuse targets of his pranks for the amusement of his online audience and doesn’t try to elicit fear or anger, but said his targets often react that way. When Cook was asked why he didn’t stop the prank despite requests from Colie, he said that he ‘almost did’ stop, but not because he sensed fear or anger, but rather because Colie wasn’t giving the type of expected reaction.” • Social media reinvents Candid Camera, another vicious and reprehensible program. I loathe pranks (unless directed at institutionally powerful figures, as for example by the Yes Men).

* * *

“The Definitive Guide to All Things Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce” [The Ringer]. • No.

“Blind Item #8” [Crazy Days and Nights]. “The A+ list singer and the NFL player are filming a commercial for the big game. That would explain a lot of this.”

Class Warfare

“The Last Gasps of American Labor” [Michael Lind, The Tablet]. “The major obstacle to a revival of private sector unionism is American labor law itself…. [T]he Wagner Act was designed with a flaw. As amended by later law and court interpretations, it requires “enterprise bargaining”—that is, the unionization of each worksite, not each company, unless a company agrees otherwise. This was not a problem in the case of integrated, consolidated steel or automobile factories. But it means that each Amazon warehouse must be unionized one at a time. This presents a huge obstacle to unionization efforts of companies with many worksites. Unionization can also be thwarted by franchise organization, and by the replacement of full-time employees with contractors.

News of the Wired

“Food Delivery Robots Are Feeding Camera Footage to the LAPD, Internal Emails Show” [404]. “A food delivery robot company that delivers for Uber Eats in Los Angeles provided video filmed by one of its robots to the Los Angeles Police Department as part of a criminal investigation, 404 Media has learned. The incident highlights the fact that delivery robots that are being deployed to sidewalks all around the country are essentially always filming, and that their footage can and has been used as evidence in criminal trials. Emails obtained by 404 Media also show that the robot food delivery company wanted to work more closely with the LAPD, which jumped at the opportunity.” • Because of course.

* * *

Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From TH:

TH writes: “Taken on the shady side of a dogwood reaching east from under much taller oaks, on May 21, 2023, in Washington DC SW.”

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. antidlc

    Did an all points bulletin go out to minimize incidences of long Covid?


    Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH
    Helpful estimate from @GidMK
    of a critical question

    If you got COVID today

    How likely you are to get Long COVID (symptoms > 3 months)?

    About 1 in 100

    And how likely are you to get LC that substantially affects your life?

    About 1 in 500

    Incidence of LC seems to be declining

    1. Daryl

      Is it just me or do those minimized and probably made up odds seem rather frickin’ terrible? If you went to a restaurant and there was a sticker on the outside saying hey, there’s a 1/100 chance this food will cause you months/years/a lifetime of suffering, would you eat there?

      1. notabanker


        Full article. Money quote:
        “Unfortunately, there are currently no ongoing population-wide estimates of Long COVID that include specific definitions and control groups. ”

        So we really don’t know, but based on numbers currently being published by the UK and CDC, we can do some gymnastics to get there.

        Coincidentally, I was just reading this study:

        That says Omicron is the least likely variant to cause long covid and despite 70% of the respondents being vaccinated at least once, there is no correlation to vaccination status. It is also full of disclaimers and it is based on 70,000 survey respondents mainly in Germany.

        Read the full length article yourself and come to your own conclusions.

    2. JM

      I wonder where that 1:100 number was pulled from? The most optimistic I’ve seen was 10%, with a general average of 20% some months ago. I think the 10% was from a study linked here last week. The only place I think his number could’ve come from is his *family blog*.

      Happily the responses I see on nitter are suitably harsh.

        1. Acacia

          I tripped over the second sentence:

          We’ve developed new treatments, brilliant vaccines, and have very strong immunity to the disease built up over the years since it first emerged.

          “Brilliant vaccines”…? Idk, maybe Lambert will feel brave enough to don the yellow waders for this one.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > this Max Blumenthal report about Nazi Canada

      The rise and rise of Chrystia Freeland, “Russian literature” major at Harvard. It’s almost like somebody greased the skids for her.

  2. IM Doc

    I am not so sure that Costco is a good test study in the effect of shoplifting.
    In every Costco I have ever been to, the entrance and exits are the only way in and out. They are right next to each other. There is security presence there. And there is an army of employees going over every cart as it is exiting to make sure there is no “shrinkage”.

    This is not the case in malls and certainly not in Nike stores, Prada, etc. The doors are wide open there and open to the streets.

    I think a good test of this would be to compare the shrinkage level at Sam’s Club vs Wal Mart. Sam’s is very much like the Costco model whereas most Wal Marts I have ever been at are wide open and ready for looting. They do not even have elderly greeters anymore.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > most Wal Marts I have ever been at are wide open and ready for looting. They do not even have elderly greeters anymore.

      I wonder what happened to the elderly greeters. ‘Tis a mystery!

      1. Carolinian

        No they still have people at the door, no longer elderly. I’ve seen them checking receipts on suspicious looking baskets. Here they’ve also added some automatic gates that open when you come in but not when you try to go out. You have to exit through the camera heavy checkout and self checkout areas.

        Heck they may even still greet sometimes.

        There are more things now behind plexiglass and this is fairly recent. There’s also a big push toward parking lot pickup after online order and seems many use this. That’s one cure for shoplifting by customers.

        Some time ago Walmart wanted to chip every product but privacy advocates and others objected. However they do still chip some electronics and clothing to beep at the security detector gizmos.

      2. Mikel

        And there’s this, which was mentioned a week or so ago:
        Plans call for the Walmart in Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood to include a designated workspace for law enforcement officers when it reopens in May next year.

        “An earlier version of this story inaccurately used the terms “mini police station” and “substation” to describe the planned facility, and incorrectly stated that it would be a first for Walmart. Walmart clarified that such facilities are “law enforcement workspaces” and have previously been used in other stores.

        1. Carolinian

          Oh we had one of those years ago at the store across town. I’m not sure it’s still in use or was ever more than just an empty room.

          But both stores have private security that roams the parking lots in their cars and parking lot cameras–nothing new.

          All of which is to say this is not one of those states that takes a tolerant attitude toward shoplifting but nevertheless the increase in locked up merchandise–not just at Walmart–says that the problem certainly exists here too.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > the increase in locked up merchandise–not just at Walmart–says that the problem certainly exists here too.

            Or the “problem” is the same (” the average shrink rate increased only slightly to 1.6% in 2022 from 1.4% in 2021″) but big retail firms are more desperate at the margin.

            I don’t like the narrative on this; “smash and grab” videos — especially from San Francisco (in preparation for a Newsom run, I would think) — have been all over the Twitter, but never any serious analysis (which I would welcome seeing).

            I’m prepared to file this under a general tendency toward “All Cops Are Good”, whether in airports, schools, retail… and soon, I would imagine, libraries, dental offices, auto repair shops….

            There is a term for a society that puts a substantial amount of its (generally male) labor force into uniform and makes them stand around guarding stuff; obviously a less-than-productive society with a high Gini co-efficient. I want to say “Guard Society,” but search thinks I want “Gourd Society,” as in the competitive growing of large, colorful vegetables.

            But you see what I mean, and why I would put the retail theft moral panic under that heading.

    2. turtle

      I was reading a discussion on Lemmy yesterday (more specifically on hexbear.net, essentially a socialist/communist instance of Lemmy) regarding the Target announcement that they were closing 9 stores due to shoplifting. People were giving details about how these corporations use the excuse that they are closing locations due to shoplifting even when that is not the real reason for the closure.

      Here is the thread: https://hexbear.net/post/706231

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I was reading a discussion on Lemmy yesterday

        That’s a good thread: “They’re basically doing collective punishment for not being profitable enough for them.”

        This Lemmy? Interesting…. These seem to be a lot of aggregators popping up.

    3. square coats

      Anytime I’ve walked past a luxury store like Prada I’ve seen them with doors closed and a security guard inside by the doorway. I would imagine the inside is swarming with cameras but I’m not certain as I’ve never gone into one.

      1. SocalJimObjects

        You are right, luxury stores often limit the number of people who can be inside a store at the same time, however what can one or two security guys do against a mob? For example: see the flash mob who robbed the LV store at Union Square, Downtown SF a couple of years ago, and recently there were a couple of similar incidences in Beverly Hills, LA.

        1. notabanker

          I was in the Neiman Marcus on the Michigan Mile late last year and there were guards with full gear, vests, body armor and assault rifles manning the store booth closest to the doors, I think it was Gucci, but may be wrong about the brand. The store itself was mostly empty. Marshall’s two blocks away had long, long 30 minute plus lines at the registers and was packed.

          1. SocalJimObjects

            Google sucks nowadays but I was able to find this: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2302335/Chicago-attacks-Hundreds-rampaging-teens-target-pedestrians-crazy-flashmob-style-Magnificent-Mile.html. The city and/or the stores must have tightened security in response to what had happened earlier in the year.

            Pretty soon it will be the National Guard manning the stores the rich would shop at, armed with the latest and greatest weapons. “Say hello to my little friend” as Tony Montana would say.

    4. Jason Boxman

      And Target just recently dropped in their call that shinkage is a huge problem for them and they’re closing stores in several locations.

      Target closes 9 stores in response to retail theft, adds locked cases at some stores

      he decision to close stores came after the company reported that inventory shrinkage — mostly the theft of merchandise — would cut profits by $500 million this year. In 2022, profits took a $700 million hit from inventory shrinkage.

      “Shrink in the second quarter remained consistent with our expectations but well above the sustainable level where we expect to operate over time,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said in the company’s second quarter earnings call.

    1. flora

      They’re scared. Can’t trust the voters to vote the … um… correct way. Even in a virtually one party state. (Did they ever finish counting the 2016 Dem primary votes in CA? ) This certainly confirms my suspicions about the electronic voting machines reliability… for some definition of reliability.

      This will make recounts in close elections a pointless process. The machine that counted the first time will do the counting the second time.

      1. Tom Stone

        Flora, 3,000,000 votes by California Voters with “No Party Preference” were never counted, handing the State to Hillary Clinton.
        All “According to the Rules”.
        I think you can still find the UTube video called “Uncounted, 2016” which details the entirely legal process involved.
        I was one of those voters and I miss the days when there was a pretense of following the Rule of Law.

        1. Cassandra

          Tom, the DNC has argued in court that they can rig primaries or even dispense with primary voting altogether if they choose. The judge’s summary stated:

          “For their part, the DNC and Wasserman Schultz have characterized the DNC charter’s promise of ‘impartiality and evenhandedness’ as a mere political promise—political rhetoric that is not enforceable”

          and dismissed the class action lawsuit.


    2. notabanker

      $4 million dollars a year to hand count ballots for 111,000 registered voters, 50K show up for primaries and 94K for Presidential elections. $4 million dollars to count 110,000 voters ballots. $4 million dollars.

  3. Will

    re Canada and Nazis

    Much ridicule by commenters after Trudeau warned of Russian disinformation following the most recent example of Canada’s Nazi sympathies. Unfortunately, and not at all surprisingly, Trudeau is not the only one warning of the Russian threat.

    Opposition, disinfo experts push government to fight Russian propaganda in wake of Hunka incident

    The ‘disinformation’ they’re complaining of, is the Russian government pointing out the ‘Hunka incident’ happened. Oddly, the piece doesn’t have any quotes from the Conservative Party of Canada, the official opposition party in Parliament.

    Speaking of which, in the conservative stronghold of Alberta, the University of Alberta returned a donation from the family of Hunka, which had been used to establish an endowment in his name. The donation was made to the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the university in 2019.

    University of Alberta returning $30,000 donation to Yaroslav Hunka’s family, closing endowment in his name

    I’m sure that this signals the start of… absolutely nothing. Nothing to see here folks, just move along.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      speaking of disinformation,lol…that CBC article is a doozy!
      “”I think what the prime minister did [on Wednesday] is a step in the right direction, to make very clear that [Hunka’s appearance] wasn’t an action of the Government of Canada, that the Government of Canada is deeply embarrassed by what’s happened,” Turk said. ”

      the old nazi didnt storm the canadian parliament and force all those people to stand and cheer so rabidly.
      if inviting a nazi to such a chamber and then giving him wild, over the top acclimation “wasn’t an action of the government”, then what, pray tell, is?
      i need a shower, or something…

  4. Del

    If the government wants people to continue filing voluntary income tax returns they better make damn sure that Trump is on the ballot.

    If not, everyone should file an exemption from withholding and then exercise their conscience around funding a corrupt government and the Ukraine war. Cash is King.

  5. John Beech

    Yet despite this fact, consistently about 70% of Republican voters suspect election fraud.

    Count me amongst them. Makes me a tin-foil hat wearing nutter? Maybe, but when I went (in person), I had to show picture ID, and sign not once, twice, but three times to satisfy the poll worker. Not complaining because voting is important and if this is the level of scrutiny she needed, fine by me. My point?

    What scrutiny was cast on those who voted by mail? Who scrutinized the ballots which Democrats sent ‘unsolicited’ to voters due to COVID making them special enough to violate state election laws? Just saying.

    1. flora

      Yep. Me too. Interesting that in 2016 I received 5 – count’em, 5 – separate, pre-filled in with my name, vote-by-mail ballots that I did not request and were not mailed from my County Clerk’s Election Office. They arrived individually by mail over a period of about 2 weeks. Something seemed…off.

      I voted in person, as always. I had to show my drivers license, have the magnetic strip on its reverse side scanned/read, and sign my name in the voter registration book next to my computer printed name and address.

    2. marym

      Current status per the National Conference of State Legislatures

      “Eight states conduct elections entirely by mail (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington), which means voters do not need to request a ballot, and instead automatically receive one.”

      As I recall in 2020 DC and NJ also mailed ballots automatically.

      All states have procedures governing how they track automatic and on-request mail ballots – ballots requested, sent, returned, and accepted; signature verification and curing procedures; chain of custody procedures; and post-election audit procedures. There may be flaws in these procedures, as there may be with in-person voting and ballot handling. However, so far the endless speculation about of major systemic issues with mail voting has not been shown to be justified. And of course, in limited individual instances of voter fraud, it’s bi-partisan.


      1. flora

        My state does not have automatic vote-by-mail ballots sent out. They must be requested from one’s local county Elections Office.

        1. marym

          Yes, there are variations. In 2020 IL sent ballot applications (not ballots) to voters who had voted in recent years. Now IL voters can apply to be on a permanent vote by mail list so they don’t need to apply each time. Other states also have an option to be on a permanent list.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > All states have procedures governing how they track automatic and on-request mail ballots – ballots requested, sent, returned, and accepted; signature verification and curing procedures; chain of custody procedures; and post-election audit procedures. There may be flaws in these procedures, as there may be with in-person voting and ballot handling. However, so far the endless speculation about of major systemic issues with mail voting has not been shown to be justified.

        This is where I am. I vehemently oppose any measure that normalizes the citizenry not voting at the same time in their district*, because I think “early voting” and such-like increase the power of parties and decrease the value of campaigning, but mail-in ballot administration is not one of my reasons.

        Have any cases ever been brought and won on stuffing mail-in ballot locations? Not that I know of. And surely, if the practice is as prevalent as some claim, we would at least have seen cases brought in multiple locations.

        So on this issue, it’s clear that liberal Democrats aren’t the only ones with brainworms.

        NOTE * A national holiday would be needed.

    3. notabanker

      Yes, I am right there with you. And if the UK, the tyranny we escaped from to form this great country, can hand count 50 million ballots in hours after the election, why do we need to wait days or weeks to certify an electronic election, and have the numbers change throughout? These gaslighting arguments are so transparent, the fact that they are going to these lengths to have them is suspicion enough.

      Experts telling us what we need to think is the core of the problem here, and what is causing such divisiveness. Yet, that is the only playbook they have left. Something will need to give.

      1. marym

        Do you have additional information on the UK counting process? How many races on each ballot and/or how many ballots per voter per election (for example, X ballots, each with Y line items)? I’m interested in hand count methodologies for ballots with a large number of line items, as we have in the US (or alternatives, like having more frequent separate elections).

        1. notabanker

          I do not. I was not eligible to vote over there, but did live there through two elections, including the brexit referendum and the media coverage boasts about the hand counting process and covers the towns that complete them the fastest.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I’m interested in hand count methodologies for ballots with a large number of line items, as we have in the US (or alternatives, like having more frequent separate elections).

          I agree the overly complex ballots (like everything else in the United States, overly complex) are an issue. It seems to me that the obvious answer is to move separate the ballot lines for people from the ballot lines for referenda, blah blah blah.

          1. Redlife2017

            Having known people who took part in counting (and they show it on TV) as well as being a voter I can tell you it is unfortunately nothing like voting in the USA (which I have also done in a large city). You get one person to vote for per page. They give you a pencil. You vote in a booth-type privacy area. You then fold up each piece of paper (it is unusual to have more than 2 things to vote for, so 2 pieces of paper). And you put each piece of paper in the appropriate election box. I cannot imagine trying to do that in a large US locality where you might have over 80 things / people to vote for. 80 boxes?

            So the problem is – they are counting one piece of paper per who is being elected from a box that is only for that election. And therefore it is much easier to do it as a public event. You can see how many pieces of paper are in a stack, you can easily do a random check, that sort of thing. In the US you vote for so many different things at the same time (and actually have the ability to vote for so many different things) that I’m not sure that the UK model is the one to look towards.

        3. PlutoniumKun

          In Ireland we use single ballots but multiple choice (i.e., you number the candidates in order of preference).

          All counting is in halls with public galleries overlooking. All political parties have what are known as tallymen, who observe from the gallery and make their own counts, both to check for accurate counts and to use in their own analyses. These tallymen are so accurate most political parties know the final result before the announcement. Every ballot box is counted separately, so there are accurate figures for each individual ward, so it’s quite easy to statistically tell if something dubious is going on (plus political parties can get a fine grain idea from their door to door canvassing on how many people who say they will vote for X is actually lying).

          It works very well and voting fraud is very rare, there are too many ways to check the results. the only downside is that it can take a few days for results to become official, as each ballot has to be counted multiple times (not counting recounts).

          1. Acacia

            “A few days for results”.. heh… doesn’t sound like much of a downside.

            Population of Ireland is about 5m, while that of the US 331m. I’m sure many USians will argue that the system used in Ireland “wouldn’t scale” — or make some other “we are unique and special” type claims for why proven solutions cannot just be imported to the US. To me, though, all such claims tend to sound like excuses.

            My takeaway: the US is just a deeply corrupt place and there are a number of powerful groups that really want to keep it that way.

        4. Jeff V

          It’s a lot easier in the UK (or it used to be, anyway; I haven’t lived there for a while).

          There’s only one race, and one ballot – you tick the box next to the name of the person you want as your MP and you are done. There might be 7 or 8 names to choose from, but some of them are not “serious” candidates.

          That means the counters can physically sort the ballots into piles, one pile per candidate. Then count how many are in each pile.

    4. The Rev Kev

      As long as you have computer voting, how can you trust the results of any election? And it does not help when you see in Timotina’s link that California is banning all hand-counting of votes but is forcing Counties to use computer voting in order to ‘protect the voters.’ Give me a break.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > As long as you have computer voting, how can you trust the results of any election?

        You can’t. Digital = hackable.

        Greatest computer science departments in the world, greatest knowers of the Great Runes, and the California Democrats have their own ideas…

    1. notabanker

      This is why timelines are in such vogue. It takes 2-3 years for the actual facts to come out after these propagandists start their Russia, Russia, Covid, Election, insurrection, et al… nonsense.

      This is why I never took the vaccine. I knew it would be at least 2-3 years before the actual facts on it’s efficacy and risks came out. Yes it was a personal risk knowing I could have a rough go if I caught covid, but I have zero trust in anything these people say, and nothing they could do would shock me, in fact I expect it to be bad and it’s usually brazenly worse.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Smarter than I was, but I correctly judged that the situation was to be vax or die. I took the gamble. Unfortunate these shots are junk. I guess we’ll see what kinds of long term complications might arise from this decision.

        I also ultimately avoided being forced to quit an employer back when shots were mandated, until they were not mandated. Thus discrediting mandatory vaccinations for the next generation or two. Thanks liberal Democrats!

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > This is why timelines are in such vogue. It takes 2-3 years for the actual facts to come out

        Excellent point! Factions in the political class need to develop analytical tools appropriate to the task at hand. Yarn diagrams weren’t even good at explaining connections, because the relationships between “nodes” were never defined. (It’s not sufficient, at least without more information, to say that two people are in the same city, or even the same room, to establish a relationship.) Add to this ineffectuality in practice the lack of a time dimension, and you can see at least one why yarn diagram-based scandals never got traction; they could express neither a narrative, nor typify a players in that narrative.)

      3. Jeff V

        Taking the vaccine was an easy decision for me.

        I live on a small island, nine miles by seven. Travel restrictions meant that if I wanted to leave it (for instance, to visit my family) then I had to be vaccinated.

        I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

  6. Mark Gisleson

    Was surprised to hear anything from the No Labels crowd at all after the neocons migrated to the Democrat party. Their schtick was anti-Trump so it hardly makes sense to split that vote. What the Blobbies publicly did to discourage RFK Jr, I’m sure they’ve been quietly doing to get the No Labels folks to go away.

  7. Willow

    > Persimmons

    US Navy wouldn’t be upgrading their drydocks and creating serious delays in critical sub deliveries to take on China unless they thought earthquake risk issue was both serious in magnitude and (relatively) imminent.



  8. flora

    In other news: the House opened its Biden Impeachment Inquiry yesterday in closed session. Opening public statement , ~5 minutes, C-Span

    House Ways and Means Committee Statement on Biden Impeachment Inquiry

    House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) delivers a statement on the Biden impeachment inquiry as the panel meets in executive session to consider new information from whistleblowers in the case.


      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        If the Democratic Socialists of America could learn to speak to non-college Americans in their own non-college language, could they offer useful information and organization on how to live longer in the teeth of the Establishment’s efforts to get them to die sooner?

        The despair would only be lifted by abolishing the currently carefully-engineered despairogenic conditions of life that the elites have very carefully designed and engineered for non-college Americans. So what could be done in the meantime?

        Mark Ames wrote an interesting article which deserves some considered pondering at least.

        If a hundred million non-college Americans could be brought to accept the fact that the elites want them all to die faster and sooner, could they be motivated to do what they can to die slower and later out of spite against the elites? A Mass Spite movement? ” Living longer is the best revenge. If we can inflict more pain on our enemies by surviving than the pain we ourselves suffer in the survival process, then Let’s Do It. Let’s Survive Longer.”

        A couple of decades ago at my workplace, I survived a several-years-long campaign to get me fired by in part calling upon my reserves of inner spite. If I was a piece of glass in someone’s shoe, then that was the exactly best place for me to be and to stay. In the long run my grip on my job turned out to be stronger than the biggest crowbar my enemy had. I am still here while she went on to retire and then die some years later. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

  9. The Rev Kev

    “Senate unanimously passes formal dress code after uproar”

    I say they should go for togas to give the place that late-Roman Republic feel to it. It would be only fitting. They could update it though. On their right breast they could have the American flag while on the left they could have the flag/cause of the current thing. So this year it would be the flag of the Ukraine while next year they could swap it out for the flag of Taiwan.

  10. square coats

    Re: inventory shrinkage

    I used to work in the florist department at a major grocery store chain. When customers were buying flower bouquets they could request that we tie some of that dinky plastic gift wrap ribbon around it, but my manager told me not to offer it to customers if they didn’t request it themselves because that constituted shrink (I offered it anyway).

  11. LilD

    this went into tomorrows now-disappeared linky comments… reposting here

    Well, I’ve never been to Ukraine
    But I kinda like the money
    Say the business is insane there
    And they sure do think it’s funny

    It’s looking sunny
    Don’t be a dummy
    Come get some honey

    Well, I’ve never been the Big Guy
    But I like to be a Biden
    Just be careful with your laptop
    And whatever else your hidin’

    Can you feel it?
    Must be near it
    Feels so good
    Oh, it feels so good

    Well, I’ve never been a Nazi
    But I tried to help the Azov
    Oh, they tell me I got rich there
    But I really don’t remember

    In the Crimea, not gonna see ya
    What does it matter?
    What does it matter?

    Well, I’ve never been to Ukraine
    But I kinda like the money
    Say the business is insane there
    And they sure do think it’s funny

    They sure abuse it
    Never gonna lose it
    I can’t refuse it, oh, oh

    Well, I’ve never been a Nazi
    But I tried to help the Azov
    Oh, they tell me I got rich there
    But I really don’t remember

    With your charisma, maybe Burisma
    Are you a prisoner?
    Are you a prisoner?

    Three dog night
    “I’ve never been to Spain”

    1. John Zelnicker

      All the comments on the early release of today’s Links were preserved and included in the release this morning. Including yours.

  12. flora

    The B team have lost their minds to have ol’ B give this speech this week. A bad look coming on the heels of the House Impeachment Inquiry opening. Is this your idea of damage control ?

    From AP on utube. ~2 minutes

    Biden warns Trump’s MAGA ‘extremist movement’ is a threat to democracy


  13. flora

    The B team have lost their minds to have ol’ B give this speech today. A bad look coming on the heels of the House Impeachment Inquiry opening. Is this your idea of damage control?

    From AP on utube. ~2 minutes

    Biden warns Trump’s MAGA ‘extremist movement’ is a threat to democracy


    1. flora

      Sorry for the double post. Today was the first full open session of the hearing. 6 hours, available on C-Span. And this is the B team response? / oy

  14. Joe Well

    Has there been any study of all of us who *haven’t* gotten symptomatic covid?

    Not just me, but a lot of my relatives.

  15. Acacia

    Re: “COVID-19 rampant among musicians despite ‘end of the pandemic’” [WSWS]

    Following the readout of the various musicians and groups who have canceled concerts, and how some groups are making efforts to have safer events (via masking), this article has a pretty concise account of how the Biden administration, the CDC, and the media have tried to pretend the epidemic is “over”.

    In discussions with people I know — mostly liberals who repeat and then double down on MSM talking points —, I keep feeling tempted to say “I’m sorry you believed the propaganda”, and I keep resisting, because I know this will cause them to instantly become hostile and shut down.

    I would like some better retorts, I guess.

      1. Acacia

        Heh… I might try that… though I’m sorely tempted to run with it a little, e.g.:

        “You do know about ‘Covid Brain Fog,’ don’t you?

        Funny phrase — ‘brain fog’. Doesn’t ‘brain fog’ really mean brain damage, like from the way Covid can infect and liquify parts of your brain, and then the other parts try to recover?”

        Again, what’s needed here, I think, are some real zingers that are difficult to wave away.

        We’re dealing with some pretty serious denial, and the effects of constant propaganda.

        Downthread from the “If you are not at least considering the hypothesis …” Tweet that Lambert posted today (Dr David Berger), I found this nugget:

        Many people assess evidence using this logic:

        If this is true then maybe I did a bad thing.

        I wouldn’t do a bad thing.

        Therefore this isn’t true.

Comments are closed.