2:00PM Water Cooler 10/18/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Tree Swallow, Pilgrim Hot Springs Rd, off Kougarok Rd. Nome Census Area, Alaska, United States.

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

Biden Administration

“What Friends Owe Friends” [Richard Haass, Foreign Affairs]. “The Biden administration has banked enormous goodwill with the Israeli government and people as a result of the president’s extraordinary October 10 speech, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Israel last week, and the decision to supply Israel with what it needs militarily. Mario Cuomo, who served as the governor of New York, once remarked that a politician campaigns in poetry but governs in prose. President Joe Biden’s speech was poetry, but the time has come for prose, best delivered in private. Both the United States and Israel should want to avoid an outcome that involves Israel being pressured into a cease-fire amid broad condemnation regionally and globally. Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, could reinforce that message as well as help to facilitate the release of Israeli hostages and signal to Israel that normalization could proceed after the war ends if Israel is seen to have acted responsibly.” • No doubt!

“‘You are not alone’: Biden attends Israeli war cabinet meeting” (video) [MSNBC, YouTube]. “President Joe Biden attended a meeting of Israel’s war cabinet and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Tel Aviv amid the war with Hamas.” • That’s completely unseemly. On the bright side, at least any notion that the U.S. is or can be an “honest broker” has been erased.


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“The Gag Order Contempt Trap” [Declassified with Julie Kelly]. “Here is the crux of the order”:

“But two things beg for clarity. One, ‘directing others to make any public statements’ appears to satisfy Smith’s request that the gag order prohibit ‘surrogates’ from making unacceptable comments. What does that mean? Who, in Chutkan’s mind, are ‘others’ and who decides if they’ve been directed by Trump or his attorneys? Does it apply to Trump’s campaign spokesmen, his family members, or even supportive members of Congress? How will the “directing” caveat be satisfied? An FBI raid followed by interrogation? Second, the blanket term ‘reasonably foreseeable witness’ creates a gaping contempt trap. During the hearing, Chutkan and Smith’s team made clear that negative comments about former Vice President Mike Pence, former Attorney General William Barr, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley would be forbidden since they might be called as government witnesses in the March 2024 trial. (It’s highly unlikely any would agree to testify.) But who else does that include? Smith’s indictment refers to dozens of individuals tied to the 2020 election including Republican officials in swing states who could be considered ‘reasonably foreseeable witnesses.’ Does that mean Trump cannot criticize, say, Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp? What about Democratic governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania who also are mentioned in Smith’s indictment? Does the gag order cover any and all comments about the 2020 election, an issue Trump continues to discuss on the campaign trail and one of continued concern to Republican voters?” • All Trump has to do is try some apophasisa (“Now, I’m not saying Jack Smith is narrow between the eyes….”).

* * *

“Do the math,” an order liberal Democrats are fond of issuing:

Plus, Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

“Kamala Harris’ popularity at historic lows because she talks to people like children, says Marc Thiessen” [Marc Theissen, FOX]. “She has this habit of talking about the most mundane things in this deeply profound voice. And when people hear that, when people hear her say, ‘Transportation is about getting people to the place they want to go,’ and says it in such a profound way, they think one of two things. Either they think she’s stupid or they think, ‘She thinks I’m stupid.’ People don’t like to be talked to like a child. And so either they just lose confidence in her or they think she’s talking down to them, and that makes her profoundly unpopular.”• Sure, FOX. But he’s not wrong!

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“Editorial: Hamas attacks were personal in South Florida. DeSantis’ swift action pays off” [Miami Herald]. “On Sunday night, 270 evacuees landed at Tampa International Airport, the result of an executive order DeSantis signed on Thursday to charter flights for Florida residents stranded in Israel. Another flight carrying seven people landed in Orlando earlier in the day. DeSantis, who’s running for president, and his wife greeted the evacuees in Tampa, where they shook hands posed for photos. The Herald Editorial Board has criticized DeSantis for exploiting politically fraught moments, as he did with the Southern border crisis when he flew migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. This time, however, the governor’s actions have real consequences and benefits for Floridians and Americans caught up in the unprecedented attacks by Hamas, which the United States rightly labels a terrorist organization. The group murdered entire families, children the elderly and music festival goers, hunted down and executed in cold blood. Almost 200 others were taken hostage, the Israeli military said Monday. The attacks feel personal for South Florida and other areas of the country with large Jewish populations who contribute to every facet of our communities and whose traditions have made our melting pot more vibrant.” • The contrast between DeSantis and Biden is pretty great (and Trump could have chartered a plane, if he’d thought of it. Or sent his own). Quick thinking by DeSantis.

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“Original Spin” [Jeffrey Toobin, Airmail]. Skakel was a Kennedy clan member convicted of murder. “[I]n 2016, Kennedy published Framed: Why Michael Skakel Spent over a Decade in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit. The book became a best-seller and, more importantly, now that Kennedy is running for president, it established a literary—and political—prototype for Kennedy. In Framed, Kennedy took a complex and unfamiliar subject for most readers—here, a decades-old murder—and presented a tendentious and misleading version of the facts, tailored to his own preconceptions. Worse yet, Kennedy relied on an ugly racial stereotype—about “big, muscular, and tall” nonwhite men—to attempt to pin the murder on two innocent people. Kennedy followed a similar approach in his later books about vaccines and the coronavirus pandemic: using cherry-picked details and bogus insinuations to make a case that his readers, as non-specialists, lacked the expertise to refute. Kennedy’s record on a subject as narrow as the Moxley murder or as broad as epidemiology compels the same conclusion: that he is a fundamentally untrustworthy narrator.” A long article, worth the unlock. This caught my eye: “The heart of Kennedy’s defense of his cousin is that Skakel had what Kennedy describes variously as an “ironclad alibi” and a “gold-plated alibi” because he was at the Terrien home between 9:30 and 10 P.M., “the established time of Martha’s death.” But that narrow window was not “the established” time of her death; in fact, the testimony of multiple forensic-science experts at the trial, based on the crime-scene evidence and autopsy results, showed that it was impossible to pinpoint the precise time of death. According to their testimony, Moxley could have died any time between 9:30 P.M. on October 30 and 5:30 A.M. the following morning. Kennedy’s fundamental distortion of the evidence undermines his case for Skakel’s innocence.” • So, interesting. I remember Toobin from back in the Clinton impeachment days; he was like a Jonathan Turley, but for liberals. Of course, that was a long time ago….

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“How Gavin Newsom cooled California labor’s hot streak” [Politico]. “As he builds his profile as a national Democratic leader, Newsom took a middle path in his handling of labor’s big priorities at home in California, delivering unions some significant wins but also checking them in telling ways…. Newsom thwarted unions by rejecting far-reaching responses to economic transformations like automation — embodied by bills offering insurance to striking workers and cracking down on driverless trucks — along with protections for domestic workers and safeguards for Starbucks organizing drives. On the other side of the ledger, he enacted a law expanding the number of sick days employers must provide, negotiated a breakthrough fast food labor deal, and set aside his fiscal reservations to raise the minimum wage for health care workers.” • Could be positioning himself nationally. Or maybe he just hates workers?

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PA: “The Pa. Supreme Court race is ‘the biggest game in town,’ and groups are spending big on both sides” [The Inquirer]. “The race to fill a vacancy on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is dominating airwaves and mailboxes across the state this fall. That’s because both parties see it as a high-stakes race — and an important test…. The race between Carluccio, currently the president judge of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, and McCaffery, a state Superior Court judge, has centered on abortion, mail voting, and election laws — issues with stark partisan divides that are likely to go before the court in the coming year…. In interviews, the major difference the two candidates expressed in their judicial ideologies was what a Supreme Court justice should do when the law is unclear, or when the General Assembly fails to clarify the law. Carluccio said the court should follow the law as written, and said it is not the court’s role to fill in any gaps. McCaffery, meanwhile, said he believes it is the court’s duty to interpret the laws and their intent. For example, McCaffery said the court did its job in 2020 when it created drop boxes and a three-day window for mail ballots to arrive to counties, while the court was widely criticized by Republicans for creating policy that did not exist in the law.”

CA: “Garvey Talks Baseball, Common Sense, and Cross-Party Appeal” [RealClearPolitics]. “This week, as the baseball great jumped into a crowded field of candidates vying to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, he’s hoping he can translate his ability to maintain loyal fans from rival sports franchises to generating cross-party appeal. Though his entrance into the race was expected for months, Garvey, 74, says he made a final determination to run after Giants fans started coming up to him to say, ‘God, we hate the Dodgers, but we’ll vote for you.’ ‘So maybe that was a precursor for running for office,’ Garvey told RealClearPolitics Tuesday, declining to say which team he now roots for the most. “I mean, trying to be a man for all people.’ It’s a message Garvey hopes resonates among a broad swath of voters and one that will help him stand out among a deeply partisan slate of candidates that includes Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, Barbara Lee, and potentially Laphonza Butler, the longtime labor leader [and Uber shill] and abortion-rights advocate Newsom appointed last week to fill the Senate vacancy.

Republican Funhouse

“Jim Jordan Wrestles With a New Twenty” [The American Conservative]. BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! Even TAC! More: “en months ago, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, then the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House, had to cut a deal with twenty conservative holdouts, nicknamed “the Twenty,” to become Speaker. McCarthy’s potential replacement, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, is now dealing with a new, very different Twenty. While McCarthy was dogged by the House Freedom Caucus and friends, Jordan faces a blob of establishment-type Republicans composed mostly of appropriators, warmongers, and liberals.”

“Jordan’s speakership campaign on its last legs” [Politico]. “Opposition to Jim Jordan’s speakership bid is increasing, as the Ohio Republican again failed to get the 217 votes he needs to win the gavel. After halting voting for nearly a day in hopes of securing more Republican votes, Jordan instead lost two more votes on the second ballot. The House then went into another recess, at Jordan’s request, before a possible third vote. The GOP plans to hold a conference meeting Wednesday afternoon as it keeps searching for a way out of its speaker mess. Jordan’s total number of Republican opponents reached 22 on the second round of voting. With the list of defectors growing, even after a significant delay, his chances at the gavel are looking virtually nonexistent…. [Some Republicans] are openly floating an alternative: Empowering acting Speaker Patrick McHenry to move certain legislation on the floor.”

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.

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“California Senate race will prove whether Democrats care about diversity” [Steve Phillips, WaPo]. “Time and again it has been shown that Black women are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Democrats across the country agree that Black women are badly underrepresented in our nation’s leadership. Schiff and Porter are White; Lee is a Black woman. The right course is clear, isn’t it? It would be, anyway, if the participants had the courage and principles to follow it: Schiff and Porter should step aside and reembrace their vital leadership roles in the House. And the rest of the state’s Democratic leaders should walk their talk and throw their clout behind Lee’s bid for the state’s full six-year seat in the Senate.” • Considering the key role played by the South Carolina political establishment in 2008, 2016 (Clinton), and 2020 (Biden), perhaps it’s time for a transplant.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Young Morality and Old Morality” [Hamilton Nolan, How Things Work]. “Who is being childish here? Is it the young college students, appalled at genocide looming in front of their eyes, possessed with the overwhelming urge to do something, who—despite not possessing a PhD in global affairs—flood into the streets and rage against the atrocity? Or is it the well educated and highly placed and influential adults, granted positions of great importance, who, as a crisis unfolds, as civilians are murdered, as neighborhoods are bombed, as oppression and religion collide in war, use their time griping about the hotheadedness of the young people protesting in the streets? Which of these groups has more accurately identified what should be our current topic of attention—the young people whose focus is on the governments that possess militaries and missiles and are poised to cause thousands of deaths, or the adults whose focus is on how some college kid said something annoying at a DSA rally? Wake the f*ck up. The adults in the room are everywhere proving the kids’ critique to be true.”

“Deb Chachra’s ‘How Infrastructure Works'” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “Infrastructure isn’t merely a way to deliver life’s necessities – mobility, energy, sanitation, water, and so on – it’s a shared way of delivering those necessities. It’s not just that economies of scale and network effects don’t merely make it more efficient and cheaper to provide these necessities to whole populations. It’s also that the lack of these network and scale effects make it unimaginable that these necessities could be provided to all of us without being part of a collective, public project. The dream of declaring independence from society, of going ‘off-grid,’ of rejecting any system of mutual obligation and reliance isn’t merely an infantile fantasy – it also doesn’t scale, which is ironic, given how scale-obsessed its foremost proponents are in their other passions. Replicating sanitation, water, rubbish disposal, etc to create individual systems is wildly inefficient. Creating per-person communications systems makes no sense – by definition, communications involves at least two people. So infrastructure, Chachra reminds us, is a form of mutual aid. It’s a gift we give to ourselves, to each other, and to the people who come after us. Any rugged individualism is but a thin raft, floating on an ocean of mutual obligation, mutual aid, care and maintenance. Infrastructure is vital and difficult. Its amortization schedule is so long that in most cases, it won’t pay for itself until long after the politicians who shepherded it into being are out of office (or dead). Its duty cycle is so long that it can be easy to forget it even exists – especially since the only time most of us notice infrastructure is when it stops working.”


“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!

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Look for the Helpers

“Signing up and participating in the November 2-3rd Virtual HICPAC Meeting” [World Health Network]. “The Oral Public Comment Request Submission Period will open October 2, 2023, and close on October 23, 2023.” So there’s still time. (CDC gatekeeps by requiring a “business email address,” but WHN says any address should be OK.) Also, you don’t have to sign up to watch: “. The link to the meeting webcast will be posted at their website shortly before the meeting.” Excellent work, including a meeting guide and talking points. (Hilariously, the minutes and recordings for 2023 are all by outside parties like WHN; nothing by CDC at all.)


“What Went Wrong with a Highly Publicized COVID Mask Analysis?” [Scientific American]. “Cochrane Reviews base their findings on randomized controlled trials (RCTs), often called the “gold standard” of scientific evidence. But many questions can’t be answered well with RCTs, and some can’t be answered at all. Nutrition is a case in point. It’s almost impossible to study nutrition with RCTs because you can’t control what people eat, and when you ask them what they have eaten, many people lie. In fact, there is strong evidence that masks do work to prevent the spread of respiratory illness. It just doesn’t come from RCTs. It comes from Kansas. In July 2020 the governor of Kansas issued an executive order requiring masks in public places. Just a few weeks earlier, however, the legislature had passed a bill authorizing counties to opt out of any statewide provision. In the months that followed, COVID rates decreased in all 24 counties with mask mandates and continued to increase in 81 other counties that opted out of them. Another study found that states with mask mandates saw a significant decline in the rate of COVID spread within just days of mandate orders being signed. The authors concluded that in the study period—March 31 to May 22, 2020—more than 200,000 cases were avoided, saving money, suffering and lives…. Cochrane ignored this epidemiological evidence because it didn’t meet its rigid standard. I have called this approach ‘methodological fetishism,’ when scientists fixate on a preferred methodology and dismiss studies that don’t follow it.” • See NC on Cochrane here.


“Cognitive-linguistic difficulties in adults with Long COVID: A follow-up study” [Science Direct]. N = 41. “In summary, adults with Long COVID displayed significantly weaker performance than healthy adults in immediate and delayed verbal recall at the 6-month follow-up study. This was consistent with their poor performance in verbal recall in the first study and indicated that this area of cognitive-linguistic performance had not improved during the 6-month period between the first and follow-up studies. The absence of statistically significant differences between adults with Long COVID and healthy adults on all other language tasks indicated that adults with Long COVID had improved their performance in several areas that were weak in the first study. These areas are verbal fluency (letter and category fluency) and discourse informativeness. The fact that adults with Long COVID had effectively closed the gap between their performance and that of healthy adults in verbal fluency and discourse informativeness suggested that there had been some spontaneous improvement in these cognitive-linguistic skills in the 6 months between the first and follow-up studies.” • That’s great, but: PILOT TO TOWER: Uh, can you repeat that?

“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.

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Elite Maleficence

And the band played on….

Note that Biobot wastewater data, before CDC choked it off, showed that cases were high in the Northeast; IDweek is held in Boston, sponsored by the The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). I love that all the collateral for the conferences uses the 2LA “ID” (identity?). What ID actually stands for — “Infectious Diseases” — is carefully erased. Bad vibes, no doubt.

They knew:

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Case Data

NEVER TO BE UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, October 2:

Lambert here: Leveling out to a high plateau wasn’t on my Bingo card! Perhaps FL.1.5.1, high in the Northeast, has something going for it that other variants don’t have?

Regional data:

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

• How to get at the ridiculously bad Verily dashboard now that Biobot’s been axed, a thread:

• More on CDC’s totally seamless transition from Biobot to Verily:


NOT UPDATED From CDC, October 14:

Lambert here: September 30 is tomorrow, but never mind that. Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“), with HV.1 a strong second, and XBB. and FL.1.15.1 trailing. No BA.2.86. Still a Bouillabaisse…

From CDC, September 16:

Lambert here: 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, October 7:

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 October 17:

Still decreasing. (New York State is now falling, too.) I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.

• Lambert here: Since this is the only remaining daily data I collect, this is a good place to remark that I think do think we’re on the downside of the current surge, shown by wastewater data before CDC defenestrated Biobot, positivity data, and ER visits. Deaths are up, but they are the laggiest indicators of all. In retrospect, as shown by the line on the chart, this was quite a respectable little surge, especially as so many were trying to pretend it didn’t exist. Public health establishment, good job!

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. October 7:

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, October 16:

-0.3%. Still dropping, though less than before. (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, October 14:

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 25:

Back up again, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers:

BA.2.86 shrinks. Flash in the pan?


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, September 27:

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: 1,179,385 – 1,179,271 = 114 (114 * 365 = 41,610 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, October 18:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

Housing Starts: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Econmics]. “Housing starts in the US rose by 7% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.36 million in September of 2023, rebounding from the upwardly revised, three-year low of 1.27 million from the previous month, but missing estimates of a sharper 1.38 million starts.”

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Remember that prices go up because firms raise them.

The Bezzle: “Narrative over numbers: Andreessen Horowitz’s State of Crypto report” [Molly White]. “Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (aka “a16z”) has invested billions in crypto, raising four separate crypto funds: $350 million in 2018, $515 million in 2020, $2.2 billion in 2021, and $4.5 billion in 2022…. Reading Andreessen Horowitz’s newest State of Crypto report, one wonders if they exist in a parallel universe where the recent ‘crypto winter’ never came to pass…. The truth is that Andreessen Horowitz needs crypto to do well. With an asset class so dependent on sentiment for value, they seem to be hoping that if they can convince both their investors and the general public that everything is going just great and crypto prices are about to take off again, they can cause it to become true. The result of this approach is an incredibly shameless piece of propaganda showing the extents to which Andreessen Horowitz is willing to manipulate facts and outright lie, hoping to turn the sentiment on the crypto industry back to where retail investors were providing substantial pools of liquidity with which they could line their pockets. If anyone still believes that venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz are powerful sources of innovation and societal benefit, I hope this will give them pause.” • Capital allocation is a social function. Or, in Venture Capital and Private Equity’s case, a dysfunction.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 35 Fear (previous close: 35 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 31 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 16 at 8:00:00 PM ET.

Class Warfare

“Mike Rowe Wants More Philosopher-Welders” (interview) [Mike Rowe, Reason]. So did Gramsci; he called them “organic intellectuals” (which I’m guessing is prison code-switching for party members, but that’s another story). Rowe: “The rift in our work force and the labor shortage we’re seeing today can be walked right back to the moment we decided to take shop class out of high school….. After we spoke in 2016, there was a presidential debate. Marco [Rubio]—I forget what the question was—but he said, ‘What this country needs are more welders and fewer philosophers.’ Big applause line. Later that evening, thousands of people were saying, ‘Hey, Mike, this guy’s singing your song. This guy gets it.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, crap. I’m doing something wrong.’ Because that’s not at all what I mean. What I responded to in the wake of that was, ‘Look, what our country needs are more welders who can talk intelligently about Descartes and Nietzsche. And what our country needs are more philosophers who can run an even bead.’ It’s not this or that.” Amen. I don’t know why I have to go to a libertarian to hear this, for pity’s sake. And: “7.2 million able-bodied men in prime working age are sitting out the work force—not just not working, but affirmatively not looking for work. That’s new. That’s never happened in peacetime.” • I don’t think a job is the same thing as work (“application of force along a displacement”). Work isn’t always great, but it’s often great. Gardening is work, reading is work, painting (house or canvas) is work, parenting is work. Love is work. Making stone axes, or baskets, or painting cave walls is work. Work is highly adaptive. Jobs on the other hand…. I can’t be judgy about people who decided to “sit this one out” re: jobs. It’s like Veblen’s distinction between industry and business. Work is in the industry bucket; jobs are in the business bucket.

“A worker between intellectuals” (interview) [Paul Mattick, The Anarchist Library]. Mattick saw a lot: “At the start of WWI, all Germany’s population was enthusiastic about the war. In 1914, the leaders of the workers’ movement, which in part didn’t reflect the crowds’ enthusiasm, accepted this state of things so as to not be engulfed by the chauvinist wave that had involved the adherents of the workers’ movement, parties and unions. The working class was integrated in the system, both ideologically and on the organizational front. Naturally nobody expected how it was all going to end, and just one year after the start of the war, even the enthusiasm washed away in every warring country, leaving place to misery, suffering and discontent increasingly visible.” • Worth a read for the historical sweep.

News of the Wired

Sadly, I am not wired today.

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EM writes: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, specifically mushroom time.”

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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. Pat

    Meanwhile back in America:
    CNN business announces business family premiums are $24,000.

    The annual cost of family health insurance coverage at work soared to an average of nearly $24,000 this year, according to KFF’s Employer Health Benefits Survey, released Wednesday. That’s up 7% from last year.
    Employees are shelling out an average of $6,575 for their share of the premium, up almost $500, or close to 8%, from last year, the annual survey found. Their companies are footing the rest of the bill.
    “We have a huge premium increase this year. There’s just no other way to cut it,” said Matthew Rae, who co-authored the survey. “There are lots of affordability challenges for employer coverage.”

    I hesitate to think what family premiums are on the so-called marketplace. When I was last several years ago on it my low cost merely catastrophic coverage with a high deductible and 50% co pay for standard services (the break was for ER and first week of hospital) cost for a single person was almost $7000 a year. Kids needing regular doctor visits…yikes.

    1. Utah

      As a teacher, for one person (myself) I pay $320/ month. My deductible is $1000 and out of pocket max (OPM) is $6000. My partner pays $120 on the marketplace with a $200 deductible and $1000 OPM. (She makes a lot less than me working as a behavioral health tech for autistic children.) Being lower income is helpful with the marketplace.

      Teachers really should have the ability to be on Fed or state plans. Each district shouldn’t have their own system, because they have terrible bargaining power on their own. But then we also should just be a single payer system.

      1. Pat

        If I had been eligible for subsidies I would have paid a lot less. I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent, utilities and the lower premiums and still eat but it would have been a lot cheaper.

        And yes, we have needed single payer in America for two decades at least. (I love that every solution that occurs means less actual healthcare for more money, but insurance companies write them.HMOs and ACA for instance.)

    2. Ouch

      Small business owner – Coastal Carolinas. Not eligible for subsidy. Mid-fifties couple with two teenage children. Everybody is healthy.
      BCBS High Deductible Health Plan premium is $22,592.00 per year.
      In-Network deductible $7500 per person. Out-of-Network deductible $15,000 per person.
      In-Network family limit is $15,000. Out-of-Network family limit is $30,000.
      Absolute insanity.

    3. curlydan

      Since it’s “benefits time” at my workplace, I had a look at my company’s costs. For me plus my employer, we’ll pay $23.2K in premiums (and spousal surcharges… don’t ask) for a family plan, but that’s for the “high deductible” plan.

      The deductible for this plan in $7K. So my company and I literally have to spent $30.2K on health insurance before health insurance “kicks in”.

      Hell hath no fury like privatized health insurance.

      1. notabanker

        There’s a good chance your company is self insured, so you are paying $23K a year for them to process bills. It is the racket of all rackets.

  2. griffen

    Rapture Index increasing towards the all time level of 189? Wandering minds and eyes are interested to find out!! I tend to believe the index updates are not real time….

    Inflation…War…Munitions and Weaponry….seemingly these should push such an index higher.

      1. Tom Stone

        The Ultra’s are too busy screwing the pooch to sacrifice a Goat just yet.
        So many innocents dying and so many self righteous idiots cheering on the madness in “The Name of God.”
        God Swill..

          1. caucus99percenter

            My understanding is that the “Free Will” clause in the Life on Earth™ end-user agreement releases them from responsibility for such things as sadism.

            “By discontinuing reliance on the umbilical cord and taking your first breath, you agree …”

        1. Mark Gisleson

          Walked to the micro-packing plant for more hamburger this morning and asked the gal behind the counter if they’d had any red calves brought in for slaughter lately. She doesn’t get my jokes but I always pay cash so she always laughs.

            1. Mark Gisleson

              Nice try, we had to eat bison once a year when a nearby town would have its Buffalo Days. Very dry meat. I understand it’s healthier but taste-wise it’s like comparing pita bread to red velvet cake. Knowing and salivating are two different things!

              Growing up with it, I really didn’t understand how unusual it was to see bison grazing in the 1960s. Never saw them running, only in the movies.

      2. ambrit

        It’s the Red Heiffer Mr Strether.
        Wait for the cornerstone for the Third Temple to be laid in the Mount. Then short Holy Water big time.
        Some of the more outre CTs claim that Obama’s Presidential Library and Temple Complex in Chicago is going to be the Third Temple. However, many quibble, saying that this would be just a little bit too LDS. It is arguable that “O” is the Anti-Christ, and Michael/Michelle is that well known ‘Lobbyist of Babylon.’ I see it as yet another ‘sign’ of the Eschatification of Everything.
        Stay safe and spin the Prayer Wheels extra fast.

      3. The Rev Kev

        Meanwhile the Ultras find other ways to keep themselves busy-

        ‘Israelis harassing the families of abducted individuals at their “headquarters” near Hakirya military base in Kaplan, Tel Aviv, one passerby called a father a traitor and said he hopes his daughter dies’


        These are Netanyahu supporters who think that these people are making the government look bad by only bombing and not trying to get those hostages back.

  3. Mikel

    “Young Morality and Old Morality” [Hamilton Nolan, How Things Work].

    One of the main downfalls of student movements is that youth is a temporary condition.

    But then, life can throw people for a loop at any age.

  4. RoadDoggie

    ‘Transportation is about getting people to the place they want to go,’
    I always just assumed she was drunk!

    You ever see the time she was talking about time?
    “The significance of the passage of time, right? The significance of the passage of time. So when you think about it, there is great significance to the passage of time…there is such great significance to the passage of time.”

    1. steppenwolf fetchit

      . . . listening to a Kamala Harris speech . . . ” and the seconds passed like kidneystones” . . .

    2. steppenwolf fetchit

      It brings to mind that deathless quote from Dan Quayle when speaking to the United Negro College Fund.

      ” What a terrible thing to have lost one’s mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.”

      Perhaps Kamala Harris is the “Dan Quayle” Democrat.

  5. steppenwolf fetchit

    Maybe we should refer to business-driven price rises as ” jackupflation”. As in ” businesses jack up the price and hope we will mis-attribute it to ‘inflation’ ” .

    If anyone thinks that newly invented word — “jackupflation” — is useful and could even be injected into the language, feel free to use it and try.

    A simpler version might be “bizflation”, if “jackupflation” is just too long.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Different words should be tried to see which ones ( if any) catch on. Some commonly recognized word to indicate the word-user’s knowledge that this is an artificially engineered inflation. Maybe ” racketflation” could be tried too.

        corpflation . . . bizflation . . . jackupflation . . . jackflation . . . racketflation . . .scamflation . . . many words could be engineered and launched to see if any float.

        1. CanCyn

          I will be using scamflation from here on in. Has the right ring of intentional grifting to it. Thanks very much!

        2. caucus99percenter

          That’s what the “best minds of their generation” working for Big Tech are doing all the time:
          inserting code into webpages to do A/B testing and seeing which variant of whatever-it-is draws the strongest user response.

    1. Wukchumni

      In the USSR, political candidates would win elections, often garnering 98% of the vote…

      …in the USA, the idea is to always have 2% inflation, according to the government

  6. digi_owl

    Job vs work, i think i did a bit of a ramble of that over in the Polish election article.

    This how even in communist Poland the idea was full employment, a very capitalist notion of how society is organized. As if employment ennobled the employee.

    There is this talk about a protestant work ethic, but i do wonder if it embedded into (non-orthodox) Christianity as whole. After all, there is the notion of toil in the present getting rewarded with leisure in the afterlife. So bend your peasant back and toil for king and church like a good god-fearing christian.

  7. Jason Boxman

    I’d like to congratulate Joe Biden and the CDC, Rochelle, and Mandy, for bringing us >20% Walgreens COVID positivity for most of his presidential term. Well done!

  8. antidlc

    Lambert, you can add this to your celebrity list:

    The Late Show
    A message from Stephen:
    Sorry to say, per doctor’s orders, I’m going to be out for the rest of the week. Resting up so that I can deliver the hand crafted, artisanal talk show that we so enjoy serving you. In the meantime, a heady blend of Paxlovid and onions in my socks (thank you, Fallon) will be rebuilding my immune system.

    This isn’t the first time he caught it.

    His show came back on October 2. This past Moday, Oct. 16, he did the show from his home. Last night was a repeat.

    1. The Rev Kev

      That can’t be right. He was saying that vaccinations would solve everything. He even did song and dance about it on one of his shows with people dressed up as syringes dancing among the audience. If you can’t get good advice from a – unfunny – comedian, where can you get it from?

    1. Pat

      Wait, where have I “heard” this line before… oh yeah I know,almost every account of child abuse, molestation or murder has some version of the “ child asked for it” or “brought it on themself”.

    2. Carolinian

      Colonel Chivington, after murdering the natives including children at Sand Creek, said “nits make lice.”


      So perhaps your quotee is following the same line–those kids are guilty of demographic crimes.

      MOA says it’s the rationalizations that are losing this war for Israel as much as the violence.


      So honorary Israeli cabinet member Biden is harming the US and harming Israel too by not restraining them. But then is Biden ever right about anything? He is worse than a crime, a mistake.

    3. notabanker

      I was just watchng Born in Gaza on Netflix. It is a 1 hour documentary filmed in 2014 that chronicles children growing up there. One kids says –
      We were bombed for playing soccer on the beach, 4 of us died, the other four were injured. What are they going to do to us when we are adults?

  9. Carolinian

    Re Chutkan–if it leaps like a kangaroo and boxes like a kangaroo….

    Hope I’m not going to be sanctioned for saying that. I disavow any connection to Donald Trump including via hypnosis when were captured by the Chi Coms in Manchuria back in the ’50s.

  10. albrt

    I can’t tell you how I know this, but front line CDC personnel observed transmission in institutions in March of 2020, and observed that it could not be controlled by handwashing, etc.

    The higher ups knew exactly what was going on and suppressed this information in early 2020 and at every stage thereafter.

  11. Benny Profane

    Steve Garvey, I just learned, is 74. Honestly, I thought he was dead. I’m old enough to remember not liking him as a player. But, really? This is what some think is a valid replacement for what just happened with Fienstein? After watching her decline for years? What is wrong with California?

    1. Tom Stone

      California is a totally corrupt one party State.
      Look at the incarceration rate, the highest in the History of the World, look at Childhood Poverty, Homelessness, Hung3er, the immense gulf between the few haves and the many have nots.
      Look at any measure of societal health and California belongs in an ICU.
      That’s what’s wrong with California.

      1. Rahman

        If you exclude the illegals and “migrants”, what are the statistics for native Californians?

        You cannot have a third world nation next to a first world one with open borders and expect things to not decline.

  12. Wukchumni

    [Some Republicans] are openly floating an alternative: Empowering acting Speaker Patrick McHenry to move certain legislation on the floor.”

    PotempKevin to the rescue!

    The Speaker imbroglio is playing out, there isn’t anybody left on team Pachyderm, and to hand the reins over to the Donkey Show would mean the effective end of the Red Scare, completely discredited… not that they weren’t heretofore.

    In the space of a month or 2, evidence of the Young Guns & Freedom Caucus having any real power will be gone.

  13. t

    Toobin seems to be rehashing a lot of old stuff – perhaps he went blog surfing with the Way-Back Machine.

  14. Camelotkidd

    “Deb Chachra’s ‘How Infrastructure Works’” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “Infrastructure isn’t merely a way to deliver life’s necessities – mobility, energy, sanitation, water, and so on – it’s a shared way of delivering those necessities…”
    Progressive economist Simon Patten called infrastructure the “fourth factor of production,” where health care, transportation and rents should be subsidized by the government to create a low-cost economy where small businesses and entrepreneurs can prosper. Neoliberals, on the other hand, seem determined to privatize infrastructure and enact tollbooths across the economy to extract rents

  15. The Rev Kev

    Latest person to get unhinged from this war is David P. Goldman who writes ‘If China wants regional stability and the flourishing of civilization, it should hope that Israel succeeds in destroying the Hamas barbarians.’ So here is is talking about China’s own “barbarians” – the Uighurs. He does say the following-

    ‘I heard Chinese scholars assert that the United States deliberately incubated jihadists to destabilize China. I do not believe that the United States did this deliberately, but American missteps in the so-called Global War on Terror surely created problems for China. ‘

    Lying b****** as he has to know that this is what the US does all around the world – financing terrorists to set countries on fire and destabilize them for fun and profit. Here he is trying to say ‘mistakes were made’ but I doubt that China will bother listening to people like him-


    1. Tom Stone

      I think it highly likely that Joe claimed to have been born in Israel, His Mental deterioration has become more obvious by the Month.
      American Presidents must be Native born…perhaps it’s the most graceful way to hand the reins over to Kamala Jill could think of.
      On another note, despite the evidence piling up about the Biden Family influence peddling I don’t think Joe is competent to stand trial.
      Since I despise the Man I would love to depose him under oath, anyone competent could get him to totally lose his shit in 30 seconds or less.

    2. notabanker

      I think he is saying, or reading, ‘that’s why it was born’. The closed caption has it wrong. It hasn’t been programmed for mush mouth.

    3. steppenwolf fetchit

      I watched a ” CNN” you tube video of the Biden Speech and there were two several-second parts of the speech where the video suddenly went silent and the subtitles suddenly stopped. And after a few seconds they started again.

      I don’t have the time or energy right now to try finding a video of the speech without any little ” Rose Mary Woods” intervals of silence in the video.

      Watching this little video sequence linked to, I can’t tell if it is real or deepfake. Perhaps an untampered-with video of the speech itself could help to answer that question.

  16. Carolinian

    Have had trouble getting through to


    but finally did by switching to a different computer and browser. The lead story says they are under bot attack.

    MOA has also had problems and have apparently dropped the RSS feed or at least it doesn’t work for me.

    So if you can’t pound the facts pound the hacking tools? St. Clair wrote a rather severe–and I thought good–round up of the ME situation last Friday.

    1. Daryl

      “Children are dying.”
      Lull nodded. “That’s a succinct summary of humankind, I’d say. Who needs tomes and volumes of history? Children are dying. The injustices of the world hide in those three words.”

      ― Steven Erikson, Deadhouse Gates

  17. ThirtyOne

    I recall reading something about scorpions and pockets from some local tin-pot dictator…

    Israel is demanding an apology from the UN, which for years allowed Hamas to build a war machine in Gaza.


    Former US Congressman Ron Paul: “Hamas was created by the Israeli government to oppose Yasser Arafat.”

    Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin: “Supporting and creating Hamas was a fatal mistake.”

    Former expert on interaction with the Arab population in the IDF, Colonel David Hakam: “Israel’s support for extremists like Yassin (founder of Hamas) is an original sin, but then no one thought about the consequences.”

    Rabbi Avner Cohen, who was in charge of religious affairs in Gaza for 20 years: “Hamas, to my great regret, is a creation of Israel.”

    1. steppenwolf fetchit

      One might also note that Israeli nastiness in freshly occupied southern Lebanon after defeating the PLO forces there prepared the ground for the eventual rise of Hezbollah. Colonel Yermya of Israel Defense Forces wrote a little book about that.

      I remember reading years ago about a major Iranian intelligence figure who went to Lebanon to help organize the disparate Shia militias ( not including Nabih Berri’s Amal Militia though, I don’t think) into the eventual Hezbollah. But I can’t remember his name.

      And to think it started out so wonderfully for Israel in South Lebanon. I remember reading many years ago a column by Evans and Novak called ” Compared to the hell we have had here in Lebanon, the Israelis are brothers”. ( I tried finding an online link but couldn’t. It would probably take many hours looking at microfilms from that time period to find it. One will not find it on line at all. Never ever., I suspect). After a short while, it became obvious to the South Lebanese Shia that Israel had not intended to solve the problem and leave. Israel intended to ” solve the problem” and stay. And the Shia did not want that. They formed different militias which Larijani (?) of Iran eventually arrived to help form into a single effective militia-party-movement called Hezbollah.

      1. The Rev Kev

        That is how it started for the German Wehrmacht when they first invaded Russia. They were greeted as brothers and liberators – until the locals worked out that they were there to stay and the native populations were to be either enslaved, removed or exterminated.

  18. ChrisFromGA

    I had a disorienting experience driving downtown today, flipping between Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC on XM radio.

    (I realize if my insurance company is listening I am going to get a nasty surprise next month at billing time.)

    They were all covering Biden’s trip and the atrocity at the hospital. All three were indistinguishable. The great addled one was to be rallied around, and those evil Hamas guys surely bombed their own hospital, because unpublished secret intelligence says so.

    (You know, the same kind that said Assad gassed the ISIS … whoops I meant freedumb fighters in Aleppo)

    “You’ll just have to trust us” is apparently now acceptable to journalists as a source. No evidence necessary- from the mouth of Bibi and Joe straight to the factual record. No need for any of that free thinking, questioning stuff.

    All three also agreed that Rashida is evil and needs to go for daring to question the narrative.

    The Uniparty has now completed its takeover of all three big corporate media outlets. Goebbels would be proud!

    It’s really amazing how unity can just happen when they find a rallying cause like defense of the indefensible. Pigs fly, and MSNBC sounds just like Fox!

    Ukraine does tend to have the same effect, especially with Tucker long since purged from the scene.

  19. thoughtfulperson

    Regarding why the Northeast US has been higher on covid cases recently. I looked at the regional variants to see if any differences.

    Latest available is 9/16, but it appears there are a couple quickly rising variants that are further ahead in the NE, and had not been doing as much yet in the other regions. HV.1 was the larger of the 2. Also growing fast was GK1.1

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