2:00PM Water Cooler 10/24/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, the Politics section is so thin because I decided to start with Covid (and Verily’s horrid wastewater dashboards). I will beef it up shortly. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

American White Pelican, Summer Lake Wildlife Area, Lake, Oregon, United States. “Heavy wing beats and movement on water by two birds.”

* * *


“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

“The five-front war that the US is unprepared to fight” [Harlan Ullman, The Hill]. “Today, President Joe Biden faces more complicated and risk-filled tasks: the prospect of a five-front war with fewer allies. This five-front war is not all “hot” in that bullets are flying everywhere. However, escalation is a growing danger. The first two fronts are [1]China as ‘the pacing threat’ and [2]Russia as the ‘acute threat.’ China is an economic and military superpower; Russia is a military one. And both are testing and challenging American global leadership…. With the Oct. 7 Hamas offensive against [3] Israel… and the conflict in [4] Ukraine, two hot wars are underway. This accounts for four fronts. Perhaps the most debilitating is the [5] fifth front taking place in America. Politics, no matter the importance or triviality of the issue, is profoundly dividing the nation across party and ideological lines. The two opposing sides have visceral and even irreparable differences not amenable to compromise…. White Houses have difficulty in dealing with one crisis let alone more. Now, five imminent crises are in place. No matter how competent senior White House officials are, the bandwidth and the ability to focus simultaneously on several conflicts is very limited. Media demands for briefings as well as difficult and embarrassing questions are unhelpful to any White House. And the “loyal” opposition will be determined to eviscerate the president…. What does this mean? Since World War II, it is impossible to recall any time when the United States confronted as many testing issues and crises as today. There is no manual or book in existence on how to manage a five-front war. Biden is the most experienced foreign policy president America has had since Bush 41. But how good is his strategic judgment? Could any single president safely navigate the extraordinarily treacherous waters of a five-front war? We will see.” • First, the first four fronts, and maybe the fifth, can be collapsed into one: the end of empire. (Simple, but not necessarily tractable.) Second, Axios uses a similar “five” trope, though they call “fronts” “crises.” Their Big Five: [1] Israel’s response to the Hamas terrorist attack, [2] Vladimir Putin meeting in China this week with Xi Jinping, [3] a malicious Iran, [4] North Korea, and [5] a massive spread of doctored or wholly fake videos to manipulate what people see and think in real time. Seems to me [5] from Axios and [5] from Ullman in The Hill are two sides of the same coin: And the Censorship Industrial Complex is the answer to both. (I wonder why 5?)


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Trump Might Win and Have Dems To Thank” [RealClearPolitics]. “There are always a lot of moving pieces in an election and it’s early, but Trump’s current support basically comes from three groups: Those who know, love, and miss him; those who may not miss him but miss 2019’s peace and prosperity; and those who believe Democrats are corrupting our justice system to persecute a political opponent. Since 2020, Democrats have solidified support for Trump with the first two groups to the point where you have to wonder whether it was intentional – and then they literally created the third group…. And who doesn’t miss 2019’s low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, secure border, urban calm, peace breaking out in the Middle East, and no one seriously contemplating World War III.” • I ran this before, but it’s worth repeating. Also, Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

“Trump Plots to Pull Out of NATO — If He Doesn’t Get His Way” [Rolling Stone]. Bastard keeps asking for my vote. “[T]he former president mistakenly spoke of the alliance as a kind of protection racket, in which members’ spending obligations were paid to the U.S. as dues rather than a general requirement for countries to spend set amounts on defense as they saw fit.” • “Mistakenly”? Seems to me that Trump has an understanding of how the Empire operates of with The Other Bearded One would thoroughly approve…

* * *

“The Memo: Democrats divided on Biden’s vulnerabilities for 2024” [The Hill]. “[I]n head-to-head polls against four-times-indicted former President Trump, Biden is in a dead heat at best. Now, polls in battleground states are flashing warning signs as well…. ‘What the White House has not come to terms with is, next year’s election is going to be a referendum on the president — and right now he is losing that vote,’ the [Democratic] strategist said. ‘The fact that he is tied with a former president who faces 91 charges — and yet the White House does not seem to grasp that they have a fundamental reelection problem — is unbelievable,’ the frustrated strategist added…. Several polls in key states from Bloomberg/Morning Consult this week showed Biden behind, albeit by relatively narrow margins, in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The president carried all four states in 2020. Not every poll predicts doom. Some recent polls give Biden a narrow edge nationwide — by 1 point in an Economist/YouGov poll and by 3 points in an NPR/PBS/Marist survey earlier this month. But the tightness of the numbers churns up concerns that have been commonplace in Democratic circles for some time.”

* * *

“How has RFK Jr. raised all that money?” [Politico]. “In fact, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — the environmental lawyer-turned-vaccine skeptic who has never held public office — raised more money in the latest fundraising period than anyone else running for president other than Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis. Now an independent candidate after leaving the Democratic primary, Kennedy’s powerhouse fundraising — the Kennedy family scion collected an eyebrow-raising $8.7 million in the third quarter — is making it harder to dismiss his potential impact as a player in 2024…. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Kennedy’s donors represent a range of professionals from across the entertainment industry…. A significant number of these artists and industry professionals hail from Kennedy’s home state of California — about $2.6 million of his take came from California, more than any other state. … A significant chunk of Kennedy’s backers work in the health industry. There are physicians, dentists, psychologists and nurses, who make up more than $500,000 of Kennedy’s haul to date. And there’s also a brigade of practitioners of alternative medicine… at least $100,000 from donors who previously gave to committees associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former President Donald Trump donated to Kennedy in the first few months after his launch — and the total from ex-Trump donors continued to grow in the most recent quarter.”

Republican Funhouse

“Is There a New Left Stirring Within The New Right?” [John Judis, The Liberal Patriot]. By Betteridge’s Law, no. “[T]here is a segment of recent politics that is sometimes identified with the ‘new right’ but in reality offers a much more heterodox—and interesting—approach to politics and policy, one that’s well worth considering by liberals and left-wingers alike. This new tendency can be found in the policy group, American Compass, the online magazine Compact, and the journal American Affairs. Its leading intellectuals are Oren Cass of American Compass, Julius Krein of American Affairs, Sohrab Ahmari of Compact, and author Michael Lind. What distinguishes these thinkers from others is their engagement with what used to be called ‘the labor question’ namely, how America can fulfill its original promise of political and economic equality in a society where the owners and managers of capital have inordinate power over labor and politics. These thinkers consider questions that were once confined to the left: how to revive the American labor movement and now to tame the power of multinational corporations and global banks. They often cite left-wing and liberal writers like John Kenneth Galbraith and Karl Polanyi. The most recent and noteworthy examples are Lind’s Hell to Pay, Ahmari’s Tyranny, Inc., and Oren Cass and American Compass’s Rebuilding American Capitalism.”• Analytically, this is not hard. If you want “political and economic equality in a society where the owners and managers of capital have inordinate power over labor and politics” then you give workers control over the means of production. I doubt these fresh doxies will be willing to entertain the possibility.

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 existential position of Democrat Party supporters:

Some decades ago, I remember there was a joke on Daily Kos about this very scenario: A man carrying (the Democrat) donkey on his back. He just couldn’t give it up! But I can’t quite remember it. Readers?

“AG Ellison seeks to shutter nearly two dozen nonprofits implicated in $250 million Feeding Our Future fraud” [Sahan Journal]. “Attorney General Keith Ellison is seeking to dissolve nearly two dozen nonprofits that were allegedly involved in a federal food-aid fraud scandal. Ellison’s office filed civil lawsuits Wednesday to shut down 23 nonprofits that were either established or reestablished shortly before the fraud allegedly started in 2020. The scandal, known as the Feeding Our Future case, involved several dozen suspects stealing an estimated $250 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars meant to feed underprivileged children, prosecutors have said. Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has charged 60 defendants in the case with counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. Fourteen defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. The remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty. The alleged fraud involved sponsor organizations like Feeding Our Future receiving federal funds through the Minnesota Department of Education. The sponsor organizations then distributed those funds to food vendors and food sites, which were supposed to provide ready-to-eat meals to local children. Instead, federal prosecutors say, the defendants spent most of the money on private purchases like luxury homes and flashy cars.” • Many of the non-profits had other state contracts. Good for EIllison; a Democrat going after NGOs is remarkable. The scheme is of the sort generally described as “sprawling,” and I wonder if Ilhan Omar is touched in any way. (The stories don’t mention the party to which the many defendants belong, but from class and cultural markers I infer Democrats.) Readers?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A Month When Decades Happen” [William Kristol, The Bulwark]. Kristol quoting Lenin (the other Bearded One). What is the world coming to? “Fifty years ago, we had another October in which decades of history happened. October 1973 saw the Yom Kippur War, a tense nuclear showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union, the oil embargo, Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation, and President Richard Nixon’s firing Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating Watergate…. But the events also stimulated a reaction that arguably led to the strengthening of democratic guardrails in the United States, to an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1978, to economic liberalization in China and India, and after 1979 to a turn in U.S. foreign policy and a defense buildup that helped end the Cold War.” • As I’ve said, I loathe that “guardrail” metaphor, possibly 2023’s laziest trope, and the competition is fierce. It implies, for starters, that the road was built in the right place, and that one’s car is heading in the right direction. And maybe if the lunatic driver stopped swerving toward that darned cliff, the guardrail wouldn’t even be needed.


“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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ComicCons get it right, as opposed to, say, Infectious Disease conferences:

Hey, remember when CDC’s “infection detective” conference turned into a superspreader event? CDC was going to investigate that. I wonder when we’ll hear about the results?

Covid is Airborne

Only a month ’til superspreading season the Holidays, so start negotiating your airborne protections now:

Immune System Dysregulation

“As we are hit with yet another Covid wave, I want to reflect on the promises of herd immunity by infection…” [Anthony J. Leonardi, ThreadReader]. “…..with special consideration of claims that pre-existing cross-reactive T cell immunity to other coronaviruses was aiding in achieving the herd-immunity threshold . These two circumstances are not unrelated. The reason we are having constant reinfection with sars cov 2 is because we gave the virus the keys to the kingdom: enough replication to enable evolution to escape key parts of our immune systems. In 2020, I warned that resting hopes of herd immunity on T cell immunity was perilous and a bad idea. I said it would enable mutations and evolution of the virus to the extent to facilitate reinfection. Now, this is our reality.” • A must-read, and usefully connected both to the article from Cell under Variants, and Elite Maleficence.


“Population immunity predicts evolutionary trajectories of SARS-CoV-2” [Cell]. It does in a model. From the Abstract: “The large-scale evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been marked by rapid turnover of genetic clades. New variants show intrinsic changes, notably increased transmissibility, and antigenic changes that reduce cross-immunity induced by previous infections or vaccinations. How this functional variation shapes global evolution has remained unclear. Here, we establish a predictive fitness model for SARS-CoV-2 that integrates antigenic and intrinsic selection. The model is informed by tracking of time-resolved sequence data, epidemiological records, and cross-neutralization data of viral variants. Our inference shows that immune pressure, including contributions of vaccinations and previous infections, has become the dominant force driving the recent evolution of SARS-CoV-2. The fitness model can serve continued surveillance in two ways. First, it successfully predicts the short-term evolution of circulating strains and flags emerging variants likely to displace the previously predominant variant. Second, it predicts likely antigenic profiles of successful escape variants prior to their emergence.”• Hmm. Not really my beat, and I hope somebody from the Brain Trust will weigh in. (FWIW, my first thought is that whatever the “dominant force” might be today, that has surely been shaped by our abandonment of all non-pharmaceutical interventions (including non-pissant lockdowns in the beginning).


“COVID’s Damage Lingers in the Heart” [Harvard Medicine]. “The number of COVID-19 cases is once again spiking [wouldn’t know it from the news!] — and the coronavirus continues to evolve. The latest omicron variant, BA.2.86, has more than thirty mutations that could allow it to evade the immune system’s defenses. Given the ongoing threat, research into COVID-19’s cardiovascular effects ‘remains vitally important,’ says Anne-Marie Anagnostopoulos, a cardiologist and an HMS instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. ‘We need a greater understanding of the associated pathophysiology to develop better treatments…. In most people — especially those who’ve been vaccinated — COVID-19 produces flu-like symptoms that typically resolve within a few days or weeks. But other people progress to a second, and more dangerous, phase of the disease, as pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines proliferate in the blood. During this so-called cytokine storm, the immune system becomes hyperactive, ‘causing a different set of problems,’ says Dara Lee Lewis, MD ’92, an HMS instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s and director of noninvasive testing and co-director of the Women’s Cardiology Program at the Lown Cardiology Group in Boston. ‘Patients can develop weakened heart muscles, low oxygen levels, blood clots, fluid in the lungs — problems that may require hospitalization.'” • Cytokine storms are well known, but it’s good to see an explainer reach the mainstream.

“Is Recovery Just the Beginning? Persistent Symptoms and Health and Performance Deterioration in Post-COVID-19, non-hospitalised University Students – A Cross-Sectional Study” [medRxiv]. N = “214 students, averaging 21.8 years of age.” Questionaire. From the Abstract: “Trends of improvement in physical and mental health, as well as error rate, were observed within the first two years post-infection. However, fatigue and reaction time showed a trend of deterioration. Beyond the two-year mark, physical health and error rate continued to improve, while mental health began to deteriorate. Fatigue and reaction time continued to decline. Overall, our findings suggest that some effects of contracting COVID-19 can persist or even deteriorate over time, even in younger individuals who had mild cases that did not require hospitalization.”

“Bacterial bloodstream infection in critically ill patients with COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study” [Therapeutic Advances in Infectious Disease]. “Among the 201 included patients, 43 (21.4%) patients developed [bloodstream infections (BSIs)].” Nevertheless: “The occurrence of BSI did not significantly influence mortality, which may be attributed to prompt and appropriate interventions, including early detection and appropriate management. Prompt initiation of empirical antibiotics, followed by adjustment according to culture results, may help prevent adverse outcomes. Additionally, all patients in this study had severe COVID-19, which may have been the major determinant of mortality.”

“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.

* * *

Elite Maleficence

They knew (1):

Going through a trove of FOIAed emails…

They knew (2):

A very long thread from the UK Covid inquiry; I don’t know enough about the players (except for Ryan and Conley) to comment. Perhaps some UK readers will step in.

* * *

Case Data

Lambert: Here is the current state Verily’s wastewater dashboard, weeks after CDC gave the Alphabet brain geniuses the national wastewater contract. Seamless transition, totally. This is the brutal UI/UX dashboard:

There is, of course, no national data. Hilariously, the pop-up that documents the color-coding for the locations covers up the current data; I’ve helpfully highligheted the data that does show at right. Who coded this? The boss’s brother-in-law?

This is the recommended clickthough at data.wastewaterscan.org:

Verily says the clickthrough is the same data “viewed in more detail,” and somehow they’ve made it national. At least there’s a checkbox to that effect which, with some effort, you can find and select. I managed to mess with the date-range slider bar at bottom to get coverage all the way back to July 2020, which misses the initial peak entirely. But as you can see, however, this data gives you no sense of the complete course of the pandemic, in great contrast to Biobot’s simple, clean, and complete presentation (below). Why, it’s almost as is if CDC hired Verily to erase the history!

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.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, October 14:

Lambert here: 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 14:

Lambert here: Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator until Verily gets its house in order (and working class-centric, since I would doubt the upper crust goes to the ER).

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 24:

Still decreasing. (New York State is now falling, too.) I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive (although the hospital-centric public health establishment loves it, hospitalization and deaths being the only metrics that matter).

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. October 14:

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?


Lambert here: Not at all happy to see positivity upticks when CDC has knocked out our wastewater data. Nice timing, guys!

From Walgreens, October 23:

0.7%. Slight increase. (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.)

From Cleveland Clinic, October 21:

Lambert here: Slight increase. 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.

From CDC, traveler’s data, October 2:

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers:

Sudden big BA.2.86 appearance.

• “Neutralization escape by SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant BA.2.86” [Vaccine]. From the Discussion: These data suggest that BA.2.86 evolved directly from the less resistant BA.2 variant, rather than from the current highly resistant circulating recombinant variants, which presumably were selected for increased NAb escape following infection with XBB lineage viruses. Thus, BA.2.86 does not show increased antibody escape compared with current circulating variants. Our findings are concordant with other studies from the U.S [4], [5] but contrast with studies from Asia [6], [7], which may reflect differences in population immunity due to different vaccine and variant exposures in various regions of the world.” • [wipes brow].


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: 1,180,119 – 1,179,671 = 448 (448 * 365 = 163,520 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 23:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the Richmond area decreased to 3 in October 2023 from 5 in September. Of its three component indexes, shipments edged up to 9 from 7, new orders fell to -4 from 3, and employment remained at 7. Most firms continued to report declining backlogs and vendor lead time as these indexes both remained negative. Meanwhile, two of the three spending indexes decreased.”

* * *

Tech: “Study Reveals: Threads is the most Invasive apps, shares 86% of your data with others” [The Money Mongers]. • What, Zuckerberg? (See discussion of social media, including Threads, here.)

Tech: “Cloud giants sound alarm on record-breaking DDoS attacks” [Cybersecurity Dive]. “AWS, Cloudflare and Google observed mass exploits of a novel zero-day vulnerability used to launch distributed denial of service attacks reaching a record-breaking scale, the companies said Tuesday. Security researchers warned threat actors are exploiting the zero-day vulnerability, HTTP/2 Rapid Reset, to launch a series of attacks. Observations of peak requests per second during the attacks varied widely between AWS, Cloudflare and Google.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 28 Fear (previous close: 26 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 24 at 12:52:40 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes down one Date Settings. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most! • The goat sacrificers are going to defile the Al Aqsa mosque, and the Rapture Index is down? I hardly had them in the contrarian box!

The Jackpot

“Transcript: Bethany McLean on Pandemic Fails” (interview) [The Big Picture]. Interesting, though not especially rigorous, but worth a skim. Interesting to see these ideas percolating out into the business press. “The anti-vax sentiment did start under Democrats when they were, when they were the Trump vaccines. And so you had Democrats like Cuomo saying, I don’t know about these things. They’re being rushed by Trump. And you had a lot of skepticism about the vaccines being generated by Democrats before the vaccines were even produced. And then once they were produced and once the Biden administration started pushing them, it’s as if as soon as Biden said that these vaccines are good, the anti-vax sentiment shifted to the right because it flipped. Heaven forbid that Biden was saying, and Democrats were saying something was good, then it had to be bad. And it just, it really is just profoundly depressing and upsetting.”

Zeitgeist Watch


I’ve gotta say that “front hole” (which I’ve seen elsewhere) is the most obscene language I’ve ever encountered for genitalia. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but if we’re teaching our children this, we should stop.

The Gallery

It hadn’t occurred to me that Hieronymus Bosch was a genre painter, but look:

And look:

And while we’re at it, here’s some disaster pr0n:

Groves of Academe

I hope you don’t know anybody who operates this way:

Class Warfare

“5,000 UAW members go on strike at Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas” [CBS]. “The UAW has expanded its strike again, and called 5,000 members at one of General Motors’ most profitable plants to join the strike. UAW members at the Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas joined the strike on Tuesday, Oct. 24. This comes hours after GM announced a quarterly profit of more than $3 billion. The earnings are down 7% from last year due to the UAW strike and increased warranty costs. ‘Another record quarter, another record year. As we’ve said for months: record profits equal record contracts,’ said UAW President Shawn Fain. ‘It’s time GM workers, and the whole working class, get their fair share.’ According to the UAW, despite having record earnings, GM’s offer is behind Ford’s offer and includes, ‘a two-tier wage progression, the weakest 401(k) contribution offer on the table, a deficient COLA and other shortcomings.'”

“California’s Labor Victories Could Be Contagious” [The Nation]. “Last week, labor scored its latest victory in a long run of success stories in 2023. In the face of a three-day strike by nurses, ER technicians, and pharmacists earlier in the month, and the prospect of additional strike action in November by the coalition of unions representing 85,000 workers unless an agreement was reached, Kaiser Permanente agreed to a minimum wage of $25 per hour for California employees—90 percent of its employees are based in the Golden State—and $23 for employees elsewhere in the country. The healthcare giant also accepted a 21 percent pay increase for workers over four years, and the hiring of more staff to address chronic labor shortages. The deal was finalized in a meeting in San Francisco that ended in the middle of the night, presided over by acting Labor Secretary Julie Su. It had the backing of President Biden and Vice President Harris, both of whom made strong statements in favor of collective bargaining and the right to organize. More healthcare workers went out on strike during the three-day action than had ever before walked off the job in the United States in a single action. It was, quite rightly, seen as a historic moment, in which organized labor asserted its power within the healthcare system more than it has ever previously managed to do.” • I can’t help but wonder if the “labor coalition” (interesting in itself) would have won even bigger gains if the national Democrats had not bee involved.

“The Moral Authority of Marc Rowan” [Maureen Tkacik, The American Prospect]. The deck: “The private equity billionaire is leading a boycott of an Ivy League oligarch factory over a Palestinian literary festival it held last month.” The “Ivy League oligarch factory” is Penn’s famous Wharton Business School. But it gets even more repugnant: “In the 33 years since a group of Michael Milken protégés founded the consummate modern private equity firm, Apollo has run its businesses ragged. The economic analysts at Moody’s have consistently found that Apollo portfolio companies plunged into distress or default around two-thirds of the time, the highest rate in the business. Since the pandemic began, the financial giant and its subsidiaries have been involved in at least 20 corporate bankruptcies, from the dramatic (and ‘perplexing,’ in the Financial Times’ characterization) liquidation of the trucking company Yellow to the unexpectedly ‘messy’ bankruptcy of serial looting victim Serta Simmons Bedding…. Sometimes Apollo’s ‘investments’ fail as a result of having made Apollo insiders unimaginably rich; other times, Apollo leverages its mastery of the bankruptcy code to enrich itself off other private equity firms’ failures. First-year associates, according to Business Insider, typically make a base salary of $450,000; Apollo founder Leon Black is worth more than $12 billion. And Black’s longtime disciple and current Apollo chief executive officer Marc Rowan is estimated to be worth $5.8 billion. I bring this up today only because that same Marc Rowan has spent the past week casting himself on cable news and on the anti-woke celebrity publisher Bari Weiss’s Free Press website as some kind of moral authority.” And “If Rowan were truly interested in rehabilitating the reputation of the firm he co-founded, he might forswear wage theft or dividends that leave large employers insolvent or strategic bankruptcies designed specifically to bust unions and plunder their pension funds. But that would require Rowan to acknowledge the carnage with which his company’s insatiable drive for speedy investment returns has littered flyover country. As the scheme to punish his alma mater illustrates, ‘bullying detractors into exhausted submission’ is more amenable to his comfort zone.” • “Anti-woke celebrity publisher Bari Weiss” is not unfair, not unfair at all. Fun stuff. Tkacik is always worth a read!

News of the Wired

“When is a privacy button not a privacy button? When Google runs it, claims lawsuit” [The Register]. “The complaint cites internal Google communication about the true nature of the WAA control: “As summarized by a Google employee in an internal email, ‘WAA (or any of the other controls) does not actually control what is stored by Google, but simply what the user has access to. This is really bad. … I for one didn’t realize Google actually stored all of my activity even if those controls were off and I work at Google! Seems sort of silly to turn them off as I’m not any safer with them off than on.'” • Denialist brain damage, just in a less usual context….

* * *

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 IM:

IM writes: “The neighbourhood Amanita Muscaria is back! It was so dry last autumn that the mycelium gave fruiting bodies a pass, but this year, there was enough rain to bring them out. They love the European hornbeams. The edgy, urban nature of this particular shroom is highlighted by the car in the background.” Don’t eat this mushroom! It’s toxic!

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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. Jason Boxman

    An interesting fact about the 1918 Pandemic is that they did not know the flu came from a virus. That was not “discovered” until 1931. But they observed the disease did not spread as rapidly when people were masked and buildings had good ventilation. The virus is airborne!

    Yep. I’ve said this repeatedly: Public health under the miasma theory of disease was closer to the mark than today’s droplet lunatics are, and more lives were saved as a result than our corporations-first public health approach today. This is a complete disgrace. And it’s been revealed recently that the WHO and others suspected SARS-COV-2 was indeed airborne at the onset of the Pandemic. This is crystal clear profits over people. So we get hand washing, arrows on the floor to walk in the same direction (lolz), and “face coverings”, and some gatherings banned but not others based on some random heuristic rather than ventilation or air exchanges per hour.

    No wonder public health is completely discredited. The response proceeded from the original sin, that capitalism must be protected first and foremost, not people. No surprise that every other aspect of the response since then has cost lives and produced misery and an increasingly disabled population.

    And that’s before we get to Biden’s vaccine mandate debacle, mandating a non-sterilizing vaccine, a vaccine that the FDA has played hide the ball with the data, and reports of adverse events were continually ignored and minimized, such as when reports of women’s menstrual cycles being effected were routinely dismissed; only we find out later that yes, actually, this does happen, but never mind it’s no big deal!

    Who would trust a thing any of these people say? The public health response to this has been a gift to those who reject traditional sterilizing vaccines that literally changed our world. We’re rapidly returning to a world where diseases commonly in retreat are likely to proliferate between a reduction in sterilizing vaccination uptake among children and immune dis-regulation from multiple SARS2 infections.

    And we ought to be calling it what it is at this point. SARS2. People are getting SARS.

    And there ought not to be an infectious disease specialist alive that doesn’t know that there’s no durable immunity from a coronavirus infection. I completely forget the herd immunity lie, one of those most perverse and pervasive lies in the history of public health. This is like telling people to keep drinking from water laced with sh*t and eventually you’ll get immunity to cholera.

    This is causal murder on a global scale.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      I read a great book on the 1918 Pandemic (sorry, I gave the book to a friend and don’t recall the name or author) quite a few years ago. My takeaway was that we should do much better this time around… after all, back then there wasn’t even consensus on germs being a thing and handwashing was only beginning to come into vogue. How mistaken I was!

      1. bradford

        Gina Kolata’s “Flu” came out in 1999, and that was likely the one. I reread in in early 2000, because, like the other Naked Capitalism readers, I had an idea of what was coming.

      2. Clark T

        Possibly “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” by John Barry? I read it around 2006-07, a year or so [quick search] after first pb edition was published in the US, in late ’05.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Got a bit much when you had executives openly saying how many thousands of dead were an acceptable price to pay to return the economy to the 2019 model. Now with the ever increasing number of sick people, there will be not return to the 2019 economy and it will mutate into something else. Worse aspect is that medical establishment going all the way up to the WHO have revealed themselves to be complicit in all this subterfuge. And of course in the years to come they will complain that nobody listens to or trusts them anymore and ask why.

  2. Reply

    Groves of Academe: Of course that task force was designed not to work. Too much infighting and posturing, distractions about platforms, planks and pronouns, and besides, nobody could agree on which muffins, tea and coffee. 1/2 s

    1. LilD

      “ The reason that university politics is so vicious is because stakes are so small”
      – Henry Kissinger

  3. Jonathan King

    Amanita muscaria is indeed toxic when consumed fresh, but it is consumable after being boiled in a generous amount of fresh water for 15 minutes, drained, then boiled again in fresh water for another 15 minutes. The result is a detoxified, non-psychedelic lump of mushy fungus that can be cooked and eaten without peril. Also without much enjoyment, certainly my experience with it, although other fungophilic cooks seem to like it well enough.

    Detoxification and consumption of A. muscaria is hailed by many, opposed by some, per the debate between two of NorCal’s best-known mycologists, summarized here by one of them in 2012.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        the Plant People told me once that Amanita is where both Santy Clause and the Roman Cardinals outfits came from.
        so there’s that….

        (also that gesture that priests and cardinals and popes do with their hands(mudra?) of an inverted triangle over their groin….just sayin…Plant People know things…)

        1. i just don't like the gravy

          Wait so you’re saying that the Catholic church is an Amanita death cult? I don’t follow

          1. John Zelnicker

            Not a death cult, but there was a book back in the 1970’s or so that posited that early Christianity grew out of a group of Amanita aficionados.

            With the reports of ecstatic and other visions (hallucinations) of Jesus and Mary, maybe it’s not all that far-fetched.

            Maybe Paul had been eating one on the road to Damascus.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Got a batch of early hot peppers in the mail and some have molded. The mold goes into my chili along with the peppers. I figure anything that can grow on a chocolate habañero probably cures cancer. Anecdotally, I don’t have any tumors that I know of and so long as I avoid doctors I suspect I will remain tumor unaware which is practically the same thing as being tumor-free.

      Late harvest peppers in the mail right now. If I suddenly stop leaving too many comments, you’ll know why.

  4. flora

    re: Trump Might Win and Have Dems To Thank”

    Ya think? When B’s re-election team is starting to look like 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Plague, and Death?

      1. caucus99percenter

        The crazy thing is how the MSM in Germany, through highly selective reporting and editing, insist on presenting Biden as this great and noble, gravitas-radiating statesman.

        The distortion of reality on this and other aspects of current Western leadership is so bad that I can hardly stand to watch German TV “news” at all anymore.

        I’ve also come around to the AfD position that the government-funded, so-called public media in Germany have become so hopelessly biased and rigid in their enforcing of political goodthink that they are unreformable and that the steep, ever-increasing compulsory per-household fee (= tax) that finances them should be abolished.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          hell…just watch a random recent cspan video of the man, speaking.
          there’s a rockin chair on a porch in delaware that is lonesome for his buttocks.
          agree with his long past actions or worldview or not, this man should not be in charge of anything at all.

          1. SG

            I note that the parity in poll numbers between Trump and Biden allows us to establish a conversion factor for the relative influence of criminal indictments and age which may prove useful in evaluating candidate prospects in future races. It would appear that a single criminal indictment is the equivalent of 12 days of age.

            News you can use!

          2. Lefty Godot

            If the choices are Trump and Biden in November 2024, I expect Trump will win the popular vote by a very narrow margin and win by a landslide in the Electoral College. The question then will be whether the certification of the electors in Congress gets overrun by a mob of rainbow flag waving urban professionals carrying “Hate Has No Home Here” and “I Stand With Ukraine” placards. I’ll have to lay in a good supply of popcorn in preparation for watching that.

  5. griffen

    On deep reflection I think the Rapture Index has it wrong. Naturally I said much the same last week on whichever day it might’ve been. Now we have more talks of looming recessions ( Bill Gross, Bill Ackman, no word as yet from Bill the Cat ) and upward marching US Treasury yields so sayeth the anointed Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan. It’s like the pivotal scene out of Dumb and Dumber, before leaving RI in a magical van. “Harry, we got no jobs, no food and our pets heads are falling off !!”

    Wars and skirmishes. Looming apocalypse scenarios. Climate changing with the West Antarctic not being cooperative and resisting the glaciers melting for the greater good of course. And Joe Biden has his hand nearby a red button, with Kamala by his side. Yee Haw, as we once said in the US South.

    1. Wukchumni

      In the hoped for outcome of a Rapture®, adherents are spirited away and the only evidence that they ever existed is a clump of clothing & shoes lying on the floor, but what I don’t get is evangs are way conservative and when they show up nekkid as jaybirds @ the pearly gates there is going to be a fair amount of disgruntlement going in if they aren’t outfitted with togas, toot suite.

      1. griffen

        Working fully remote gives me a bit of respite from office banter, and in the interim I can frequently listen to a complete CD playing. Yesterday morning I was playing the best of by Jackson Browne, who is known to pen a few decent verses together of course. One song is titled Rebel Jesus, and it can be hard to argue with the subject matter in the song. Meant as a follow on and tangential to your Rapture scenario depicted above.

  6. Googoogajoob

    “Analytically, this is not hard. If you want “political and economic equality in a society where the owners and managers of capital have inordinate power over labor and politics” then you give workers control over the means of production. I doubt these fresh doxies will be willing to entertain the possibility.”

    I’ll be even more explicit – for all the kissy faces these types make with workers and fetishize the asceticism of the working class, when the chips are down they will fall in line with the demands of capital. All of the consternations they squeak out is nothing more than asking for a gentler whip arm.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      it represents an opening, though…and should be exploited ruthlessly.
      engage them wherever possible, and pick the nits with viciousness..
      this endeavor is part of the rearrangement thats finally(!) at hand.
      and who knows? yours or my engagement just might introduce enough doubt into one of them to make a difference…even, we can hope, engender a road to damascus epiphany.
      dont dismiss the potential importance of this growing rift among the erstwhile right.
      stick a wedge of Doubt into it.
      cause them to Examine their Assumptions…especially about Left=Woke, etc….
      most of those guys that ive come across have Honor in their blood, and take seriously their own honesty.
      use that!
      sadly, i have only enough time for y’all(my Peeps!)…and then, only when i’m done for the day and yet am not ready to lay down and seize up…so y’all generally get me with beer and splifs(homegrown!) and all manner of music in the background.

      this is the beginning of the end of Reaganism we’ve been labouring under, lo these many years.
      the contradictions are bearing fruit, at long last.
      help it along as best you can.

  7. Swamp Yankee

    It would be extremely unwise for John Judis, or anyone else for that matter, to trust Oren Cass’s “conversion” to a tepid North American iteration of Germany’s CDU — welfare conservatism with a basis in socially conservative social structures and understandings of the world.

    I know Cass, having, as I alluded to here previously, spent four years working and living with him as an undergrad: it’s important to recognize that Cass is fundamentally a mercenary opportunist, and that this most recent reinvention is precisely that, a reinvention, and as Lambert points out, one in which there is no actual “there” there from a left-wing perspective. Cass doesn’t have any interests in worker power or popular democracy; he is taking this recent turn because a) he is on the side of the big battalions, the ultimate go-with-the-flow flexarian; this simply reflects the currency of Left ideas post-Bernie; and b) he may actually fear his paymasters, the big capitalists, have something to worry about in terms of a social explosion. He’s not unintelligent — quite the contrary. Amoral, yes, but smart.

    Indeed, I remember early-mid 2000s Oren well, a National Review Online type who went to work for either Bain or Boston Consulting right after graduation, I can’t recall which, and was loudly disdaining, alongside his more charming but likely sociopathic confrere Mike Needham (current Rubio’s Chief of Staff, last I checked), the kinds of classes precisely where we read Karl Polanyi or Fernand Braudel on the history of capitalism (Cass also confessed quote openly that he only took a Shakespeare course for social positioning in future business and other endeavors; he had no interest in OTHELLO itself, he made abundantly clear, and regarded those of us who did with a kind of contempt).

    The proper response from the Left is to keep the pressure up on these (again, to revive a 2000s-term) _poseurs_. Show that they don’t actually mean any of their fine words when it comes to say, unions or redistribution. Because they believe me: they don’t.

    A final anecdote: I was elected Class Graduation Speaker by a large majority, 64-36%, of Oren and my undergraduate class. I beat the nephew of the neoliberal economist who was the College’s President at the time, and this nephew was very gracious in his defeat.

    Not so Cass, who supported my opponent, and “congratulated” me and then told me pointedly — this after I’d humiliated him in an opinion column the previous winter in our school paper — that “I didn’t vote for you.”

    I replied: “Well, I guess you didn’t, Oren; and yet I still won.” And by 64-36%.

    Ultimately I gave what I still think is a pretty left-wing address for a 2000s undergrad setting (I was joined on the dais by The Moustache of Understanding himself! It was of a piece with the era.)

    Oren Cass always has been anti-democracy and on the side of the bosses, and he always will be.

    Caveat emptor.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      see my comment above…and i’ll add…it doesnt matter that Cass is a wolf in sheeps garb…he aint the only one in this nascent eruption of former far right folks discovering that fdr did capitalism better than their heroes.
      exploit the doubt and evangelise.

      i mean, if we’re all wage slaves, living check to check at best(53% last i looked), who, pray tell, is gonna buy all the crap at walmart or spotify?
      if a good number of conservatives and reaganites and even libertarians are now seeing the contradictions in the orthodoxy, let us exploit that…and make hay while the sun shines.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Oh, I agree, Amfortas the Hippie — these divisions should be ruthlessly exploited. I spend a lot of my time in local government meetings (we are a direct democracy, the Open Town Meeting where every voter is a member of the legislative branch of the Town) which are run by parliamentary procedure, which opens the door for parliamentary jabs, which at least in New England, are effective rhetorically.

        This therefore is the perfect opportunity vis-a-vis Cass et al. to ask a question like:

        “I’m gratified to see that Mr. Cass has admitted that his youthful enthusiasm for the Market-Uber-Alles ideology was misplaced and in short, incorrect; given that, is he willing to agree today with Abraham Lincoln, who famously said that ‘labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration’? If not, why not?”

        I agree, heighten the contradictions. Force the indefensible belief in aristocracy out into the open, and force them to defend the indefensible.

        Okay, back to our local battles with various predatory capitalist and private economic actors. Thanks for the comment, Amfortas the Hippie!

  8. Tony Wikrent

    Leon Black and Apollo Global Management are central to the story of how finance and banking came to be dominated by organized crime., and the process by which USA’s economy has fallen under the control of financial predators.

    This is a story about the influence of criminality in the economy that almost all professional economists are frantically desperate to avoid — an academic phenomena that savings and loan investigator William Black has written about many times since the financial crashes of 2007-2008.

    Leon Black’s father, Eli M. Black was chairman of United Brands Company (formerly called United Fruit in the 1960s and earlier), which ran much of the illegal narcotics trade in the Caribbean and South America, usually with the knowledge, and sometimes assistance, of the CIA. United Fruit corporate assets were used for moving Israeli-procured arms into covert wars throughout Latin America, which blew up into the Iran-Contra scandal of 1987, nearly taking down the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

    In 1975, when federal investigators were gathering evidence that United Brands had bribed Honduran government officials in preparation for a law suit that threatened to reveal the role of dirty money in the boardrooms of certain companies, Eli M. Black fell to his death from the 44th floor of Manhattan’s Pan Am Building.

    At Milken’s Drexel, Leon Black was a managing director, head of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group, and co-head of the Corporate Finance Department. In 1990, Black and two other Drexel executives founded Apollo. Black was chairman until March 2021, when he was forced to retire following revelations that he had paid intelligence operative and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein $158 million for “tax and financial advice” between 2012 and 2017. Epstein had also been one of the original trustees of the Debra and Leon Black Foundation since 1997.

    A similar background in organized crime besmirches the Pritzker name, and the Hyatt based fortune.

    As Stirling Newberry pointed out years ago, money is permission. Allowing organized crime to launder its profits and “go legit” basically gave permission to criminalize the thinking of business management at many levels. Or as William Black has written, it created a “criminogenic environment.” This is a large part of the operational incapacity noted among USA and western elites — which Lambert and others have identified as “extractive” — but which no one seems willing to address.

    1. griffen

      This particular class of investors has done nothing but win, and only ever will win, following the regulatory rollbacks that began under Carter and Reagan and then took off under Clinton of course. I had never read or heard what is listed above about Mr. Black’s father but nothing surprises, least not lately when it comes to dirty finance and investing execs. I do think those much like Rowan, Ackman or Ken Griffin want little minions coming to their office each year fresh out of the Ivy college of choice, or a Stanford, Duke, Virginia, UNC-CH, Michigan, etc..There is much to recommend about that article, and how PE firms actually run their business models with chewing gum and duct tape to make an IRR for themselves and their “limited partners”.

      These stories also make me wonder why Jordan Belfort of “Wolf of Wall Street” served time and these guys go onto CNBC and are celebrated. Where is the distinction, other than Belfort and his band of misfits conned people to their faces.

  9. IM Doc

    The conversation in the doctor’s lounge today at lunch…….

    MD A – “What are “we” waiting for? – We need to go in and mow down everything in the Gaza strip. The world needs to be shown there will be no mercy for this kind of behavior.

    Myself – That seems awfully aggressive. How do you think the American people will respond with a genocide on the air 24/7? I am not sure there is any support at all for this kind of thing…..at least by most people. And is the wholesale slaughter of millions in anyone’s interest? How did “we” get into this position?

    MD A – The American people were polled last week – almost 70% want this done……We just need to get it over with and make sure it is televized….( NOTE – fascinating that we have gone in a few weeks from a poll in support of Israel now being recounted as a poll to flatten millions of people).

    Myself – Was this the same polling company that reported just a few weeks ago that 57% of the population in the USA was planning to get the new COVID booster? – That seems a rather egregious error given we are 6 weeks into this booster drive and barely 2-3% have done so already – and all around us, there are no lines and appointments are wide open? – It will be a miracle at this point for the number to reach 10%. And yet two weeks ago – it was 57%. Have you ever thought that “polling” may be part of the propaganda machine?

    MD A – Only for those who are purveyors of misinformation and have a confused mind.


    I find it very lamentable that someone in the healing profession would hold such views.

    I find it increasingly difficult to engage in any kind of discussion with morons like this. I no longer feel attached or a part of my fellow citizens. It is a very disturbing feeling. I always wondered how this must have felt for people in other civilizations before us. I now know. I have a very very bad feeling about this. It seems we are hell bent on going to war. But just a superficial look around gives anyone with a brain the impression that we are absolutely not ready for this in any way. How can we possibly be ready for war when we cannot even adequately supply car parts, etc?

    1. mrsyk

      I have a bad feeling about this as well. I remember 9/11. I remember the war mongering, the vitriol. We Americans saw this kind of response as acceptable then, why not now? (Sure, there were protests which were ignored by policy makers, who turned out to be correct when they reasoned there would be no consequences.) Even after it was revealed that the Iraq war was sold on lies nobody mainstream seemed to care. And here we are again.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Isn’t imposing cognitive dissonance on others one of the five stages of grieving? I think a lot of these folks still haven’t worked out their 9/11 issues so let’s not even talk about Iraq (too soon).

    2. Burritonomics

      You said it better than I could have; I feel like everyone’s popping crazy pills. Bloodlust in the air.

    3. caucus99percenter

      Michael Ledeen: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

      Thomas Friedman a.k.a. the Moustache of Understanding, to Charlie Rose: “What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house—from Basra to Baghdad—and basically saying: Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this fantasy—we’re just gonna let it grow? Well, suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We coulda hit Saudi Arabia—we coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.”


      No one ever seems to pay a price in American politics or punditry for talking that way. So, that does seem to be the Favored Few’s idea of who we are and what we stand for as a country.

    4. Amfortas the Hippie

      IM Doc, you are obviously a decent human being…and i commend you for it.
      as for feeling that you suddenly do not belong to your own civilisation, take it from one who has been there for as long as i can remember…hold fast.
      read Marcus Aurelius and Khalil Gibran.
      and rely utterly on your own intellect and intuition about such things.
      the herd is bewildered, and easily led, man.
      it is not a bad thing that you turn out to be a maverick, and not among them…remember the maverick bull was the leader, sometimes, as well.
      Γνῶθι σαυτόν

    5. ChrisRUEcon

      > I find it increasingly difficult to engage in any kind of discussion with morons like this. I no longer feel attached or a part of my fellow citizens.

      Hang in there, doc … i think we must in these times invoke the timeless adage “empty vessels make the most noise”.

      And this can be applied to other channels of the discourse with which we are all too familiar – see #RussiaGate, for example.

      To dovetail on Lambert’s excellent post of why X/Twitter is hard to replace, I too call myself a denizen of the hell-verse known as X/Twiiter, and despite all its echo-chambers, bots and duopoly-shills, I still see so much good bursting through like shifting shafts of shining penetrating clouds. The tide is turning … the warmongers have gravely miscalculated … I don’t do TikTok, so I would not have seen this if it were not on X/Twitter. This guy seems to have a following (234K), but I can’t vouch for his other content, but the point of view he articulates below, is one I feel powering a shift of opinion on the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

      Man reveals how his viewpoint on Palestine – Israel has changed.
      “I will never vote for another politician, under any circumstances, who supports the funding of Israel.”

      (via X/Twitter/TikTok)

    6. Randall Flagg

      .I find it very lamentable that someone in the healing profession would hold such views.

      I find it increasingly difficult to engage in any kind of discussion with morons like this. I no longer feel attached or a part of my fellow citizens. It is a very disturbing feeling. I always wondered how this must have felt for people in other civilizations before us. I now know. I have a very very bad feeling about this. It seems we are hell bent on going to war. But just a superficial look around gives anyone with a brain the impression that we are absolutely not ready for this in any way. How can we possibly be ready for war when we cannot even adequately supply car parts, etc?

      With your words above you have perfectly expressed my thoughts as well. As if one is alone on an island like the character in the movie Castaway. Yet, you are smack in the middle of the insanity f the crowds, we have to keep our heads down, or feel we must, to make our way through each day. TPTB ARE hell bent on war, I wonder if nothing more than to distract from the rot in our own society here at home, to keep feeding the pigs at the trough of government funding… There is zero intelligent logic to it all , just unbridled negative emotion.
      Yet how are we to find like minded people, our neighbors if you will, that we can connect with and help each other out when the collapse that is under way gathers more momentum towards terminal velocity…

      This is yet another reason why we must support NC with our funds if available, to keep an intelligent, reasonable and thoughtful discussion connecting each other together in these times. I have a suspicion that many of us are physically closer to each other than we may believe. It would be wonderful if there was a way be could connected to help each other out if the worst of cases scenarios comes to pass. like minded people helping each other beyond our connections of local churched, groups, whatever you have, a better description of it all escapes me. Take care of yourselves and others.
      with apologies for the disjointed reply to IM Doc.

  10. mrsyk

    I seem to remember Keith Ellison as one of the good guys. Perhaps this is because the bar is so low at this point you couldn’t trip over it. Also, I’m not convinced party affiliation is revealed by an affinity for fraud, even in the world of NGO’s and the contractors they they use. I imagine there are a few political favors. I also imagine there’s some family ties too.

    1. flora

      2 of Ellison’s Palestinian cousins, young Christian women I believe sheltering at the church complex, were killed when that complex was bombed this weekend.

    2. lambert strether

      > Keith Ellison as one if the good guys

      A Sanders supporter defenestrated from the DNC, so, yes. Remember Tom Perez, who replaced him?

      1. mrsyk

        Ahhhh, indeed. Tom Perez. What a frightfully awful person. I was gonna say he personifies everything wrong with the DNC, but then I remembered Donna Brazile.

  11. lyman alpha blob

    RE: “How has RFK Jr. raised all that money?”

    They are aware that his last name is Kennedy, right? That might have a little to do with it too.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      A Kennedy advance man told me that all he had to do was drop the Kennedy name and the hotel would find a suite or the restaurant would have a table. That was 1980. Political donors skew older so until I see a crowd of young people cheering for RFK Jr. I’m going to consider him to be a spoiler candidate while being unsure whose campaign he’ll spoil hardest : |

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        so long as he spoils one of them, i’m satisfied…i just hope the guy with the boot on his head can spoil the other one.
        and i dont think i’m alone in thinking “a pox on both their houses”.
        prolly moreso now than ever.

  12. caucus99percenter

    A hobby-horse and pet peeve of mine:

    Here’s a possible instance of writers and editors entirely erasing something — here, Hawai‘i — when having readers think of it in a certain context — here, decolonization, resistance, and independence movements in the Pacific — might inconvenience the Powers That Be. From Encyclopaedia Britannica:


    A strange omission. Do the authors of this article not regard the Hawaiian archipelago as “Pacific islands”? Were they afraid of offending U.S. readers or otherwise stepping on someone’s toes?

    This 2003 Ph.D. thesis by Lynette Hi‘ilani Cruz provides an overview of the decolonization-resistance-independence complex with regard to Hawai‘i:


      1. JBird4049

        He is not the only one. Science fiction writers often are. It might come from looking at the likely trends and writing their stories from that.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that IM Doc wrote a very long time ago that that particular “flu” lasted for about 12 years.

  13. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Zeitgeist watch

    What I would like to know is which adults exactly are meant to go up to teenagers and ask them “How would you describe your sexuality?”. Because last I checked, that was the type of thing that generally gets you into a whole lot of trouble.

    1. Phenix

      I skipped that tidbit.

      The damage being done to American kids is profound and only a handful actually believe in this nonsense. Most of them parrot the lines because they fear social isolation.

      I pulled my kids from public school so I could teach them that there are two genders and avoid common core…and history so he doesn’t have to relearn history. Howard Zinn actually has resources for elementary students.

  14. Vicky Cookies

    Norman Finklestien sent out a newsletter today entitled “What would Marx think about Gaza”, quoting at length from several articles Marx wrote on British rule in India, and on the revolts against it, their shocking violence, and on where the ultimate responsibility for it lay: “it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself.”

    Forgotten in this, but deserving thought, is Marx and Marxist thinking on various national questions, and on nationalism generally. International solidarity on the basis of a common identity as the proletariat was to be the organizing basis for the International, and subsequent movements; to die for the flag of your landlord was, and remains, a tragedy for the movement to liberate labor.

    While I think the priority for people of conscience should be to press whatever levers will be effective in bringing about an end to the bombardment of Gaza, issues of class persist in war, and are worth discussing.

    1. SG

      Yet nobody seems to have been willing to “press whatever levers” to dissuade Hamas from bombarding civilian areas in Israel, nor from kidnapping, torturing, and murdering unarmed civilians. Hamas claims to have fired 5000 missiles in the first 20 minutes of their attack on Simchat Torah – that’s probably an exaggeration. The real number is likely less than half that, but it’s still a massive attack and nobody warned civilians to get out of the targeted areas, such as they were (Hamas is not exactly known for precision targeting). Yes, 24 hours is not enough notice to evacuate a large city, but it’s actually been 216 and counting. That’s a helluva lot more notice than the poor [family blog]s at the music festival got.

      “The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction,” as the Bard said.

      1. The Rev Kev

        @SG – If you stop to think about it, what possible way could they get Hamas to stop any future attacks? Not being argumentative here. To undercut Hamas, Israel would have to stop all land stealing, slap down those settlers from their constant attacks on ordinary Palestinians and throw a few into prison to prove that they were serious, giving Palestinians their fair share of water resources, encouraging development of Gaza and the West bank for Israeli and foreign investments, allow Palestinian fisherman to catch fish to feed people, give the Palestinians their fair share in the off-shore oil and gas deposits to aid development, and encouraging the setting up of their own State that would have no threatening military. Yeah, not going to happen. In such situations, I remember a throwaway line from and old B&W film whose truth stunned me at the time-

        ‘Never cheat a man that’s got nothing to lose.’

      2. Roger

        The actions of an occupied population against the occupiers who have imprisoned them in an open air concentration camp and stolen their land are justifiable in international law, just as those of the Warsaw Ghetto against the German occupiers were. The usage of a false equivalence between occupied and occupier is pure sophistry and misrepresentation to direct attention away from Israel’s illegal occupation and subjugation of the Palestinians.

        You may also want to direct yourself to the testimony of one of the survivors of the Hamas kibbutz attack who stated that many of the non-combatants killed were killed by the IDF.


        Also, half of the identified Israeli dead are IDF or Israeli police.

  15. The Rev Kev

    ” The five-front war that the US is unprepared to fight ”

    This is what happens when a major country does not have a competent diplomatic corps. Professional people out there defusing situations and building up contacts with their opposite numbers. At present, the US State Department are bigger war mongers than the Pentagon as at least the Pentagon knows that they have limits. Maybe the decline really got underway under Bush when the US would announce that they would not negotiate with countries until that countries agreed to give everything that the US wanted. Only then would negotiations commence by which time there was nothing left to negotiate about. The US would not find itself in many wars right now if they had somebody of the caliber of Lavrov at the helm of the State Department as an example but first you would have to clean house of all the lunatics like Nuland first.

  16. Jason Boxman

    Healthcare Utilisation of 282,080 Individuals with Long COVID Over Two Years: A Multiple Matched Control Cohort Analysis

    Interpretation: LC has been associated with substantial, persistent healthcare utilisation and cost over the last 3 years. Future funding, resources and staff for LC prevention, treatment and research must be prioritised to reduce sustained primary and secondary healthcare utilisation and costs.

    And we keep letting health care workers get sick as well and infect others. Good job Mandy!

  17. YetAnotherChris

    Re: Keith Ellison, Minnesota AG: I first encountered him when he was running for Congress [MN-5], circa 2006. He struck me then as a party hack and a lightweight. Since his return from D.C. he has found his better purpose as Attorney General. I give him a lot of credit for leading the prosecution of Derek Chauvin, et al., in the murder of George Floyd. I had underestimated him.

    There is actionable fraud in the Feeding Our Future scandal and Ellison must proceed. It’s not to his political advantage that many of the indicted are thick as thieves with Minneapolis City Hall. This is a one-party town [Democrat Farmer-Labor] and it’s his party. It’s also his bailiwick, and I can’t fault him so far.

  18. SG

    I’ve gotta say that “front hole” (which I’ve seen elsewhere) is the most obscene language I’ve ever encountered for genitalia.

    It’s also pretty confusing: my nose, mouth, and navel are all in the front. Which one are they talking about?

    1. fjallstrom

      If I understand the slide, that is what gender diverse youth has answered to the question of what they call their genitalia. If old foggies doesn’t understand what they refer to, it is probably part of the function.

      Youth making up new terminology for genitalia is not a particularly new phenomena. Young people making up new terminology for sexuality is not that new either, there is a generational turn over in self descriptions, probably because the new and rad descriptions age with those that introduced them. So I don’t find doctors dealing with these kids compiling open-ended questions (slide 3) and lists of confusing answers (slide 1) and what they can be translated as (slide 2) to be particularly shocking. I think if it is viewed as shocking it says something about society and anxiety about youth and sexuality.

  19. JBird4049

    >>> Many of the non-profits had other state contracts. Good for EIllison; a Democrat going after NGOs is remarkable. The scheme is of the sort generally described as “sprawling,” and I wonder if Ilhan Omar is touched in any way. (The stories don’t mention the party to which the many defendants belong, but from class and cultural markers I infer Democrats.) Readers?

    I understand that the contracts given to NGOs in San Francisco to fight homelessness and the funding that come from them are used as a slush fund. This includes use for “donations” or bribery as well as for sinecures either for NGOs or government positions for political allies, friends, and family members. One of the articles flatly says that there is no intention of solving the homeless problem because that would end the grants and government funding. Of course, this means all thousands of San Franciscans, many of whom have jobs, remain unhoused. We really are a corrupt country.

    I am going to see if I can find those links and send them over. IIRC, the San Francisco Chronicle is not one of those sources.

    1. lambert_strether.corrente@yahoo.com

      > I am going to see if I can find those links

      Minneapolis, San Francisco. Three cities, we would have a pattern.

  20. Victor Sciamarelli

    It’s encouraging to read that RFK, Jr., is successfully raising money. IMO he is the most interesting candidate for 2024.
    As most readers know. The POTUS, as Com-In-Chief, has significant influence over the military budget and RFK said he’s committed to reining in the MIC and redirecting the military’s mission.
    The POTUS has far less influence creating a new government program the size of universal health care. Nonetheless, he’s committed to introducing a public option for medical insurance as a necessary first step to eventually bring about UHC.
    I’m not sure “vaccine sceptic” is adequate; Kennedy, his wife, and children are fully vaccinated. He comes across more as a reformer who rails against the corporate capture of all our regulatory agencies especially including health care.
    More importantly is what will the government look like if Biden or Trump wins in 2024? Joe “If Israel did not exist we would have to invent it” Biden is a war hawk, neocon, and surrounded by dangerous neocons; see James Li https://www.youtube.com/shorts/tpIluuzLrCQ
    Trump is not a neocon but he has a marked ignorance of how government actually works and he’s so damaged personally. I’m not sure who will want to work in his administration.
    Kennedy, in contrast, has a thorough knowledge of government on every level. And for people who think the country needs fundamental change then you’re going to need government staffed by people who will likely be controversial because they’re committed to fundamental change.

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