2:00PM Water Cooler 10/4/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Whoops, didn’t quite follow the regular order, here. Bird (done) and plant (done) very shortly.

Bird Song of the Day

Black x Eastern Phoebe (hybrid), Clayton Lake SP, Union, New Mexico, United States. With, I think, airplanes.

* * *


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

The Constitutional Order

“Supreme Court declines to consider longshot bid to disqualify Trump from running for president” [CNN]. “The Supreme Court said Monday that it will not take up a longshot challenge to Donald Trump’s eligibility to run for president because of his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The case was brought by John Anthony Castro, a little-known candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, who sued Trump earlier this year in an effort to disqualify him from running for president and holding the office ‘given his alleged provision of aid or comfort to the convicted criminals and insurrectionist that violently attacked our United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.’ The case was denied without any comment or recorded vote…. At least two other similar challenges to Trump’s eligibility have been brought in recent weeks by groups seeking to keep the former president from returning to the Oval Office. Those cases – in Minnesota and Colorado – are far more serious legal endeavors than Castro’s challenge, and they have the backing of a wide array of legal experts and constitutional scholars, though they still face long odds to prevail.”

“The 14th Amendment can’t save the country from Donald Trump” [Editorial Board, WaPo]. This is the editorial Luttig was so exercised about yesterday. The conclusion: “The public would be better off pursuing a more straightforward route to keeping the former president out of the Oval Office: voting.” • Perhaps it would be best to leave lawfare to the spooks and their various assets in the press, and keep the Federalist Society out of it.

“Trump and the Fourteenth Amendment Gambit” [The American Conservative]. “In the developing world, the party in power does away with its opponents in one of three ways: a bullet to the face, chucking them in jail, or kicking them off the ballot. It’s good to see that America is already at work on two of the three…. This use of the Fourteenth Amendment is malarkey, will not succeed, and is simply another attempt at politically decapitating Donald Trump instead of beating him at the ballot box.”

“Prof. Michael McConnell, Responding About the Fourteenth Amendment, ‘Insurrection,’ and Trump” [Reason]. “It is not obvious that partisan officials in state governments, without specific authorization or checks and balances, should apply broad and uncertain definitions to decide who can run for office in a republic, when responsible officials with clear statutory and constitutional authority have not done so [under 18 U.S.C § 2383, which covers participation in rebellion or insurrection].” • Yes, that is why Baude and Paulsen are proposing a change in the Constitutional order (the title of this section).

* * *

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

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

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

Biden Administration

“Biden says that all 10 drugs targeted for the first Medicare price negotiations will participate” [Associated Press]. • Ten! My goodness!


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Judge in fraud trial imposes gag order after Trump attacks judge’s aide” [Politico]. “‘This morning one of the defendants posted to his social media account a disparaging, untrue and personally identifying post about a member of my staff,’ said Justice Arthur Engoron, addressing Trump as he sat in the courtroom, about 15 feet from the clerk, Allison Greenfield. ‘Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I will not tolerate them in any circumstances,’ Engoron continued. The judge said he had warned Trump Monday ‘off the record’ about making such comments, but that Trump had ignored him. After Trump posted the material online Tuesday, Engoron ordered him to delete the post — and it quickly disappeared from Trump’s social media site, Truth Social. ‘Consider this statement a gag order forbidding all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any of my staff,’ Engoron said. ‘Failure to abide by this order will result in serious sanctions.'”

* * *

“Haley surpasses DeSantis in New Hampshire poll” [Politico]. “Haley beat DeSantis 19 percent to 10 percent in a Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA TODAY survey released on Wednesday morning. But they both remain far behind the frontrunner, Donald Trump. The former president leads his Republican rivals with 49 percent support in the poll of 500 likely GOP primary voters that was conducted after the second debate and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. It comes just days before GOP candidates will flood New Hampshire next week, starting with the former president on Monday and most of the rest of the field at a weekend cattle call hosted by the state GOP. DeSantis’ freefall in New Hampshire — he once led Trump in the state, back in a January poll — has opened up a real race for second place in the first-in-the-nation primary state that could energize Republicans critical of Trump. And it’s Haley who’s emerging from the pack as she capitalizes on rising interest in her candidacy following her standout debate performances. But Trump remains immovable atop the field.”

“Trump’s lame and harebrained ‘Birdbrain’ bullying of Nikki Haley” [New York Post]. “‘Birdbrain’? That’s the best Trump could do for Nikki Haley? Say what you will about the Donald’s third run at the presidency, but the guy’s losing his once-fearsome nicknaming powers. ‘Low Energy Jeb’ Bush was an instant classic, and cruelly accurate about Bush’s limp public persona. … ‘Crooked Hillary’? Darn right…. Sure, we first saw decline with Trump’s lame ‘Meatball Ron’ and tin-eared ‘DeSanctimonious’ jabs at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. But the peeved-grandma tone of ‘Birdbrain’ proves he’s slipping. Haley is anything but: calm and effective, with a sound grasp of policy. She was at least arguably the winner of the first two GOP debates, no easy task for a woman dealing with a pack of shouting men.” • And then there’s this:

Pleasingly WWF-style, but did the Trump campaign actually claim credit for this? Is there hotel video that shows who dropped it off? (And if it was the Haley campaign, well, brass ones!)

“Report: Billionaire donates $2 million as Youngkin’s PAC sets record pace” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]. “A billionaire investor reportedly has contributed $2 million to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC as big donors continue to aid the governor’s record push to take control of both houses of the General Assembly. Olivia Rinaldi of CBS News was first to report that Jeff Yass, the founder of Susquehanna Investment Group, donated $2 million to Spirit of Virginia. Another billionaire, Thomas Peterffy, founder and chairman of Interactive Brokers, donated another $1 million to Youngkin’s PAC on Sept. 27, bringing his total donations to the PAC to $3 million…. The big donations come in the final frenzied push for control of the House of Delegates and the state Senate. They also come as some of the GOP’s major donors reportedly hold out hope that Youngkin will make a late entry into the GOP presidential contest.”

“Youngkin breaks fundraising records for statehouse Republicans” [Washington Examiner]. “Fundraising is just one area in which Youngkin has succeeded and drawn attention as a possible 2024 GOP candidate. Despite media reports he wants to run, Youngkin has consistently said his top priority was giving Republicans control of Richmond and seeing his agenda passed.” Not exactly a Sherman statement. More: “National Democratic consultant Simon Rosenberg, who hosted a meeting on the races last night, said, ‘Things feel good there — early vote is good, polls are good, money is good, but there are lots of undecideds, and we struggled in 2021. Cannot take a single vote for granted. We just need to put our heads down, blow out the early vote, and bring this critical election home in the coming days.'”

* * *

“When the president’s dog bites man, it’s news” [Matt Bai, WaPo]. “if Commander were your dog or mine, and he had a habit of clamping down on police or mail carriers, how many attacks do you suppose it would have taken before the dog was removed from our custody? Two, maybe three? The answer is definitely not 11…. There’s a familiar sense of entitlement in this Commander business…. After a few years of being waited on every minute of the day, [Presidents] start to see themselves as inseparable from the job. They begin to see the house as their house, rather than ours. They see the agents that protect them as furniture…. No one around the president wants to tell him that he’s no longer holding himself to the standards of other people. So the aides enable, instead. They implement new ‘leashing protocols’ (they actually use this term), instead of saying flatly to the president: ‘This is crazy, and it has to stop.’… [H]is aides shouldn’t dismiss the Commander fiasco…. They should see it for the warning flare that it is.” • Eleven times? That’s a lot. In the Third World, I believe this is called “Big Man Syndrome.” Nobody around the Big Man tells him the the truth. And that disconnect is the source of his inevitable fall.

* * *

“RFK Jr.’s super PAC preps for him to run as an Independent” [Politico]. “The poll, conducted by the firm John Zogby Strategies and commissioned by the American Values 2024 PAC, comes amid growing speculation — fueled by Kennedy himself — that he will leave the Democratic Party in the upcoming weeks…. All told, the poll shows that in a general election between Trump, Biden and a generic ‘independent candidate,’ the result is Trump at 40 percent, Bident at 38 percent and the independent candidate at 17 percent. In a matchup between Trump, Biden and ‘Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’ as the independent candidate, the result is Trump and Bide tied at 38 percent with Kennedy at 19 percent. The survey did not include Green Party candidate Cornel West. Such numbers are far more bullish on Kennedy’s prospects than independent polls. The authors, however, argue that they effectively undermine Democratic gripes that Kennedy would play the role of a spoiler by helping Trump win. ‘The opposite is true. Kennedy is taking more votes from Trump than from Biden,’ reads a press release announcing the poll numbers.”

“RFK Jr. probably won’t hurt Biden. He might even help him” [Nate Silver]. “Having looked at data on dozens of third-party candidates in other races — mostly for offices like Congress and governor when building election models — I’m skeptical that they serve as spoilers as often as their critics claim. Third-party support tends to collapse down the stretch if the candidates aren’t seen as viable. Johnson, for instance, polled as high as 10 percent in polling averages early in the 2016 race before falling to 5 percent in the final polling averages and then getting only 3.3 percent on Election Day. Third-party candidates typically also get less support in swing states, where voters know a protest vote could be more costly. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Kennedy does prove to be a factor in 2024. Why the widespread assumption that Biden has more to lose than Trump? As my former FiveThirtyEight colleague Nathaniel Rakich has pointed out, polls fairly consistently show Kennedy with stronger favorable ratings among Republicans than Democrats.” Hmm.

* * *

“Pritzker contacts White House, local officials worried about migrant crisis” [WGN]. “As Chicago’s humanitarian crisis escalates, Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Brandon Johnson warned the White House the situation is becoming untenable. According to Pritzker, he received correspondence from the White House Tuesday, 24 hours after delivering a message to the White House on the migrant situation in Chicago, where City officials are expecting as many as 25 busloads of asylum seekers to arrive each day. ‘I have spoken to the White House since even over the weekend and the letter to make sure that they heard us and that they want to be responsive,’ Pritzker said. ‘And they’ve said that they want to be responsive to those things.’ Pritzker is asking for a point person to coordinate federal help for migrants, temporary protected status application fees to be waived, and employment authorization for Venezuelans. He said he is also seeking Medicaid waivers and housing vouchers for new arrivals in the City. As of Tuesday morning, 9,827 migrants were in Chicago shelters, with another 3,012 awaiting placement. In all, more than 17,000 migrants have arrived in the City since the first busload arrived in August of last year… Texas Governor Greg Abbott has vowed to send even more migrants to Chicago as winter months approach as well, applying even more pressure on City and state officials to coordinate resources to accommodate new arrivals.” • First daylight between Biden and Pritzker?

“Biden border policies under fire from another blue state governor” [FOX]. “The Democratic governor of Illinois this week blamed President Biden for creating an “untenable situation” in his state by failing to address the national migrant crisis. Gov. J.B. Pritzker joined a growing number of Democrats who have criticized Biden’s border policies when he sent a letter to the president on Monday with a list of demands outlining how the federal government’s response to the border crisis is inadequate. Pritzker complained that more than 15,000 migrants have been shipped ‘like cargo’ to Illinois from border states ‘in a dehumanizing attempt to score political points.’ While Illinois Democrats welcome migrants — Chicago is a sanctuary city— Pritzker wrote that the number of migrant arrivals is ‘overwhelming our ability to provide aid to the refugee population.’ ‘Unfortunately, the welcome and aid Illinois has been providing to these asylum seekers has not been matched with support by the federal government. Most critically, the government’s lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation for Illinois,’ the letter states.” • If one must moralize about being “a sanctuary city,” why is there a border at all?

* * *

“Victor Davis Hanson: The Next 12-18 Months Will Be The Most Explosive Since The Great Depression” [RealClearPolitics]. An interview with Tucker Carlson: “[CARLSON:] All bets are off! It’s like putting all sorts of ingredients of explosives into a kind of device and it is going to blow up I think, somehow. But I don’t think we can predict what is going to happen, it is just too volatile. I think the left feels that they want to push the envelope, they want to take the leading Republican candidate and create charges against him, which they know they wouldn’t ever lodge if he hadn’t run for president. They would have left him alone.” • In the volatility v. stability framing for 2024, Hansen is for volatility. I am with Hansen, a strange place for me to be, but it’s a strange time.

2020 Post Mortem

“The Georgia Fake Electors Scheme: What Does Legal and Political History Tell Us About These Charges?” [Federalist Society]. “Fake” electors? Or “contingent” electors? Worth a read but so detailed I can’t excerpt it properly. “On December 7, [Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger] announced that the recount had narrowed the differential to 11,779 votes (a 0.24% margin) but had not changed the outcome. Governor Brian Kemp again certified the results, and he and then-Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan issued a statement acknowledging that Trump’s legal challenge remained a ‘viable—and quickest—option’ for contesting the outcome. On December 9, the court issued an order saying that it would consider Trump’s legal challenge ‘in the normal course.’ This posed a dilemma since electors had to gather together and cast their votes on votes on December 14, in accordance with a federal law (3 U.S.C. § 7) which requires that presidential electors ‘of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Tuesday after the second Wednesday in December’ at the location designated by each state. If the 16 Trump electors did not show up and vote that day and Trump ultimately prevailed in his legal challenge, he would have had no remedy, not only depriving him of the 16 electoral votes to which he would be entitled as a matter of law, but also depriving Georgia of the opportunity of having its 16 electoral votes count at all. There is also no question that had Trump actually prevailed in his legal challenge, he would have been entitled to Georgia’s 16 electoral college votes, notwithstanding the fact that Governor Brian Kemp had previously certified the Biden-Harris ticket as the winner. Georgia law explicitly provides [for this] (in Section 21-2-503(a) of the Official Code of Georgia).” • Hawaii 1960 is cited as a precedent for a good-faith case of “contingent electors” (a precedent which Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not follow).

“Another resident from The Villages accused of 2020 election voter fraud” [Click Orlando]. “A 58-year-old man is the latest resident from The Villages to be accused of fraud related to the 2020 elections. Robert Rivernider was arrested Friday in Sumter County on charges of fraud in connection with casting a vote and forgery of a public record…. Rivernider is accused of signing a vote-by-mail ballot for his father in 2020. Keen said the ballot was signed and dated Oct. 16, 2020, but postmarked on Oct. 23, 2020…. Several residents from The Villages have faced charges in the last few years for voter fraud related to the 2020 election. News 6 has reported that at least four Villages residents were charged with voting twice in the election. All of them entered into a pre-trial intervention program to avoid potential prison time.” • Not numerically significant (voter fraud, not election fraud) but the “iconic” retirement community certainly is lively!

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.

* * *

“Hillary Clinton on supporting Ukraine as Putin aims to undermine democracy” [PBS]. “[CLINTON:] And I’m for [Biden/Harris] on the merits, but I’m also for them because the alternative is so dark and dystopian, to undermine the rule of law, to destroy our institutions, to pull us out of NATO, doing Putin’s bidding, to be unwilling to stand up for the real American values, to put one person above the country. None of that is American. So, I think that Biden/Harris deserves to be reelected.” I like “Biden/Harris” in the third person, singular.” Fan service from PBS. And: “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is once again Professor Hillary Clinton, as a professor of practice at Columbia University’s newly launched Institute of Global Politics.” Oh, good.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Open Plot to Dismantle the Federal Government” [The Atlantic]. “As he runs again for a second term, Trump is vowing to ‘dismantle the deep state’ and ensure that the government he would inherit aligns with his vision for the country. Unlike during his 2016 campaign, however, Trump and his supporters on the right—including several former high-ranking members of his administration—have developed detailed proposals for executing this plan. Immediately upon his inauguration in January 2025, they would seek to convert thousands of career employees into appointees fireable at will by the president. They would assert full White House control over agencies, including the Department of Justice, that for decades have operated as either fully or partially independent government departments. Trump’s nearest rivals for the Republican nomination have matched and even exceeded his zeal for gutting the federal government. The businessman Vivek Ramaswamy has vowed to fire as much as 75 percent of the workforce. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis promised a New Hampshire crowd last month, ‘We’re going to start slitting throats on day one.’ These plans, as well as the vicious rhetoric directed toward federal employees, have alarmed a cadre of former government officials from both parties who have made it their mission to promote and protect the nonpartisan civil service. They proudly endorse the idea that the government should be composed largely [doing a lot of work, there] of experienced, nonpolitical employees.” • Here we see the destructive power of the term “deep state,” orginating with liberals and, like so many others, repurposed by conservatives (see, e.g., “fake news”). It’s clear that Trump’s governing class enemies were concentrated in the intelligence community and the national security bureaucracy generally (for which I prefer the term “The Blob,” which is quite often not “deep” at all, but right out in the open). However, because “deep state” is both such a terrific earworm and so vague, conservatives have repurposed it to target the civil service and government generally. Trump’s opponents make the same error; they don’t separate the “civil service” from “The Blob,” as they should. What a mess.


“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!

* * *


“New Novavax COVID-19 vaccine authorized, available ‘in the coming days'” [Boing Boing]. “If, like me, you’ve been waiting for the new, updated single-strain, XBB.1.5-focused Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, today brought some great news for folks living in the United States—the vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA and is now included in the CDC’s vaccine recommendations.” “XBB.1.5-focused” — that is, a “new, improved formula” — is the lay translation of “monovalent.” More: “The Novavax vaccine is a protein-based alternative to Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines. It also includes an adjuvant—a substance added to a vaccine that boosts the body’s immune reaction—called “Matrix-M.” Matrix-M is created from saponins harvested from the inner bark of the Chilean soapbark tree.” • Very, very pleased to see an mRNA alternative, which it took our regulators a rediculously long time to approve.

“CDC is no longer distributing Covid-19 vaccination cards, once a staple of the pandemic” [CNN]. “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is no longer distributing the white cards that were given out with Covid-19 vaccines earlier in the pandemic, according to the agency’s website…. ‘Your state’s IIS cannot issue you a vaccination card, but they can provide a digital or paper copy of your full vaccination record, including your COVID-19 vaccinations,’ the agency says…. But major pharmacy chains say you don’t need your old card to get the newly updated vaccines.”

Censorship and Propaganda

Annals of Denial:

Interestingly, the account is VP analyst at Forrester, Cambridge, MA.

Scientific Communication

“How do you do, fellow kids?” (IM Doc):

Stop trying to make fetch happen” (Mean Girls. 2004).

“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.

* * *

The Jackpot

“Years of life lost to COVID-19 in 49 countries: A gender- and life cycle-based analysis of the first two years of the pandemic” [PLOS Global Public Health]. “Between January 2020 and December 2021, we found that over 85,649,579 years of life have been lost to COVID-19 among the 49 selected countries, among which 2,724,463 deaths were caused by the disease. While most of the [Years of life lost (YLL)] occurred on the American continent, after adjusting for population two central European countries were found to be in the top five with the highest rate of YLL (Hungary and Czechia). Our study offers two key results worth discussing: i. we did not find systematic differences in YLL rates by gender, but we did find differences by life cycle, and ii. health information systems must be strengthened in order to have reliable data that enables producing evidence-based and actionable insights for decision-making in public health when facing future pandemics.” Or not! More: “In this study, we observed that deaths from COVID-19 in young people were few (globally, 2.96% of all YLL have been attributed to deaths of individuals between 0 and 26 years), and even when they would be expected to contribute the most YLL at the individual level, it was the older adults who had both the highest absolute number of deaths and YLL combined (50.01%).”

* * *

Lambert here: Back to tape-watching mode. It still looks to me like the current surge has some ways to run, given how wastewater flattened, with the East Coast up. Let’s wait and see.

Case Data

NOT 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, September 30:

Lambert here: September 30 is tomorrow, but never mind that. Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“), with FL.1.15.1, HV.1, and XBB. trailing. 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

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, September 30:

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 3:

Levelling off again. (New York state is steadily rising, but it’s New York City that’s the bellwether.) I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. September 23:

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 2:

-1.0%. Another big drop. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, September 23:

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

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, September 11:

Back up again And here are the variants for travelers:

Now, BA.2.86. FL.1.51.1, interestingly, low.


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: 1,177,856 – 1,177,793 = 63 (63 * 365 = 22,995 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 4:

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

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the US hired 89K workers in September 2023, the least since January 2021 when private employers shed jobs, and well below market forecasts of 153K. It follows a revised 180K increase in August, compared to an initial 177K.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for manufactured goods in the US increased by 1.2 percent from the previous month to $586.1 million in August 2023, more than market expectations of a 0.2 percent rise and after a 2.1 percent decline.”

Services: “United States ISM Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI eased to 53.6 in September of 2023 from the six-month high of 54.5 in the previous month, in line with market expectations. The result pointed to the ninth consecutive expansion for service sector activity to mark 39 periods of growth from the last 40, consolidating the strong momentum for the sector despite the aggressive tightening campaign from the Federal Reserve.”

* * *

The Bezzle:

Burn! See Yves on Michael Lewis here and here (yes, we have a long memory here at NC).

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 19 Extreme Fear (previous close: 17 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 23 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 4 at 1:53:11 PM ET.

The Gallery

“A Top Antiquities Sleuth Has Called Out the Manhattan D.A. For Continually Passing His Work Off As Its Own” [Artnet]. “By most measures, the antiquities trafficking unit has been a resounding success since its launch by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in 2017…. In total, the unit has recovered more than 4,500 antiquities stolen from 30 countries with a value in excess of $410 million. It’s most recent coup, however—the return to Lebanon of two 4th century C.E. marble statuettes—has prompted a Cambridge-based archaeologist to accuse the unit of misusing intellectual property and failing to provide proper accreditation. Christos Tsirogiannis, a forensic archeologist and expert in how antiquities are looted and trafficked, claims the unit has been passing off his academic research as its own and has ignored multiple requests to credit him in official announcements. In an accusation first published in The Guardian, Tsirogiannis says he has been helping the unit to recover and repatriate ancient objects for the past five years pro bono. Tsirogiannis said his patience ran out following the unit’s September 7 announcement concerning the statuettes, because it directly involved research from his 2012 PhD thesis.”

Zeitgeist Watch

“Trauma is Indeed Like a Car Crash” [Freddie DeBoer]. “Suppose you get injured in a car accident and suffer some sort of serious but not life-threatening injuries. Your body will have undergone trauma, in the old school physical sense – the sense from which we get the concept of the trauma center. What would you do? The sensible course of action would be to seek professional medical care. You would not, I hope, set about to learn how to treat that trauma from TikTok, while sitting in the burning car. You wouldn’t expect Discord to diagnose you accurately. You wouldn’t buy a workbook on recovering from a car accident put together by someone with dubious credentials… None of this is similar to the approach common to the recent obsessive pop-psychology interest in “trauma,” the use of which has become a form of currency among impressionable people. That kind of trauma is seen as permanent and existential… This is despite the fact that all of the research tells us that most people get over psychological traumas and often fairly quickly. And thank god! That’s exactly what we should want…. Today, people perform trauma. They perform trauma because they’re rewarded for doing so with attention and sympathy. The desire to get those things is natural; the incentive structure that produces that behavior is toxic. The social assumptions that once pushed people to valorize being healthy, which we now often dismiss as “stigma,” have no purchase in online communities like TikTok, Tumblr, or Instagram. What has great purchase is presenting a comprehensible identity to others, a vision of a self made legible by some simplistic and overarching factor.”

Groves of Academe

“Academic bystanders and Sold a Story” [Crooked Timber]. “If you haven’t yet listened to Emily Hanford’s Sold a Story, you probably should, now. It’s brilliant, if profoundly depressing. Very brief synopsis: the methods routinely used to teach children to read in the US don’t work well for large numbers of children, and the science of reading has been clear about this for decades. Three academics in particular — Lucy Calkins of Teachers College, and Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell of the Ohio State University — are responsible for promoting these bad practices (which are pervasive), and persisted in doing so long after the research was clear, and have gotten very rich (by the standards of academics) from the curriculum sales/speaking circuit…. [T]here is, as in many professions, a very stringent norm of not rocking the boat. This is, in general, a good norm, because academia has more than its share of cranks, more than its share of arrogant shits, and, not coincidentally, more than its share of arrogant shit cranks. (I say more than its share: a higher proportion, anyway, than I encountered in the office furniture moving business, though maybe that field just had less than its share). So: norms that dis-embolden such people have their place. But: in this case, the science of reading has been so clear, for so long, and the practices that Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell peddle have been so damaging, that it might sensibly have been worth overcoming the norm.”

Class Warfare

“Labor Market Not Yet Working for Workers” [American Compass]. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports monthly on the number of jobs in the economy, but not much is known about the character of those jobs.” Odd. More: “American Compass created the definition of a “secure job,” intended to represent a minimum threshold for a worker to attain economic security and support a family. A secure job is one that pays at least $40,000 per year, includes health insurance and paid time off, and offers predictable earnings and a regular or controllable schedule… Most jobs fulfill any one of these criteria, but only 40% fulfill them all….. These figures place in context the lament from employers that they cannot find enough workers, purportedly even after sweetening their offers. Have they tried offering the bare minimum that might provide an American worker with security? Apparently, for most, the answer is no. The problem becomes more pronounced when bifurcating the market by education level. Among workers holding at least a bachelor’s degree, 55% hold secure jobs. For those with less than a bachelor’s degree, 30% hold secure jobs.” Handy chart:

“The role of socio-economic disparities in the relative success of SARS-CoV-2 variants in New York City in early 2021” [medRxiv]. From the Conclusion: “Our study was able to elucidate how various factors, including geographic variability in seropositivity, a symptom of inequities associated with socio-demographic factors in 2020, affected the competition dynamic between two co-existing viral lineages. Such analyses would not be possible in the post-Omicron era when multiple consecutive waves are dominated by variants with similar properties and where the majority of the population have a mixture of acquired natural and/or vaccine-induced immunity (29). By focusing on the time preceding the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants, we show that the consequences of socioeconomic disparities in an outbreak can have a ripple effect that can last into subsequent outbreaks, providing an important lesson for future epidemic preparedness and mitigation efforts.”

“Talking sh*t” [Verso]. This is a fun but wandering piece, worth reading and filing away. This caught my eye: “Karl Marx also had a view on such matters. ‘By means of an artificially hidden sewer system, all the lavatories of London spew their physical filth into the River Thames,’ he wrote. Actually, he was attacking a certain right-wing newspaper that we all love to hate. He continued: ‘By means of the systematic pushing of goose quills, the world capital spews out all its social filth into the great papered central sewer called the Daily Telegraph.’ Less metaphorically, in later life he was interested in what John Bellamy Foster calls the ‘metabolic rift’ – the realisation that soil fertility is not a natural given, but is determined by over-exploitation, particularly under capitalism. Exhausted soils need replenishing. Marx was interested in the writings of the chemist and agronomist Justus von Liebig (known as the ‘father of fertiliser’). Perhaps all the sh*t that was pumped into London’s rivers could have been better used as natural fertiliser for the land…. [S]hit in a bucket and return it to the farmer to fertilise the land…. Is the idea so outrageous? As is very thoroughly attested, Chinese farmers have been doing this for millennia.”

News of the Wired

“Among the Cabin Fanatics of Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty” [The New Yorker]. “The Neshoba County Fair calls itself Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty, because every year the same families return, antlike, to five hundred and ninety-seven individually owned, festively painted cabins there. For a week at the end of July, even many who live nearby move to the fairgrounds, creating an instant community of twenty thousand people, three times larger than the population of the county seat, Philadelphia. The fair, founded in the late eighteen-hundreds in the remote east-central part of the state, has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the coronavirus pandemic because the cabin owners could not bear to give it up. After spraying for bugs, touching up the paint, hanging porch swings, washing linens, changing light bulbs, making beds, and stocking refrigerators (some cabins have four), the families hold the equivalent of Thanksgiving—seven times. There are food hangovers, and hangover hangovers, and children everywhere, only nobody goes home.” • It sounds like a down-market Burning Man. But wowsers, does that “, antlike, ” pack a punch.

* * *

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 SC:

SC writes:

It has been about a year since I last sent an update on my garden projects. My “point and shoot” refurbed Nikon L18 camera stopped communicating with its USB port, which put a damper on documentation. Recently I sorted out how to get images off a cheap smartphone that I reluctantly acquired after the
service to my flip-phone was discontinued. Here is a “first this year” report that may be of interest to gardening-minded readers.

Here’s a decorative project I undertook to improve the appearance of a “scar” left by the removal of some trees that were leaning alarmingly. It got off to a very late start (first plants installed in early July; date of photo is late August), but has done better than expected in the hot weather.

The main subject is a mixed planting of Zinnias with some Scarlet Sage and four perennials, Purple Coneflower, Rose Campion, Cardinal Flower and Creeping Thyme. The Zinnias overshadow everything, though one can see some coneflowers poking above the “canopy” at the back. To the right of the stump, on which is sitting a tray of “waiting to be planted” Scarlet Sage, is a 2nd bed with no Zinnias; there are more Scarlet Sage, and Cardinal Flower, along with Lavender and perennial Chamomile.

The Zinnia-heavy patch was planted in early July, not optimal in view of the heat and dryness, but the Zinnias tolerated the conditions and overshadowed the other plants, protecting them while they were getting established. I expect that the perennials will survive and come back strong in 2024.

The Creeping Thyme and Chamomile will hopefully spread and function as ground cover, through which in future the other perennials will grow and into which annuals can be planted.

Everything was started from seed; Zinnia, Hidcote Lavender, Roman Chamomile, and Creeping Thyme (Margic Carpet) came from Outside Pride, Cardinal Flower from Prairie Moon Nursery, Scarlet Sage (Vista Red) from Park Seed; the Rose Campion and Coneflowers were from saved seed. The Rose Campion, Coneflower, Lavender, and Cardinal Flower seed were sown in trays in late 2022 and left outside over the Winter to cold treat them. Cold-treatment
is necessary for the Hidcote Lavender to germinate and is helpful for the others.

In bright sunlight, the Zinnias are really vivid, one gets the impression that they are fluorescing. The OP product is “Merlot Mix”. I cannot recommend this mix highly enough; it is gorgeous and Zinnias are so, so easy to start from seed.

A final, amusing, note is that at left of, and a little below, center one can discern squash-shaped leaves and a small yellow blossom. This is a volunteer that appeared in mid-July. It is a vine-style squash/melon and has been spreading into the rest of the patch; I’ve been pinching off the runners to contain it. It’s not clear to me what variety this is, but it might be descended from the Korean Melon I last grew in 2020 or 2021, though the fruit striping is not quite what I recall; maybe it has hybridized, or the original plant was itself a hybrid and the descendants differ from it.

This is the first serious decorative bed I have undertaken in my own yard, and the results are so nice that I will definitely do this again in future.

I stan for zinnias!

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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. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Trump’s “attacks”

    Again with the hyperbole? Wake me up when he punches out a judge.

    In the meantime, all these TDS-afflicted, pusillanimous, thin-skinned liberals need to remember their nursery rhymes. I’ve heard a lot of words from Trump, but so far no sticks and stones.

    1. Screwball

      Hey, come on man! The TDS-afflicted are busy saving democracy don’t you know? The ones I talked to the last couple of days are on cloud 9 over the McCarthy thing, but they are mad because some have accused the dems of helping Matt by voting against McCarthy. NO, they did it to save democracy. I guess they didn’t get the memo from Jeffries telling them to vote the way they did.

      But of course they have a new speaker in mind, one they could get behind, even though it is a hated republican – Liz Cheney. Color me not one bit shocked.

      And if there are any Bernie fans left, another day with bad news it seems. I can’t find a link because this happened not long ago, but there are quite a few Twitter reports that some Code Pink people were arrested at Bernies office over the Ukraine war & money.

      If you have Twitter; Code Pink Tweet

    2. bassmule

      No, he has not actually slugged a judge. But he is doing what he’s good at: Suggesting bad behavior. When he says, in front of cameras, that a US General ought to be executed, I dunno, I think that is somewhat beyond schoolyard taunts. Just sayin’.

  2. Ranger Rick

    The definition of sanctuary city has changed from “does not enforce federal immigration law” to “responsible for providing humanitarian aid to asylum seekers and refugees.” Less a deliberate change to active aid and more one driven by the legal status of the immigrants in question. It opens the door to requests for federal support, for instance. (Whether that request comes “because it’s due to your policies” or “because they’re legal now and this is the same as a FEMA emergency*” is up to your interpretation.)

    *I noticed during the budget negotiations that federal disaster aid funds are low following several hurricanes this year.

  3. lyman alpha blob

    RE: migrant crisis

    So if you’re going to send immigrants to cities that lack housing, and you’ve known for quite some time these immigrants are coming and your administration approves of allowing them to come to the US, why not have the Federal government start a WPA-style project to build housing in those cities before sending all the immigrants?

    I know, I know – it’s crazy talk. If we did that, how could we afford to keep bombing and destabilizing all those foreign countries the immigrants come from?

    1. flora

      an aside: I wish the crisis was reported accurately in terms of immigration status. The crisis is about illegal immigrants overwhelming the social service systems, not about legal immigrants. Leaving out that distinction make it sound like our great cities object to all immigrants when that is not true. In Chicago Hull House was established in 1889. The welcoming spirit is still there for legal immigrants. / my 2 cents.

    2. The Rev Kev

      You’re more likely to have the Federal government start a WPA-style project to build housing for homeless Americans first which means never.

  4. Jeff W

    “Another resident from The Villages accused of 2020 election voter fraud” [Click Orlando].

    I don’t know about the fraud charges but just the name of the “iconic” retirement community sounds pretty sinister, like something out of an Ira Levin or Stephen King novel of the 1970s.

    1. griffen

      Sounds much like a company town, just as in the days of old working in steel mills for Carnegie, etc. Speaking of company towns fictional, or actual, there is a bad film on the airwaves given it is October and time for all spooky or creep movies. Halloween 3 may be middle ’80s dreck, and that is saying something when it comes to Halloween or similar legendary movie franchises. But it is centered on a company town, with weird android company men enforcers. More hilariously bad than scary.

      And as this goes for Stephen King books or movies inspired by those book…Children of the Corn anyone?

    1. Samuel Conner

      Zinnias are elegant; now the salvias, they’re splendid.


      I’m afraid I’ve planted them out of their native range; the Coneflowers and Cardinal Flower are native locally. The Roman Chamomile is on the wrong continent, but it smells soooo nice.

      The bees and Skipper butterflies are having a field day.

      And yes, now that the fruit has ripened, it does appear to be Chamoe, Korean Melon. Maybe I should save some seed.

  5. Mark Gisleson

    Here we see the destructive power of the term “deep state,” originating with liberals and, like so many others, repurposed by conservatives (see, e.g., “fake news”). It’s clear that Trump’s governing class enemies were concentrated in the intelligence community and the national security bureaucracy generally (for which I prefer the term “The Blob,” which is quite often not “deep” at all, but right out in the open). However, because “deep state” is both such a terrific earworm and so vague, conservatives have repurposed it to target the civil service and government generally. Trump’s opponents make the same error; they don’t separate the “civil service” from “The Blob,” as they should. What a mess.

    – Lambert (above)

    You’ve finally sold me on not using Deep State. You’re absolutely correct about it being incredibly shallow in some places, seemingly held together by bureaucratic indifference. So I’m going to de-deep myself and convert my rhetoric to make it more attuned to Blob theory.

    The Blob is astonishingly second-rate. Not saying politicians were smarter in my day but yes, they were. And so were the rich people. Greed is driving all of this and the ideology is just chaff to distract critics from the real crimes.

    In addition to being thin around the edges, a Blob can also be quite thick in spots (thinking State & DOJ).

    From the underside, a Blob is suffocatingly omnipresent.

    From above, a Blob is easy to shape and manipulate.

    OK, at this point I’m thinking Netflix, maybe an animated series.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > You’ve finally sold me on not using Deep State.

      My work here is done (and I wish I had Blob Theory. So my work is not done). But at least with “The Blob” we’ve got a reasonably bounded classification for functionaries + a very vivid metaphor (and as I point out, the metaphor of the pseudo-profound “deep” state is wrong wrong wrong).

      Adding, I should have said a f(r?)action of Trump’s enemies, because Blobbists (?) were allied with the press and Democrat operatives, who are part of the governing class, but are not civil servants.

      1. elissa3

        I’m going with the “Blob” from now on. Pungent, visceral, cinematic even; in addition to being vivid.

        If detail is of interest, however, Ray McGovern’s MICIMATT is helpful in expanding the term. Military Industrial Congressional* Intelligence Media Academia Think Tank.

        *reputedly in a draft of Ike’s speech, but deleted in its delivery.

      2. JTMcPhee

        There’s a lot of federal employees swept into the Blob nomenclature. My little window is into the US Environmental Protection Agency, which deserves a (sic) any more. Long-game predation and regulatory capture have pretty much filled the ranks with people who would not perceive the precautionary principle if you hit them in the face with it. The corrupt S. Ct. is doing its part to trim the brief of the agency in lots of areas, like the definition of “waters of the United States,” but there’s lots of sneaks who come there these days to get their tickets punched, develop a nice set of entries for their resumes/job applications in the lobbying and industry and consulting and legal spins of the revolving door. This started way back when I was there, 1978-90, getting a real impetus when the Reaganites like Ann Gorsuch, and Rita LaVelle (really! She was an excepted-service bureaucrat in the Superfund program) came in and told us enforcement types that our new charge was to understand that we were not to file any new enforcement action but consider that “industry” was our “customer,” and we (those of us who avoided the “reduction in force” the Reaganites insisted cut the deadwood out of the Agency without harming its “mission,” were now to be providing “customer service.”

        That same replacement process, getting rid of old progressives and filling in with willing or at least obedient revanchist drones, seems pretty typical across the federal bureaucracy, and is one of the means by which the country has been demoralized and hollowed out.

        Not to say there are no dedicated and no doubt horribly frustrated civil service employees who actually embody the service part of “civil service” and do their best at it, swimming upstream against the tide of crapification.

        So that is the Blob? Just like the meme from the movies, where if it touches you, you get absorbed into the all-consuming, ever-growing, energy-eating mass?

        1. fjallstrom

          If “the Blob” became the common parlance, I suspect Desantis wouldn’t have a problem with proclaiming that the throat slitting of the Blob starts on day one, and Vivec would promise a 75% reduction of the Blob. Starting with the EPA.

          This isn’t a misunderstanding based on terminology, it’s an intentional misdirection based on donors needs to cripple the administrative state.

          If one wants to make misdirection harder, using “CIA and FBI” could be a way.

    2. Daryl

      > The Blob is astonishingly second-rate. Not saying politicians were smarter in my day but yes, they were. And so were the rich people. Greed is driving all of this and the ideology is just chaff to distract critics from the real crimes.

      Well, this gen of politicians has been fully indoctrinated in the lies that were previously only intended for the unwashed masses. Ukraine is a good example of this — no doubt they really believed they would easily roll over Russia with NATO training and second/third/fourthhand equipment, same way the Nazis thought it would be a layup because they were fighting inferior Slavs.

  6. Mikel

    “Sam Bankman Fried’s greatest accomplishment is exposing Michael Lewis”

    From the beginning of the book, I was reminded of Anna Sorokin of the Netflix series “Inventing Anna.”
    Lewis and his circle fell under the spell of name dropping. The worse SBF looks, the more stupid they look.

  7. Amfortas the Hippie

    the hillary interview….yes, i went ahead and read it…
    man…what i said earlier about my mom and my aunts and all the blue haired team blue/pmc types…its like they’re all reading from the same hymnal.
    same words and phrases, same non-response deflecting responses to criticism(russian/gopfascist mindcontrol via twitter), etc.
    its amazing, really.
    i generally avoid any news of hillary and bill…triggering, for me, since they pretty much accomplished Reagan’s (counter)Revolution…but because of the dinner convox last night, i went ahead…and heard my mom, my aunts, lol.

    and the craziest part of it…during the second bush darkness, i turned mom and stepdad on to amy goodman…turned the latter from a lifelong unthinking small r gop-ite into a sort of liberal, interested in rule of law,and etc.
    he’s gone, now…but mom…i know she has a long, long memory…due to all the grudges she keeps,lol.
    certainly remembers every fuckyp i’ve ever done….
    but she doesnt remember all the millions of bad things the dems have done…no matter how well known and obvious…no matter if theres cspan video(“thats a fake…JB never said that…”)…and doesnt remember the democracy now shows we…her, don, me and my wife, all watched together…and then discussed incessantly.
    i get that shes 81, and all,lol…but as far as she’s concerned, the demparty has always and forever been the good guys, and always will be.
    i remember watching Goodman get arrested at an Occupy thing…how outraged they both were that this was happening under Obama.
    stepdad even wrote a letter to Obama over it(with mom’s help)…
    but then Trump Happened…and Russia Russia Russia!…and the memory hole yawned wide and swallowed all that up…leaving only the smell of roses and the inchoate idea of a golden age.
    i know generational generalisations are verboten…and i agree with that stance.
    i know many, many boomers who were not so fortunate as those in my family who work at walmart at my mom’s age.
    still..there’s a subpopulation of Booomers who are exactly the cohort we continually lament around here, at NC.
    my mom, my aunts, and pretty much everyone i know irl who votes D are of that ilk.

    1. turtle

      It’s been really eye-opening to me, a gen-Xer, to see how easily the American public has fallen for the “Russia invaded Ukraine because they’re evil” trope. I guess I should have known and been prepared for this before, but this was like a Clockwork-Orange-style eye opening.

      I try to avoid having conversations about this with fellow Americans most of the time, but a couple of times that I have talked with some people about it, I was able to quickly shut the Russia Russia Russia BS up with a simple question:

      What do you think the US would do if, say, Mexico made concrete moves to enter a military alliance with Russia, or if Canada did the same with a military alliance with China?

      1. notabanker

        I have used that exact analogy many times. It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn’t. I know of no cure for chronic cognitive dissonance.

        I share your view that there is a certain advantage to being a gen X er, but I am massively biased being one. My age cohort that I deal with share a pretty deep level of cynicism and a sense that things can unravel very quickly. The boomers are delusional and a lost cause. The millennials think things will be better when they take control, ha. I have hope for my kids generation, the twenty somethings. Growing up post 911 is tough, their challenges are going to be significant. I don’t think they are at all disillusioned about that. They know they are going to have a rough go.

        1. turtle

          Interesting, thanks! For the people who that didn’t work with, what was their counter? Is there any counter of any substance whatsoever that’s possible?

          I hadn’t mentioned gen X as an advantage, but more to give some idea of my age range to illustrate that it’s taken me a long time to realize how easily the majority of the American public is bamboozled. However, that’s an interesting point about gen Xers cynicism and sense of things unraveling quickly. I hadn’t thought of that before. I guess I don’t socialize with enough other gen Xers to have noticed that pattern. Yes, I feel for the younger generations, and really, really hope that they will make things better.

    2. The Rev Kev

      The whole thing was a puff piece and I have no idea the reason for this interview came about. To keep her in the spotlight perhaps? She still has a chip on her shoulder about people that voted for Trump and not her and it sounds like she also has a chip on her shoulder about Putin. I don’t think that she has gotten over the fact that she had one chance to be Madame President and blew it and now it never will happen again.

    3. Hepativore

      My boomer parents are in their 60’s and 70’s, and they have also bought into the narratives about Russiagate, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and they think that the Democrats are stalwart, progressive leftists. They are on board with the mentality that we had all better fall in line and vote for Biden as Trump is the Great Orange Antichrist, nevermind that we have had Dubya as president for eight years.

      I tried pointing out to them over the years as politely as possible that the Democratic Party in its current incarnation is not left-leaning at all anymore, but a center-right party that coats itself in social justice rhetoric to pass itself off as a left-wing party without actually being one so as not to offend its corporate donors. I get waived off as well as any independent news sources I try to bring to their attention because my parents think that anybody who criticizes Biden or the Democratic Party is automatically “right-wing”. The odd thing is that neither of them like Hillary Clinton, Joe Manchin, or Kristen Sinema, yet these three individuals are largely representative of the party at large and the blinders go back on when they look at the party as a whole. I wonder if subconciously, this is some sort of “cope” on their part because many “boomers” do not want to admit to themselves that the Democratic Party is not going to save them from the political right, as the Democrats are basically Reagan-era Republicans at this point in time.

      Another problem, is that with many “normies” they hear “liberal” and they think “left” even if the two are completely different. Whenever they hear somebody criticizing “liberals” they think that they are criticizing the political left, and then their brain shuts down upon hearing “right-wing propaganda”. It does not help that most people in my parent’s generation get their news from CNN or MSNBC, and any other news source that is not on cable television will be automatically dismissed as being a bunch of cranks and no amount of persuasion is going to convince them otherwise. Therefore, many boomers are never exposed to all of the stuff bubbling underneath the surface as the entire point of media like CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times, is to serve as a mouthpiece for PMC Democratic Party neoliberalism.

      Basically, we are running up against the same mentality that you find on places like Balloon Juice, and they have grown recalcitrant in their Democratic Party loyalty, and very vocal as they pour themselves their third or fourth mimosas at brunch.

  8. steppenwolf fetchit

    @Lambert Strether,

    When you say you join Victor Davis Hansen in being “for” volatility rather than stability, does that mean that you “expect” volatility rather than stability?

    Or does that mean that you would prefer to have volatility rather than stability?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s a good question. I meant “expect” when I wrote “for.” That said, I’m not an accelerationist, I’m really not, but it seems increasingly that “the only way out is through,” and that many people are coming to feel that way. Also, Peter Turchin made the same call, and though I’m not a fan, he does have form. Buckle up!

      1. Reply

        A view from the cheap seats – Mitch McConnell is next, even if fellow Solons have to be shamed into acting.

      2. Randall Flagg

        That to me also seems to be the only way to get through the times we are in now, the sooner the better. It seems the corruption and greed that permeates most everything business, government and health care is beyond repair and the whole mess must collapse into the stinking dog pile it will be before we can find a path on a new way. It will be a crack up for the ages so the sooner it gets started the sooner we work through it. Buckle up indeed and don’t forget to wear a helmet…

  9. Amfortas the Hippie

    weirdly sad that we must rely on American Compass (or Teen Vogue) for smart coverage of labor issues.(there r others, i know…still)
    from executive summary:

    Workers have generally favorable views of organized labor, with 56% reporting a very or somewhat favorable view compared 26% who have a very or somewhat unfavorable view.
    But, middle- and upper-class workers are more likely to have favorable views, while lower- and working-class workers are more likely to say they “don’t care.”
    Likewise, views are much more favorable among workers not eligible to be private-sector union members.
    While views of Democratic workers have been stable over the past two years, net favorability among Republican voters has increased by more than 20 points, swinging into positive territory (+2).”

    how much of that last bit is due to people like me in feedstore parking lots?
    the folks i feel like i made progress with were either always lower class, or recently lower class(last 10-20 years, still not right with it).
    a majority of them listened(i heard it) to Rush…and then his Spawn…on their truck/car radios.
    most of them felt to me like they were attempting to quote some profound thing jordan peterson had said.
    that had moved them, somehow.
    all of them knew, in their bones, that everything was frelled, and “not like it was for my folks/grandpa/etc”
    they just couldn’t articulate it in any coherent manner…such that some ivy leaguer on research safari wouldn’t be able to speak to them , at all.
    they’d ask about the Bernie sticker, and i’d evangelise a New new Deal.
    and the eyes would get a bit brighter, and the wheels would turn.
    but where else, pray tell were they getting anything like what i was talking about.
    these people do not read Monthly Review.
    they might have Alan Watts(!) on their podcast list…but not Yannis…
    where did the openness to USA working for US come from?
    prolly 3/4 of them said something along the lines of , “aint he a SOCHULISS?”, in our initial meeting, while loading my feed.
    when gently queried, none of those could define socialism, communism, or fascism.
    nor capitalism,lol.
    (the latter, in a very jingoistic bootstrap-reliant way, but far from coherent…nor accurate,lol)
    what did i learn?
    that there’s a huge cohort out there who are ripe to be talked to, and brought on side.
    who would long…and likely fight…for a new new deal…who would also be likely to register to vote…and then vote.(maybe half were registered, out of duty, mostly…less than a quarter actually had voted “in, like, forever..”
    but nobody but me, and that mcdonalds haunting former wall street guy?…..Arnaud?
    …wants to talk TO them.
    just AT them.
    the Demparty is, of course, irredeemable, in their minds….due to 50 years of gop mindf&ck.
    “Commies!”, etc
    but now trump has destroyed the gop, in their minds…even if….as a majority of my cohort do…have many misgivings about the guy.(its the wealthier…land and bidness owners…who are sticking trump flags on their very nice trucks,lol)
    so what they and i have in common,lol….is that we remain Unrepresented.

    (man…the homegrown is excellent, this year)

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Now that Gabbard is auditioning for Trump’s VP running mate, this comment is just a sad obsolete forlorn wish-comment.

  10. flora

    from WaPo via Azerbaycan (no paywall).

    US ‘failing’ at life expectancy


    “American life expectancy peaked at 78.9 years in 2014, the same year the Affordable Care Act – also known as ‘Obamacare’ – fully went into effect. It has been declining ever since. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2021 it was at 76.4 years.

    “The Post reporters looked at county-level death records over the past five decades, finding the largest increase in excess deaths among the 35-64 demographic. In that group, chronic diseases kill twice as many Americans as “all the [drug] overdoses, homicides, suicides and car accidents combined.” “

      1. Samuel Conner

        I have a dim recollection of a formulation of Rule #2 being “Die faster!” (which fits perfectly with this news item), but in recent memory, it’s simply “Go die!”

        Did I invent that memory?

        1. lambert strether

          I can’t speak to how your memory functions; I can barely cope with my own. Rule #2 is “Go die!”. (“Die faster” was, if my memory serves, coined by Alan Grayson. Sometimes, of course, it’s more profitable to die slowly. It all depends on the circumstances of the lucky winner!)

  11. Watt4Bob

    Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer who says she was shut out of the discussions surrounding how the Covid 19 virus is spread, has received a MacArthur genius grant for her work in understanding that the virus is spread through the air.

    From the Associated Press;

    Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer, was in her office when an unknown number called her cellphone, which she did not answer. When the same number called her office line, she picked up with some skepticism, Marr said.

    “To think that I’ve actually been selected as one is really mind-blowing,” she said, of the MacArthur fellows.

    Before the pandemic, Marr, who is a distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, studied questions about how viruses moved through the air and how much transmission happens by people breathing in the virus versus from contaminated objects.

    Her expertise became extremely relevant after the outbreak of COVID-19 when she argued that airborne transmission was likely a major way the virus was spreading. She said she hopes this recognition of her work will help her gain access to data to better understand the seasonality of the flu.

    I heard this news on the radio, where she explained that she was disappointed by the fact that everyone was talking about hand washing, and surfaces, six-foot distancing and spit droplets, while she was convinced by her work, that aerosols were the vector, and improving air quality and high quality masks were the answer.

    The fact that no one wanted to listen to her wasn’t mentioned in the article, but she talked about it in the radio interview.

    The grant is $800,000.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Liz Cheney, like Hillary Clinton – another has-been trying to keep on cashing in on their names talking about defending Democracy. The key thing to remember is that both of them are not talking about the Democracy that we think of but ‘their Democracy.’ Big difference.

  12. Verifyfirst

    Dang. I’m a genius too–can I have some dough? It was blindingly obvious that it was airborne spread after the very early, Canadian case at a funeral home/wake. There was no way all those polite people were spitting on and then licking the silverware…..(Caul’s Cluster in St. John’s Newfoundland). Linsey Marr has been good all along on Twitter, so yay!

  13. Pat

    Bai is correct that an average Joe would lose their dog long before 11 people were bit. Sadly multiple bites would mean that the dog would pay the price for having a bad owner with their life.

    That no one on the White House staff is dealing with this is more frightening than just big man syndrome. If Fearing upsetting someone in charge by pointing out that a dangerous dog needs to be retrained and removed is beyond them what more important things cannot be done. Things that affect far more people than the limited numbers that would come into Commander’s presence.

    1. Wukchumni

      I merely looked askance @ Commander online from afar, and got a little nip on my finger. You couldn’t call me #13 really as its nothing.

    2. turtle

      I hadn’t been following the first dogs saga these last few years, but I wonder if Biden rehousing another of his dogs a while back (for biting too) generated enough negative press that they’re trying to avoid the same with an election coming up in 13 months?

  14. Wukchumni

    Benedict Donald is slipping a bit hitting the fairway on his approach shots when bestowing monikers ala ‘Dope a Mope’.

    Birdbrain is pretty lame and blatantly avianist in the worst way by ignoring Mensa types such as Keas, and parroting old tropes.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      i find that your method of humor goes even better with this stony HG.
      my eldest agrees.
      that said, the birdseed caper looks like a twitterprank, to me…ie: dinnt happn.
      former ambassadors of her stature(sic) have security details.
      they would prevent any attempt at such low-brow culturejamming.

      i’m around birdseed(chicken scratch) all the time.
      of course, i’v tried it!
      i prefer “sweet feed”…but i dont have horses…and any donkey i get will be restricted to roughage/brush, lest she get fat and founder.
      one cannot eat sweetfeed, of course…but you chew it into a wad, and suck on it like tobacco.
      dudn git moar kuntree then that.

  15. Utah

    Sold a story: I witness the effects of “the science of reading” daily as a middle school science teacher. Students guess words, they aren’t confident readers, they don’t know how to break down words into parts. When I teach vocabulary I actively break down words for them to help with this skill that I think has been neglected. I think they’d do better if phonics had been taught to them. Instead I’m now a reading teacher disguised as a science teacher without any formal reading training beyond the basics.

    I think this story goes hand-in-hand with the American math scores story from the other day. You can’t do math story problems if you can’t read. And if a kid is told they’re stupid, they shut down and then none of the subjects appeal to them. It’s interesting to think about my middle school curricula vs what is now taught. It’s dumbed down in order to be “intuitive” but those skills haven’t been developed, so there isn’t any intuition, just blank faces.

    1. Wukchumni

      My soon to be 19 year old nephew can’t read a lick, single syllables aren’t so simple sad to say, and as mentioned if you can’t read you can’t do anything in terms of learning.

      …he seems to have plenty of company

    2. steppenwolf fetchit

      According to the little I read about “teaching” reading, the breaking-words-down skill is actively suppressed.
      The real point of America’s war on reading is to immunize kids against reading. And the schools’ assigned mission is to teach the kids to hate reading.

      If that were not true, the Schools of Education would not have been teaching teachers to use “guessing” and “whole word” and other such reading-prevention anti-reading immunization measures. Let the Education-Industrial complex prove me wrong by re-introducing the phonics and phonetics I learned in a public school system decades ago.

      1. Utah

        The little known secret in education is that all the studies are bull(family blog). Class size of 12 rich kids, doesn’t matter how you teach them, they’ll still be above average. Class size of 32 12 year olds in an inner city, much different scenario and never studied.

    3. Redlife2017

      I have many, many (OH SO MANY) bad things to say about the UK educational system*. However, the one bright spot is that they are obsessed with phonics. The right-wing government is almost overboard with it – but for the most part it is very well balanced with phonics and the notion of “tricky words” (ie words that are beyond phonics and just have to be memorised) My little person actually likes to read as a way to get to sleep.

      *Half the issues are due to a complete breakdown in funding and the other half are to do with the British inability to deal with issues in an open and communicative manner (not stiff upper lip, more head in sand).

      1. Redlife2017

        And to also note – this is in a class size of 30 with far less resources than a large city elementary in the States would have. So, whilst wealth matters if it’s taught badly, if it’s taught well, you should be able to get most kids reading fine.

      2. caucus99percenter

        I remember reading an article way back when (in the 1980s in the Whole Earth Review?) about a British experiment where some educators tried teaching introductory reading using a specially designed phonetic alphabet and typeface.

        Word spellings were revised to fit the special alphabet and typeface, in a manner guaranteeing a one-to-one correspondence between sounds and glyphs. That is, in material using this system — unlike in traditional written English — one can rely on a given sound always being represented by the same glyph and a given glyph always standing for the same sound.

        The scheme was intended for transitional use only, by beginners (children or illiterate adults).

        The special alphabet and typeface looked like this:


        Results were reportedly encouraging, with subjects later making a smooth switch to conventional printed English.

        Never heard or saw anything else about it. Anyone else know anything about this?

    4. NotTimothyGeithner

      Phonics are still taught, but kids were at home for a long time and then thrown into higher difficulty classes.

      Don’t forget they are still kids. They don’t want negative attention. Since their peers are likely in the same boat, they simply guess as they wont be noticed. If they say it with enough confidence, a teacher or adult might move on and not force them to pronounce the word. Kids kind of know the expectations for each grade, and they have heard all their lives school gets harder every year.

      They should have had phonics, but they didn’t read enough for a long enough stretch they didn’t build a sufficient vocabulary to read words like stretch or chance with ease. When they get to transpiration, you might as well as ask them to climb everest.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      #NikkiHaley #BirdCageOfEmotion

      The replies to that tweet are heavy on the Jussie Smollett vibe … LOL

  16. Willow

    > Trump’s lame and harebrained ‘Birdbrain’ bullying of Nikki Haley
    What if NH is the Don’s preferred alt if he doesn’t run? 1) he needs to make her the ‘anti-Trump’ candidate by insulting her, 2) needs to blunt the tongue so as not to advantage the Dems.

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