2:00PM Water Cooler 11/29/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Southern Screamer, Reserva Natural Formosa, Formosa, Argentina. “Duetting, but most of the time one of the individuals calls. After 10:30 from beginning of recording, both birds in flight.” Eleven minutes of the Southern Screamer. Also other birds and, I swear, a cow…

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

The Constitutional Order

“California struggles to boot Trump” [Politico]. “The window is narrowing to try to knock former President Donald Trump off California’s March 5 primary ballot…. One big question looming over the push to remove Trump from the ballot is the question of who has the authority. Can the top elections officials in each state act unilaterally? Democratic secretaries of state across the country, including those in pivotal swing states like Arizona and Michigan, have largely been skeptical about trying to exert that authority. But Weber hasn’t taken a definitive stance. Her office has repeatedly said she is reviewing the issue…. Eleven Democrats in the California Assembly, led by Assemblymember Evan Low, sent state Attorney General Rob Bonta a letter last month urging him to use his authority to seek an expedited state court ruling. Low said lawmakers are still urging Bonta to act because Trump ‘continues to be a clear and present danger to free and fair elections in the United States.’ Bonta hasn’t publicly responded to the lawmakers’ request. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.”

Biden Administration

“Scoop: Biden administration sending free COVID tests to schools” [Axios]. “The Biden administration for the first time will allow all schools to order free COVID-19 tests from the federal government ahead of the holidays, officials told Axios first…. The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), an agency within HHS, has a stockpile of hundreds of millions of COVID tests. It is teaming up with the Department of Education to allow school districts to order tests directly to distribute to families. HHS officials said schools could order tests at a rate they could expect to distribute them, but they did not specify a limit. “I could imagine a situation where perhaps a fifth grade classroom, it has a COVID-positive student and then they send everyone home with a COVID test in the backpack from that fifth grade class,” O’Connell said.” • Testing in this scenario is after the fact. #CovidIsAirborne. How about sending some HEPA filters and N95s?

“Kamala Harris will attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai” [Boston Globe]. • Well, that’s too bad. I had thought COP28 was important.

“Chances dim for Senate vote on rail safety bill: Consultant” [Freight Waves]. “Prospects for rail safety legislation in Congress to move forward in the waning weeks of 2023 appear dim, given other pressing national issues and even ‘mental exhaustion’* among politicians, according to a former U.S. Department of Transportation official who now heads a consulting firm. ;I think the bottom line is that it’s probably unlikely at this point that we’re gonna see any legislation this year. And next year — being an election year — is also looking pretty grim as far as prospects for the bill,’ said Loren A. Smith Jr., president of Skyline Policy Risk Group, a research and consulting firm focused on the supply chain. Smith previously served as deputy assistant secretary for policy at DOT.” • NOTE * Living with Covid will do that.


Less than a year to go!

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“Heavily redacted documents related to search warrant for Trump’s Twitter account released” [New York Post]. “The search warrant, issued in January against the company now known as X, was among several documents released by the Justice Department Monday as part of a lawsuit brought by media organizations seeking sunlight on the special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.” To me, this is the interesting part. From the search warrant: “All information from the ‘Connect’ or ‘Notifications’ tab for the account, including all lists of Twitter users who have favorited or retweeted tweets posted by the account, as well as all tweets that include the username associated with the account (i.e. ‘mentions’ or ‘replies’), the warrant states.” • Here is the warrant. Here is the relevant passage:

Note that the warrant limits the seizure to “October 2020 to January 2021.” Nevertheless, if I retweeted a Trump tweet, I could get a visit from the Justice Department? In America? Really?

“Trump Rallies Aren’t Even Really About Politics at This Point” [Slate]. “For all of Donald Trump’s rhetorical innovations, personality quirks, and alleged criminal malfeasance, what has made him truly unique as a political figure is how much he has merged fan culture with American politics. It’s not unusual for Americans to idolize presidents—Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are still actively revered by many—but no other president has inspired the same level of merchandise lines or themed car flags. A MAGA bumper sticker often isn’t simply a statement of loyalty; it’s a cultural signifier of community much like the dancing bear bumper sticker is for a Grateful Dead fan. Nowhere is this more clear than at Trump’s rallies. He’s turned his campaign events into something that has more in common with a Bruce Springsteen concert than a Harry Truman whistle-stop tour. A late-November Trump rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was as good an example of the genre as any. Held in a fading blue-collar city about 30 miles from the interstate, attendees started lining up for the rally early in the morning for the chance to see Trump appear in a high school gym decorated with banners celebrating victorious softball and bowling teams…. Trump has long drawn a community of superfans called ‘Front Row Joes’ who treat his events with the same regard that Deadheads used to treat a live show. While Jim and Sandy Pamperin of St. Paul, Minnesota, weren’t quite in that community—Sandy had been to a mere eight Trump rallies while Jim had only been to three, including a canceled one in Iowa earlier this year—it was still an important event for them.”

“I Will Make America Great Again for Young People” [Donald Trump, Newsweek]. “A recent NBC News poll found that we are leading Biden 46 percent to 42 percent nationally among voters ages 18 to 34—a clear sign that young Americans are rejecting Joe Biden’s reign of failure, incompetence, and corruption. During the first Trump administration, we created the strongest and most prosperous economy in the history of the world. Under my leadership, annual incomes went up by more than $6,000, inflation was under 2 percent, and we had gasoline down to $1.87 per gallon. Household net worth reached an all-time high, with the bottom 50 percent of American households seeing a 40 percent increase in their net worth. The U.S. economy had never been better for young Americans, but for the past three years, young people have borne the heavy costs of the failed Biden agenda: crippling inflation, soaring prices, skyrocketing interest rates, unaffordable housing, and escalating crime. Over the course of the Biden administration, real incomes have gone down by $7,400 per family. Gas prices reached as high as $7 a gallon in some places. Cumulative inflation is 18 percent. And mortgage rates are pushing a brutal seven percent—making home ownership out of reach for countless young Americans. When I was in office, the 30-year mortgage rate reached a record low of 2.65 percent—and the median-income American family could afford a mortgage. Yet thanks to Biden’s disastrous economy, interest rates have skyrocketed, making home-ownership out of reach for too many Americans, especially young Americans who in previous generations would be looking to start a family. As a result, historically high numbers of young people are delaying marriage and children.” • Dunno who the ghostwriter is, but pretty good!

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“JPMorgan’s Dimon: Democrats should boost Nikki Haley” [Politico]. “JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon urged Democrats to support Nikki Haley in the GOP presidential primary, arguing that she offers a strong alternative to former President Donald Trump. ‘If you’re a very liberal Democrat, I urge you to help Nikki Haley, too. Give them a choice on the Republican side that might be better than Trump,’ Dimon, who leads the country’s largest commercial bank, said onstage at the 2023 DealBook Summit on Wednesday. Dimon has been talking up Haley in recent weeks as the former South Carolina governor has gained in the polls. While she’s still trailing well behind Trump, she has won endorsements from an influential super PAC backed by the Koch network and has started to fundraise with Wall Street heavyweights.” • Hey, nimrod: The State is thought to have relative autonomy from the capitalist class. Stay in your lane! (The other squillionaires, too, if it comes to that.)

“Influential GOP donors are betting their millions on Haley in a new push to beat Trump” [CNN]. “The 45th president’s enemies on the right are mustering for a final big money showdown designed to crush his hopes of a third consecutive Republican nomination less than 50 days before voting starts in the GOP primary race. Nikki Haley will be the lavishly funded vessel carrying the hopes of the influential network funded by billionaire Charles Koch and top industrial and corporate donors who think Donald Trump is a risk too far next November.” • Not an empty vessel, one hopes….

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“How Arab American voters’ backlash could imperil Biden’s 2024 campaign” [Axios]. “Arab American and Muslim American anger over President Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war could be endangering his re-election in the majority of 2024 swing states. Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania all have notable pockets of these populations. There aren’t reliable statistics on how many are registered voters — but even tiny shifts of support in any of these super-tight states that Biden won in 2020 could make a difference…. An Axios review of 2020 results in these crucial states shows that if even a sliver of the Arab American and Muslim American vote were to stay home or defect to Republicans, Biden could be in a deep hole.” • Well worth a read (and perhaps the cause of Biden’s recent vibe shift).

“Hunter Biden is finally going to face hard questions from those who won’t ‘ask nicely'” [New York Post]. “‘The Bidens are the best at doing exactly what the Chairman wants.’ Those words from Hunter Biden to a Chinese businessman came at the height of the alleged influence peddling by the Biden family. After years of delay and denials, the House is about to confirm exactly what the Bidens were so good at doing … and what foreign figures wanted so much that they were willing to pay the Bidens millions. Hunter Biden is scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Dec. 13 to answer questions about what is alleged to be the largest influence-peddling operation in history. Despite being subpoenaed, Hunter is still demanding conditions for answering questions. His lawyer Abbe Lowell previously said Hunter would testify only when ‘the time is right’ and is now saying that Hunter would testify in public, not the scheduled private session. Republicans rejected that demand.” • As indeed they should!

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

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

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“In the world of sexual fetishes, crossing the political aisle is a kink” [WaPo]. “The Democrat, who works in the auto-insurance industry, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he fears his family finding out about his fetish. He said he discovered political fetishes on a BDSM social media website a couple of years ago. ‘A lot of [the content] was liberals submitting to conservative Republicans or MAGA or being ‘red-pilled’ into supporting and worshiping Trump,’ he said. He got turned on, and it surprised him because ‘before the Trump era started, I never once thought about politics as being sexualized,’ he said. ‘Domination from a political party and a[n] ideology that I can’t tolerate, made it … way more of a turn-on.;…. Although he has a number of fetishes, this is the one that he considers the most extreme…. It’s not just Democrats fantasizing about being dominated by Republicans. It sometimes works the other way as well. A 60-year-old man, known by his fetish persona Master Black Satyr Dragon Wolf, unexpectedly became a political fetish dominant when a 22-year-old straight-identifying college student responded to his Craigslist ad seeking a BDSM partner. ‘I want to be punished by a person of color because I voted for Donald Trump,’ the student wrote.” And: “Unlike in the non-fetish world, where most Biden and Trump supporters have few friends who vote for the opposing candidate, in the fetish world, political opposites mingle. And if you are into political fetishes you may become, ironically, more open-minded to the opposing side’s views, according to RightMakesMites. ‘If you’re going to effectively dominate them, you have to know kind of why they hate you. So if you’re sitting there, thinking, ‘Oh, Trump has the answers on everything. How could anyone possibly think otherwise?’ Well, you’re not gonna be a very good dom of a liberal,’ he said.” • Wowsers. I dunno (and I’m recalling that liberal Democrats actually dreamed about Trump…).


“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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Covid is Airborne

“Study: Air purifier use at daycare centres cut kids’ sick days by a third” [YLE]. “Use of air purifiers at two daycare centres in Helsinki led to a reduction in illnesses and absences among children and staff, according to preliminary findings of a new study led by E3 Pandemic Response. Air purifiers of various sizes and types were placed in two of the city’s daycare centres during cold and flu seasons. The initial results from the first year of research are promising, according to researcher Enni Sanmark, from HUS Helsinki University Hospital. ‘Children were clearly less sick in daycare centres where air purification devices were used — down by around 30 percent,’ Sanmark explained. The air purifiers were changed at two daycare centres serving as a control in the experiment, in order to rule out the effect that possible epidemic fluctuations could have on the results. The study’s next phase will continue until April. ‘We will be able to analyse whether there were only decreases in flu-type illnesses or whether the use of air purification could also help reduce stomach ailments,’ Sanmark said. On average, daycare centre-aged children suffer 10-13 infectious illnesses every year, with each illness lasting from one to three weeks, according to the research.”


Kind words:

I mistrust any form of glorification… but on the whole and on the average, I think Browne’s got it right. Cf. Matt 10:22.

Immnune Dysregulation

“Association of COVID-19 with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in children aged 0–5 years in the USA in 2022: a multicentre retrospective cohort study” [BMJ]. ” COVID-19 was associated with a significantly increased risk for RSV infections among children aged 0–5 years in 2022. Similar findings were replicated for a study population of children aged 0–5 years in 2021. Our findings suggest that COVID-19 contributed to the 2022 surge of RSV cases in young children through the large buildup of COVID-19-infected children and the potential long-term adverse effects of COVID-19 on the immune and respiratory system.” • Good thing we forced all our children back into poorly ventilated schools, then….

“COVID-19 and Immune Dysregulation, a Summary and Resource” [World Health Network]. From March, still germane. “The immune system is amazingly complex consisting of T cells, B cells, antibodies, dendritic cells, platelets, and several more cell types. Each type of cell can have numerous subtypes….. In the references attached we see that COVID-19 can affect and damage, at least temporarily, all the aspects and all the cell types of the immune system. It appears to age parts of the immune system, which might be permanent. We simply do not know yet. The effects of COVID-19 are seen in T cells, B cells, dendritic cells, monocytes, and platelets, among other systems.”

“Searching for an explanation about why N.M. pediatric hospitals are overflowing” [Source NM]. ‘Tis a mystery! And the deck: “No one has ruled out that COVID leaves people more susceptible to severe infection.” I should really file this under propaganda: “Numerous medical experts [lol] have said over the past couple weeks that part of the reason is that the public health measures New Mexico took in response to COVID made it so children did not get exposed to respiratory viruses as they normally would have. But in interviews with Source New Mexico, an immunologist and an evolutionary biologist find that explanation to be incomplete, and an explanation could include the fact that COVID attacks the immune system, and like other respiratory viruses, makes a person’s airways more susceptible to infection.” • Interesting to see the assault on public health so open.


The “Pirola” clan:


“Spare me. If you have a runny nose, stay home” [Sydney Morning Herald]. “The Uber driver coughed. A wet, sickly sound that played on repeat every minute or so, occasionally punctuated by a loud sneeze. He was unmasked, and he’d asked me to shut the rear window so that dust didn’t get into the car. Frankly, I was more concerned with what was already inside it. Every cough made me flinch, and with every sneeze I reflexively touched the straps of my mask, to reassure myself that I was – as much as possible – protected.” • One would think that Uber could devise a corporate policy to prevent this sort of thing. (Also, however, asymptomatic transmission is dangerous, so perhaps all Uber drivers should test….)


“New CDC life expectancy data shows painfully slow rebound from covid” [WaPo]. “The new numbers are clearly positive — compared with 2021. But the same data show the dramatic, and protracted, impact of the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2021, life expectancy dropped 2.4 years, and the 2022 jump restored only 1.1. years of that deficit. (Men lost 2.8 years in those first two years, and women 2.1 years.)” And: “Life expectancy rose in a relatively steady fashion for all of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. But starting in 2010, the country entered a decade of stagnation in this key metric.” • Thanks, Obama!

“Something Awful”

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

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Elite Maleficence

Emily Oster was the winner of our very first “Sociopath of the Day” Award, in October 31, 2022. Now she’s in the news again:

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• “#CovidIsntOver Trends As Covid-19 Hospitalizations Rise By 8.6%” [Forbes]. “[W]ithout any real national system in place for tracking new Covid-19 cases, the U.S. is sort of flying blind when it comes to SARS-CoV-2 activity. Since emergency room visits and hospitalizations tend to come at least a week or two after people have been infected, rises in such numbers mean that rises in SARS-CoV-2 activity probably occurred two or maybe even three or four weeks prior. And it’s a whole lot harder to prevent an upswing that has already been occurring after the fact, assuming that you don’t have a DeLorean car that serves as a time machine. Basing Covid-19 prevention policies on hospitalizations and deaths alone would be sort of like showing people a burnt down house and saying, ‘Do you think that we need to install some fire extinguishers in this house?'” • Indeed.

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, November 27:

Lambert here: Case counts moving smartly upward (and tinfoil hat time: This is the, er, inflection point CDC was trying to conceal when they gave the contract to Verily and didn’t ensure a seamless transition).

Regional data:

That Midwest near-vertical curve is concerning, although as ever with Biobot you have to watch for backward revisions.

• Lambert here: I’ve looked at Verily’s slick new dashboard, and have some thoughts. But not today!


NOT UPDATED From CDC, November25:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: HV.1, EG.5 a strong second, but BA.2.86 coming up fast on the outside.

From CDC, November 11:

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, November 25:

Lambert here: Slight increases in some age groups, conforming to wastewater data. 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 November 29:

Up. Level-ish, but I bet hospitalization drops over the holiday weekend. Let’s wait and see. New York state as a whole looks more like a spike. (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 [snort]).

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. November 18:

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, November 27:

0.4%. Up. (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, November 25:

Lambert here: Increase (with backward revision; guess they thought it was over). 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, November 6:

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, November 6:

BA.2.86 coming along nicely.


Total: 1,183,455 – 1,183,396 = 15 (15 * 365 = 5475 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). 

Lambert here: This number is too small no matter what. Iowa Covid19 Tracker hasn’t been updated since September 27, 2023. I may have to revert to CDC data. Yech.

Excess Deaths

NOT UPDATED The Economist, November 18:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

Corporate Profits: “United States Corporate Profits” [Trading Economics]. “Corporate profits in the United States surged by 4.1% from the previous quarter to $2.709 trillion in the third quarter of 2023, the most in one year, and extending the 0.5% increase from the previous quarter…. Still, compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, corporate profits edged lower by 1.7%.”

Wholesale Inventory: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Economics]. “Wholesale inventories in the United States fell by 0.2% month-over-month in October 2023, following a downwardly revised 0.1% rise in the prior month and worse than market estimates of a 0.1% increase, preliminary estimates showed.”

Retail Inventory: “United States Retail Inventories Ex Autos” [Trading Economics]. “Retail Inventories Ex Autos in the United States decreased by 0.9% over a month in October 2023, following a revised 0.4% fall in the prior month, preliminary estimates showed.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 66 Greed (previous close: 65 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 66 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 29 at 12:11:04 PM ET.


“Causal evidence that herpes zoster vaccination prevents a proportion of dementia cases” (preprint) [medRxiv]. A clever natural experiment. “To provide causal as opposed to merely correlational evidence on this question, we take advantage of the fact that in Wales eligibility for the herpes zoster vaccine (Zostavax) for shingles prevention was determined based on an individual’s exact date of birth. Those born before September 2 1933 were ineligible and remained ineligible for life, while those born on or after September 2 1933 were eligible to receive the vaccine. By using country-wide data on all vaccinations received, primary and secondary care encounters, death certificates, and patients’ date of birth in weeks, we first show that the percentage of adults who received the vaccine increased from 0.01% among patients who were merely one week too old to be eligible, to 47.2% among those who were just one week younger. Apart from this large difference in the probability of ever receiving the herpes zoster vaccine, there is no plausible reason why those born just one week prior to September 2 1933 should differ systematically from those born one week later…. We then show that receiving the herpes zoster vaccine reduced the probability of a new dementia diagnosis over a follow-up period of seven years by 3.5 percentage points (95% CI: 0.6 – 7.1, p=0.019), corresponding to a 19.9% relative reduction in the occurrence of dementia.”

The Gallery



Another chaser:

Class Warfare

“Americans need an extra $11,400 today just to afford the basics” [CBS]. “The typical American household must spend an additional $11,434 annually just to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed in January of 2021, right before inflation soared to 40-year highs, according to a recent analysis of government data…. Although inflation is cooling, many consumers may not be feeling much relief because most prices aren’t declining (One major exception: gas prices, which are notoriously volatile and which have declined about 5% in the past year.) Consumers are still paying more, albeit at a slower pace, on top of the higher prices that were locked in when price hikes surged in 2022 and earlier this year.” • Prices don’t “surge” (note lack of agency). Prices rise because firms raise them.

News of the Wired

“The camel, the rope, and the needle’s eye” [Kiwi Hellenist]. Exegesis of Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” So: “According to the myth, ‘camel’ is a misreading: originally, it was a ‘rope’ going through a needle. Still impossible, but not surreal like ‘camel’. Supposedly, the text originally had kamilos, but kamēlos ‘camel’ and kamilos ‘rope’ sounded the same in imperial-era Greek, so they got mixed up…. The executive summary is this: the word supposedly meaning ‘rope’ was made up in the 5th century or shortly beforehand, and it was made up specifically to weaken Jesus’ condemnation of wealth.” • Vindication of Jesus as surrealist class warrior!

“My $500M Mars Rover Mistake: A Failure Story” [Chris LeWicki]. This is great. “The pulse was sent to the motor. As always, the result was immediate, but this time, alarmingly unfamiliar. The strip chart did not look like anything we had seen before. It did not even look like a broken motor. It was decidedly — something else. My mind raced for explanations and in what seemed like an instant, arrived at the most likely explanation. My eyes followed the wires from our breakout box on the test cart to the spacecraft, and the reason for the unfamiliar signal landed like a dagger through my heart. All that power we just released did not go into the RAT-Revolve motor. Due to a mistake I had made with the break-out-box, it went the other direction on the connector interface, sending a surge of electricity straight into the spacecraft, instead of the motor. Ooooohhhh ssshhhhiiiiitttt.” • But there’s a happy ending!

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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 MG:

MG writes: “Went back to California for my sins for the 100th year anniversary of my high school, and saw this tree in the car park of the hotel (again, I must abjectly apologize for my poor camera work).” It is true that the subject doesn’t need to be in the center. On the other hand, perhaps this subject does!

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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. Adam Eran

      The citation of rope/camel is followed by “But with God all things are possible.” … so ropes or camels can do all kinds of tricks. And yes, real Jesus followers are advised to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor.

      Better condemnation of the respectable: Matthew 23… A whole chapter where Jesus condemns the pharisees (the good, rich, Roman-collaborating pharisees). He actually calls them names (“Whited Sepulchers” – tombs that look good on the outside but are full of filth, and “Blind Guides”

      One further observation: In Matthew 4, Jesus has a conversation with Satan. He rejects his adversary’s suggestions (“Man does not live by bread alone”) but never calls him names. Apparently pharisees really pissed the J-man off!

  1. Carolinian

    Re “not an empty vessel”–no, one full of bile and stuff she heard at AIPAC. Here’s hoping all those Trump super fans can save us from Dimon and the Kochs and our once guv. Trump is bad in many ways but one suspects he would never betray his base in the way that Nikki is oh so eager to do. Unless one assumes her base consists solely of Dimon and the Kochs and defense contractors and, of course, Bibi.

    1. eg

      It’s hilarious watching the serial failure of all the wannabe Trump challengers, and even more so the desperation of their donors.

      Give it up already.

  2. ron paul rEVOLution

    >There’s another one about an imaginary gate in Jerusalem called ‘the eye of the needle’: that one was made up in the 11th century.

    That’s the one they taught us in Catholic school! Glad to hear it’s fake.

  3. FreeMarketApologist

    Re: “One would think that Uber could devise a corporate policy to prevent this sort of thing…”

    Not gonna happen. It would imperil their status as an app provider that serves independent contractor drivers in finding people who want transportation.

    1. Objective Ace

      Couldnt an unhappy customer leave a poor review for a driver coughing the whole time? Not perfect, but something to consider

    2. Acacia

      Anecdotal, but I’ve taken an Aranet4 CO2 monitor on a number of Über-esque rides, and discovered CO2 levels of 2100 ppm+ in the car are not unusual.

      Many drivers keep all the windows rolled up, and the ventilation in recirculating mode. During summer, A/C is cranked and their general choice seems to be cool air over lower CO2. A few drivers switch the ventilation to admit outdoor air (I infer this from much lower CO2 levels), but at least in my experience they are a minority.

      At this point, I always wear a mask anyway, and immediately open the back window a few inches. No driver has ever objected to this.

  4. Synoia

    I recall, dimly, we were taught, the the Eye of a Needle, was a very narrow gate, where stragglers,scouts, or spies cold eater or exit a Castle.

    1. Watt4Bob

      That’s how I recall it being explained by a friend years ago.

      He said the “eye of the needle was actually a narrow gate which required that merchants unload their camels in order to get through, once on the other side they loaded the camels again.

      Who knows?

  5. lyman alpha blob

    RE: if I retweeted a Trump tweet, I could get a visit from the Justice Department?

    I did participate at another orange website back in day, to the point of becoming a “trusted user” and being able to see how their “moderation” system worked, or didn’t. I found it to be absolutely appalling, and the arguments that would ensue over who “liked”, or didn’t, this or that comment by clicking this or that box were mind numbingly stupid.

    I found the overall communication here to be much better. Imagine my surprise to find out that the moderation model of that other website that I found so execrable has now been adopted by society at large, and everyone with the hall monitor mentality can suddenly become a star.

    I will just take this opportunity to once again say thank you for the fact that NC has never had a “like” button.

  6. dave -- just dave

    Anecdata about those taking still taking active steps to avoid infection or reinfection with covid, as mentioned in the quoted thread from Conor Browne:

    My spouse, employed at a U.S. government agency, is in Geneva this week for a series of meetings at the headquarters of the World Health Organization.

    She told me today that:

    1/it was announced today that someone who had attended one of the meetings yesterday had tested positive for covid; and

    2/she is the only one masking at the meetings she attends, and in fact she has not seen anyone else masked in the building.

    I am dismayed to hear this, and even a little surprised – but not shocked. In the phrase used so memorably in the movie “Babe” – it’s “the way things are.”

  7. Art_DogCT

    Re: “The camel, the rope, and the needle’s eye”

    Some 50 years ago I wrote a very short play titled, “The Gospel of Saint Alphonse of Topeka, Patron of the Paradox and the Obscure of the World”. It, along with the rest of my late adolescent oeuvre, is long gone, but I do remember two lines fondly and use occasionally in conversation.

    “It is easier for a needle to camel through a pass than for an enter man to rich heaven.”
    “If beggars were horses, wishes would ride.”

    The second finds more use, but the first is my go-to when I feel like making social interactions more weird. “Be the guest who isn’t invited back” is a viable strategy for managing the stress of peopleing.

  8. Jason Boxman

    Extracting Training Data from ChatGPT

    Garbage in garbage out.

    We have just released a paper that allows us to extract several megabytes of ChatGPT’s training data for about two hundred dollars. (Language models, like ChatGPT, are trained on data taken from the public internet. Our attack shows that, by querying the model, we can actually extract some of the exact data it was trained on.) We estimate that it would be possible to extract ~a gigabyte of ChatGPT’s training dataset from the model by spending more money querying the model.

    Oops can see where data was stolen from maybe.

    Obviously, the more sensitive or original your data is (either in content or in composition) the more you care about training data extraction. However, aside from caring about whether your training data leaks or not, you might care about how often your model memorizes and regurgitates data because you might not want to make a product that exactly regurgitates training data.

  9. Adam

    Inflation is now under control? I love these articles that are completely delusional. The grocery prices for my annual family Thanksgiving meal skyrocketed this year. My favorite was the $3 small can of pumpkin ($4.20 for the larger can) at the local big box store which I reluctantly bought otherwise no pumpkin pie for dinner. This is up almost $1 from last year.

    It’s almost like the people writing these nonsensical articles never buy anything…or maybe the truth is they have their servants do all this kind of lowly work. Luckily for me and the family the pie was awesome this year.

  10. nippersdad

    That Nikki Haley is such a caricature of the far right id that one has to wonder how Jamie Dimon ever thought he could get a Democrat to vote for her in the Republican primaries to counter Trump. Just goes to show how meaningless the psychological profiles of the parties are to those in charge of managing them. They have just triangulated themselves into being completely oblivious.

    1. Carolinian

      There was a movie from the fifties called A Face in the Crowd where a folksy but fake populist (played by Andy Griffith) threatens to become a political phenom and demagogue. This scare scenario is such an obsession of the elites that perhaps they decided to create their own–with Nikki’s willing help of course. The flaw in the plan is that she’s a lot less cunning than the character in the movie and is liable to say anything. She’s a Dean Scream just waiting to happen. The press would have to work overtime to make this go.


  11. Ranger Rick

    That cheeky BDSM discussion brings to mind a long-running and somewhat disturbing train of thought in the media that ran through the later half of Trump’s administration, which posited Trump was the submissive partner in a sexual relationship with Putin. Often this was accompanied by lurid descriptions of the acts Trump was engaged in.

    1. Carolinian

      Not just Colbert then?

      Funny how the spook meme makers always concentrate on the sex angle to tarnish their opponents. Hitler only had one testicle was a favorite (or was that true?).

      What would Sigmund make of this obsession with sexual adequacy?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Which posited Trump was the submissive partner in a sexual relationship with Putin. Often this was accompanied by lurid descriptions of the acts Trump was engaged in

      And all the people with “In This House” signs and rainbow flags were eating it up with a spoon.

      1. ChrisPacific

        One of those unintentionally revealing moments, like everybody agonizing over the Ukraine war and how awful it was that it was happening to “people who look like us.”

  12. Tom Stone

    I’m beginning to think that Western Elites are suffering from significant immune debt, these people are crucial to the functioning of Western Societies and something should be done about it RIGHT NOW, because the Children.
    We need these people to be as tough as possible, but that will take a little extra effort…a dozen TB Positive people in the congressional galleries would be a good start but we need the best, Ebola.
    Once our leaders are back on their feet they will be UNSTOPPABLE!!!

    1. midtownwageslave

      A poly-demic taking place amongst western elites? A zeroing out of immunity debt at the highest echelons of society? A complete transformation of our dearest leaders?


      -We could send congress critters into Gaza to clear out tunnels!

      -We could send mecha-Nuland into the trenches and liberate Ukraine!

      -We could even release Blinken-prime into Taiwanese waters to thwart Chinese aggression!

      Where do I pick up my advance on this budding TV movie script?

      1. nippersdad

        Garland Nixon is always a delight as well. Thanks for the link. I just finished watching it, and it is very good to see Ritter talking about Kucinich’s Department of Peace again. We needed it when he ran, but it will now be a necessity.

  13. Carla

    Re: the Newsweek story quoting Trump’s speech —
    unlike Lambert, I thought the ghost-writer was lousy, because I can’t imagine DJT uttering those cadences:

    “young people have borne the heavy costs” — “crippling inflation, soaring prices, skyrocketing interest rates, unaffordable housing, and escalating crime.” — “Over the course of the Biden administration,” — “Gas prices reached as high as $7 a gallon in some places” “Cumulative inflation”

    Has DJT ever said “borne”? “Over the course”? “Cumulative”? That is not a vocabulary I have ever heard him use. Has Trump ever uttered the carefully measured “Gas prices reached AS HIGH AS $7 a gallon IN SOME PLACES”?

    Didn’t sound a thing like the man to me. Sounded like a well-schooled PMC policy wonk, not the bombastic performer Trump’s followers know and love. I’ll bet that text was submitted to Newsweek and he used very different language at the rally. Newsweek was too lazy or cheap to edit a transcript of the actual speech.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Wasn’t it young people that got old Joe over the line in the last election? And he has done nothing but throw them under a bus ever since. Yeah, they will totally come out and vote for old Joe again because Trump.

  14. Wukchumni

    I’ve kvetched enough over the years about getting my gotten gains from the man, and now i’m on the very cusp of being in receipt of monthly payments directly deposited into my checking account starting in February, a fiat accompli.

    So, prospective geezers have to do a phone interview with a SS employee, and its refreshing in that there aren’t any machines involved-they call you.

    The barrage of bonafides was lengthy and at one point I was sweating it a bit, as I felt sure she was going to ask who the catcher was on my 1973 little league team, but the questioning never got past the warning track, and surprisingly she didn’t ask for my porn name, which is ‘Nero Hacienda’, Nero being a 3 legged Irish Setter.

    Let me be a lesson to the young adult to never give up and keep working and you too can count coup, and besides i’m counting on you.

    1. Bugs

      At least your porn name isn’t Robin Buttons, which might just give me away but hey, we’re all friends here.

      Congratulations on your retirement!

    2. herman_sampson

      Welcome to SS land. It has been very good to me, even if has been our very major source of income – at 62 I decided the time was more valuable than money. The downside is next year I will be 65 and subjected personally to MA propaganda. But I will get medicare.
      My younger sister is set to start collecting at about 62 1/2 before the Republicans get a chance to screw it up (although you and I know team D could very well do the same or worse).
      As a former amateur collector of old metal disks, I get your allusions to same.

      1. Wukchumni

        …I say Get The Money!

        I’d guestimate that the buying power of my annuity has lost 40 to 50% in the past few years alone…

    3. Pat

      Congratulations. Welcome.

      The reason they work so hard to crapify and/or destroy Social Security is because it really does benefit people. It should be more and easier, but it is still just that a benefit.

      I am happy for you.

    4. scott s.

      Since I hit 70 last week, went through the same process. I did have the advantage, since closed down, of being able to file against my wife’s spousal benefit at my FRA. Now I’m in the gap where I have to take my RMD on the IRA inherited from my dad but can’t donate it to charity as a QCD.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “JPMorgan’s Dimon: Democrats should boost Nikki Haley” [Politico]. “JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon urged Democrats to support Nikki Haley in the GOP presidential primary, arguing that she offers a strong alternative to former President Donald Trump.

    If you have Koch and Jamie Dimon come together to support Nikki Haley then that tells you all you need to know what a Nikki Haley presidency would be like.

  16. Pat

    Jeez Louise, between the liberal political sexual role playing fetish and the oligarchs from both supposed sides coalescing behind war mongering egotistical Nikki Haley, I really do have to finally take the theory that mental illness really is contagious seriously. The mental instability it takes to wander willingly into this and embrace both the fear and defensiveness which this needs is breathtaking. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked, Russia! Russia! Russia! was a pretty spectacular precursor. But I allowed myself to believe it was craven political manipulation, not something they honestly believed.

  17. Matthew G. Saroff

    I am having a prophetic vision.

    After promoting a fashion line, Emily Oster will ……… Promote a brand of coffins and cremation urns!

      1. Matthew G. Saroff

        You have to feel sympathy for the writers at The Onion.

        Talented though they are, there is no way that they can top reality here.

  18. Joe Well

    >>Spare me. If you have a runny nose, stay home”

    No, no, a million times no. This is an attack on the (admittedly mildly) disabled who still have to live their lives. A lot of people have chronic rhinosinusitis and related conditions that leaves them sneezing, sniffling and coughing, not to mention brain-fogged, for a large part of the year, if not most days of the year. They’ve tried every kind of sprays, pills (including antibiotics), surgeries, supplements, irrigations, ointments, teas and anything else you can think of. If anything worked consistently and for everyone the news would spread like wildfire and the problem would be over.

    And even if someone does have full-blown covid, until the government is paying for sick leave in those cases, my sympathy is with the gig-economy worker who has to work to live rather than someone who can afford to be their boss for five minutes.

  19. Acacia

    Re: “Kamala Harris will attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai”

    Kamala Harris is a cop, so maybe it figures she’ll attend… ?

    Highlight from the keynote:

    “Climate change is… uhh… serious… very serious… there is nothing more serious… seriously… giggle, snort.”

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