2:00PM Water Cooler 11/9/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I need to give HICPAC’s twitching corpse a few more kicks, and so this post will be a bare antidote. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

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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 timotheus:

Timotheus writes: “I was intrigued by the name that popped up on my plant ID app (“Seek”). Here is Wikipedia:

Physostegia virginiana, the obedient plant, obedience or false dragonhead, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is native to North America, where it is distributed from eastern Canada to northern Mexico. Physostegia are known commonly as obedient plants because a flower pushed to one side will often stay in that position.

Anyway, it is a nice late-summer surprise.”

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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. Carla

    I find the name “obedient plant” delightfully ironic, since it was given to a plant that is boundlessly invasive. Although I enjoyed it in my garden for a period of years, continually having to dig it out to allow other plants to survive at all finally made me throw in the towel and bid it farewell for good.

  2. Jason Boxman

    Liberal Democrats. Fighting for YOU!

    At Least 2 Million Children Have Lost Medicaid Insurance This Year (NY times via archive.ph)

    At least two million low-income children have lost health insurance since the end of a federal policy that guaranteed coverage through Medicaid earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new analyses by researchers at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and KFF, a health policy research organization.

    Nicely done, Biden and the Democrats! In the middle of a plague. But low income people don’t vote that much, so I guess no consequences for this debacle to those that inflicted it upon the poor.

    1. Vicky Cookies

      I wonder as to the calculus involved in policy choices like this, with regard to where the interests of low income folks and the values of leftish, high information, generally high income folks intersect. Seeing as the ‘economic left’ has no real political representation, is it trusted that the latter will vote their short term economic interests rather than their values? Or is there an ignorance at the level at which policy formation takes place of the content of the critiques of dissenters/heretics? Another possibility is that such folks are not deemed numerous enough to take into account.

      Another way of putting it: does the mainstream of the political class read sites like NC for anything other than opposition research, or is it the case that generally only three-letter-boys take in the critical views, before returning to more comforting information sources like The Atlantic or the Times after work?

      1. Screwball

        There is no need to wonder. Like George Carlin so accurately said; they don’t give a bleep about you.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      I know I’m a broken record on this and that they are formally unrelated, but those kids (and millions of adults) losing their Medicaid eligibility on the same day as Trump’s first indictment over the Stormy Daniels “case,” is just so revealing of the D’s je ne se quoi of betrayal and folly (since the indictments have so far made Trump stronger, not weaker). Yet #McResistance liberals will argue that leading off with such idiocy – I say bring back Michael Avenatti for The Walls Are Closing In Nostalgia Tour! – somehow makes Orange Man “accountable.”

      As with hiding behind the House Parliamentarian over raising the federal minimum wage, extending Medicaid eligibility could have been done unilaterally by Uncle Joe, who characteristically chose not to, demonstrating yet again the D’s preference for cheap theater over material benefits.

    3. Jason Boxman

      This is actually the most degenerate thing I’ve seen from liberal Democrats lately; this was going to happen, it was known that it was going to happen, and so with both Congress and the White House, surprise, it happens!

      It is not clear how many of these children have found new coverage in the more than seven months since the Medicaid rolls began shrinking, but at least one million are likely to still be uninsured, said Joan Alker, the executive director of the Georgetown center and a research professor at the university’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

      Children need to find coverage, themselves, apparently. Gotta train children about neoliberalism and taxes on your time, and your very life, at an early age, I guess.

      The only thing that amazes me is how long this kind of depravity can continue; there are tipping points. There’s a slow burn. Until there isn’t. What that might look like, who knows? If Democrats really fear MAGA fascism, maybe making people’s lives better is a good starting place?


  3. Vicky Cookies

    A definition of capitalism: the stage of the historical development of the productive forces of society at which everything is a racket.

    Wishing the commentariat health and good cheer; I’ve been very grateful to have benefitted from your wit and wisdom.

  4. Harold

    I was going to say practically the same thing about the Obedient plant. Disobedient Plant, I call it. There is a selection that is advertised as more tractable, but I ha’e me doots. Still if one had a large isolated bed, away from the rest of the garden, for which a weed-suppressing native ground cover is desired, it would provide a patch of long lasting color in summer. BTW, the reason it is called “obedient” is that if you bend the stem at an angle, it stays bent.

  5. Mark Gisleson

    The NYPost has a story about a viral video of an unhinged Democrat ripping on a Republican county chair because the chair’s party had tried to “overthrow” the election. [Do we get to mock Democrats when they word things poorly?]

    “You f–king try to overthrow elections with violence and then you’re out here among decent people? What do you have to say to that?”

    “What do you have to say to that” is an open invitation to physical violence, it is extremely confrontational. My fury over 1/6 has been steadily building, drawn from the same winding cloth as Russiagate. Russiagate should have Whigged the Democrats out of existence but thanks to unilateral media absolution we got an embed-driven protest that didn’t even qualify as a riot followed by the most Kafkaesque Congressional investigation imaginable complete with Hollywood edited and soundtracked video evidence.

    It’s easy to find fault with Speaker Mike Johnson’s beliefs but I’m pinning my hopes on his prosecutorial acumen getting the Democrat party leadership’s corruption properly investigated. The FBI has been exposed, it needs to be purged sooner, not later (because inside the Beltway later never comes).

    Independent journalists need to show the concerned public just how egregrious their local media’s reporting failures have been. It’s past time for active boycotts of traditional media outlets.There’s a slippery slope here and I think we’re close to the tipping point when news directors can’t do ‘man-in-the-street’ interviews because folks will refuse to be on camera and the ones who do go on air will be angry. Expect a transition to staged faux concerned-person-in-some-kind-of-outdoor-setting interviews. Better lighting and sound will be a tell.

    But it all starts with Johnson who is currently sitting in a chair Nancy Pelosi used as her golden toilet in both her four-year terms as Speaker. In my not at all humble opinion, we’re at a point when it would be easier to kill and replace the Democrat party than it would be to meaningfully reform it. Current party leadership looks nothing like the party’s base who, frankly, aren’t good enough for the leadership who keep trying to poach more upscale voters, the kinds of voters the leaders would be willing to have a Courvoisier with.

    1. ambrit

      At this stage of the game, we must jump past any ‘reform’ efforts and perform a full on purge of the Party Hierarchy.
      We are entering revolutionary times. The “cures” will be appropriate. Homeland Security doesn’t have an inkling of what a real Terror is.
      When the Occupy Movement was crushed in multiple locations on the same day by the Organs of State Security, I knew that ‘reform’ was no longer possible.
      Go long “Black Swan Events.”

    2. Even keel

      Thanks for the local report.

      I had a brush with small town politics the other month myself. I was helping team blue, and team red turns out to have been using trumpian tactics and rhetoric for the last couple years. It came to a head when two city councilors resigned to try to deny the remaining members a quorum to even appoint replacements. The result would have been five to six months without a council until a special election could be held. Why? Something something socialism was the expressed reason.

      It should not have been surprising, then, for me to read that local team blues are adopting cia democrat rhetoric and tactics.

      Everyone local copies what the big boys do on the national stage. And all the big boys are behaving very badly indeed.

      Bodes ill for local self government over the next 15-20 years.

  6. Will

    New superspreader just dropped.


    Baseball’s GM meetings, the annual gabfest for baseball executives and player agents held in Arizona has just been cancelled after 10% of execs came down with what was first thought to be food poisoning but now acknowledged to be a virus. The virus has yet to be named.

    With the meetings being cancelled, everyone can now return home to major cities around the continent.

    1. NYMutza

      Everybody knows that it is the Corona virus; however, since Corona is a major sponsor it must not and shall not be implicated.

    2. Samuel Conner

      > The virus has yet to be named

      one wonders whether the people who can afford concierge medicine will be asking for prescriptions for the anti-helminthic medication that must not be named as a form of prophylaxis or treatment for the virus that they don’t want to admit they have contracted.

      This is starting to feel, IMO, like a Joseph Heller novel, the name of which I will not mention.


      Perhaps it will be grist for future satirists, some of whom may incredulously poke fun at early 21st century Public Health.

      I have a proposal for a title: Pandemonium-19

      1. NYT_Memes


        Isn’t a pandemonium a flock of parrots? Several groups fit that image, starting with MSM narrative windup dolls. I must confess even the MSM gets beaten out by WH spokespersons and our thought leaders at State and all the blob agencies.

      2. ChrisPacific

        This is starting to feel, IMO, like a Joseph Heller novel, the name of which I will not mention.

        Catch 19? COVID-22?

  7. nippersdad

    RBN is reporting that Jill Stein registered to run for the Greens on the seventh, and that she has announced today.


    I have always liked her, and it will be great to get to vote for her for a third time.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The sort of people that complain about things like that are also the sort of people that complain that packets of Chicken Kiev in supermarkets don’t reflect Ukrainian values.

    1. flora

      Thanks. There’s so much mayhem going on it’s hard to keep track of the central lines of power projection and discourse. Taibbl helps me keep track.

    1. flora

      Thanks. I was all in for Bernie in 2016 and the first part of 2020. I saw something at the end of the primary season of 2016 that left me wondering. But then I saw something mid-way through 2020 that made me think twice. If Phillips thinks he gets a do-over for the 2016 Sanders’ campaign when most of us know now how that turned out long term? um… I don’t think so.

      1. nippersdad

        Yep. That is so totally not going to happen for him. Ten minutes of research on his record and Xerox machines across the land will be pushing out copies of his face on a target.

        For darts, of course.

  8. Angie Neer

    Covid zeitgeist anecdote: I have a friend who seems to be a perfect representative of the comfortable middle-class liberal-leaning newspaper-reading public-at-large with regard to Covid. For example, she has said that because she’s fully vaxed, even if she gets Covid (again), it will be “mild” and therefore of no concern. Certainly she considers masking unneccessary. (We talk at church, where I always wear an N95.) But yesterday she told me she had seen a news report that really surprised her, from a mainstream source she trusts (I didn’t catch where). The report stated that Covid can actually spread much farther than 6 feet away—can you believe it?—that it spreads like smoke so it can fill a whole room, and that some people are saying indoor ventilation needs to be improved to combat it. This gives me hope.

    1. Acacia

      I would have said, in a calm voice: “I knew that two years ago. Where do you get your news?”

      And then, after she replies, “Oh…” as you look away with obvious loss of interest in continuing the conversation.

  9. nippersdad

    Manchin is not running for the Senate. Instead he is going on a listening tour of the country to see if he cannot coopt both legacy parties with some kind of No-Labels atrocity.

    “I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” he said. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”


    If it wasn’t assured that the presidency will go to the House before, that may get them over the top. So my bingo card reads as follows:

    Phillips takes over after Biden falls off of a stage; soccer moms in the suburbs rejoice.
    Trump takes on Haley as the foreshadowed winner of the VP beauty contest.
    Kennedy gets the none-of-the-above normie vote.
    Stein takes the left vote.

    Dems lose the presidency to Trump, their majority in the the Senate and there are further gains in the Republican majority in the House even as they already have the SC.

    Hillary goes back to her unpronounceable home in New York and drinks a lot of chardonnay in the woods before coming out of her stupor to tell us all about how her democracy had died and Vladimir Putin won the election, or something.

    This political realignment is going to be fascinating.

      1. nippersdad

        I am having visions of Manchin and Sinema gaily sailing off into the sunset on his yacht to pick up a fresh load of Benjamins in Bermuda to the sounds of Democratic wailing and gnashing of teeth.

        What did they expect? They allowed those two to impoverish huge segments of the population, and they never did a thing about it. There is a label for that, but they just don’t want to tell us what it is.

    1. Jason Boxman

      In his capacity as Senate chair of a committee responsible for legislation that stood to benefit his coal operations, from which he’s extremely wealthy, I suppose you could say he has accomplished all he could for his companies^H^Hpeople in West Virginia.

      Great guy.

    2. Randy

      I disagree.

      I’ve been around long enough to watch many years of this political back and forth between our political parties. In the end nothing changes for anything that really matters. Life is too short to care about politics, I’m done with it.

      I have the apolitical blues.


  10. JM

    Saw this on Violet Blues’ roundup today: MedRxiv has a preprint of a study tracking 276 patients who had COVID, looking at 4 indicators of neuroinflamation or vascular disease issues. Results are that a COVID infection (not sure if just one or if they modulate it for multiple infections) on cognitive ability comes to just over 10.5 years of aging, and “a 59.8% increase in the burden of mild cognitive impairment” whatever that means. Seems like a pretty disturbing set of results.

    Threadreader about it: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1722080856812949511.html

    And a study in Nature about mental health effects from COVID (in Egypt, which might skew things…): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-45775-z

  11. Glen

    The Senator for West Virginia has announced he is not running for re-election:

    Joe Manchin won’t run for reelection

    Have all the billionaires and millionaires requiring his “representation” left the state? Or is he preparing a third party run to represent the “radical center”?

  12. The Rev Kev

    Anybody hear during the Republican’s debate Tim Scott? He said that as President, that he would attack Iran as you cannot negotiate with evil and that you have to strike it. Just another Republican clown candidate. Meanwhile Vivek shows himself to still be a nasty piece of work who launched personal attacks on Haley. If any of those Republican candidates had any guts, they would turn to him and ask him if he became President whether his first act would be to have the heads of all the Republican candidates cut off and stuck on poles. Nail that b****** with his own words.

    1. Randy

      Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does and what is the alternative? As they say, TINA.

  13. hamstak

    So I get another text message appeal from the Biden campaign to donate (via Act Blue), in exchange for which I am offered what appears to be entry into a contest for a paid trip to D.C. to have a cup of coffee (or joe, wacka wacka) with his POTUS-ness and the vice (aka K-Jell). Next to “flights and hotel” are emoticons to that effect: an airplane and a skyline featuring two similar skyscrapers. That reminded me of something. Here is my response:

    “The adjacent emoticon images of an airplane and building towers is reminiscent of 9-11. An apt metaphor for the disastrous Biden presidency. Count me out, if any of you idiots are even listening.”

    Obviously, nobody real is listening, but I am hoping that a content analysis algo picks up on the “idiots” and flags me as a hostile and further such correspondences cease.

    1. Hepativore

      We can start calling this the “Bidenberg” disaster as Biden coasts along, oblivious to impending doom, despite the fact that his electoral chances have gone up in flames.

      Cable news media continues to try and pretend that everything is fine as does the public face of the DNC, even though the party is pulling its hair out by the roots behind the scenes.

      The information that we learn in high school civics is a grossly-inaccurate portrayal of how our government actually functions.

  14. Jason Boxman

    New Study shows that every single strain of Covid not only infects the brain but also also spreads through it using brain nerve cells that are responsible for ‘everything we do’ such as breathing, talking, walking, eating…

    The new study which is published in Nature journal by the highly respected virus experts at the Pasteur Institute shows that every single strain of the virus infects the brain itself and travels with in it along neurons and axons:

    It’s even worse than we thought.


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