2:00PM Water Cooler 12/11/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

David C. Evers, Schoolcraft, Michigan, United States. It’s been awhile since I played loon songs.

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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

Capitol Seizure

“More Missing J6 Committee Evidence: Where are Secret Service Records?” [Declassified with Julie Kelly]. “Testimony by White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who accused Trump of attempting to take control of the presidential SUV and assault his lead Secret Service agent after they refused to take him to the Capitol after his speech, created the committee’s most dramatic moment. But nearly a year after the committee released their final report, transcribed interviews of several Secret Service officials remain missing from the public record. Further, in violation of House rules, those transcripts have not been furnished to a GOP-led committee now conducting a separate investigation into January 6 and the conduct of the now defunct select committee…. The committee’s internet archive contains no transcribed interviews of Secret Service officials that the media reported had met with committee investigators. Notably missing is that of Robert Engel, the head of Trump’s security detail who was interviewed by the committee in November 2022. Engel is the agent allegedly attacked by Trump on January 6, according to Hutchinson. But following Hutchinson’s explosive account, several Secret Service officials, including Engel, told the media the confrontation never happened. It’s safe to assume his interview would provide a direct contradiction to her account of what happened. Even Hutchinson has since backpedaled on her story; Loudermilk obtained a 15-page document known as an “errata” that made major corrections to her sworn testimony.”


Less than a year to go!

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“Trump says he won’t testify again at his New York fraud trial. He says he has nothing more to say” [Associated Press]. “Donald Trump said Sunday he has decided against testifying for a second time at his New York civil fraud trial, posting on social media that he “VERY SUCCESSFULLY & CONCLUSIVELY” testified last month and saw no need to appear again…. Had Trump returned to the stand Monday, it would’ve been his defense lawyers leading the questioning, but state lawyers could have cross-examined him…. The lawyer, Alina Habba, said she had discouraged Trump from taking the stand because of the gag order that is in place. The same gag order was also in effect when he testified in November.” •

IA: “Iowa Poll: Donald Trump holds overwhelming lead; Ron DeSantis edges ahead of Nikki Haley” [Des Moines Register]. “‘The field may have shrunk, but it may have made Donald Trump even stronger than he was,’ said pollster J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the Iowa Poll. ‘I would call his lead commanding at this point. There’s not much benefit of fewer candidates for either Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley.’ … With five weeks until Caucus Day, there’s still room for movement, even as likely Republican caucusgoers begin cementing their decisions. Forty-nine percent of poll respondents say their minds are made up, while another 46% say they could still be persuaded to support another candidate.”

IA: “Iowa poll: Trump surpasses 50% support ahead of first GOP contest” [NBC News]. “Former President Donald Trump has expanded his lead over his GOP rivals with five weeks until the first Republican presidential nominating contest, now earning 51% first-choice support from likely Iowa caucusgoers, according to the latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll. Trump’s lead — the largest recorded so close to a competitive Republican caucus in this Iowa poll’s history — is fueled by majorities of evangelical and first-time likely caucusgoers, as well as by nearly three-quarters of Republicans who believe Trump can defeat President Joe Biden next year despite the legal challenges the former president faces. What’s more, the poll finds the former president enjoying more enthusiasm and commitment from his supporters than his rivals do ahead of the Jan. 15 contest in Iowa.”

* * *

“The Nikki Haley bump is real. But can she really threaten Trump?” [Post and Courier]. “To her credit, there are signs that Haley’s slow-and-steady strategy is finally bearing fruit. Her once-stagnant poll numbers have nearly tripled since the summer. She recently earned the endorsement from the most-influential conservative network in the country. Her campaign is getting a second look from major donors, including those who previously supported her rivals. And she largely avoided any major gaffes or stumbles while largely taking centerstage in the first four presidential debates, all avoided by Trump. Haley’s supporters don’t just think she has a chance. They say she can do what other Republicans have never done: Beat Trump. In South Carolina, the list of Haley believers is growing. The Post and Courier has learned that Anita Zucker, the richest person in South Carolina, can be counted among Haley’s donors after previously backing U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s GOP presidential bid.” • Of course, this is a South Carolina paper.

* * *

“Five Ways Biden Can Win in 2024” [The New Republic]. (1) “We are in the test-kitchen phase of the Biden reelection campaign—and research on effective messaging will probably continue through the spring.” (2) Dobbs. (3) “[T]he electoral consequences of the Trump trials.” (4) “Once Trump returns to center stage, swing voters hopefully will notice that his speeches have become darker and his social media posts more venomous and deranged.” (5) “But if Biden is still trailing Trump in the swing-state polls in late October, maybe the president can pull off a Reverse Hillary. In a mirror image of the 2016 results when Clinton fell just short almost everywhere, Biden this time around would win virtually every swing state by hair’s-breadth margins.” • Not implausible, if your paradigm is stability not volatilty. To me, one or even two brokered conventions are, like, mainstream possibilities. I have attempted to understand the The Charter & the Bylaws of the Democratic Party before. From the Bylaws:

I take this to mean that the Democratic National Convention — and, therefore, whoever actually operates it — has plenary powers. If the Convention wishes adopt a permanent rule that no candidate whose name begins with “B” may be nominated, they can do it. So the culmination point of a volatile primary might well be the mother of all rules fights. How, for example, if Biden throws a cog, are his already-voted delegates to be allocated? Something to look forward to!

“Are the Democrats Sleepwalking to Disaster?” [Harold Mayerson, The American Prospect]. “It’s already too late, to be sure, for Democrats to file for a number of states’ primaries. But if Biden’s numbers don’t improve, if, say, Dean Phillips does unexpectedly well in New Hampshire (if he does, that will be entirely about Biden, not the almost completely unknown Phillips), Democrats could still enter the late primaries and, should they best Biden, come to the convention asking Biden to release his delegates. Under this or a similar scenario, Biden, who’s done the nation great services in the course of his career and his presidency, might opt to do one more and drop out.”

“Troubling poll numbers? Biden has a plan for that” [E.J. Dionne, WaPo]. “The heart of Biden’s challenge: No matter how good the economic data is, voters remain disgruntled. A poll conducted last month by the Financial Times and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is representative: It found that only 26 percent of voters thought Biden’s policies had helped the economy. Thus, the key components of their emerging plan: Acknowledge that prices are a problem and highlight what Biden is doing to bring them down. Focus less on the number of jobs created since he took office (even if this remains a source of pride) and more on the good wages those jobs are paying, an increase that’s especially large for those in lower-paid positions. Yes, the ‘wage premium’ for college grads is falling. That means a Democrat can argue that his policies are lifting the living standards of working-class voters who were key to Trump’s rise. Relatedly, Biden will draw a class line between the parties, much as Barack Obama did in his 2012 reelection campaign against Mitt Romney. Biden will juxtapose his ‘bottom-up and middle-out’ approach to economic growth with the GOP’s eagerness to cut taxes on the rich. He’ll contrast the GOP’s desire to maintain low tax rates for the wealthy with his own commitment to continue pushing for expanded child care, elder care and enhanced family leave.” • A “class line” is hard to draw with BandAids.

“Let’s not ignore the real reason Democrats struggle with white working class voters” [MSNBC]. “The changing demographics of the Democratic Party, then, isn’t a story about economics; it’s a story about race.” • This is, of course, MSNBC. The only surprise is that sentence isn’t the lead.

* * *

“The Biden family’s banking shell game” [Washington Times]. “The president has consistently denied awareness of Hunter’s financial dealings… New documents also reveal Mr. Biden sent at least 54 emails to Hunter’s business partner Eric Schwerin. The then-vice president’s messages were concealed under aliases including “Robin Ware” and “Robert L. Peters.” That’s a curious thing for someone not involved in the business to do…. With Mr. Comer having identified $24 million in cash pouring into 20 different shell companies linked with the Bidens and their associates, the big guy has some explaining to do. Imaginations run wild in the absence of a credible response, which is why the last thing the president and his son should do is continue stonewalling. Recall that the FBI opened a full inquiry into then-candidate Trump — using foreign-agent surveillance authority — based on a secondhand report of the sozzled ramblings of a low-level campaign aide talking to a diplomat in a London bar. As Mr. Biden’s current defenders cheered the latter investigation, surely they will urge the president and his family to cooperate fully in this inquiry.” • “Sozzled” is rhetorical excess. The point remains.

“Joe Biden was omitted from Hunter’s new indictment by design” [Miranda Devine, New York Post]. “The reason the president has gone unmentioned after a five-year investigation into Hunter’s role in the family influence-peddling racket is that the DOJ, like most of the media, corruptly protected him. As IRS whistleblowers Joseph Ziegler and Gary Shapley keep telling Congress, every investigative avenue that led to Joe Biden was blocked. This is why those IRS investigators were forced to blow the whistle.” • Many, many bullet points. Hints of FBI moles. But bullet points do not a narrative make. I prefer Comer’s patient timelines….

* * *

“She’s with him: Hillary Clinton steps out as a key player in Biden’s re-election effort” [NBC]. “[T]he 2016 Democratic presidential nominee is stepping into a role as one of the most prominent and influential surrogates in Biden’s re-election effort…. Clinton is popular with women and key parts of the Democratic base and remains a fundraising draw who can help ensure Biden has the money to get his message out. There is still a two-for-the-price-of-one theme when it comes to her family: Husband Bill Clinton made a cameo at the fundraising event at their Washington home. Clinton’s role is only expected to grow in the new year, but for now, she is filling a space that at a later point in the campaign season former President Barack Obama will join. Obama’s habit is to plunge in closer to Election Day — a reality that rankles some Democratic strategists who say the party sorely needs him right now.” • It’s going to be quite a year.

* * *

Asking for my vote:

On Florida’s putative Democrats:

* * *

* * *

MI: “Michigan Dems acknowledge Muslim American frustration with Biden, but question Trump as alternative” [Politico]. “Michigan Democrats are acknowledging political damage for President Joe Biden’s reelection prospects with Muslim Americans in their state. But they’re also wondering whether those voters would abandon the president in favor of Donald Trump.” Yes, you morons. That’s the only way to get their attention. More: “Biden carried the state by a little more than 150,000 votes in 2020, out of a 5.54 million votes cast. There were 206,000 registered Muslim voters in the state during the 2020 elections, according to Emgage, a national nonprofit that works to engage Muslims politically. Trump carried the state by approximately 10,000 votes during the 2016 election.”

NY: “GOP lawmaker: Ousted aides targeted my daughter for OnlyFans account” [Politico]. “Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) told POLITICO that his former chief of staff and former legislative director attempted to retaliate against him using his 27-year old daughter’s account on OnlyFans, a popular forum for people to charge for access to sexually explicit content. According to Williams, the two former staffers, Michael Gordon and Ryan Sweeney, threatened to expose his daughter after Williams fired them. Williams’ remarkable decision to go public about the feud is a bet that his political future will be improved by laying out its highly personal details… Williams, a first-term member in a battleground seat, won his race year by one percentage point. He is one of House Democrats’ top targets to unseat in 2024.” • Bidenomics = OnlyFans.

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.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Original Authoritarian” [Foreign Policy]. “The best attribute of Big Caesars and Little Caesars is that more than half of the book focuses on Caesars’ downfalls. Mount posits that a combination of law enforcement, intelligence, eloquence, legality, and diligence by public officials will lead wannabe Caesars to their inevitable ruin. It is precisely because of the power of propaganda that an examination of Caesars’ decline and fall is necessary—otherwise, ordinary citizens might exaggerate these leaders’ political potency.” • A nice moral to the story….


“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!

* * *

Immune Dysregulation

“What’s The Deal With That Cough Everyone Seems To Have Right Now?” [HuffPo]. “There’s also been an uptick in anecdotal reports of a brutal, long-lasting cough going around. As one TikTok user put it: everyone seems to have ‘a hacking cough that’s been going on for weeks.’ Doctors around the country have noticed it, too. ‘… It doesn’t appear to be the flu or COVID, but another pathogen that’s attacking and irritating our respiratory systems, according to experts.'” • So that’s alright then. If we all infect ourselves with it, we won’t ever catch it again.

“Something Awful”

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

* * *

Elite Maleficence

Sociopath of the Day Monica Ghandi on a Parisian junket:

I can’t find a quote where Ghandi mocks Long Covid. Readers? As a subsitute, I offer this:

Readers will recall that Wachter chivvied his wife into going to a writer’s conference, where she caught Covid, which turned into Long Covid.

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, December 11:

Lambert here: At last Biden’s beaten every one of Trump’s previous spikes, so a round of applause for The Big Guy. The slight plateauing in the national numbers doesn’t make sense to me because I can’t see an organic reason for it (unless the spread from Thanksgiving is somehow being damped out, which seems implausible). I’m guessing backward revision will make the plateau go away. Only 14 superspreading days until Christmas!

Regional data:

Hard to see why the regional split (and it sure would be nice to have more granular data). Weather forcing Northerners indoors? Seems facile. There’s snow in the Rockies (green color, West), for example.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, December 9:

Lambert here: JN.1, shown on the NowCast for the first time, coming up fast on the outside, while BA.2.86 fades.

From CDC, November25:

Lambert here: I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 2:

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.

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. And of course, we’re not even getting into the quality of the wastewater sites that we have as a proxy for Covid infection overall.


Bellwether New York City, data as of December 11:

Steadily up. 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]).

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 2:

Up, up, up!

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, December 4:

0.2%. 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, December 2:

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.

From CDC, traveler’s data, November 20:

Turning upward.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, November 20:

BA.2.86 zipping right along. If this data were delivered in anything like a timely fashion, it would be a pretty good predictor.


Total: 1,188,661- 1,184,559 = 4102 (4102 * 365 = 1,497,230 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 large no matter what. 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.

Tomorrow, I’ll dump Worldometer, with regret, because it’s one of the very few non-CDC trackers left. Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 2:

That the absolute numbers of deaths are down, but the percentage of deaths is up, is interesting.

For grins, re is the horrid CDC presentatation. They’ve gone all pastel, too; and there’s no graph, i.e. no historical comparisons are possible, which I’m sure suits CDC just fine:

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

Commodities: “Tighter supplies to create tailwind for copper prices” [Reuters]. “Mine closures and disruptions have rapidly changed the landscape for copper supplies and prompted analysts to lower their forecasts for surpluses in a positive signal for prices of the industrial metal…. Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange on Friday headed towards the four-month highs of $8,640 a metric ton seen on December 1, partly due to Anglo American lowering its production guidance.” • Doctor Copper? Dunno if this is supply disruption not demand.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 67 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 11 at 1:08:05 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Financial Unrest. “The lack of negative activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most! • WTF.

Guillotine Watch

Bill Ackman, moral arbiter:

Class Warfare

Implausible though it may seem, the powers-that-be must have decided that COP was getting somewhere. So they decided to nobble it:

“Corporate America Is Testing the Limits of Its Pricing Power” [New York Times]. “Big companies that had previously pushed through one standard price increase per year are now raising prices more frequently. Retailers increasingly use digital price displays, which they can change with the touch of a button. Across the economy, executives trying to maximize profits are effectively running tests to see what prices consumers will bear before they stop buying. Huge disruptions to supply chains pushed up corporate costs during the pandemic and forced many companies to think more creatively about their pricing strategies, Mr. MacKay said. That supercharged a trend toward more rigorous pricing, and showed many companies that they could more boldly play with prices without chasing shoppers away. The experimentation continues even as costs ease.” • Prices rise because firms raise them. Somebody tell Biden.

News of the Wired

“Why scientists are making transparent wood” [Ars Technica]. “Transparent wood could soon find uses in super-strong screens for smartphones; in soft, glowing light fixtures; and even as structural features, such as color-changing windows…. Wood is made up of countless little vertical channels, like a tight bundle of straws bound together with glue. These tube-shaped cells transport water and nutrients throughout a tree, and when the tree is harvested and the moisture evaporates, pockets of air are left behind. To create see-through wood, scientists first need to modify or get rid of the glue, called lignin, that holds the cell bundles together and provides trunks and branches with most of their earthy brown hues. After bleaching lignin’s color away or otherwise removing it, a milky-white skeleton of hollow cells remains. This skeleton is still opaque, because the cell walls bend light to a different degree than the air in the cell pockets does—a value called a refractive index. Filling the air pockets with a substance like epoxy resin that bends light to a similar degree to the cell walls renders the wood transparent. The material the scientists worked with is thin—typically less than a millimeter to around a centimeter thick. But the cells create a sturdy honeycomb structure, and the tiny wood fibers are stronger than the best carbon fibers, says materials scientist Liangbing Hu, who leads the research group working on transparent wood at the University of Maryland in College Park. And with the resin added, transparent wood outperforms plastic and glass: In tests measuring how easily materials fracture or break under pressure, transparent wood came out around three times stronger than transparent plastics like Plexiglass and about 10 times tougher than glass. ‘The results are amazing, that a piece of wood can be as strong as glass,’ says Hu, who highlighted the features of transparent wood in the 2023 Annual Review of Materials Research.” • Well, let’s hope we don’t treat trees like hydrocarbons….

“Earliest Carpenters” [Archeology]. “Rarely has a single find changed scholars’ views of the capabilities of people of the past as radically as the discovery of the world’s earliest known wooden architecture, which dates to nearly half a million years ago. The pair of interlocking logs joined by an intentionally cut notch was unearthed beneath a bank of Zambia’s Kalambo River by a team led by University of Liverpool archaeologist Larry Barham. Researchers believe the logs may have formed part of a walkway or the foundation of a platform built over wetlands. Prior to this discovery, the oldest known surviving wooden structures were built by people living in northern England around 11,000 years ago. The 476,000-year-old log structure predates the appearance of the first modern humans by some 150,000 years and was likely the handiwork of the archaic human species Homo heidelbergensis. Paleoanthropologists believe H. heidelbergensis was highly mobile. Thus, it is surprising that the hominins would have invested labor in building a semipermanent structure. ‘We haven’t seen archaic humans manipulating their environment on such a large scale before,’ says Barham. ‘It suggests an attachment to a single point on the landscape.’ At the same site, the team unearthed stone axes as well as four wooden tools dating to between 390,000 and 324,000 years ago. These included a digging stick, a wedge-shaped object, a notched branch, and a flattened log. Marks on the log, notes Barham, resemble nothing so much as tool nicks on a work bench, inviting speculation as to what other structures an imaginative H. heidelbergensis woodworker might have fashioned.” • Astonishing!

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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 REI:

REI writes: “Yellow buckwheat in the high desert of Oregon.” Doesn’t look much like a desert to me!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Jason Boxman

    Record Rent Burdens Batter Low-Income Life

    More tenants than ever spend half or more of their income for shelter, leaving less for everything else, taking an emotional toll and leaving some without a place to call their own.

    Bidenomics continues!

    Ms. Jones, who moved in with her mother after her landlord did not renew the lease on a subsidized apartment, said the displacement had wreaked family havoc. Her mother complains that rambunctious children fill the house with noise. Katelen’s moods darkened and her grades dived. Sleepless and anxious, Ms. Jones took a medical leave, then passed out and suffered a concussion.

    “I felt like I was going to die, I was so stressed out,” she said.

    How do we know COVID wasn’t involved? This happened to Watcher as well.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Ms. Jones reached an emotional breaking point last year after she and the children caught Covid and Destaney was hospitalized. Ms. Jones took a medical leave, developed migraines and got a concussion from passing out. She is taking medication for anxiety, which she blames on the overcrowding.

      So 30 paragraphs in, it actually was COVID. That’s what I thought.

      And Biden & the Democrats are happy to let everyone get COVID again and again.

  2. Screwball

    Edward Snowden is re-Tweeting a woman named Elizabeth Goitein who is following the House intelligence committee’s Section 702 “reform” bill. She has a series of posts that I won’t link to because Twitter. Her top post says the bill which is schedule for a floor vote as soon as tomorrow, is the biggest expansion of surveillance inside the United States since the Patriot Act.

    Something to keep an eye on.

    1. hemeantwell

      Thanks and yikes. Seems worth quoting, so I skimmed from her X account:

      Hotels, libraries, coffee shops, and other places that offer wifi to their customers could be forced to serve as surrogate spies. They could be required to configure their systems to ensure that they can provide the government access to entire streams of communications. 5/11
      Elizabeth Goitein
      Even a repair person who comes to fix the wifi in your home would meet the revised definition: that person is an “employee” of a “service provider” who has “access” to “equipment” (your router) on which communications are transmitted.”

      1. The Rev Kev

        A repair person? There was a program under Bush where they wanted tradesmen that went into people’s homes to act as spies and notify the government of anything “suspicious” that they saw while doing their work. They could be plumbers, electricians, etc.

      2. Acacia

        provide the government access to entire streams of communications

        In practice, what does this mean? E.g., that Joe’s Coffee Shop must provide access to the spooks, so they can monitor traffic on the WiFi network on demand? That’s bad, but most communication across that network will still be encrypted using TLS, and the extent of the surveillance they could do really depends on the router hardware, and Joe’s probably doesn’t have a really high-end router that could handle that.

        Or, does this legislation mean that Joe’s Coffee Shop must henceforth allow the spooks to install something even more intrusive, on demand, to act as a man in the middle that spoofs the remote host and thereby gets access to unencrypted data? The latter would probably involve replacing the router with some special hacked hardware, but the spooks no doubt have this type of kit ready to roll.

    2. Tom Stone

      Revising section 702 is increasingly important because despite the best efforts of the GEC, the MSM and the censorship industrial complex the deplorables are losing their appetite for dog food.
      The proles need to be kept in their place, grateful and respectful to their betters as is traditional in well managed societies.
      It’s time for “We love you papa Joe” to become the next viral video.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Here’s Goiten’s ask:

  3. Tom Stone

    If Hillary Clinton has Biden’s back with Obama lending Moral Support he can relax, it’s in the bag, nothing to worry about.
    If you can’t trust those two, who can you trust?

    1. Stephen V

      I mean with a choice between “dark and deranged” and “demented and genocidal,” what’s the problem? It’s a no brainer.

      1. nippersdad

        The only difference between dark and deranged and demented and genocidal would be the opportunities that winning the Presidency allowed. Clinton and Biden could have been fraternal twins. It will, however, be interesting to see how red faced and spittle flecked they will be in defending their brand of democracy this time around. Seems like they have prolly reached the end of their ability to fix things to their own satisfaction, and it is going to be frustrating for them.

    2. Hepativore

      I really do not understand why the Democratic Party wants Hillary Clinton to play a prominent role in the Biden campaign when she could not beat Trump the first time. She is even more disliked than Biden, and her foreign policy stances are more of the same neoliberal interventionism that is sinking Biden. People do not want more DNC Zionism.

      Let me put on my tinfoil hat here:

      Either the DNC has already written off the 2024 presidency as a loss, and so since they no longer care, they have tasked Hillary Clinton with her fundraising expertise to milk the corporate donor cash cow as much as they can even as Biden’s campaign goes down in flames…

      Or…perhaps there is a behind-the-scenes last ditch effort on the part of Clinton, the DNC itself, or both, to try and replace Biden with Clinton due to both Hillary’s narcissism as well as the fact that Clinton is the a DNC fundraiser par excellence, and such good pals with AIPAC.

      I realize that the latter scenario is extremely unlikely, but I would not put anything past Clinton’s desperation at this point, and as the Democratic Party seems to be oblivious as to what its own voterbase wants, they are probably looking to grab as much soft money as they possibly can while the Bidenberg crashes in 2024. Besides, Trump-Derangement Syndrome makes an excellent fundraising talking-point while they go back to being the minority party as then they can talk constantly about how they will stand resolutely in the face of Trump and the GOP on issues such as abortion, student loans, healthcare, racism, etc. while never intending to do anything about it once the Democrats are in power again.

      1. Bugs

        I don’t think they’re that smart. It’s just hubris and magic thinking. They’re delusional about how much people love them.

      2. Acacia

        Scenario A doesn’t sound too foily to me.

        HRC hoisting the milk pail to get more from the donors.

        Between 2013 and 2015, she gave 90+ speeches to Wall Street, at $225K a pop, of which the DNC bean counters must be well aware.

      3. Robert Gray


        Or…perhaps there is a behind-the-scenes last ditch effort on the part of Clinton, the DNC itself, or both, to try and replace Biden with Clinton due to both Hillary’s narcissism as well as the fact that Clinton is the a DNC fundraiser par excellence, and such good pals with AIPAC.

        I realize that [this] scenario is extremely unlikely, but I would not put anything past Clinton’s desperation at this point …

        This brings to mind something I have been surmising since the day Brandon took over, and while some may say ‘the election is now too close, they wouldn’t dare try it’ I’m not so sure: desperation can evoke all kinds of far-fetched ploys. I mean, specifically, the idea that they are hoping to repeat the Agnew > Ford > Nixon > Ford sequence, with the difference being that this time it would be a calculated gambit. However, I’m not sure about the confirmation process. Is it two-thirds or even three-fifths? Surely no chance then. But if it’s 50%+1 … ? And, is it in the Senate only, or both houses? It really wouldn’t take all that many renegades to make it work (and nowadays there is no shortage of renegades in the US Congress). ‘May you live in interesting times.’

    3. The Rev Kev

      I’m pretty sure that Obama is getting ready to use his phone dialing finger to make those calls to get candidates to step down. You can count on it.

      1. Hepativore

        That may be so, but it looks like Biden is going to get slaughter in the general election when he goes up against Trump, or whomever else it might be for the Republicans.

  4. Carolinian

    New Alastair Crooke, one of those Moscow attendees.

    The hostility shown by Europeans towards the Russian people (and not just to its governance) has pushed Russia to ‘be itself’ again, which has been to its great benefit. Nonetheless, the shift gives rise to a certain tension: It is evident that western ‘hawks’ are always scanning the Russian scene in order to locate a host within the body politic in which to insert the spores of their weaponised New Moral Order — their purpose being to wedge into, and fragment, Russian society.

    Always love those bodysnatcher metaphors–so relevant!

    Larry Johnson showed some pics of the Kremlin decorated like in Polar Express and it gave this cynic and lapsed Baptist many twinges of Christmas nostalgia. Say what you like about Russia’s turn to religion but a season celebrating love and peace is a good thing. Neocons take note.

    1. Carolinian

      I had to leave off the Crooke link because Skynet is blocking again but search engine of Strat. Culture will get it.,

  5. JM

    I don’t know if it’s connected with Biobot, but the WI wastewater site hasn’t been updated since 11/30. There’s a notice that they’re changing how they calculate the number, to make it more consistent they say, but that was on 11/29. I’m not aware of them having a gap this long before, or even at all. >:(

    If more states happen to not have numbers coming in right now, that might be part of why Biobot isn’t staying in a steep climb; and/or some of the regional variation.

  6. nippersdad

    I think it was noted here a few weeks ago that the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 had emphasized finding administrative candidates averse to foreign entanglements, so it was kind of surprising to find the link in the Post and Courier story that other Koch tentacles are reaching out to embrace Nikki Haley. That would seem contradictory as her bailiwick lies largely in becoming the newest iteration of Lindsey Graham, but maybe the Koch network is just covering the odds. It doesn’t really matter to them whether it is Trump or Haley that wins, they would both be in thrall to them, but it is unusual to see the Heritage Foundation seemingly lose sight of what hand is handling whom.

  7. Jeff W

    [Marianne Williamson] “Asking for my vote”

    That’s not much of an ask, I think. Where’s her policy statement? Is she for $15/hr? A living wage? Still, it’s better than nothing, I suppose, and more than any other candidate—which, I guess, is the point. (Don’t get me wrong—I like Marianne Williamson. In 2020, when my liberal Democratic friends were extolling the virtues of Elizabeth Warren and saying that President Biden would be “the next FDR” and relegating Williamson to a “fringe candidate” footnote, I would say that she was the only candidate, besides Bernie Sanders, that I would consider voting for.)

  8. nippersdad

    “Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said in an interview that “Barack Obama ought to step up. Every Democrat and independent who cherishes the democracy that we have gotten to know — and if they want to stop it from unraveling — better step up with checkbooks and every waking moment try to motivate people to vote.”

    Vs. the Marianne Williamson tweet:

    “A third of American workers work for less than $15/hr., and half of those cannot find a place to live. A living wage in most major cities is over $20/hr.

    This is how America creates, maintains and ignores a permanent underclass. It should be clarion call to a justice, conscience, and a revolution at the ballot box.

    That was a great juxtaposition of stories there, Lambert. There is your election right there.

    1. Carolinian

      Dick Harpootlian, one of the figures who have made the SC Dem party the powerful force it is today /s

      SC Dems are so lame that Nikki Haley became our governor and Graham is still our senator (after the Dems spent a ton of money to defeat him).

    2. notabanker

      …..who cherishes the democracy that we have gotten to know…..

      Yeah Dick, tell us all about that South Carolina Murdaugh style democracy you all have come to know and love!

  9. Pat

    If NY has a primary, they have form about trying to eliminate them, Williamson currently would be my choice. I don’t expect that to change but we do live in interesting times.

  10. Tom Stone

    I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primary and my vote was not counted, neither were the votes of 3,000,000 other Californians with “No Party Preference” thanks to now US Senator Alex Padilla.
    And the Dems want my vote?
    Bless their hearts.

  11. Greg

    “Why scientists are making transparent wood”

    Glad to see this line of research is still trucking along. I remember seeing it about five years ago and thinking it was very promising, but then hadn’t seen much since.

    Sociopath of the Day Monica Ghandi on a Parisian junket:

    Mask game of the lady in red is very on point.

    1. Michael King

      Thank you! She’s been MIA. Sub-Boreal: hasn’t it been fun living in BC during Covid? This household considers her one of the most evil public health officials on Planet Earth. I can think of something other than coal for her Christmas stocking.

  12. southern appalachian

    There were some posts or comments here on NC early on about the Ukrainian grid equipment; I’ve assumed some of the weaponry sent there has been traded for transformers and the like. Still going on, have to assume. A long time ago countries went to great lengths to acquire weapons their opponents were producing. We just kind of handed it over.

  13. Pat

    Yes Muslim Americans switching their votes to Trump would be doubly devastating to Biden in Michigan, but let’s face it just voting third party, leaving the Presidential line blank or staying home could reduce or possibly even eliminate Biden’s advantage in the state. And there are several other key states where this is also true.

    I am quite sure this is another area where Hillary Clinton is not going to help his chances. But hey they still have the right donors.

  14. Ranger Rick

    I recall the 2016 election postmortem: the DNC had officially abandoned the hinterland and had become a party of, for and by the cities. (At the time, we here at NC were redefining them as “no longer a national party”.) That MSNBC article played to my convictions. The fact that the voting bloc they’re most concerned about is mainly white is beside the point. Regardless of the color of their skin, the people outside the cities have all been equally neglected: the rich in their enclaves and the poor in their towns.

    1. Pat

      As someone who travels with an interesting mix of people on public transportation, I can tell you that it isn’t really cities, but neighborhoods. There are whole sections of at least two major cities I am familiar with in this country that get the same hand waving and “feel your pain” treatment as those outside the city. The only reason they may get a bit more of the crumbs is because so many of their serfs live in those neighborhoods.
      It is more circumspect then it was just after and during lockdown when there wasn’t a mix on the buses. But the serfs know and don’t like it.

    2. The Rev Kev

      That is MSNBC for you. The name of the article should have been this-

      ‘Let’s not ignore the real reason Democrats struggle with working class voters’

      If that had been the real article it would have started to give some real answers to the questions that they were asking.

  15. Willow

    > Hillary Clinton steps out as a key player in Biden’s re-election effort
    Google translate : Making sure no one gets the chance to step into Biden’s shoes before she’s ready.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      That NBCNews article is chock full of gleeful, yet gag-reflex-inducing tidbits …

      When Biden flew on Air Force One to a memorial service for former first lady Rosalynn Carter late last month, the Clintons and Michelle Obama accompanied him. The group, which included first lady Jill Biden, was photographed together on a tarmac, creating an indelible image of unity among three Democratic first families in support of a grieving fourth.

      Ha! That must have been some ride. I subscribe to idea that The House of Kalorama (Obama) being in favor of Joe stepping aside, while The House of Chappaqua seems to be in favor of keeping Biden but punting Kamala back to California. I just realized … it was only Michelle Obama, not Barack, huh? Perhaps not so uncomfortable then. Michelle probably gave them all a mint.

  16. Mark Gisleson

    Lambert, thank you for nobble. I thought for sure it was a typo for hobble but I yandexed and now have a wonderful new word to play with.

  17. Carolinian

    isn’t a story about economics; it’s a story about race

    Welcome to opposite world. While I am dubious of some Orwell predictions he got that one right.

    And I’d say working class resentment always had to do with economics including that which is now aimed at Mexicans. That aside, arguably racism is much more an upper class phenomenon since they need to blame the victims. Of course their choice of races may vary depending on the victims.

  18. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Acknowledge that prices are a problem and highlight what Biden is doing to bring them down.

    Hilarious! I believe it was over the weekend in links that we were told that falling prices in China meant deflation and that their economy was cratering. Here GenocideJoe will be “fighting” to bring them down.

    Meanwhile I just got my electric bill and I owe $40 more than last month because the rates are up over 30%. Let’s go Brandon!

    1. Pat

      If anyone would like to explain to me WHAT Biden has done to bring down prices and how it was supposed to work I would appreciate it. Because I cannot think of a thing besides draining the oil reserve.

      Why do I think the DNC brain trust was sure if they kept saying the economy was better that would be enough? I really am beginning to think that it isn’t just Biden fighting mental impairment at the top levels of government and the top of the Democratic Party.

      I am dreading next month’s electric bill. That is when the second price increase approved by the state occurs, a process that is estimated to double our rates in less than eighteen months.

    2. Screwball

      I created a spreadsheet of the last 2 years of electric bills. To make a long story short, I used kilowatt usage against the other charges they tack on. Transmission fees, distribution fees, customer charge. Then there is the electric you actually use, thru the supplier, either AEP in my case, or market choice. The fees went up 18 and 40 percent (customer charge was a constant 10 bucks), while my cost per kWh went up 28 in total. What I pay for the electric I use is 47 1/2 percent of my total cost.

      1. Pat

        Lucky duck. If my back of the envelope calculations are correct what I pay for electricity is closer to 40% of my bill. The multiple taxes might pinch, but that delivery fee is a killer.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Earliest Carpenters”

    Makes you wonder what may be found in the permafrost regions of Siberia where everything would be preserved.

  20. kareninca

    I just ran into two retired doctors who live in my condo complex. I mentioned to them (from a distance) that the covid sewage data in our area had just spiked like crazy. They told me that they weren’t worried since they were fully boosted and if you were fully boosted then your risk of long covid dropped like a rock. I blurted out: “That’s not true!” Then I realized that I was talking with zombies, and I grabbed my dog and ran.

    1. The Rev Kev

      That’s crazy that. It’s been three years now and both those doctors should know better. If either of them got infected, they would bound to spread it further by telling themselves that they are not a risk to other people or something.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      Woooow … so we’ve gone from “COVID is mild” to playing “Long COVID Roulette” … Geeeeeeez

      If T-Cells could talk …

  21. upstater

    Bandon Williams is my Congress critter… he defeated the democrats hand picked ex(?) Naval intelligence commander (he was also hand picked in 2020 but was trounced in the democratic primary).Biden carried the district handily. Williams is responsive with constituent services, but is very right wing. Apparently got money from Harlan Crowe a day only recently moved to NYS. Having said that, I don’t get why someone would do only fans of themselves and surely dad was not a party to daughter’s business. The bar of acceptable behaviors is astonishingly low…

  22. anon

    The Stanford covid sewage data now look semi-normal. This is not because they are normal – it is because the presentation has now been changed. The chart shows an all-time high sewage rate, but it doesn’t look like an all time high by much. However, if you scroll along the with your cursor, the actual numbers come up and they are still about 30 times the last high. But this is not indicated at all in what you see when you just look at the chart: https://healthalerts.stanford.edu/covid-19/wastewater-dashboard/.

    I guess that is one way to solve the problem of having an astoundingly high amount of covid in your sewage.

  23. kareninca

    I am unhappy to say that one of two elderly ladies whom I know (via zoom church) has covid. I am happy to say that the uninfected one is wearing the AirTamer I sent had her, in order to try to not catch it from her sister. She may have put it on too late, and I don’t know if she wears it continuously, but I can hope. It is funny that I had sent them the AirTamers for general use, but they arrived just at the right moment for this purpose.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      Yooooooooooo …

      … what sorcery is this?!!

      I watched a couple of the product videos and an independent review on YouTube, and well … I might have to try this!


    2. Acacia

      I got one of those at Yves’ suggestion. It’s quite compact, and the battery stays charged for a long time. You can put the “antenna” near your nose when it’s switched on, and really feel the negative ions. Took it on an airplane flight that had rather bad CO2 levels in the cabin. I figure every layer of protection we can marshal helps.

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