2:00PM Water Cooler 12/14/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Pacific Loon, Luther Marsh–Esker Island, Wellington, Ontario, Canada.

* * *


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

Biden Administration

Will Doctor Sigmund Freud please pick up the white courtesy phone?


A lot going on in the NDAA, besides renewing warrantless surveillance:

“Congress wants to unleash federal spies at your hotel and coffee shop” [New York Post]. “The FISA [warrantless] surveillance-expansion provision is tucked into the 3,000+ page National Defense Authorization Act of 2024…. Former Justice Department lawyer Marc Zwillinger is one of a handful of FISA court amici allowed to comment on cases or policies in the secret court. He issued a public warning that the House Intelligence bill expands the definition of ‘electronic communication service providers’ covered by FISA compliance obligations to include ‘business landlords, shared workspaces, or even hotels where guests connect to the Internet.’ In other words, the FISA expansion could affect your next visit to Comfort Inn — and you thought WiFi service was already bad! Former Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Goitein warns, ‘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.’ The bill could also cover any repairman who works on such equipment.”

“Kamala Harris pushes White House to be more sympathetic toward Palestinians” [Politico]. • Harris is pivoting left! Who could possibly fall for this?


Less than a year to go!

* * *


“Will Jill Biden save the Democrats?” [The Hill]. “As we accelerate toward election day 2024, it’s becoming clear that there is only one person in the country who might be able to dissuade President Biden from seeking a second term. That person being his wife, Jill Biden….. In terms of Machiavellian politics, Jill Biden is far removed from Hillary Clinton. While she for sure has her beliefs — and has freely expressed them — for many, on both sides of the political divide, she comes across as a dignified and classy first lady. And, more importantly, one who does seem to have her husband’s best interests at heart. This creates possibly the most important political question of the election: To protect her husband and the greater Biden name, will the first lady quietly but insistently intercede to convince President Biden that it is in his best interests — and that of their family — not to run for reelection? Literally every single Republican or conservative I know is hoping and praying that President Biden is the Democratic nominee in 2024. There’s a reason for that. Likewise, every single Democrat I know is hoping that Biden steps aside and gives his approval to the Democratic National Committee to open the process so Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and others can battle it out for the 2024 nomination. As of now, it appears that only one person in the country can make those Democratic hopes become a reality: first lady Jill Biden.” • And then there’s the question of who control’s Biden’s “juice.” The only answer I’ve ever been able to come up with is… Jill Biden (because who else would Biden trust?). So, another layer of volatility. Or stability, depending.

* * *

“The Most Powerful Anti-Trump Argument in the GOP Has Evaporated” [Rich Lowry, Politico]. “It may be that Trump, such is his hold on GOP voters, didn’t need any help establishing a dominant position in the fight for the Republican nomination, but two exogenous events have boosted him. First, the indictments from the Justice Department and Democratic prosecutors created a predictable rally-around-Trump effect that put him on a fundamentally higher trajectory in the race, and second, Biden’s execrable polling has completely eliminated any possibility of making an electability argument against Trump…. In 2016, Trump was often reduced to citing Drudge polls and other dubious sources to try to demonstrate what he’s always maintained is his overwhelming public support. This time around, he can cite the most reputable polls in the business. The Biden collapse is nearly comprehensive. He is losing in ballot tests to Trump, his approval rating is scraping bottom, he’s trailing on almost every top issue, and super-majorities think he’s too old to serve again. He is the weakest incumbent since Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush.”

* * *

“Judge pauses Trump election interference case in order that could delay March trial” [CNN]. “The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference case has temporarily paused all procedural deadlines while appeals over a major issue play out – which could lead to his March 2024 trial date being pushed back. The order from Judge Tanya Chutkan acknowledged that she no longer has jurisdiction over aspects of the criminal case while the DC Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether Trump is immune and can be tried. In a bid to speed that appeals process, special counsel Jack Smith has asked the Supreme Court to step in. Chutkan said in her order that the trial date of March 4, 2024, could be affected, and that she would reconsider that date when the appeals process has concluded. Chutkan, however, said that the pause does not bar her from enforcing measures she has already imposed to ‘safeguard the integrity of these proceedings,’ including the limited gag order against Trump and his conditions of release.”

“Why Jack Smith Is Taking Trump’s Immunity Claim Straight to the Supreme Court” [New York Times]. “[Prosecutor Smith] made two separate requests. First, he asked the justices to consider a legal issue they have never looked at before: whether the Constitution confers absolute immunity on a former president against a federal prosecution for crimes he committed while in office…. [Smith also] asked the justices not only to rule on the immunity issue before the lower appeals court did, but also to do so on an expedited basis…. A significant delay could push the trial into summer or fall — the heart of the 2024 campaign season. That could cause problems for Mr. Trump because he would be obliged to attend the trial in Washington every weekday for two or three months when he could be holding rallies or meeting voters. Mr. Trump would likely respond to such a situation by bringing his campaign to the steps of the federal courthouse. He would almost certainly hold daily news conferences in front of the television cameras that would await his exit from the courtroom and use them to deliver his political talking points and attack the legal proceeding. He has employed a similar strategy during the civil fraud trial in New York in which he is accused of inflating his company’s net worth. There could also be serious consequences, however, if the trial is pushed off until after the election. If that happens and Mr. Trump wins the race, he would suddenly have the power to order the charges to be dropped.”

“No more witnesses in Trump fraud trial, but verdict is at least a month away” [Politico]. “The $250 million civil trial in which Donald Trump is accused of extensive business fraud heard from its last witness Wednesday, but a verdict won’t come for at least another month…. The outcome of the nonjury trial is entirely up to Justice Arthur Engoron, who, in a pretrial ruling, found Trump liable for widespread fraud and revoked the licenses for some of his flagship properties, including Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel…. After an appeals court reinstated the gag order late last month following a temporary suspension, Trump asked the court for permission to appeal the reinstatement to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. That request is pending.”

“Unconventional Trial Judge Could Remove Trump From His N.Y. Empire” [New York Times]. “Justice Engoron might have already erred when he issued that initial punishment of Mr. Trump, ordering that some of his New York companies be dissolved…. [I]nterviews with legal experts and a review of court rulings suggest that the judge may have lacked the authority to dissolve the companies…. Justice Engoron’s first punishment of Mr. Trump — dissolving some of his New York companies — is less likely to stick…. The order, which came shortly before the trial began, canceled a special type of business certificate that allows some of Mr. Trump’s New York companies to operate using certain names…. The next line of Justice Engoron’s order went further, referring to the ‘dissolution of the canceled LLCs,’ legalese for the limited liability corporations that control Mr. Trump’s properties. In other words, the judge seemed to be terminating not only the certificates, which can be replaced, but also the actual Trump companies that own or manage his golf resorts, hotel and other assets. For those companies, it appeared to be lights out…. ‘He’s going beyond what the statute seems to allow,’ said David W. Lowden, a lawyer who for decades specialized in commercial transactions and corporate law at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan…. ‘He may have bought himself an appellate problem and fueled an otherwise dubious claim of bias,’ [Steven M. Cohen, a former top official in the attorney general’s office] said.” • But a claim of bias would undo the second punishment, for (putative) fraud. So we’ll see whether Engoron shot himself in the foot, or not.

“It’s a ‘silly notion’ that Trump’s Georgia case should pause for the election, Willis tells the AP” [Associated Press]. “The district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump over efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia says she has a duty to file charges against anyone who violates the law and that it’s a ‘silly notion’ that the former president’s case should be paused just because he is running for office. In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis declined to say whether she or her team has been in touch with U.S. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, who has filed federal charges in an election interference case against Trump in Washington. She also raised the possibility that more of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the Georgia case could take plea deals, further paring down the number who could go on trial with him. Willis is seeking an August trial date for Trump and his co-defendants, a time frame that would put the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in court defending himself in the months, weeks and even days leading up to the November general election. Trump’s lawyer has said that if Trump is the nominee, that would be ‘the most effective election interference in the history of the United States.’ Willis brushed off that idea, pointing out that prosecutors all over the country are always investigating people for various crimes and that they do not stop doing so just because someone runs for office.”

* * *

“‘I have made mistakes’: Defiant Hunter Biden lashes out at GOP and ignores subpoena” [USA Today]. “Hunter Biden defied a House subpoena Wednesday, using his congressionally mandated trip to Capitol Hill to lash out at Republicans in a rare and dramatic public statement about the toll the GOP-led effort has taken on him and his family. ‘It’s shameless,’ Hunter Biden said outside the Capitol building. ‘There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was involved in my business [vague] because it did not happen.” And: “‘During my battle with addiction, my parents were there for me,’ he added. ‘They literally saved my life. They helped me in ways I will never be able to repay. In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But, to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd, it is shameless.'” And: “Rep. James Comer, who issued the subpoena as head of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said the panel has accumulated ‘mountains of evidence,’ including documents, bank statements, emails and texts.” • The bank records will say what they say, histrionics aside.

“Hunter Biden can duck the hot seat all he wants — but not the facts” [New York Post]. “‘There’s no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business,’ said Hunter. And: ‘My father was not financially involved in my business.’ Joe Biden was ‘not financially involved’ is a significant shifting of the goal posts. It is a carefully parsed, legalistic phrase, that looks as if it has been workshopped to death in a campaign war room before being dropped into Hunter’s soup of self-pity…. It bears no relation to all the president’s previous denials. Joe Biden has gone from years of saying: ‘I have never discussed with my son or my brother or anyone else anything having to do with their business, period’ to this summer’s line from the White House: ‘The president was never in business with his son’ — and now to this latest transmutation: Joe ‘was not financially involved in [Hunter’s] business.’ … [IRS Whistleblower] Shapley pointed to evidence that shows Joe attending meetings with Hunter’s business partners. ‘You have to understand that someone who is a vice president [and] a senator for years . . . their involvement in a business is not going to be coming up with mission statements and working on Excel spreadsheets. Him coming across to a lunch and having a glass of water would have shown his support for his son Hunter Biden.'” • Yep.

“The Republican leading the probe of Hunter Biden has his own shell company and complicated friends” [Associated Press]. “Rep. James Comer, a multimillionaire farmer, boasts of being one of the largest landholders near his rural Kentucky hometown, and he has meticulously documented nearly all of his landholdings on congressional financial disclosure documents – roughly 1,600 acres in all. But there are six acres that he bought in 2015 and co-owns with a longtime campaign contributor that he has treated differently, transferring his ownership to Farm Team Properties, a shell company he co-owns with his wife. Interviews and records reviewed by The Associated Press provide new insights into the financial deal, which risks undercutting the force of some of Comer’s central arguments in his impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden. For months, the chairman of the House Oversight committee and his Republican colleagues have been pounding Biden for how his relatives traded on their famous name to secure business deals. In particular, Comer has attacked some Biden family members, including the president’s son Hunter, over their use of ‘shell companies’ that appear designed to obscure millions of dollars in earnings they received from shadowy middlemen and foreign interests… But as Comer works to “deliver the transparency and accountability that the American people demand” through the GOP’s investigation, his own finances and relationships have begun to draw notice, too, including his ties to prominent local figures who have complicated pasts not all that dissimilar to some of those caught up in his Biden probe…. Comer created the company in 2017 to hold his stake in the six acres that he purchased two years earlier in a joint venture with Darren Cleary, a major campaign contributor and construction contractor from Monroe County, Kentucky, where the congressman was born and raised…. Cleary, his businesses and family have donated roughly $70,000 to Comer’s various campaigns, records show. He has also lauded Comer on social media for “For Fighting For Us Everyday” and has posted photos of the two on a golf course together.” • And various other entertaining doings in Monroe County, Kentucky! (I did search on “Comer Trillbillies” but sadly, no hits.

* * *

IA: “How Trump netted evangelical votes in Iowa — with help from a young Christian operative” [Reuters]. “Before Donald Trump stepped on stage for a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in early December, several leaders joined him in a prayer on behalf of a candidate whose latest presidential quest they see as a mission ordained by God. ‘The gates of hell will not prevail over him,’ Iowa state legislator and pastor Brad Sherman told the prayer circle. ‘There is a great victory coming for this nation and the world because of the calling you’ve placed on this man.’ That moment, captured in a video that went viral, was orchestrated by an aide just a few years out of college who has been locking in the crucial Iowa evangelical vote for Trump. Since joining the campaign in September as Iowa director of faith outreach, Jackson Lane, the 25-year-old son of prominent Christian activist David Lane, has rounded up key endorsements and shored up evangelical support, helping the Trump team blunt a push by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to win over conservative Christian voters with his hard-line stances on abortion and other issues. Evangelical voters make up more than half of the Republican electorate in Iowa, whose population is around 90% white and where the caucuses on Jan. 15 kick off voting in the Republican primary race.” •

NH: “For N.H. voters — and Chris Sununu — Nikki Haley is the Trump alternative” [Boston Globe]. “New Hampshire loves Nikki Haley, that is — a message from her campaign merchandise that’s reflected in a cache of recent polls, dozens of interviews with voters here, and, on Tuesday, the most prized endorsement in New Hampshire politics. Buoyed by the support of popular Republican Governor Chris Sununu, Haley this week is doubling down on her efforts in the first-in-the-nation primary state, holding events in Manchester, Newport, Keene, and Atkinson as she makes the case that she is the GOP alternative to front-runner Donald Trump. It’s still far from clear that she or anyone else can overtake him. But if Haley has a path to the nomination, it runs directly through New Hampshire.”

NH: “Christie calls Sununu endorsement of Haley ‘disappointing’ but ‘doesn’t change my strategy'” [FOX]. “Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s ‘disappointed’ that he didn’t land the endorsement of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu in the Republican presidential nomination race. But Christie said that Sununu’s backing former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar “doesn’t change my strategy here one bit…. Christie, who’s repeating his strategy from his unsuccessful 2016 Republican presidential run of placing all his chips in New Hampshire, stands in third place in Granite State polls, a couple of points behind Haley…. Veteran Republican strategist Matthew Bartlett noted that ‘Christie is planting the flag in New Hampshire and to have the governor of the state, who clearly likes him and has an affinity for him, go with someone else and affirm that someone else has a much better pathway, if that’s your only state, it’s almost impossible, not just in New Hampshire but nationwide, to get the nomination.’ ‘He’s got to look in the mirror,’ Bartlett said of Christie.”

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“The Trouble with Polling Third-Parties” [Washington Monthly]. “Accurate polling of third-party candidates “is a minefield,” says Joe Lenski, co-founder and executive vice president of Edison Research, which conducts the exit polling for media outlets like CNN and NBC. Lenski and several other polling experts I spoke with roundly dismissed horse-race polling some 11 months out, with or without third-party candidates. If polls this far from Election Day meant anything, we’d have had a 2008 Election Day major party presidential choice between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudy Giuliani instead of Barrack Obama and John McCain. But multiply the inaccuracy of year-out polling with the mercurial draw of third-party candidates, said Lenski, and the picture gets even murkier. The biggest issue facing pollsters is that voters can be poor predictors of their behavior. Saying you’ll vote for a longshot candidate weeks or months before Election Day is much different than holding a ballot and voting for a candidate you know can’t win. That conundrum has only grown in the era of increasingly disliked major party candidates. Trump and Rodham Clinton hit record levels of unfavorability in 2016 election polling. The combined support of the two most prominent third-party candidates, Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson, often cleared 10 percent in mid-election year polling. In one July 2016 poll, just four months before the election, the two combined for 18 percent. But in the end, Johnson and other third-party candidates collectively came in under 6 percent of the popular vote, which is unsurprising. Third-party candidates routinely fade in the stretch.” • The Republicans of 1856, however, did not fade. Sadly, there’s no third party like that anywhere near the horizon.

Republican Funhouse

Not just Democrats:

“Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman says Giuliani sullied her name” [The Hill]. “Ruby Freeman once went by ‘Lady Ruby,’ a nickname she described as classy and unique. Her last name, she said, was a name that freed slaves chose instead of taking on a ‘slave master name.’ But after the 2020 election, longtime Trump ally Rudy Giuliani accused her and her daughter, Shaye Moss, of committing election fraud against then-President Trump, bringing an onslaught of violent and racist threats and forcing her into hiding. Freeman and Moss sued Giuliani two years ago on claims of ‘defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damage.’ Both former election workers, the mother and daughter are pursuing upward of $43.5 million in damages. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell already found the former New York City mayor civilly liable for his claims; the trial will determine how much money he owes Moss and Freeman as a result.” • Ugly.

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.

* * *

“Nearly a million non-profit donors’ details left exposed in unsecured database” [The Register]. “Close to a million records containing personally identifiable information belonging to donors that sent money to non-profits were found exposed in an online database. The database is owned and operated by DonorView – provider of a cloud-based fundraising platform used by schools, charities, religious institutions, and other groups focused on charitable or philanthropic goals. Infosec researcher Jeremiah Fowler found 948,029 records exposed online including donor names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, payment methods, and more….. Neither Fowler nor The Register has received a response from the US-based service provider, though Fowler said it did secure the database within days of him filing a disclosure report.” • Many unhappy NGOs….

Our Famously Free Press

“Tireless Busybodies Again Target Substack” (unpaywalled) [Matt Taibbi, Racket News]. Taibbi does this sort of thing really well: “Substack is under attack again. The crusade is led by a site contributor, Jonathan Katz, whose style might be characterized as embittered-conventional, i.e. toting the same opinions as every mainstream editorialist, only angrier about it. There’s been more of this genre on offer here as staff positions for talking-point-spouters dry up in legacy shops, but hey, it’s a free country. If you want braying about fascism, Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, the lab leak theory, and other #Resistance horrors you’d hear about if you just left MSNBC on in a corner — or feel deprived of headlines like “What Ron DeSantis and a Norwegian mass murderer have in common” — Substack’s got you covered. It’s not my idea of what alternative media’s for, but fortunately, nobody asked me. Why should I care what other people read?” Key point: “In an age when censorship and deamplification are big factors for journalists tempted to say something unpopular (Katz, destined to be eulogized as a parrot on the shoulder of Received Wisdom, will not be sympathetic), moving to a platform that’s proven it won’t buckle is crucial. People like Substack CEO Chris Best and co-founders Hamish McKenzie and Jairaj Sethi have proven they won’t let outside groups dictate to them about content. This is why contributors like me, who have a lot to worry about on this front, are loyal. It’s also why people seek out content here: they know they’re getting a far less filtered version of reality than they’re seeing on platforms like Facebook and YouTube, where deamplification, strikes, and outright removals have become routine.”


“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!

* * *

Testing and Tracking

More on JN.1 and wastewater:

(Johnson discovered that amazing cryptic lineage being shed by an individual probably commuting from Columbus to Washington Courthouse, OH.) And:

As I keep saying, we used to be able to cross-check case data and wastewater data. Now we can’t, because the Biden Administration worked with the public health establishment to destroy case data collection.

“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.

* * *


Covid is a pre-existing condition. US account quoting an Australian account:

Covid is asymptomatic. How could anybody possibly know whether they’ve been “exposed”?


Elite Maleficence

Personal risk assessment as a paradigm:

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED 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

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 9:

Lambert here: Here also we see something of a pause, like the wastewater. 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 14:

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]).

NOT UPDATED 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 11:

0.5%. 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.

NOT UPDATED 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.


NOT UPDATED 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.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits slumped by 19,000 to 202,000 on the week ending December 9th, well below market expectations of 220,000, to mark the lowest level of new claims in two months. The result marked a reversal from higher readings in the two prior weeks, underscoring relative tightness in the US labor market and adding leeway for the Federal Reserve to hold its terminal rate for longer should inflation remain stubborn. ”

* * *

Retail: “Giant food companies are quietly ruining your favorite snacks — and hoping you don’t notice” [Business Insider]. “[T]he Coke didn’t taste as good as it used to — and it left a weird aftertaste. I thought there might be something wrong with the can, or perhaps my rosy childhood memories clouded my judgment. But as I indulged my urge, I found the same thing. Even Coke-drinking friends I spoke to agreed: The taste had changed. It wasn’t just Coke; other foods from my childhood taste different now. The Dairy Milk chocolate bars I used to enjoy after school aren’t as creamy and taste too sweet. Lay’s potato chips don’t pack the same flavor punch they used to. A stroll through Reddit shows I’m not alone: Thousands of people have noticed the quality of their favorite snacks getting worse.” Perhaps some other factor is affecting taste? However, texture and mouth feel have degraded as well: “‘Ritz crackers. For some inexplicable reason, maybe around 5 years ago the crackers went from being nice and firm and dippable to nowadays easily crumbling to bits with even the lightest dip,’ one user complained a few years ago. ‘You could bite into a Twix and feel your teeth travel through a heavy layer of caramel,’ another Redditor lamented, adding, ‘Now they snap in half and taste like a sugar cookie with some chocolate on it.'” And: “People aren’t imagining these changes — manufacturers are quietly modifying their recipes to save money and maintain their profit margins. The phenomenon, which has been called ‘skimpflation’ and ‘flavorflation,’ is a way to hide the impact of inflation and avoid passing higher costs on to the consumer. But by replacing expensive ingredients with cheaper ones, companies are also making food less tasty, less healthy, and less satisfying.” • Or crapification.

Tech: “FCC votes to ban termination fees for cable and satellite services” [CNBC]. “The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday voted to pass a measure banning cable and satellite companies from charging early termination fees. ‘Consumers are tired of these junk fees,’ FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said before casting the deciding vote at an open commission meeting. ‘They now have more choices when it comes to video content but these friction-filled tactics to keep us subscribing to our current providers are aggravating and unfair,’ Rosenworcel added. ‘So, today we kick out a rulemaking to put an end to these practices.'”

Tech: “The AI trust crisis” [Simon Willison]. “It’s increasing clear to me like people simply don’t believe OpenAI when they’re told that data won’t be used for training. What’s really going on here is something deeper then: AI is facing a crisis of trust…. AI models are weird black boxes, built in secret and with no way of understanding what the training data was or how it influences the model. As with so much in AI, people are left with nothing more than ‘vibes’ to go on. And the vibes are bad…. The fundamental question here is about training data: what are OpenAI using to train their models? And the answer is: we have no idea! The entire process could not be more opaque. Given that, is it any wonder that when OpenAI say ‘we don’t train on data submitted via our API’ people have trouble believing them?” However: ‘One consistent theme I’ve seen in conversations about this issue is that people are much more comfortable trusting their data to local models that run on their own devices than models hosted in the cloud. The good news is that local models are consistently both increasing in quality and shrinking in size.” • But if the “local model” opens a backdoor to the home office?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 71 Greed (previous close: 69 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 66 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 14 at 1:43:30 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

“The ‘After School Satan Club’ Controversy at Memphis Elementary Schools, Explained” [The Messenger]. “The Satanic Temple announced in December that it plans to begin hosting club events in January at Chimneyrock Elementary School in Cordova, Tenn. Dubbed the ‘After School Satan Club,’ the group says it does not ‘attempt to convert children to any religious ideology,’ but rather supports children to “think for themselves.” Activities encourage students to use a ‘scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious worldview.’… The Satanic Temple was founded in 2013 and launched after-school clubs shortly after.” • So far as I can tell, the Satanic Temple is funded with merch. I’m reminded of this wonderful post by The Onion, back in 2000

Our Famously Free Press

“News Publishers See Google’s AI Search Tool as a Traffic-Destroying Nightmare” [Wall Street Journal]. “Shortly after the launch of ChatGPT, the Atlantic drew up a list of the greatest threats to the 166-year-old publication from generative artificial intelligence. At the top: Google’s embrace of the technology. About 40% of the magazine’s web traffic comes from Google searches, which turn up links that users click on. A task force at the Atlantic modeled what could happen if Google integrated AI into search. It found that 75% of the time, the AI-powered search would likely provide a full answer to a user’s query and the Atlantic’s site would miss out on traffic it otherwise would have gotten.

What was once a hypothetical threat is now a very real one. Since May, Google has been testing an AI product dubbed ‘Search Generative Experience’ on a group of roughly 10 million users, and has been vocal about its intention to bring it into the heart of its core search engine. Google’s integration of AI is crystallizing for media outlets the perils of relying on big technology companies to get their content in front of readers and viewers. Already, publishers are reeling from a major decline in traffic sourced from social-media sites, as both Meta and X, the former Twitter, have pulled away from distributing news. As bad as the social-media downshift is, Google’s generative-AI-powered search is the true nightmare for publishers. Across the media world, Google generates nearly 40% of publishers’ traffic, accounting for the largest share of their ‘referrals,’ according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from measurement firm Similarweb. • “[T]he AI-powered search would likely provide a full answer to a user’s query” because Google stole the publisher’s data for its training sets. That’s the only reason it works. A classic case of “original accumulation,” as the Bearded One puts it.

Class Warfare

“Comment on Auten and Splinter (2023)” (PDF) [Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman]. “Auten and Splinter (2023), henceforth AS, provide esJmates of income inequality in the Unite States, starting with income observed in tax returns and making adjustments to account for unobserved income. They conclude that after their adjustments, the top 1% income share has not changed much since 1960…. In a nutshell: AS erroneously allocate a large and growing amount of untaxed business and capital income to the bottom of the distribution due to several clear and long-understood mistakes in their methodology.” • Hard to excerpt, but to this layperson, a brutal takedown. Piketty summarizes:

“The Theory of the Leisure Class” (podcast) [In Our Time, BBC]. “In item that becomes more desirable as it becomes more expensive is known as a Veblen good.” • Quite a memorial. And if you don’t listen to In Our Time, do consider it.

News of the Wired

“World’s first human brain-scale neuromorphic supercomputer is coming” [New Atlas], “Australian researchers are putting together a supercomputer designed to emulate the world’s most efficient learning machine – a neuromorphic monster capable of the same estimated 228 trillion synaptic operations per second that human brains handle….DeepSouth is expected to go online in April 2024. The research team expects it’ll be able to process massive amounts of data at high speed, while being much smaller than other supercomputers and consuming much less energy thanks to its spiking neural network approach. It’s modular and scalable, using commercially available hardware, so it may be expanded or contracted in the future to suit various tasks. The goal of the enterprise is to move AI processing a step closer to the way a human brain does things, as well as learning more about the brain and hopefully making advances that’ll be relevant in other fields.” • Oh, good.

* * *

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 TH:

TH writes: “Knott’s Berry Farm has some nice landscaping. A little convention of . . . bromeliads?”

* * *

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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. Feral Finster

    Was it not taught to the masses from old that Victory Has A Thousand Fathers, But Defeat Is An Orphan?



  2. kana

    On social media there has been a lot of discussion in the last year about the political theory of a war between the two rival elite factions of the American establishment since the 1960s known as “The Yankee and Cowboy War,” and its current version and relationship with the Trump movement. Ex-member of the Trump admin, Mike Benz, has been leading the conversation on X with his many documented expositions on the “censorship industry” as part of that war.

    The following tells the details on the history of the Cowboy and Yankee War between the two main factions of American elites in the 1960s-70s, how it then changed and merged to become the Uniparty, and where we are today with their war against the neo-Cowboy Trump movement. See: The Uniparty and Cowboy War

    1. Feral Finster

      If you see Team D as a shotgun marriage of the PMC and various minorities, and Team R as a loose coalition of Local Gentry and white Evangelicals, everything makes sense.

      The guy who owns a successful local chain of muffler shops probably doesn’t have anything against the local Bible thumpers, as long as they don’t harangue him in public for banging his receptionist or anything. Muffler Shop Guy may even be a regular churchgoer, devout in his way.

      However, the PMC yuppies and certain of the grievance artists comprising Team D (outside feminists) have little in common other than common enemies, and in fact they may not even really like each other all that much.

  3. Wukchumni


    Every kid in the 60’s grew up on a diet of Disney, and at 7 PM on Sunday just after Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (there’s Jim down below with a wildebeest that has most of his head in it’s mouth…) was the Wonderful World of Disney, but I was never that enamored, Knott’s Berry Farm was my favorite in lieu of Mickey Mouse crap.

    My parents were fond of their fried chicken, so we would go there at least once a month, and unlike Disneyland until the later 60’s, there was no charge to go the Ghost Town and hang out.

    They had a small venue for music called the Roundup, and it had Conestoga wagons around the periphery up top and seating below, maybe 500 people could attend a concert, where I first heard Marty Robbins and fell in love with his abilities at a tender age.

    Man Walks Among Us, by Marty Robbins


    1. Reply

      Knott’s berries did it for me. Those biscuits right out of the oven with boysenberry jam were a treat for a young tourist. Yum.

    2. Lunker Walleye

      Dad was a farm implement dealer and sold Philco products and other items. In 1959, Santa brought a record player and the top hit single 45, “El Paso”. I queued it up on utube a few minutes ago. Thanks for a 64 year old memory. I sang along like an eight year old.

    3. britzklieg

      A fine singer with, frankly, a beautiful voice. He could have sung anything and for what he did sing there was no one better.

  4. Samuel Conner

    Public health practices sighting:

    PCP visit today.

    Among 9 staff at the clinic and the lab, only one, a physician, was masked, and only with a surgical procedure mask. I offered some N95s that I keep with me to the nurse who measured my vital statistics, but was (politely) refused, with explanation that the person finds breathing through masks to be difficult. This is not the first time I have encountered this objection. I wonder to what extent this is a real physiological problem or, alternatively or additionally, perhaps in part a psychological reaction. I do notice air-flow resistance in the 3M Aura N95s; one has to work a bit harder to move the air. It’s constricting, but I’ve come to actually find this comforting (sort of the way a seat-belt constrains movement but also provides a sense of protection). I wonder how common it is to find this additional work so objectionable that one cannot tolerate masking. I suspect that mask designers could mitigate this by increasing the area through which the air is filtered, though that would increase the size of the mask and probably make them less visually appealing.

    Of 6 clients I crossed paths with at both locations, one had a cloth/earloop mask and all others were unmasked.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the person finds breathing through masks to be difficult

      Then they shouldn’t be in the profession, any more than a firefighter who can’t handle the gear. Typically, it’s the patient who asks for an accommodation, not the staffer who’s about to infect you with an airborne Level Three biohazard.

      Seems like there needs to be a concerted effort by the Covid-conscious to avoid the medical system entirely, but that’s not easy…

      Rant over, was any other mitigation in place? HEPA filters?

      1. Samuel Conner

        > any other mitigation in place

        I saw no visible free-standing filter units. There may be something at work at the level of the building air circulation system. I didn’t have the guts to inquire.

        I was a little taken aback at what seemed to me “a lot of ageing” in two of the staff I recognize from prior visits. My last visit was about 30 months ago, and a staff nurse and my PCP looked considerably more than 2 years older. Some NC commenters have mentioned that people look “roughly handled” and have attributed this to them being beaten down by repeated infection. Perhaps infection with the CV ages more systems than just the brain.

        > a concerted effort by the Covid-conscious to avoid the medical system entirely

        I suspect that it’s happening, in the sense that people may be delaying annual checkups (as I have done) and followup of annoying, or even painful, but not dangerous conditions that in normal circumstances they would seek to treat. It scares me a bit that there is warrant to not feel safe in healthcare settings. Nosocomial infection has always been a problem, and has been a growing concern in recent decades, but this is over the top.

        > an airborne Level Three biohazard.

        I wonder whether the standards for research on this pathogen will be relaxed to allow it to be studied in less-secure facilities. Given that it is allowed to freely propagate and mutate, it hardly seems worth the effort to try to contain experimental strains of this virus in highly secure facilities. That sounds snarky, but is not meant to be.

        I guess we’re just f@#ked.

      2. Ben Joseph

        I’m a physician and part of my long covid is dyspnea. When I get up to use the restroom at night I get short winded when I put my BiPAP back on. Sometimes when I go for a short run I cough until I choke and vomit. I’m the only person in my office still masking and even though it is a surgical mask, lose my breath during random letter mental status (part of dementia screen). I have a HEPA filter in my office. I can’t breathe through the only N95 that was airtight on me. I’m tired of being shamed for trying. Will gladly go on disability if you can arrange .

        1. Jorge

          The Aurora AM99 is available on Amazon and Ebay for under $50. It is a portable powered HEPA filter that feeds into a mask. It was invented by a Chinese company before the pandemic; I suspect for the Beijing market (air pollution is really bad there). It charges off of USB and lasts 8 hours on a charge. You have to replace the HEPA filters, not often.

          I’ve been wearing it around town for 2 years now. It’s been a fantastic help for my mental state.

    2. Angie Neer

      I too have wondered about the “difficulty breathing” complaint. I’ve never had a problem with it myself, but it’s clear to me that some people really do. I sing a lot in small groups, always wearing an N95. I only notice the resistance of the mask when I need to pull a really big breath between musical phrases, and even then it’s quite manageable. Plus, it gives me reassurance that air is actually being filtered through the mask. On the other hand, I’ve sung frequently with someone who, under the same conditions, ends up visibly gasping for breath after singing for a few minutes. Clearly, he has lung problems to start with. (I haven’t inquired whether he had those problems before his multiple known Covid infections.)

      1. turtle

        The newer, higher-quality N95, KN95, and KF94 masks seem much easier to breathe through than the early varieties of each of those (not sure about KF94 because I only tried them much later in the pandemic) because the technology got significantly better.

        I sometimes wonder if a lot of people are still thinking of the old cloth masks, N95s, and KN95s, which were more difficult, but then I realize that they probably just can’t handle any discomfort, however minor, in order to protect themselves and others. It seems to me that people would make this calculation only if they thought that the threat was not a big deal, which is the message that the authorities and the media are constantly pushing.

        I wear a 3M Aura N95 all day at my office job and it’s no problem. The ear loops do bother my ears quite a bit a couple of hours in, so I only wear KN95 and KF94 masks for errands, etc.

    3. Jen

      Dentist visit earlier this week. I had reported to Lambert about the precautions their website listed. I was prepared for them to be list than advertised. The good:

      Filtration in the waiting area and exam rooms. The one in the waiting room was huge – the size of a refrigerator. Large one in the exam room.

      Ventilation. Windows open in the exam room.

      The not so good: masking. Admin staff unmasked. Dental assistant put on a surgical mask in the exam room but otherwise unmasked. Dentist masked, but with a surgical mask. He apparently is a fan of the open windows, though.

      The best: I apparently didn’t need a filling after all an was out of there in 15 minutes.

    4. upstater

      My wife’s experience getting radiation in the past month was 50% of staff used surgical masks, very few using N95s. A minority of patients at the facility or Cancer Lodge used masks. Proportion of N95s of patients masked was more common than surgical masks. Very few masks at local businesses.

  5. harrybothered

    Crapification – everything is turning into sugar bombs. Nabisco graham crackers and Reese’s peanut butter cups are two products I would occasionally buy but now all I can taste is the sugar. I’m sure others here could give more examples. How much are they saving? Pennies per unit? I know it adds up but it’s so sad. I guess I don’t need to be eating either of those things though.

    1. Wukchumni

      Had a Hershey’s in theory milk chocolate bar last week for the first time in eons…

      Great if you like waxy looking sugary dried mud, where the only thing they didn’t cheap out on and replace was the slivers of almonds, as they apparently couldn’t find anything to substitute for the real thing.

    2. Carolinian

      I knew a boho type who said it drank Pabst Blue Ribbon because after the first beer who notices what it tastes like. Maybe the candy makers have decided this applies to them as well.

      I like Aldi and think some of their store brands beat American food factory products hands down. Those Austrian chocolate bars are the best. It could be Americans are more gourmand than gourmet.

      1. harrybothered

        I agree about Aldi’s. They have several products I’ve tried that both taste better and are cheaper than national brands. Nice find after I moved back to NY. I still miss Grocery Outlet though.

    3. notabanker

      Here’s an interesting thought that just came to me.

      Don’t buy it.

      The stuff is lousy for your health before crapification. You want chocolate, buy Malley’s or whatever the local brand is that doesn’t mass produce it in some unknown factory in God knows what part of the world. You can survive without Ritz crackers. I know, hard to believe, but it’s true!

      There is one thing that corporations understand, just ask AB, lower revenues and lost sales. Instead, we’d rather keep buying the crap and just beef about it on social media, the definition of stupidity.

    4. Mark Gisleson

      Crapification is an excellent motivator for purging your diet of ultraprocessed over-MBAed candy. You can’t eat too much honey (go ahead, try : ) so it’s not like giving up sweets, just upgrading what goes into your body.

    5. Keith Howard

      About the ruin of crackers, I ascribe it to the prohibition of trans fats. My favorite cracker — and an excellent backpacking staple — was Stoned Wheat Thins. It was a nice big square cracker with a break line down the middle. One could take a bite out of it without causing the rest to shatter. One could spread something comparatively stiff (e.g., cool peanut butter) on it without causing it to crumble. If this cracker can even be found now, I will not buy it. I regret the loss of Stoned Wheat Thins, and I wonder whether others have made the same observation wrt trans fats. Other crackers, even standard saltines, have suffered similarly.

    6. Randall Flagg

      Amazing to imagine that this is where we are now as a society after all the advancement mankind has made since the beginning of recorded human history, crap food has now been crapified..

    7. The Rev Kev

      There is a company called Arnott’s here in Oz that has been making biscuits since 1865. About 20 years ago Campbell Soup Company brought them up which caused a lot of controversy as American biscuits are much more packed with sugar than Aussie biscuits are. Production stayed here so in the end made not much difference but my wife and I are noticing this crapification of brands as well as shrinkage in size. Thee goes our childhood-


  6. Jason Boxman

    And if you’re interested in trying out a local model, this seems legit: https://justine.lol/oneliners/

    Provides LLM access with the CLI. I haven’t tried it yet, you still need a modern Mac with unified memory architecture or a PC with a decent graphics card, which have been expensive these past years.


    Interesting how the life insurance stuff is trending today. Yesterday buried as a link within The Hill article on “bigger than covid” was a report by actuaries: https://www.soa.org/4ac0fd/globalassets/assets/files/resources/experience-studies/2023/group-life-covid-mort-06-23.pdf

    The highest increase in all-cause deaths was 35-44 age group for last 2 quarters. +26% Q2; +35% Q3 (page 26). Seems like the insurance people are starting to figure out the rising tide scenario of repeat infections in healthy populations.

    1. Wukchumni

      The Spanish Flu took a while to start killing off young adults in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s, after initially going after the elderly…

    2. steppenwolf fetchit

      Perhaps the Insurance and Adjacent industries will feel so threatened by the covid costs dropped on them that they will push the Establishment to hold Nuremberg Trials about covid’s origin, the let ‘er rip policy, etc.
      Trials for all the relevant WHO, CDC, governmental personnel, Fauci, etc. etc.

    3. kareninca

      Thanks for that!!

      From page 8:
      “The Gray-Collar group had the lowest actual-to-expected ratios (A/E’s) relative to baseline over the pandemic period at around 6%, followed by the Blue-Collar group at 10%. The White-Collar group continued to have the highest mortality A/E relative to baseline at 16% during the pandemic period.”

      I guess the deplorables did pretty well, comparatively.

  8. Art_DogCT

    The Plantidote centers on a bromeliad cultivar. Over the past several decades, there has been a lot of work selecting for dwarf habit and foliage with useful color and/or texture. They are often used in carpet bedding outdoors.

  9. Hepativore

    So, company towns are well on their way to becoming commonplace again!


    Now we know what capital plans on doing with all of the residential property that it is buying across the country.

    Perhaps RoboCop was not that far off the mark with OCP privatizing Detroit…

  10. Lambert Strether Post author

    I added orts and and scraps (“Well, that’s ‘orted”). A bit more than usual, because I was interrupted in the middle, and distributed evenly through Politics, the business section, and Covid. If you are reading a second time, skim from the top!

    1. ambrit

      I have been cudgeling my brain but cannot produce any “ortganic” puns. To cadge from the boffins; “Forms follow fashions.” That’s my working hypothesis, and I’m sticking to it.

  11. griffen

    The defense of what Joe knows or what Joe doesn’t know, maybe Hunter can make a convincing turn and queue an update on the Shoeless Joe Jackson infamy, from the 1919 World Series. Gee I’m just a country bumpkin out of Scranton, by God and dumb luck I served in Congress lo those many many decades. How could I know what my young heir has been up to his private business dealings?

    Say it ain’t so Joe! Poor dear Hunter. By the bye, shameless plug for an excellent baseball film “Eight Men Out.”

  12. Wukchumni

    A reprise from 11/20:

    Rudy’s on a train of thought to nowhere, halfway down the line
    He don’t want to get there, but he needs time
    In theory he’s sophisticated, and well-educated
    After all the hours he wasted, still he needs time
    He needs time
    He needs time for lying
    He needs time
    For someone just to see him
    He ain’t had much court time
    For no reason or rhyme
    And the whole world’s above him
    Well it’s not as though he’s fat
    No there’s more to this than that
    See, he tries to play it cool
    Came off looking like a fool

    Rudy thought that all good things comes to those that wait
    But recently he could see that it may come but too late, too late, too late

    All through your life, all through the years
    Nobody liked him, nobody cared
    So dim the light, dark are your fears
    Try as I might, I can’t hold back the tears
    How can you live without lying, it’s not fair?
    Someone said give but I just didn’t dare
    I didn’t dare, I didn’t dare
    What good advice are you waiting to hear?
    Hearing’s alright for them that’s all there
    Hearing’s alright
    You’d better gain control now
    You’d better show ’em all now
    You’d better make or break now
    You’d better give and take now
    You’ll have to push and shove now
    You’ll have to find some hope now
    You’d better gain control now

    Now he’s just come out the courtroom
    Numb of all the pain,
    Sad but in a while he’ll soon be
    Back on his train of thought

    Rudy, by Supertramp


  13. Wukchumni

    The Hunter saga is a latter-day Oedipus Wrecks, kinda killing his father’s chances of reelection, not that Joey isn’t a major contributor to the cause.

    Wouldn’t it be something if both Biden & Trump are disqualified from running in 2024, and we end up with one of the hopeless second hacks?

    1. magpie

      Honest question: isn’t foreign policy, like NATO membership, constitutionally the sphere of the president? How can that NDAA clause be constitutionally sound? (And if the legislation does take precedent, is equivalent to a law like the Boland Amendment?)

  14. johnf

    Crapification – Some of the German food companies have resisted adulteration by: axing flavors that are unprofitable at the common product family price, assigning different flavors to different standard product sizes (e.g., what was always 750g becomes 450g, 500g or 600g), or what I find most honest, keeping the product recipe and size, and introducing multiple prices (e.g., a common, 99 cent family price becomes 149 or 179 cents depending on the flavor). These companies tend to be smaller and family run.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      Wonderful! #TYVM

      And I would encourage members of our commentariat to download and read!

      Veblen’s work deserves to be known outside the academic economics community.

  15. Dr. John Carpenter

    The pic in that first Tweet the most alert and engaged I’ve seen The Big Guy look since he’s taken office. Barf.

    1. ambrit

      Is it me, or does that photo look a little photoshopped? The supposed Biden left arm looks ‘different’ from the rest of the figure. And is that little girl missing her left hand??? Are birth defects a part of what is being screened for here? Plus the smirks on the faces of the fellows in the background. Too many excursions into the “uncanny valley” for my comfort.

  16. Socal Rhino

    Looking ahead to 2024 elections..

    Saw reported today that since mid-September, nearly 20,000 undocumented immigrants have been dropped off in Oceanside, CA. Mike Levin, Congressperson (D) for district that includes Oceanside, has expressed concern for impact on homeless population among other things. It was noted that Levin has voted against measures to tighten immigration.

    Oceanside is in northern San Diego county, and like southern Orange county that borders it, historically has voted GDP. While the chance of CA going GDP in presidential race is essentially zero, immigration potentially could help some congressional districts change hands.

  17. Wukchumni

    I pledge allegiance to the United States of Stasi, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under surveillance, divisible, with liberty a thing of the past for all.

  18. David B Harrison

    On James Comer and the Clearys (Associated Press article). I live approximately 25 miles from Tompkinsville( the Monroe County seat). My parents,maternal grandparents, and several other relatives are buried in Monroe County. I live 5 miles from the county line. I’m well versed in how the local gentry operate around here. My former tax preparer (covid got her) used to also work for the big farms in Monroe County. She quit because they kept trying to force her to help them cheat on their taxes. P.S. The Elston Limehouse character on Justified was based on “The Saga of Coe Ridge” written by Lynnwood Montell a WKU professor. He was raised at Rockbridge in Monroe County. Coe Ridge was a Black community in the far eastern portion of the county (also I just got done eating Monroe County BBQ).

  19. Feral Finster

    If Team D is hoping that Jill Biden as the champion who is going to save them, then they are well and truly out of good ideas and are now just trying anything, anything at all, sort of like a murder victim holding up a piece of notebook paper as a shield from a bullet fired from a .357 Magnum.

      1. Wukchumni

        Maybe the hope is that they can covertly replace Joe with Jill, going by the name ‘J. Biden’ on the ticket?

    1. Acacia

      I think we can say that Jill Biden has already received at least one visit from the spooks, who want to “work together” with her on administering Dementia Joe’s “juice”, to, uh, make sure there are no “supply chain issues” or other untoward “interruptions”.

  20. The Rev Kev

    ‘Becky Ancira Robertson
    Just spoke with a med insurance agent & was asked:
    “Have you had Covid? In the last 3 months? Do you have any lasting damage that requires treatment? Have YOU BEEN EXPOSED TO COVID IN THE PAST 3 mos? How many times?” Why do you suppose they asked these ?s on an application? 🤔’

    If there was one set of organizations that was going to be clued in on Long Covid, it was always going to be the insurance companies as they would be the ones making the payouts.

    1. Jen

      I did not come up with this, but both of my parents were in the insurance industry, and it is the absolute truth:

      You can fool all of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool the actuaries.

  21. Wukchumni

    In his farewell speech today, My Kevin (since ’07) compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, and I could see it if after nearly 20 years all Honest Abe had done legislatively was to rename 3 post offices in Bakersfield and a dam on the Tule River.

  22. digi_owl

    The satanic temple seems like someone took the basic idea of pastafarianism and gave it a more edgy name to spite the bible thumpers.

    I guess all that irony of the early 2000s resulted in a generation that is irony blind.

    1. digi_owl

      Looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie, used to highlight the decay and excess of the “elite”.

      The PMC has completely lost it…

    2. Pat

      WTH. This is just wrong on so many levels.I don’t mind the idea of dancing through the decorations, but tap dancing!?! And anyone who knows anything was crying at the idea of what that could do to the floors, not that I think they really had taps on the shoes. The costumes were also a trip. But the biggest issue is that it was not choreographed to highlight the White House and it’s holiday decor. How about a nice waltz, set to a lovely Christmas song, where the dancers stop and frame the tree, direct the camera/eye to the decorated base, or the mantle or the stairs.
      Nope gaudy Moulin Rouge takes and bad Polar Express workers take center screen frenetically pretending to tap dance. If you look around them you might see the tree.

  23. Screwball

    I just finished reading the entire page with about 54 comments. Agree with most all of them. Nothing pretty, when you think about it. What a world we are living in. I don’t see it getting better.

    I’m glad I’m old. A bonus I never thought of.

  24. Railfan Nix

    Here’s who is building Bidens billion dollar boondoogle between Vegas and L.A.


    “On September 18, 2023, a Petition for Declaratory Relief was filed by a group of nine lending companies against Fortress’s Brightline Holdings and over a dozen of its subsidiaries plus Morgan Stanley Senior Funding Inc., for allegedly committing fraud and being in breach of the Credit Agreement by scheming to avoid having to pay plaintiffs the promised Make-Whole Amount for their contribution to loans, whereby they are owed a minimum of $750 million dollars. Apparently, “Brightline holdings, a high-speed railroad company, borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars. Morgan Stanley made the initial loan and also served as the Administrative Agent.”

    Would you trust your tax dollars with these guys?
    ?Brightline’s Executive Vice President of Development and Infrastructure Construction, Les Snyder, was formerly president of S&B USA, which is a U.S. subsidiary of Israel’s largest construction, real estate development, and energy investment company, Shikun and Binui Ltd. Snyder procured public-private partnerships and led the U.S. operations.

    Ben Porritt, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, previously worked on political campaigns for John McCain and President George W. Bush.”

  25. Jason Boxman

    I live with what’s known as long Covid, an illness that has reshaped my life.


    Every morning, I wake up in my Brooklyn apartment, and for two seconds, I can remember the old me. The me without pain, the me with energy, the me who could do whatever she wanted.

    Then I’m shoved back into my new reality. As I fully come into consciousness, I feel dizzy, faint and nauseated. Pain pulses throughout my body, and my limbs feel simultaneously as heavy as concrete and weak as jelly. It feels as if a machine were squeezing my skull, and extreme exhaustion overtakes me.

    Just wait until Times readers learn about multiple infections and sub clinical damage.

    1. Jason Boxman

      She got long COVID early, then got infected twice more.

      This is false.

      For many, the pandemic seems over. But the threat is not over. Although vaccination and prior Covid exposure lessen the risk, people can still get long Covid, even a severe, debilitating version like mine.

      Repeat infections are not good. That’s insane.

      What will become of all the children?

      1. ambrit

        “All” the children?
        Rephrase that the Neo-liberal Jackpot Way; “What will become of the ‘deserving’ children?”
        “What are we having for dessert mom?”
        And there goes the gated neighbourhood.

  26. Jason Boxman

    So at this point, I think my take on this is, working class people with COVID damage and long-COVID won’t be able to work effectively, or at all. We’re going to see ongoing labor storages, worse quality in goods and services. Upper middle class and upper class people can work remotely and get accommodations, so I think more people with long-COVID and COVID induced damage will continue working to varying degrees in this cohort, if for no other reason that the necessity of maintaining health insurance and making rent or mortgage payments.

    The looming question is whether we’ll see increased mortality over time among those that have had COVID one or more times.

    We might finally be at the end of the beginning; with the abandonment of all restrictions, we’re finally getting some kind of sense of what life is like with a level 3 biohazard spreading with reckless abandon. Just how destructive this ultimately is, SARS2 infections, will determine what the future holds. Will the United States simply decay, or will it ultimately implode from sickness and disease? I guess we’ll know over the next 5 to 10 years.

    It’s certainly still possible that there’s an organic groundswell of opposition to repeat infection that manifests from below, if people can connect the dots between ongoing misery and SARS2 spreading freely. Who knows.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘Upper middle class and upper class people can work remotely and get accommodations’

      That may be true but you just know that they will keep gathering together at parties, holidays, social gatherings, conferences, etc. and where they will not mask up as they will need to show their smiles. They can’t help themselves.

      So yes, they will as a class become more confused in their action, more forgetful, have cognitive problems in the work place and the like but it will be a long time before people will notice the difference. After all, Dilbert was a documentary.

  27. Acacia

    Harris is pivoting left!

    So, on Gaza, Harris will play good cop to Biden’s bad cop.

    She’s got the cop cred, at least.

    Or maybe this is a test flight for her new image as “America’s good cop”?

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