2:00PM Water Cooler 12/19/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Kind readers, I have a query. I’ve been told that lowering my voice and softening my tone is a personal project I should undertake, for complicated reasons I can explain at a later date. My “set point,” if you will, is for my voice to carry to a room (debater; teacher; presenter). Not that I shout, but my register — if that is the word — is high. I’m really not clear on how to go about this, or even to sense it. Any advice for voice teachers or singers out there? Thank you! –lambert P.S. I got quite a late start. I also did the Covid section first, for the holidays, and so Politics will come in orts and scraps.

Bird Song of the Day

Stone Partridge (Stone), Shai Hills Resource Reserve, Greater Accra, Ghana. “Calls by a group.” “Chatter chatter!

* * *


“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

“Protesters call for cease-fire as Senate looks to exit” [The Hill]. “Dozens of protestors gathered in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, as the Senate gears up to leave Washington for the holidays. U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) promptly arrested members of the group as they began protesting, escorting about 60 demonstrators out of the Capitol Rotunda one by one with their wrists zip-tied.” • Presumably they’ll be charged with “obstructing an official proceeding,” and jailed for many years?


Less than a year to go!

* * *

“Trump polls shot upward after indictments started” [Washington Examiner]. “One notable thing about Trump’s national lead, now 50.6 points over DeSantis in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, is that it appears to have been turbocharged by the indictments, federal and local, against the former president. Without the indictments, there is no telling where the GOP race would be today. Look at the last day the national race was close, or relatively close: March 27 of this year, when Trump led DeSantis in the RealClearPolitics average by 15 points, 44% to 29%. Just days later, Trump was indicted for the first time, by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and his poll numbers rose sharply. By April 20, just three weeks later, Trump had risen 10 points to 54%. In the same time, DeSantis fell 7 points, to 22%. Trump’s lead over DeSantis had more than doubled, courtesy of Bragg. In the months that followed, Trump was indicted four more times, twice by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by the Biden Justice Department, and once by Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia. Through it all, Trump’s poll standing rose, from 44 points in late March to 54 points in late April to 58 points in September to 63 points today. Yes, his support has bumped up and down a little in that time, but Trump has not been below 50% support nationally since he first passed that mark on April 4 of this year. What has happened can only be called an enormous backfire for those Democrats and Never Trumpers who thought indicting Trump would bring him down. ” • Liberals. Owned.

“Why a Trump conviction might not save Biden’s reelection” [Politico]. “It’s the go-to refrain for Democrats watching Joe Biden fall behind Donald Trump in polls: Just wait until Trump is convicted…. They’re probably wrong. The evidence so far suggests the race might shift only slightly, by a few points. That could be important in another close election, but it’s not the kind of Trump collapse that Democrats may hope for — or Biden may need if his numbers don’t improve. Trump’s legal peril is unprecedented, and the sentiment that a criminal conviction could be a mortal wound to his candidacy is mostly driven by political intuition right now. But we’re starting to get more data on how a conviction would affect Trump’s chances to defeat Biden, thanks to pollsters who’ve asked voters what they would do if a jury found Trump guilty…. Last month’s New York Times/Siena College poll asked likely voters in six Biden-won swing states who said they weren’t supporting him — a collection of Trump voters and those who said they were undecided — what they would do if Trump ‘were convicted and sentenced to prison but were still the Republican nominee.’ Most of them would still vote for Trump, but 5 percent of the likely electorate across those swing states said they would vote for Biden under that circumstance. That’s potentially enough to tilt the race to the Democratic incumbent — but it’s not guaranteed, especially with Biden already trailing. Most of that 5-point shift came from voters who were undecided or preferred another candidate in the initial Biden-Trump contest.”

“Trump’s campaign expects to clinch 2024 nomination by mid-March -senior official” [Reuters]. ” Former President Donald Trump’s campaign team projects he could formally clinch the Republican presidential nomination by March 19, given his lead in polls in the early voting states, a senior campaign official said on Monday. The team believes Trump is on track to win 1,478 delegates by then, based on a mix of public and internal polls, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign. That would be more than enough delegates needed to win a majority of the total of 2,429 delegates who will select a nominee at the Republican National Convention, set for July in Milwaukee.” • Hmm. Let’s see what the voters have to say. And, of course, the press.

* * *

“Biden is reluctant to accept his ‘old age,’ aides say” [Axios]. “President Biden’s reluctance to acknowledge his physical limitations at age 81 is causing some tension on his team, as senior aides and First Lady Jill Biden [whistling the Nutcracker as she does?] push him to rest more and be vigilant about his health going into 2024…. In conversations with aides and friends, Biden frequently says some version of: ‘I feel so much younger than my age.’…. Jill Biden and her team are deeply involved in the president’s day-to-day schedule…. She often works to get him as much rest as possible, and to improve his diet [euphemism?]” • So Dr. Biden does control Joe’s juice?

“Biden’s Decision to Skip New Hampshire Is ‘Political Malpractice'” [The Nation]. “In February, the DNC decided to eliminate New Hampshire’s first-primary status for the 2024 presidential election. Instead, the candidate selection process would begin in South Carolina, which would hold a low-profile vote in late February of 2024—weeks after Republicans, who have gleefully embraced the traditional schedule of holding first caucuses in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire, were set to begin voting for their nominee. Unfortunately for the DNC, New Hampshire went ahead with an unsanctioned Democratic primary—one in which Biden, following the new party rules, is not competing, but where a crowd of other Democrats, including 2020 Democratic presidential contender Marianne Williamson and US Representative Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) will be on the ballot…. Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign will be a multibillion-dollar effort that employs the best political talent both in the Democratic Party and in supportive unions and liberals organizations. His bid is being pitched as a crusade not just to reelect a Democratic commander-in-chief but to save American democracy from the threat posed by Donald Trump’s election result-denying, violence-threatening MAGA Republicans. Biden himself says the stakes could not be higher. ‘I know that if the other team, the MAGA Republicans, win, they don’t want to uphold the rule of law,’ the president declared in early October, adding that “somehow we’ve got to communicate to the American people that this is for real. This is real.’ Yet White House political strategists and DNC members, the people who say they are desperate to communicate to voters—and the potential voters who need to be energized to come out to vote in November 2024—decided to mess with the 2024 primary schedule in a way that Granite Staters fear will give Republicans a PR boost. ‘Not being here reinforces the impression that he’s too old,’ says Arnie Arnesen, a New Hampshire radio host and former Democratic state legislator and gubernatorial nominee. ‘It leaves a void that the Republicans are going to fill. You know that.'” • Clyburn wanted a pay-off for 2020. So Biden paid him off. And so the local NH Democrats are doing a write-in campaign…

“Biden said to be increasingly frustrated by dismal poll numbers” [WaPo]. “After pardoning a pair of turkeys, an annual White House tradition, Biden delivered some stern words for the small group assembled: His poll numbers were unacceptably low and he wanted to know what his team and his campaign were doing about it. He complained that his economic message had done little to move the ball, even as the economy was growing and unemployment was falling, according to people familiar with his comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation…. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who is running for the state’s open Senate seat, has expressed concern to allies that she may not be able to win her race if Biden is at the top of the ticket, according to people familiar with the conversations. A spokesman for Slotkin’s campaign said she “ooks forward to running with President Biden.'” Slotkin is, of course, a CIA Democrat. Hmmm. More: “‘The Republican primary could end quickly, and the general election could begin in weeks, not months,’ said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. ‘Given Trump’s noisiness and his ability to bully his way through the daily information wars, I think it’s really important that the Biden campaign move into general election mode as soon as possible. We’re not where we want to be. Some of our coalition is wandering and we need to go get them back.'” • Not such a bad argumet from Rosenberg.

“The Alarming Calm of the Biden Campaign” [New York Magazine]. A good read. This paragraph caught my eye: “Early this fall, [Jim] Messina, who talks regularly with members of Biden’s inner circle, distributed a 22-slide deck that he hoped would send a message to concerned Democrats — or, as he termed them to Politico, the ‘f*cking bed-wetters.’ He acknowledged that the race would be close but looked to ratchet nerves down by arguing that Biden has at least four credible avenues to victory in the Electoral College. One is simply to replicate the 2020 map for 303 electoral votes. This was not easy to do the first time around and may be harder to pull off again; Biden flipped Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan and became the first Democrat to win Arizona and Georgia in decades. A second path is narrower: Biden could win exactly the necessary 270 by carrying those midwestern ‘blue wall’ states — even if he concedes Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada. A third route is the reverse of the second one, a ‘Sunbelt strategy’ that would net 275. The fourth option calls for replicating 2022’s Senate-race results, dropping Wisconsin and North Carolina but winning the other battlegrounds for 293. The hard part is that no two of these states require the same winning formula, not even the ones that tend to swing together or that look demographically similar from afar.”

“Biden’s Agenda Hangs in Balance as Tough Election Year Approaches” [Wall Street Journal]. “Those with concerns include former President Barack Obama, who ‘knows this is going to be a close race’ and ‘feels that Democrats very well could lose’ the 2024 election, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Obama worries that ‘the alternative is pretty dangerous for [our] democracy,’ the person said.” • The Wizard of Kalorama™ opens — forgive the metaphor — the kimono slightly to disclose the shiv….

* * *

IA: “Wheels threaten to come off DeSantis campaign” [The Hill]. “Over the weekend, a Washington Post report detailed chaos within DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down. Hours later, a top strategist left the operation — just four weeks before voting kicks off in Iowa with what might be the most critical contest for the Florida governor. A complaint filed Monday by the nonprofit watchdog Campaign Legal Center also alleges DeSantis ‘illegally coordinated’ with the super PAC and that Never Back Down went against an ‘explicit legal requirement that super PACs must remain ‘independent.” These developments add to a string of setbacks and shakeups for DeSantis’s campaign as he struggles to hold on to second place in the Republican presidential field, with former President Trump in the lead and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on the rise.” • I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the evangelicals do….

NH: “Haley gains on Trump in latest New Hampshire poll” [The Hill]. “GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley is gaining some momentum on former President Trump among New Hampshire Republican voters, though Trump still holds a strong lead in the early nominating contest. The latest CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday found Haley has emerged as a top alternative to the former president, consolidating much of the non-Trump vote. Among likely GOP primary voters, 29 percent say they would vote for the former South Carolina governor, putting her 15 points behind Trump.” • That’s within striking distance of a “nearly upsets” narrative, though I frankly don’t know of Haley has the organic support for a drive down the stretch like that.

* * *

“No Labels Is Pushing a Lie That Will Elect Trump” [Jim Messina, Politico]. Messina ran Obama’s 2012 campaign. “Our political system isn’t designed to support third parties at the presidential level. The biggest barrier is the Electoral College. States use a “winner takes all” system to distribute their electoral votes, which is why Perot won nearly 20 percent of the popular vote but got a big fat zero from the Electoral College. This leads to two practical effects: First, parties are incentivized to form the largest coalitions possible, which naturally leads to a two-party system. Second, many voters don’t want to “waste” their vote on a candidate with no chance of winning, so they default to the major parties. Both effects make it harder for third parties to compete.” • The Constitution was “designed,” and parties are not an entity within in, in fact not even conceptualized (the closest is “faction”). Our political system evolved. It was not designed.

* * *

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 Gerontocracy Waged War on Gen Z. Now They’re Fighting Back” [Rolling Stone]. “I am sitting in the dark cool of the Watergate Hotel, listening to Gen Z describe a childhood filled with lockdown drills and existential dread over a heated world. It is the third and final day of a summit hosted by Voters of Tomorrow, a Gen Z-led organization dedicated to turning out the youth vote and advancing its “Gen Z agenda,” policies like abolishing tipped wages and the filibuster in Congress. When I walked into the conference room a few hours earlier, the scene was indistinguishable from a Model U.N. conference: clusters of young people huddled over something called “legislative strategy,” Crayola markers sprawled nearby. Born in 2019, out of the sense that older politicians have left their generation high and dry, Voters of Tomorrow has one message: If you want us to vote for you, you’re going to first listen. There’s an urgency for the people in this room — they believe the failure of older generations to leave behind a livable future means it is up to them to turn things around before it’s too late. ” • No, you’re really not “listening to Gen Z.” You’re listening to the small fraction of Gen Z — whatever that is — who could afford to travel to and attend a three-day shindig at the Watergate Hotel. There’s no reason at all to treat the attendees “in the room” as representative.


“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!

* * *


“Intranasal mask for protecting the respiratory tract against viral aerosols” [Nature]. Mice and model. From the Introduction: “Here, we engineer an intranasal mask (Fig. 1a), which is composed of an irreversibly thermosensitive hydrogel with positive charges, into which we introduce engineered cell-derived microsized vesicles (MV). These MV contain known receptors for specific viruses that are overexpressed on the vesicle surface. The resulting “MV@GEL” can be sprayed into the nasal cavity at room temperature and quickly transforms from the liquid state to the gel state at body temperature, which is favorable for prolonging the retention time on the intranasal wall of the nose. The positively charged hydrogel can intercept the negatively charged viral aerosols presenting in airflow, while the receptor on the vesicles can interact with the virus that is released from viral aerosols to MV@GEL, thereafter mediating the entrapment of virus for inactivation…. This concept of an “intranasal mask” could meet the protection requirement against viral aerosols in the daily life of the general population and could provide effective protection for some individuals who cannot conveniently wear face masks, such as patients with asthma. Moreover, aiming at high-risk individuals, such as doctors and nurses, our intranasal mask could also be combined with face masks to further reduce the risk of infection from aerosols containing threatening viruses.” • Interesting!

Finally, a public health authority’s director uses a respirator not a “Baggy Blue”:

Although, “if you’re sick”? How many years or decades will it take for these reactionary dinosaurs to wrap their tiny brains around the idea of asymptomatic transmission?


JN.1 hits the Big Show:

Scientific Communication

“Influenza surging in Alberta, vaccine fatigue to blame: expert” [Calgary City News]. • The headline is misleading. “Vaccine fatigue” isn’t even in the article. Commentary:


“Unravelling the effect of New Year’s Eve celebrations on SARS-CoV-2 transmission” [Nature]. Belgium. From the Discussion: “To our knowledge, this study shows the first example in the literature of a strong link between public holiday celebrations and a surge in cases of SARS-CoV-2. Interestingly, simultaneous celebrations in small circles, rather than mass gatherings, appeared as the main driver of the surge. The observed wave of cases consisted largely of first-generation infections directly originating from these social gatherings. Incidence in the targeted student population quickly stabilised thereafter, likely due to a combination of government-mandated contact restrictions, low threshold testing, contact tracing and reduced social interaction due to the students’ approaching January exams. However, in the absence of these limiting factors, such a simultaneous increase in transmissivity could logically accelerate an exponential rise in cases. In fact, nationally reported case numbers and their derived effective reproduction numbers suggest that this may be exactly what happened on a national and even international scale with the spread of the Omicron BA.1 strain. Estimates of the national effective reproduction number suggest a possible “triple whammy” of transmissibility effects around the winter holidays. First, Christmas and New Year celebrations provide two occasions for large scale inter-generational and inter-regional transmission, as friends and family gather with a range of risk factors: enclosed spaces, extended contact, close physical interaction, inter-household contact and strong vocalisation. The resulting cases have relatively little opportunity for onward transmission until schools and many workplaces reopen simultaneously, leading to further transmissions within regions and generations. Further research might confirm the relative contributions of transmission across regions and generations.”

“Simulating the Environmental Spread of SARS-CoV-2 via Cough and the Effect of Personal Mitigations” [Microorganisms]. From the Abstract: “Scientists and engineers at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) laboratory used a human cough simulator that provided a standardised cough challenge using a solution of simulated saliva and a SARS-CoV-2 surrogate virus… Viable virus spread up to 2 m from the origin of the cough outwards in a cloud. Recommended interventions, such as putting a hand or elbow in front of the mouth changed the pattern of cough aerosol dispersion. A hand deflected the cough to the side, protecting those in front from exposure, however it did not prevent environmental contamination. It also allowed for viral transfer from the hand to surfaces such as door handles. A balled fist in front of the mouth did not deflect the cough. Putting an elbow in front of the mouth deflected the aerosol cloud to above and below the elbow, but would not have protected any individuals standing in front. However, if the person coughed into a sleeved elbow more of the aerosol seemed to be absorbed. Coughing into a bare elbow still allowed for transfer to the environment if people touched the inside of their elbow soon after coughing. Conclusions: Interventions can change the environmental contamination pattern resulting from a human cough but may not reduce it greatly.” • So, another piece of folk wisdom from the public health establishment disproved. Naturally, I don’t recommend coughing on people. Who wants that? But let’s at least understand what’s going on.

“Something Awful”

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

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Origins Debate

“American scientists misled Pentagon on research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology” [U.S. Right to Know]. “U.S. Right to Know has obtained [how] an early draft of DEFUSE [A 2018 research proposal called DEFUSE called for synthesizing spike proteins with furin cleavage sites] with comments from “PD” and “BRS.” Emails show these commenters to be “Peter Daszak” and “Baric, Ralph S.”” The project was not approved, but the annotations on the draft look to this bystander to be exceptionally nasty:

The Wuhan Lab, in other words, will use the cheaper BSL-2 facility:

“BSL-2 experiments are more convenient and less expensive than BSL-3 experiments … However, BSL-2 provides a far lower level of biosafety than BSL-3 does. This lower safety level is especially dangerous for experiments involving viruses that can be transmitted by air,” [Justin Kinney, a quantitative biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and co-founder of Biosafety Now] said. “It is very concerning that Daszak and Baric appear to have considered it legitimate to move high-risk experiments from BSL-3 to BSL-2. It is also concerning that they appear to have considered doing so in secret, instead of disclosing this important change of experimental plans and biosafety precautions in their grant proposal.”

Not a good look, at the very least. And projects that aren’t approved can get recycled into projects that are.

Elite Maleficence

Sociopath of the Day Bob Wachter meets with Long Covid Experts:

You’ll never guess what happens next!

Here’s a larger version of Wachter’s post, which is indeed 1/25:

Wachter’s complex algorithm is pure cope. It’s supposedly data-driven, but our data is bad, and most of it lags. Wastewater (sadly, now impossible to cross-check with any other case data) is the best we have, and even it lags by a week; sufficient time for a really nasty variant to get rolling. So IMNSHO the best solution is to decide on your protocol for a layered defense, and follow it rigorously, day and day out. No reason to tweak it. Wachter is simply giving himself an illusion of control that in the end is only a rationalization for what he wants to do anyhow: Dine indoors.

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, December 18:

Lambert here: As a totally “gut feel” tapewatcher, I would expect this peak to meet or exceed the two previous Biden peaks; after all, we haven’t really begun the next bout of holiday travel, or the next rounds of superspreading events celebrations. Plus students haven’t come from from school, and then returned. So a higher peak seems pretty much “baked in.” And that’s before we get to new variants, like JN.1. The real thing to watch is the slope of the curve. If it starts to go vertical, and if it keeps on doing so, then hold onto your hats. (Next week’s reading, however, is Christmas Day; there may well be a data-driven drop.) Stay safe out there! 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 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 18:

Lambert here: I don’t like that little upward spike (you’ve got to look closely at the most recent date). Let’s hope it doesn’t keep happening.

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 9:

Moving ahead briskly!

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?


From Walgreens, December 18:

-0.3%. Down. (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 27:

Turning upward.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, November 27:

BA.2.86 blasting upward. This would be a great early warning system, if the warning were in fact early instead of weeks late, good job, CDC.


Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 9:

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US unexpectedly soared 14.8% month-over-month to an annualized 1.56 million in November of 2023, the highest rate in six months, and well above market forecasts of 1.36 million, benefiting from a fall in mortgage rates and low inventory.”

* * *

Antitrust: “Google to pay $700 million to US states, consumers in app store settlement” [Associated Press]. “Google has agreed to pay $700 million and make several other concessions to settle allegations that it had been stifling competition against its Android app store — the same issue that went to trial in another case that could result in even bigger changes. Although Google struck the deal with state attorneys general in September, the settlement’s terms weren’t revealed until late Monday in documents filed in San Francisco federal court. The disclosure came a week after a federal court jury rebuked Google for deploying anticompetitive tactics in its Play Store for Android apps. The settlement with the states includes $630 million to compensate U.S. consumers funneled into a payment processing system that state attorneys general alleged drove up the prices for digital transactions within apps downloaded from the Play Store. That store caters to the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones. Like Apple does in its iPhone app store, Google collects commissions ranging from 15% to 30% on in-app purchases — fees that state attorneys general contended drove prices higher than they would have been had there been an open market for payment processing. Those commissions generated billions of dollars in profit annually for Google, according to evidence presented in the recent trial focused on its Play Store.” • Good. Let’s hope damages at the Federal level are more significant.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 76 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 19 at 1:57:16 PM ET. Holy cow! Extreme Greed! Why?

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Satanism. “The people refind [sic] statues to Satan are mostly atheists, but they are grow in number” [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.

News of the Wired

“Ministry of Justice plan to destroy historical wills is ‘insane’, say experts” [Guardian]. “‘Sheer vandalism’ and ‘insane’. This is how leading historians on Monday described government plans to destroy millions of historical wills to save on storage costs. The Ministry of Justice is consulting on digitising and then throwing away about 100m paper originals of the last wills and testaments of British people dating back more than 150 years in an effort to save £4.5m a year. But Tom Holland, the classical and medieval historian and co-host of The Rest is History podcast, said the proposal to empty shelves at the Birmingham archive was ‘obviously insane’. Sir Richard Evans, historian of modern Germany and modern Europe, said ‘to destroy the original documents is just sheer vandalism in the name of bureaucratic efficiency’. Ministers believe digitisation will speed up access to the papers, but the proposal has provoked a backlash among historians and archivists who took to X to decry it as ‘bananas’ and ‘a seriously bad idea’…. Wills are considered essential documents, particularly for social historians and genealogists, as they capture what people considered important at the time and reveal unknown family links.” • I’ve known library administrators who actually hated books and tried to get rid of them whenever they could. They remind me of Hospital Infection Control administrators.

“He felt ‘creatively dead.’ Then he harnessed the power of boredom” [NPR]. “A thing that I learned was how much boredom was like an essential part of creativity. Maybe boredom is too strong of a word for it. It’s some kind of idleness to let a kind of alchemical reaction happen in your brain molecules. If they’re constantly occupied by something else, it’s never gonna happen. But if you go on a walk or you go on a drive or something where you’re leaving 80% of your brain unoccupied, that’s when I found new ideas could come out or I could sort of metabolize things that have been stirring in me for a while.”

* * *

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 Desert Dawg:

Desert Dawg writes: “Adventurous Spider Wort plant hovering over a ant hill that they made from little bits of scoria that they have packed about five feet over from the road to make the hill.”

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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. Steve H.

      My voice is a superpower. Even before I was trained I could fill a theater. It is true, sometimes superpowers need a disguise. But never let’em bully you out of it.

      Resonance anywhere can rattle glass. Putting some breath in can soften it up. Listen here for technique, she often starts the answer with edge and then floats it for the rest.

      1. DJG, Reality Czar

        Quoting Lambert Strether:

        I’ve been told that lowering my voice and softening my tone is a personal project I should undertake, for complicated reasons I can explain at a later date.

        First, if and only if the person making the request is someone you hold in esteem, who has earned the right to make such requests, then you can accommodate.

        Having been scapegoated any number of times, I can assure you that “lowering one’s voice” and “getting rid of *that* tone” are often a problem of power. That is, the person making the request is the one whose voice is too loud and whose tone is too scratchy. Nothing like projection (and I usually am hesitant about making psychological statements).

        So: Consider the source of the request. Many of the nastiest people I have ever met complain about other people’s “tone.”

        As someone who has written for the stage as well as musical lyrics, I am acutely aware of tone. So are you: You’re a writer.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > First, if and only if the person making the request is someone you hold in esteem, who has earned the right to make such requests, then you can accommodate.

          Absolutely they are.

        1. Steve H.

          She’s under pressure from the questions, and you can hear the harsher edge in her voice as she starts to answer. The tension in her body is building muscular support which starts resonance in her bones. That’s a good thing for vocal projection in a theater, but that’s not the image she is presenting. So she puts more breath in her speech and it takes out the resonance. (When someone is ‘barking’, it’s often a high head resonance, literally vibrating the sinuses.)

          Michael Jackson did a more extreme version of the technique.

          1. skippy

            Wipes tear from eye for the 80s L.A. acting class where the coach banned all students from taking or doing theater, did film/TV only, crossing over styles really messes with body, facial, and voice dynamics.

            For all the rubbish involved with doing classes and going to casting directors houses et al … man o man I saw some epic acting and especially some very intimate [50 seat auditorium class room looking down on the stage] monologues. Like being 10/15′ away from your favorite musician or singer.

            On another note … the use of voice in the military was quite interesting, learned skill, projecting like in theater and with authority. The authority bit is really interesting, innate human response, just like Milgrams white coat thingy. You can get people to respond without them knowing it or thinking about a choice, just respond.

            There have been times in my civilian life where I have used it, results are the same for civilians that have never been indoctrinated in military life. Per se not a few months ago at work a good sort 27 yr old work mate did not pull his van up on a job site to the next car and I could not pull up behind due to the drive way. So for fun I popped out of my UTE and in front of everyone else used the military voice/dialogue – his face just fell in an admonished way and then scurried off to move his van up.

            The 40 yr old business owner then commented on my use of the authoritative voice, I then had to inform the young fellow that I was just having a wee bit of a good at him and all was good.

              1. skippy

                No movie or video will ever do it justice mate, visceral in the first hand account.

                Cuts through mind, bodies, and soul as it were …

        2. Keith Howard

          I’m a retired professional violinist. Early on in learning to play any instrument one is taught to play to the farthest row. Those people also paid to hear the concert. Volume is, of course, part of the picture, but clarity and pacing are even more important. Just as bellowing is not singing, shouting is not a satisfactory way to address a room. Some actors make that irritating mistake. Listen to yourself in the space you have to fill. There’s no need to knock down the walls, but if you observe people cupping their ears, you need to adjust to cope with the character of the space, resonant or dry. Perhaps as important as any other suggestion, the bigger the room, the more slowly one should speak.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > the bigger the room, the more slowly one should speak.

            As a former policy debater, who spoke very rapidly in auditoriums, that seems counter-intuitive; I don’t say wrong.

            No, people don’t cup their ears when I speak/

            1. DJG, Reality Czar

              Lambert Strether:

              Interesting that this strikes you as counter-intuitive. In reciting poetry, in performing on stage, and in engaging an audience in “talkbacks” (discussion), one has to slow down. It has something to do with the stagefright-created tendency to spit it all out (which has to be countered) and the public’s ability to take in the message (which has to be give in measures, musically, in a sense).

              As for tonality of voice: In the market here in Chocolate City, not long after my arrival, an astute stallholder said that he could tell I wasn’t Italian because of my intonation. Again, and I know you like music: Listen to the music. I’ve been working on the musicality of my Italian ever since.

        3. lyman alpha blob

          I have a very deep voice that carries, and filling a room is not a problem – I’m constantly being told I’m too loud. It takes a very concerted effort for me to talk at a “normal” volume, and it usually ramps right back up if I’m talking for more than about 30 seconds.

          I really don’t know how to change it, but it does occur to me that I might be a little bit hard of hearing. My voice was loud when I was younger too, but I do sometimes wonder if things have gotten worse as hearing declined. I developed tinnitus about ten years ago, and although I mostly block it out, if I do pay attention it sounds like an emergency broadcast system test is going on inside my head. Couple years ago there was a small bird chirping in a tree right above me and I couldn’t hear the high pitched chirps while the rest of my family could. Standing too close to Marshall stacks at concerts during my salad days probably didn’t help either. Last year I lost hearing in the higher register for about 24 hours after a Ministry show, which I didn’t think was all that loud at the time.

          Not sure if you have similar issues, but maybe that has an affect on your voice?

        4. Lee

          Serious question for you: have you had your hearing checked lately?

          “The increase in voice volume happens because of the inability to hear themselves when talking. Therefore, persons hard of hearing unintentionally overcompensate by speaking louder than they ordinarily would. Unfortunately, there are social implications to this as some people interpret it as rude and uncouth. Dec 22, 2021” Kirsch Audiology

        5. Keith Newman

          Lambert, I’m surprised by this. I sat right across from you at the Montreal get-together a few years ago. I didn’t notice your voice level or tone was off. It seemed perfectly normal to me.

    2. eg

      I am loud unless I consciously control my volume, and I am excitable in conversation — my enthusiasm and excitement is sometimes mistaken for anger.

      1. ddt

        Lambert, when my kids claim I’m “yelling” even tho I think I’m talking in a normal tone, one response I’ve used is “listen to the message, not the tone…”

  1. Feral Finster

    When the public is spitting mad with white hot incandescent rage at the establishment, the Trump indictments simply show how much the establishment hates and fears the man.

    Trump could not ask for a better campaign advertisement than to be so hated by the very people that the public sees as its enemies,

    Not to mention the Biden campaign strategy of “We gotta save democracy by tossing the opposition candidate in prison!” seems sorta banana republic-ish, somehow.

    n.b. I did not vote Trump (or HRC or Biden), not in 2016, nor in 2020. Nor have I any present intent to do so in 2024, keeping in mind that I live in an absolutely safe state.

    1. albrt

      I live in a swing state, and I will not be voting for Genocide Joe or anybody else who supports the American/Isreali genocide in Palestine. Period, regardless of any other issues.

      So I guess I will be leaving the presidential line blank.

      1. nippersdad

        I live in a swing state as well, and I will be voting for Jill so that I can spit in Barry’s Hillary’s Genocide Joe’s eye on the presumption that one should never waste one’s vote.

        Bonus points: Apparently it really pisses them off.

    2. nippersdad

      Absolutely! It was not only predictable, it was predicted. I distinctly remember it being discussed here that lawfaring Trump would backfire amongst his base. That rally around the flag effect should have been something that they thought of before they elevated him to the front pages, again, prior to his election efforts.

      It is so obvious that one might almost think they wanted to lose, again, by Pied Pipering him, again. I wonder if anyone in Washington political circles bothered to mention that there is no such thing as bad publicity for the guy.

    3. GC54

      First I must learn who the VP could be because strongly suspect that neither of these Presidential contenders will be intact a year from now. One will probably expire “naturally”, the other with some assistance.

    4. The Rev Kev

      ‘We gotta save democracy by tossing the opposition candidate in prison!’

      Even Putin was mentioning this in a very recent speech. And then Trump up and quoted him saying this about American democracy.

    5. notabanker

      I live in an absolutely safe state.

      Not sure I understand what that means.

      My time machine is at the shop and they can’t get parts from Apple, so I am down for the count. But if I had to guess, I would say the 2024 Biden meltdown will be epic. I would speculate that most people who walked into the voting booth in 2020 with ” he can’t possibly be worse than Trump” now realize the unimaginable is not only quite possible, but the guy has set a new bar for how contemptible a smug, corrupt and not very bright President can be. He doesn’t even try to hide it.
      I could be wrong, but I wasn’t in 16 or 20. Granted 2020 was a covid no-brainer.

      1. Tvc15

        “but the guy has set a new bar for how contemptible a smug, corrupt and not very bright President can be.”

        100%. I hate him, Trump too. I’m not voting for president for the first time since 84. The only solace I can think of is the liberals hate Trump so much I may find perverse joy in their pain. Low bar indeed.

          1. Lefty Godot

            I bet there will be some big surprises among the supposedly safe states when 2024 is all counted. Maybe I’m projecting, but I think many people who got riled up to vote against Trump in 2020 will just sit this one out, whch may skew things unpredictably. Of course a lot depends on what major events happen between now and election day, and how the media spins them, but this could be a real outlier election, even more than 2016.

    1. Feral Finster

      “Our strategy should be, not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it…

      To deprive it of oxygen, to shame it, to mock it. With our art, our literature, our music, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness and our ability to tell stories.” – A. Roy

      Your tone is the least of my worries. More and nastier snark is called for.

    2. Samuel Conner

      I too enjoy Lambert’s snark.

      The thought does occur that this might be an acquired taste (or maybe it’s an innate taste that is not shared by all) and that to readers who have not yet acquired it, it might be off-putting.

      For example, a recurrent phrase in Lambert’s commentary on COVID is reference to SARS-Cov-2 as an “airborne Level 3 biohazard.”

      That isn’t even snark; it’s just “plain talk.” It has shock value, too, since it calls attention to the arguably criminal negligence of the public health authorities. But maybe the shock effect is off-putting to readers who aren’t aware that research into CVs is done in Biosafety level 3 facilities due to the danger of these pathogens.

      It’s hard to anticipate how one’s writing will affect everyone within a heterogeneous readership. I don’t know what counsel to offer.

    3. britzklieg

      I assumed he is referring to his actual speaking voice, in which case he should be careful about trying to modulate what comes naturally for him. That said, a few ideas:

      If your “high registered” speaking voice is naturally very forward, or prone to nasality, you might consider forming your vowels directly on the vocal chords as opposed to in the mouth cavity. In singing, the vowels are made on the vocal chords (pitch is made in the ear). Try to produce all the vowel sounds with the same neutral mouth opening, not by forming them with your lips. And use minimal breath. You will feel them directly on the vocal chords and should not be concerned about the sensation. The downside to that is whereas it might lower the register it will up the actual volume… although that will also help carry the voice into the room.

      The thing to avoid most is adding breath to your voice, like whispering loudly. Sending a lot of air over the vocal chords will dry them out and lead to vocal fatigue. In classical singing the air stays in the mouth. The well known technique of singing into a lit candle without blowing it out is real. There’s almost a sensation of pulling the sound in, rather than letting it out… find a spot on the back wall and imagine pulling the voice in towards you rather than pushing the air forward and out towards the audience. It’s counterintuitive but actually much easier once you get the hang of it.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > he is referring to his actual speaking voice

        Yes. Thanks, this is helpful advice. I have literally never thought about this, and don’t have feedback loops in place.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      I mean my actual, physical voice. For my writing, I think [lambert blushes modestly] that I am fully in control of my register. Not so my speaking — in fact, I never thought of it!

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Record yourself speaking in different ways, including on the phone. Have some music or other sound in the background so playback is at the correct level. Volume control is very important to this kind of thing. Notice if there is a difference. Most people have a “phone voice” as well as indoor and outdoor settings.

        You’ve never mentioned it that I recall, but if you have hearing difficulties volume can be an issue. Also, if your voice is higher pitched, less volume is necessary for clarity.

        At the very least, you now know that you have the ability to annoy at least one person simply by talking. It’s not a super power, but it is an advantage of sorts especially if you’re playing cards or chess.

        1. Reply

          Good advice. Also video-record yourself, or have someone record you, with a 360 degree view. You might as see and hear yourself as others do.
          For many, the results are surprising and encouraging.

      2. FreeMarketApologist

        If there’s a local theatre director whose work you respect (i.e., you’ve heard their actors on stage and been impressed by their vocal skills), you might ask him/her about a recommendation for a professional voice coach. Or, inquire of a teacher at your local college-level theatre or music school.

        My view (as a former producer of theatre and opera, and still adjacent to the field) is that a good *professional* will do in half the time what an amateur will do in twice the time, and in a way that you can understand and implement it — the terminology and physiology can be complex, and a professional guide will be far more valuable.

    5. Mikel

      None of us will ever be as cynical as the Masters of Disasters!
      There’s not enough snark in this life or the next to match it. So carry on!

    6. Lee

      I’m now confused. Is L referring to his spoken or literary voice. I took it to be the former. As to the latter meaning, I agree with you.

      1. Michael King

        Very sorry Lambert. I sent the original link some time ago but was remiss in making sure it remained functional. Your updated link works. Thank you and apologies to Alexis as well.

  2. ChrisFromGA

    I think I have JN.1 … currently in self-quarantine.

    Self-treating with povidone-iodine (diluted to 1%) nasal washes, vitamin D, and IVM.

    No loss of smell (yet.) Day 3 or 4 of infection. Mostly head cold symptoms, although I noticed an odd feeling of weakness and dizziness at times.

    1. GramSci

      I now do my 10% povidone-iodine before and after potential exposures diluted to 2% in saline solution, but being retired and alienated from my age cohort, that’s usually only 2 or four snorts per day. I also gargle with it if my throat gets scratchy. N of 1, but it seems to have helped.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        Thanks for the reply. I am curious about the state of play of the vaccines. I am a notorious refusenik having resisted the mRNA ones.

        I see the usual agitprop from the CDC claiming that the latest boosters have efficacy against JN.1 but the skeptic in me says that’s horse manure! Are there any decent studies out that debunk the CDC’s posturing?

        1. jo6pac

          I haven’t taken any of them. I eat Vit. C, D, and Zinc. I’ve been sick twice but recover in 4 or 5 days and can still taste & smell. I bought from India the drug that can’t be talked about so last time I did 12mg for 3 days. If I was in better shape recovery would be faster. Yes, I wear a N-95 mask everywhere even at the gas station because the pumps I use are downwind from all others.

          1. rowlf

            When I caught Covid in Spring 2022 at a work event I logged onto my company’s Covid website to report getting infected due to work. The company website directed me to the CDC’s infection protocols before returning to work but also recommended taking Vitamins C and D3, and Zinc.

            It would have been nice if they recommended it to everyone before anyone got exposed.

            Not a big deal as I was already taking supplements. Early Vitamin I use seemed to work very well too.

  3. Jason Boxman

    On hospitalizations, it’s worth nothing that, just like infections, it’s area under the curve. How long can hospitals operate, day in and day out, at elevated capacities? Particularly when people with SARS2 are going to spread it, in hospitals, where there are no airborne transmission protocols at all. When does staffing become a critically limiting factor? Not every HCW can physically work while sick; SARS2 infections can be and are serious!

    1. Samuel Conner

      > it’s area under the curve

      recently, reading news snippets warning that hospitals in some US regions may be obliged to ration care due to demand in excess of capacity, the thought occurred, ‘nearly 4 years in, and we haven’t graduated beyond ‘flatten the curve.’ ” And in fact, we probably are less able, or willing, to flatten the curve than we were at the beginning.

      If people can’t reliably obtain needed medical care, that may start to affect the willingness, among those still able to do this, to pay for medical insurance. Maybe if the profitability of the health care system is significantly degraded by the pandemic, policy-makers will start to pay attention.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Maybe health-care system degradation is part of the jackpot design engineering agenda, as long as it is just slow enough that millions of people don’t see it all at once and rise in some kind of revolt.

  4. Degringolade

    Lambert, I feel your pain regarding the “high register”.

    I think that the only way to prevent this is tied to your daily declaration of intent at the beginning of your Covid coverage. In my relationships, I have always found that stridency and tone are tied directly to the certainty of one’s point of view and command of the facts.

    But the world is a strange place and an individual tends to go “high register” when he/she is certain of their correct stance and is “talking down” in order to get the perceived “truth” of one’s point of view across.

    How I got my sons to stop going high register is whenever the oldest started doing it, I forced him to argue the youngest’s point of view and not allowing him to stop until he saw the other sides point.

    Other than your high register on Covid, I find your coverage and point of view useful. Keep up the good work. Just try to remember that every truth is a half truth and the idea of possibly being wrong or not completely correct is always where you haven’t looked yet.

    Thanks for the good work.

    P.S. Perhaps you might consider another of Garrison’s quotes:

    If all our agents would abridge their speeches one half, I am satisfied the effect produced would be much greater. The ‘art of leaving off’ at the right time, and in the right place, is one of the most difficult things to learn.

    William Lloyd Garrison

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But the world is a strange place and an individual tends to go “high register” when he/she is certain of their correct stance and is “talking down” in order to get the perceived “truth” of one’s point of view across.

      This is very insightful and I am sure is part of the dynamic. Thing is, my stance is correct….

    1. Wukchumni

      Defects make coin collectors drool…
      If you bought a new car and it had scratches on the paint, you’d be upset-

      1. skippy

        Dang it Wuk … I know all that …

        The point is were is the intrinsic value compared to all the others – without defects – that substantiates the ludicrous price increase as a metal coin with X price denoted sovereign currency for use in settling contracts. Is it value added, increased socioeconomic value, or is it just some dynamic set up by others long ago that echos through humanity by those few that benefited from it.

        Then some ninny’s will create an economic ideology, full of ego, from whole cloth and call it natural or rational … better yet any one in disagreement is a deviant …

        1. Wukchumni


          A commemorative coin made out of junk metal doesn’t mean diddly in the scheme of things no matter how you’d like to parse it by disdain of non-fiats.

  5. SD

    Having a strong, clear voice is something to be proud of.

    Nonetheless, I understand your concern. My father, a history professor who taught at a small New England college for decades, was advised to undertake a similar self-improvement project.

    A big step for my Dad was simply getting comfortable with sotto voce. I think there may also have been a psychological component that has to do with anxiety around not being believed/acknowledged/listened to. My father’s specialty was slavery in the antebellum South, and he often discussed really difficult material with his students that challenged the high school civics version of American history most of them had learned.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > anxiety around not being believed/acknowledged/listened to

      That’s it. Thing is, I have literally never given a thought to this in my entire life. So I have a hard time connecting the words to the actual bodily, physical requirements. Like telling somebody “just swing the bat at the ball” if they wonder how to play baseball…

      1. SD

        Not an expert on breath control, but I use this practice when I’m feeling anxious:

        Set a timer for 20 minutes and sit in a comfortable chair in a place where you’re not likely to be disturbed;
        Close your eyes;
        Exhale for 5 seconds so that your lungs feel like they have no more air in them;
        Wait for 5 seconds;
        Inhale for 5 seconds so that your lungs feel like they couldn’t have more air in them;
        Wait for 5 seconds;
        Repeat this exercise 3-8 times: exhale/5 seconds/inhale/5 seconds;
        Return to normal breathing and sit in your chair and relax every muscle that you can think of and wait for the timer to go off.

  6. griffen

    A mere quibble, minor though it may be…am I alone in seeing “2024” in the recent Water Coolers thus far? Perhaps we should use the proverbial Time Machine and fast forward….Into the proverbial Jackpot era we go headlong into a maelstrom.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You are not alone. I fixed it.* That’s very bad! Living in the future is always a very bad sign for me; it’s anxiety provoking. So no wonder I am experiencing simultaneously the vocal issue I mentioned, possibly a sign of anxiety. The mind is very strange!

      And now, when I copy the date, advance the day by one (or three), and paste it into the new post without looking at the year, that year will be “2023.” For the next few days, anyhow.

      1. Joe Renter

        Lambert have you tried using CBD in it’s various forms? I have found it takes the edge of many of the dystopian realities and internal emotions one faces in these end days/times. Just a idea. Otherwise, “you go man”.

        1. griffen

          I have a family member that uses it, in smaller dosages, which helps with their MS. I am told by them, it is helpful…never a recreational user otherwise…

  7. Tom Stone

    There will be no extended Family get together for me this year, since the Pandemic is over more than half the group have abandoned any precautions which makes it too dangerous for both myself and several others to take part.
    The denials that there is still a problem with Covid are becoming more strident, when people realize what the cost of these lies is, and that they and their Families will be bearing those costs, it’s going to get ugly.
    Limb torn from Limb and heads used as soccer balls ugly.

  8. ChrisRUEcon

    #COVID19 #WalgreensPositivity

    Shook the dust off an old tumblr.com account to put up images that I did using Walgreens data over a Google Sheets Geo chart. Min = Green, Max = Red, Mid = Yellow.

    Walgreens COVID-19 Redux (via tumblr.com)

    I’m beginning to think that the northeast is perma-high. Waves of infection then move westward to the midwest, desert southwest. Northern tier states largely perma-low, and the west coast seems like California hovers mid to high and an epicenter that drives infection northward up the PCH. Also: Nevada … as a tourist destination, always hovering higher that surrounding states.

  9. JaaaaaCeeeee

    At 5’11” on the east coast in the’60’s and 70’s, I was an athletic female (and coach and teacher when young, then the rare female direct manager, big boss or indirect manager who got LOTS of feedback) taller than most males. I got every kind of advice to not be in charge if I wanted to be in charge! Most of it completely useless and contradictory feed back. The grandkids’ and buddies, even now, occasionally note that I am yelling, not mad. And you might be surprised to find that being able to speak plain English, which every reader of Naked Capitalism reveres, can still prompt feedback about you being too wordy or knowitall.

    Lowering your notes, not your volume, is always worth it, though. I found that emphasizing my northern New England drawl, hmm’s, ayup’s, and occasionally prefacing something with, “I wonder…pause”, etc. helped. Adding all the little verbal tics and pauses that make you seem thoughtful, relaxed at your lectern, or quizzical, is as worthwhile as it is fun, to try on and get habitual. I do think you are onto something when you ask if voice coaches can help you lower your notes without too much time and effort. The verbal tics you try on, and sometimes cultivate untill habitual, might be as productive as lowering your notes.

    Most of all, this is empirical stuff to play with. These exercises I recommend are for YOU to play with. IOW, don’t listen as much to the feedback of the general public – so often they are really trying to get you to stop being so annoyingly knowledgeable or reacting to your information being something they don’t want to accept, or are overwhelmed by. Most people do not have the mental training to be able to enjoy your blogging, let alone live info dumps. So beware of confidently recommended or otherwise blind alleys. Zero sum competition sells reality shows and those educated by TV ‘engage’ in it all the time. When you are talking to groups like the readers of naked capitalism, do you ever get the kind of feedback that prompted your question?

    I guess I am saying that there is nothing that gives you quicker results than breathing, lower notes and all the gentle syncopation you can come up with, which can be as simple as planning to add a few pauses that are just a half a beat. But if you are really finding people overwhelmed by what it is that you are trying to communicate, ask yourself if it’s them, not you. I love that you are so aware and able to ask for ideas!

    1. Lee

      The average height gene runs strong in my family for generations. My son has married a fairly tall drink of water. She’s as tall as him, has a 6 foot tall aunt, and her dad is 6’3″. Length-wise, my 11 month old granddaughter is in the 98th percentile for boys her age. If the trend continues, I may live long enough that I’ll have to look up to her to meet her gaze. May I be so fortunate.

      1. JaaaaaCeeeee

        May you indeed (Though it can be nice for compact people, not to have to learn to do a running front flip and then despair when growth spurts bring you back to square one. Not to speak of wear and tear issues – your compact genes have some real advantages)!

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > there is nothing that gives you quicker results than breathing, lower notes and all the gentle syncopation you can come up with

      Interesting. The funny thing is, I use a lot of syncopation in my writing, and when I write, I try to write as if I were talking aloud (even if, I grant MR SUBLIMINAL Syncopation at a high academic level). But when talking? I don’t think so. I’m not aware, if so.

      1. JaaaaaCeeeee

        Yes, you do. And whether it’s rotating an object in your mind’s eye, mentally listening to how your written word flows/sounds as you write, or using all the good tips you received today while looking at a crowd, these 3 require slightly different mental tricks, to do easily and at pace.

        I wonder if, for most of us, we mostly develop the 1st and 3rd unconsciously, before we learn to read. But if you make it a fun or idle game, your mental capacity means you will get where you want to go.

      2. JaaaaaCeeeee

        We’re not talking about learning a new language here, even an easy one like Spanish. It’s about playing, idly, with some tricks toward the goal of becoming unconscious about them, I guess. I watched your writing about covid become laconic yet incisive and comprehensive, so for you (unlike most), it’s just a matter of time, once you have a goal on your radar.

  10. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Nikki Haley

    I’m more than a little worried she might manage to sneak in. My better half has very good political judgment and is about as far from a Republican as one could get, but when the Powers That Be started running Haley up the flagpole as the principled alternative to Trump, Ms. Blob developed a brief infatuation, especially when some of the debate clips where she told off male candidates were highlighted. “Strong woman” and all. I was able to disabuse her of the notion Haley might be palatable candidate by pointing out some of her more Armageddonish tendencies, but not everybody has an NC reader to counter the prevailing propaganda for them.

    1. Martin Oline

      Yes, I wonder myself. The Republican Iowa Caucuses will be badly skewed because there is no Democrat Party that night. That leaves democrats free to attend Republican Caucuses, which are open to all. I wonder if they will support Haley or not because she beats Biden like a drum in the polling. It will be interesting to see which red herring comes in second in Iowa.

    2. Trees&Trunk

      When I think about Nikki Haley I think about that blank face during a debate when of the other candidates said that Nikki couldn‘t say the name of three of the regions she wanted American troops to invade. I have very rarely seen such a blank face and bovine eyes. Her head is indeed empty.
      It would have been comedy gold if it wasn‘t for the collective West‘s politicsal leaders being as empty

      1. rowlf

        A few years ago when Haley’s UN positions differed from the White House positions a pro-Russia blog nicknamed her The Rogue Waffle House Waitress.

        Rogue Waffle House Waitress Nikki Haley Not Taking Syria Orders From Trump

        For us the red flag was when Haley started barfing about removing “Iranian influence” from Syria. So now Syria isn’t allowed to choose its own allies? That doesn’t seem very reasonable. It sounds very neocon/Netanyahu, though.

        There’s clearly two warring parties within the Trump administration, with two very different agendas.


        Yes, the rogue face of US foreign policy. Great.

        Our question is: If Haley feels so confident directly contradicting the State Department, then who does she work for?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’m more than a little worried she might manage to sneak in.

      The word that comes to mind for Haley with me is “brittle.” Absolutely amazing that the extremely unlikeable DeSantis and Haley are the strongest challenger to Trump; the Repubican bench is as bad, if not worse, than the Democrats, who have set an extremely low baseline. I mean, I can see a Gretchen Whitmer (“Big Gretch”) v. Haley contest, and Whitmer stomping Haley. Base in a small state, thin resume, zero charisma, inflated by a sudden influx of Koch funding…. What’s not to dislike?

  11. JustAnotherVolunteer

    Lambert – if you have a college near you with a theater department you might luck in to a Voice for Actors class. This text (below) is often used and while you may never need to project while wearing a corset there’s a lot of good information packed in to one well written book.


    This stuff is easier to master with an outside listener for feedback but just the book would get you started.

  12. John

    DeSantis cast about for THE issue like a fisherman dropping his fly on every ripple. He tried to out Trump Trump. he was and is very bad at it. he never was a viable candidate. Haley seems determined but clueless. She might make a small splash in New Hampshire because of the cross-over vote, but she was never viable either.

    I see no one of any persuasion for whom I could in good conscience cast a vote.

    1. ambrit

      And here I was thinking that Bill Clinton was ‘The Fisherman.’ [He is famous for “dropping his fly” at the merest whiff of a “fish.”]

      1. griffen

        I thought Bill was more of a cigar man, but opinions and memories can vary…I am far removed from being a teenager but simple high school high jinks still crack me up…

  13. Mikel

    “Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 76 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. Holy cow! Extreme Greed! Why”

    It’s a Santa Clause rally. But remember…Santa is known for delivering bags.

    Beware the Ides of March (I’ve mentioned why).
    And from earlier NC links today:
    “A new Suez crisis threatens the world economy” Economist

  14. antidlc


    Scoop: Inside the Biden White House’s aggressive back-to-office push

    White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, facing huge numbers of federal workers who aren’t coming to the office, is privately pushing Cabinet secretaries to break their staffs’ stubborn work-from-home habits.

    Why it matters: Only about half of Cabinet agencies have achieved the White House’s goals for returning to offices by January, according to an administration official. Zients wants to inject more urgency into the effort.

    With over 2.2 million employees, the federal government is the largest employer in the country.
    In D.C., the reluctance of some 200,000 federal workers to return to the office has devastated local business downtown.

    And I missed this one…

    Scoop: Biden agency head works mostly from Missouri, not D.C.

    The leader of the D.C.-based General Services Administration worked remotely from Missouri most of the time in the year after the agency’s “full re-entry” plan called employees back to their offices, according to a GSA letter to Congress obtained by Axios.

    Why it matters: The calendar records of GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan, cited in the letter, are the latest example of how remote work has continued after the pandemic for many federal workers — even at top levels of the Biden administration — despite the president’s 17-month push for more in-office work.

    1. Lee

      “…stubborn work-from-home habits.”

      “Stubborn…habits”, as one might attribute to someone being unreasonably obstructive, rather than a less pejorative descriptor such as demonstrating a “reasonable preference” for working from home.

    2. chris

      We have neighbors who are fighting the return to office in DC with every tool their union gives them. Even though they were hired into a position that was never promised to be work from home, it only was work from home because of the pandemic lock down. Of the 10 people I personally know who are most vocal about it, 6 have told me they’ll quit before they return to working in DC any day of the week. Not sure who is going to blink first here.

  15. rowlf

    I normally work in another area of my company for various reasons, but today I had to stop by my department’s area for a meeting with my boss. While swinging by my assigned-but-rarely-used mini-cubicle in what was supposed to an open office concept area I noticed the cubicle farm was very empty. Asking a friend, he replied a lot of people were out with Covid.

    A lot of the people in the cubicle farm were fond of discussing how many booster shots they had. Piling into a company van to go to lunch was popular too.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “Ministry of Justice plan to destroy historical wills is ‘insane’, say experts”

    This is insane. I saw a video showing where these wills are kept and you could see that it was a treasure trove. The £4.5m a year that they might possibly save would only be spent on upgrades to the offices of the Ministry of Justice and bonuses for executive staff. Yes, digitizing is a good idea for access but without the originals, we would be one Carrington Event away from loosing it all. Or maybe it would be an update gone wrong or a malicious hacker or any number of single-point failure problems. This is not bureaucratic efficiency but laziness and not wanting to be bothered about doing the job that they are paid to do. It is like a campaign to get rid of the past and anything associated with it.

    Not the first time that something like this has happened. Like when the UK government ordered the burning of medieval tally sticks which to us would have been a treasure trove of information. And that one backfired badly as well-


    1. petal

      Sometimes I wonder if they(the UK) are trying to destroy themselves. This is another one to add to the list. It’s kind of fascinating and sad at the same time. Like they are bent on self-destruction.

      1. ChrisRUEcon

        > Sometimes I wonder if they(the UK) are trying to destroy themselves

        Not destroy themselves as much as putting themselves up for sale to highest bidder, and anything that can’t be sold will be destroyed (somebody commented earlier today about America’s numero uno retailer destroying perfectly fine books that could not be sold … #SameSame). No sense of history. No sense of tradition. They’re acting like apathetic offspring going through the attic after the death of an elderly matriarch or patriarch. Nothing they see has real meaning, so … be rid of it … unless it can fetch a pretty penny.

        I was playing a little mental game of fast-forward the other day by asking myself what the UK might look like in 30 – 50 years. I concluded that by that time, much of it would be owned by rich Arab interests. What Thatcher started in the last century will come to its unintended fruition toward the end of this century. What has already started as so-called sports-washing will turn into deeper forays of Arab wealth into the fabric of UK society. Football and Formula 1 teams today – real estate, public transport and media by 2050.

  17. Jason Boxman

    If you want us to vote for you, you’re going to first listen.


    You mean they should deliver, first. Listen? What a stupid demand, if demand it even is.

  18. ambrit

    North American Deep South Mini-Zeitgeist Report.
    Got back from the closer ‘local’ grocery store just now. Prices were visibly up again. Frozen foods section was consistently up 10% in price. Prices of juices the same. Canned goods up in segments. Soups etc up 10%, while canned vegetables flat. Sugary drinks and water holding firm while beer and wine up.
    Now have to detour about an extra quarter of a mile on the walk to that store. The Zoo adjacent Water Park project has finally closed off the old concrete road bridge over the drainage ditch, think a smaller version of the oft filmed Los Angeles drainage canyons, that connects the Zoo area with the water park area. Pedestrians now have to detour across a pedestrian bridge upstream from the concrete one.
    The first thing the project did was to cut down about a half a dozen thirty year old hardwood trees that surrounded the old ball park parking lot and the tennis courts. Previously hosting a mix of sweet gums and overcup oaks, the site is now a big flat expanse of sterility.
    Finally, dear middle sister, who lives outside of Kansas City, said that she was just beginning to feel better seven days after catching the Coronavirus. She presented with symptoms eight days ago, and verified the diagnosis with a swab test. Counting backwards from when she noticed symptoms, we determined that she probably caught it at a Thanksgiving party with friends and relatives of her husband. She states that this was the worst she has felt in years. Her joints were so painful she did not move unless absolutely necessary. Loss of the sense of taste, but not the sense of smell. “Everything tastes like icky gooey mud.” Loss of taste still in effect. Body aches and twinges of joint pain ongoing. “I still feel like hammered dog s—!” Irregular coughing, but it is producing mucous. She turned away from her telephone several times during the conversation for about thirty seconds at a time and coughed like a terminal tobacco smoker.
    Moral of story: cultivate misanthropy.
    Stay safe, stay home for the holidays.

  19. notabanker


    Of course, the lede is buried in the last paragraph. the settlement does not to address the core behavior of Google. Just for reference, if Alphabet took a full charge for this settlement against their last quarter earnings, their net profit would have been reduced to….. wait for it….. $19 billion dollars.

    Yes you read that correctly. Last quarter they booked $19.69 billion in profits. For one quarter.

  20. Benny Profane

    Trump’s poll rise after indictments closely parallels the Russian economy after 11 sanctions.

  21. booze

    Lambert, I’ve seen the question asked a number of times on Ask Metafilter. Try googling “ask metafilter how to not talk so loud” for various tips.

    1. Lee

      And they thought the Jan. 6 riots were deplorable. I don’t know whether to make popcorn or stock up on toilet paper, canned foods, and ammo. Do the brain dead Dems recall how many people voted for Trump and how they might react to this denial of their suffrage rights by a few Democrat appointed members of the least democratically representative branch of government?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > terrible idea

      We are of one accord on this.

      I also note that Trump has now been “convicted” by a state court of insurrection, something no prosecutor has even charged him with; nor any other participant in January 6 (“parading without a permit,” “interfering with an official proceeding,” etc.). That’s beyond ridiculous. The crime of insurrection is on the books[1]. Why were there no charges for it? Occam’s Razor suggests the reason: It never happened.[2]

      [1] 18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection.

      [2] Not even the Proud Boys! (“To be an enemy of law enforcement is dangerous; to be an informer is fatal.”)

      1. Nikkikat

        Exactly! The first question I asked after reading the headline, was who convicted him for the so called insurrection?

  22. Big River Bandido

    Professional singer and college professor. I recommend you take voice lessons with a serious vocal music coach (opera or jazz), and not musical theater or “pop”; vocal training for the latter being less standardized and more “popular”, you are more likely to pay for bad advice.

    I would advise against some of the counsel expressed above. Changing your spoken pitch on a whim as this could add strain to the voice and tire you out much more quickly. I would absolutely advise against “adding more air” to the tone as too this will be harmful and counterproductive.

    Your use of the word “register” suggests that your normal speaking pitch is high. If that’s the case, so be it. It’s probably more healthy for you, and may actually be your “natural” speaking pitch. The impulse to lower our vocal pitch is, like vocal fry (another bad speaking habit common in this culture) terribly unhealthy for the vocal mechanism over time.

    I would endorse the view expressed above that you should treat this criticism with extreme skepticism. Criticism of another’s speaking voice is rude and inappropriate. I am reminded of Abuelita, who used exactly those words when she was losing a debate with Bernie Sanders. Think of it this way: if someone savaged your dress or your body image, how would you respond? Im inclined to believe there’d not much difference in the criticisms. Most people who tell others to “lower their tone” are, like Hillary Clinton, ax grinders with issues and nasty people, to boot. Besides, who would ever want their voice to sound like Her, anyway?

    1. britzklieg

      I agree, especially about adding breath or air. It’s the exact opposite, one wants to minimize the breath used – the air stays in the mouth.

      And in case my comment above about vowels is misinterpreted, making the vowel on the vocal chords is decidedly not the same as vocal fry. Watch Leontyne Price singing “ee” with her mouth as open as when she sings “ah” then try it – chances are the vowel will be pinched forward into the nose or else a flabby and diffuse non-vowel as most people form their vowels with their lips and change the mouth cavity to accommodate it. Good singers sing with a neutral, open mouth and minimize the use of the lips to “shape” the vowel. The aperture at the pallette is tiny – the “ng” place with a very small opening behind it. I also agree that trying to lower the normal pitch of one’s natural voice by lowering the larynx is a mis-step, but a nasal voice, particularly annoying to hear and not properly resonating even if it feels “forward” and focused, will be helped by a properly produced vowel on the vocal chords and usually results in the rounder sound, more rich in overtones and perceived by the listener as lower in “pitch” even when it actually isn’t. Resonance is a result, a reflection of the sound created on the vocal chords, the only place a vocal sound can be created. It is not a “placement” in the head, or what is commonly and erroneously referred to as the “mask.” It’s a reflection. And all of that technique can be applied to the speaking voice for purposes of projection. No microphone required.

      I’m 67 years old and my voice is still in very good shape, no wobble thank god (!). I no longer have the stamina for singing opera but that has more to do with the muscles needed to keep the air compressed under the vocal chords… again, the vocal chords move the air, the air does not move the vocal chords. The air compression is sub-glottal.


    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I would endorse the view expressed above that you should treat this criticism with extreme skepticism.

      There’s no question in my mind that the recommendation comes from a place of good will. In any case, having more control over a greater range seems like a good idea. I don’t want to permanently “lower my voice” in all cases; but I want to be able to, consciously and with seeming naturalness, situationally.

  23. Pat

    Wild and crazy thought. If, and I do think it is an if, Colorado manages to keep Trump off the ballot, that would be the time for everyone to go third party just not No Labels (which is too obviously a front.) Not voting the top line would probably end out working too well for Biden.

    Not only a third party win deny the Democratic Party the electoral college votes destroying any advantage they believed it would provide, it would also send a massive blow to the solar plexus of our accepted uniparty. They despise third parties.

  24. skippy

    Per the whole weather thingy in OZ – see – https://www.windy.com/-27.468/153.032?radar,-29.963,151.512,7

    Its only the beginning to cyclone season and people are dropping like fly’s from COVID and its not even Xmas yet … next month will be very interesting IMO …

    BTW Anna our Labour MP for Queensland after a epic 9 yr run [record for a female] has punched out for the big pay day, so the network is in flux …

    Good times ahead …

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