2:00PM Water Cooler 12/21/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Snow Partridge, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India.

* * *


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

The Constitutional Order

Everybody into the pool:

This pair of tweets is especially humorous because proponents of the idea that Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment is “self-executing” believe that disqualifying a candidate because of their age is conceptually and operationally equal to disqualifying them as an insurrectionist. Yet here we have California’s Lieutenant Governor butchering the simple matter of age requirements. (Note also the importance of the end run round the finding of fact in the Colorado case; that the events of January 6 were an insurrection, and that Trump is an insurrectionist, is now treated as a given, even though there’s a Federal law on the books against insurrection, and neither the Justice Department nor any Special Prosecutor have charged or convicted Trump under it.)

“Texas leader wants Biden kicked off state’s 2024 ballot over immigration” [Washington Times]. “Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday that President Biden should be taken off the 2024 ballot for causing an illegal immigration crisis…. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a law earlier this week that allows for the prosecution of migrants coming into the state illegally. Under the law, anyone who enters the country illegally from Mexico can be arrested. Once arrested, they can either leave the U.S. or be charged with misdemeanors. Mr. Patrick said the Texas Senate spent a lot of time writing the bill, and he believes it will ‘survive any type of Supreme Court challenge because we are being invaded.'” • Not sure I see the theory of the case here, but doubtless The Lege can come up with something…

“Republicans float booting Biden off state ballots after Trump ruling” [New York Post]. “While condemning the Colorado decision, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pondered aloud what the limiting principle would be for that policy. ‘Could we just say that Biden can’t be on the ballot because he let in 8 million illegals into the country, and violated the Constitution?’ he asked Wednesday at a campaign event in Iowa. ‘If Colorado is taking Trump off the ballot, Florida and Texas should take Biden off the ballot,’ conservative influencer Rogan O’Handley said. ‘Allowing 8M+ illegal aliens into America is the greatest form of insurrection[.] See how slippery this slope gets?'” • Funny to see terms like “limiting principle” pop up in the New York Post. But I think (see “gingerly” immediately below) that the Republicans have managed to get hold of the right end of the stick on this. I’ve noticed, for example, that the broader the definition of “insurrection” is made — presumably to catch Trump — the more other cases get caught up in it. Again, were the George Floyd riots really an insurrection? Why not?

“The Mainstream Against Democracy” [The American Conservative]. “The most pertinent and intriguing question is this: What would things have looked like if, instead of choosing the path of lawfare and #Resistance, mainstream parties had sought to accommodate populist voters and/or offer them an even more enticing vision of what the future might look like? That’s the question posed, most acutely, by progressive critics of the Colorado decision, including Samuel Moyn, Sam Haselby, and Ben Burgis, among many others. Their point, addressing the left from the left, is that the Trump phenomenon is a political problem. If you don’t like him, you had better offer a compelling alternative around which an enduring national majority might coalesce. Keeping Trump off the ballot in Colorado (and perhaps elsewhere), writes Moyn, ‘transforms what ought to be a national referendum on the future of the country into a national spectacle of how judges will interpret a provision from its past.’ Such a move might—emphasis on might—save Joe Biden, but it would come at great cost: an unprecedented national explosion. And in the end, it couldn’t save the Democrats—or establishment Republicans, for that matter—’from their nonnegotiable responsibility to win power by winning elections.'” • Not only do I not love Trump, I’m not a conservative; democratizing capital allocation is hardly a conservative agenda item. So I get near them pretty gingerly. But here we are. Quoting from the article:


It’s hard to imagine anything more “reckless” than setting a precedent for Democrat electeds and appointees to remove Republican candidates from the ballot on anything other than mechanical grounds (age, citizenship, etc.). What happens when Republicans start doing the same to Democrats? Only a Federalist Society member from the University of Chicago would think nothing of opening a Pandora’s box like that.

Capitol Seizure

“You saw it all”:

“Self-evident,” if you are a liberal Democrat:

“Self-evident,” if you are not:

Biden Administration

The spooks send a message:

Slotkin, Spanberger, and Sherrill are also CIA Democrats. Moulton’s PAC backs them.


Less than a year to go!

* * *

“On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari Before Judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit” (PDF) [BRIEF OF FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL EDWIN MEESE III AND LAW PROFESSORS STEVEN G. CALABRESI AND GARY S. LAWSON AS AMICI CURIAE SUPPORTING NEITHER PARTY, UNITED STATES, In the Supreme Court of the United States]. Ed Meese? What? Anyhow: “The illegality addressed in this brief started on November 18, 2022, when Attorney General Merrick Garland exceeded his statutory and constitutional authority by purporting to appoint Smith to serve as Special First, the Appointments Clause requires that all federal offices “not otherwise provided for” in the Constitution must be “established by Law,” U.S. Const. art. II, §2, cl. 2, and there is no statute establishing the Office of Special Counsel in DOJ.Counsel for the Department of Justice (DOJ). … First, the Appointments Clause requires that all federal offices ‘not otherwise provided for’ in the Constitution must be ‘established by Law,’ U.S. Const.

art. II, §2, cl. 2, and there is no statute establishing the Office of Special Counsel in DOJ. The statutory provisions relied upon by DOJ and lower courts for the appointment of special counsels over the past half century do not authorize the creation and appointment of special counsels at the level of United States Attorneys. And United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), does not hold to the contrary, because no question was ever raised in that case about the validity of the independent counsel’s appointment…. Second, even if one overlooks the absence of statutory authority for the position, there is no statute specifically authorizing the Attorney General, rather than the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint such a Special Counsel…. Third, the Special Counsel, if a valid officer, is a superior (or principal) rather than inferior officer, and thus cannot be appointed by any means other than presidential appointment and senatorial confirmation regardless of what any statutes purport to say….. What federal statutes and the Constitution do not allow, however, is for the Attorney General to appoint a private citizen, who has never been confirmed by the Senate, as a substitute United States Attorney under the title “Special Counsel.” That is what happened on November 18, 2022. That appointment was unlawful, as are all the legal actions that have flowed from it, including citizen Smith’s current attempt to obtain a ruling from this Court.” • Smith was indeed a “private citizen” (chief prosecutor for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague) at the time of his appointment. So there’s that.

“Jack Smith added a Supreme Court specialist. Trump has the Missouri lawyer who sued Joe Biden” [Politico]. The deck: “A large experience gap is emerging as the special counsel and the former president assemble their Supreme Court teams.” • Yes, lawyers, as a class, decided that Trump didn’t deserve representation and closed ranks against Trump long ago (with the result that Trump can’t get good help, and we get clowns like Guiliani or the kraken lady). One imagines the perplexity and mistrust at the Court, but perhaps they will find a way to overcome it. And one might also urge that the worse your case, the better your lawyer must be….

“Jack Smith To SCOTUS: Yes, There Absolutely Is A Reason To Rush Trump’s Case” [HuffPost]. “The Washington, D.C., criminal case against Trump is set for trial starting on March 4. However, Trump’s appeal of Chutkan’s ruling denying him immunity has put a hold on proceedings. Smith went directly to the Supreme Court last week to skip over the intermediate federal appeals court. Neither Smith nor Trump’s lawyers have put in writing one unique feature of the case: Trump, if he regains the presidency before the trial is concluded, is almost certain to order the Department of Justice to dismiss all federal charges against him.”

“Jack Smith urges swift and ‘definitive’ action from the Supreme Court on Trump’s immunity claim” [Independent]. Theory of the case: “Prosecutors have argued that the former president relied on knowingly false [to whom?} claims about the election to pressure state officials to approve fraudulent slates of electors to obstruct the certification of the results, then attempted to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse the outcome, and, ultimately, failed to dissuade a mob of his supporters from rioting at the US Capitol on January 6.” • I have always thought that the “contingent electors” attack was the most dangerous one politically, simply because it looks very much like some innocent true believers got suckered into the process. Not good! But if you look at the verbs and adverbs in that sentence, none of the links in the chain — helpfully underlined — are especially strong. “Failed to persuade” is especially weak. The Capitol Riots were not the Finland Station, not even close.

* * *

“The grifter defense: The Bidens move to embrace influence peddling with a twist” [Jonathan Turley]. “The FBI tape is the latest example of how the Bidens would market their name and access. The surveillance occurred in the bribery investigation into Mississippi trial attorney Richard Scruggs. Like many Biden associates, Scruggs would eventually go to prison while the Bidens remained untouched. Scruggs forked over $100,000 to James Biden when he was seeking to reinforce support for the massive tobacco legislation and Joe Biden was viewed as skeptical on what some viewed as a windfall for trial lawyers. Scruggs admitted to the Washington Post that ‘I probably wouldn’t have hired [James Biden] if he wasn’t the senator’s brother.’ Scruggs was just another shady figure whose business association with the Bidens would ultimately end with a prison stint. As soon as the tape came out, so did the new defense. James Biden took the money but allegedly did nothing to land his brother. If that sounds familiar, it should. After Hunter Biden’s former business associate Devon Archer admitted that they were selling the ‘Biden brand,’ the Bidens’ defenders immediately insisted that it was merely ‘illusory.’ In other words, these corrupt figures wanted to buy influence and access, but they were just chumps fleeced by the Bidens. The idea is to get the public to think less of coked up Henry Hill in ‘Goodfellas’ and more of the lovable professor Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man,’ the charming rascal ripping off hayseeds by selling marching bands. It is a curious defense that we are not corrupt because we just ripped off dupes who were corrupt people. The problem, of course, is that influence peddling is a form of corruption. Indeed, it is a form of corruption that is so damaging to good government that the United States has pushed global agreements to ban influence peddling in other countries. The question is whether Joe Biden knew about the influence peddling of his brothers and his son.” • Hard to imagine not; everybody did. I mean, there’s Hunter, swanning about, making “casual” calls to Dad from bizness meetings. Grant that Hunter is selling “the illusion of access.” How does Dad not know the score?

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.

* * *

For one glorious moment under the Trump administration, we had something approaching a welfare state:

And then Biden was elected. (Regardless of how you feel about vax, the vax program was in fact single payer: Free at the point of care. Dangerous!)

The Democrats must believe, deeply believe, that “keep fighting for” is effective rhetoric:

And maybe it is, but not the way that they think…

Realignment and Legitimacy


“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 (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, 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, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Scientific Communication

Or the communication that flourishes in the absence of scientific communication:

I hate that “mind virus” term but there’s no question it names a real phenomenon, even if the mechanism is (?) off:

Just as sensible as “immunity debt,” invented, IIRC, by bent pediatricians in the UK, just as “mild” emerged out of the media’s quantum foam in South Africa, and was suddenly everywhere.


“Does COVID prefer the gut now? Surging virus detections in wastewater prompt scientific debate” [Bloomberg]. “Spiking COVID-19 cases detected in wastewater have prompted some scientists to ask whether JN.1, the strain driving an explosive winter surge, is selectively targeting peoples’ intestinal tracts. The evidence is extremely limited and theoretical, and there’s no data suggesting that more people are experiencing severe digestive illnesses from COVID. Yet there’s no question that the coronavirus has changed its requirements for entering cells, said Sydney virologist Stuart Turville. This may be consistent with more efficient infection of particular tissues including the gut. It’s just one of the many debates swirling around JN.1. The variant is so highly infectious and immune evasive that some scientists believe it needs its own Greek name to separate it from its highly infectious progenitor, omicron…. JN.1 is the fastest-growing variant to emerge in the past two years. The World Health Organization designated it a variant of interest Tuesday due to its rapid growth and potential to add to the respiratory virus burden in the Northern Hemisphere. “People are detecting it in wastewater at as high a rate as they were detecting omicron when it first emerged,” said Kanta Subbarao, director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, who chairs the agency’s technical advisory group on COVID vaccine composition. ‘But so far, we’re not seeing a parallel or concomitant increase in hospitalization. I think we have to watch that space.'” • No “concomitant increase in hospitalization” may be true in Australia. It’s certainly not true in the hard hit UK, and I don’t think it’s true in New York, at least (see below). We know from the CDC’s traveler program that the JN.1 varaint has been increasing and now dominates at airports; and since New York is major interational hub, it makes sense it would spread from there. That was also the pattern in 2020…


“Study helps explain post-COVID exercise intolerance” (press release) [Yale].

“Something Awful”

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

* * *

Elite Maleficence

WHO and CDC no longer in lockstep to oblivion:

“States are trashing troves of masks and pandemic gear as huge, costly stockpiles linger and expire” [Associated Press]. • Nice timing! Those who do not learn from the past….

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED 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 16:

Lambert: Return to upward movement. 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 20:

Lambert here: Upward spike confirmed, and concerning.

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?


NOT UPDATED 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 16:

Lambert here: Plateauing. 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 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.


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 9:

Stats Watch

GDP: “United States GDP Growth Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The American economy expanded an annualized 4.9% in the third quarter of 2023, slightly below 5.2% in the second estimate, but matching the 4.9% initially reported in the advance estimate. It still marks the strongest growth since Q4 2021.”

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits edged higher by 2,000 to 205,000 on the week ending December 16th, holding close to the two-month low of 203 hit in the previous week and well below market expectations of 215,000.”

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US declined to -10.5 in December 2023 from -5.9 in the prior month and far worse than market estimates of -3. This is the index’s 17th negative reading in the past 19 months. ”

Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production index was at -4 in December of 2023, little changed from -3 in the previous month. there was an increase in activity for nondurable goods, specifically food & beverage and plastics manufacturing. Conversely, there was a slight decline in activity for durable goods, mainly due to primary metal and furniture manufacturing. The production, shipments, and new orders indexes all had slightly negative values, while employment activity experienced a rebound. Moreover, after several stagnant months, inventories for raw materials and finished goods witnessed a minor increase.”

* * *

Intellectual Property: “2024’s public domain is a banger” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “They stole something from you. For decades, they stole it. That thing they stole? Your entire culture. For all of human history, works created in living memory entered the public domain every year. 40 years ago, that stopped. First in 1976, and then again in 1998, Congress retroactively extended copyright’s duration by 20 years, for all works, including works whose authors were unknown and long dead, whose proper successors could not be located. Many of these authors were permanently erased from history as every known copy of their works disappeared before they could be brought back into our culture through reproduction, adaptation and re-use (copyright is “strict liability,” meaning that even if you pay to clear the rights to a work from someone who has good reason to believe they control those rights, if they’re wrong, you are on the hook as an infringer, and the statutory damages run to six figures). Works that are still in our cultural currents 50 or 70 or 90 years after their creation are an infinitesimal fraction of all the works we create as a species. But these works are – by definition – extraordinarily important to our culture. The creators who made these works were able to plunder a rich public domain of still-current works as inputs to their own enduring creations. The slow-motion arson attack on the public domain meant that two generations of creators were denied the public domain that every other creator in the history of the human race had enjoyed.” •

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Extreme Greed (previous close: 71 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 70 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 21 at 1:17:07 PM ET.

The Gallery


The blur of the ink gives a sense of motion to the fish.

Class Warfare

“$750 a month, no questions asked, improved the lives of homeless people” [Los Angeles Times]. “If 100 homeless people were given $750 per month for a year, no questions asked, what would they spend it on? That question was at the core of a controlled study conducted by a San Francisco-based nonprofit and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The results were so promising that the researchers decided to publish results after only six months. The answer: food, 36.6%; housing, 19.5%; transportation, 12.7%; clothing, 11.5%; and healthcare, 6.2%, leaving only 13.6% uncategorized…. ‘I spent a lot of the money on food on the go,’ one participant told the researchers. ‘Simple, cheap things like bean and cheese burritos. I eat on the run while I bike/work for DoorDash. I also bought a membership to REI, so I could get my bike fixed for free.'” • Homeless DoorDash workers….

News of the Wired

“Geologists say plastic rocks are now a thing” [ZME Science]. “Unlike traditional sedimentary rocks like limestone or sandstone, plastistone is a hybrid of natural rock and synthetic plastic. This combination occurs when plastic waste becomes intertwined with natural rock elements, leading to a unique geological formation. The process of lithification, which turns loose sediment into solid rock, is at play here, incorporating plastic as part of the rock matrix. Plastistones have been found on a global scale, both in coastal and inland regions, the two researchers say. They form through the fusion of natural rock and plastic waste — a startling indicator of human impact on the planet…. ‘In this context, we propose the adoption of an existing term ‘plastistone’ with a revised definition to collectively describe these novel plastic forms,’ write Liuwei Wang and Deyi Hou from Tsinghua University.” • And speaking of rocks–

“New nuclear deflection simulations advance planetary defense against asteroid threats” [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]. “Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a modeling tool for assessing the potential use of a nuclear device to defend the planet against catastrophic asteroid impacts…. Nuclear devices have the highest ratio of energy density per unit of mass of any human technology, making them an invaluable tool in mitigating asteroid threats, said LLNL physicist Mary Burkey, who led the research…. ‘If we have enough warning time, we could potentially launch a nuclear device, sending it millions of miles away to an asteroid that is headed toward Earth,’ Burkey said. ‘We would then detonate the device and either deflect the asteroid, keeping it intact but providing a controlled push away from Earth, or we could disrupt the asteroid, breaking it up into small, fast-moving fragments that would also miss the planet.'” • Glad we’ve got that covered….

* * *

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 Dog:

Desert Dawg writes: “My daughter sent this photo of the tree that she walks by every day while walking her dogs. Its unique shape is sort of similar to to mine. We both like non normal things I guess.”

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. Randall Flagg

    Something quite beautiful in that picture of that tree all by itself and the road stretching past it to the horizon. How many have traveled past that tree?. How much has come and gone by and around it? How many blizzards, storms of all sorts, droughts? And it’s still there like a sentinel. Thanks for posting that.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Isn’t it beautful? I was quite taken with it. It’s also nice becaue the eye is led past the tree into the distance very simply, and not with the cliche of an S curve.

      1. Randall Flagg

        I feel compelled to pull it off somehow and frame it..

        Can’t help but think that if we do manage to wreck ourselves right into extinction, nature and Earth will be fine, the beauty will go on, just no one left to appreciate it.

      2. skippy

        After all the human views are … its a survivor … beauty, form, photographic quality, and viewers emotions about it all ***all moot*** – IT – lives in a demanding environment and has done so with out human eyes or actions to facilitate that …

        It does not exist for for us to appreciate it ….

    2. Sub-Boreal

      Indeed, a lovely tree! Can the submitter tell us the general location? It reminds me of a similar-shaped interior Douglas-fir that I photographed many years ago in a central British Columbia grassland. (But my photo has the S curve cliche of the Fraser River canyon in the middle distance, so now I’m embarrassed to submit it.)

    3. ambrit

      It has the ‘feel’ of endless distance of a Fredrick Remington desert West painting.
      The colour mix reminds me of something Impressionist.

  2. Sub-Boreal

    An earlier report on plastic rocks, from a Hawaiian beach. Despite the location, the investigators found that the most likely heat source was campfires, not volcanic activity.

    1. The Rev Kev

      If humans go extinct, at least there will be a thin layer of plastistones to show that we were once here long after even the pyramids have been eroded into the ground. And the archaeologists of the next sentient species that arises and takes our place may even call us the “plastic people”.

  3. Samuel Conner

    With the discontinuation of the “excess deaths” chart (which seemed kind of pointless, given the very wide uncertainty band), perhaps there is room for additional COVID metrics.

    How about measures that may contain information about long term consequences?

    I don’t recall seeing this chart (“population with a disability”) highlighted before:


    there seems to be a change in slope in mid-2000.

    (Maybe the disability insurance gatekeepers are increasingly brain-fogged and are letting too many applicants through. /s)

    1. ChrisFromGA

      I might be wrong, but I think that the disability graph is not defined as folks who successfully got social security disability, but those who formally claim a disability at work. As in notifying HR and getting some accommodation. The source seems to be either BLS or census data. Household survey implies the former … if so, it may be very dubious as anyone can claim a disability on a survey.

      The trend may be a direct result of the pandemic, long covid, or it could be folks being shrewd about staying off the layoff list or becoming job-kill for the latest “Return to Office” jihad.

    2. Jason Boxman

      Even if that under reports by an order of magnitude, 3.5m disabled doesn’t seem enough to break capitalism. My expectation that things are going to breakdown is clearly a very early call, or simply wrong. That said, I don’t plan on getting infected if I can help it. Getting brain damage, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, immune damage at the individual level would be catastrophic, particularly in neoliberal America.

  4. Thomas F Dority

    “The American economy expanded an annualized 4.9% in the third quarter of 2023, slightly below 5.2% in the second estimate, but matching the 4.9% initially reported in the advance estimate. It still marks the strongest growth since Q4 2021.”
    Funny how that tracks the fed funds rate – funny thing that

    1. skippy

      Yet expanded is a funny term when not reconciled with distribution of funds or long term wage PPP for base goods. Then the money cranks are enabled ….

    2. griffen

      I’m more cynical and think of the GDP print as a sugar buzz high so to speak, boosted by government spending now operating in a new fiscal year ( June to June ). And I don’t just mean, the US government largesse directed at our MIC industries although that’s awfully convenient. Also I’d contend there will be lag effects from both the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPs ACT funding to states and industries in the coming years. Anecdotal it may be, here in the southeastern US there are several massive battery plants going up; Toyota is building a massively large installation near the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

      Guns, ammo and butter, sparing the butter for us Americans of course.

  5. Carolinian

    Re the Biden/MSM “me or your lying eyes” defense of corruption–later he was heard to say “sure the Palestinians may be getting their hair mussed but we have to send a message to the Middle East about who is in charge.”


    Sadly Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick are no longer around to give our era and media the appropriate treatment. We can still read between the current lines though.

    1. Randall Flagg

      I can’t help but think that George Carlin would be having a field day as well. A vicious one to boot. I for one really miss his observations…

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘we have to send a message to the Middle East about who is in charge’

      Like they did in Europe by using the Ukrainians as a proxy? How is that working out for the US and the Europeans? Not so well I heard. And the Middle east is a much more complicated arena than Europe and the war there is not ever yet.

  6. ChrisFromGA

    Inspired by Antifa’s earlier Twelve Days of Christmas parody, and with my first use of AI as an assistant, revealing my true lack of ethics and possible replacement by AI, here is more song-mangling nonsense:

    On the twelfth day of Techmas, our tech overlords decreed:

    Twelve apps a stealin’
    Eleven CAPTCHAs taunting
    Ten data breaches
    Nine algorithms spyin’
    Eight ads a-stalking
    Seven startups failing
    Six frameworks obsolescent

    Broken… metaverse .. dreams

    Four blue screens of death
    Three Zoom bombs
    Twitter p0wned by Musk

    And you’ll choke on AI ’til profit margins scream!

  7. Pavel

    I’m listening to Glenn Greenwald’s forensic analysis of the flaws of the Colorado decision and its implications (spoiler alert: devastating) for US democracy — what’s left of it. [This is from his System Update podcast or Rumble broadcast.]

    Turley as well thinks this is horrific, as does Dershowitz (whom I can’t stand) — both of whom didn’t vote for Trump. Jimmy Dore thinks they — the Dems — actively want a new civil war. I don’t know if Dore is correct but it sure seems that way.

    It’s terrifying how many people think the CO decision is evenly remotely just.

    The USA may truly be on the verge of breaking up. Scary times. As Greenwald says, the Dems claim to be saving democracy but they are burning it down.

    1. Randall Flagg

      C’mon man, can’t be true! Lawrence Tribe was on the NPR PMC news show “Here and Now “today stating what a great and intelligent decision that CO court handed down…
      Sarcasm off now.

    2. Reply

      If one is to believe the mutterings about evidence of Dem crimes, thus far suppressed, then Team Dem should fight tooth and nail to keep suppressing down the Memory Hole. There are perps galore in those schemes, from the odd PC wiper-with-a-cloth to locals handling extraneous identical ballots.
      How many are just sick of the lies and lying liars of all sides? Just release the stuff, bring miscreants to justice and move on to begin restoring some sanity.

  8. McHenry

    ‘Could we just say that Biden can’t be on the ballot because he let in 8 million illegals into the country, and violated the Constitution?’

    That number is meaningless without context:

    At the start of 2023, the net cost of illegal immigration for the United States – at the federal, state, and local levels – was at least $150.7 billion.

    FAIR arrived at this number by subtracting the tax revenue paid by illegal aliens – just under $32 billion – from the gross negative economic impact of illegal immigration, $182 billion.

    In 2017, the estimated net cost of illegal migration was approximately $116 billion. In just 5 years, the cost to Americans has increased by nearly $35 billion.

    Illegal immigration costs each American taxpayer $1,156 per year ($957 after factoring in taxes paid by illegal aliens).

    Each illegal alien or U.S.-born child of illegal aliens costs the U.S. $8,776 annually.


    1. Reply

      There is a book titled The Dying Citizen that you may find interesting and thought-provoking. It addresses much historical context and examples to help understand from a civilizational viewpoint. There are references to Greece and Rome, as well as medieval societies, to show roles and how those societies rose and fell. There are distinctions made between citizen and resident, and what those have meant across the eras. Probably available in libraries or the usual online outlets.

    2. Late Introvert

      I’m not in favor of open borders either. Quoting some questionable stats is nice and all (leave out all the sales taxes they pay for one), but if only the CEOs who hire all of these illegal immigrants were put in federal prison this problem would dry up tomorrow.

      The people who whine on and on about illegals and never mention this have a big SNOOZE button on the top of their heads.

  9. The Rev Kev

    “The grifter defense: The Bidens move to embrace influence peddling with a twist”

    Richard Scruggs going to the slammer while James Biden walks? There is precedence for this sort of thing. The author Robert Heinlein was outraged by a court decision – this must have been in the forties or fifties – where a guy was found guilty of receiving a bribe was sent to prison while the guy that gave the bribe was found not guilty and walked. He called that decision “jugheaded” but I am sure he had a lot of other descriptive words not fit for publication.

    1. LifelongLib

      A result like that might be plausible if (say) the cases were tried separately and the recipient refused to testify against the person offering the bribe, or didn’t know who they were. Maybe the alleged briber was just a bagman? Can’t be sure without specifics…

  10. John k

    …maybe the dems could run on a platform that would excite voters…
    No, imo they can’t. Such a platform might promise m4a, catch up min wage for past and current inflation, pay ss from general fund and stop talk of insolvency, fund the irs to go after high rollers instead of little people, fix the post office, etc etc, just as Bernie did do in 2016 and 20. But they can’t because the donors would cut them off and fund the reps, and without donor dollars they are, or think they are, toast. They’re in a box that forces them to be craven and corrupt, plus they’ve been that for so long none think they could believably be a Bernie.

    1. JaaaaaCeeeee

      Bernie’s platform told Dems pretty clearly what they refused to/did not dare to hear, for the sake of their donors. I’m impressed how long donors have successfully demanded the extension of an unsustainable status quo.

  11. kareninca

    There are an astounding number of posts today on reddit/covid/positive by people who just caught covid, many of them for the first time. If this isn’t being gamed it is a real signal. There have been no reports of dire symptoms, but of course the long term effects of the current variants are not known.

    I have a co-religionist in her late 70s who is exceptionally intelligent; she is the daughter of two famous academics although of course that is not necessary for smarts. She knows perfectly well how covid is spread; however, because her daughter married into an Amish family, she and her husband have not felt able to wear masks. He is a retired health professional so it is especially ridiculous. They’ve both had covid twice now. Yesterday after worship she mentioned that she had felt moved by God that day to not go into a particular store because of the risk of covid. I will not deny that that may have happened and I will also say that nearly any excuse is a good one for avoiding covid.

    1. elissa3


      Haven’t seen anything from Haley in months, so this was like a re-introduction to her utter, total, irredeemable insanity. That this person is considered, even by very few, as a credible candidate for president shows how low the Empire has sunk. I thought bottom was reached with Palin, but we keep scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  12. kareninca

    I gave up shopping at Walmart even before the pandemic because it had become so horrible with so many items behind locked plexiglass and the scrum of the self-checkout corral. I order some stuff on their website, but I stay far away from the store itself. Several people I know don’t have that option, because they do have the lowest prices, but I can pay more and avoid the misery.

    So I do a reasonable amount of shopping instead at Walgreen’s. The location where I get our prescriptions is in a rich town in Silicon Valley. My practice was to go inside, grab a shopping cart, pick up our meds, and then wander the store and fill up the cart with adult diapers (father in law), wine, milk, toilet paper, cereal, the usual. Then pay for it and push the cart out to my car. That is, I would shop.

    But I can’t do that now. Too many carts were being stolen, so they have attached a long pole to the side of each cart, and that prevents the cart from leaving the store. You can wander the store and fill your cart, and then check out, but once you get to the door, you will find that you are in the equivalent of a Monkey Jar Trap. You have no way to get your purchases to your car. Well, technically you could leave most of them behind in the store and make a series of trips. Or you could ask a beleaguered cashier to leave her station and carry half of your bags to your car for you (and maybe make several trips even so). But who is going to do that more than once? Not me.

    1. LifelongLib

      I’ve seen shopping carts with some contraption that stops the wheels from turning if you take them beyond the store’s parking lot. No idea how they work (magnetism?) but at least you can get stuff to your car…

      1. kareninca

        Yes, carts that can’t leave the parking lot make sense. This arrangement is so stupid that I wonder if it is a result of covid causing brain damage. They are going to drive away their best customers this way.

    2. Late Introvert

      You read this blog yet you still blame the poor people who steal the carts, and still worry about the store losing customers? That poor Walgreens, suffering from all of those cart thieves. They just need to buy back more stock?

      1. kareninca

        Where did I blame poor people for stealing the carts?

        And, a person can write, “they’ll lose customers if they do this stupid thing” about a business, without it being an expression of concern for the business.

        I went there this evening and I bought as much as I could carry in one trip to the car. Adult diapers are bulky so it wasn’t much. I’ll have to make a second trip tomorrow. They have a lot of elderly and sick customers who can’t be enjoying this new system.

    3. Henry Moon Pie

      Here on the East Side of Cleveland, it’s getting more and more bleak. The Rite Aid pharmacy closed this week and the rest of the store is having a 50% off sale of what remains. The Dollar General windows have been replaced with plywood, and it’s open only intermittently.

      1. Yves Smith

        I loved the old Rite Aids. A big grubby, sometimes long lines, but good inventory and very good prices. And perhaps most important, stable staffing. They seemed pretty cheerful for that sort of job.

  13. scott s.

    Thanks for the entry on so-called “intellectual property”. Any study of copyright laws shows that it was a monopoly given by the English crown to a publishing cartel, the Royal Stationers. When the original Act came up for re-authorization, it was in danger of defeat so the cartel added wording concerning “authors” to give it broader appeal (Statute of Anne 1710). Pretty much lifted verbatim into the US Constitution. Were copyright held to founders’ intent (7 years plus 7 year extension) of “securing for limited times” I might buy it; but now “limited times” seems to mean forever.

    1. digi_owl

      Because copyright today is not the copyright of back then.

      Around the same time the French introduced something called “rights of the author”.

      And over time a bewildering variants of this took hold in Europe, while others (like Germany) didn’t bother at all.

      This was all then settled via a Bern convention on copyright, merging the English and French concepts (the latter was the source of the life + X years, because in France it was about more than money) while at the same time requiring signatory nations to respect the terms of duration of the nation of first publication.

      Note BTW that USA didn’t sign said convention until 1980.

    2. Pat

      I can’t remember the political hack that said it, but one of my favorite reasons that we desperately needed the TPP was that it would protect IP for instance there were places where the movie “The Sound of Music” lose copyright protections because it was more than fifty years old. My reaction was it was another reason to kill it, and America to adopt their more sensible level of copyright protection.

  14. ChrisFromGA

    Just listened to Dima’s latest military summary update.

    Some interesting stuff- apparently the UAF started using artillery again to hit Russian forces fighting to take back Krimky. Dima thinks it is in preparation for a withdrawal as you don’t want to have whatever remaining forces exposed like turkeys during a retreat.

    A new tactic for Russian minesweepers is to rig up a kamikaze autonomous tank with enough explosives to demine a large area enough to make it safe for infantry. Necessity is the mother of invention!

    Another attempt to hit the Crimean bridge failed. Dima thinks this is the political war of media wins to cover up the Krimky retreat. If so, this proves that the Zee fellow hasn’t learned anything- the western press already is in the bag for him so concentrating on actual military objectives is a better way.

    And it’s become clear that Ukraine is going to lose all the meager territory they gained near Bradley square, the main thrust of the mythical glorious drive to Crimea by Summer 2023. All the best brigades had to withdraw to help save Adviivka which also looks to be lost, albeit much more slowly a la Bakhmut in May 2024.

    In summary things looking more and more bleak for Zee.

    1. hk

      I think using remotely controlled tanks for mine clearance is a fairly old one: Russians started deploying them in 1930s and I think mine clearance was one of their intended roles from the beginning.

  15. SocalJimObjects

    Just wanted to share a little something. I’ve been using Enovid for a year plus now and I am currently on my last bottle from a stash that I brought in just this February. Obviously, I can always buy more online, but a seller in Taiwan actually carries Virx from Glenmark, which is supposedly the same formulation as Enovid. However in the case of the former, you can use it up to 60 days after opening vs 30 days for the later. I don’t know why the use by date would differ for products that are supposedly the same, but for people who use the product sparingly, Virx would be more economical, I would think. Also, in my case, I was able to secure one bottle for around 35 USD shipped, which is cheaper than what most online places are charging nowadays.

  16. ChrisRUEcon


    Thanks for including this article in the Water Cooler. One of the things I love about NC is exactly this:

    Not only do I not love Trump, I’m not a conservative; democratizing capital allocation is hardly a conservative agenda item. So I get near them pretty gingerly. But here we are.

    The article, to use commenter Jen’s language from 2022 (via NC), qualifies as a “grumble from […] people […] whose political ideologies don’t generally overlap”.

    I’ve said it earlier this year – the wave of TikToks expressing discontent with the democratization of capital allocation (or lack thereof), the rising discontent regarding the events in Ukraine and Gaza and the creeping realization that horrible things are being done in the name of democracy at home – these events are akin to minute tectonic shifts (centimeters per year and so on) when taken individually, but which will in aggregate result in seismic shifts in popular discontent.

    America’s ignored masses are marching slowly, but with increasingly clarity, towards a proverbial Bastille.

    PS: #TinkerTailor
    “Trust no one, Jim … especially not in the mainstream …”
    – John Hurt’s “Control” to Mark Strong’s “Jim Prideaux” in the opening scene of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (2011)

Comments are closed.