2:00PM Water Cooler 12/27/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Painted Stork, Delhi Zoo, South East Delhi, Delhi, India. Counterpoint between storks and other birds! (I picked storks because storks have a variety of postive associations, so I’m going my bit to make 2024 better than 2023. I would like very much to be bored, and enjoy it!

* * *


“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

“Michigan Supreme Court rejects 14th Amendment election challenge to Trump” [ABC]. “The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal aimed at barring former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 Republican primary ballot based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. In doing so, Michigan’s high court upheld a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that rejected an earlier appeal filed by the watchdog group Free Speech For People [FSFP] on behalf of a group of Michigan voters…. The Michigan Supreme Court rejected the FSFP’s appeal on procedural grounds, saying it was not ‘persuaded that the questions presented’ should be reviewed by that court… FSFP said it was ‘disappointed’ by the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision, noting in a statement that the high court did not rule on a number of questions concerning the legal theories advanced in the lawsuit. ‘It simply declined to overrule a lower court ruling that the Michigan state challenge process does not allow challenges to presidential candidates at the primary stage,” the group said.'”

“A Fake Trump Elector in Michigan Told Prosecutors of Regret, Anger” [New York Times]. “One of the Republicans in Michigan who acted as a fake [“contingent”] elector for Donald J. Trump expressed deep regret about his participation, according to a recording of his interview with the state attorney general’s office that was obtained by The New York Times. The elector, James Renner, is thus far the only Trump elector who has reached an agreement with the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, which brought criminal charges in July against all 16 of the state’s fake Trump electors. In October, Ms. Nessel’s office dropped all charges against Mr. Renner after he agreed to cooperate. Mr. Renner, 77, was a late substitution to the roster of electors in December 2020 after two others dropped out. He told the attorney general’s office that he later realized, after reviewing testimony from the House investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, that he and other electors had acted improperly. ‘I can’t overemphasize how once I read the information in the J6 transcripts how upset I was that the legitimate process had not been followed,’ he said in the interview. ‘I felt that I had been walked into a situation that I shouldn’t have ever been involved in.'” • Again, this, to me, is the narrative that really has the potential to hole Trump below the waterline, if liberal Democrats could tone down their hatred of all things Trumpy just for awhile. Conning the overly trusting…. Not a good look!

“The Colorado Ruling Changed My Mind” [The Atlantic]. “The closest the dissents come to presenting a federal-law issue that ought to give someone pause comes in Samour’s argument that Section 3 is not self-executing—that it can’t be enforced unless Congress passes a law detailing how it can be enforced. The majority opinion, though, along with Paulsen and Baude and Luttig and Tribe, have disposed of that argument many times over. All you need to do is to look, as any good Scalia-like textualist would, to the words and structure of the Fourteenth Amendment. True, Section 5 of the amendment gives Congress the power to enact enforcement legislation. But nothing in the amendment suggests that such legislation is required—that Section 3 (or any other prohibition in the amendment) has no teeth unless Congress implants them.” • This is awful. The author is a lawyer, and doesn’t quote from, or even cite to, the dissents (and after a long wind-up about how willing he is to be persuaded, too, despite his view that the Baude/Paulsen article is “masterful.” Conway is, one finds, a member of the Lincoln Project, and, although his Atlantic bio does not mention this, was President of Yale’s chapter of the Federalist Society.


Less than a year to go!

* * *

“How Trump Is Running Differently This Time” [Kristen Soltis Anderson, New York Times]. Anderson is a Republican pollster. “But if Mr. Trump ran before as the disrupter, don’t count on him doing so a third time in 2024. Voters don’t want chaos anymore. In my assessment of the dynamics of this election, what I see and hear is an electorate that seems to be craving stability in the economy, in their finances, at the border, in their schools and in the world. They want order, and they are open to people on the left and the right who are more likely to provide that, as we saw with the rejection of several chaos candidates in 2022, even as steady-as-she-goes incumbents sailed to re-election…. Unfortunately for Mr. Biden — and for America — stability and unity did not arrive in the wake of his election…. [I]ndeed, many voters are beginning to look back longingly at the Trump era; while, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, voters say by a 30-point margin that Mr. Biden’s policies have hurt them personally more than helped, by a 12-point margin those same voters are more likely to say that Mr. Trump’s policies actually helped them. Today, Americans are exhausted. Two-thirds of them told Pew Research Center that’s how they feel — outpacing emotions like ‘angry’ and certainly ‘hopeful.’ Asked to describe politics today in their own words, ‘messy’ and ‘chaos’ sit alongside ‘divisive’ and ‘corrupt’ atop the list of replies… This is why, already, Trump is beginning to work to portray himself as the safer, more stable pick, and to go to great — even misleading — lengths to claim that Mr. Biden actually wantss chaos and has created a world filled with more terror. He has already produced ads suggesting that Mr. Biden’s inability to lead is directly responsible for the global disorder that threatens American security, and it is a message voters have begun to echo in polling.” • Interesting. Of course, to the extent that Biden allows himself to be The Blob’s instrument, yes, he wants chaos. Then again–

Tone aside, where’s the lie?

* * *

“Why So Many Young Americans Support My Presidential Campaign” [Newsweek]. “According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, I am leading in a three-way with President Biden and former President Trump among voters 18 to 34, and a New York Times/Siena poll shows me beating Biden and Trump among 18 to 44 year olds in six key battleground states. sMainstream media often ask me why I enjoy such strong support from young voters. Based on countless campaign trail conversations, I believe America’s youth support me because I am offering them something that has been nearly lost over the last two [two?!] presidential terms: hope for an America that lives up to its promises and ideals… Young people are not satisfied with voting for the lesser of two evils. Their generation seeks an outsider like me who is running as an independent, given that 38 percent of the youngest voters aged 18 to 29 have no party affiliation, a higher percentage than identify as Democrats (35 percent) or Republicans (26 percent). Because they are repelled by the rancor and name-calling in two-party politics, they respond positively to my mission to ‘Heal the Divide.’ Moreover, my message resonates because I show this generation a viable path toward restoring hope in America, so that they can be proud of their country and believe in their future.” • I suppose I should be going on TIkTok. Just what I need. A second infinite scrolling experience….

* * *

“Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign stops all TV ad spending less than a month before Iowa and New Hampshire” [CNBC]. “Vivek Ramaswamy’s presidential campaign has stopped spending money on television ads and does not have any TV ad reservations booked, according to his campaign and data from an ad-tracking firm…. Ramaswamy’s campaign says it is still spending money on ads, just not on TV. ‘We are focused on bringing out the voters we’ve identified — best way to reach them is using addressable advertising, mail, text, live calls and doors to communicate with our voters on Vivek’s vision for America, making their plan to caucus and turning them out,’ Tricia McLaughlin, the campaign’s press secretary told NBC News. ‘As you know, this isn’t what most campaigns look like. We have intentionally structured this way so that we have the ability to be nimble and hypertargeted in our ad spending,’ McLaughlin added.” • Oh-k-a-a-a-y…

* * *

NH: Alert reader Petal throws the following brochure over the transom:

And the PAC:

Not subtle! Catchy, “High-tax Haley.” An earworm. Alert reader Kilgore Trout remarked yesterday:s

I’ve seen the anti-Haley ad run on Boston’s Channel 5, and I assume on WMUR. It claimins Haley raised the gas tax after saying she wouldn’t. It’s targeting that segment of the GOP/Libertarian Right for whom “taxes” are the only thing that matters. It always works at the state level: the “pledge” to disavow a “broad-based” sales or income tax is still the single most important thing a state-wide candidate in NH must do to remain viable.

IA: “Two Minute Warning: On the Road in Iowa With Ron DeSantis” [RealClearPolitics]. “The pandemic made the ‘American Carnage’ Trump invoked worse, the governor argues aboard the bus as it rumbles past cozy farmhouses decorated for Christmas. Worse even, he says, ‘than it was in 2016.’ ‘Are we going to have some type of accountability?” he asks. ‘Are we going to have a reckoning for this, or are we just going to act like everyone did such a great job?’ DeSantis wants that conversation. But Trump won’t even show up to discuss it. What DeSantis considers his marquee accomplishment – how he handled a once-in-a-century crisis, refusing to lock down when Trump acquiesced – is becoming an afterthought. ‘The 21st century: The three biggest events: 9/11 and the wars that followed, the Great Recession, and then COVID,’ he says, moving his hand along an invisible timeline and pounding a tray table to punctuate each ugly epoch. The virus, and its still festering wounds, DeSantis continues, ‘had a broader impact than the other two events combined. And yet, here we are. We’re not even discussing that.’ The moderators asked exactly ‘one question even involving COVID’ during all the primary debates, he complains, and then to make matters worse, ‘The former president, because he won’t debate on the stage, has not had to defend his record.'” • Poor little guy can’t catch a break.

* * *

Almost complete unanimity:

Hard to blame people for believing “Covid is over.” Makes the pre-Holiday increase in testing all the more remarkable. But see above: DeSantis acknowledges it (so the tweet is also a statement on DeSantis). Not the million deaths, naturally, but whether our pissant lockdowns prevented people from infecting each other at Applebee’s for a couple of months…

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:

d>. (“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

“How Mass Mail-In Voting Changes Everything” [The American Conservative]. “The objective of mail-in voting activists is an electoral world in which polls, historical trends, economic issues, messaging, voter enthusiasm, candidate quality, traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, candidate debates, and voter persuasion no longer matter in elections. All that ultimately matters in mass mail-in voting states is the number of absentee ballots that can be distributed, harvested, and ultimately counted in local election offices by partisan election activists over the weeks and months preceding election day. Through the strategic expansion of mass mail-in voting, Democrats are creating a new urban based, activist driven electoral playing field where they alone can win. The idea that mass mail-in voting expands general “voters rights” is not what it appears to be. Instead, the spread of mass mail-in voting since 2020 has greatly increased the political power of urban and university-based bloc voters, partisan election activists, and the many wealthy nonprofits that support them, such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the National Vote at Home Institute. Meanwhile, conventional, in-person suburban and rural voters see their votes diluted by a flood of questionable absentee ballots emanating from heavily Democratic cities and university towns.” • The Rasmussen poll asked:

When asked, “During the 2020 election, did you fill out a ballot, in part or in full, on behalf of a friend or family member, such as a spouse or child?”, 21% of respondents who said they voted by mail answered “yes.” (Filling out a ballot for someone else is illegal in all states, although many states allow people to assist others with voting.)

Additionally, 17% of mail-in voters said they voted “in a state where you were no longer a permanent resident.” Seventeen percent of mail-in voters also admitted to signing a “ballot or ballot envelope on behalf of a friend or family member.” (Both voting in a state where you are no longer a permanent resident and forging a signature on a ballot or ballot envelope are fraudulent activities that invalidate votes, when caught by election officials.)

The Heartland Institute. Big if true. So cut the numbers in half, and it’s still affects the margin. (We’re also seeing a phishing equilibrium (“If a system enables fraud, fraud will already have happened”), produced by a voting architecture that separates the ballot from the ballot box and the ballot booth).

“A More Actively Managed Decline?” [The American Prospect]. “After decades of glacial wage growth for most Americans, and following a pandemic that did not spare the rich world, it seems possible that the United States is exiting market-mania and adopting a new mode of more explicitly interventionist, and protectionist, economic governance. COVID-19 was the immediate trigger, spurring lawmakers to revive old crisis management tools. Though broad stimulus packages and the Fed’s emergency lending initiatives did most of the heavy lifting, the administration also used an arsenal of more targeted measures, from the Defense Production Act to first-loss guarantees and advance market commitments, to encourage investment and innovation and to stabilize demand. These tools will be used to manage future environmental and health crises for which COVID-19 was just a dress rehearsal. President Joe Biden’s economic-planning agenda, including the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and several juggernaut defense spending packages, signals a new willingness to set explicit goals for national investment. Over more than a year, the administration hammered together a coalition to back the IRA.” • Naturally, this liberal Democrat erases Trump’s CARES Act, completely, even though paying people to say home will be key to having any prospect of success whatever airborne pandemic follows Covid.


“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!

* * *


Maskers are tough:


“Advancing Past Early Trials – Plus Shooting for Lifelong Immunity (Next Generation Covid Vax Update 12)” [Hilda Bastian, Absolutely Maybe]. “A massive funding boost from Project NextGen enables 3 phase 2b trials of next generation Covid vaccines to start in the US next year, each with 10,000 participants. Another US vaccine is also heading into phase 2 next year. And could ‘lifelong,’ or even decades-long, immunity against Covid be possible? A vaccine aiming for that is heading into its first clinical trial next year, also funded through Project NextGen.” • The funding is not “massive” put beside Operation Warp Speed, let alone our (failing, bloated) military, but this is encouraging nonetheless.


“Gargling with Salt Water, Iodine, Peroxide, or Essential Oils- Which is Best for the Oral Microbiome?” [Health First Consulting]. “Gargling is a great way to shift the balance of bacteria in the mouth. While an antiseptic gargle like iodine or hydrogen peroxide can battle infections like a pro, it also can wipe out your good bacteria. From grandma’s salt water rinse, to Listerine®, probiotics, essential oils, and more, figuring out what to gargle with can be a trick. In this blog, clinicians and consumers will learn what gargle solutions are best and worst, when you need them, when you don’t, and how much to use. Most of all, we will talk about how to preserve the oral microbiome- one of your best defenses against harmful infections and chronic diseases.” • Obviously, I want both: Flourishing and Covid antibody-producing oral biota, and faithful servant Povidone Iodine, plus other sprays. when my risk of exposure is high. Is this possible? I’m not sure, but this article is a good starting point. (The topic is hard to research, being contaminating by “natural” woo woo.) Discussion sparked by alert readers farmboy and bobert.

“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.

* * *

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, December 23:

Lambert here: Still going up. 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.

Regional data:

Regional split continues.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, December 23:

Lambert here: JN.1 now dominates. That was fast.

From CDC, December 9:

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

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

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 23:

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.


NOT UPDATED Bellwether New York City, data as of December 22:

Lambert here: That’s a very ugly upward slope, steeper, if my eyes do not decieve, than any previous. Will be interesting to see holidays, and post-holidays

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 16:

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?


Lambert here: Notice that for both Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic, that although the percentage of positives is stable, the absolute numbers have greatly increased; Walgreen’s doubled. This speaks well of people; they’re getting tested before the holidays (and in face of a shit*tstorm barrage of propaganda and peer pressure to minimize, too).

From Walgreens, December 26:

-2.3%. 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.)

From Cleveland Clinic, December 23:

Lambert here: Plateauing. I know this is just Ohio, but we’re starved for data, so….

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 4:

Turning down.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 4:

BA.2.86 turns down. 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 16:

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the Richmond area decreased to -11 in December 2023 from -5 in November, the lowest in ten months. ”

* * *

The Bezzle: “New York Times sues Microsoft, ChatGPT maker OpenAI over copyright infringement” [CNBC]. “In its lawsuit Wednesday, the Times accused Microsoft and OpenAI of creating a business model based on ‘mass copyright infringement,’ stating that the companies’ AI systems were ‘used to create multiple reproductions of The Times’s intellectual property for the purpose of creating the GPT models that exploit and, in many cases, retain large portions of the copyrightable expression contained in those works.’ Publishers are concerned that, with the advent of generative AI chatbots, fewer people will click through to news sites, resulting in shrinking traffic and revenues. The Times included numerous examples in the suit of instances where GPT-4 produced altered versions of material published by the newspaper. In one example, the filing shows OpenAI’s software producing almost identical text to a Times article about predatory lending practices in New York City’s taxi industry. But in OpenAI’s version, GPT-4 excludes a critical piece of context about the sum of money the city made selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales.” • Good. The training sets are based on theft (“original accumulation,” as the Bearded One calls it). But why not go for an injunction?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 71 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 27 at 12:29:26 PM ET.

Class Warfare

“Teen’s death in Wisconsin sawmill highlights “21st century problem” across the U.S.” [CBS News]. “[T]he high school football player’s death isn’t an isolated incident. Rather, it reflects the growing number of children and teens around the U.S. working in hazardous jobs meant for adults, a violation of federal laws aimed at protecting minors. The Labor Department conducted 955 investigations that found child labor violations in fiscal 2023, up 14% from the prior year. Roughly 5,800 kids were illegally employed in the 12-month period ending September 30 — up 88% since 2019.” • Pour encourager les autres…. s

News of the Wired

“Donald Knuth’s 2023 Christmas Lecture: Making the Cells Dance” [The New Stack]. “Approaching his 86th birthday, Donald Knuth — Stanford’s beloved computer science guru — honored what’s become a long-standing tradition. He gave a December “Christmas lecture” that’s also streamed online for all of his fans.” • I’m a Knuth fan because of his typesetting program. TEX. IMNSHO, Knuth is one of the few reasons why Stanford, home of both the Great Barrington Declaration and a central node of the Censorship Industrial Complex, the Internet Observatory, should not be burnt to the ground.

“Sometimes a Little Bullshit Is Fine: A Conversation with Charles Simic” [The Paris Review]. “INTERVIEWER: Here is line from a poem titled “Could That Be Me?” that captures your self-effacing, tragicomic style—”An alarm clock / With no hands / Ticking loudly / On the town dump.” Is the dump a metaphor for your study? SIMIC: It’s not a metaphor. The dump is a place where I’ve spent a lot of time. I’m about five minutes from the dump. It used to be a very different dump. It started out being just one little place filled with garbage. And then it became more complicated, with everything sorted out. But I’m an aficionado of the old, old dump where many, many years ago I found a big alarm clock, an old-fashioned alarm clock, happily ticking.” • I remember that kind of dump!

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From TH:

TH writes: “I just love the shape and color of these flowers! (Protea at Sherman Library and Gardens).”

• Kind readers, I’m running very short of plants. More harvest photos like this one would be nice. Or snowy scenes. Even Christmas trees. Or whatever! Thank you so much!

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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. ChrisFromGA

    My day 10 (or eleven?) update on getting the latest strain of whatever variant is rampaging through the land.

    Tested negative last Friday but left with a sinus infection and lethargy. Seems like this is going to be a slog to get over.

    Another bonus for ignoring COVID for the PMC is no need to slow down “return to office” drives in the New Year. Acknowledging the spread would require shutting down offices, yet another time, and driving whatever is left of the CRE market into the earth’s mantle.

    1. chris

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’re still not feeling well.

      I think you’re correct that absent tremendous upheaval we are not going to see society slow the return to work drive. I think we’ll see Biden double down on it using the federal employees as an example. Might be we’ll see some pushback and mention of these issues come from them too. But as they will be painted as entitled, unionized, and practically anti-American, I don’t think their resistance will get much done.

  2. ashley

    [I]ndeed, many voters are beginning to look back longingly at the Trump era; while, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, voters say by a 30-point margin that Mr. Biden’s policies have hurt them personally more than helped, by a 12-point margin those same voters are more likely to say that Mr. Trump’s policies actually helped them. Today, Americans are exhausted. Two-thirds of them told Pew Research Center that’s how they feel — outpacing emotions like ‘angry’ and certainly ‘hopeful.’ Asked to describe politics today in their own words, ‘messy’ and ‘chaos’ sit alongside ‘divisive’ and ‘corrupt’ atop the list of replies… This is why, already, Trump is beginning to work to portray himself as the safer, more stable pick, and to go to great — even misleading — lengths to claim that Mr. Biden actually wantss chaos and has created a world filled with more terror. He has already produced ads suggesting that Mr. Biden’s inability to lead is directly responsible for the global disorder that threatens American security, and it is a message voters have begun to echo in polling.

    i hate trump with a passion, but i wholeheartedly agree with this as i sit home from work sick with covid angry that i am going to be forced to lie and say i don’t have covid or else i’m getting an unpaid and unwanted 5 day ‘vacation’ from work which will be the difference of me making rent this month or not and potentially joining the ranks of the homeless. under trump i would of gotten approximately $1000 a week to stay home with covid which is more than what i make now! BIDEN DOES NOT CARE ABOUT ANY OF US. neither does trump, but at least he doesn’t pretend to care. and all his faults he didn’t start any wars and sought to end them, unlike the failed promises of obama and biden’s genocide in palestine and both meddling in ukraine. groceries have never cost me more for less and lower quality food, and society at large has completely given up on any decency whatsoever (more trumps fault, but what has biden done to fix it? nothing!). we work harder for less than ever. but we have TVs and iphones so we should stop complaining, right boomers?

    meanwhile biden says we can afford two forever wars while homelessness has never been higher. biden’s admin to the rest of us: let them eat cake! the economy aka rich people’s yacht money is doing well so quit whining and vote blue no matter who! if you don’t the country will fall to a fascist dictatorship! (what are the democrats doing to prevent the rise of a fascist dictatorship? NOTHING!)

    i will be voting for anyone other than biden or trump, and i hope to god that biden drops dead as thats the only way the anti-democratic ‘democrats’ will run anyone besides the demented tone deaf genocider-in-chief. i cant believe i held my nose and voted for this POS. why aren’t we rioting yet, for real?!

    the vote blue no matter who morons are in complete and utter denial that if we have a biden v trump part 2 that biden is going to get absolutely pummeled fair and square and deservedly so. completely delusional liberals. FYI im 34 years old, most of my friends are 45 and under, and nobody i know is happy with biden and planning on voting for him again. most of us voted for him in 2020. liberals are going to shit their goddamn pants when trump is inaugurated in 2025.

    (im at a high risk of …problems… if a trump dictatorship empowering the far reicht white nationalist christians comes into power being a gender non conforming lesbian, anti zionist jewish and leftist and yet i still cant make myself vote for this POS a second time – the whole “we can afford two wars” while homelessness is skyrocketing combined with treating israel as our 51st state subsidizing their universal healthcare and higher education just to genocide gaza to create oceanfront property for entitled zionist NY jews with no ties to the region pre 1948 is what completely turned me against biden)

  3. Acacia

    Regarding Dr. Sean Mullen’s tweet on X in yesterday’s WC: “Are you prepared academia? I think not.”

    From my own vantage point, albeit limited, none of the universities at which I and my colleagues teach are taking NPIs or air quality in classrooms seriously at all. There is no monitoring of CO2, no policies on masking, no testing or amelioration of ventilation, HEPA filtering, etc. Nobody I know working in higher ed has ever mentioned a C-R box. I have colleagues teaching at other institutions who still exercise some caution, masking in everyday life, but I now hear some of them going back into the classroom unmasked, because “nobody else is wearing a mask”.

    If cerebral incapacity, absenteeism, memory loss and executive dysfunction are increasing as the various others in this “Are you prepared academia?” tweet thread indicate, it seems like these problems would begin to become legible via standardized test scores like the SAT and ACT.

    The SAT is no longer broadly required by colleges and universities — and many relaxed their requirements during the initial years of the epidemic —, but over 1.9 million high school students took it in 2023, mostly juniors and seniors. Apparently, the average total score in 2023 was 1028, the lowest since the test changed formats in 2016. Significantly, the greatest decline in scores appears to be 2022-2023, in which several states (Arizona, California, Indiana, Texas, and Wyoming) recorded drastic drops, e.g., 20+ points.

    The ACT was taken by around 1.3 million high school students graduating in 2022 (around 36% of the entire graduating cohort), and the national average composite score was 19.8 — reportedly the lowest it’s been in the past three decades.

    I haven’t done any sort of deeper dive on this, but I wonder if anybody has been looking more seriously at these and other standardized tests with SARS-CoV-2 in mind. Of course, people will say that student learning was disrupted by school closures, classes via Zoom, etc., but it seems like it should be possible to account for these factors somewhat.

    1. Sub-Boreal

      Grim indeed. I’m SO glad to have retired from academia (small U in W. Canada) just before the fall semester started.

      I came back on campus in late October to attend a memorial gathering for a colleague (60-ish) who had suddenly died. I learned from their spouse that they got COVID, were sick for only a couple of days, and were showing improvement before succumbing to respiratory distress. (Prior to my retiring, they were the only other member of my dept. who was usually masked at work.) Of the ~ 80 attendees, < 20% were masked, and this subset included a lot of fellow retirees.

      I happily went into hermit mode for the rest of the autumn, but will have to figure out how best to help out my talented young successor who is new to these parts. In the absence of COVID, there would be all kinds of fun field excursions to plan for the spring …

    2. chris

      Well, as a parent who had to go through the SAT issue several times recently, the deal during the pandemic shutdown was that common apps and other applications were “test optional”. But even then, if you wanted to qualify for scholarships, you needed the test scores even if you didn’t need them to get into the college. You also needed SAT scores in some of the various special subjects to get out of placement exams once accepted to a school. For one of my kids, the math worked out like this: they could take the SAT ($150) and spend the time to study for it, or, they could take 4 different placement exams at a cost of $99 each. For the scholarship angle with that one, the STEM scholarships they got required them to have a score of 1250 or higher to be eligible.

      The other detail involved in this is that the SAT and other tests are now adaptive and computer based. That change occurred in 2022. Some kids really don’t know how to handle those exams. That’s because the tricks to take a standardized paper exam are different from adaptive computer exams. You really do need to understand how to take these tests before you take them. I haven’t seen many public schools teaching kids how to maximize their results on the adaptive exams. But I know you can pay tutors to help you with that.

      I’m sure there is a pandemic angle to this involving cognitive difficultyfrom COVID infection. But I think the main story here is another example of wealth = better test scores, and that the wealthy didn’t stop taking the tests or stop prepping for the tests. now that the general public has to take them seriously again we’re noticing the disconnect.


      2020 and 2021 were significantly more impacted by school closures and remote learning than 2023 and didn’t have the same drop in scores.

      There were other years (2016) where the math scores (which has not had the same changes as reading/writing) averaged out this low so we’re barely within the normal variance here – definitely worth keeping an eye on.

      Would be interested in IQ raw test scores. LSATs. Etc. If there is a global dip I think there is enough to rule out the variance of scores on a single test.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The 2020 sophomores more or less had nearly everything on the SAT and enough to reason out the multiple choice higher math. They didn’t experience now years of iexcel and lax standards.

        The kids by sophomore year are who we think they are. Now we are getting into former 7th graders.

  4. NN Cassandra

    Re: New York Times sues Microsoft, ChatGPT maker OpenAI over copyright infringement

    Not sure why the copyright route is seen as good way to fight GPT. If successful, the only possible end result will be that GPT is monopolized by big corporations that either have the data themselves (e.g. Facebook) or have money to “license” it from media conglomerates. So it doesn’t stop GPT from being used, it just hands complete control over it to oligarchs.

    1. notabanker

      Yes, that is exactly the point, get a cut of the revenues via a licensing deal. Be interesting to see who is included in the settlement and who is not. There is zero intent to stop the use of it.

  5. Lee


    Everyone seems to be sick with respiratory illness in California. Here’s why
    L.A. Times

    Link is to archive.ph so no paywall.

    Masking gets a brief honorable mention: “Wearing a mask can help sick people avoid spreading respiratory viruses to others and lower the risk of healthy people getting sick.”

    On readily available therapies: “Many people who test positive for the coronavirus or the flu are eligible for antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid for COVID-19 and Tamiflu for the flu. The medications can reduce the severity of illness.”

    No mention of Remdesivir even though for millions of Americans it would be the safer choice over Paxlovid. For example, 24 million Americans take one of the contraindicated meds I take, and over 70 million also take another one I need to keep my old self chugging along. I live in a relatively well off major metropolitan area that’s home to several preeminent medical institutions and so far as I can tell Remdesivir treatments are either not offered in my area or they’re making it damned hard to find. I guess it’s me and my P-100 Elipse against the eugenicists. Stay safe out there and a happy New Year to all.

    1. SocalJimObjects

      Regarding Remdesivir, it’s easy to see why, https://www.who.int/news/item/10-11-2023-who-updates-guidelines-on-treatments-for-covid-19. The WHO strongly recommends Paxlovid for people at high and moderate risk of hospitalization, but the use of Remdesivir is not suggested for people at moderate risk.
      My dad was hospitalized because of Covid about a year ago, he had white lungs and the doctors gave him Remdesivir, and it seemed to help because he’s still walking around today.

      1. Lee

        Glad to hear of your dad’s recovery. Remdesivir is just slightly less effective than Paxlovid. The administration of Paxlovid is much less costly and more convenient than treatment with Remdesivir. I assume the cost difference, and that the elderly are for the most part not part of the profit generating work force, account for the general preference in favor of Paxlovid.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          Thanks. I had read about Remdesivir not being very effective here on NC, so when the doctor suggested it, I was quite hesitant, but then again there was no other choice since he lived in a medium sized town, so I finally consented. Five days after the first infusion of Remdesivir, he was out of the hospital, but full recovery took much longer, around 4 5 months. It’s quite a miracle considering his advanced age and the fact that he already wasn’t in the best of health when he contracted Covid.

  6. steppenwolf fetchit

    ” Tone aside, where’s the lie?” . . .

    I only have a few minutes before I have to check in to work. So I have time to note one lie. And here it is.

    The “Afghanistan surrender” which Trump affects to condemn is the Afghanistan surrender which the Trump Administration itself negotiated with the Taliban reps at Doha. So calling it “Biden’s Afghanistan surrender” is a lie. ” How” Biden executed it may be debated, but it is a fact that Trump negotiated it. ( or am I wrong?)

    1. nippersdad

      No, you are not wrong about that. Trump was the guy who initiated the pull out. I would also question his points about open borders and “no energy”, though.

      It is not like Biden has taken anyone off the borders so much as that there has been a surge in the numbers of people trying to cross it that has overwhelmed the (bad) system that Trump left in place. He spent so much time talking about walls and sending in the army that he failed to mention those people are leaving home for a reason, a reason he could have addressed, and that once here they are used to hold down wages by the very people that fund the Republican party. The people who work in slaughter houses may vote for Democrats (if they can get naturalized) but those who hire them do not.

      And as to the “no energy” thing, if he is talking about oil and gas drilling it seems like he has missed that Biden has opened more areas for drilling leases than he ever did.

      But then the guy was really never known for his honesty, just for knowing how to rile up the crowds with his own brand of truthiness. I mean, really, “high taxes” on whom? The tax cuts for rich people sunsetted, if I recall, not those for people like every one else. And his additions to the national debt did not help……….

      1. nippersdad

        “The tax cuts for rich people sunsetted, if I recall, not those for people like every one else.”

        Why do I always get that wrong? It was the tax cuts for everyone else that were sunsetted, the ones for the wealthy stayed in place by design. That the tax cuts for everyone else were designed to be a bargaining chip for later budget debates is something that Trump conveniently ignores.

    2. chris

      Trump did negotiate for a withdrawal. That withdrawal was part of what gave the Forever Warriors the bright idea that they didn’t have to withdraw. Trump negotiations were for a different schedule and if you talk to the most ardent MAGA folks they’ll tell you his plan wasn’t to leave so much materiel behind. Trump also asked for plans to leave during the non-fighting season. Not sure about any of that.

      Of course, there’s nothing to suggest the generals wouldn’t have failed Trump like they failed Biden. Nor is there any basis to say the media wouldn’t have dogpiled on Trump like they did Biden. So I’d give that part of the rant a kinda true, but depends on your perspective.

    3. Feral Finster

      You’re right. Not only that, but Trump negotiated the timing of that “surrender” to take place after the 2020 election.

      Now, if you want to argue that the Pentagon intentionally slow-played the withdrawal in hopes that Biden would (again) order that the departure date be put off, I’d suspect that you were not wrong.

      For that matter, remember the infamous “Russian bounties” story that was hysterically repeated for a while before the 2020 election? I would not be a bit surprised if that fairly tale originated with the Pentagon and/or one or more alphabet agencies, with the goal of making it politically impossible for Trump to leave Afghanistan.

      At any rate, it is good to know that we will not likely be seeing the 2016 Trump from making a re-appearance. No need for us to get our hopes up.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        No, we won’t be seeing the 2016 Trump making a re-appearance. We will probably be seeing the New and Improved Trump 2.0 making a “whole new appearance” in 2024. And stuff will just play out from there.

        1. ambrit

          This time I’ll wager that Trump makes sure that he has an Ernst Rohm to ‘enforce’ his commands.
          If Trump regains office and seriously begins to hamper the neo-cons, I do expect an attempt on his life. After that is when the modern Ernst Rohm will prove his, or her, worth. This is when the attitudes of the mid level officer corps of the Army will matter most. Will they consider the Presidential Party as being closer to the Constitution, or the ‘Deep State Party?’
          Enquiring minds want to know.

          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            I would expect Trump to try hampering the ” Woke College Radicals and Marxists” first.
            And also try hampering all the “Black Radicals” in all the major cities first.

    4. curlydan

      Yeah, I had the same thoughts when reading that Tweet. Basically, Trump, being a good salesman, listens to all the Biden complaints then dumps them out in his Boxing Day tweet without much reflection. No matter who wins, it’s going to be a miserable 4 more years.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        But they will be two different flavors of misery. A case could be made for picking either one, I suppose.

        When we get closer to election time, I will pick the more deccelerationist one, if either one is more deccelerationist. Or if they are both accelerationist, but one is severely more accelerationist than the other; I will be picking the severely less accelerationist one. Whichever I think that is, when we get close.

        ( Unless there is good reason to think that one of them would set off the World’s Ever Greatest ,Last and Best Great Depression ever. If there is really good reason to think one of them would cause such a thing, that would be the one to vote for, in hopes that one could crash the World Economy so fast and hard and deep that global warming would be severely slowed down for a couple of decades to come. But if one is going to vote for the Greatest Depression of All Time choice, one should try to have one’s own Doomstead Fortress of Survival preparations all in order).

        1. ambrit

          Sorry oh Hesse adjacent one. The Jackpot Party is already on the case. They propose to slow down and reverse global warming by “reducing” the population. The Club of Rome back in 1968 wrote that five hundred million was the optimal population for the entire Earth.

      2. DavidZ

        Open borders – This is plain rubbish. There are no open borders. The solution seems to be, you come to our border and we will shoot you on sight, that’s what some people really seem to want.

        Inflation – yes it was a problem, though it is a structural issue caused by Americans themselves. You voted for governments that sent your jobs and manufacturing out of the country, you can’t produce anything yourself, so when supply chains get disrupted, prices go up. that’s what happened because of covid, sanctions on Russia. American policies are responsible for that. For those saying it’s because of money printing – I say probably rubbish – there simply isn’t enough competition in the market because republicans have been dismantling regulations and market competition. We have more car makers than cereal makers. We have fewer supermarkets owners than ever before. Also a bunch of landlords who couldn’t raise rents or evict people during covid are in a rush to get their rents up, so that they can make money.

        Green New Scam – yeah, well, does he have a solution to the ever increasing hurricanes in Florida where home owners can’t get insurance? Does he have a solution to anything?

        High Taxes – America probably has the lowest taxes of any place, and of course he has to kvetch, because he’s pandering to his base.

        No energy – That’s like saying, oh dear, I’m cold, let me burn the wood floors to heat the home. Like a drug addict burning down the house they are squatting in!

        Short memories may make people forget that the 4 years of Trump where a massive Shite show with nothing to show for it, well except Prep4All.
        – No Trillion dollar infrastructure because Trump’s own band of republicans wouldn’t do it.
        – Cancelled the Tunnel under the hudson on one of the highest trafficked railroad in the country. Makes a mockery of “world power” when our infrastructure is breaking down everywhere.
        – Trump’s reaction to covid was – mild flu; which he admitted was because he didn’t want the economy to tank because he would lose the election. So if you want to blame for the current state of affairs with Covid being black-holed, know where the blame lies.
        – More Tax Cuts + Higher Deficits – that’s one Trump should boast about.
        – Ideological Supreme Court – that has & is harming women’s rights and probably will hurt minority rights too.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          Trump has also talked about introducing more tariffs, will do wonders for inflation no doubt.

          1. spud

            Lambert did a pretty good job posting statistics all through trumps administration, that import prices did not go up under trumps tariffs, and wages exceeded inflation.

            please show me the historical evidence of high inflation caused by tariffs?

            inflation was quite tame under tariffs and Gatt, only the war years produced a lot of the inflation, and we have been at war constantly since 1993.


            woodrew wilson dumped tariffs in 1913, and by 1916 inflation was roaring.

            how can anyone say free trade is not inflationary with a straight face?

    5. Lefty Godot

      I don’t think you are wrong. But I believe Biden did delay the pullout date, which the Taliban could have interpreted as a violation of the original deal. There was heavy pressure being applied by the PTB, including through the usual suspects (CNN, NYT, WaPo) to not pull out, so the fact that both Trump and Biden finally managed between them to get it done is praiseworthy, even if it ended up being bungled in the final implementation.

    6. ashley

      i totally agree. the messy end to afghanistan was trumps fault, and he timed it so biden would be blamed.

      there’s plenty of other things that we can accurately blame biden for. like the fact im currently sick with covid.

      1. Procopius

        No, sorry for lack of a link, but the biggest problem with the withdrawal from Afghanistan was Biden’s fault – although he might have had a good reason. Trump had scheduled the withdrawal for March, 2021. For some reason, Biden changed it to August, the height of the fighting season. So the Taliban had been active the whole year preparing their takeover, and it was easy to put their troops in place for it. Now, I don’t have insight into the Pentagon, but I suspect the generals had been slow-walking the withdrawal, even under Biden, so he had no choice. Some troops were withdrawn in March, according to the original schedule. The military essentially mutinied against Trump.

  7. Tom Stone

    I had a call from my oldest friend (65 years of friendship) and member of my extended family yesterday, she was torn up after a phone call to my sister Christmas Evve.
    My Sister is a retired nurse and teacher of nursing in her early 70’s who has blood cancer, her husband is older and not in good health.
    My friend, her Daughter and her two children aged 5 and 6 had planned to visit Christmas day, my friend cancelled because both kids are down with a respiratory infection and all five of the Family have been exposed.
    My Sister’s response was “We are both fully vaxxed and boosted, we are immune to infection from Covid.”
    When my friend mentioned that the Vaccines do not confer immunity my Sister went lost it, big time.
    To the point that a friendship of more than 60 years is at risk.
    My Sister is a highly intelligent Woman and very strong willed, her working life started in the Navy, then in the Medical field.
    Authoritarian fields.
    To my sister the betrayal of trust on the part of the medical establishment is inconcievable, a betrayal of a tradition that goes back thousands of years.
    She is also an extrovert and very social, there could be no worse punishment for her than being shunned or ostracized.
    The cognitive dissonance of such a position must be extremely painful and like most put in that position she is extremely angry.
    And she has a lot of company.

    1. ambrit

      As I learned it, no body wants to admit to themselves that they have been played for fools. The “healing” from such a realization can be “explosive.”
      Good luck to her. But we must admit that the friend is being ‘responsible’ for everyone here. Tell the Nurse that the Hippocratic Oath states; “First, do no harm.” Then I guess the best strategy would be to leave it alone.
      Stay safe.

      1. SocalJimObjects

        There’s some real gems in there, like the following:


        From the comments:
        “My own mother chose not to tell me that most of the extended family had had COVID the week before Christmas, and that my father had tested positive for COVID 3 days before Christmas. She deliberately chose not to tell me because she knew I wouldn’t show up if she told me family members had been sick.”

        With family members like this, I think it’s fair to say most people in America have now gotten Covid at least once.

  8. John

    Were it up to me, there would be no mail in voting except for absentee ballots for those unavoidably unable to get to the polls on election day for specified reasons. Mail in voting is an open invitation to shenanigans. I am open to extended voting hours and/or two consecutive days on which the polls are open. No early counting.

    I prefer paper ballots and hand counting (Thank you Lambert.) How about two ballots: one for national offices and another for state, local, propositions and other state business. This would satisfy the lust of the media for results of the only contests they care about.

    Let’s get programmable machines and the internet out of the process. If it relies on programmable software , it can be diddled.

    1. flora

      My country has a terrific local registrar’s office. They accept requests for mail-in ballots based on reasons for (out of area at election time, illness, etc), and require a local id like a drivers license or student id or local voter registration card checkable against their database, and a signature they check against returned ballots. In 2020, I received over 5 pre-filled-in mail-in ballots for the D candidate from who knows where or what that I did not request. I was a registered D at the time. Let’s just say my scam antennae sproinged up. / ;)

      Paper ballots, hand marked, and hand counted in public, with mail-in exceptions for locals on the voters rolls who are too ill or away to make it to the polling places, please.

      1. flora

        typo: my ‘country’ should read ‘my county’. My COUNTY, not country. If only all the counties in the country were so good at their job.

        1. flora

          adding: my local county registrar’s office sends out to all county registered voters a few weeks before an election a mailer with a request return card saying: if you need to request a mail-in ballot please complete this form , fold, and return to us, postage free. Pretty good service. Personally, if a voting mailer isn’t from my county registrar’s office I round-file the thing.

        1. JustAnotherVolunteer

          In my Oregon county mail-in ballots are marked at home, in pen on a paper ballot that gets read by a machine sort of like the old scantrons that read test scores at high schools and colleges right though to today. The entire process once the processing starts can be viewed in person or on-line from the elections office and the volunteers (mostly oldsters) work in mixed pairs. (Multiple parties plus independant voters here)

          The Oregon process is documented here:


          Note that ballot envelopes require a signature which is checked and verified against DMV records before the interior ballot gets moved on for processing. Huge efforts are made for both transparency and even-handed verification pairings.

          I love my ballot because I can be more informed about the down ballot races that drive local government but don’t get enough media attention. Judges, the police auditor, school and transportation boards, etc. We are also an initiative centric state so time to read through the text and related arguments is also helpful.

          I have learned to hold my ballot and drop-off just before Election Day due to late cycle surprises but I’m a better voter over all.

          1. ashley

            “I love my ballot because I can be more informed about the down ballot races that drive local government but don’t get enough media attention. Judges, the police auditor, school and transportation boards, etc. We are also an initiative centric state so time to read through the text and related arguments is also helpful. ”

            this was my experience in VT. i hate just randomly picking names of the smaller offices because there’s no media information about them whatsoever, just party affiliation, or this being VT, not even.

            i think the anti-mail in balloting is mostly fear mongering and trying to disenfranchise the working class who are too busy/poor to meet the requirements of voting in person. and it entrenches the power of the olds who have all the time of day in the world to go research every last office and vote whenever they want since they’re retired.

        2. Janie

          Uncomplicated, easy peasy, drop off in lockbox at the grocery store. It’s a great system. I’ve lived in several states with well-run conventional systems, but I much prefer Oregon’s.

    2. John Dowd

      John, I also would prefer paper ballots, hand counting and maybe have voting on a weekend or better yet make it a holiday to celebrate and encourage participation in our democracy!
      but that isn’t a reality(yet)
      I live in Oregon and mail in voting seems to work pretty well, especially for increasing voter participation and doing it with very little voter fraud(shenanigans)

      “In Oregon, the first state to adopt a universal vote-by-mail system, the Heritage Foundation researchers had to cover a period of 19 years in order to find 15 cases of voter fraud!” a quote from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/low-rates-of-fraud-in-vote-by-mail-states-show-the-benefits-outweigh-the-risks/

      I personally know several people who have had to drop by the local county election office to update their signatures, due to subtle changes in their signature over time, that tripped a rejection of their ballots.
      Not perfect, and not preferred(paper and hand counting) but seems better than all of the ways used to reject or discourage voters and voting in so many places in our country

      1. Even keel

        Oregon is a one party state (blue) and has been getting consistently more so since mail in ballotting was phased in starting in the 90s. Correlation not causation.

        I’d be interested in a poll about assisting family members specifically in Oregon like the one reported.

        I’ve never voted in a booth or at a polling station. Voted only by mail my entire life. Even when I was in college or in the army, they mailed me a ballot. I filled it out and returned it.

        It’s weird. I would prefer to see people and vote together.

        1. Janie

          Bad weather in several places I lived made voting in November difficult. I particularly remember a snow storm in New Jersey some decades ago. We lived close enough that we could walk. Good thing, because driving was out of the question

  9. antidlc

    RE: “I need a presidential candidate who acknowledges the reality of
    SARS-CoV-2, how it’s still very much here, how it’s still very much disabling and killing people, and how very little we’re doing to stop this perfectly preventable virus from taking over the planet.”

    Marianne Williamson
    Covid is still a threat, and there are many long covid sufferers. We should reinstate mask mandates in healthcare settings; ensure free high quality masks and PCR tests; and mandate effective air filtration for all public transportation, buildings, and businesses.
    7:55 PM · Aug 1, 2023

    However, I don’t see anything in her health plan that refers to COVID:

  10. Val

    Handwringing supplicant and noted groveling doofus kneels before his Inquisitors…

    ‘I can’t overemphasize how once I read the information in the J6 transcripts how upset I was that the legitimate process had not been followed,’…

    Any “legitimate process” concern about statewide mail-in ballot harvesting with no signature matching?
    Signature matching on official ballots literally and explicitly disallowed by order of the Secretary of State, one of a coven of dim authoritarian sidekicks to the FBI’s favorite gubernatorial?

    That totally legitimate process? With ceaseless thought-policing inflicted after the act itself?

    Fun local structural feature to add to the TAC article: the few registered voters who did not submit to mail-in 2020 ballot harvesting efforts in this district report receiving jury summons for election week, even though no jury trials were scheduled or held as the local court had been thoughtfully hiding from the virus for many months. Shining city on a hill, or a pile.

    When the mail-in ballots arrive now, straight into the trash without a twitch of ceremony.

    1. marym

      Do you have some links? I know there was controversy about guidance given to clerks on how to verify signatures, not that verification wasn’t required or that it didn’t occur.

      How States Verify Voted Absentee/Mail Ballots (last update 3/15/2022)

  11. The Rev Kev

    Can’t believe that the New York Times came out with a story called “The Last Holdouts” with the subtitle ‘What it’s like to wear masks for Covid when most others have long since moved on.’ People may have moved on but that virus never did. It just dug in and isn’t going anywhere. But this New York Times article makes dissenters sound like a bunch of nutters. Here is the original article and it only came out a year ago-


    1. JBird4049

      Yeah, that’s us nutters wearing masks when obviously the Covid is Over. Don’t mind the sick and dying with your lying eyes.

      Even baggy masks offer something, but most everyone ain’t wearing anything here in my uber Blue area, excepting the 1-3 I see whenever I go to a store even at the busiest times. I think that only my being a curmudgeon has kept me masked.

      I hate to say that I better understand how Senator Joseph McCarthy or Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis happened. Too many people are more worried about reputations, avoiding embarrassment, or even being inconvenienced to either the truth or lives.

  12. DavidZ

    Why no one is talking about covid?

    1. IMO everyone wants to go back to “normal”
    2. To protect oneself – things have to be rearranged in life – that is the opposite of “normal” – where normal = pre-covid.
    3. People don’t always know how to protect oneself, and even when they do, it’s hard to buck the trend and stand out (wearing a mask in a sea of non-maskers, saying no to a party with all your friends, sitting outdoors in a new york winter when having a meal, not inviting people over or meeting people outdoors vs. indoors in cold weather)
    4. Many people still think – droplet (not airborne).
    5. Many people still think – mild flu (started by Trump AFAIK).
    6. People don’t know what the true extent of health risks are for Covid.
    7. We don’t know “anyone” who has covid or long-covid. (Lots of people getting it, no one talking about it!)

    1. Bsn

      Hi David, I think that’s critical – no one wants to talk about it. Saw a great graphic in Automatic Earth a day or so ago. A typical living room as background and a large elephant laying dead. Text was “Elephant Dies Suddenly”. Funny – yet very sad.

        1. JBird4049

          Our we sure about this? It reminds me of how people were ashamed of having AIDS even when it was from a blood transfusion. That silence lasted until people like Rock Hudson publicly announced it at press conferences. Until then, it was many, many people listed in the Sunday obituaries as having “passed after a brief illness.” Or something equally anodyne. Nobody wanted it known that they or a family member had died from AIDS, so they lied, even if it was obvious that they had. Or at least very possibly.

          Although I do not think that Covid has any stigma unlike AIDS, I think that it will take public figures giving press conferences or public announcements to break the silence. Or the surviving family members releasing the information. Or something like that interviewee blurting out that Jeffrey Epstein did not commit suicide on FOX(?), which was something unrelated to the conversation, that got people talking.

          I just hope that it happens before we get even worse versions of Covid. Like HIV/AIDS it will just keep spreading and killing until it is acknowledged and dealt with.

    2. XXYY

      I think one of the big factors is the (presumably intentional) lack of modeling by leaders and influencers on how to act during a deadly pandemic.

      Thought experiment: Imagine if every time you saw a picture or video of Biden, Trump, head of CDC, news anchors, doctors and health authorities speaking, celebs accepting awards, sports figures, and so on, they were all wearing an N95 mask? No other change, just this. Imagine the effect it would have.

      I think the head-in-the-sand approach by opinion leaders has a lot to answer for.

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