2:00PM Water Cooler 1/11/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Laughing Dove, Bhutnal Kere ಭೂತನಾಳ ಕೆರೆ Vijayapura, Karnataka, India. “Adult, Unknown sex.”

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

“Constitutional Courage” [Timothy Snyder, Thinking About…]. ” An insurrectionist, Donald Trump, purports to be running for president, although the Constitution forbids this. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment frankly disqualifies anyone who has taken part in an insurrection, or given aid and comfort to insurrectionists…. The authors of Section Three anticipated just such a frightful situation. An insurrectionist who swears an oath and violates it has done something terrible. He will have allies who have tasted tyranny and liked it…. Yet Americans who should know better are choosing fear over the Constitution, finding excuses to ignore what it says. Indeed, they are choosing to fear the Constitution. Far too many politicians and other media commentators respond to our present situation — a real insurrectionist who has tried to overthrow the Constitution while in office, a real Constitutional ban on insurrectionists running for office a second time — by saying that it is the Constitution that must yield. Their slogan is: ‘let the voters decide.’ That is to say: in the case of Trump, and Trump alone, let us simply overlook what the Constitution says.’ … The exceptionalism reeks of fear. In no other case do we wish away the qualifications for office. There will be thousands and thousands of contested elections in the United States in November 2024. With respect to only one of them are people saying that legal qualifications for office do not matter.” • The alternative, I suppose, being to have a combinatorial explosion of party members in different states and branches of government, using different standards of evidence and burdens of proof, disqualifying their political opponents from the ballot. Even granting Snyder’s reading of Section Three and his assumptions, it’s not a pretty sight either way.

“Disqualifying Trump Is Not Antidemocratic” [Adam Serwer, The Atlantic]. “[New York] Times legal reporter Charlie Savage described the ruling as pitting ‘one fundamental value against another: giving voters in a democracy the right to pick their leaders versus ensuring that no one is above the law.’ This argument is simple and intuitive: People should get to vote for whomever they want to vote for. [But] democracy is not simply voting; it includes limits on how and under what circumstances political power can be disputed and wielded so that democracy itself can survive from generation to generation. For this reason, democratic constitutions have counter-majoritarian limits; in fact, democracies cannot function without durable rules that set guidelines for contesting political power. That is the entire purpose of a written constitution, to place certain rights and principles outside the back-and-forth of normal political competition. Americans generally accept that these rules cannot be altered except through the formal process for doing so—constitutional amendment—and so, until that happens, democratic competition takes place within the lines that have been previously agreed upon. It is not somehow more democratic to pretend those rules don’t exist if they fall out of fashion with one side. The prospect of allowing Trump on the ballot is not itself so dire, but doing so demands disregarding the rule of law on Trump’s behalf simply because of who he is.” • Funny to see this “counter-majoritarian” argument popping up in multiple places. It’s almost like Democrats are preparing the ground for the day after they lose the popular vote….

“Section Three And Constitutional Democracy?” [Vermillion Plain Talk]. “Some provisions of the original Constitution, including protection for slavery and denial to women of the right to vote, for example, were clearly undemocratic but, over time, were amended out of the Constitution, as the American people came to recognize the cruelty and arbitrariness of those provisions that reflected anachronistic values of another age. But other provisions that seem undemocratic — Article II criteria for presidential eligibility, the Impeachment Clause, the Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment and the 22nd Amendment — because they impose limits on the choices of voters, have retained their vitality and relevance in an age marked by grave constitutional challenges. These voter-limiting provisions serve the greater interest of the nation — the necessity of preserving our constitutional democracy.”

The Constitutional Order


Less than a year to go!

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“The Hackery of Judge Florence Pan” [Julie Kelly]. “A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia—Biden appointees Florence Pan and Michelle Childs and George H. W. Bush appointee Karen Henderson—heard oral arguments for Donald Trump’s appeal of a lower court decision that concluded presidents are not immune from criminal prosecution for their conduct in office. The appeal originated out of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s four-count indictment against the former president related to the events of January…. The debate involved two competing, and untested, views: Team Trump argues impeachment and conviction by Congress is the Constitutionally mandated way to handle criminal conduct by a president while Smith and Chutkan argue that being president does not confer a ‘get-out-of-jail-free pass,’ as Chutkan wrote in her opinion. John Sauer, one of the attorneys representing the former president, was barely one minute into his opening statement before Pan cut him off. Sauer presented a few examples of former presidents who engaged in presumably prosecutable conduct in office—George W. Bush lying about the pretext of the Iraq War and Barack Obama authorizing drone strikes that resulted in the killing of Americans overseas—which prompted Pan to concoct her own hypotheticals. Calling impeachment ‘a cumbersome process that requires the actions of a whole branch of government that has a lot of different people involved’—no duh—Pan asked Sauer if selling pardons or military secrets would prevent a president from criminal prosecution. As Sauer tried to answer, Pan presented her made-for-cable-news clickbait: ‘Could a president order Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival? That’s an official act, an order to Seal Team Six?’ She quickly interrupted Sauer—a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and solicitor general for the state of Missouri—as he pointed out that such an order would result in immediate impeachment and conviction.” • “[A] whole branch of government that has a lot of different people involved” is inane. Huh? Did Pan ever work for Pelosi?

“Election Countdown: 300 Days to Go” [James Fallows, Breaking the News]. Fallows urges that you listen to the audio, which is here. “The arguments concerned Donald Trump’s effort to dismiss charges from the January 6 insurrection, on grounds that he was immune from prosecution for any presidential acts. The drama in this discussion started early, when Judge Florence Pan asked Trump’s representative, D. John Sauer, about the implications of this argument. I stress that this was genuine intellectual drama, rather than histrionics. The judge’s questions were relentless but her tone was low-key and calm. Most news reports today involve the vivid hypothetical question that Sauer could not answer. You can hear it starting at time 8:00 of this audio-only C-Span version. Judge Pan asks, “Could a president order Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? As an official act, an order to Seal Team 6?” Sauer keeps talking after that, but he has nothing left to say…. One other note about Sauer’s performance. Some members of Trump’s ever-shifting legal defense teams have been grifters or incompetents. By contrast D. John Sauer’s background is as august as you could find. And still he put himself in a position to make arguments that will forever be ridiculed—the lawyers’ counterpart of the ‘Rose Mary stretch.'” • I have to say I remain unconvinced by Pan’s rhetorical question. The question is not the action, but who does the convicting for it. Take the example of George W. Bush. His program of warrantless surveillance was clearly felonious. Congress granted him retroactive immunity for it; in other words, did not impeach him. To take Pan’s example, and a beloved one among Baude and Paulsen adherents: Suppose the political rival had been Jefferson Davis? Wouldn’t that have been a good clean kill? Of the two options, conviction through the executive branch, and conviction by impeachment, I prefer conviction by impeachment.

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“Trump’s $370M civil fraud trial is nearing an end. Here’s what to know” [ABC]. “After hearing 11 weeks of testimony, a judge on Thursday will hear closing arguments in a court case that could dismantle former President Donald Trump’s New York-based business empire. The final decision in Trump’s civil fraud trial — which Judge Arthur Engoron is expected to issue later this month — could not only cost Trump hundreds of millions of dollars but also bar him from the New York real estate industry that propelled him to stardom and, later, the U.S. presidency. Resting her case after presenting more than two dozen witnesses, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged that Trump, his adult sons, and his top deputies inflated the assets listed in his annual financial statement, known as a statement of financial condition or SFC. The statements gave Trump’s lenders a false sense of confidence about doing business with him, which led them to offer Trump more favorable interest rates than he would have otherwise received, James alleged… ‘There was no bank that brought any claims against anybody that is a defendant in this case, because there was no damage and there was no victim,’ Trump’s legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, said during the trial. Testifying as a witness during the state’s case, Trump assailed Engoron’s finding that Trump valued his Mar-a-Lago resort at roughly $18 million for tax purposes while listing it in his financial statement at more than $612 million. ‘The fraud is on the Court, not on me, when you rule that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million. I could give you a quarter of a tennis court would be worth that,’ Trump testified.” • Jake, it’s New York real estate.

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“Donald Trump enjoys a relaxed Fox News town hall while top Republican rivals have fiery debate” [Associated Press]. “When asked about his previous statements that a second term as president would be about retribution for his enemies, Trump said he wouldn’t have time for it. ‘The ultimate retribution,’ he said, ‘is success.'” • Served cold.

“Trump blames Biden’s ‘weak’ presidency for Ukraine war, Hamas attack in Israel” [Anadolu Agency]. “‘It would have never happened in Ukraine. Russia would have never gone in, would have never happened. The recent attack on Israel would have never happened,’ Trump said during a Fox News town hall. ‘They see a weak president (Biden) in our country,’ he said. ‘And they did something that was unthinkable. [1] So we’re going to have peace through strength. [2] We’re not going to have to fight.'” • I think sentence [2] has great appearl, and only Trump can say it. Sentence [1], though… A country that can’t even manage to manufacture its own ammunition has issues that go beyond the Oval Office.

“Trump Suggests He’s Picked Vice Presidential Running Mate: ‘I Know Who It’s Going To Be'” [Forbes] • What a showman. Scorps! Yo, Scorps! Over here!

“Polls show Latinos back Trump over Biden in 2024. And immigration isn’t the reason” [USA Today]. “Democratic pollsters have long anticipated that the Latino population bomb would mean huge gains for Democrats and a realignment in our national politics. But demography alone is not destiny…. Both the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll and the CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that Trump has a 5-point lead with Latino voters. This was not the direction the wags expected nascent Latino voters to lead the country – toward the champion of disaffected white America, to the man who promised to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it…. One of the strange twists in U.S. politics has been the remaking of the GOP from the party of the corporate executive in the 1980s to the party of the Americans who drive nails. Donald Trump’s Republican Party is decidedly more working class, and that has drawn especially Latino men. ‘Latinos tended to favor Democratic presidential candidates over Republican ones, but Latino men surprised pundits by more strongly supporting Donald Trump in 2020 than was expected based on his 2016 showing,’ University of Arizona political scientist Lisa M. Sanchez said in a Q&A with UA News. ‘Is there a Latino agenda? It is a myth that the top issue for the majority of Latinos is immigration policy. The top issue for Latinos is usually the economy. In fact, research suggests that the Latino agenda looks a lot like the agendas of any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S.’… To quote the indelicate phrase from the ‘90s: It’s the economy, stupid. In 2024, Latinos are likely to be concerned with issues of massive inflation, stagnant wages and soaring healthcare costs – all economic in nature.'”

“Trump critic Chris Christie exits 2024 US presidential race” [France24]. “Since launching his bid in June, Christie has been a staple on cable news shows offering withering critiques of Trump, calling him unfit for office and arguing that he was morally responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. While the broadsides earned Christie a sliver of support among Republicans wanting to move in a new direction, Trump’s tight grip on the party’s most active members meant Christie never rose above low single digits in national polls. His departure eliminates the most vocal Trump antagonist from the race, although Haley, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, has grown increasingly critical of Trump in recent months.” • Oh well…

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“The Biden Box” [The American Prospect]. “So is nothing to be done other than explore the rules for emigrating to Canada? We can’t take 20 years off Biden, but there are actually several things to be done. For starters, as Obama suggested, Biden needs a campaign team that is not the same as his top White House staffers. Second, he needs to stop touting his economic successes and make the campaign about Trump. His Valley Forge speech was a good start. I thought the Charleston speech, aimed at rallying the Black vote, was less effective because it lacked Obama’s touch at uniting Black and white voters. The “cease-fire now” interruptions were a reminder that there is more than one way to depress the Black vote. Third, Biden needs to end the two wars that are dragging down his credibility as a leader. Netanyahu (who would rather have Trump) is making a fool out of Biden. The U.S. needs to use its leverage to set explicit humanitarian conditions and move Israel to an early cease-fire and peace plan. Even the most pro-Israel Jewish voters (and donors) are fed up. There is also a deal to be had to end the Ukraine War. The deal is some land in exchange for a cease-fire and NATO guarantees of Ukrainian sovereignty. Biden will always be an aging leader who is at risk when he is off-script. But at least he can be a better version of himself.” • Biden believes in his two wars, especially Israel’s war. And there’s only a deal to be had to end the war in Ukraine if (a) Russia believes the US is a “agreement-capable,” and (b) if Russia has achieved its war aims. Both are unlikely. In any case, why would Putin want to help re-elect Biden?

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“Republicans push ahead with Hunter Biden contempt charge after surprise visit to Capitol Hill” [Associated Press]. “The House Oversight and Judiciary committees each passed contempt charges against the younger Biden with unanimous Republican support and all Democrats opposed. The action sets up a House vote on recommending criminal charges against a member of President Joe Biden’s family as the GOP moves into the final stages of an impeachment inquiry into the president himself. If the House votes to hold Hunter Biden in contempt, it will be up to the Department of Justice, specifically the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, to decide whether to prosecute.” • Ridiculous to see supposedly serious legislators voting in favor of a stunt.

“Why Hunter Biden showed up at the Capitol” [Axios]. “Hunter’s team didn’t loop in White House aides about his plans [or so they say] — the latest example of the president’s son taking control of his legal defense, three people familiar with the matter told Axios. Hunter’s sudden appearance with attorney Abbe Lowell created a nationally televised frenzy at the Capitol at a time when Republicans have targeted Hunter’s foreign business dealings as part of an impeachment inquiry into his father. Hunter went through a lengthy prep for Wednesday’s hearing [or so they say] just in case House Republicans decided they wanted him to testify publicly, according to two of the sources who spoke with Axios.” • I guess it does make sense to do prep in case the Republican’s called Hunter’s bluff — Dear Hunter! — but come on. You don’t just show up at a Congressional hearing!

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“Cenk Uygur Fights the Natural-Born Citizen Restriction” [American Prospect]. “There is a hearing this morning before the U.S. district court in Columbia, South Carolina, based on a complaint Uygur filed that seeks an injunction against the decision to take his name off the ballot for the February 3 Democratic primary. The South Carolina Democratic Party rejected Uygur’s bid to make the primary ballot—without refunding him the $20,000 filing fee—based on a reading of Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution, which says that only ‘natural born citizens’ are allowed to serve in the office of the presidency. Uygur argues that the denial of his petition for placement on the ballot violates a separate part of the Constitution: Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which states that ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States’ are citizens, and that ‘No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ In the reading of Uygur and his team, this overrides the Article II restriction on naturalized citizens to become president.'” Interesting idea! Also: “Six states have let Uygur onto the ballot.”

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“Big 2024 Presidential Election Changes Are Leaving Voters Baffled” [Wall Street Journal]. “Iowa Republicans on Monday will caucus to choose a presidential candidate, but Democrats will start to vote by mail and wait weeks for results. In New Hampshire the following week, both parties will cast primary ballots, but the Democrats’ votes will be purely symbolic.

And then in early February, Nevada Republicans can vote in two contests: a caucus without all the GOP candidates, and a primary where results won’t count toward the nomination.

For that confusion, voters can thank allies of President Biden and former President Donald Trump, who have pushed for changes to the calendar to boost their candidates’ nomination prospects and make it harder for challengers…. On the Democratic side, Biden personally asked that South Carolina replace Iowa as the party’s first nominating contest. The state saved his struggling 2020 primary campaign after he performed poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. For Republicans, the Trump campaign said it helped influence party officials in some states, including California, to change their rules so the former president can accumulate delegates more quickly. In Nevada, party officials close to Trump opted to award delegates through a caucus instead of the state-mandated primary because, they said, its in-person format mitigates election-security concerns. Critics said voters would be confused and Trump will benefit because the type of engaged voters who support Trump also favor in-person caucuses.”

MN: “Rep. Ilhan Omar to report raising $1.6 million in Q4” [Axios]. “The latest raise, which matches her total contributions from the first nine months of the year, was fueled by about 47,000 individual donations, the campaign told Axios. About 98% of those were under $200. The three-term member of Congress is one of several House Democrats affiliated with the ‘Squad’ to attract a serious primary challenger following their criticism of Israel’s actions in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.” • I’d love to see Ilhan beat AIPAC.

NV: “Counties remind Nevadans: Trump didn’t file for presidential primary, so he won’t be on ballot” [News from the States].

Democrats en Déshabillé

“Judge orders Democrats at the Colorado Capitol to stop using secret voting system to allocate state budget” [Colorado Sun]. “Denver District Court Judge David Goldberg ruled that the secret system — quadratic voting — doesn’t comply with the state’s open meetings laws, which prohibit government bodies from taking formal action by secret ballot…. Democrats began using quadratic voting in 2019, as reported at the time by The Colorado Sun. The process applied an obscure economic theory to the challenge of prioritizing budget requests, essentially turning the caucus’ decision-making process into a market. Lawmakers received an allocation of vote tokens to ‘spend’ on programs they cared about most. But the lawsuit argued that not only did the system violate public transparency laws, it was ‘purposefully constructed to conceal information the public is entitled to know.’ The caucus hired a third-party contractor to conduct the vote and keep the ballots anonymous through an electronic voting system…. Lawmakers contended in court that the voting system wasn’t a ‘secret ballot’ because the quadratic voting didn’t constitute an official action of the legislature. The appropriations bills still had to go through public hearings, debates and votes to be adopted into law. Goldberg disagreed. ‘Adopting a proposed position through anonymous voting is precisely the reason why the General Assembly amended (the open meetings law) to prohibit secret ballots,’ he wrote.” Electronic voting. Of course.

“Democrats! Time to Re-Embrace Merit, Free Speech, and Universalism” [Ruy Teixeira, The Liberal Patriot]. “Most voters, especially working-class voters, think racial preferences are not fair and fairness is a fundamental part of their world outlook. They actually believe, with Martin Luther King Jr., that people should ‘not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ In a recent University of California Dornsife survey, this classic statement of colorblind equality was posed to respondents: “Our goal as a society should be to treat all people the same without regard to the color of their skin”. This MLK-style statement elicited sky-high (92 percent) agreement from the public, despite the assaults on this idea from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and large sectors of the Democratic left. In a fascinating related finding, the researchers found that most people who claim to have heard about CRT believe CRT includes this colorblind perspective, rather than directly contradicting it. Perhaps they just can’t believe any theory that has anything to do with race would reject this fundamental principle.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“American Gerontocracy, Explained” [Crooked Timber]. “My claim is that a confluence of largely unrelated factors will cause generational conflict to become a central cleavage in US politics in the 2020s. This means holding fixed the time Period of analysis and treating Age (there are a lot of old people) and Cohort (those old people are Baby Boomers) as two distinct types of causes of the present generational conflict…. This conflict has a zero-sum dimension, as younger and older generations jostle over a fixed fiscal budget, with mutually exclusive preferences…. But in another important sense, the tension between Boomer Ballast and the internet revolution is negative-sum, and potentially even more concerning for the viability of the United States as a system…. Our society is like a sluggish laptop with too many browser tabs open, too many resources devoted to maintaining things as they are, to be able to do new things quickly…. [A] fully armed and operational internet/social media/smartphone stack, deployed to the majority of humans in under a decade, is reshaping societies, economies, cultures, families. But because this “freedom” comes without increased capacities, it produces mostly meaninglessness, alienation and vitriol. And Boomer Ballast makes the problem much worse.” • I dunno….


“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!

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Look for the Helpers

Counting particles! Really small ones! Including aerosols!

Respirator test at 5:48.

Another open source project:


Deborah Birx: Understanding COVID response failures critical for future” [Chris Cuomo, NewsNation]. • Cuomo has Long Covid; his Covid coverage improved. One infection at a time…

“Orf vs. the Memory Hole: The Heartless Shaming Campaigns of Covid-19” (paywall) [Matt Taibbi, Racket News]. “I’m recovering from a particularly violent bout of Covid-19, so perhaps as a vaccinated person I’m a bit frostier on the subject than one might normally be, but [Racket’s Matt Orfalea] has put together a clip I hope future historians will bother to review. It’s now clear one of the biggest, if not the biggest single sources of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic was Fauci himself. Incidentally, as Dr. Jay Bhattacharya just noted, Fauci just admitted the six-foot social distancing rule ‘just sort of appeared,’ and was likely not based on any data. So there’s that.” • The remainder of Taibbi’s no doubt penetrating remarks is hidden behind a paywall. I’m not really happy with Taibbi normalizing psycho eugenicists like “Dr.” Jay Bhattacharya (he being an economist, not a medical doctor). I’m even less happy with ‘just sort of appeared,’ not because Fauci isn’t a loathesome gremlin and a skillful liar, he totally is, but because “just sort of appeared” is, in fact one of Fauci’s lies, though without a transcript — not yet public, Taibbi sourced to a tweet — we can’t be completely sure of the the context. If you think for a moment, you will see that anybody who believes in droplet dogma must believe that by the laws of ballistics, droplets will fall within a certain radius of the emitter (unlike aerosols, which float like smoke). Hence social distance. See this article on droplet dogma from Wired, covering how Linsey Marr and Jose-Luis Jimenez tracked down the history of the science. First, social distancing didn’t “appear.” It was actively propagated by CDC and WHO. Second, the science is at best questionable: “[S]ocial distancing guideline seemed to be based on a few studies from the 1930s and ’40s.” Third, aerosol transmission, which necessarily de-emphasizes social distancing, is being and has been fought tooth and nail at both CDC and WHO by the public health establishment. Shorter: Fauci’s lying about “just sort of appeared,” too, and while I love Taibbi’s reporting on Iowa, in Covid he’s either too infatuated by GBD goons like Bhattacharya, not interested in running down the story, or — heaven forfend — suffering from loss of executive function.


“Incidence of persistent SARS-CoV-2 gut infection in patients with a history of COVID-19: Insights from endoscopic examination” [Endoscopy International Open]. N = 166. “Gut infection is common during acute COVID-19, and persistent SARS-CoV-2 gut infection has been reported months after the initial infection, potentially linked to long-COVID syndrome. This study tested the incidence of persistent gut infection in patients with a history of COVID-19 undergoing endoscopic examination…. Gut mucosal tissues can act as a long-term reservoir for SARS-CoV-2, retaining viral particles for months following the primary COVID-19 infection. Smokers and individuals with diabetes may be at an increased risk of persistent viral gut infection.”

Elite Maleficence

Somebody put Mandy on a milk carton:

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, January 9:

Lambert here #1: 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.

Lambert here #2: Called it. Impressively, the Biden administration has now blown through all previous records, with the single exception of the Omicron, the top of the leaderboard, a record also set by itself. Congratulations to the Biden team! I know a lot of people think the peak will come in the next two weeks or so; I’d like to hear at least some anecdotal evidence of that beyond the models (because recall JN.1, whose peak this is, is extremely infectious).

Lambert here #3: Slight decrease in slope, due to the Northeast and the West (unless it’s a data issue). Personally, I wouldn’t call a peak, based entirely on the anecdotes I’m scrolling through, which are not encouraging, particularly with regard to the schools. Very unscientific, I agree! Let’s wait and see. Note that I don’t accept the PMC “homework” model, whose most famous exponent is Sociopath of the Day Bob Wachter, where you adjust your behavior according to multiple sources of (horrible, gappy, lagged) data about infection levels (ignoring “risk of ruin”). Just stick with your protocol day in and day out, my advice. K.I.S.S. However, tracking these trends, besides having intrinsic interest, is pragmatically useful for major decisions, like travel, cruises (surely not, readers), relocation, family events, communication with recalcitrant HCWs, etc.

Regional data:

Regional bifurcation continues. The slope of the curve in the Northeast got less steep, which is good news (although, as ever, Biobot data is subject to backward revision).

The MWRA, January 8:

MWRA is down, but I’m guessing that’s because the students aren’t back. (Spring semester begins at BU January 12; Harvard, January 22.) OTOH, students return to Boston public schools January 3.)


NOT UPDATED From CDC, January 6:

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

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, January 6:

Lambert: Down, but New Year’s reporting?

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 January 11:

Lambert here: Very slight decrease. Note that NYC data only lags by a day.

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 30:

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, January 8:

0.5%. Up. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, January 6:

Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 18:

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 18:

Note the chart has been revised to reflect that JN.1 is BA.2.86.1 (the numbers “roll over”).


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 30:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised value to 202,000 on the period ending January 6th, well below market expectations of 210,000. In the meantime, continuing claims fell by 34,000 to 1,834,000 on the earlier week, also below market expectations of 1,871,000.”

Inflation: “United States Core Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual core consumer price inflation rate in the United States, which excludes volatile items such as food and energy, eased to a 2-1/2-year low of 3.9% in December 2023, down from 4% in the prior month and just above market forecasts of 3.8%.”

* * *

Manufacturing: “FAA launches probe of Boeing following door plug incident” [ABC]. “The Federal Aviation Administration said it is conducting an investigation of Boeing after a defective door plug fell out of an Alaska Airlines plane last week, forcing an emergency landing. ‘This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again,’ the FAA said in a statement, noting it has formally notified Boeing of the probe…. The FAA said its investigation will ‘determine if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations.’ The Boeing probe is a result of the door plug incident and ‘additional discrepancies,’ the FAA said. ‘Boeing’s manufacturing practices need to comply with the high safety standards they’re legally accountable to meet,’ the agency said.” • Speaks will of Mayo Pete that he isn’t grandstanding this.

Enshittification: Remember the “sharing economy”?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 74 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 73 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 11 at 1:27:12 PM ET.

Class Warfare

“The Cannabis Industry and Labor Unions” [On Labor]. “[T]he market for recreational cannabis products continues to gain traction, cannabis workers across the country are unionizing. These organizing drives have brought to light the ways in which, to its workers, the cannabis industry is not all that its consumer brand would suggest. This organizing has also illustrated how unions and labor law can be powerful countervailing forces when employers do not treat their workers well…. There are three sectors of the cannabis industry. First, agricultural workers grow cannabis; then, processing workers turn raw cannabis into products for sale; finally, retail workers sell the products at dispensaries. All three sectors can be challenging places to work. The cannabis cultivation sector, for starters, involves the sort of commercial agricultural work that is notoriously dangerous, demanding, and low paying in the United States. And the processing of cannabis material, too, can place workers at grave risk. In one case, constant exposure to air filled with cannabis dust caused a woman to develop asthma within months of working at a cannabis cultivation and processing facility. Tragically, in January of 2022, the 27-year-old woman suffered a fatal heart attack at her workstation because of an asthma attack. The retail segment of the industry is also earning a bad reputation among some workers. Many ‘budtenders’ (cannabis salesclerks) report encountering disorganized management, unpredictable scheduling, and toxic or even abusive bosses. As the aforementioned cannabis CEO acknowledged, the industry ‘doesn’t necessarily have a good track record of treating employees very well.’ In a striking illustration of the disillusionment that many workers feel, 55 percent of budtenders leave their dispensary jobs within 12 months.”

News of the Wired

I am not feeling wired today. Perhaps tomorrow!

* * *

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 Dog writes: “When the Sharp-tailed Grouse come through they always send a lookout up in the tree so the hungry fox and coyotes dont get ‘em.”

• Kind readers, I think I’m OK on plants for awhile, though it never hurts to have more!

* * *

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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. Edgar

    Re Trump. Here’s a simple formula for states, and the nation, to consider:

    No Trump on the state ballot in March means no income tax filings in the mail in April

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      So, if Trump is disqualified from being on the printed ballot, what happens to ballots where he is written in? Are those not counted? I could see a big mess looming if he says “Voters! If you want me for president, you should write my name in – let’s show America that we don’t trust machine counted votes by making all the votes hand counted!”

      1. Art_DogCT

        In Connecticut, write-in candidates must be registered with the Secretary of the State by a certain date prior to the election for those write-in vote to be counted. If the write-in vote is not for a registered candidate, the vote is considered null. The governing law varies state to state.

        1. marym

          2024 Requirements for write-in candidates

          2023: “States and jurisdictions have taken numerous approaches on how write-in votes are handled. Considerations for jurisdictions relate to whether candidates need to register ahead of time to qualify as a valid write-in, as well as questions about how election officials should count these votes: should they require an exact name match, and how should votes be tallied?”

      2. LifelongLib

        Section 3 of the 14th amendment doesn’t actually say anything about ballots; it just prohibits the person from holding office. I assume the ballot thing is to keep voters from voting for someone who can’t actually serve, but maybe there’s a history behind it.

    2. chris

      What do you mean by this statement? Are you suggesting that a successful lawfare campaign to remove Trump from the ballot will create a large scale tax revolt? Why?

      1. rowlf

        Actually, why do people in the US need to pay federal taxes if the federal government can run a deficit? Is it a belief system?

        1. eg

          The requirement to pay taxes is a legal obligation; a deficit is an accounting artefact calculated after spending and tax revenues are tallied over a specified period of time (by convention annually).

          Do you see the difference?

        2. fjallstrom

          Taxes is the means to give the currency real value, in effect value in goods and services.

          By extracting taxes the government makes sure the inhabitants in an area needs to get their hands on the currency the government is extracting taxes in. Thus the inhabitants become willing to part with goods and services in exchange for the government money (or at least they will be after some examples are made of what happens if you don’t pay taxes). And thus the government can pay armed men to uphold the systems with printed or minted money and leave the provisioning up to the markets (instead of handing out fiefs). And pay however else the government wants to, anything from elderly and those unable to work to massive subsidies to the already rich. Practical and flexible arrangement for the government!

          If you want to undermine this system you need to withdraw your goods and services from the market economy or at least not accept the government money (barter is fine). Which is of course incredibly hard and when done to such levels that is has a chance of changing anything (for example general strikes) tend to get you the attention of the governments armed men.

  2. Tom Stone

    I finally took the time to read the lawsuit Ashli Babbits family filed against the US Government and I also watched the video of her murder several times.
    Lieutenant Michael Byrd shot a clearly unarmed woman who did not pose an imminent threat to anyone in front of numerous witnesses and on camera.
    He was not punished in any way.
    It’s an interesting contrast to what happened to Derek Chauvin when he also murdered someone in front of numerous witnesses and on camera.
    I highly recommend reading the whole complaint and watching the video, keeping in mind that Lieutenant Byrd was the Incident commander, not just another cop.
    The actions and inactions of the Capitol Emergency Response Team are also noteworthy, they are the ones who are tasked with responding to active shooters and terrorist attacks on both the Senate and the House of ill repute.

    1. cgregor

      When I was in the Navy during the 60’s we had drills to deal with groups that might be coming down the quay to attack the ship (semper paratus sort of thing). the very first one (this was a drill, remember) was other swabbies pretending to be the Commie peacenik hippies. All they had was a few sticks, just like the antifaux at the Capitol. As soon as he saw them coming, the OOD (Officer of the Deck) ordered the gangway brought in. “If they get onto the ship, there’d be hell to pay,” he explained.

      What was Byrd’s alternative? Once that door was opened– whether by the Antifaux breaking through or the cops opening it to go hand-to-hand or employ sweet reason– there was going to be real hell to pay. Byrd did the right thing in the circumstances. Had he been a Derek Chauvin, he would have emptied his pistol into the crowd.

      1. lambert strether

        The complaint explains the various “right things” Byrd could have done. He didn’t do them. Hence the lawsuit.

      1. caucus99percenter

        My impression is that it’s like Russiagate or the 1/6 “insurrection” narrative. It’s a media-orchestrated opening salvo in a defamation and lawfare plan that is now being put into operation and may well culminate in banning the AfD, since the cartel of established parties sees its prospects dimming of being able to beat the AfD via the ballot box.

    1. Feral Finster

      I said a long time ago, the ban is baked in the cake, and any other political force that dares challenge American hegemony in general or the war on Russia in particular will receive similar treatment on any pretext.

      But the german and european poltical classes will cheer that by banning the opposition, Muh Demopcracy Is Saved

  3. flora

    re: Crooked Timber.

    “Our society is like a sluggish laptop with too many browser tabs open, too many resources devoted to maintaining things as they are, to be able to do new things quickly…. ”

    So, move fast and break things? Haven’t we tried that? / ;)

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      I’m with you, flora. Terrible analogy when what we need is to do the opposite: slow down, eradicate churn without social benefit that does nothing but make money for somebody who already has too much.

      The answer to having too many tabs open is to close some tabs, not spend more money.

  4. .Tom

    I do hope that Cenk Uygur prevails in his effort because I would like the opportunity to not vote for him.

      1. Hepativore

        I can predict that Cenk Uygur will fail, simply because the political ramifications behind allowing his challenge to be successful would be enormous. This probably a big can of worms that no court wants to open especially when there are a lot of powerful individuals and institutions that greatly benefit from the current system too much to ever allow our political structure to be challenged or changed and many judges are very political creatures.

        Also, the New Hampshire Department of Justice has sent the DNC a Cease and Desist order challenging the DNC’s decision that New Hampshire’s primary will not count. The DNC will simply find a DNC-friendly judge to file an injunction against the New Hampshire Department of Justice and drag out the case proceedings until after the 2024 elections are over, ultimately making the outcome of the case irrelevant, even if the DNC ends up losing.

    1. The Rev Kev

      If a Turkish born guy can stand for President, then how about other foreigners running for President as well? I nominate Bibi Netanyahu. He already runs American foreign policy anyway.

          1. Late Introvert

            This. When I talk about that topic with friends and family the steam coming out of their heads is rather amusing. Imagine if we had a leader who cared about the actual people in the nation, and not the ultra-rich/Israel/Ukraine?

          2. fjallstrom

            Medieval style politics. Solve international politics by getting the same guy as king over multiple realms.

  5. Randall Flagg

    The lonely tree on the hill with that gorgeous sky behind it, want to see the view one would have if they were to sit under it on a warm spring day… Or any day really, just pondering the world around us.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    RE: “Constitutional Courage”

    ” Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment frankly disqualifies anyone who has taken part in an insurrection, or given aid and comfort to insurrectionists…. The authors of Section Three anticipated just such a frightful situation.”

    Did they anticipate it though, buddy? Because the 14th was composed after the Civil War, not before it, and was a reaction to it intended bar Confederate participants from holding office again.

    And it didn’t even do that, because exceptions were granted from what I understand. There was an article in links a little bit ago that discussed this situation, which I can’t put my finger on right now. I did just find the following, but can’t vouch for the accuracy of either since I don’t remember hearing anything about this in my US history class – https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/18n41ol/whenhow_did_exconfederates_start_serving_in_the/

    Perhaps other commenters can speak better to this history, if accurate.

    1. pjay

      I’m not surprised that Timothy Snyder’s legal analysis is on par with his history of Ukraine.

      Not that I take Snyder’s interpretation of anything seriously. But I am so sick of these guys simply *asserting* that Trump was guilty of insurrection when that is itself an essentially contested question. They simply state it as fact so that they can then frame the issue as one of upholding the “law” or the “Constitution” versus ignoring the Constitution because of our “fear” of the political consequences. “Come on folks, it’s a question of principle and integrity — of courage!” From those who supported the four year rolling “insurrection” against the results of the 2016 election based on the blatant framing of a sitting President for treason in colluding with a foreign power.

      God I’m so tired of having to defend the likes of Donald Trump against these despicable self-righteous hypocritical a**holes.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      So much grandiose “reverence” for the constitution, but I think you have to skip over the “innocent until proven guilty” part in order to get to the 14th amendment part.

      Oh well, it’s just Trump.

  7. johnherbiehancock

    Re: Fear And Greed

    Is it just me, or has the slide into greed territory been unusually long lasting and consistent?

    What gives?

      1. Keith Howard

        But, like coming into Houston on I-10 from the west, Greed is a big place, and it takes a long time to get from the city limits to downtown.

        Born in Dallas, and long exiled from Texas, I find this a very apt simile. I haven’t read a better one for quite a while. Thank you. But don’t get cocky. Remember the best of all:

        As imperceptibly as grief
        The summer lapsed away

        1. FreeMarketApologist

          I’ve always been partial to the lyrics from The Triumph of Time and Truth, Handel, 1757:

          Hence, let thy thoughts on frailty range,
          And know that every day
          Some charm I make my lawful prey,
          Though unperceiv’d the change.

          Time and Chorus
          Like the shadow, life ever is flying,
          All unnotic’d, so swift the delusion.
          Man heeds not Time, on hope still relying,
          Soon the bell strikes, and all is confusion.

    1. eg

      I sense that it’s a proxy for the risk on/risk off sentiment in markets — at least that’s the correlation I’ve noticed over the past few years.

  8. John

    The anger is palpable. He better be on the ballot! He better not be on the ballot. Insurrectionist! Is not! Is too! Meanwhile JRB games the primaries. … But so does DJT. Everyone is for fair play as long as it favors them. Just once, could we try to play it straight and let the chips fall where they may. Oh yeah… I know. Foolish, visionary, incredibly naive, and if so could we please stop posturing about open, free, and fair election? Could we stop harrumphing about civil right and human rights and the right to rights and virtue signaling? Could we stop with performative B—S—? How about fewer words and more action.

    1. Feral Finster

      Celine’s Second Law reads something like “accurate communication is possible only between peers”.

      I would go one further and say that “meaningful communication is possible only between peers.” Otherwise, the sovereign will simply redefine the meanings of words on the fly, according to his whims of the moment.

      1. eg

        Your latter paragraph has much merit in particular where official narratives on Ukraine are concerned.

  9. bobert

    “the latest example of the president’s son taking control of his legal defense”

    Wow, he’s already a world class painter and an icon of parenting, will he now assume the mantle of lawyer as well? Is there anything this guy can’t do?! Time to dig out my Air-Popper…

    1. pjay

      Well, at least he did graduate from law school (Yale, I believe). I assume he is no longer certified to practice, but who knows in this case. I think the other examples are probably more instructive anyway.

      1. bobert

        I’d forgotten that, thanks for pointing it out. With a bit of luck he will feel empowered to defend himself. The jokes will blossom like daisies in springtime…

    2. The Rev Kev

      As Alex Christoforou says, he is a true renaissance man who is an artist, an expert on oil management and now a legal expert.

      1. bobert

        “Slaps forehead”
        I’ve also forgotten his years as an energy consultant! But then, who can keep up with a whirlwind like Hunter? I wonder where he gets the “zip” to keep up this pace.

  10. Sub-Boreal

    Dear neighbours, I hate to break it to you, but the escape hatch suggested by the American Prospect link is looking a bit iffy: “So is nothing to be done other than explore the rules for emigrating to Canada?”

    The faux populist vs. ineffectual PMC centrist faceoff is shaping up here too, and our Bolsonaro / Trump wannabe is gaining ground among the Canuck deplorables.


    1. Late Introvert

      As an American who knows way more Canadian history than most (that John Wilkes Booth episode sure was fun) I must say most Americans have never really known a thing about the real nature of the Canadian government over the years, and have kept some weird fantasy in mind, probably entirely due to National Health Care and stronger beer (back in the 70s-80s anyhow, not so much anymore.)

      I also like Kids In The Hall. All the original episodes are free on Roku for now.

    2. eg

      Yeah, as much as Trudeau needs to go, the alternative proposed by the official opposition is truly nauseating.

    1. flora

      an aside re “democracy dies in darkness”:

      I’ve read the WaPo is in some financial difficulty these days. Losing subscribers, workers trying to unionize, ad revenue falling off a bit. (Bezos can probably afford it… for a while.) Maybe their tagline could be “newspapers die in darkness.” / ;)

  11. Feral Finster


    “Poland will not deport conscripted Ukrainians, but is ready to create conditions for them to leave on their own.

    The head of the Polish Sejm’s foreign affairs committee, Pawel Kowal, told Sestry.

    Kował believes that it is not necessary to deport Ukrainians because it is illegal. However, the state is ready to create the conditions for the men to leave Poland and return home.”

    This seems to be the new europe-wide policy.

    I suppose that Poles aren’t themselves shoving refugees into the proverbial gas chambers, just putting the refugees in a position where they have nowhere else to go other than the gas chamber. But go on, tell us some more about our superior morality!

    And sure, those refugees are of no military purpose, other than it takes the same amount of steel or lead to kill one. But that is all that Warsaw, Kiev, Brussels and Washington need from them is to soak up Russian munitions and die.

    At least, can we finally drop the idea that europe cares about Ukraine or Ukrainians in the least, except as useful for their American Master?

    1. vao

      Kował believes that it is not necessary to deport Ukrainians because it is illegal. However, the state is ready to create the conditions for the men to leave Poland and return home.

      The official terminology for such a procedure is “voluntary emigration” — ref: Israeli government.

      1. Feral Finster

        Of course, just as if I give up my wallet in response to “your money or your life!” it isn’t really armed robbery because I “voluntarily” handed over the cash.

      2. NN Cassandra

        At least for the Palestinians the proposition is to get from place where bombs rain on their heads to where they don’t. For the Ukrainians the Polish guy seems to hope they will voluntarily move from where bombs don’t rain on them to where they do. I wonder what incentive structure he has in mind to make the front meat grinder the better option.

    2. Christopher Fay

      It’s all voluntary emigration everywhere. There’s a country that can sell software to implement the program.

  12. DJG, Reality Czar

    Vermilion Plain Talk. There’s a whole lotta talking about the U.S. Constitution going on these days, and even though I now live in Italy and am studying the Italian constitution, I’m skeptical of all of the U.S. constitutional experts. I bet that some of them were virologists in a former life where they suddenly learned the term “gain of function.”

    Vermilion Plain Talk gets something very basic very wrong right away. The U.S. Constitution as drafted does not forbid women from voting.

    Article I, clause 2:
    The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

    In New Jersey, the qualification was property. It is well known that in the Early Republic, women in New Jersey voted for federal offices. (Vermilion Plain Talk is plainly a victim of presentism and of the joys of victimism.)

    Here’s an interesting article about that era in New Jersey, with a hint that New York also allowed women to vote (only a hint).


    As to newly minted constitutional expert Cenk Uygur, I’m going to stick with the natural-born qualification. I’m having flashbacks to vogues for Henry Kissinger and Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s enough home-grown talent, it seems to me.

    In short, I’m detecting lots of people tripping over themselves to stretch the U.S. Constitution to suit their agendas. More research may be needed, eh.

    1. scott s.

      Agree, though the federal office was representative (which could be by district or at-large). The qualifications for Presidential electors ” no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector” says nothing about sex. Senators of course being the prerogative of state legislatures.

      1. Acacia

        I believe this ghoulish practice goes back to at least WWII, with the “Hi There!” crudely painted on one of the nukes in Dr. Strangelove being an especially memorable reference.

        Apparently, it got a big boost in the Ukraine proxy war:

        Americans are paying for slogans on bombs aimed at Russians
        https://archive.is/lyhkF (WaPo, de-paywalled)

  13. Raymond Sim

    Some time ago I had occasion to write something along the lines of “Marvin says the high plateau is the equilibrium.” This was in connection to the idea that the pandemic isn’t chaotic, and should move towards an equilibrium. It came with the caveat that something like seroconversion could knock the system out of equilbrium.

    Speaking subject to correction, it seems to me that JN.1 constitutes such an event, but that the assumptions underlying Marvin’s analysis still apply, so that we can anticipate that viral evolution will evolve the pandemic towards another high plateau. This makes the increased incidence of severe respiratory disease more ominous to me.

    I’m at pretty low ebb lately and haven’t been following Comments closely, so apologies if I’m just rehashing something that’s already been discussed.

    1. Feral Finster

      Why does this surprise you? The real goal is to start a war on Iran. And yes, Americans european puppets will meekly acquiesce.

      So will the Saudis, who, last I checked, had opened their air space to US/UK aircraft for the purpose of attacking Yemen. So forget anything you heard about Saudi resistance.

      1. Acacia

        True, though it looks like France backed out, so it’s UK/US leading the charge, not the full FUKUS contingent, though CNN reports support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands.

        And from France24:

        “Any American aggression will never go without a response,” rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi said in speech broadcast live by the Huthis’ Al-Masirah television.

        “The response to any American attack will not only be at the level of the operation that was recently carried out… but it will be greater than that.”

        How long before a warship or two get sunk?

        1. Glen

          This is so not good.

          And I’m expecting escalation to counter this – Zelenskyy’s gonna have to send a giant American made missile to Moscow or some place like that, and Netanyahu will send a couple of those brigades he freed up from Gaza to do something stupid with Lebanon/Hezbollah. All Biden’s good buddy allies, fighting for his attention.

          All right, that’s complete sarc, but dang, too many of my complete sarc calls seemed to come true last year so I gotta roll a big one out there to start the year.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “The Biden Box”

    ‘There is also a deal to be had to end the Ukraine War. The deal is some land in exchange for a cease-fire and NATO guarantees of Ukrainian sovereignty.’

    And with that this article discredited itself. One of the major aims for Russia is not to have the Ukraine in NATO – and does NATO want to be in a position anyway where the Ukraine can maneuver NATO itself into a war with Russia? And ‘a cease-fire’ does not imply an end to the war but just a frozen conflict like in Korea. Also, just how much land does the American Prospect think should be given up. The Russian Constitution says that all Russian land is to be free so there is a lot more land in the Ukraine that remains to be liberated yet. The American Prospect is indulging in wishful thinking here.

  15. jrkrideau

    As long as the United States is willing to bribe or bully opponents of Israel into silence, Israel could not care less about the ICJ or its reputation.

    The question is how long can it continue to do so? South Africa’s charge to the ICJ must be interpreted as a sign that many countries think that US power is fading. I believe my list is out of date but Turkey, Honduras, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, and Jordan, & Bolivia have all withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel.

    Recent votes in the UN General Assembly censoring Israel have been almost unanimous.

    It was just as I was typing this, Bahrain struck me. It is the home of the US 5th Fleet and, more or less, a Saudi dependency. If it is willing to withdraw its ambassador, it must feel it has some serious backing.

  16. Amfortas the Hippie

    the three articles in a row about erstwhile democrats defending the constitutional order by not only destroying it, but also forgetting their own very recent history in their own primaries….
    man…do they have no mirrors?
    the destruction of whatever there ever was of “democracy”(not much) in these united states has been a bipartisan affair…from different angles, in the beforetimes….from the get-go.(…well…since the 70’s, at least…gary hart’s cohort, as well as what became the reagan revolution…)
    there’s been a venn diagram of what dems and gop agree on floating around the web for as long as ive been on the web.
    i have numerous copies in my background rotating file.(among the naked nubiles and jennifer aniston and various nature things)
    the meniscus of where they disagree has been getting thinner by the year.

  17. Amfortas the Hippie

    and re the hackery of pan
    star chamber stuff.
    like the Blob talking reverently about international law(and Rules!)
    they’re all full of shit.

    i admit that im relying on Lamberts cuts from these articles…because i got a big mass of canadian air headed here, and am breathless with preparation.
    theyre all in tabs, waiting for after the said weather event.
    sigh…puff, puff…

    1. The Rev Kev

      A big mass of Canadian air? Does that mean snow or frost or what? Sounds like it is time to batten down the hatches.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        monday, 18 degrees..tuesday mornin, 10.
        windchill below zero.
        ill shut off the water and drain the lines to the barnyard at moms, and my whole side of the place(i designed my water system to do just that, because i hate being a plumber when its cold)
        spending manana cutting a bit more wood, just in case…as well as filling up jugs and jars and whatnot with water.
        and wrapping moms outside pipes, etc…because she again refuses to endure a day without running water.
        (even tho it may cost her a month or more of no water at all, due to lack of plumbers…her whole house needs to be re-plumbed… i’ll do it for a fee, and cheaper than anybody in texas,lol…theres 100+ years of cracker rigging bullshit under there, by unknown anonymous folks, using whatever was to hand at the time…but i am regarded as incompetent and evil, to maintain her fragile ego..so nothing gets done till shes ded)

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          ill be building fires in the woodstove at 4 am,lima…because its easier to keep the house warm, than it is to heat it up.
          i had windows open today, in spite of the pollen(“mountain juniper”, which we all call ‘cedar’) to let the hot air in(78, for a high..i was naked at the bar, sitting in the sun..soaking up D…and drinkin beer)

  18. Mangelwurtzel

    I think that there is some truth here. Personal experience: my modest $1600 per month fixed rate mortgage used to be tough to pay 10 years ago on a farming income. Now, it seems reasonable, relative to the inflation of everything else. Hence: I am middle class winner! I will plant more trees now.

  19. The Rev Kev

    Fetterman continues to prove that he is not who people thought he was and that perhaps Dr. Oz was not so bad after all. ‘Pennsylvania senator says it is ‘appalling’ that South Africa brought the case given its history’ and that they ‘ought to sit this one out.’ It is because of South Africa’s history that they can see exactly what Israel has been doing for decades now and what they are all bout. Giving the Israeli regime a pass would be the same as giving the old Apartheid regime a pass for its actions-


    1. Feral Finster

      Funny as nobody days that modern-day Germany doesn’t have a special insight into the crimes of the Nazis.

      But any stick to beat a dog…

  20. CA

    “It is because of South Africa’s history that they can see exactly what Israel has been doing for decades now and what they are all about…”

    The legacy of Nelson Mandela is being realized. Importantly and perfectly expressed. Thank you.

  21. Acacia

    Re: JN. 1

    Japan-led research team warns new JN.1 coronavirus strain better at evading immune system

    Experiments using cultured cells revealed that JN.1 may be about twice as infectious as the BA-2-86 omicron subvariant, commonly referred to as pirola, which spread worldwide and was observed for the first time in Japan in the summer of 2023.

    The new variant’s immune escape ability is 3.6 to 4.5 times that of the pirola strain for antibodies created in the body following vaccination, and 3.8 times for antibodies developed after being infected with the COVID-19 virus.

    The research team said there “is a concern that JN.1 may spread across the globe and become mainstream in the pandemic going forward,” and that effective infection control measures must be properly implemented.

    “properly implemented” hmm

    JN.1 is arriving a little late in Japan, but it increased from 8.2% of all variants in the second week of December, to 32% in the middle of the month, just a few percent shy of the then-dominant EG.5 (35%). The VOI reports lag in Japan, but I would expect JN.1 is probably the dominant strain by now.

    Anecdotally, I see only about half of people on trains are masking. The propaganda is working. smh

  22. Regis Tufarian

    Re: “Cenk Uygur Fights the Natural-Born Citizen Restriction”

    The argument brings to mind something I read about “originalists.” They love the constitution. It’s the amendments they can’t stand.

  23. ChrisRUEcon


    > ‘The ultimate retribution,’ he said, ‘is success.’” • Served cold.

    Chef’s family-blog kiss … he’s won.

  24. ChrisRUEcon


    > In any case, why would Putin want to help re-elect Biden?

    … made me laugh!

    It’s like he’s interfering by not not interfering.

  25. kareninca

    Am I the only person whose first thought about reading about the bad Boeing seats was that I might be able to get my next flight for nearly nothing by choosing one of them? I’d bring some super glue of course, to bolster the screw.

        1. Rock Taster

          Sort of like collecting an option premium…you survive you can pocket it. Living in Alaska and being somewhat stuck with BA, I’d have to write that.

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