2:00PM Water Cooler 1/17/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Volcano Junco, Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE), Cartago, Costa Rica.

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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


Less than a year to go!

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“The Ruin That a Trump Presidency Would Mean” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. “What kind of people are Americans, anyway? Trump has made clear, without illusions, that his ballot issue in 2024 is to rehabilitate and ratify his attempt to overturn the election of 2020. He is running to protect himself from the legal consequences of that attempt. But even more fundamentally, he is running to justify himself for attempting it. In 2016, Trump opponents warned that he might refuse to leave office if defeated. In 2024, Trump himself is arguing that he was right to refuse to leave office when defeated, and he is asking Americans to approve his refusal.If he should return to the presidency in 2025, we have no reason to expect him to leave in 2029. So maybe the issue on the ballot in 2024 is not a choice at all, but a much more open-ended question. We know who Biden is. We know who Trump is. Who are we?” • I think Frum is a little rusty, perhaps from the tears? Just because Democrats want 2024 framed as “our democracy” doesn’t mean that Trump, of all people, was to adopt that frame, as Frum does here (and may be so deeply embubbled he doesn’t even know it’s a frame). Oh, and apparently the “ruin” will happen in Ukraine and to NATO. But Ukraine is a lost cause, and cutting the cord to NATO takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Dave, better horribles in your parade, pleaes/

“Trump’s potential return to the White House is a top conversation topic at Davos” [CNBC]. “‘Every question I’ve gotten as I’ve walked up and down the [Davos] Promenade today is, ‘is he coming back?” Tim Adams, president of the Institute of International Finance, told CNBC on Tuesday…. For Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered, one of the main questions is how would a new U.S. leader interact with China, following years of tensions between Washington and Beijing. ‘The slight reengagement that we’re seeing through the Biden administration are an indication to me that the U.S. is looking to stabilize [relations with China],’ the top bank CEO said, giving a nod to recent trips by U.S. officials to China. ‘If Trump becomes president, we know that he’s a transactional president, and there’s probably a transaction in there someplace, that keeps the economy on an even keel, without fundamentally disrupting that relationship. But of course, we watch all the time, and we’re well aware that there could be either unintended consequences or accidents,’ Winters said.” • Hmm. I wonder how the ventilation is, this year?

“Appeals court won’t revisit Twitter’s fight against Trump probe warrant” [Politico]. “All four Republican-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals extolled the virtues and importance of the president’s right to confidential communications and advice, even though they concluded that the underlying dispute over Smith’s access to Trump’s private Twitter messages was moot. Last February, as part of Smith’s investigation of Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election, prosecutors obtained a voluminous trove of Trump’s Twitter data after secret court proceedings. A district judge ordered the company, now known as X, to turn over the data without informing Trump, and a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit later upheld that decision. That precedent, the D.C. Circuit’s Republican-appointed judges worried Tuesday, could lead federal and state prosecutors to invade a sitting president’s privileged materials — without advance notification — by simply accessing the materials via a third party like a social media or phone company.” • Chalk up another win for the Censorship Industrial Complex.

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“Art dealer told Congress that Joe Biden called and met him while he sold Hunter Biden’s paintings” [Just the News]. “he art dealer who sold Hunter Biden’s paintings told Congress that President Joe Biden both called and met him at the White House as he was pitching Hunter’s artwork and that the first son also made an unusual request to be informed about who bought his pieces, according to testimony that directly undercuts the White House narrative on the sales. The Biden White House repeatedly told the public that Hunter Biden’s art sales were covered by an ethics agreement to ensure they were arms-length and that the first family — Hunter included — was blinded to the identity of buyers. But George Berges, owner of the prestigious Berges art galleries based in New York and Berlin that sold Hunter Biden’s painting from 2020 to 2023, told congressional impeachment investigators that the first son likely knew the identity of 70% of the buyers – the largest who were Democrat donors – and that Hunter Biden’s first contract made an unusual request when the relationship started. ‘I believe in the first contract, he was—he was able to know who the buyers were,’ Berges told investigators for the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees in a transcribed interview last week that was reviewed by Just the News. ‘…I don’t know how it was phrased or—but I remember that there—that that was the difference.’ ‘Is that normal or unusual, or where’s that? Is it a normal kind of contract?’ Berges was asked. ‘That part was different. Normally, the gallerist does not let the artist know who the collectors are,’ the art dealer answered.” • Laundries are normal. But coin-operated?

“Joe Biden’s chances do not look good. The Democrats have no plan B” [The Economist]. “With most states so partisan that they are not worth contesting, the presidential campaign will be centred on six where the outcome is actually uncertain: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Early polling in these states also shows Mr Biden several points behind. And some Democrats fear that these polls may be underestimating Mr Trump’s support, because his conspiracy-minded voters may not be open with those taking the surveys.” Handy chart:

So much, as I keep saying, for the “Coalition of the Ascendant,” which the Democrats have been relying on to carry them to victory since 2004. It was evidently at best lazy and at worst a collapse into a welter of identity-driven verticals, but the sclerotic party leadership hasn’t figured out a new strategy (and since all their NGOs are vertically-driven anyhow, there’s no incentive (especially from funders who are happy their vanity projects rendered the party dysfunctional)).

“‘We all have concerns’: Hill Democrats see flawed Biden campaign” [Roll Call]. “[Quentin Fulks, principal deputy campaign manager for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris] and other senior Biden campaign officials on a call with reporters earlier this month described a long-game strategy largely based on an assessment that most voters have not yet started thinking about the general election as a race between Biden and Trump. Asked about Biden’s dismal poll numbers, Fulks said on the Jan. 3 call that the campaign intends to ‘scale up’ its efforts and staffing — including paid media buys — so that the operation is ‘fully operational’ when voters are more seriously thinking about the election. And when they do, Fulks and other officials said, the president and his surrogates will be making the case that voters have a clear ‘choice’ between Biden and Trump.” • If both parties wrap the nominations up even before Super Tuesday, then there’s plenty of time before the party conventions for Biden to slip a cog and Trump’s plane to go down. So keep calm.

“Biden Needs to Govern Like the Polls Are Right” [Slate]. “Yes, polls are flawed, and we’re still a ways out from Election Day. But they’re not that flawed. Trump just trounced the field in Iowa, just as polls predicted. And there’s a pattern here, a steady drumbeat since early last year of bad vibes, miserable polling numbers, and rock-bottom favorability figures for Biden. There’s only one thing left to do, legislatively. The president and his cabinet need to start governing like there’s no tomorrow—or rather, with the urgency of a team with only 10 months left to live (politically). They need to use the relatively tiny window of the remaining year to push through whatever remains of the Democratic agenda and to take the necessary preparations to minimize the damage of another Trump term. Troublingly, we haven’t seen enough of that.” • The article goes on to discuss what Biden is focusing on: cutting a deal with Republicans to shovel more money to Ukraine. Can somebody explain the winning aspect here? On immigration, people will vote for the real Republican, not Republican Lite (as always). On Ukraine, who cares?

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“Love vs. Politics: How News Coverage Triggers Fights in Divided Couples” [Study Finds]. “The team at [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] set out to investigate what impact this has had on the estimated 30 percent of American adults in relationships with partners who do not share their political views. Communication professor Emily Van Duyn held in-depth interviews with 67 people dating someone with opposing political views. For these couples, study authors explain, decisions that appear mundane on the surface like choosing which TV channel to watch can be ‘especially difficult.’…. When the news began to take a negative toll on some participants and their relationships, many couples decided to avoid the news altogether and stopped sharing articles or videos with each other. It just wasn’t worth the toll it was having on their emotional intimacy. Prof. Van Duyn notes that certain participants who adopted news avoidance did so because of conflicts within their relationship or mental health concerns like anxiety.” • For the Romanovs vs. the Bolsheviks, I could see it. For Democrats and Republicans?

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IA: “Donald Trump Coasts to Victory in the Iowa Republican Caucuses” [Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker]. “At the events I’ve attended, the crowds have been smaller and the mood friendlier than in 2016: I’ve seen none of the precipice-of-violence energy that characterized just about every Trump rally during his first campaign*. The Times, reporting from Iowa, found that ‘voters casually toss around the prospect of World War III and civil unrest.’ I’ve occasionally heard that too, from voters at events and from insiders, but, if that were the case, you might expect an atmosphere of hyper-engagement. Instead, the campaign so far has mostly been about a general disdain for both Trump and Biden. Trump is angry. The electorate is exhausted.” • Ah, Dean Phillips’ “exhausted middle” trope gets a little traction…. NOTE * I’m really not sure about “characterized just about every Trump rally”; the rally Trump rally I attended in 2016 — eight long years ago — had no such energy. Nor did the rally Tracie McMillan Cottom attended, though I’m too lazy to find the link. I’d like to think that the New Yorker didn’t send their best, but Wallace-Wells is one of their best.

IA: “Why that ‘landslide’ win in Iowa could spell trouble for Trump” [Arizona Republic]. “If you think of Trump as run of the mill, just another Republican competing to lead the ticket, then Monday’s result is a noteworthy triumph. If you think of Trump as an incumbent, the ground beneath his feet is shaking. In 2020, Trump won the Iowa caucuses with 97% of the vote. That’s dominance. That’s shooting everyone on Fifth Avenue while none of your voters blink. That’s also running against no one, because no Republican of substance dares enter the race…. That’s not the field today. Two legitimate challengers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have cut into Trump’s support, signaling some serious discomfort with Trump in the Republican base. Taken together — including business executive Vivek Ramaswamy, who has since dropped out of the race — the ‘not Trump’ coalition of candidates won nearly half the vote in a state that ABC News calls ‘overwhelmingly white and rural.’ In other words, these were ideal conditions for a Trump landslide. But Iowa is not the national electorate. And Trump’s Iowa triumph can hardly serve as a bellwether for the fall.” • As I muttered yesterday, this is pretty much where I am. Trump took 50 of the Republican vote in Iowa. Take that as a proxy for the national vote. I don’t see a real challenger to Trump emerging (modulo spook we teams). But 50% of the base in one party is not enough to govern; it’s the mirror image of the Democrat Party trying to govern from their overly narrow (and deeply insular) based in the PMC.

IA: “Iowa blowout proves Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee” [David Bossie, Washington Times]. “Everyone knows Donald Trump is New York tough, but this is now the stuff of legend.” • The David Bossie of Citizens United.

IA: “Trump flexes and the rest of the field fades: 5 takeaways from a big night in Iowa” [Politico]. “‘One of the things I’ve been watching is does [Haley] make a pivot and focus on unaffiliated voters?’ asked Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire Republican Party chair. ‘It seems to me that if she’s going to be competitive here, maybe half of her vote is going to come from unaffiliated voters. To date she has not had the direct appeal to that group.'”

NH: “Inside the ‘weird’ write-in campaign needed to help Biden win New Hampshire” [NBC]. “Last year, Biden tried to end New Hampshire’s 100-year reign as the nation’s first presidential primary state when he directed the Democratic National Committee to overhaul the 2024 primary calendar by putting South Carolina (which he won in 2020) ahead of New Hampshire (which he lost). His allies are now waging what has to be one of the most unusual campaigns in American presidential history ahead of next week’s vote: A write-in campaign with a shoestring budget on behalf of the most powerful man in the world, trying to help him win a contest in which he is not technically competing and one which he would rather see not even exist. New Hampshire, whose political class holds the primary as sacred as the Red Sox, just went ahead and scheduled its primary in its usual place right after Iowa’s caucuses, essentially telling the DNC to go pound granite and even threatening the committee with legal action. (As a result, the DNC says it won’t seat New Hampshire’s delegates at the summer nominating convention.)…. For Biden, the upshot of the standoff is a bizarre no-win situation. He is prohibited by his own party rules from competing in the Jan. 23 primary since it is officially ‘meaningless,’ according to the DNC. The party will not recognize its results. And he did not even put his name on the ballot, so his supporters will have to write in his name. But his performance against weak opposition from Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and self-help author Marianne Williamson will nonetheless be judged as a measure of his political health at a moment when Democrats are already anxious about his campaign.” • That’s a damn shame. And speaking of Dean Phillips:

NH: Not so bad:

NH: “Manchin to meet Biden, urge move to center as he eyes 2024 run” [FOX]. “West Virginia senator and possible independent presidential candidate Joe Manchin said he will meet with President Biden in the coming days to try to “move him to the center,” a possible determining factor in whether he will enter the race for the White House in 2024. Manchin made these remarks at a private gathering in Darien, Connecticut, at the home of Robert Dilenschneider, a prominent communications specialist and founder of the Dilenschneider Group. Manchin spoke for about an hour, stressing the need for a return to civility in politics that is missing from the leadership of both major parties. Over the past year, Manchin has made no secret of the need for a third party in the form of No Labels, an independent organization aiming to represent the interests of more centrist Republicans and Democrats.” • And then–

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Vivek, we hardly knew ye:

Republican Funhouse

“Lawmakers questioned Fauci about “lab leak” COVID theory in marathon closed-door congressional interview” [CBS]. “Members of Congress, their staffers and one of the world’s most famous doctors, Dr. Anthony Fauci, sat for 14 hours over two days last week around a long conference table in a private office in the basement of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. They took breaks to munch on sandwiches, salads, cookies and chips. And the two main players shook hands at the very end. The marathon closed-door interview sessions with Fauci, who helped spearhead the federal government’s response to the COVID pandemic, are setting the stage for a higher-profile public hearing and interrogation in late spring or early summer, according to multiple sources who spoke with CBS News. And the questioning will happen in the middle of a heated election year, as some Republicans continue to blister Fauci with criticism over his role in the government’s response to the pandemic.” • So looking forward to the crafting of an election narrative about Covid centered on China and ZOMG!!! lockdowns that doesn’t mention aerosol transmission, droplet dogma, non-pharmaceutical interventions, or Long Covid (especially its effect on the labor force). A narrative crafted by both parties, I might add!

Realignment and Legitimacy

From a “Justin Amash” independent:

“More than half of US’s 25,000 cities are predicted to become ghost towns by 2100… so, will YOUR area be affected?” [Daily Mail]. “Half of the nearly 25,000 cities in the US could become ghost towns by 2100, a study suggests. Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago found that in a modest scenario, around half of cities could lose up to a quarter of their resident populations by the end of the century. If fertility rates continue to decline and the exodus from cities gets worse, as many as two-third of cities could see their populations shrink significantly. The team warned: ‘The implications of this massive decline in population will bring unprecedented challenges, possibly leading to disruptions in basic services like transit, clean water, electricity and internet access’ as cities shrink and populations age.” • Hmm.

“Why American cities are squalid [Chris Arnade, Unherd]. “The Thursday before Christmas, I woke up in downtown Sofia, leisurely drank a coffee, and jumped on a metro that took me directly to the airport. In less than an hour, I was at the gate for my flight to New York’s JFK. My plan was to get the last bus upstate that evening, so I could be in my own bed a little after midnight. But it would only work if the flight landed on time — and if passport control took under an hour and a half. The first happened, but the second didn’t even come close. To describe Terminal One that Thursday night as a shitshow is unfair to shitshows, which are at least darkly entertaining. This was bureaucratic hell: lines of exhausted travellers snaking out into dreary linoleum hallways festooned with disconcertingly cheery posters welcoming us to NYC. It took close to an hour to even reach the main hall, and then we endured another hour of slow shuffling up to the 10 or so border security agents. Ever since I began my project to walk around the world, it has always been jarring to come home to the US, often from much poorer countries — in this case Bulgaria — to find that our infrastructure is infinitely worse.” • Well worth a read. I picked the lead paragraphs, because JFK is such a low-ceilinged, mourgue-ishly lit, grotty, dirty introduction to The Greatest Country In The World™. Hasn’t anyone with the power to fix it even noticed?


“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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You make bank because of the Koch Brothers, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a fool:

Testing and Tracking

“Correspondence of SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences obtained from wastewater samples and COVID-19 patient at long-term care facilities” [Science of the Total Environment]. From the Abstract: “In this study, we performed a quantitative and qualitative investigation with a genetic-level comparison of SARS-CoV-2 between COVID-19 patients and SARS-CoV-2 positive wastewater samples at long-term care facilities. Wastewater samples were collected via passive sampling from manholes, and SARS-CoV-2 load in wastewater was determined by qPCR…. Mutation analysis revealed high sequence similarity of SARS-CoV-2 variants between wastewater and patient samples (>99 %). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating that WBE is also effective in predicting predominant SARS-CoV-2 variant at facility-level, which is helpful to develop early-warning system for outbreak occurrence with predominant variant.” • If anybody wants to be warned, of course.


“Depicting SARS-CoV-2 faecal viral activity in association with gut microbiota composition in patients with COVID-19” [Gut]. From the Abstract: ” Faecal viral metagenome of three patients continued to display active viral infection signature… up to 6 days after clearance of SARS-CoV-2 from respiratory samples… This pilot study provides evidence for active and prolonged ‘quiescent’ [Gastro-Intestinal (GI)] infection even in the absence of GI manifestations and after recovery from respiratory infection of SARS-CoV-2. Gut microbiota of patients with active SARS-CoV-2 GI infection was characterised by enrichment of opportunistic pathogens, loss of salutary bacteria and increased functional capacity for nucleotide and amino acid biosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism.” • Not sure “six days” = “prolonged” or “six days” = reservoir. Nevertheless.


“Intestinal helminth infection impairs vaccine-induced T cell responses and protection against SARS-CoV-2” (preprint) [bioRxiv]. “In this study, we evaluated the impact of intestinal helminths on SARS-CoV-2 spike vaccine responses using a mouse model of hookworm infection. Although intestinal helminth infection did not substantively affect vaccine-induced antibody responses, T cell responses were impacted. The T cell defect was evident regardless of whether Hpb was given prior to the prime or booster vaccine dose, suggesting helminth infection likely interferes at multiple stages of T cell maturation.” • Helminths are a soil-transmitted parasite, and “recent community studies and case reports from small-scale farms and areas of high rural or inner-city poverty reveal the potential for persisting helminth infections in distinct populations of the country.” Fortunately, there’s treatment.

Elite Maleficence

College cheer:

“What’s the color of horse-sh*t? Brown! Brown! Brown!” (1):

“What’s the color of horse-sh*t? Brown! Brown! Brown!” (2):

A golden oldie. If gold is the color I want…

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, January 16:

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.

Lambert #4: Looks like I was too pessimistic! (Of course, half the cases under the curve take place after the peak….)

Regional data:

Big decline in the Northeast!


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

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, January 13:

Lambert here: Consistent with Biobot data.

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 January 12:

Lambert here: Continued decrease!

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. January 6:

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 15:

-0.7%. (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 13:

Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 25:

Up, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 25:

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, January 6:

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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Mr. Market: “Apple and Tesla may no longer be ‘safe investments’ as China’s troubles grow” [MarketWatch]. “In a note to clients, Mike O’Rourke, chief technical strategist at JonesTrading, observes how Magnificent Seven stocks have been under pressure to shore up the S&P 500 in a bumpy 2024. ‘Key leaders Apple and Tesla continue to be bombarded by daily negative headlines regarding their fundamental businesses. While it barely draws much attention, it does not help that they are also the two most China exposed companies,’ says the strategist. Apple and Tesla have lost 4% and 11% respectively this year, the worst performers of the seven.” • “Magnificent Seven” = Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, BYD, Meta Platforms, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tesla.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 70 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 74 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 17 at 12:27:52 PM ET • Big drop after a long run of stability.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Quebec man who blamed wildfires on government pleads guilty to setting 14 fires” [BBC]. “A Quebec man who posted conspiracy theories online that forest fires were being deliberately set by the government has pleaded guilty to starting a series of fires himself that forced hundreds of people from their homes.” • Oh.

Guillotine Watch

“Billionaire backers of new California city reveal map and details of proposed development” [Associated Press]. “California Forever, the company that stealthily snapped up more than $800 million of Solano County land in recent years, envisions a new community on roughly 30 square miles (75 square kilometers) between Travis Air Force Base and the tiny city of Rio Vista, according to a presentation by the group…. [Voters] in 1984 backed protections against turning farmland into urban space. That’s why Jan Sramek, CEO and founder of California Forever, and the project’s backers are turning to the ballot. He’ll speak about the project and the proposed ballot initiative Wednesday, and the group must collect about 13,000 signatures from county voters to place it on the November ballot… [Critics] remain skeptical of Sramek and the project’s backers, who include philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen…. ‘This is a pipe dream,’ said Democratic U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, who was furious with backers for their secrecy about property close to a U.S. Air Force base. He said the proposed development, which he also was briefed on, makes no sense ‘in the middle of areas surrounded by wind farms, gas fields, endangered species, no water, no sanitation system and no road system let alone a highway system..” • If you’re so rich, why ain’t you smart?

News of the Wired

“‘It hasn’t delivered’: The spectacular failure of self-checkout technology” [BBC]. “It’s a common sight at many retail stores: a queue of people, waiting to use a self-checkout kiosk, doing their best to remain patient as a lone store worker attends to multiple malfunctioning machines. The frustration mounts while a dozen darkened, roped-off and cashier-less tills sit in the background. For shoppers, self-checkout was supposed to provide convenience and speed. Retailers hoped it would usher in a new age of cost savings. Their thinking: why pay six employees when you could pay one to oversee customers at self-service registers, as they do their own labour of scanning and bagging for free? While self-checkout technology has its theoretical selling points for both consumers and businesses, it mostly isn’t living up to expectations. Customers are still queueing. They need store employees to help clear kiosk errors or check their identifications for age-restricted items. Stores still need to have workers on-hand to help them, and to service the machines. The technology is, in some cases, more trouble than it’s worth.” • The same thing happened with robot cars, and may well happen with AI.

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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 KW:

KW writes: “Jackson Creek, Bloomington, Indiana, 12/26/23.” Brings back the Midwest for me. I get there’s no snow, but what lovely, soft colors!

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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. Wukchumni

    (Soft knocks at the door)
    World: Who is it?
    Trump: It’s me, i’m in Davos. Open up, man, I got a speech to make.
    (More knocks)
    World: Who is it?
    Trump: It’s me in Davos, man. Open up, I’ve got to make America great again.
    World: Who?
    Trump: It’s me in Davos, man. Open up, I think Fani saw me come in here.
    (More knocks)
    World: Who is it?
    Trump: I’m in Davos, man. Will you open up, i’ve got to talk about stuff.
    World: Who?
    Trump: Listen Davos man. Open up.
    World: Davos?
    Trump: Yeah, Davos. c’mon, man, open up the conference room
    World: Davos doesn’t want to hear.
    Trump: No, man, I’m in Davos, man.
    (Sharp knocks at the door)
    Trump: Hey, c’mon, man.
    World: Who is it?
    Trump: It’s me in Davos, man. Will you open up? I got the stuff with me.
    World: Who?
    Trump: Davos man. Open up.
    World: Davos?
    Trump: Yeah, Davos.
    World: Davos doesn’t want to hear.
    Trump: What the hell? No, man, I am in Davos, man. Will you…
    (More knocks)
    Trump: c’mon! Open up the door, will you? I’ve got Vivek with me, I think the FBI saw me.
    World: Who is it?
    Trump: Oh, what the hell is it…c’mon. Open up the door! It’s Davos!
    World: Who?
    Trump: Davos! D-A-V-O-S! Will you open up the goddamn door!
    World: Davos?
    Trump: Yeah, Davos!
    World: Davos?
    Triump: Right, man. Davos. Now will you open up the door?
    World: Davos doesn’t want to hear

      1. KLG

        Heroes of my college years! “Young man, give me that knife!” “East Westchester North Stars!” “Good thing we didn’t step in it!” I guess you had to be there. Anyway, some traveler rented a warehouse on the periphery of downtown, all timber with 12×12 columns as the support beams. Beautiful place. Called it the “Loser’s Club” and sold tickets to a Cheech & Chong event. Sold out in a few days! Cash, long before TicketMaster or every student with a credit card. When game night came, no show. I don’t think the fraudster was ever caught. When Tommy Chong was contacted by the local reporter for the college paper he said, (paraphrase) “Nope, not us. Never heard of the place. And they should hang the guy by is pee-pee when they catch him.”

  2. Tom Stone

    If 10% of the 2,000,000 new daily cases of Covid result in long Covid, that is 200,000 freshly disabled Americans a day.
    “Nothing to see here, move along” has a limited shelf life and the “Sell by” date is approaching.

  3. Wukchumni

    Winner of the John Leonard Orr (hopefully no relation to Bobby) memorial competition…

    “Quebec man who blamed wildfires on government pleads guilty to setting 14 fires” [BBC]. “A Quebec man who posted conspiracy theories online that forest fires were being deliberately set by the government has pleaded guilty to starting a series of fires himself that forced hundreds of people from their homes.” • Oh.

    John Leonard Orr (born April 26, 1949) is an American convicted serial arsonist, mass murderer, and former firefighter. A fire captain and arson investigator in Glendale, California, Orr was convicted of serial arson and four counts of murder, however he is believed to have set nearly 2,000 fires in a 30 year arson spree where most of them occurred between 1984 and 1991, making him the most prolific serial arsonist in American history


  4. Mikel

    “The article goes on to discuss what Biden is focusing on: cutting a deal with Republicans to shovel more money to Ukraine. Can somebody explain the winning aspect here?…”

    That kick-back gravy is like “the spice must flow.” And think of decades of accumulated dirt hanging over his head. He has to keep serving his masters. His son’s laptop was like a axe-like pendulum swinging over his head too.

  5. Feral Finster

    “Biden Needs to Govern Like the Polls Are Right” [Slate]. There’s only one thing left to do, legislatively. The president and his cabinet need to start governing like there’s no tomorrow—or rather, with the urgency of a team with only 10 months left to live (politically). They need to use the relatively tiny window of the remaining year to push through whatever remains of the Democratic agenda and to take the necessary preparations to minimize the damage of another Trump term.”

    1. Slate is rather vague on specifics, other than changes to immigration law. What exactly does Slate want Biden to accomplish and how does he propose to get the House to go along?

    2. Slate does note that Biden is “desperate” for money money for Ukraine. This raises the question of why Biden is so desperate.

    1. Hepativore

      Biden actually seems like he HAS been governing like his reelection chances are doomed. He has been funneling money and weapons to Israel, restarting student loan payments plus accumulated interest, handed over money to Ukraine until recently, enacted a massive online censorship campaign, and then is busy trying to shut down DNC primaries in several states. He has completely ignored public sentiment all the while, and at this point it is clear that he does not care. The Biden administration is trying to ram through as much of their neoliberal foreign policy and domestic agenda as they possibly can before they lose the presidency in 2024. Biden’s policy priorities ARE the true goal of the DNC in its current incarnation.

    2. Bugs

      They’ve got no idea what to do and it’s coming rapidly to a denouement that will be a joy to behold. Imho the Democrats will not have a chance to run things at a federal level for many years hence. I also love the idea that Manchin wants to move Biden to the “center” – it’s so beyond humorous to imagine what goes through these fools’ minds. La jouissance, pur jus.

      1. eg

        Yeah, I wondered about that one myself — what kind of intrinsic disorder is required to perceive Biden as anything but “center”? That we are meant to believe he is “left” is simply risible.

    3. ChrisPacific

      Well, it’s not up to me, but I think these would do as a starting point. I’m limiting this to practical steps that wouldn’t require Biden to fundamentally change his nature, so no healthcare reform for example. I am making some assumptions, like that he would prefer Palestinians to not die en masse – decide for yourself whether I’m giving him too much credit.

      – Codify Roe vs. Wade, like you said you were going to. Write some legislation and bring it to a vote. Name and shame anybody planning to vote against, and if it fails then keep doing so indefinitely and start laying groundwork for another attempt. If you don’t know how, ask Bernie to help.

      – Come up with some kind of Plan B in Ukraine that doesn’t involve throwing money into a bottomless pit of death and failure. Even the dimmest observers can see now that one is needed. If it’s ‘Plan A, only louder’ then throw it out and try again. Try to make sure it has at least some halfway plausible connection to reality. Anything involving Putin’s head on a spike outside the White House, or its rhetorical equivalent, fails on this point.

      – Find a way forward in Gaza that won’t lead to the majority of Palestinian civilians dead from disease or starvation six months from now and Israel telling everyone it was their own fault. If it happens, everyone will know perfectly well that you could have stopped it and didn’t. Yes, everyone knows the Republicans would have been even more bloodthirsty but it won’t stop them from making competency arguments (Trump will just claim that he would have stepped in like the Messiah and fixed it).

      1. Feral Finster

        Roe v Wade is basically all Team D has left to run on, so no way Biden will seek to codify it.

        Otherwise, you’re basically asking Biden to stop being a sociopath, asking the leopard to change its spots. That ain’t never gone happen.

          1. ambrit

            That’s why Trump should push for codification of RvW. Anti-abortion looks more and more like a Mainstream Republican issue anyway. A socially conservative anti feminist policy issue. Conversely, what’s more “Individual Responsibility” than having a child?
            As I have said for years now; I’ll give you ‘difficult’ abortion laws when you give us free, unrestricted contraception; with no means testing, no age restrictions, and no parental approval requirement. Parenthetically, it comes as no surprise to discover that staunch Libertarians are also often the most “active” paedophiles.
            The development of a simple, effective contraceptive that a woman can completely control was a major social paradigm shift. It has still not worked it’s way through the social “system.” In this regard, I can give credence to arguments about the pernicious nature of a ‘Patriarchy.’

            1. Even keel

              Since I started hearing about codifying roe v wade a year or so ago, I’ve always wondered what section of the constitution gives the congress the power to do that. Perhaps regulation of interstate commerce?

              1. ambrit

                A Fourth Amendment case. “No unreasonable searches and seizures.”
                It can be argued that forcing a woman to carry a child to birth is a “taking,” of the next twenty years of her life. Thus, the regulatory authority would be liable to claims for “just compensation.” Wards of the State in very fact.
                I have read a theory of anti-abortion and anti contraceptive rules being prohibited via the “No establishment of Religion” clause.
                At root, it is an issue of Social Power. (No pun intended.)

    4. Acacia

      Slate joins the “Biden needs to… [or else OMG! Trump.. shriek!!]” brigade, e.g.:

      What Biden Needs to Tell Us (David Brooks, NYT).

      The polling is clear: Biden needs to get popular again quickly or drop out (Madison Hall, Business Insider).

      Team Biden Needs a Reset on Israel (Daniel Levy, NYT).

      Biden needs to listen to Democratic voters on Gaza (James Zogby, The National)

      Axelrod says Trump a ‘formidable’ candidate, Biden and campaign ‘need to get into gear’ (Alex Gangitano, The Hill)

      All this liberal whinging is clearly nugatory. As Hepativore notes, above, Biden is just executing the DNC policy agenda to satisfy their donors, AIPAC, etc., and as Lambert has pointed out many times before, the Democrats are not really interested in governing for the voters. They clearly do not care at all. Biden is the perfect representative of this “couldn’t give two f*cks” attitude. The DemParty may pay lip service to voters from time to time, but it’s generally stage-managed “I feel your pain” hocus-pocus. The Dems will absolutely lose the 2024 election before they, for example, actually change position on Gaza.

      After all, why change?

      The lawfare and perception management seems to be working out pretty well. DNC lawyers have the ballots locked down, with third-party candidates booted in many states, and the courts are working overtime to corner Trump. The walls may not actually be closing in, but as long as the average Blue voter believes that, all is well.

      The DNC, its toadies, and familiars will do everything in their power to kick their political opponents off of the ballots, and Blue Voters will approve with enthusiasm. On Gaza, there will be some token efforts to message that Biden has “become increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu” — look for more articles about that soon — but at the end of the day there will be no change on Gaza or Israeli policy. The payment for that has already gone to the bank. Democrat voters have been hammered for years with “B-B-But Trump!!!” and that campaign has gone quite well. They are dreaming about Trump now, often, even, which means they are having recurrent nightmares of the Evil Orange Man, grinning at them, coming closer… closer… aieeee, Mommy!! Make him go away, Mommy!!

      Democrat voters will choose whatever dog’s breakfast the DNC serves up, and the party knows it.

    5. The Rev Kev

      ‘and to take the necessary preparations to minimize the damage of another Trump term.’

      So I guess when Congress recently passed that law making it illegal for a President to withdraw from NATO, this was what they had in mind. Odd that. I thought that foreign affairs was usually the purvey of the President. That was definitely the uniparty at work there and you wonder what other laws like that that they will pass..

    6. Lefty Godot

      They need to use the relatively tiny window of the remaining year to push through whatever remains of the Democratic agenda

      Uh, yeah, about that Democratic agenda, that would be…what?? Anything you could really get away with saying in public? And how do you push through anything with the current balance of parties in Congress?

      I think we are headed for another one of those historic Electoral College wipeouts. And maybe even a big loss in the popular vote, we’ll see.

    7. eg

      What sort of delusion is this on Slate’s part? The US is constitutionally designed to frustrate legislation, let alone rapid legislation.

      Did these muppets get their civics education from a Cracker Jack box?

      Or are their readers so clueless they think no one will notice?

      Good grief …

  6. Mikel

    “Magnificent Seven” = Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, BYD, Meta Platforms, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tesla.

    BYD is a Chinese company.

  7. Mikel

    “Well worth a read. I picked the lead paragraphs, because JFK is such a low-ceilinged, mourgue-ishly lit, grotty, dirty introduction to The Greatest Country In The World™. Hasn’t anyone with the power to fix it even noticed?”

    Do people with power, especially who use private jets, use JFK?

    1. Wukchumni

      JFK airport’s glory days (the 1962 TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen would have been peak Idlewild, er JFK) are oddly similar to the infrastructure in a good many of our National Parks which received new buildings and more as a result of Mission 66, which was a major program to update the infrastructure across the country for the Golden Anniversary of the National Park Service in 1966.

      Lodgepole and Ash Mountain visitor centers here in Sequoia NP are both Mission 66 buildings constructed in the early 60’s, really outdated as the mens’ restrooms have a couple stalls and 3 urinals, to service 2 million visitors.

      To put things in a horrible modern perspective, if you were in Sequoia NP in 2016 for the Centennial of the NPS and went into the visitor center, why you received a 2×2 inch piece of cake and a 2 inch wide decal! boy howdy…


      1. Carolinian

        I believe that iconic TWA now sits empty but I have a photo cause we kids got to visit the NY World’s Fair. As for 60s government support for “America’s Best Idea”–to distract from Vietnam? LBJ’s version of big government was a mixed bag.

        1. jsn

          They’ve done an excellent restoration of TWA and turned it into the front of house for an airport hotel. It has a good restaurant and grand spaces, too bad the views are all cluttered up with parking garages and elevated roadways.

          My last hellish departure from JFK was late at night, we went early and had dinner at TWA before checking in.

        2. Wukchumni

          Mission 66 buildings were built mostly in the mid 50’s to mid 60’s so no on the detraction from the Vietnam War angle.

    2. jsn

      The people who could make a difference fly out of Teterboro or Westchester airports.

      They never get closer to JFK than 10,000 feet or so when they fly over it.

    3. c_heale

      I would say the UK has a similar problem with Heathrow airport, especially the part which connects with the trains.

  8. Feral Finster

    Re: Chris Arnade and American infrasstruxure:

    A Polish friend visiting America for the first time got the shock of her life when the first thing she saw was the Newark Airport. “Is all of America really this,,,,ugly?” she asked? And that was 20 years ago.

    It gets better, trust me.

    1. amurstoj

      Often a base of ugliness is there from the beginning. Wear, tear and lack of maintenance only enhances the shabbiness.

      From Mencken’s essay “The Libido for the Ugly” – “They [villages along the rail line in Pennsylvania] show grotesqueries of ugliness that, in retrospect, become almost diabolical. One cannot imagine mere human beings concocting such dreadful things, and one can scarcely imagine human beings bearing life in them.”

    2. LY

      Newark Airport, also run by the Port Authority like JFK, just got a billion dollar+ refurbishment with new refreshed terminal. And the construction is continuing.

      JFK is getting the same thing, also priced out at billions.

  9. clarky90

    Re; “Joe Biden’s chances do not look good…….”

    Joe Biden is a Genocide Denier.

    This position does not look good. It looks bad.

    1. Lee

      Alas, the opposing oligarchic faction offers no better. When it comes to mitigating viral transmission we are each on our own. I assume I’ll be using my P-100 Elipse respirator when indoors in the presence of others for the rest of my life. Here’s hoping between now and the end of my road that I don’t get a dental infection or am in need of surgery or other hospital care or that road will be shortened. Stay safe out there.

      1. clarky90

        Hi Lee

        I was referring to The International Court of Justice (ICJ) adjudicating the alleged genocide of the Palestinians living in Gaza.

        1. Lee

          My mistake. I thought you were referring to the Covid transmission without mitigation here at home. That would make two counts of genocide against Biden.

          1. clarky90

            Hi Lee

            I agree! He is a multi-issue “Genocide Denier”. It looks so bad to the rest of the World.

  10. Wukchumni

    Our big hope to avoid the aspect of either one of the clowns winning the Presidency in 2024 lies with Yellowstone blowing it’s top and putting us all out of potential misery…

    Yellowstone is home to a fascinating array of hot springs, mud pots, frying pans, geysers, and fumaroles, but for a long time it was unknown what was going on beneath the ground surface in the hydrothermal system. U.S. Geological Survey scientists in the 1960s wanted to find out, so they teamed up with the National Park Service and became pioneers in research drilling.

    This is the story of the drilling of 13 research cores in Yellowstone National Park during 1967–1968. It’s a story full of excitement, geysering bore holes, discovery, and the matchup of technical knowledge vs. a largely unknown and unpredictable subsurface environment.

    Drilling in Yellowstone in the 1960s was a unique operation—not only was the drilling undertaken in one of the largest hydrothermal systems in the world, but the focus of the drilling was on the pursuit of scientific knowledge rather than industrial requirements. Commercial and industrial drilling often overlook non-economically valuable data collection that can have significant scientific value. The research drilling specifically prioritized these scientific objectives.


  11. Hansel

    “Lawmakers questioned Fauci about “lab leak”

    Watch the Tucker Carlson interview with Dr. Brett Weinstein. Best description of the four year disaster to hit our country. Not kind to Fauci.


    It’s on Apple podcasts. Here’s fragment of full transcript available at


    “Our Constitution doesn’t describe exemptions from your rights during time of a pandemic emergency. Your rights simply are what they are, and they’re not supposed to go anywhere just because there’s a disease spreading. But nonetheless, people’s willingness to accept the erosion of their rights because of a public health emergency has allowed this tyranny to use it as a Trojan horse. I think that’s also… It’s something people need to become aware of, that there are a number of features of our environment that are basically They are blind spots that we can’t see past. Vaccine was one, and I know I was an enthusiast about vaccines. I still believe deeply in the elegance of vaccines as they should exist, but I’m now very alarmed at how they are produced, and I’m even more alarmed at what has been called a vaccine that doesn’t meet the definition.”

    1. Lee

      Tell it to Typhoid Mary or to this upstanding citizen: A woman with tuberculosis is on the run from authorities after refusing to isolate. Here’s a timeline of events, from her first treatment to evading arrest. https://www.businessinsider.com/woman-with-tuberculosis-on-the-run-refusing-treatment-isolation-2023-4#:~:text=Here's%20a%20timeline%20of%20events,first%20treatment%20to%20evading%20arrest.&tex

      One might argue that the Constitution recognizes the first of all a citizen’s right is “life” and protection against those who would endanger it without just cause. We can argue about contending rights in particular contexts, but a blanket statement that states and citizens have no right nor interest in limiting one right at the expense of an equal or lesser right is nonsense.

      1. Divadab

        I heard this argument from another liberal, deep into the vaxx . It’s a fallacy to argue from a highly contagious RARE infection to justify fascist measures. But here we are – the Dems are the fascist party of America.

        1. Lee

          My principal gripe with the vaccinations is that they have not worked nearly as well as initially advertised, in particular that they don’t prevent transmission. As to the major pharmaceutical solution after infection, Paxlovid, the drug interaction contraindications prevent millions of us being able to take it safely. As for masking, ventilation and the like, such measures are not so onerous as to be precluded from mandates.

          1. Acacia

            Indeed, masks are cheap and masking is not so onerous if you really step back from the magical thinking and consider the risks of Long COVID, a potential cardio or respiratory “event”, widespread vascular damage, severe fatigue issues, brain damage, etc.

            To ameliorate ventilation, OTOH would mean that countless institutions would need to assess, repair, and very probably upgrade their physical plant, possibly retrofitting entire buildings, the entire skin of windows, etc., and here we are talking about serious money.

            Of course C-R boxes are a stopgap solution, but the deeper unexpressed concern is that if air quality really became an issue and then there were mandates, all sorts of questions about legal responsibility would be raised, e.g., workplace safety, but meanwhile the current leadership in the US has been tasked with running cover for all of the corporations that do not want to spend any money on this. That’s really their “fiduciary duty” as it were, because the stakes involve all of the soft money coming in via lobbyists, etc., keeping most of the USian political class in place, and the status quo must be preserved, the gravy must flow, so they can keep, you know, “fighting for” change, etc.

            Ergo, it became necessary to deny that the virus is airborne, to promote droplets, herd immunity, and to emphasize hand washing, “vaccination” (never mind they are neither sterilizing or prevent transmission) — which are your responsibility —, over air quality (building owner’s responsibility).

            I am not saying this situation is in any way acceptable or excusable, but just that there is too much at stake legally for many institutions to really come clean on what this epidemic is about, thus all the gaslighting, perception management, etc.

        2. Objective Ace

          Why is it a fallacy to argue from a rare infectious disease starting point? The use of that fact demonstrates there are examples (however rare) where limits of freedoms are necessary. Once that fact is demonstrated we can have an actual discussion. How contagious? How detrimental is a given infection? What’s the downside to enacting x restriction on freedoms?

          I am extremely frustrated our government (both parties) never had those discussions. The fact that they simultaneously didnt consider all those things while taking away freedoms could indeed be construed as fascism, however, you’re conflating things here and missing large chunks of the story

      1. ambrit

        Indeed, one may argue that “The Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” has been ‘spiked.’

  12. Jen

    Re the New Hampshire primary: “New Hampshire, whose political class holds the primary as sacred as the Red Sox, just went ahead and scheduled its primary in its usual place right after Iowa’s caucuses, essentially telling the DNC to go pound granite and even threatening the committee with legal action. ”

    I do love how the article suggests that rescheduling the NH Primary is based on the whims of its political class. It is scheduled according to state law:

    “The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a Tuesday selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous…”

    Not that our democrats care much about the rule of law. And speaking of pounding sand, one particular legal action the state has threatened the DNC with is a cease and desist order over the DNC’s declaration that the primary is meaningless.

    I plan to vote out of pure spite. And no, I will not be writing in Joe Biden.

    1. The Rev Kev

      So Joe Biden tried to screw over New Hampshire in favour of a more friendly South Carolina and now wants people to write his name in. From what you say, this State will bear watching to see how the numbers go.

    2. Pat

      I am contrary enough that if New Hampshire’s delegates are denied at the Convention I would have New Hampshire rule that ignoring New Hampshire’s legally required primary was illegal and since it disenfranchised legal voters and was done at Biden’s instigation was a violation of his oath and thus insurrectionist and strike him or any other Democrat from the ballot.

      But that’s just me.

    3. ambrit

      I plan to vote in spite of all their propagandizing. The percentages of the “third parties” in various states will prove instructive.

      1. Wukchumni

        I plan on casting my vote for the 3rd Presidential election in a row for Wink Martindale, as you get a game show host and a NFL defensive coordinator in the bargain.

        1. NYMutza

          The defensive coordinator was recently fired by the NY Giants. He might be running for POTUS, and why not.

      2. Pat

        Barring a miracle where a major party nominates someone not hideously unfit for office, I will be voting third party for the fourth Presidential election in a row. Not that I have much faith in NY state accurately registering my vote. I had more faith in the lever machines than I do the current scantron system.
        As for a primary, if we have one I will vote probably Williamson at this rate even if I did appreciate Dean’s cheeky ad.

  13. Rob Urie

    Re: ‘For the Romanovs vs. the Bolsheviks, I could see it. For Democrats and Republicans?’

    The problem, I guarantee, is with the Democrats.

    I regularly have long, involved, friendly discussions on matters of national interest with Republicans, with whom I share very few political views.

    But I can’t get two seconds into a discussion with Democrats about anything— the weather, traffic congestion, or dog crap on the sidewalk, before ‘Trump!’ is the only thing they will shout in my direction.

    They just had their chance to set the world right, and they punted.

    At this point, Democrats are intellectually disabled by TDS.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Or is advanced TDS really a sequelae of repeated Covid infections acquired in maskless mass gatherings frequented by Democrats?

    2. Carolinian

      Perhaps the whole point of followership is that you sign over your political allegiance to Team Dem or Team R and therefore don’t have to think about our national political mess. This saves a lot of time until someone insists on challenging your views and threatens to blow the easy way out. The people I know who exhibit TDS are people who once had no interest in politics at all.

      And yes now they are devoted Dems or claim to be. I think Repubs take the whole thing less seriously. When it comes to Trump they know his type.

  14. Michael King

    “Joe Biden’s chances do not look good. The Democrats have no plan B” [The Economist]. I’ll bet they do! The Wizard of K has yet to show us what it is.

    1. Feral Finster

      In fact, Plan B is fairly obvious to anyone ever sort of paying attention, but Team D cannot say it out loud – imprison the opposition candidate and/or remove him from the ballot on any pretext (or set up a Tweedledee candidate in the form of Haley to run against Tweedledum Biden).

      All this is basic banana republic stuff and nobody really tries to hide it.

      Of course, that would potentially mean a presidential election with 94% voting for the incumbent on 17% turnout, which is also basic banana republic stuff. But if that is the only way that the PMC can win and keep the goodies that come with winning, then that’s what they’ll do. “Muh Democracy Is Saved!”

        1. Feral Finster

          Well, your basic banana republic features sunnier weather, more attractive lovers, and a less hyperbelligerent foreign policy.

          Good point.

          1. Lee

            Varieties of bananas other than Cavendish have of late become available at a local fresh food open air store. I eat them at room temperature and they are good. Revenge served sweet.

            1. Wukchumni

              An older friend related how much better the pre-Cavendish bananas tasted before they were wiped out by banana blight, the Gros Michel, or Big Mike.

              1. JBird4049

                If you are desperate for a taste, Gros Michel is still around and you order them for delivery, but since the original disease that wiped them out is still around, they are grown in small, very isolated plantations or similar places. I have forgotten how much they cost, but I do remember feeling the price shock as even the few retail stores sell them do it for extremely higher prices.

      1. Michael King

        I doubt Trump will be imprisoned. If he is, he could run from prison as did Eugene Debs. Banishing him from the ballot is far from certain. The prospect of pronounced civil unrest must certainly be in the thoughts of important players. I think it more likely that Biden will not be a candidate next November and Plan B will be something else.

        1. Lee

          Imprisonment might not be a bar to being elected. But Trump being specifically and by name excluded from candidacy on official ballots by some or all of the states would electorally end him. Should this occur, I foresee unrest among the deplorables who live predominantly in areas where much of our food, fuel and other productive capacities originate. I would posit that the elite inhabitants of coastal blue state regions need look to the internal hinterlands with a more kindly eye. We who live in such domains are acutely vulnerable to disruption of production and supply lines. Frankly, I’m more scared shi*less of what the Democrats, and the Never Trumper Republicans are trying to do to Trump than I am of what Trump might do as president.

          1. Acacia

            Yeah, it’s as if the Dems in particular are not thinking this through at all.

            The next time I hear a liberal acquaintance cluck approvingly about the current push to exclude Trump from the ballot, muh 14th Amendment, etc., that as soon as I mention the moves to remove Biden from the ballot in Texas, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania — I fully expect they won’t even have heard about any of this and will go blank like a child that finally stammers “that’s … not fair!!”

  15. Adam Eran

    “California Forever” is another attempt at land speculation in California, a major industry here. Here’s one example: North Natomas (thousands of acres just north of Sacramento’s downtown). This is 20-foot-underwater floodplain surrounded by weak levees. The speculators got the land in 40- and 80-acre minimums for roughly $2,000 an acre.

    Sacramento’s regional sewer got a federal grant to expand its capacity with the caveat that if that capacity served North Natomas, whoever developed that land would be charged a $6 million penalty. The speculators didn’t bat an eye. They went all the way to the-vice-president G.H.W. Bush and got the $6 million transformed from a prohibitive up-front fee to a pay-as-you develop fee…and got $43 million in (pre-Katrina) levee improvement grants.

    So…already a great deal! Pay $6 in installments to get $43! Where do I sign? But wait, there’s more: The City of Sacramento annexed the land, then approved development. Yes, environmentalists protested, but who cares? They’re just hippies! Their representative (a single employee of Regional Transit [RT]) met with the teams of engineers and stakeholders to curb some of the worst excesses…but we still got thousands of acres of sprawl.

    Best of all, that $2K/acre land sold to builders for ~$200K/acre. If your calculator isn’t handy, that’s a 10,000% gross profit…so the speculators could afford to wait a decade and still make 1,000% a year on their money.

    Oh yes, and if they 1031 exchange out of the land sales to buy income-producing real estate (apartments, shopping malls) they defer income tax indefinitely.

    All in all, quite a racket!

    The Sacramento region has 20 years worth of unbuilt infill, but the outlying twice-as-expensive-to-maintain infrastructure land is still in process to approve building.

    Oh yes, and the residents of North Natomas face additional bills–the speculators are down the road–to bring those levees up to post-Katrina standards…and Sacramento remains only second to New Orleans in flood risk in the US.

    1. barefoot charley

      Thanks, Adam! I knew it was this bad, but I like knowing how.

      Yeesh, apparently b*d is another moderation trigger. I thought I was good.

      1. tegnost

        AI is my likely culprit
        You’re good.
        There was a stream yesterday where i thought i was reading encyclopedia brittanica

    2. NYMutza

      Privatize the profits, socialize the costs. That’s par for the course these days. Nothing new under the sun.

  16. Wukchumni

    There’s a common marketing slogan in sports betting: “Sweat the game, not the payout.” In other words, when dealing with legitimate sportsbooks and not some shady neighborhood bookie, gamblers shouldn’t have to worry about getting stiffed.

    Yet bettors say gaming operators aren’t always living up to that promise, and some industry officials agree. Bookmakers sometimes use a clause in their fine print as an “insurance plan,” as one top regulator put it, to get out of paying big winners — and industry observers say the practice is increasing.

    That caveat nearly cost Christopher Kozak $127,420 recently, after Hard Rock Bet voided three successful long shot hockey wagers — involving bets on a host of NHL players being held scoreless in the same game — that he placed in Tennessee. The sportsbook, operated by the Seminole Tribe, notified him several days after the games in question that his payouts were an “obvious error,” and therefore he wasn’t owed anything beyond a refund.

    When he pushed back, Hard Rock sought to renegotiate the odds — “a slap in the face,” said Kozak, who shared screenshots of his bets, as well as his extensive correspondence with Hard Rock, with The Washington Post. The messages show company officials repeatedly declining to explain the nature of the “error” or what made it “obvious.”

    The company declined to answer questions from The Post. Then, last week — nearly two months after voiding Kozak’s bets and following questions from a reporter — it agreed to pay him in full. He had recently brought his complaint to the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council, though a company spokesperson said Hard Rock hadn’t been ordered to pay up (WaPo)

    Gambling is tearing up the country, in particular young adults.

    If that isn’t bad enough, online gambling gonifs try and welsh on winning wagers, geesh!

    Vegas would put him on a billboard and say ‘Christopher won $142,420!’ to entice more punters, old school versus new school casinos.

  17. petal

    “Around the bowl, down the hole, go Brown go!” That was our chant when Brown would visit for ice hockey. Good times.

      1. Moody in Chicago

        Rooty-toot-toot! Rooty-toot-toot!
        We are the boys from the Institute!
        We don’t smoke and we don’t chew,
        And we don’t go with girls that do!

        Our class won a Bible!

  18. notabanker

    Hey David Frum, I’ve been an actual US citizen a hell of a lot longer than you have, and I am happy to tell you what I am about.

    I am about having meaningful healthcare reform that removes both insurance company and PE profits. I don’t have the luxury of traveling back to Canada to get national health care, even as a fall back position.

    I am about not starting wars in eastern Europe and the Middle East.

    In the job I have, if I, or my son, took material kickbacks from an interested third party in exchange for access or favorable treatment, I would not only get fired, I would go to prison for a long, long time. If I did that to grant billions of dollars to a foreign country to slaughter people, I’d just shoot myself rather than live knowing the misery I caused to millions of people.

    So forgive me if I am not down with your ‘axis of evil’ trope fed into the PR machine that since the 1920’s has been enabling the extraction of earth resources that now actually threatens the existence of the human species.

    Finally, when you became a naturalized citizen in 2007, I had been an US citizen for many decades and watched many of my colleagues lose their livelihoods as their workplaces crumbled into dust while you and your ilk campaigned for a bailout to the very people that caused it, who not just walked away unscathed, but had trillions of dollars thrown their way so that the America I live in now is completely controlled by corporate interests.

    I don’t need any more lectures from you or the rest of your lot in NYC, SF, LA and Miami. I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind, with more than 5 decades of experience being an actual US American citizen, as is the right granted to us under the US Constitution. Unless of course, your lot is successful in eliminating my choices from the ballot. In that case, it’s game on dude. Hope you are up for it.

    1. JBird4049

      >>>In that case, it’s game on dude. Hope you are up for it.

      Now, we mustn’t let their tiny, little enbubbled minds, grand ignorance, and extreme foolishness get you so angry. After all, saying any truth in reality to them would just get you labeled a Trumpist or Putinist. After all, they are the educated, credentialed elites, and we are not.

      Personally, I plan on watching them rig the election while thinking of how I can help stick the (metaphorical) into them afterwards. Plenty of Americans are going to be angry and could use my help or me, theirs.

  19. lyman alpha blob

    “Half of the nearly 25,000 cities in the US could become ghost towns by 2100, a study suggests. Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago found that in a modest scenario, around half of cities could lose up to a quarter of their resident populations by the end of the century. If fertility rates continue to decline and the exodus from cities gets worse, as many as two-third of cities could see their populations shrink significantly. The team warned: ‘The implications of this massive decline in population will bring unprecedented challenges, possibly leading to disruptions in basic services like transit, clean water, electricity and internet access’ as cities shrink and populations age.”

    So much handwringing. These arguments about how everything’s going to go to hell if the population doesn’t keep increasing are ludicrous. Let’s say the entire population drops by 25%, a more extreme scenario. According to the handy gizmo on this website , current US population is 341 million. Lose a quarter and you’re down to about 256 million. That was the population in 1992. Was the US not a viable country then? What’s really going to happen if cities lose population is people will be able to afford the rent again. I could in 1992 living in a major metropolitan downtown; today, not so much.

    It’s not the drop in population that will be a problem, it’s the loss of expertise, whether the population drops or continues upward. It doesn’t matter how many people you have if none of them knows how to fix the bus. Maybe the US should start producing more engineers and fewer marketers. We don’t need moar reproduction – we need more competence.

  20. The Rev Kev

    Here is a twofer. Blinken was returning from Davos when his plane broke down. Why yes, it was a Boeing. The twofer? ‘Prior to joining the Biden administration, Tony Blinken worked as a paid consultant for Boeing.’


    A tweet bellow this one mentions that ‘several members of the consulting firm that Blinken cofounded, WestExec Advisors, also worked for Boeing.’


    1. tegnost

      the background…it almost screams at you…


      Pine Island Capital Partners is a unique partnership model composed of experienced investment professionals and former senior government and military leaders formed to source attractive middle market investment opportunities with the potential to benefit and grow through the involvement of the Pine Island team.


    2. The Rev Kev

      Forgot to mention about Blinken at Davos. He came up with gems like this-

      ‘There’s a greater premium than there’s ever been on our engagement, on our leadership, in partnership with others,” Blinken told an audience on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He added that Washington needs to “reimagine” its geopolitical partnerships to resolve global challenges, such as the Israel-Hamas war.

      “I’m hearing from virtually every country: They want the United States,” Blinken said. “They want us present, they want us at the table, they want us leading.”

      “On some of the really big issues of the day – whether it’s how to deal with China, how to deal with Russia – we have more convergence than we’ve had at any time in recent memory between us, key partners throughout Europe, throughout Asia, and even in other parts of the world, about how to manage these problems,” the secretary said.


      Yeah, nah!

  21. Martin Oline

    I am not surprised at Biden’s poll numbers. They will continue to drop. Everyone knows it’s 10% for the big guy.

  22. NYMutza

    John Garamendi is the last person who ought to be whining about secrecy as everyone familiar with the 1991 Executive Life Insurance of California debacle well knows. Garamendi was the California Insurance Commissioner who authorized the sale of Executive Life for a song, costing policy holders billions. Much about the sale transactions were kept secret by Garamendi’s office. There are few politicians more corrupt than John Garamendi.

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