2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, for those taken aback by yesterday’s premature post, here is an explanation. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Pine Siskin, “Frog Ranch”, Brown, Indiana, United States.

* * *


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

The Constitutional Order

“Trump’s Supreme Court Justices Must Kick Him Off the Ballot” [Politico]. “By affirming the Colorado decision, the Trump-appointed justices would make it clear that they are not merely rubber-stamps for the president who propelled them through the Senate — and that, despite prevailing public skepticism about the court, they are reaching out to their fellow justices in an on-going effort to decide hard cases on the basis of fundamental principles…. He has two choices if the Supreme Court prohibits his candidacy. On the one hand, he can call on his followers to boycott the polls, since they can no longer cast their ballots for their hero. On the other hand, he can make a deal with a particular Republican candidate and support their election as the second-best way to Make America Great Again. In either case, his position will have counterintuitive consequences. Although true believers will heed his call for a boycott, this will greatly increase the vote share of moderate Republicans showing up at the primaries — and help a mainstream GOP candidate gain the party’s nomination. In contrast, if Trump designates a proxy, his candidate may well gain the party’s nomination, but struggle to win the general election if they hold fast to the MAGA-line — since the Republicans must gain the support of centrist voters in swing states to win… Without Trump on the ballot, the president will be under intense pressure to leave the scene and open up the Democratic primary to younger candidates. To ensure this happens, the Supreme Court should take one final step to reset the campaign. The justices will be hearing the Colorado case on February 8th, but 15 states have currently scheduled their primaries for Super Tuesday, March 5th. By the end of that month, voters will have elected more than half of all delegates to the national conventions. They’ll have done so, however, with frontrunners who are no longer running. To allow new contenders from both parties to make their case to the voters, the justices should issue an injunction postponing Super Tuesday to early May — and provide potential candidates with a six-week opportunity to satisfy state ballot requirements. The Republican convention meets in the middle of July and Democrats will gather for their convention in August. That means the states will still have two months to hold their primaries in May and June, and the candidates will have plenty of time to campaign beforehand.” • I’ve been watching a lot of snooker, lately. Now I see why.


Less than a year to go!

* * *

Trump (R): “Behind the Curtain: Trump’s exponential power surge” [Axios]. “Something shocking — and telling — has unfolded beyond Donald Trump‘s onstage, online and courtroom theatrics: He’s running a professional, well-managed, disciplined presidential campaign. His 2024 operation is more sophisticated — dare we say traditional — than the slapdash improvisation of his White House and two previous runs…. Trump has surrounded himself with pros, but he’s still Trump — an incendiary and chaotic messenger…. Our conversations with Trump officials, allies and alumni reveal the off-the-rails public Trump has a more conventional, buttoned-up operation built around him. His advisers see this as a template for governing if he were to win…. The Trump team has methodically wired obscure state Republican delegate rules to his advantage. Operatives have worked state by state over the past three years to be sure he benefited from mechanics such as winner-take-all rules…. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump built extensive ground operations that helped cement him as a formidable front-runner in both states almost a year before voting began.” And: “Maybe the biggest shocker: Trump took indictments on 91 felonies in four criminal cases — a death knell for any other candidate — and turned them into a net positive. Even many traditional Republicans see the prosecutions as piling on.” • That last point: “Incendiary and chaotic” though Trump may be, no other candidate — perhaps in history — could have achieved this.

Trump (R): “Donald Trump’s Huge Independents Problem [Newsweek]. “While Donald Trump easily won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, the results suggest that the former president may struggle to win over the potential key demographic of independent voters at the 2024 general election…. As expected, Haley overwhelmingly got the support of independent voters on Tuesday, with exit polls from CNN and ABC News showing the former South Carolina governor received 60 percent and 61 percent from this potentially key demographic respectively…. While Trump can easily rely on his strong MAGA and GOP base for support in the Republican primary, Tuesday’s results suggest that the former present could have difficulty winning votes from independents and moderates, a demographic who may be considered key in the general election in places like New Hampshire as well as several swing states.” • Again, to me the issue is whether Trump could govern, given so narrow a base. As readers know, I’m long volatility, so I’m not sure the horse-race calculations matter all that much, entertaining though they be.

* * *

Trump (R): “Editorial: Trump’s nomination is becoming a horrible inevitability. Why can’t the GOP do better?” [Los Angeles Times]. “Yet it seems that many Republican voters — and the craven politicians who want to stay on their good side — are inured to the arguments against a Trump nomination. They remain wedded to the former president despite his two impeachments, despite his complicity in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and despite his threat to exact ‘retribution’ on behalf of his supposedly ill-treated supporters. (Trump later said, not reassuringly, that ‘I’m not going to have time for retribution.’) This is alarming, even if one believes that Biden can successfully leverage concerns about Trump’s conduct and temperament to eke out a victory in November. Given the unpredictability of events, it is ominous that one of the two major parties would nominate such a manifestly unfit demagogue for the presidency. But that is where America finds itself.” • Ah, “Events, my dear boy, events.” Given an electorate poised on a knife edge, events are indeed likely to be the driver — anything to Biden slipping a cog (hopefully after he racks up enough delegates to be nominated, so the Democratic National Convention can exercise its plenary powers and pick a winner) to Trump suffering from an unfortunate accident (like his food taster taking the wrong day off; it’s hard to imagine who the Republicans would pick then). Interesting times!

Trump (R): “Trump leans into voter fraud playbook, preparing to cry foul if he loses expected Biden rematch” [Associated Press]. “For months, Trump has been alleging that he could be the victim of fraud in November…. His continued false claims about the 2020 election have resonated with Republican voters, a majority of whom believe Biden was not legitimately elected despite all evidence to the contrary. Trump lost dozens of court challenges, his own attorney general found no evidence of widespread fraud, and reviews, audits and recounts in the battleground states where he contested his loss all affirmed Biden’s victory…. Despite his overall 2016 victory, Trump blamed losses in various states and in the popular vote on fraud that was never proven. A committee he empaneled to search for voter fraud disbanded without finding any.”

* * *

Haley (R): “Wall Street Donors Keep Haley’s 2024 Run Afloat, Even If Voters Won’t” [Bloomberg]. “Nikki Haley is spurning calls to drop out of the Republican presidential primary after her New Hampshire loss, vowing to press on with her unlikely bid thanks to the backing of Wall Street titans….. Her stance magnified the central dilemma of her campaign: Haley lacks the requisite support from Republican voters, many of whom have shown no willingness to move on from Trump, but she retains the backing of wealthy donors and a group funded by industrialist Charles Koch, which provide enough funding to keep running. The question now is how much longer the money will continue to flow. Billionaires Stanley Druckenmiller, Henry Kravis, Ken Langone and Cliff Asness are scheduled to co-host a New York fundraiser for Haley on Jan. 30. As long as they write the checks, she can stay in the race. If Haley’s well-heeled supporters decide she does not have a path to victory, they could cut off funding and essentially end her candidacy. ‘I have not seen anyone drop out,’ Simone Levinson, a Haley donor, who is also a co-host for the fundraiser, said. ‘People don’t just look at numbers, they look at behavior,’ Levinson said, referring to Trump’s combative speech Tuesday night, in which he lambasted Haley. ‘People are now being reminded of this divisive hate-spewing rhetoric of the Donald. Is this really what you want representing our country, as opposed to Nikki?'”

Haley (R): “Poor Nikki, Poor Us” [Gail Collins, New York Times]. “If it’s Trump being sworn in again … oh God, nononono, we’re not gonna go there.” • Despite all the aghastitude, Trump is obviously the opponent the Democrats want.

* * *

Biden (D): “How the Biden White House Cornered Itself” [American Compass]. “In November 2023, American Compass partnered with YouGov to survey 1,000 Americans about their views on ten economic policies pursued by the Biden administration—five of which are ‘broadly supported’ (drug prices, infrastructure, semiconductors, competition, tariffs) and five of which are ‘polarizing’ (climate, immigration, student loans, safety-net expansion, unconditional child tax credit)…. [P]olarizing policies are the ones that frame a choice for voters and thus define a particular candidate or party. Second, a conflict-craving media invariably focuses on contested policy areas and thus elevates their political salience…. [O]n polarizing policies, Independents are in every case much closer to Republicans than to Democrats…. A parallel, and perhaps more politically costly, gap emerges in the views of working- and upper-class Americans on President Biden’s polarizing policies…. Whereas the average net positive rating on broadly supported policies is +51% for the upper class and +40% for the working class, on polarizing policies those figures fall to +30% for the upper class and +1% for the working class…. Or, put more starkly, President Biden has chosen to take the most high-profile and controversial stances on those issues where upper-class enthusiasm most substantially outpaces working-class enthusiasm…. This emphasis on issues that divide the upper and working classes, in favor of the upper class, appears at first glance like political malpractice, seeing as working-class Americans outnumber upper class Americans by roughly 3-to-1. But that issue may not be so obvious within the Democratic coalition, where the working-class segment is only about 50% larger. Unfortunately for Democratic strategists, that also means the ratio is about 5-to-1 among Independents and Republicans.” • And then there’s this handy chart:

Biden (D): “Biden wobbles under weight of multiple open fronts around the world” [Agence France Presse]. “[T]he US president is instead facing the harsh realities of running for re-election while bogged down in one stagnant war and navigating the volatility of another, as the conflict in Gaza threatens at any moment to ignite the entire Middle East…. And even worse for the 81-year-old Democrat: his likely Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, has zeroed in on this global instability as an excuse to attack Biden as weak…. Biden’s approval rating on foreign policy is underwater: 58 percent say they disapprove of his handling of international affairs, compared to 36 percent who approve, according to December-January poll average from the site RealClearPolitics… Complicating matters further is Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s war against Hamas, which has exposed him to intense criticism from his own supporters and others on the left…. That tension could come back to bite him in November in key election swing states like Michigan, where there is a large Arab and Muslim population, and among young voters — both groups that are more likely to take issue with Biden’s handling of the war.” And: “North Korea exhibits a tendency to ramp up provocations during US election years,” warned Victor Cha and Andy Lim at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.”

* * *

RFK, Jr. (D): “RFK Jr.’s PAC raises $5.8 million at birthday gala in West Hollywood” [Politico]. The first-time candidate polls between 7 and 18 percent in general election match-ups, according to RealClearPolitics. That support is more than enough to shake up the race, which is widely expected to be a Donald Trump-Joe Biden rematch.”

* * *

GA: “Black Voters Abandoning Joe Biden in Georgia: Poll” [Newsweek]. “Key to Biden’s potential endurance in the state is the Black vote. In 2020, he won 88 percent of this demographic, but last week, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed that 58.6 percent of Black Georgians said they would support Biden, while 20.4 percent said they would support Trump. Ten percent of Black Georgians said they do not plan to vote in 2024…. Biden’s favorability among Black voters in seven swing states slipped 7 percentage points from October to December 2023, to 61 percent, according to a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll. Trump’s favorability in the same period has remained steady at around 25 percent.”

PA: “Biden Widens Lead in Pennsylvania Over Trump: Poll” [The Messenger]. MOE: 3.7%. “President Joe Biden has opened up a 7-point lead over Donald Trump in a new survey of likely Pennsylvania voters. According to data from Susquehanna Polling & Research, approximately 47% of likely voters would support Biden and the Democrats in a head-to-head challenge with Donald Trump if the election was held today. The former president and Republicans meanwhile earned around 39% support.” • I wouldn’t set too much store in this. Recall how Fetterman won: “Every County, Every Vote.” The Trump campaign can clearly build a ground game to do the same, as in IA and NH.


“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!

* * *

Covid is Airborne

“What Is a Corsi-Rosenthal Box?” [WebMD]. “Four filters and a cardboard base make up the box, which is sealed by tape and topped by a fan. The fan pulls the air in through the sides of the box and through the filters, then blows it out into the room. At first, researchers weren’t sure why this box seemed to clean faster than a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. In a single pass of air, a HEPA filter can catch a lot more particles than a MERV 13 filter. Yet in tests, ‘the Corsi-Rosenthal box outperformed the HEPA filter on every sized particle,’ Rosenthal says. Experts have a theory about why. ‘You have such high flow from these fans, way more flow than you get out of a commercial HEPA filter,’ Rosenthal says. ‘The air goes through the filter more than once in the same period of time. It may only get 50% of the particles at first. But the second time through, it’s getting much more.'” And but: “Experts note that while indoor air cleaners can cut down on viruses that can spread through the air, they’re not enough to protect people from COVID-19. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing are still the best ways to reduce the spread of those viruses.” • Wrong on two counts: First, it’s not a question of “most effective.” It’s a question of building layers of effectivity. Just because a scarf is less effective than a parka is no reason not to wear both when you go out in the snow! Second, it’s better to think of the space you’re in (avoid the 3Cs: Crowded, closed, close-contact) than “social distance” per se, a relic of droplet dogman.


“Needle-free vaccine candidate promises improved, longer-term immunity against COVID-19” (press release) [National University of Singapore]. “Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) have discovered a new vaccine candidate that can be delivered through the nose (nasal) in the form of a spray that promises better and longer-lasting immunity against COVID-19 compared to the conventional COVID-19 vaccine administered through the skin (subcutaneous) via injections….. On top of longer-lasting immunity, the research team also discovered that COVID-19 vaccine administered through the nose could induce antibody responses that have a greater capacity to protect the body against different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This discovery provides key scientific evidence supporting the idea that nasal COVID-19 vaccines can contribute to greater protection and longer-lasting immunity…. The researchers have filed a patent for the vaccine composition created for nasal vaccines. This will pave the way for industrial partnerships to develop better vaccines against COVID-19 and other pathogens that target the upper respiratory tract.”

“A novel film spray containing curcumin inhibits SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus infection and enhances mucosal immunity” [Virology Journal]. From the Abstract: “Infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and influenza virus is still a major worldwide health concern. Plants are a good source of bioactive compounds to be used as preventive measures for both inhibiting the virus binding and enhancing mucosal innate immunity. Curcumin has been shown to possess antiviral activity and modulate innate immunity…. This study demonstrated that curcumin has versatile pharmacological properties including antiviral, immunomodulating, and anti-inflammatory activities. Formulation of the oro-nasal film spray containing curcumin showed potent antiviral activity against both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus infection, without cytotoxicity at therapeutic doses” • Interesting!

“Conversion of monoclonal IgG to dimeric and secretory IgA restores neutralizing ability and prevents infection of Omicron lineages” [PNAS]. “Considering the high risk of breakthrough infections in individuals with an insufficient mucosal immunoglobulin A (IgA) response, we have engineered various forms of monoclonal IgA antibodies for direct administration to the mucosal surface. The dimerization of IgA, potentially through increased avidity, significantly enhances the potency of broadly neutralizing antibodies tested. Importantly, converting IgG to dimeric and secretory forms of IgA restores neutralizing ability against Omicron variants. When administered intranasally, the dimeric IgA antibody DXP-604 provided both prophylactic and therapeutic protection against Omicron BA.5 in transgenic mice expressing human ACE2. Thus, the nasal spray delivery of dimeric or secretory IgA antibodies holds the potential to effectively block viral infection and enhance mucosal immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.” • Not really vaccination, as I read it, but a “morning before and after” nasal spray.

* * *

TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

National[1] Biobot January 23: Regional[2] Biobot January 23:
Variants[3] CDC January 20 Emergency Room Visits[4] CDC January 20
New York[5] New York State, data January 24: National [6] CDC January 13:
National[7] Walgreens January 21: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic January 20:
Travelers Data
Positivity[8] CDC January 1: Variants[9] CDC January 1:
Weekly deaths New York Times January 6: Percent of deaths due to Covid-19 New York Times January 6:


1) for charts new today; all others are not updated.

2) For a full-size/full-resolution image, Command-click (MacOS) or right-click (Windows) on the chart thumbnail and “open image in new tab.”


[1] Even after a decline, we’re still higher than any of the surges under Trump.

[2] Steep decline in the Northeast!

[3] “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.

[4] “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.

[5] Decrease for the city aligns with wastewater data.

[6] “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†”.

[7] -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.)

[8] Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

[9] Up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose by 25,000 to 214,000 on the week ending January 20th, rebounding significantly from the 16-month low touched in the prior week and overshooting market expectations of 200,000.”

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for manufactured durable goods in the United States were virtually unchanged in December 2023, after a 5.5 percent rise seen in November and missing market expectations of a 1.1 percent increase.”

National Activity: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to -0.15 in December 2023, from a downwardly revised 0.01 in the prior month, indicating activity contracted during the month.”

* * *

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 76 Extreme Greed (previous close: 76 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 25 at 1:36:59 PM ET.


“Impacts of lid closure during toilet flushing and of toilet bowl cleaning on viral contamination of surfaces in United States restrooms” [American Journal of Infection Control]. “These results demonstrate that closing the toilet lid prior to flushing does not mitigate the risk of contaminating bathroom surfaces and that disinfection of all restroom surfaces (ie, toilet rim, floors) may be necessary after flushing or after toilet brush used for the reduction of virus cross-contamination.” • Yikes!

Class Warfare

Plus ça change:

News of the Wired

“Brains Are Not Required When It Comes to Thinking and Solving Problems—Simple Cells Can Do It” [Scientific American]. “Regular cells—not just highly specialized brain cells such as neurons—have the ability to store information and act on it. Now Levin has shown that the cells do so by using subtle changes in electric fields as a type of memory. These revelations have put the biologist at the vanguard of a new field called basal cognition. Researchers in this burgeoning area have spotted hallmarks of intelligence—learning, memory, problem-solving—outside brains as well as within them. Until recently, most scientists held that true cognition arrived with the first brains half a billion years ago. Without intricate clusters of neurons, behavior was merely a kind of reflex. But Levin and several other researchers believe otherwise. He doesn’t deny that brains are awesome, paragons of computational speed and power. But he sees the differences between cell clumps and brains as ones of degree, not kind. In fact, Levin suspects that cognition probably evolved as cells started to collaborate to carry out the incredibly difficult task of building complex organisms and then got souped-up into brains to allow animals to move and think faster… In recent years interest in basal cognition has exploded as researchers have recognized example after example of surprisingly sophisticated intelligence at work across life’s kingdoms, no brain required. For artificial-intelligence scientists such as Bongard, basal cognition offers an escape from the trap of assuming that future intelligences must mimic the brain-centric human model. For medical specialists, there are tantalizing hints of ways to awaken cells’ innate powers of healing and regeneration.”

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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, lichen, 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 JK:

JK writes: “Cottonwood trees and their fall colors near a spring in The Big Bend of west Texas.”

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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. Feral Finster

    “Trump’s Supreme Court Justices Must Kick Him Off the Ballot” [Politico].

    I’ve seen Rube Goldberg schemes that had fewer moving parts and cunning plans

    1. VTDigger

      Quite literally the most deranged ‘we must destroy the village to save it’ yarn diagram I have ever read

      1. ChrisPacific

        It wasn’t all quite as bad as the quoted passages, but I think their Trump mind reading leaves a lot to be desired:

        He has two choices if the Supreme Court prohibits his candidacy. On the one hand, he can call on his followers to boycott the polls, since they can no longer cast their ballots for their hero. On the other hand, he can make a deal with a particular Republican candidate and support their election as the second-best way to Make America Great Again

        Does anybody think Trump would actually do either of these? Or would he lob verbal grenades at both camps, challenge the legitimacy of the decision, and encourage his supporters to vote for him as a write-in?

        It reminded me of the Brexit unicorn discussions. While we’re in happy unicorn land, let’s have Biden stand down and make way for a younger candidate too. Sure, why not?

        1. LifelongLib

          In this scenario, Trump would still be barred from holding office even if he “won” as a write-in.

            1. LifelongLib

              Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t say anything about ballots or voting. It prohibits someone who meets the criteria it specifies from holding office. If Trump is determined to meet the criteria (by Congress, the Supreme Court, or whoever — it’s still not clear how this is can be decided) then he can’t hold office. In that case a vote for him is literally wasted.

              1. LifelongLib

                Congress can allow a person like that to hold office anyway, but it requires a 2/3 majority vote in both House and Senate. Personally I think if it comes to it they should, but I won’t be holding my breathe.

              2. ChrisPacific

                Oh, I’m not disagreeing at all. I just think that if he did ‘win’ as a write-in and was disqualified (as he would have to be, if the Supreme Court decided as the article advocates) it would create a great deal of chaos and unrest among his supporters, which he would stoke for all he was worth. I don’t think it would be fun for anyone concerned.

                1. LifelongLib

                  Yes, I think he should be allowed to run, and if he does get elected, well…The fact that someone like him is anywhere near power means we have much bigger problems anyway.

      2. Bill Urman

        I’m bracing myself for many months of deranged political punditry. At some point I may just have to completely unplug myself from the process.

    2. clarky90

      The massive footprints of the vile beast, “Davos Man”, were discovered, by the terrified peasants……..

      The footprints were creeping around “the commons”….

    3. Art Vandalay

      If the author was my professor at Yale law school, I would think seriously about demanding a refund for his class. He is suffering from a closed head wound or other malady impairing judgment and should be kept away from sharp objects such as a pen or keyboard.

  2. ashley

    re: “How the Biden White House Cornered Itself” and the chart after it –

    does anyone know if i can bet on politics like how some bet on sports? all in on trump winning in 2024. that chart says it all. one has to be (delusional) wealthy and a democrat to think theyre doing better off now under biden… coincidentally, everyone i know who makes up the PMC and votes dem thinks biden is amazing, and everyone else (all of my friends under 45) think biden is doing awful.

    trumps gonna win. the dems should be sued for malpractice for running the genocidal demented geezer. “nothing will fundamentally change” seems to be the only campaign promise actually achieved. besides war on multiple fronts and the collective feeling were on the verge of (in?) WW3.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      well…Lina Khan.
      so there’s that.
      other than that, i reckon the best thing biden’s done is vastly expand the awareness among the deplorables(R, D and I) of just how full of shit the demparty is.
      i mean, that understanding is much more widespread among the cohorts in my sample who either dont really pay attention, somewhat pay attention, and pay attention(all excluding comfortable folks)
      than its prolly ever been.

      3 idiotic wars…and waving the bloody shirt for a 4th.
      in a lot of ways, he’s worse than trump…and thats frelling saying something,lol.
      and that realisation causes cognitive dissonance for folks across the spectrum.
      people like my mom, 81, lifelong dem, TDR, Maddowite, Kossak…and my proxy under glass for the PMC….well, just ignore and deny and believe real hard in Biden the Awesome.
      others…well…perhaps their faith is not so strong,lol.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Uncle Joe’s NLRB appointments have also been good. So there we have it: Khan and the NLRB vs Ukraine, Gaza, Lawfare done moronically (leading off with Stormy Daniels, really?), East Palestine, screwing the railroad workers… and on and on…

    2. Burritonomics

      The offshore book I use currently has Trump -120 and Biden +155. A bunch of others at longer odds (RFK Jr and Nikki Haley each at 25-1, for instance).

      For those unfamiliar with American betting odds, it means you must risk 120 dollars to win 100 on Trump, and a bet of 100 on Biden will win 155 (the minus sign means that’s how much you must bet to win 100…so if you saw, say, -275, it’s 275 risked to win 100. The plus sign means you risk 100 to win that amount. Hence, 100 to win 155 at +155 odds. And when I say win, keep in mind you get your original stake back).

  3. Samuel Conner

    > no other candidate — perhaps in history — could have achieved this

    It does make one wonder what Sanders might have accomplished had he not been as, um, … agreeable …. to the D establishment as he seems to have been. Perhaps he should have thrown caution to the winds and run in 2012 as a M4A independent.

    Maybe someone like this will emerge on the D side eventually. None of the D-leaning people I know are happy with what the Party is serving us. For me it will be a 3rd party protest vote again.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Sanders as President would have been sandbagged by both parties. He would have gone along with the uniparty in foreign wars in return for a promise of some sort of healthcare reform at home which in the end would work out as Obamacare 2.0. And we all know how ell that worked out.

  4. Jeff W

    “Now Levin has shown…”

    I think “Now [Tufts University biologist Michael] Levin has shown…” works a bit better.

  5. Carolinian

    Re Trump’s food taster–Livia to Tiberius: “don’t touch the figs!” (have been rewatching I,Claudius).

    Of course in Trump’s case it may be don’t touch the Fish Fillet–his favorite McDonald’s sandwich. And presumably he has the money to hire an efficient Praetorian Guard who won’t skewer him beneath the Coliseum.

    Not that we should make jokes about such things. TDS is a crazy beast.

    1. Feral Finster

      Well, none other than the odious Robert Kagan recently did everything but openly call for Trump to get The Huey Long Retirement Plan.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      One of the best lines ever, and one of great leading female roles by Sian Phillips.

      Another intesting factoid about that classic series is that, so far as I can tell, it’s written entirely in iambic pentameter.

  6. Camelotkidd

    This state of affairs should not be surprising. Since the 2016 election American elite have refused to examine the serial failures that led to Trump’s victory. Here we are 8 years on and still no reflection on their responsibility for Trump and his continued appeal. Any student of history familiar with the dynamic of late stage empires is aware of the pattern of a strong-man or “Caesar” arising who appeals to the common folk who are impoverished by a greedy yet dysfunctional elite.
    Sound familiar?

    1. Feral Finster

      “Here we are 8 years on and still no reflection on their responsibility for Trump and his continued appeal.”

      The oligarchs don’t care how they keep power, as long as they keep it.

      “Any student of history familiar with the dynamic of late stage empires is aware of the pattern of a strong-man or “Caesar” arising who appeals to the common folk who are impoverished by a greedy yet dysfunctional elite.”

      And of course, the assassination of Caesar fixed the Roman Republic and everything went right back to just the way it was, right?

      1. JBird4049

        >>>And of course, the assassination of Caesar fixed the Roman Republic and everything went right back to just the way it was, right?

        Well, Caesar Augustus kept saying that he had restored the Roman Republic when people pointed out that he had abrogated all the political power from elements of the government such as the Senate to himself.

        Of course, much of the elites and their families especially in the city of Rome were dead by the end of the civil war, which was a reason for the end of it. Too many people were tired of the very many deaths and so much destruction. Add that the people who would normally be in control were often dead, this left a nice power vacuum for the new unofficial, but really official, Emperor.

        I think that, if he had wanted to truly wanted a return of the Roman Republic, he could have stepped back, let the system crank back up as all the forms were there, and allow the de jure existence of the republic again become the de facto reality. He had forty-one years as emperor to do so.

        1. The Rev Kev

          It may be that after all those years of civil war, that people were tired of the whole death and slaughter thing but just wanted peace and quiet. As it was the old corrupt Republic that led to the civil war in the first place, maybe they were not so keen on returning to it. But for the Republic to work, you needed a population with the thinking processes of those old Republicans. And by the time of Augustus, they were no longer those people anymore. Not by a long shot. It is like us sitting around thinking that it would be great if we could go back to how we were when we were 21 years old. But we know that we are no longer the person that we were when we were 21.

        2. Daniil Adamov

          Would it have “cranked back up” into a workable state, or would it have “cranked back up” into the state of Julius Caesar’s youth and career? If it was possible to resuscitate the old Republic before the constant civil wars, it would have taken more effort than just “stepping back”. I am not sure if anyone has ever accomplished the necessary feat, certainly at that time. (Greek city-state reformers like Solon worked with a much, much smaller, simpler and more homogenous society.)

    2. Daniil Adamov

      Caesar seems like a questionable example of what you’re talking about. For a “late-stage empire”, Rome sure managed to hang on for a long while after him. Actual failing empires (such as many Chinese dynasties) do produce popular strongmen, though. Trump is different, though. He is a demagogue, not a strongman. His ascent has been overwhelmingly nonviolent compared to Caesar or rebellious Chinese generals. I think if there will be Caesars in your (or our) future, they are yet to come, though present-day trends may point the way.

  7. KD

    Tuesday’s results suggest that the former present could have difficulty winning votes from independents and moderates, a demographic who may be considered key in the general election in places like New Hampshire as well as several swing states.

    I have to call bullshit. New Hampshire has open primaries, there was no real contest on the Democratic side, so NH Dems changed their registration to independent and voted for Haley. At least 1/3rd of the Haley votes are never going to seriously vote for a Republican, they just want to stop Trump.

    There real interesting thing was about 6% wrote in “Ceasefire” on the Democratic side.

    1. Feral Finster

      To be fair, I am sure that plenty of Haley voters might well prefer Team R Tweedledee to Team D Tweedledum, but would vote Biden over Trump.

    2. ambrit

      Now that is very interesting. I wonder if that phenomenon is centred around any particular localities? (Perhaps the University towns? The big city(s)? A Falun Gong Compound/fishing port?)
      Ditto on the “open primary” observation. I watched as the local Dems in Mississippi made a deal with the National Republican Party to cross over to vote in the Republican Senate Primary one year and defeat a strong Tea Party contender. The main ‘agitators’ in this at the ground level were the black Southern Baptist preachers. (That’s about as PMC a group as you’ll ever want to avoid.)

  8. Carolinian

    Rather than rely on CNN general election speculation based on non representative NH over to


    Trump up by 6 over Biden in the general–way early but FWIW.

    It’s hard to see what Haley gets by staying in unless it’s a future job with the Kochs or Home Depot (Ken Langone).

    1. Tom Doak

      Haley is a true believer in herself, but also, someone’s got to establish themselves as the frontrunner for 2028.

      If she doesn’t win her home state she’s toast, isn’t she?

      1. Carolinian

        true believer

        “Too large for an insane asylum”–that’s us. I’ve already offered up my theory that being blocked from entering that beauty pageant at age 5 is what has motivated Haley to seek revenge by winning it all. And her presidential ambitions have been obvious for some time. While lately she has said–flattering the Dems–that Hillary Clinton inspired her to run arguably it was more likely Sarah Palin.

        In any case the Repubs, if not the Dems and media, don’t seem to share her self estimate.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          haley also has that same odor of milfporn going for her.
          but shes better spoken than palin…and ,so far, less weird family drama.

          and, as ive related…kamala reminds me a lot of a woman i used to roll in hay with, long ago….same wordslaw, same relative looks(i aint picky).
          so ill always see that chick when i see kamala.
          and not want her anywhere near power…her place is near the hot tub.
          with the bong.

    2. RookieEMT

      Trump winning every single poll from what I can see on 538, at least the one’s put in mid to late January. A few where Biden wins by a single point.

      Not an election of a life-time, but one to behold either way.

      1. Carolinian

        There’s nothing wrong with humble origins (her parents ran a clothing store) if one has the talent to do the job. My problem with Haley is that the ambition seems to lack any substance. And her resume is not exactly extensive.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Nothing wrong with humble origins I agree. Gotta start somewhere even though some trust fund babies want to start up at the top and work their way up. But some people never grow with jobs with increased responsibility. Look at Trump for example. He was exactly the same person that he started his Presidency as and never changed or matured in those four years. With Haley I maintain that she is a younger, female version of Biden and whose first instincts are to bomb places that she would not be able to find on a map. There is no original thinking that perhaps that there might be a better way. Instead, she is always ready to do what the uniparty would want her to do. So as far as I am concerned she may as well have stayed as a waitress. Who needs a Sarah Palin 2.0?

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Hailey worked at a Waffle House? I mean she could easily win every southern state as an independent running on this.

        1. rowlf

          The Rogue Waffle House Waitress title was a slur against Haley from a Russian favorable blog.

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

          US Ambassador to the UN contradicts Tillerson on Syria. Who does she work for?

          It’s official: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has her own Syria policy.

          US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the Trump administration is not seeking regime change in Syria and isn’t changing its “military posture”.

          But in an interview with CNN — which also aired on Sunday — Haley claimed the exact opposite: “There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime … Regime change is something that we think is going to happen.”

          Someone went off-script. Can you guess who?

  9. Tom Stone

    Has Covid had an effect on Humans that encourages risky and extreme behavior?
    Driving is noticeably worse since the pandemic hit and the extremists appear to be more extreme than in the past while the deranged ( Nuland Et Al) are behaving in an even more deranged manner than they have previously.

    TDS is worse than it has been and there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement on the part of the Dims that Trump’s popularity ( Such as it is) is based on providing concrete material benefits to the plebes.
    There’s something about being treated with overt contempt and derision that many people find distasteful, even deplorable people like myself..

    1. Michael Mck

      The two people who almost ran me over within three minutes recently were on their phones though you may be correct too.

  10. CA


    January 28, 1964

    Act Is First Western Break From U.S. Aim of Isolating Peking in 14 Years;

    Call Move ‘Most Unfriendly’ but Do Not End Relations — Capital Voices Regret

    PARIS — General de Gaulle’s Government broke today with the United States policy of isolating Communist China and announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with Peking.

    [ The United States expressed regret over the action and said it was particularly unfortunate that it came at a time when the Chinese Communists were “promoting aggression and subversion.” Observers in Hong Kong saw the recognition as a major triumph for Peking. The Chinese Nationalists assailed the Paris move as a “most unfriendly act.” ]

    France’s recognition of the Communist regime was the first by any major power since the Korean war began nearly 14 years ago. The step was hailed by Gaullists as an example of France’s independence and as a move toward closer relations with another great independent power.

    Government circles saw the recognition as a vital step in pursuit of President de GaulIe’s policy of negotiating a settlement to secure the independence and unity of South Vietnam and other states of the IndoChinese peninsula…

  11. Troy

    Been kicking around the word. SCoviDS: Sudden Covid Death Syndrome.

    Been so many deaths in my community in the past two years. The fallout of “letting ‘er rip”. We can’t even recover from the grief of one death before another one happens now.

  12. hemeantwell

    I hope that American Compass in the future allows its needle to spin in response to foreign policy issues as they gauge whether the Biden administration has dug itself into a corner. Their previous analysis dug into China and globalization, but that can be seen as immediately related to economic concerns. Of course, that and other domestic issues are all Americans are supposed to be concerned with, so why waste your research money checking to see if anyone is appalled by slaughter, genocide, and arms race stoking? Just go ahead and ignore those opinions, reinforcing the impression that they are not of electoral significance.

    Polling doesn’t measure opinion, it defines opinion.

  13. kareninca

    I wonder what (if any) effect the current measles epidemic will have on covid immunity (such as it is). Since measles can wipe out pre-existing antibodies. I guess we could hope that measles might take care of the IgG4 switch problem, haha.

  14. hamstak

    I received several political texts today asking me to contribute or participate in a poll (and contribute). Two stood out.

    One from the DCCC told me that this was the FIFTH (yes, capitalized) text they’d sent to me begging for money, implying a kind of entitled impatience. My polite response: F___ YOU

    Another was from the DSCC which was honoring me with the grand privilege of participating in an approval poll regarding Biden’s performance as Dear Leader. They presented a URL each for YES and NO; the problem was that the links were identical. So I entered said URL in a desktop browser window, which opened a web page for submitting a YES vote and no appreciable way of expressing disapproval. I’m sure this was a simple oversight! I responded to the text:

    The links for yes and no are identical. Honest mistake, I’m sure. Oh, by the way, F___ YOU.

    My replies may end up in oblivion, but hopefully they have content/sentiment analysis software running on the other end which can detect disapproving/hostile respondents.

    Maybe next time I will reply: TRUMP YOU!

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      > They presented a URL each for YES and NO; the problem was that the links were identical.

      Ha! #PushPoll

      Some DSCC grift consultancy shop is no doubt getting paid bundles for that email “campaign”.


    2. Late Introvert

      I sent some really nasty emails about 5 years ago about how I would never give the Corporate Stooges at the DNC a single penny, since all they cared about was their Rich Donors. They did seem to take my name off their lists. Even better was registering independent. A recent email to the WH calling Biden a w@rm0nger probably helped too.

      1. Jason Boxman

        You’re fortunate; my email continued to blow up with appeals for money; The only solution was to configure Google Workspace to hand those emails right back to sender. It feels good. I haven’t gotten one since, in fact. No idea what becomes of them. I’m (re)sending them to the corp email address of the hack that runs the whole liberal Democrat email operation that every candidate uses. I really should data mine these for some purpose this campaign season, maybe train up a LLM with them. Might be amusing to make a liberal Democrat campaign spam generator for amusement. Ugh, an idea!

  15. Pekka Oksa

    ‘Don’t call the Police’, from Finland


    Poor puffin

    Over the past week, there have been several sightings in Finland of Atlantic puffins, a bird very rarely seen in this country.

    The North Karelian newspaper Karjalainen reported on Thursday afternoon that a woman in Joensuu who saw one in her yard called the police to rescue it, but to her shock and dismay, they shot it instead.

    The incident led to outpourings of rage on Finnish social media.

    Police defended their decision by saying that they made an assessment of the bird’s condition, determined that it couldn’t fly, and decided it should be put down to avoid suffering.

    In a follow-up, Aki Arkiomaa, executive director of Bird Life Finland, the national umbrella organisation for birdwatchers, told Helsingin Sanomat that more information would be needed before judging whether or not the police acted correctly.

    According to Arkiomaa, one possibility is that the police misinterpreted the bird’s behaviour. Puffins are sea bird that cannot take off from the ground after landing on snow – a fact that may have given the mistaken impression that it was injured.

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