2:00PM Water Cooler 2/12/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am finishing up a post on California’s horrid new rule sending children back to school after one (1) day of symptomatic Covid infection, but it is proving more complicated than I thought. So, today there is no bird-song. Just a plant! Sorry! –lambert

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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 PH:

PH writes: “With all the rain we had this summer it was a bumper year for mushrooms and lichen in central Maine.” Maybe we can name that mushroom?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ChrisFromGA

    Like Rome, we’re ruled by addled fools

    (Sung to the tune of “Only want to be with you, by Hootie and the Blowfish”)

    Senility, it’s sad to watch unfurl
    Try not to laugh at Joe when he touches random girls
    Old age is crazy, and you wonder why
    We turn back to babies and we leave our shoes untied
    But there’s nothing we can do …
    Father time will come for me and you

    You look at Mitch, he’s got nothing left to say
    He’s gonna freeze up like the ice on Hudson Bay
    Spokes-weasels dance, his handlers sing,
    He’s wilting just like daffodils do in late spring

    But there’s nothing we can do
    Cause Mitch is incontinent, too
    Please show him to the loo …
    Like Rome, we’re ruled by addled fools

    Put on some rubber undies, maybe Depends?
    They’re standard issue for at least a third of Congress
    Sad these men aren’t put away, ship ’em off to Italy
    They’ve all made a zillion bucks and when they die, celebrate

    Not sure why we’re so unlucky
    It’s time for someone young to rule
    Ain’t life so cruel?
    Like Rome, we’re ruled by addled fools

    (Guitar solo)

    His mind’s a mashed-up Irish stew …
    And Mitch is incontinent, too
    Ain’t life so cruel?

    Like Rome, we’re ruled by addled fools

    Sometimes I wonder, if it’ll ever end
    We ought to rise right up and have our Arab spring
    These pols are crazy, and you wonder why
    We keep electing them, the whole thing makes me cry

    Well there’s nothing we can do
    LIke Rome, we’re ruled by addled fools

    They’re just cor-por-ate tools

    Like Rome, we’re ruled by addled fools
    Yeah their brains have turned to glue!
    It’s time for someone young to rule
    Time for someone young to rule
    Time for someone young to rule
    Time for someone young to rule

    1. Mikel

      “Time for someone young to rule”

      I can’t help but think:
      Obama, Macron, Trudeau…

      When you wish for something, you need to be very specific.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        How about Kamala?

        Asking for a friend.

        Ok, she’s not really young. Pick any random person below 40 out of the phone book, then.

        1. Pat

          This is like wanting a female leader. Funny how Maggie Thatcher cured me of the hypocritical idiocy spouted by the despicable Madeline Albright. You shouldn’t support women no matter what. Hillary, Kamala and now Nikki are clear examples of that truism.
          (I suppose I might have come to feel the same about Shirley Chisholm, but the forces arrayed against her make me think not.)

          1. ChrisFromGA

            I wonder if the problem with the theory that a female leader will be more emotionally intelligent, less blood-thirsty, and generally less war-driven is that the cohort of women in politics is not representative of the gender at large.

            Haley and Hillary in particular seem to have many of the typical traits of toxic masculinity.
            Or they’re overcompensating to try and fit in.

            Kamala is very likable, IMO, because she lacks that testosterone jag.

    1. Carolinian

      Speaking of the NYT


      This is a long column but it’s about the newsroom turmoil over the dubious Hamas rape allegations also covered here.



      Max Blumenthal thinks the crisis inside The Times reflects a deep divide between the newsroom, where there seems to be a surviving cohort of conscientious journalists, and the upper reaches of management, where the paper’s ideological high priests reside. I have not been inside the Times building in well more than a decade, but there is a history to support this thesis. It goes at least as far back as the 1950s, when Arthur Hays Sulzberger, as publisher, signed a secrecy agreement with the Central Intelligence Agency and gave tacit approval to correspondents who wanted to work for the agency.

      In his interview Putin seemed to suggest that the CIA was the deep state running US foreign policy. One doesn’t have to buy that but Carl Bernstein told us long ago the media angle was true. Meanwhile Lawrence suggests things may be changing at the NYT.

      1. WJ

        Putin was speaking from his own experience in seeing U.S. Presidents be regularly rebuffed and overruled by their staff and agencies. I think what he says is obviously true. Look what happened when Trump tried to withdraw from Syria…

        1. The Rev Kev

          Same with Obama in Syria. Obama reached an agreement with Putin but about two or three days later the Pentagon bombed a city under siege by ISIS to try to help them capture that city from the Syrians. It was about this time that the Russians started to call the Americans agreement-incapable.

          1. KLG

            Final straw for me, too.

            I remember reading that upper management though Bob Edwards and his colleagues were not ready to handle the morning of September 11, 2001 with the requisite gravitas. Or something. Thus, he eventually had to go. And now NPR has people like Steve Inskeep IIRC berating Julian Assange in an interview because the current Prisoner of Belmarsh wouldn’t give up his sources. Which I suppose Inskeep would do, if he had any? Don’t get me started about the little warmonger who still anchors Weekend Edition AFAIK.

      1. Verifyfirst

        I quit donating to the national NPR after reading their public financial forms and seeing the salaries they paid the CEO and on air talent–$600,000 per person per year and up (at that time, maybe 10 years ago). And they have a quarter billion endowment from Mrs. Kroc, if they are ever short. Unfortunately, if I donated to the local NPR, half automatically also went to the national–you could not opt out of that arrangement. But I have not listened to the house organ for the Pelosi/Schumer Dems in at least a decade. It’s always a tell when I find out someone gets their news from NPR–this is a Blue MAGA person–hasn’t failed yet.

        1. Clwydshire

          I quit NPR for good in May 2022 when I heard (see the transcript here: https://www.npr.org/2022/05/03/1096398193/retired-colonel-on-the-rise-of-javelin-missiles-as-biden-seeks-to-aid-ukraine ) that “the Javelin has become the iconic weapon of the war. It caught everyone’s imagination. You know, there’s Saint Javelin. There are Javelin songs.” I already knew that the national NPR reporters were just stenographers for the State Department. But I choked on my coffee anyway.

          The ghost of my father (Army Air Force WWII era) shouted in my ear: “To hell with these people: Wars don’t have iconic weapons, and people who talk like that don’t have a clue what they are talking about.” I knew the Javelin was not really that good a weapon, and shortly after it disappeared from stories about the war, as it proved basically useless.

          But back to the report. They played snatches of some of those Javelin songs. I don’t think Americans are that interested in songs about weapons, but I know that in eastern European culture, from Germany on eastward, they do love those kinds of songs. I got the feeling I was listening to a report that had been canned in the Ukrainian Ministry of Propaganda and delivered to NPR for broadcast.

          I can’t believe that it actually took me a couple of days to process the experience, since I was already listening to Mercouris and company. But after those days passed, I spit out NPR for good. The MSM is dead to me.

      2. Mark Gisleson

        Ken Bode died a couple years ago. His heave ho made way for Gwen Ifill and NPR didn’t have room to hang onto someone with these qualifications: “…moderator of Washington Week from 1994 to 1999. He also served as Dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a professor at DePauw University, Michigan State University, and the State University of New York at Binghamton. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina.”

        Late ’90s early ‘2000s a lot of talented news folks got early retired or bought out. Just in time for them to not report on 9/11 or Iraq’s WMDs.

        1. Joe Renter

          I use to watch Washington Weekly back then. I considered it a good source of news. Those days are long gone. I did get a kick out of seeing my old girlfriend be a guest panelist on the show. She came from NPR station KTOO in Juneau AK and worked her way to cover the DC beat for NPR. We meet in Bristol Bay AK working in a fish processing planet. Borderline narcissistic she was, and had the right connections from her east coast pedigree.

  2. Bill Carson

    Colorado will mail out ballots for the Republican presidential primary today—with Trump’s name on them. To me this is tacit proof that SCOTUS is going to rule in Trump’s favor on this issue. Otherwise, they would have issued an order affirming the Colorado Supreme Court order or lifting the stay. We knew it was going to go down this way, but here’s to democracy, may it rest in peace.

    1. Ranger Rick

      I spotted a GOP Caucus yard sign the other day on the outskirts of what’s frequently referred to as “The People’s Republic of Boulder”. That’s in conjunction with the appearance of graffiti stickers declaring opposition to Biden with an expletive. That’s uncommonly bold for a party that until recently was just a footnote in elections in Colorado — and for one that canceled their own caucus in 2016 (and triggered the outrage that led to open primaries becoming law).

      1. Buddy

        Seeing lots of Twenties with “Trump belongs here 2024!”
        with an arrow pointing at the West Wing of the White House,
        plus FJB! on many bills of all denominations.
        And, the other day, FGNewsom!, as a speech bubble from George Washington.

        BTW, it is not illegal to write on currency- it’s a product sold to the federal reserve bank, which is owned by private institutions-as long as one doesn’t change any numbers or values.

  3. DJG, Reality Czar

    Maurizio Crozza is a wicked satirist, who does plenty of imitations. You should see him do Giorgia Meloni.

    Here he is in what is, admittedly, a promotion for his new season. Yet it is funny, and the mixture of English and Italian voiceover and subtitles will let you get the jokes:

    Joe Biden.


    This is not an “out there” view in Italy, where Biden is widely referred to as plain senile.

  4. Wukchumni

    Joe & Jill faced a battle uphill
    To fetch a nomination
    Joe often misspoke
    When remembering details
    With authority

    The idea that Joe
    Might cause an H-bomb show
    Is not out of my mind’s purview
    Marbles upstairs all askew

  5. Lambert Strether Post author

    Biobot data is out. I’ll put it out tomorrow. At a hasty glance, the curve flattened a mite, but there were no significant backward revisions now. So we remain in the second highest spike after Omicron.

    1. Screwball

      The first line was about TS “mania.” It seems to me, and since this is also about football, what is mania, and who decides it? I remember when they started calling the Dallas Cowboys America’s team. Who decided that? Not me. Same here.

      This seems manufactured. Marketing and propaganda. I might have to read Orwell again. :-)

    2. Graton

      $22,000 for a seat, Million dollar sky boxes, and these are the people who are going to tell the Deplorables who to vote for??

  6. Jason Boxman

    From “COVID-19 Variant Dashboard”, JN dominates. It is total. HV.1 is 2.90%. Looks like 80% for JN lineage.

    I honestly stopped looking at this, and the Walgreens data, daily, a year ago. You won’t find a change in any of these that might rouse people to action. Certainly not in the halls of power. There’s nothing to see. If you believe SARS2 is dangerous, and that each infection confers a 10% change of long-COVID on the recipient, along with clinical and sub-clinical damage, that has not changed, will not change. Otherwise absent a spike in the death rate to double digits, whatever the latest variant might be isn’t going to drive any behavioral changes. It’s the long term damage and disability that might, and that’s going to take a decade to play out, or longer.

    In the meantime, as I’ve said for two years, every day is the most dangerous day yet.

    Stay safe out there.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    Julie Kelly’s latest compares the two documents cases and the facts seem inconvenient to say the least.

    She’s enjoying her work of late and I can’t begrudge her the satisfaction she takes in pointing out how many breaks Biden’s getting versus the [familyblog]ing Trump’s getting.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Just went back and did a hard refresh and it’s still there for me. Try restarting your browser and if that doesn’t work, I’ve got a vintage Dick Van Dyke repair strategy I’d like to run by you assuming you have a brown paper bag and a chicken. #worsttechsupportever

  8. The Rev Kev

    Had a thought about Trump. A day or so ago he was telling the NATO nations that he would not defend them if the Russians attacked them but would even encourage the Russians to do so for those deadbeat nations. It was a dog whistle that appealed to the Protestant ethic that ‘debts must be paid’ while making it clear that NATO was a protection racket where America had to be paid. But then I suddenly realized that this was Trump talking about how debts must be paid. A man who six times used bankruptcies to get out of debts, who has a reputation of stiffing contractors and who is cavalier and even mocking about screwing over people about money. Not to keen to walk the walk where he is concerned.

  9. Jeremy Grimm

    Considering the many ‘unhappy’ applications of Artificial Intelligence[AI] I am curious how to regard this brief paean to AI I saw in a recent article in Nature Magazine —

    Advances in artificial intelligence are at the heart of many of this year’s most
    exciting areas of technological innovation. Nature, 25 January 2024

    The first item on the list is “Deep learning for protein design”:
    “Today, de novo protein design has matured into a practical tool for generating made-to-order enzymes and other proteins.”
    “By treating protein sequences like documents comprising polypeptide ‘words’,
    these algorithms[AI algorithms that ‘use the large language models (LLMs)’ like those ‘that power tools such as ‘the chatbot ChatGPT’] can discern the patterns that
    underlie the architectural playbook of real-world proteins.”
    “…Baker’s team is using RFdiffusion to engineer novel proteins that can form snug
    interfaces with targets of interest, yielding designs that “just conform perfectly to the surface,”

    I am hopeful that close study of the AI heuristics might yield deeper understanding of protein architecture and the operation of enzymes and protein structure related to assemblies of protein structures. However my impression of the workings of AI is that AI is best characterized as an opaque tool executing hidden brute force operations to eventually arrive at a ‘solution’. If I am correct in that impression, I fear the present monetized science would tend to use AI applications in biochemistry to brute force profits without supporting any efforts to build Basic Knowledge about biochemical structures and their workings.

  10. nippersdad

    Something interesting is going on in the Turkish zeitgeist.

    I often watch Turkish historic soap opera type stuff on YT; these shows are increasingly hokey since Ertegrul, but the fake sword fights are still fun. This week the new storyline is that some wealthy Jewish people have hired out a pan-European army of crusaders that are presently wiping out every living person, regardless of denomination, in Gaza. Saladin is on his way to save the day.


    1. AndrewJ

      57 years ago and in the intervening time America is still Israel’s “special friend”, and there are still fools who believe either one is a nation worth putting their lives in the line for – and that they won’t be killed pointlessly in service of a psychopathic elite. It’s almost unbelievable. Almost.

    2. The Rev Kev

      You wonder what would have happened if that Russian warship had not turned up on the scene. The Israeli plan was to sink that ship and machine-gun any survivors in the water. Having witnesses on the scene was not part of the plan. With that one incident, Israel learned that they could do whatever they wanted and kill any number of Americans and the US government would just roll over for them. And we are seeing the consequences of this laying out today in Gaza.

      1. skippy

        Hay a hotel full of western business and political people got blown up, one batted an eye, more so the Brits just went home and then the locals started getting the treatment full and proper …


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