2:00PM Water Cooler 2/5/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Evening Grosbeak, Cedar Pass in the Warner Mountains, Modoc, California, United States. “Birds were vocalizing from top of coniferous trees, probably firs.”

* * *

Politics

“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 (Invasion)

“The real border crisis: Texas vs. the Constitution” [FAIR]. “For a great many people, a Southern state invoking its ‘sovereignty’ over the federal government in defense of violent and inhumane policing of non-white people sounds eerily familiar to the foundation of the nation’s first civil war. And 25 other states are supporting Texas in defying the Supreme Court (USA Today, 1/26/24), although none of them are states that border Mexico.” Indeed (making Abbott, again, a far more effective and attractive Trump-replacement than DeSantis, whose high point on the issue was the Martha’s Vineyard stunt. More: “As noted, AP and the Washington Post haven’t completely ignored the story—although the Times, as of this writing, has more or less looked the other way. But as the right celebrates Abbott’s defiance and legal scholars worry about a constitutional crisis, the two big papers and the major wire service have clearly underplayed the standoff’s significance.” • Yep.

2024

Less than a year to go!

* * *

Trump (R): “Behind the Curtain: Trump’s conviction scenario” [Axios]. “Sources tell us Trump believes he’d likely be convicted if the Jan. 6 case comes to trial later this spring in Washington. If that’s delayed, he could face a guilty verdict in the Manhattan hush-money case. Trump thinks he could still win the White House — partly by making daily, theatrical appearances whenever courts are hearing his four cases, totaling 91 felony charges. But his advisers worry independents will be turned off by a conviction in a jury trial… We’re told Trump plans to attend his trials in person most days, as has been his recent practice for recent court proceedings. That by itself would mean a massive change in the rhythms of a presidential campaign: Nominees typically spend their days trying to sway voters, not jurors…. Trump feels certain the more voters think this is a political pile-on, the better he’ll do. So look for Trump to continue to groan, moan and bemoan — then hit the TV cameras parked outside…. Trump’s team feels certain that the indictments helped him own the GOP primary field. Each new set of charges brought a surge in donations, and a bump in polls.”

* * *

Trump (R): “Why Can’t Biden Move to the Center?” [Ruy Teixeira, The Liberal Patriot]. “Given that 2024 is shaping up to be a working class-driven election, it seems like Biden would be well-advised to ignore political advice from the likes of [Jayapal] and her allies. But that’s the problem: it’s very hard for Biden to ignore these voices who both loom large in the party and strenuously resist any and all moves to the center. He’s under enormous pressure from the party’s left and ‘shadow party‘ (as John Judis and I have termed it) of activist groups, think tanks, foundations, publications and websites, big donors and prestigious intellectuals—college-educated all!—not to move in that direction.” The institutions created to destroy the left prevent Biden from moving left. More: “Biden should instead heed the words of veteran Democratic pollster, Stan Greenberg: ‘Trump is running an effective campaign that has deepened support among working-class voters in the primaries and the general election. He has shown he understands how angry people are about spiking prices, elites growing richer, rising violent crime and a flood of refugees. Biden’s approval rating, meanwhile, is stuck below 40 per cent….Yet the White House, pundits and progressive commentators are all trapped in the same elite bubble that keeps them from seeing what is happening to most Americans.'” • The “elite bubble” has a a name: “Our Democracy.”

* * *

Haley (R): “Scoop: Nikki Haley’s fundraising takes off while GOP tries to end her campaign” [Axios]. “The Haley campaign has the money to keep her long-shot presidential bid alive, even as many leaders in her party have called for the GOP primary to come to an end. Haley raised $16.5 million in January, including $11.7 million from grassroots supporters, according to her campaign. Haley brought in more than $5 million in online grassroots donations the week after New Hampshire. She saw a surge in support after Trump threatened to bar any Haley donor from ‘MAGA camp.’… Haley has 10 fundraisers over the next two weeks in California, Florida, New York and Texas to continue to make her case to mega-donors who were key to her rise.”

* * *

Biden (D): Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life:

“Forget No Labels. Biden’s Third-Party Peril is on the Left.” [Politico]. If Kennedy claims the Libertarian Party line, which he’s warming to, Jill Stein is the Green Party nominee and Cornel West gets on any battleground state ballots, they would combine to drain far more votes from Biden than from Trump. …. In these early days of the 2024 campaign, though, it’s the No Labels push to draft a centrist which has drawn more scorn, alarm and opposition research among Democrats. Yes, that’s partly because the party can try to shame Jacobson, who’s married to longtime Democratic strategist and liberal bete noire Mark Penn. They have considerably less leverage with a certified vaccine skeptic, Kennedy, to say nothing of the patchouli caucus, Stein and West. But it’s also because Democrats are still catching up to the possibility of their coalition unraveling over Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Are the well-organized hecklers bird-dogging Biden at nearly every speech going to turn to a candidate who once proposed a Muslim ban? Of course not. Yet this White House race, like the last two, is bound to be won on the margins, and Biden is at risk of losing critical younger and left-wing voters to third-party candidates or apathy…. ;People don’t understand how few votes [the third-party candidates] would need to take away,’ said Lis Smith, the hard-charging Democratic operative who has recently signed on with the DNC, in part to grab voters by the lapels about the threat at hand. ‘It’s the whole election.'” And then there’s Israel: “‘This is a disaster politically,’ said this House Democrat, who rarely criticizes Israel. ‘The base is really pissed — and it’s not just the leftists. I have never seen such a depth of anguish as I’ve seen over this Gaza issue. Bibi is toxic among many Democratic voters and Biden must distance himself from him — yesterday.’… A recent YouGov poll found 50 percent of self-described Biden voters called Israel’s attacks on Gaza ‘a genocide.'” • 50%? That’s a lot.

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SC: “Joe Biden wins South Carolina’s first-in-the-nation Democratic primary as campaign moves on” [Post and Courier]. “President Joe Biden’s South Carolina Democratic primary win did exactly what he wanted: Elevated the Black voters who helped put him in the White House four years ago while spurring his grander hope that history will repeat itself. Biden’s Feb. 3 victory in the Palmetto State came as The Associated Press declared him the winner 23 minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m. He finished the night with more than 96 percent of the 131,286 ballots cast, according to unofficial returns.”

SC: “Biden easily won South Carolina Democratic primary, but faced low voter turnout” [Greenville News]. “Author and former 2020 candidate Marianne Williamson saw a second-place finish with only 2.1% of the vote, while U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) only secured 1.7%.” But: “Overall, voter turnout was low in South Carolina at 4% with 131,870 votes cast. The Upstate was no exception with around 2-3% voter turnout in most counties in the region. Low voter turnout could impact South Carolina’s position in the primaries in 2028.” • Turnout in 2020 was “record-breaking.” Of course, there was a contest.

SC: “‘The weirdest campaign’: South Carolina delivers a win, but Biden still faces an uphill path” [Guardian]. “But interviews with voters during primary season in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have offered a reminder of an undeniable fact: Trump remains toxic to huge swaths of the American population. They will do anything to stop him. A criminal conviction between now and November may make them redouble their efforts. America’s racial divisions will be at the heart of it again. Christale Spain, the first Black woman elected as chair of South Carolina’s Democratic party, recalled in an interview that her state’s primary following the Iowa and New Hampshire contests in past cycles meant ‘we were correcting the course, correcting the ship every time.'” • For some definition of “correct.” After all, the South Carolina Democrat machine gave us Obama. Not content with that, they gave us Clinton. And not content with that, they gave us Biden.

* * *

“The Dissatisfaction of Young Voters” [RealClearPolitics]. “Four years ago, Generation Z, or those born from 1997-2012, broke the record for young voter turnout. Their champion? Then-77-year-old Joe Biden. Four years later, less than 50% of 18-29 year-olds ‘definitely’ plan on voting, and only 33% of the age group approves of President Biden’s job performance. The pressing question is why an overwhelmingly liberal generation – just 21% of Gen Z adults are registered GOP voters – is hesitant to support the Democratic Party incumbent, especially when their alternative option is the deeply controversial former President Donald Trump. Gen Z poses a question in response: Why would we be eager to participate in a system that isn’t working for or with us? … Many left-wing Gen Z voters feel that Biden has underdelivered on the issues most important to them, including their inability to meet economic milestones, gun control, abortion rights, the war in Gaza, mental health, climate change, and racial justice.”

* * *

“The impact of generative AI in a global election year” [Brookings Institution]. “However, generative AI content has the potential to turbocharge campaigns designed to undermine democratic discourse by making content higher quality, more substantively distinct, and easier to mass produce than past information campaigns launched both domestically and as part of foreign influence operations. In these contexts, generative AI content can act more as an amplifier for the spread of disinformation. Previously, these efforts required coordination between multiple actors—or even an entire troll farm—and were somewhat discoverable due to their use of recycled photos or grammatically incorrect or repetitive messaging. Now, it is possible to create large volumes of distinct content, devoid of many of these prior errors, with just a few clicks of a button.” • Makes you long for the days of print, when it at least there was some friction….

Republican Funhouse

“Taylor Swift, Enemy of the People” [The Nation]. “With the Chiefs returning to the Super Bowl for a fourth time next Sunday, the specter of Taylor Swift’s becoming the best known superfan of a bona fide NFL dynasty would trigger an event horizon on an unparalleled scale in American pop culture. Still, it bears repeating that in what’s quaintly known as real life in our deranged republic of mass culture, all that’s really happening here is that an extremely famous pop star has been keeping company with a reasonably famous football player.” • “Keeping company” is delicately put. Anyhow, I can’t even. More–

“The Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory That Makes QAnon Look Sane” [American Greatness]. “If there’s one thing at which the fringe right excels, it’s coming up with conspiracy theories. Some of them are fascinating in their intricacy, whether right or wrong, while others can appear ludicrous and yet eventually prove themselves to be not too far off the mark from reality…. The theory involves one of the most popular celebrities in the world at the moment—pop singer Taylor Swift. It goes something like this: Swift, already an established leftist [liberal] who has shilled for Democrats and far-left political causes in the past, is preparing to be rolled out as a star-studded celebrity endorsement for Joe Biden (or whomever the Democrats nominate) this November. Taking advantage of her current popularity, from her recent Time Person of the Year award to her ongoing romance with NFL player Travis Kelce—which could culminate in an on-field proposal by Kelce after the Kansas City Chiefs win the (rigged?) Super Bowl this year—Swift will command millions, perhaps even tens of millions, to vote for whoever she tells them to vote for, thus guaranteeing that Donald Trump will ‘lose’ again. And, just for good measure, even this theory includes some obscure references to George Soros in an attempt to promote the idea of grand collusion by the left to make this happen. As elaborate as it is nonsensical, this sounds like a third-grader’s idea of what it takes to win an election. Never mind the fact that celebrities have overwhelmingly endorsed and campaigned for Democrats for at least the last 60 years. After all, who could forget the star power that has been rolled out for Democrats in the past, such as Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Katy Perry, among others? How did that work out for Hillary Clinton again?”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“50 Years Of Home Rule: Despite Congressional Opposition, Non-Citizens In D.C. Celebrate Newly Gained Right To Vote” [DCist]. “Last February, the Republican-led House of Representatives (in which delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton had no vote for the District’s 700,000 residents) passed a measure to repeal the non-citizen voting law, with some arguing it would dilute the votes of citizens and potentially lead to foreign interference. In D.C., many called the move – which also sought to repeal a revision to D.C’s criminal code – an attempt to interfere in local affairs, a sentiment that some residents have felt for years. Former Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, warned his viewers that such a law would be a threat to the United States – though, with little mention of the history of non-citizen voting, particularly in the D.C. region. ‘We have tens of millions of illegal aliens… living in the United States, and our elections are determined by tens or hundreds of thousands of votes. So if they can all vote, we’re done,’ said Carlson. The Senate, however, chose not to follow the House’s move during the period of Congressional review. Ultimately, the bill to enfranchise non-citizens in D.C. became law, which Abel and its advocates say is a victory not just for immigrants but for the entirety of the District and its 50-year-old right to semi self-governance. ‘What the District is trying to do is to just make sure nobody in the District is left without some say in the local government. So it goes as far as it can go, short of statehood,’ [House DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton] told DCist/WAMU.” • Interesting precedent.

“Republican lawsuits challenge mail ballot deadlines. Could they upend voting across the country?” [Associated Press]. “Republicans are challenging extended mail ballot deadlines in at least two states in a legal maneuver that could have widespread implications for mail voting before the presidential election in November…. The suit challenges a Mississippi law that says absentee ballots in presidential elections will be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received within five days. It argues that Mississippi improperly extends the federal election beyond the election date set by Congress and that, as a result, ‘timely, valid ballots are diluted by untimely, invalid ballots.’… In North Dakota, a similar federal lawsuit against the state election director was filed by the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation on behalf of a county auditor, Mark Splonskowski, who cited what he said is a conflict between state and federal law. A court is expected to decide soon whether he has the legal right to bring the lawsuit.” • My lonely, dogged quest for paper ballots cast on a single day (a Federal holiday) continues. I opposed all efforts to move ballot casting and counting away from Election Day because (a) that reinforces partisan affiliation, the last thing we need, (b) means that late events do not affect the election, and (c) all voters should be casting their votes with the same information available to them. (These views are not directly addressed in the lawsuit.)

“Why a Recent Federal Lawsuit Filed by Republican Party Officials Challenging Mississippi’s Approach to Counting Ballots in Federal Elections Lacks Any Significant Chance of Success” [Justia]. “Here is the relevant background: Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution permit/direct states to provide for the times, places and manner for electing members of Congress and appointing presidential electors, but the Constitution also explicitly allows Congress to override state regulations of the timing of congressional elections and in a similar vein, with respect to presidential elector selection, to ‘determine the Time of chusing the Electors.’ Pursuant to this power, Congress has enacted a law providing for a uniform, national day to elect members of Congress and to choose presidential electors. That day, which we colloquially call ‘Election Day’ is (for congressional elections) the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every two even-numbered years (2 U.S.C. §§ 7, 1) and (for presidential elections) the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every four even-numbered years (3 U.S.C. § 1)…. One way to explain why counting ballots after Election Day is permissible is that the counting of ballots is different from the actual voting for/ selection of members of Congress or presidential electors. (The plaintiffs themselves acknowledge this distinction insofar as the Complaint challenges Mississippi’s allowance of late ‘voting’ rather than late ‘counting.’) An Election Day deadline ordinarily does not mean that the identity of election winners must be known by 11:59 PM on Election Night, but instead only that the antecedent facts—who voted for whom—have to be locked into place by that time.”

* * *

“American Greatness and Decline” [Joseph Nye, Project Syndicate]. “while Americans have long been drawn to what I call the ‘golden glow of the past,’ the US has never had the power many imagine it did. Even with preponderant resources, America has often failed to get what it wants. Those who think that today’s world is more complex and tumultuous than in the past should remember a year like 1956, when the US was unable to prevent Soviet repression of a revolt in Hungary; and when our allies Britain, France, and Israel invaded the Suez. To paraphrase the comedian Will Rogers, ‘hegemony ain’t what it used to be and never was.’ Periods of ‘declinism’ tell us more about popular psychology than about geopolitics. Still, the idea of decline clearly touches a raw nerve in American politics, making it reliable fodder for partisan politics. Sometimes, anxiety about decline leads to protectionist policies that do more harm than good. And sometimes, periods of hubris lead to overreaching policies such as the Iraq War. There is no virtue in either understatement or overstatement of American power.” • Fair enough. Still, I don’t think we’ve ever actually run out of ammo before.

* * *

“Why political leaders are so unpopular now” [Financial Times]. “I track leaders’ approval ratings in 20 major democracies, using leading pollsters such as Morning Consult, Gallup and Compolítica. In the developed world, no leader has a rating above 50 per cent. Only one country (Italy) has seen its leader gain approval in the 2020s. At 37 per cent, Biden’s rating is at a record low for a US president late in his first term — but above average for his peers.” • From the Brookings Institute piece quoted above:

In 2024, a record number of countries will hold elections. Collectively, they are home to more than 41 percent of the world’s population and 42 percent of global GDP. Much like past elections, the online ecosystem will play a role in shaping the contours of these campaigns, but new developments have strained an already contested information space. One of these developments is the rapid advance of generative artificial intelligence (AI), which allows anyone to conjure up realistic images, video, audio, or text based on user-provided prompts or questions.

Making the Censorship Industrial Complex, which I assume is even now putting forth AI pseudopodia, a legitimating role not merely in the US, but globally.

“Could a Rogue Billionaire Make a Nuclear Weapon?” [Wall Street Journal]. “It would take as little as a billion dollars’ investment and five years to produce the first bomb, the [Office of Net Assessment] study concluded [in 2018]….. Not everyone I spoke with about the study agreed that billionaires could—or would want to—operate a nuclear weapons business. After all, Musk’s grandiosity led him to buy Twitter, not a uranium mine in Kazakhstan, and the Wagner Group, whose ultimate fate remains unclear, doesn’t appear to be pursuing nukes.”

#COVID19

“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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Covid is Airborne

“Clean Air Delivery Rate Is All That Matters!” [Joey Fox, Medium]. :A clean air delivery rate (CADR) is the measurement of how quickly air that is free of a pollutant is supplied to a space. It is specified as a volume of air per unit of time. For example, it can be measured as cubic feet of clean air per minute (CFM), or liters of clean air per second (lps), or cubic meters of clean air per hour (m³/h). Because the amount of air supplied and removed from the space are the same, the CADR can also be thought of as the dirty air removal rate. Despite many marketing claims, the CADR is the only relevant measurement of air cleaner effectiveness. Unfortunately, not just air cleaner salespeople, but even academics and health experts are often mistaken on this issue. It needs to be addressed once and for all….. ‘The dose makes the poison.’ It’s a simple enough concept. Anything in quantities too low is harmless. Anything in quantities too high can be lethal. The same is true for air pollutants…. Reduce the dose by reducing the concentration. Reduce the concentration by increasing the removal rate. It’s that simple. When assessing the risk of the space from an air quality perspective, all that matters is the CADR.” • Well worth a read.

Vaccines

“Mucosal SARS-CoV-2 vaccination of rodents elicits superior systemic T central memory function and cross-neutralising antibodies against variants of concern” [The Lancet]. Mouse study. From the Discussion: “Here we tested an intranasal (I.N.) vaccination with the receptor binding domain of Spike antigen of SARS-CoV-2 (S-RBD) in combination with the mucosal adjuvant mastoparan-7 compared with the sub-cutaneous (S.C.) route, adjuvanted by either M7 or the gold-standard adjuvant, alum, in mice, for immunological read-outs. The same formulation delivered I.N. or S.C. was tested in hamsters to assess efficacy…. I.N. vaccination improved systemic T cell responses compared to an equivalent dose of antigen delivered S.C…..” • Monkeys exaggerate and mice lie. So, cum grano salis.

Immune Dysregulation

“Washington state faces first outbreak of a deadly fungal infection that’s on the rise in the U.S.” [NBC]. “Since reporting began, the sharpest increase came from 2020 to 2021, when the number of Candida auris cases rose 94%.” • Curious timing. I wonder why? ‘Tis a mystery!

Testing and Tracking

“Underestimation of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater due to single or double mutations in the N1 qPCR probe binding region” (preprint) [medRxiv]. From the Discussion: “The CDC assay targets two distinct regions of the virus to provide additional confidence in the specificity and accuracy of the results. As both targets are to the same gene, they are expected to be present at a 1:1 ratio. … However, Omicron and its sub-lineages which started circulating worldwide in late December 2021, had several mutations in the N1 probe binding region while had no mutation reported in primer regions… In our routine SARS-CoV-2 WBE program at the University of Toronto, we noticed a shift in the ratio of N1 to N2 since the outbreak of Omicron in late 2021 in samples from all Toronto municipal wastewater treatment plants. This led us to systematically investigate the impact of mutations in the N1 probe binding region…. These data unequivocally confirm that the observed “N1 drop-out” or discrepancy between N1 and N2 signals in RT86 qPCR-based surveillance was due to strain-dependent mutations in the probe region.” And: “For all targets with mutations, quantification is underestimated, which is especially pronounced for BA.5.2 and BF.10 where the measured value is about half the true value. The measured values for BQ.1, and all Omicron (red) are about 25% depressed.” • I guess I’m gonna have to redraw the Biobot chart… This is both extremely important above my paygrade. Can some kind readers take a look?

Elite Maleficence

“California’s 24-hour isolation recommendation will lead to more long COVID” [Sacramento Bee]. “Following the lead of Oregon, California has shortened the recommended isolation period for individuals who test positive for COVID. Formerly five days, a person without symptoms is now only required to isolate for 24 hours. This policy is not based on science, and we urge for it to be reversed. Public health officials in Oregon and California should revise their harmful one-day isolation policies, and should, instead, work to decrease the spread of COVID while carefully balancing the costs and benefits of each policy’s impact on the community. OPINION COVID remains the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. Last week, there were 1,700 COVID deaths; a toll that would have been staggering early in the pandemic. This new policy will result in additional deaths and substantial reductions in quality of life — with the heaviest burden on marginalized populations, as the risk of death is disproportionately higher for older, immunocompromised Black and Hispanic individuals.” And the working class generally; all are subject to stochastic eugenicism. More: “The policy appears to put COVID practices on even footing with other illnesses (such as flu) by noting that individuals can return to work or school after 24 hours without a fever. The key difference is that, unlike COVID, other illnesses are not contagious at that time. For those without symptoms, peak COVID infectiousness can vary from three to seven days after an infection begins. A far better indication of whether someone is contagious is their results on a rapid test; while some individuals test positive for a handful of days, others test positive for over two weeks. The new policy disregards asymptomatic spread.” • All these facts are well-known, four years into the pandemic, to anyone with a cursory knowledge of the literature. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the public health departments of California and Oregon are engaging in a population cull.

* * *

TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

Cases
National[1] Biobot January 29: Regional[2] Biobot January 29:
Variants[3] CDC February 3 Emergency Room Visits[4] CDC January 27

Hospitalization
New York[5] New York State, data February 1: National [6] CDC January 27:

Positivity
National[7] Walgreens January 29: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic January 27:
Travelers Data
Positivity[8] CDC January 15: Variants[9] CDC January 15:

Deaths
Weekly deaths New York Times January 27: Percent of deaths due to Covid-19 New York Times January 27:

LEGEND

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.”

NOTES

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

[2] Slight increase in MWRA wastewater data, as of January 25, i.e. the incubation period from the student’s return:

[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

Retail: “United States Total Vehicle Sales” [Trading Economics]. “US vehicle sales fell by 6.9% month-on-month to 15.00 million annualized units in January 2024, down from December’s revised figure of 16.12 million, which was the highest level since May 2021.”

Services: “United States ISM Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI for the US jumped to 53.4 in January 2024 from 50.5 in December, beating forecasts of 52. The reading pointed to the strongest growth in the services sector in four months.”

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Manufacturing: “Boeing Finds More Misdrilled Holes on 737 in Latest Setback” [Bloomberg]. “Boeing Co. found more mistakes with holes drilled in the fuselage of its 737 Max jet… The latest manufacturing slip originated with a supplier and will require rework on about 50 undelivered 737 jets to repair the faulty rivet holes, Boeing commercial chief Stan Deal said in a note to staff…. In the latest instance, Deal said a worker at a Boeing supplier flagged that two holes in the plane’s fuselage may not exactly meet specifications. The problem ‘is not an immediate flight safety issue and all 737s can continue operating safely,’ he said. Still, he said many employees have expressed frustration at how unfinished work, either by suppliers or within Boeing’s factories, can ripple through aircraft production lines. To address this, Boeing has recently told a major supplier to hold shipments until all work has been properly completed, he said. ‘While this delay in shipment will affect our production schedule, it will improve overall quality and stability,’ Deal said.” • Hopefully. This rework bit… I’m not sure Deming would approve?

Software: “The fastest-growing countries for software development, according to GitHub” [Rest of World]. • Handy chart:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 66 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 5 at 1:26:29 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most! • What are they waiting for in the Middle East? A red heifer?

Zeitgeist Watch

Wealth + lowered situational awareness:

Seems like a metaphor….

Class Warfare

“U.S. winning world economic war” [Axios]. “‘The enormous labor market churn of COVID in 2020-21 had the unintended benefit of moving millions of lower income workers to better jobs, more income security, and/or running their own businesses,’ [Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics] tells Axios.” • Wowsers. Everybody’s a winner!

Nice usage example:

Although I would put small shopkeepers, for example, in the “petite bourgeoisie” bucket, distinct from the PMC, since their “identity of revenues and sources of revenue” is founded on ownership, albeit on a small scale (“petite”) and with a lot of self-exploitation.

News of the Wired

“Beyond Self-Attention: How a Small Language Model Predicts the Next Token” [Shyam’s Blog]. “I trained a small (~10 million parameter) transformer following Andrej Karpathy’s excellent tutorial, Let’s build GPT: from scratch, in code, spelled out. After getting it working, I wanted to understand, as deeply as possible, what it was doing internally and how it produced its results…. But none of the papers or tutorials I encountered give a satisfying explanation of what happens after attention: how exactly do the results of the attention computation turn into accurate predictions for the next token? I thought I could run a few example prompts through the small but working transformer I’d trained, examine the internal states, and figure this out. What I thought would be a quick investigation turned out to be a 6-month deep dive, but yielded some results I think are worth sharing. Specifically, I have a working theory that explains how the transformer produces its predictions and some empirical evidence that suggests this explanation is at least plausible.” • Not to go all Luddite, but what this sounds like to me is that we have no idea how language models (small or large) work. No idea at all. Can that possibly be true? Readers?

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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.

95 comments

  1. mrsyk

    Why can’t Biden Move to the center?
    hahahahahaha Seriously, the center of exactly what? “Our Democracy”? Jeez

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      Aye!!
      I wanted to hasten to the comments for that one,lol.
      and even he mislabeling things of the PMC/”Liberalism” as “Far left”?
      has he been smoking from that Benedict Option guy’s stash?
      if you want to be For the Working Class…well, thats Left, aint it?
      not Center,lol…”Centrism”/Third Way triangulation is largely why we’re in this sad state…Billary finishing what Raygun started.
      Jeez.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        In the past, even center and center-right politicians advocated pro workers policies. Today’s parties are not even center-right including the Democrats, but more of the more extreme right wing of the 19th century, back when child labor in mines and factories was normal.

        The propaganda as well as the desire not to see what is right in our collective face, in front of God and everyone, is powerful, is it not?

        Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      Biden has always been hard right both domestically (Crime Bill Act) and in foreign affairs (support for invading Iraq). It’s who he is and that is one leopard that can never change his spots. I’m sure that he imagines himself as a tough guy but he is actually just a bully. Biden reneging on that $600 as soon as he was in office was just classic Biden as he was cheating people that he figured could do nothing about it. To move to the center would mean, as an example, bringing Israel to heel and letting them know who the real superpower is but he really wants that genocide to go ahead and so he now has the moniker of Genocide Joe.

      Reply
      1. ChrisFromGA

        Technically, you can’t cheat people out of money they never earned. The $600 would have been a windfall straight from the Dread Pirate Powell’s printer. Just like Trumps’ checks, and Shrubs, and Obama’s stimulus.

        It revealed that he just is plain mean-spirited – no history of fiscal rectitude was present in Pudding-for-brains record to give him a reason for it.

        Reply
        1. Fastball

          I disagree. If you promise one thing for another thing (a full stimulus check in exchange for a vote), and then renege, that is cheating. And the promises were explicit and full throated.

          And it wasn’t just mean spirited, it is the behavior of a used car salesman. Biden has always acted thus, which is part of why he is so reviled. It’s not just his age.

          Reply
          1. ChrisFromGA

            That’s a fair point. Technically, I think it’s correct, insofar as those who voted for Scranton Joe and were naive enough to have thought that he would honor his promise.

            Perhaps someone voted for Joe because that $600 was going to pay their rent, or buy them food.

            The cynic in me says that the number of folks who would have detrimentally relied on a promise from a man who hadn’t held an honest job since the 60’s, and made his living off of others’ largesse was probably countable on one hand. However, to your point, in the law there is the concept of promissory estoppel which says that a promise that can induce a reliance by the promissee, and in fact is relied on to the legal detriment of the promissee can be legally enforced if there is no other way to obtain justice.

            So, on second thought, yeah, Scranton Joe cheated.

            Reply
          2. ambrit

            “… it wasn’t just mean spirited, it is the behavior of a used car salesman.”
            It is also the perfect metaphor for the Party he is fronting for.
            “Come on down to Big Dem’s Used Politico Lot! We have all kinds of pliable representatives for sale! All offers will be considered! (Some restrictions apply.)”

            Reply
            1. JBird4049

              It would have been so easy to give that $600 especially as things were still iffy, but like the sunset expansions of the Child Tax Credit and SNAP, which went to the most vulnerable people especially children, it was ignored. It is the type of action that hurts politically, no matter how many wealthy backers a politician; even in this corrupt country of our, if you get a certain percentage of the vote in the general election, you win, almost no matter how the votes are manipulated.

              Just how many votes did Scranton Joe and the Democratic Party lose by screwing tens of millions of Americans? How much creditably did they lose with others who saw that? Americans are remarkably short sighted and have almost no memory, but do enough backstabbing and the memories remain. Add the evil of giving Israel carte blanche in their genocide and I believe that they have not only lost their collective souls, but political power as well. I know that I will not vote for the Democratic Party ever again, or if it happens, it will be decades with completely different people, honest people. If they don’t reform, let them join the American Whigs. The same is true for the Republicans.

              Reply
              1. Pat

                You give some good examples, but I could give some more. More evidence that Joe and the current leadership of the Democratic Party think that they have no responsibility or accountability to the voters. I think the difference between now and the Obama years is that they no longer even bother to hide behind tepid excuses. They just betray them and then expect the voters to show up again. Perhaps because they have before.
                But young voters, well they may be too busy working three jobs to pay off student loans for an education they got for jobs Joe’s donors either eliminated in America or are busying giving to immigrants. Or perhaps they are tired of visiting family who are in prison for low level drug charges or in hospitals with Covid or TB or syphillis or any other disease mysteriously on the rise. Or perhaps they are disgusted by genocide and war mongering knowing Joe’s children and grandchildren will never have to deal with the fallout. Pretty sure that the young people of East Palestine and Maui have bigger things to work on than another term for forgot to show up when there is trouble Joe Biden. But whatever the reason what they aren’t is stupid enough to show up for a second time, unlike many of their elders.
                The Democrats may have taken being venal and vapid to new heights. I don’t think it is going to continue to work out. Theft and fraud annoys people.

                Reply
        2. Big River Bandido

          Plagiarism — a reprehensible form of intellectual cheating — is a long time pattern with Joe Biden, going back to at least law school and probably well before.

          Reply
      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        mom insists that biden is just like FDR.
        and gets mad at me for not taking advantage of all the new po folks stuff he’s done.
        shes 81 and was already crazy a long time ago, but is still in charge,lol.
        like i said…
        my PMC under glass,
        sigh.

        Reply
    3. Lefty Godot

      I seriously want whatever the drugs are that this guy is on. “Move to the center” being code for the same old tired Democratic rallying cry, “Now we have to pander to the extreme right because McGovern!!” Just like every opportunity to resolve international conflicts peacefully is another Munich, every opportunity to actually elect a president who helps the working class is another 1972. Joe Biden doesn’t have a left-wing bone in his body, never mind a “far left” one.

      Reply
    4. Hepativore

      “Center”? Today’s Democrats are basically the Goldwater-era Republicans of old.

      Many people still labor under the illusion that liberal=leftist and that the Democratic Party is a leftwing political organization. If anything, the Democrats are a center-right party that acts as the pawl to prevent any degree of leftward shift as the Republicans drag the overton window further right.

      Reply
  2. Carolinian

    Re SC primary–I feel like I’ve done my civic duty by not voting last Saturday and should get a pat on the back. In classic one candidate elections by our “adversaries,” refusing to vote can get you sent to the Gulag. Hope Biden isn’t reading this.

    However I may be unable to resist voting against bete noir Nikki. It could be her last appearance on any ballot.

    Reply
    1. Verifyfirst

      Hah. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with my Michigan Dem primary ballot (27th Feb is the primary, I vote absentee, hence have my ballot). Marianne and Dean are the other two besides Biden, I don’t see voting for either of them. Maybe I’ll go with “Uncommitted”? Though I’m not clear how uncommitted delegates plays out at a national convention (are they still even holding a convention?). Wonder what would happen if Uncommitted won the most votes? Or I could write somebody in (Daffy Duck?). Or just save my city the postage and not vote? Decisions decisions……

      Reply
        1. Tom Doak

          I’m not so sure. “Uncommitted” sounds like you are validating whoever the Party decides upon as a replacement for old Joe if he should not make it to the Convention. I’d rather vote for someone they can’t steal the vote from . . . which is why they were so sure to keep Kennedy out of the (D) primary.

          Reply
      1. Big River Bandido

        In most jurisdictions, undervotes are counted, so you could return the ballot with that line blank. That might be the most powerful statement. Or you could write in candidates like Hyacinth Bucket, the implications being obvious.

        Reply
  3. t

    That “best cure” for depression also relies on free time to do exactly what you want to do. Eat, Pray, Love is one of the worst things that ever happened. Except perhaps as a fantasy for people who can barely find time and money to pick up groceries.

    Reply
  4. cfraenkel

    we have no idea how language models (small or large) work. No idea at all. Can that possibly be true?
    Depends what you mean by “idea”. How the code works? Sure, just read it. How the code produces the results it does after training? Nope – the human brain can’t keep that much data in memory. The article makes an attempt at describing how it works using statistics (I think; it’s way over my head…. Super interesting though). One way of thinking about it – do we have any idea of how income is distributed, or how the covid virus affects different people – no, not in any detail. We have developed statistical models to allow us to think about very large numbers of data points. We’re just more used to these models and the mental shortcuts they embody, and the LLMs are too new to have ‘useful’ models that lay people can understand. The article is an attempt to provide such.

    Reply
      1. Robert S

        This already happens, and you don’t need AI for that. Though usually it’s in the form of taking over someone else’s code you don’t understand and isn’t well documented. Sometimes that code is 40+ years old and still running the backbone of the Finance Industry, sometimes it’s just crappy billing errors from your cable company. I’ve done software QA for over 23 years and there are major companies with buggy software out in Production that we (QA emps and contractors) wonder how they stay in business.

        Keep your eyes open, every few years you read of a major incident on Wall Street or somewhere how erroneous code was ‘accidentally’ released (Knight Ridder Capital is the last one come to mind). My guess is, AI will make it worse by allowing more frequent releases, a founding tenant of the Technology set, and these bugs will be harder (if not impossible) to trace. They’ll be less frequent but of greater mayhem. Taleb will have a field day.

        Reply
      2. cfraenkel

        Yep. But the same could be said about most VC funded efforts. No reason to pick on LLMs : )

        Crypto? Derivatives? Millisecond trading algos? Advertising in general? GE style financial engineering? Gain of function ‘research’? The list is pretty broad. Did anyone bother to question the social impacts of any of them?

        The common thread seems to be the financial incentives that run our civilization. We could solve global warming tomorrow if it wasn’t for the interest payments.

        Reply
        1. WobblyTelomeres

          It’s like the movie, “The Human Centipede”, except by having the AI continue to read new Internet content, they (“the peeps who build this crap”) closed the circle.

          Reply
          1. JBird4049

            WobblyTelomeres, thank you for that extremely disturbing image. The Internet under our AI Overlords as a Korean horror flick explains so much of our reality. Maybe, we really are living in a mutual horror film as entertainment for the Elder Gods’ movie night selection.

            But could it be something other than Korean or Japanese? Not that American or European horror is better, but something in the Korean Id creates extremely unsettling movies. (Yes, I know that the American penchant for classics like The Hills Have Eyes, Saw, and Police Academy 3 also shows how disturbed the American Id is) It is interesting how the soul of a nation as well as it subconscious is reflected in its arts.

            Maybe I should stop rambling…

            Reply
            1. begob

              The zombie genre is the ultimate expression of the Sovereign Man; often the infection comes from beyond the border, so it also takes in exceptionalism.

              There is a thing with movies, when they’re conceived as future-shock warnings but end up training the audience into acceptance. The notion of billionaires becoming capable of building nuclear weapons is a James Bond logline. Robocop has become cool. The lab-leaked Resident Evil virus sets up the fight for individual survival. Starship Troopers landed in Ukraine in 2014.

              Reply
  5. Jason Boxman

    it seems like Biden would be well-advised to ignore political advice from the likes of [Jayapal] and her allies.

    LOL, the woman that got duped by “two track” legislation when Biden deep-sixed his agenda? I think everyone would do well to ignore any advice that Jayapal might proffer.

    Reply
  6. flora

    That FAIR article….
    “For a great many people, a Southern state invoking its ‘sovereignty’ over the federal government in defense of violent and inhumane policing of non-white people sounds eerily familiar to the foundation of the nation’s first civil war. ”

    Begging the question. Is the claimed ‘violent and inhuman’ policing of non-white people based on race or on the policing of illegal border crossers. (That fentanyl is coming from somewhere.)

    So it’s all about race then? sure. If all those peoples were white Europeans there wouldn’t be overwhelmed state and local resources? The fentanyl problem would be gone? There wouldn’t be a lowering of working class wages due to huge competition for jobs at the lowest payrates? sure, sure.

    I’ll leave this here, critical thinking and all that.

    “This is utterly brilliant. A student accuses @jk_rowling
    of being transphobic. This teacher skilfully dissects the claim and challenges it by asking questions.

    He teaches not what to think, but how to think critically.

    Watch until the end.
    You see the epiphany in real-time.”

    https://twitter.com/addicted2newz/status/1753702517765021907

    Reply
    1. Laura in So Cal

      I loved that video!

      About the FAIR article. I don’t discount the seriousness of the Texas vs. Feds situation about the border, BUT I kind of wonder about the lack of consternation about the sanctuary city movement and the many states that have legalized Marijuana. Both of these are in direct conflict with the federal laws on immigration and drug regulation, yet no one seemed to care that these municipalities/states were overriding federal laws.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        It is problematic to have cities and states ignore federal law, but what effects people more, being able to smoke weed or being able to unionize, have a decent, or a place to live?

        I see the problem as having laws being enforced or not when it benefits the wealthy. The Biden Administration chooses to not enforce immigration control because it benefits its wealthy backers. Congress does the same by refusing to reform and adequately fund immigration control.

        I see no difference between the politicians who create sanctuary cities and states, or legalize weed, because it benefits them politically, and the politicians who will not control the border despite it hurting economically vulnerable Americans because it benefits them politically.

        I do some questions about always obeying the law. What would you do in 1850 when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed? What would you do when the Creel Commission ordered you to print propaganda? Or during the Blacklists of the 1950s and 60s?

        Regular disregard for the law is the prelude to political collapse and social chaos. Just look at the cities, counties, and states where the police are the most corrupt. The population tends to ignore them and use their own personal justice, which is often done by the fist or the gun. However, what should be done when the law is unequally enforced, is unjust or evil, or is just corrupt?

        I want Biden and the Congress to solve a problem that is easily solve with good faith efforts and some extra money. I wish the governor of Texas would not be a grandstanding ass and deal with the efforts effectively without breaking the law. I do not think that either desire is going to happen.

        Reply
            1. JBird4049

              Oh, I know that we are all being played by people who really are less competent than they think from the American and Western elites, the cartels’ leadership, Xi and his buddies, the elites from other countries, corporations, and probably the Easter Bunny as well.

              The wise ones know that they don’t know what they don’t know and trying to get through all this alive with the better ones also including their people. Corrupt Westerners like the Biden Crime Family, the narcissists of the WEF, the Chinese control freaks, and others like them are all going to get everyone killed or at least make it ever so much worse it has to be; they think they are in control and like the goofballs of pre-Great War Europe go right into hell all the while being it under control.

              I think that the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions might be rephrased as the road to hell is paved by arrogance and folly.

              Reply
          1. Victor Sciamarelli

            The flood of immigrants crossing the southern border is aka Biden’s other ‘inflation reduction act’.
            The working poor generally spend all of their money, especially on food and housing for their families. By contrast, immigrants will often send what extra money they have back to their families in their home country.
            Thus, Biden and the dems have the benefits of low wage workers without the risk of more inflation.

            Reply
            1. Jorge

              Immigrants working illegally generally have to work through fraudulently acquired US citizen identities, and as a result contribute payroll tax (Social Security money) to the Social Security accounts of the “victims” of their identity fraud.

              Reply
      2. Old Sarum

        Great video, and admission.

        As a British outsider I am fascinated by the inherent fissiparity of the USA. The founding fathers had to bow to the local power-elites of the former British colonies and the realpolitik involved, so the whole country is seemingly based on what I have come to call the Locally Yokelly principle whereby some judge/lawyer/concerned citizen somewhere has the means to put a “spanner in the works” of the whole nation. Not only was the original model flawed, as new states were created, the obvious errors were compounded. Perhaps someone was reading from an anarchist’s manifesto.

        There seems to be no principle of commonality and no mechanism to heal or prevent cross-border legal nonsense. Fascinating!

        Please put me right if I am wrong

        Pip-Pip!

        Reply
        1. JE McKellar

          You should look up The Dawn of Everything by Graeber and Wengrow, it will explain the anarchist foundation of the US Constitution.

          Reply
    1. Jason Boxman

      I’ve been concerned about that for probably a year now; Without any other independent checks, we’re at the mercy of the virus not mutating away from our detection methodology in wastewater. This is no way to run a Pandemic.

      Last year was the first complete year of everyone living their best lives; I expect in the next 18-24 months, we’ll start to increasingly see the effects of unmitigated spread as people chalk up their third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or more infections and the damage accumulates. It’s gonna be interesting times.

      Some dude at the grocery store on Saturday was coughing non-stop; otherwise seemed 100% effective and completely ambulatory; how many infections until such is no longer so?

      Tune in this year to find out the answer! (maybe)

      Reply
  7. Jason Boxman

    Biden easily won South Carolina Democratic primary, but faced low voter turnout

    So I got to thinking on this yesterday, and liberal Democrats and the Biden campaign missed an opportunity here to buildout and field test an entire get out the vote operation during the primary season, by simply hand waiving away the primary itself. You’d think this would be a worthwhile endeavor to undertake, but Biden is too fragile as a candidate to likely have survived any serious primary season, the thinking clearly went. Oops.

    Next up, the general election campaign, with no trial run available; I wonder if Biden might fare well enough? I guess we’ll see in less than year. In the stupidest timeline, ever!

    Reply
    1. Skip Intro

      Usually the primary campaign starts tuning ground operations and building enthusiasm among volunteers and voters. Short circuiting the whole process is not a winning move for a party that historically relies on turnout.

      Reply
    2. Big River Bandido

      An operation like that might make sense in a competitive state. The South Carolina Democrat Party? They’re just proverbial tits on a proverbial bull.

      Reply
  8. griffen

    Republicans have nothing on either of them. Circumstantial the evidence may be in any case, but it’s hardly just “nothing” on the younger Biden. Let’s try lawfare vs rivals for both parties, for $100, Alex !

    Egads. Joe loves Hunter, what an amazing human. Joe loves to ignore struggling Americans, bombing places and also resending a gift basket to the Ukraine. \ sarc

    Reply
    1. Feral Finster

      O please. If Hunter were one of Trump’s spawn and were accused of half of what Hunter can be credibly suspected of doing, Team D and the MSM would be up on that tip like the stink on [FAMILYBLOG].

      Reply
      1. Pat

        And if a whole group of bureaucrats had issued a letter stating categorically a legitimate piece of evidence against said Trump spawn was a fraud and a foreign plot, their entire lives would be exposed in the press and there would be multiple prosecutions – with and without evidence.

        Reply
      2. griffen

        One thing is certain…the Post and the NY Times would have pursued the story and the sources of the how and why on the very real existence of the laptop and dismiss any provenance as to why a drug-addled (let’s say one of his sons) Trump offspring had such materials stored, saved and available on the laptop.

        Reply
  9. Val

    “Periods of ‘declinism’ tell us more about popular psychology than about geopolitics.”

    Attendants to the western oligarchy hug themselves in their straightjackets and rock back and forth, blowing snot bubbles, seemingly unaware of their own moral wretchedness.

    Reply
    1. Some Guy

      Referencing: “American Greatness and Decline” [Joseph Nye]

      Nye is engaged in a standard rhetorical trick here.

      If you note that life expectancy has been falling for a decade, they respond, not compared to back when everyone died of polio, wasn’t that worse than things are now?

      And if you note that violent crime is rising for the past decade they respond, not compared to the huge crime wave in the 70’s that was worse than now.

      And if you note that US geopolitical power is declining, they respond, not compared to when the USSR was at the peak of its strength and influence, what about that huh?

      They observe a ball that was thrown in the sky, now starting to fall down to the ground, and point to when it was at the same height on its upward trajectory to argue that nothing has changed…

      Reply
  10. none

    what this sounds like to me is that we have no idea how language models (small or large) work. No idea at all.

    I would say we do have some idea, but it is not fully understood, so the field is advancing along. LM’s (I’ll skip the evidence for this but imo it is convincing) definitely exhibit intelligence. Not very high intelligence but they observaby show what could be called a reasonable definition of intelligence. For good or bad, this will keep sharpening up and self-improving until AI doom arrives. Watch out or the paperclip maximizers!

    This article convinced me that LLM’s are already intelligent, less so than humans or cats but probably more so than bugs, which aren’t as dumb as some people think: https://thegradient.pub/othello/

    Reply
  11. antidlc

    https://archive.is/kCGge
    Employment rate slumps as 2.8m suffer long-term illness

    The number of people suffering from long-term sickness in the UK has been revised up to a new record and the rate of employment is lower than first thought, according to new figures.
    Revised data from the Office for National Statistics on the state of the labour market show that the UK’s economic inactivity rate is even higher than expected. Since the pandemic, the inactivity rate has been driven higher by long-term sickness and waiting lists for treatment, with 2.8 million people now suffering from chronic health conditions compared to a first estimate of 2.6 million.

    What a stupid, stupid timeline.

    Reply
  12. Mikel

    “The Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory That Makes QAnon Look Sane” [American Greatness].

    If anything, it has the air of a matchup made on Madison Avenue.
    Who gets chosen as President will not upset the lives of either member of the couple .
    But endorsement and branding opportunities would be where I would say the “fix is in”…..if so inclined.

    Reply
    1. Mark Gisleson

      I was all set to read this, clicked the link and was immediately mooned by an Uber ad. Decided not to read on.

      I have however already heard this theory and anyone who doesn’t think the DNC masterminds would approve of this really doesn’t understand the people running the D party these days. They value cleverness above all else and really, who wouldn’t want to meet Taylor Swift when she opens for Genocide Joe (assuming Joe ever does a public venue post-convention and that’s a huge if).

      Reply
    2. lyman alpha blob

      I’d like to see 5 people who think that story is true. But not being able to find those people hasn’t stopped our media from squawking about it as some grave new threat to “our democracy”.

      Then there was the “patchouli caucus” crack from the Politico piece, just more downward hippy punching aimed at those who might wish to vote for a president who wouldn’t start another war.

      And still these supercilious liberals can’t figure out why Trump remains relatively popular.

      Reply
    3. Carolinian

      How off the wall would it have to be to make Russiagate seem sane?

      Also isn’t one sign of insanity that you think everyone else is crazy? Or is that just in the movies?

      Isn’t Taylor Swift sort of a country music star? And doesn’t that suggest that a substantial chunk. if not a majority. of her fans are not Rachel Maddow watchers? Why would she weigh in on one of the most controversial elections of this century?

      So many questions….

      Reply
      1. Daniil Adamov

        “Isn’t Taylor Swift sort of a country music star? And doesn’t that suggest that a substantial chunk. if not a majority. of her fans are not Rachel Maddow watchers? Why would she weigh in on one of the most controversial elections of this century?”

        Well, if that’s all the case, wouldn’t she have more of an opportunity to sway people in her preferred direction than if the majority of her fans were Rachel Maddow watchers?

        Reply
  13. Carla

    Re: local “home rule” — ‘What the District is trying to do is to just make sure nobody in the District is left without some say in the local government. So it goes as far as it can go, short of statehood,’ [House DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton] told DCist/WAMU.” • Interesting precedent.

    Hhhmmm… in Ohio and I’m sure many other states in which cities nominally enjoy “home rule,” the state government has been busily preempting that local control for years. From banning municipal plastic bag bans to outlawing local gun control laws to overruling “sanctuary city” ordinances meant to protect undocumented immigrants, Ohio makes a mockery of the home rule guaranteed to cities in its own constitution.

    One of the latest things to come under attack are local efforts to enact participatory budgeting at the municipal level.

    DC residents think statehood would give them more local control. Maybe not.

    Reply
  14. antidlc

    re: “California’s 24-hour isolation recommendation will lead to more long COVID”

    https://archive.is/tVkbt#selection-1451.4-1451.95
    Health Secretary Becerra defends CDC’s COVID isolation guidance that California shortened
    Secretary said people who downplay COVID threat are “playing with fire.”

    U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra defended federal COVID isolation guidelines Monday that California earlier this month announced it was deviating from to shorten the amount of time people who test positive should stay home — a change that so far hasn’t led to a new spike in cases.

    Reply
    1. Jason Boxman

      a change that so far hasn’t led to a new spike in cases.

      Why would it? People aren’t isolating for COVID because people aren’t testing for COVID because whatever it is people have, it’s not-COVID, so going out sick is okay anyway.

      Reply
    2. Tom Doak

      I am not sure that the ridiculous “self-isolation” reduction by California and Oregon is in fact an attempt at “population cull” as Lambert describes it. More likely they are just caving to employers who insist that workers come back to work immediately instead of “loafing” at home with a deadly and contagious illness.

      Reply
      1. eg

        This process began back when the “recommended” isolation period was dropped from 10 days to 5, at the behest of (if I recall correctly) the airline CEOs in particular. The ball has only ever been rolling in one direction ever since.

        Reply
  15. none

    To build a nuke you need a lot of sharp technical people who could be doing pretty well in industry or academia. They’re not going to work in secret on a nuke for Elon if it could get them thrown in prison for decades. They need legal authorization which basically means they have to be working for the government in charge of wherever they are. Of course if Elon buys the government then the two are the same, but right now there is too much separation.

    Reply
  16. lyman alpha blob

    RE: mail in ballots

    The US mail has become increasingly unreliable in recent years, mostly due to deliberate crapification by our elected representatives. If I wanted to make sure my vote would arrive on time and be counted, I definitely would not drop it in a mailbox.

    Reply
    1. LawnDart

      Re; Covid is Airborne

      “Clean Air Delivery Rate Is All That Matters!”

      What should have happened two years ago finally happened: my father was evaluated by the Neuropsychology unit and I received the report last week: Frontotemporal dementia.

      Brain-damage: “In 2014 he had a CT in the context of fever and confusion that revealed evidence of moderate generalized volume loss most pronounced in the frontal lobes with mild chronic microvascular ischematic changes… In 2021 he had a CT that apparently suggested stable prominence of the sulci and ventricles suggesting cerebral atrophy.”

      This dementia differs from Alzhiemer’s: it often begins in one’s mid-50s, and is a slow-creeper. There’s a genetic component… f/n wonderful. As if the caregiver role didn’t suck enough, it was a front row seat with a view into my own possible future.

      But I think that I will have plenty of company, especially as covid damages many millions more brains– not that existing pollution needed any help or competition.

      Dementia was rare in ancient Greece, analysis shows

      Dementia seems like a disorder that’s always haunted the human race. But this form of severe memory loss is actually a modern malady, if classical Greek and Roman physicians are to be believed.

      https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2024/02/02/ancient-greeks-dementia/8531706896959/

      [Sorry Bob– didn’t mean to latch onto your comment]

      Reply
    1. ChrisFromGA

      Pure speculation here, but how about the effect of 16 years of iPhones and devices conditioning humans to seek the next dopamine hit now rather than focus on boring but important tasks?

      ADHD nation?

      Reply
    1. Pat

      Link goes to the extremely busy Microsoft news front page, something that makes one yearn for the relative calm of Yahoo’s. Yecch.

      Haven’t seen it, but the conspiracy minded might think this is what led to Killer Mike being led away in handcuffs from the Grammys. Whatever the cause I will say his response shows that he is really very good at communication, or knows who to hire. Calm, well spoken and focused, it does a good job of changing the narrative. And I do congratulate his family on finding a kidney donor for his son and send good wishes for a safe transplant and recovery.

      Reply
  17. The Rev Kev

    “Why political leaders are so unpopular now”

    Not hard to work out why. In older days the politicians had to keep the plebs happy in order to get their votes. So lets take an example from a century or more ago. You would have a city where the streets were still mostly unpaved and could be muddy. The local political machine would have the pavements paved with concrete to make the voters happy and earn their vote. The firm that would get the contract would be a good friend of the political machine and would kick back money to show their appreciation. The workers would get employment building those pavements which let them feed themselves and their families better. And all sides made sure that education was a priority and nobody touched the schools. It was a workable system in which everybody got something though we would call it corrupt.

    Now look at the present system. A political party only need listen to their donors and the plebs can go die. They don’t even need their contributions and I suspect that the reason why they still ask for them is to dry up that money so that it does not go to minor parties. In the last election Kamala Harris’s campaign had gone down in flames but them she went to see all those donors in The Hamptons and suddenly she she was back again as the VP. The voters did not ask for her but it was the donors that made it happen. Right now both parties are hardly listening to their base though the Democrats are much worse here and unless something changes, this will really destabilize things even more. But at least the donors are happy.

    Reply
  18. lyman alpha blob

    About the TX border standoff, anybody else find it curious that you have a state governor with an armed force at his command deliberately flouting the Federal government, with 25 other governors in support, and none of the usual suspects have tried to turn that into an “insurrection” yet? This weeks-long standoff sure seems like more of a challenge to the authority of the Federal government than a two hour riot that briefly delayed a largely procedural vote.

    Reply
  19. ChrisFromGA

    Watching the dissension and general clown car behaviour from both parties in Congress, I wonder if Speaker Johnson has the cojones to go nukelar, as our esteemed President Bush the 2nd put it.

    He could pass a clean CR for the rest of the year, funding the government, and basically “shut-er-down.”

    Adjourn the House until the election.

    No money for Ukraine, no money for genocide, no tax cuts for the rich, no tax cuts for the poor, no corporate welfare. Send ’em home early to start the campaign.

    I’m dreaming, but this week may be the week that things melt down completely as Freeze Frame Mitch and Upchucky see their dream of a Grand Bargain go down the toilet.

    Reply
  20. spud

    no one should never ever listen to anyone who is associated with the peterson inst. a extreme right wing attack dog on sovereignty, and civil society.

    anyone remember C. fred bergstrom from the peterson inst.? who was a regular on the libertarian PBS news hour, touting the wonders of free trade during bill clinton reign of terror! he seems to have crawled under a rock these days. let alone all of the other attack dogs on social security and other civil society NEW DEAL initiatives.

    “U.S. winning world economic war” [Axios]. “‘The enormous labor market churn of COVID in 2020-21 had the unintended benefit of moving millions of lower income workers to better jobs, more income security, and/or running their own businesses,’ [Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics] tells Axios.”

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      moving millions of lower income workers to better jobs

      so of course we need open borders to fill the ranks…people just don’t seem to get how benevolent the peterson institute is!

      Reply
    2. eg

      This. The moment I saw “Peterson Institute” I gagged. I have the same reaction to the Fraser Institute up here beyond the border. They are ghouls.

      Reply
  21. ambrit

    Return of North American Deep South Mini-Zeitgeist Report.
    Took another jaunt around town today in the jalopy. Picked up some more garden stuff. While out and about I noticed the following.
    Item: Another auto dealership on Broadway, the second main drag locally, closed up very recently. This one a Chrysler, Jeep etc. outfit on five or more acres of workshops, showrooms and warehouse space.
    Item: The goods in the local thrift shops is of noticeably cheaper quality than in years gone bye. The prices are higher too.
    Item: Tyre dealers now seem to have adopted the “just in time” stocking strategy. Several told me, when I asked for a tyre for the vehicle, “We’ll have to order it and you can come in tomorrow, or perhaps the day after to have it mounted, etc.”
    Item: Someone I deal with occasionally who is dirt poor mentioned the other day that the food pantry they patronize has told everyone that food days will henceforth be reduced from two days a week to one day a week. Amounts given out per person will be lower as well.
    Item: A local mid sized grocery store had a sale on paper goods. As in over half off. I took as much as I could afford, and ‘created’ a “Paper Prepper’s Corner” in the store room at home. When asked about it, the manager said that the Home Office is cutting back on the range of items the store will carry. Now, for example, instead of carrying five brands of paper towels, they will carry three or four brands.
    Item: In returning an item to the Home Depot store, I was told that I would not get cash back, but a store card. No big deal to me, but the young woman handling the transaction looked actually fearful in telling me this. Why was she afraid? Are customers at the retail outlets now becoming dangerous? (I am a classic “eccentric geezer” type. Not violent or threatening to anyone as far as I can judge.) Curious.
    Item: At the same Home Depot, a Latino gentleman was passing out company cards to passing strangers. He ran a lawn care business, and looked presentable and sober. The business card was professionally done. Hard times hitting the fringes now eventually moves on up to the centre of the economy later.
    Stay safe all!

    Reply
    1. eg

      Thanks for the field report. Meanwhile the usual suspects in their remote towers lecture the groundlings about a “vibecession” — I’m looking at you, Noah Smith, you out-of-touch good-thinker.

      Elections are coming …

      Reply
  22. Jason Boxman

    For those keeping score at home, from the US emergency declaration, today is Pandemic day 1,424. As repeat infections pile up, this might be the year we finally start to see this show up in more official statistics in some way, maybe by next year. Over a million dead and not a campaign issue. Puzzling indeed. The propaganda around “just a cold” seems highly effective; it’s easiest to convince people of something that they want to hear anyway.

    Stay safe out here!

    Reply
  23. Pat

    Al Jazeera report on outrageous ad from Israel.

    I pulled this to pass on one of the latest PR salvos up after seeing a well produced ad showing Gaza as a tourist hot spot and then the rubble strewn reality. It was selling if only those misguided Palestinians hadn’t supported Hamas. I admit to being confused until the pay off line at which point I was both outraged and insulted.

    I really would love for someone to rework it to be about Gaza-Israel, as soon as we get rid of those pesky Palestinians.

    Reply
  24. Acacia

    Now, it is possible to create large volumes of distinct content, devoid of many of these prior errors, with just a few clicks of a button.

    Sounds like the AI version of “grey goo” ramping up on pretty much every social media platform and news channel.

    It’s already started, but doubtless it’s gonna get even uglier, as each party to this clusterf*ck tries to drown out all the others with moar “distinct content”.

    Reply

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