2:00PM Water Cooler 3/5/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Some readers asked for something table of contents-like, so here are a few highlights amidst the density:

High- or Lowlights

(1) Victoria Nuland, baker of cookies, retires.

(2) What if Congress decides not to count Trump’s electors?

(3) On the extraordinary and sudden drop in Walgreens Positivity numbers;

(4) Taylor Swift has a cough.

(5) Google’s siloed culture (of fear).

Bird Song of the Day

Mountain Mouse-Warbler, 1 km N Warili Lodge, below Tari Gap, Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea. I assume near a waterfall… But a pretty song!

* * *


“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 (Insurrection)

“Supreme Court rules states cannot remove Trump from ballot for insurrection” [SCOTUSblog]. “In their six-page joint opinion, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson agreed with the result that the per curiam opinion reached – that Colorado cannot disqualify Trump – but not its reasoning. The three justices acknowledged that permitting Colorado to remove Trump from the ballot ‘would … create a chaotic state-by-state patchwork.’ But the majority should not, in their view, have gone on to decide who can enforce Section 3 and how. Nothing in Section 3 indicates that it must be enforced through legislation enacted by Congress pursuant to Section 5, they contended. And by resolving ‘many unsettled questions about Section 3,’ the three justices complained, ‘the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President.'” • And–

“Takeaways from Trump’s Supreme Court win: He stays on ballot, but his legal peril is just starting” [Associated Press]. “But another potential nightmare is that if Congress is the only entity that can determine whether a presidential hopeful is indeed disqualified for engaging in ‘insurrection,’ that it makes that determination on Jan. 6, 2025, when required to certify a possible Trump victory in the presidential election. The high court shut down the first possibility, but may have left the door open to the second one. The five-justice majority — all from the court’s conservative wing — said Congress can implement Section 3 through legislation, ‘subject of course to judicial review.’ (That means the court reserves for itself the right to have the final say.) That triggered a dissent from the court’s three liberals, who complained that that ‘shuts the door on other potential means of federal enforcement.’ That would appear to include a rejection of Trump’s electors should he win the election — but multiple legal experts said Monday that it wasn’t that clear, and the only way to know may be for Congress to try.'” • Generally, winning both Houses in addition to the Presidency is considered ideal, but for Republicans this year, it’s really ideal. And–

“‘They didn’t do it clearly enough’: SCOTUS ruling prompts worries of another Jan. 6 crisis” [Politico]. “The five justices who fully endorsed the court’s lead opinion envisioned Congress passing ‘enforcement legislation’ to make this call. But scholars say the 13-page opinion left room for Trump’s detractors to pursue another path if he receives a majority of electoral votes this November: They could try to throw out his electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2025, when Congress will meet to certify the winner of the 2024 election.” And: “Some constitutional scholars noted, however, that Congress did pass legislation that lawmakers could view as justifying challenges to Trump’s electors in 2025: a 2022 law reforming the electoral vote counting process intended to prevent a future effort to subvert the results. That law sharply limited the types of challenges lawmakers could raise to electoral votes certified by the states but included a key exception: Lawmakers may object to any electoral votes they believe were not ‘regularly given’ — a loosely defined term from 19th century legislation related to the transfer of power.” • Here is the same scenario made more concretely, also from Politico–

“The glaring omissions and telling fractures in the Trump ballot ruling” [Politico]. “Consider a scenario in which Trump prevails in the November election and at least one branch of Congress ends up under Democratic control. On Jan. 6, 2025, the newly elected Congress will meet to certify the results of the Electoral College. And in that scenario, Democrats — some of whom have already declared that they believe Trump is ineligible to serve — would have to decide whether to count Trump’s electoral votes and certify the election. It’s not difficult to imagine a movement to refuse to count Trump’s electors by citing the 14th Amendment and the Supreme Court’s decision empowering Congress to enforce it.” • And of course, the Democrats could try to create “faithless electors,” as in 2016. Speaking of the transfer of power in “our democracy.”

The Constitutional Order (Eighth Amendment)

“‘Clean’ property, private lenders could be Trump’s best option to get $540 million for legal judgments” [CNBC]. “They also say Trump can’t simply post a cash deposit — at least not in his New York civil business fraud case, where he is facing $454 million in fines and interest alone. ‘No one, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Donald Trump, has five hundred million laying around,’ Trump’s attorney Chris Kise told an appeals court judge last week. But legal experts say there’s another option that Trump’s lawyers haven’t mentioned in the court filings: Trump could offer up some of his properties as collateral to borrow what he needs — potentially from private equity sources. There are ‘lots of private lenders out there in the debt markets and private equity markets that could lend’ to Trump, said Columbia University law professor Eric Talley. ‘In all cases, the loans would probably have to be secured with Trump properties, but if there is enough equity in some of them, he should be able to obtain secured credit, even on a compressed timeline,’ Talley said. Any loans ‘would themselves involve making declarations of the value of the property — and that of course is what got him into this mess to begin with,’ said Talley. But accurately appraising the value of Trump’s assets is not a serious obstacle. As Trump’s lawyers noted during the fraud trial, the institutions that have lent him money already have conducted their own analyses of Trump’s finances, and did not rely solely on the claims at issue in his financial statements. A more important factor could be whether Trump’s real estate assets are already mortgaged, said law professor John Coffee. ‘He would have to come up with clean real estate property that is not already securing something that some other bank has a lien on,’ Coffee said. ‘Does he have that property? I can’t tell you.'” • Hmm.

Biden Administration

“White House lifting its COVID-19 testing rule for people around Biden, ending a pandemic vestige” [Associated Press]. • “Vestige.” One must admire BIden’s commitment to the bit, and the (pre-SOTU) timing, oddly coincident with CDC’s “one day” isolation guidance. One can only hope that nothing terrible happens, although….

And also before the SOTU:

What a shame. It couldn’t happen to a nicer Ukrainian irredentist. Did she fall, or was she pushed?


Less than a year to go!

* * *

Trump (R): “Takeaways from Trump’s Supreme Court win: He stays on ballot, but his legal peril is just starting” [Associated Press]. The state of play: “Few observers expected the Supreme Court to keep Trump off the ballot. But he’s facing far more perilous legal road ahead. The first of Trump’s criminal trials, for allegedly falsifying business records to pay hush money to an adult film actress during the 2016 presidential campaign, is scheduled to start in New York later this month. The former president is also appealing a New York judge’s ruling that he pay $355 million for fraud committed by his businesses, and verdict that he pay a writer $83 million for defaming her after she sued him for sexual assault. Depending on how and how quickly the high court rules on Trump’s immunity claim, he could still face charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election in Washington DC before this November’s election. Two more cases are more likely to come later – in Atlanta where Trump faces state charges for his 2020 election plot, and in Florida where he’s tentatively scheduled for a May trial on improper retention of classified documents after leaving the presidency, but the trial date is expected to be postponed. Monday was a win Trump needed to continue his campaign, but his days in court are far from over.”

Trump (R): “The Supreme Court just crushed any hope that Trump could be removed from the ballot” [Vox]. “This means that any attempt to disqualify Trump is almost certainly dead. Even if special counsel Jack Smith can amend his indictment to bring charges under the insurrection statute [and why would he do that, if he has not already done it?], the Court’s decision to slow-walk Trump’s trial means that the election will most likely be over before that trial takes place. The courts, it is now crystal clear, are not going to do much of anything to prevent an insurrectionist former president from occupying the White House once again. And the Supreme Court appears to be actively running interference on Trump’s behalf.”

Trump (R): “Despite win, Supreme Court strikes blow to Trump’s central campaign theme” [ABC]. “The Trump playbook is well established. When legal proceedings don’t go his way, he lashes out at judges, prosecutors, court employees, witnesses and even potential juries. The Supreme Court, including the justices he nominated to the court, have been the target of Trump’s wrath when they have shown independence in the past.” • I think the headline overstates the case. The argument, insofar as I can parse it out, is that since a Court decision went Trump’s way, none of Trump’s past complaints about bias were justified. The argument could also be made that Trump has finally instilled fear in the Court.

* * *

Biden (D): “Joe Biden’s Last Campaign” [The New Yorker]. “Unsurprisingly, Biden’s aides reject the idea that the White House is insular or dismissive of reality. Zients, who succeeded Ron Klain as chief of staff last year, pointed to Biden’s reputation for soliciting opinions from critics. ‘Just the other day, he picked up the phone and called Larry Summers,’ Zients said. As outreach goes, it was relatively safe; Summers, despite his critical comments, is a longtime adviser to Presidents. Biden’s other occasional calls range from the columnist Thomas Friedman to the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. ‘That’s how you pressure-test decisions,’ Zients said.” • Wowsers.

Biden (D): “Reality bites Democrats: Courts won’t save them from Trump” [Axios]. “The sprawling efforts to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6 — including through impeachment, criminal prosecution and the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause — appear unlikely to ripen before November. Many Democrats are coming to grips with the idea that Trump can only be defeated at the ballot box.” • Poor babies!

* * *

“Will Biden or Trump win ‘double haters’? Unhappy voters may decide 2024 election.” [USA Today]. “One important voting group we will be watching is voters who are unfavorable toward both Biden and Trump. These ‘double haters’ or ‘double unfavorables’ show significant volatility, questionable turnout and a keen interest in third-party candidates…. The latest Marquette University Law School national survey pegs this group as 17% of the electorate, which is nearly identical to the share of voters in 2016 who disliked both Hillary Clinton and Trump. Trump ended up winning this group, which broke toward him in the late stages of the campaign and may have been a key factor in his victory. In 2020, however, just 3% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of both Biden and Trump, according to exit polling. Trump has managed to win votes among people who say they don’t like him as a person, but winning among people who dislike him is new terrain for Biden…. Who will win these double haters in November? Well, it’s not certain that either Biden or Trump will. In fact, in the latest national polls from Quinnipiac University, Marquette University and Morning Consult, Robert Kennedy Jr. wins a plurality among those who dislike both Biden and Trump.”

“How Democrats Can Win Anywhere and Everywhere” [Frank Bruni, New York Times]. Even though it’s Frank Bruni, it’s not bad! “The specificity and detail with which state-level Democrats, working on a smaller canvas, can portray problems, sketch solutions and describe successes make me wonder if Democrats would be wise to pitch more of their policies and concentrate more of their energies outside Washington. They often find better traction and make readier connections that way. I think of Shapiro’s livestreaming of the fleet work on I-95.” Which was impressive! More: “I think of many key lines from Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth remarks in January, when he advanced measures regarding climate change, economic development and job creation without dwelling on clinical phrases like ‘climate change,’ ‘economic development’ and ‘job creation.’ He gave shout-outs to several companies ‘building the two largest electric vehicle battery plants on planet Earth, in Glendale, Ky.’ He noted that ‘approximately 400 Kentuckians’ had been hired. This was no fancy policy seminar. It was a straightforward report card.” • Concrete material benefits; “potholes.” This would drive the identity politics NGOs nuts, not a bad thing. And they have been weakened by layoffs. But I don’t think it’s in the national Democrats to do, and I don’t think voters would believe them if they tried it.

* * *

“Pollsters are pranking us, right?” [Yahoo Finance]. “The American doom loop deepens…. But sorry, this is not Venezuela or Zimbabwe. Inflation has come down remarkably fast, and most economists think it will be back near the preferred level of 2% or so later this year. Inflation is painful for families on a budget, but there’s no way an 18-month spate of price hikes explains why half of all Americans say they’re living in misery. Something’s off.” More: “There are many other polls and surveys that suggest Americans are far more bummed out than a relatively solid economy should warrant. Economists have puzzled over the seeming breakdown between confidence and employment. Maybe inflation is a far more traumatic phenomenon [not to mention a million Covid deaths] than understood. Maybe people are worried about other things — crime, wars, cultural decay — that they express as concern about the economy. Maybe Americans just hate their leaders and want to punish them by telling pollsters everything sucks.” Seems plausible! And: “The real answer may be that a lot of people think they deserve more and they’re frustrated they’re not getting it. It doesn’t really matter if our overall numbers are better than anybody else’s or if this or that group is doing just fine. We’re just not doing good enough.” • Kudos for coming round to class warfare, which “economists” tend not to do, even when puzzled.

Republican Funhouse

“The Surprising Takeaway From My Survey on How Trump Got a Grip on the GOP Grassroots” [Politico]. “County chairs are influential in local GOP circles, party leaders who can offer the kind of endorsements that candidates are eager to collect. They’re also still close to the rank-and-file grassroots, and their shifts, I imagined, would signal where the rest of the party was going. But instead, I found that the county chairs didn’t lead their voters. For the most part, they followed them — to Donald Trump.”


“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!

* * *

Celebrity Watch

“Taylor Swift concert review in Singapore: A near-perfect celebration of the singer’s legacy thus far” [Channel News Asia]. “Swift was operating at 110 per cent from the get-go. Her energy was infectious and it was honestly hard to look away from her iconic bedazzled Versace bodysuit that has since become a calling card of The Eras Tour…. As one would expect from Swift, her vocals were on point. In fact, they were unwavering. Not once during the three-and-a-half-hour show did Swift’s voice show any weakness.” • This is typical hagiographical coverage. But “not once” is untrue–

“TAYLOR SWIFT FANS CONCERNED OVER COUGH …” [TMZ]. “Taylor Swift fans are apparently worried about her health because she happened to cough onstage — which, while sweet, speaks to how hyper-focused these loyalists really are.” • “Happened to” seems not to be true either–

“Fan fears for Taylor Swift after she struggles through Singapore show” [News.com]. “In a video shared on social media, Swift is seen repeatedly coughing and clearing her throat as she sang the song Delicate for a 55,000-strong crowd at Singapore’s National Stadium. ‘Hope she’s OK, she’s been coughing,’ the social media user captioned their video. Others who had been at the concert shared that they were concerned about Swift…. After watching the video from Singapore, one fan noted that Swift even looked a little ‘clammy’, with several wondering if she might have COVID. ‘That’s a lot of coughing,’ the fan wrote…. ‘Most people that went to the Sydney shows caught COVID, poor Tay Tay probably did too,’ wrote another. Another fan said she was already starting to sound a bit ‘raspy’ at the final Sydney concert. ‘Can you imagine having the tickle cough and having to sing?’ they wrote. ‘I don’t even like coughing in my cubicle at work.'” • S-o-o-o…. Could be PM2.5, I suppose, of which Southeast Asia has plenty. See “Adele vs. Taylor Swift, Covid, and Entertainment Industry Pandemic Insurance.”

* * *

TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

National[1] Biobot March 4: Regional[2] Biobot March 4:
Variants[3] CDC March 2 Emergency Room Visits[4] CDC February 24
New York[5] New York State, data March 4: National [6] CDC February 24:

National[7] Walgreens March 4: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic February 24:
Travelers Data
Positivity[9] CDC February 12: Variants[10] CDC February 12:
Weekly deaths New York Times February 24: Percent of deaths due to Covid-19 New York Times February 24:


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

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


[1] (Biobot) Biobot drops, conformant to Walgreen positivity data (if that is indeed not a data artifact). Note, however, the area “under the curve,” besides looking at peaks. That area is larger under Biden than under Trump, and it seems to be rising steadily if unevenly.

[2] (Biobot) Regional separation re-emerges.

[3] (CDC Variants) 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] (ER) Does not support Biobot data. “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.”

[5] (Hospitalization: NY) Not flattening.

[6] (Hospitalization: CDC) Still down. “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] (Walgreens) That’s a big drop! 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. UPDATE Given the extraordinary and sudden drop-off, I thought I’d check to see if the population being tested changed in some way. Here are the absolute numbers on February 14, at the edge of the cliff:

And here are the absolute numbers on March 3:

As you can see, there’s an order of magnitude decrease in those testing between those two dates. Was there an event on or about February 14 that is a candidate suggesting an account of this massive shift in behavior? Why yes, yes there is:

“CDC plans to drop five-day covid isolation guidelines” [WaPo] (February 13, 2024).

[8] (Cleveland) Flattening, consistent with Biobot data.

[9] (Travelers: Posivitity) Now up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

[10] (Travelers: Variants) Backward revisions remove NV.1 data. JN.1 dominates utterly.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods fell by 3.6% month-over-month in January 2024, following a revised 0.3% decrease in December, and compared with market forecasts of a 2.9% decline. It is the biggest decrease since April 2020….” • Hmm. Nor for the same reason, surely.

Supply Chain: “United States LMI Logistics Managers Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Logistics Manager’s Index in the US increased to 56.5 in February 2024, the highest reading in four months, from 55.6 in January, amid a broad-based expansion in all metrics and continued progress in transportation and the buildup of inventories upstream at the manufacturing and wholesale levels.”

Services: “United States ISM Services Business Activity” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI Business Activity sunbindex in the United States increased to a five-month high….”

* * *

Banking: “If One Megabank Collapses, the US Economy Goes With It. Should We Have More?” [Politico]. “How big should American banks be, and how much financial power should be concentrated in the largest ones? It’s an important question — perhaps even more so now than when Wall Street crashed the economy 15 years ago. Since then, the four universal megabanks that now dominate the economy — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — have grown significantly.” • Thanks, Obama!

Tech: “Google’s Culture of Fear” [Pirate Wires]. “Over the last week, in communication with a flood of Googlers eager to speak on the issues facing their company — from management on almost every major product, to engineering, sales, trust and safety, publicity, and marketing — employees painted a far bleaker portrait of the company than is often reported: Google is a runaway, cash-printing search monopoly with no vision, no leadership, and, due to its incredibly siloed culture, no real sense of what is going on from team to team. The only thing connecting employees is a powerful, sprawling HR bureaucracy that, yes, is totally obsessed with left-wing political dogma. But the company’s zealots are only capable of thriving because no other fount of power asserts, or even attempts to assert, any kind of meaningful influence. The phrase “culture of fear” was used by almost everyone I spoke with, and not only to explain the dearth of resistance to the company’s craziest DEI excesses, but to explain the dearth of innovation from what might be the highest concentration of talented technologists in the world. Employees, at every level, and for almost every reason, are afraid to challenge the many processes which have crippled the company — and outside of promotion season, most are afraid to be noticed. In the words of one senior engineer, “I think it’s impossible to ship good products at Google.” Now, with the company’s core product threatened by a new technology release they just botched on a global stage, that failure to innovate places the company’s existence at risk.” • Following Conway’s Law, all you need to do to understand how Google is siloed is look at their home page:

For example, Maps aren’t integrated with News, although that would be a representation useful to many readers. Search isn’t integrated with Mail. What you are seeing in the above dropdown is successful efforts by project teams, but the projects are not integrated in any way. Of course, that could be a good thing; imagine if everything Google did was as enshittified as Search (though s).

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 78 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 5 at 2:55:14 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

Keep the gravy train rolling:

Not all that different from droplet dogmatists; the same drive applies across all the professions, I would say, although with different degrees of corruption.

“The Data is Clear: People Are Having Less Sex” [Graphs about Religion]. “There was a bit of kerfuffle on the internet back in August surrounding a piece published with the title ‘Failure to Launch: Why Young People are Having Less Sex.’ Using a survey of Californians aged 18-30, the percentage reporting no sexual partners in the prior year reached an all-time high of 38%. Here’s an even more eye-raising statistic: in 2021, among that same age group, just 9% of women reported having at least 2 sexual partners. It was 12% of younger men. The widespread belief that these young adults are having a ton of casual sex is demonstrably false. The common perception of ‘sexually promiscuous’ likely doesn’t align with a 25-year-old having only two sexual partners in a year, I’d guess.” However: “It’s not just young people having less sex; this trend spans virtually all adult age groups. People are having less sex.” From the General Social Survey, by religion:

Over time:

The author half-jokingly suggests social media as a cause, but I don’t see how the data supports that. It would also be useful to have international data. Nevertheless….

Class Warfare

“Unmasking a Nurse’s Journey Through Long COVID Gaslighting” [MedPage Today]. “I met with a pulmonologist for further evaluation a few weeks later, but it did not go well. After explaining my symptoms and concerns about my scan, I shared my theory that I had COVID-19 in February. He immediately downplayed the scan results by shrugging and saying, ‘eh, it’s just inflammation.’ Then, in an offhanded tone, almost jokingly, he replied, ‘Yeah, I’m in the ICU all day long, intubating patients with sputum flying everywhere, and I haven’t caught it yet, so I doubt you got it. But we can do an antibody test if that will make you feel better.’ I was speechless. He didn’t ask how I was exposed. He just took this infallible and condescending tone that somehow what he did was so much more critical and that if he hadn’t caught it, I certainly couldn’t have. Here I was, despite my medical knowledge, scared about what was happening with my body. Not knowing if I was ever going to recover or if this damage was permanent. There was so little known about COVID at this point, it felt utterly reckless to make assumptions about what it was and wasn’t doing in the body. It was incredibly frustrating to me that my health was in the hands of a provider who acted so nonchalantly about something that, to me, he obviously knew so little about. And for my concerns and fears to be minimized as if they weren’t important.” • And it’s still going on.

News of the Wired

“Tricks By Difficulty” [The Library of Juggling]. • I don’t know why they start at Level 2. Have fun!

* * *

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 Carla:

Carla doesn’t comment, but this captures December light beautifully. And for me, brings back so many memories of the Midwest. Everything screams Midwest, from the roofline of the house opposite, to the sidewalks, to the bushes, to the window display itself.

* * *

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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. antidlc


    Hackers Behind the Change Healthcare Ransomware Attack Just Received a $22 Million Payment
    The transaction, visible on Bitcoin’s blockchain, suggests the victim of one of the worst ransomware attacks in years may have paid a very large ransom.

    The ransomware attack targeting medical firm Change Healthcare has been one of the most disruptive in years, crippling pharmacies across the US—including those in hospitals—and leading to serious snags in the delivery of prescription drugs nationwide for 10 days and counting. Now, a dispute within the criminal underground has revealed a new development in that unfolding debacle: One of the partners of the hackers behind the attack points out that those hackers, a group known as AlphV or BlackCat, received a $22 million transaction that looks very much like a large ransom payment.

    On March 1, a Bitcoin address connected to AlphV received 350 bitcoins in a single transaction, or close to $22 million based on exchange rates at the time. Then, two days later, someone describing themselves as an affiliate of AlphV—one of the hackers who work with the group to penetrate victim networks—posted to the cybercriminal underground forum RAMP that AlphV had cheated them out of their share of the Change Healthcare ransom, pointing to the publicly visible $22 million transaction on Bitcoin’s blockchain as proof.

    A spokesperson for Change Healthcare, which is owned by UnitedHealth Group, declined to answer whether it had paid a ransom to AlphV, telling WIRED only that “we are focused on the investigation right now.”

      1. antidlc

        That’s what I thought, especially when you consider how much money United Health has made in interest on the money they haven’t paid out in claims all this time. I’d love to know what that amount is.

        1. antidlc

          UnitedHealth Group: vulnerable and ill-equipped to defend against modern threats like cyberattacks
          The cyberattack against UnitedHealth’s Change Healthcare unit highlights the inherent risk of consolidating vast amounts of patient and health care provider data under a handful of corporate entities.

          Here’s what Dr. Christine Meyer of Exton, Pa. wrote on LinkedIn a few days ago:

          UnitedHealth Group got hacked. They own a bazillion companies, profited billions of dollars last year, pay their CEO $21M annually. As a result, the ability of tens of thousands of clinicians to submit claims to insurance dried up and with it our cash flow.

          After nine days, we had a glimmer of hope that (UnitedHealth division) Optum was going to provide some relief in the form of a loan based on claims submissions to be paid weekly. Here is what they are going to offer me: $1000/week in a loan.$4000/month. We submit about $500,000 a month of charges. Not only is a $4000/month loan meaningless, it is downright insulting. I have had a glorious 20-plus-year career. I have 84 employees depending on me. We care for 20,000 patients in our community. This week, for the first time in a very long time, I am questioning my mental capacity to get through this.

          If you scroll down to the comments section, “They also are still charging monthly fees to us doctors for the “privilege” of utilizing their Change system of businesses (like their e-prescribing, for instance). It is a small fee, but is insult to injury at this point..”

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > ptum was going to provide some relief in the form of a loan based on claims submissions to be paid weekly.

            And naturally that loan would be interest-free [groans despairinly]. Who am I kidding?

  2. Samuel Conner

    The news out of the State Department is an illustration of why one should always keep on hand a few beers, or something stronger (or, depending on one’s constitution or convictions, weaker), so that one does not need to make a hasty COVID-unsafe shopping trip for provisions when, as today, there arises an unexpected occasion for celebration.

      1. antidlc

        First, Zients.

        White House set to tap Obama veteran Mandy Cohen to lead CDC
        And during the Obama administration, she did stints as a senior official in various parts of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where she was central to the agency’s high-profile implementation of the Affordable Care Act — and worked closely with Zients and other now-senior Biden officials.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Strange how that works. When Nixon resigned I bought a keg. Now that Nuland is on her way out, I’ll probably smoke less than usual. If the war in Ukraine is actually ending, I’m sure lots of folks will be adjusting their meds accordingly.

    2. chris

      I am glad I didn’t have an appropriate celebratory beverage on hand when I read the line about her support for our “commitment to diplomacy”. It’s a shame to waste good liquor on spit takes.

      In what world do these people live in? How has anything we’ve done in the last 3 years marked a return to diplomacy? Bombs aren’t well reasoned positions. We’re weaker and worse off in the world and that is entirely because of the Biden administrations actions. Good riddance to Vicky. If she can take her conniving husband and other warmongering State Borg staff with her, so much the better.

      1. eg

        Yeah, that howler hit my ear (I heard the news before reading it) with a clang.

        I haven’t seen evidence of diplomacy from the Empire of Lies for years now.

  3. ChrisFromGA

    Joey the Wimp

    Sung to the tune of “Willie the Wimp” by Stevie Ray Vaughn

    Another ceasefire got buried today
    They laid it to rest in a special way
    Sent it off in the finest style
    In their donor mobile, the chosen drove Joe wild
    Pontius Pilate would think of him, often
    Talkin’ bout Joey the wimp, and his slaughter hand-washin’
    Joey the wimp, and his slaughter hand-washin’

    That slaughter, it looked like it wouldn’t desist
    They had some strong words for Hamas and a slap on Bibi’s wrist
    Credibility was propped up like “Weekend at Bernie’s”
    Joe sold out for campaign bucks and spread the gubmint cheese

    That cat soon had the whole town talkin’

    Joey the wimp and his slaughter hand-washin’
    Yeah, Joey the wimp and his slaughter hand-washin’

    In his genocide hand-washin’ he would yammer and stammer
    He led like he lived, in a compromised manner
    With some AIPAC dollar bills in his fingers tight
    He had flowers for the victims and a flash of insight
    He was wishing for his soul, now Satan’s gain gotten

    Talkin’ ’bout Joey the wimp and his slaughter hand-washin’
    Yeah, Joey the wimp and his slaughter hand-washin’

    Yeah, Joey! And his slaughter hand-washin


  4. Molly

    “Inflation has come down remarkably fast, and most economists think it will be back near the preferred level of 2% or so later this year.”

    Prices will never ever return to anywhere near they were in January 2021. All our wage gains are more than eaten up by food inflation alone.

    How stupid do the “economist experts” think voters are?

    1. Late Introvert

      It occurred to me that they also needed to recapture all of the Covid checks that Trump sent out. It seems they did that and more.

      Dear Nancy, my favorite ice cream shrunk by half and costs twice as much. Guess what I won’t ever buy again?

    2. eg

      Economists (well, the neoclassical orthodoxy at least) are oblivious to distributional effects, both by training and because their “representative agent” models abjure it — they’re literally blind in this regard.

      The consequences are manifest.

  5. Lena

    Beautiful Midwestern photo!

    Carla has a lovely collection of what appears to be Cambridge (Ohio) glass.

    1. Jason Boxman

      For whatever reason, I have collection of maple syrup bottles from New England. I can’t put mine in the window, though, they go on the fireplace instead.

      1. Lena

        That sounds like a nice collection. I bet it looks good on your fireplace. Very cozy!

        I have a collection of vintage Ohio pottery that I have been accumulating since I was a teenager (in Ohio, of all places!). Nothing valuable, just things I like. Right now, it is packed away in storage boxes but I hope it will soon be on display in a new apartment. (Fingers crossed.)

        1. Jason Boxman

          During the early Pandemic I was happy to acquire a 1 lb glass honey bottle in Somerville at the Davis Sq farmer’s market, complete with a pound of honey. I’ve finally almost exhausted it — the honey, not the bottle — and will find a place for it once it’s empty and washed!

        2. ambrit

          Stand proud there. Ohio was and is famous for truly wonderful art pottery, along with utilitarian ware. For glass, end of day pieces are truly a trip.
          My favourite glass is Amberina. Have a few here and there about the place.

          1. Late Introvert

            Here in Iowa just a few states to the west, that photo would fit right in. Kudos to the photog. All of our colored class is in a cabinet but I’m going to advocate for window placement to the spouse.

            1. Carla

              Wow, thanks to everyone for all these great comments!

              I love that ruby glass — only take it out at Christmas-time. (The one on the right was from some Avon product — remember Avon?) The rest of the year the windows sport different tints of blue and green glass.

              Once a stranger stopped by while I was working in the garden and presented me with a large decorative turquoise blue-colored bottle. He said “This belongs in one of your windows.” I never saw him again, but I still have the bottle.

              1. ambrit

                We have a southern facing window in the kitchen, above the sink. I put various colours of glass items in there just for the rainbow effects. At night, after it warms up, the Mediterranean geckos ‘hide’ behind the wooden slats between the panes of glass, (old double hung window,) and ambush bugs attracted to the light for as long as we keep the light on in the kitchen. A free show for the dishwasher!

  6. Carolinian

    The notion that the Dems would try to deny Trump after an election in which he hypothetically wins a majority seems absurd to me. We do live in a democracy and voters are supposed to pick our leaders, not a political party’s tantrum.

    Just how much Harakiri do the Dems want to commit?

    Plus all of these election crises are the result of close votes and this one may not be close.

    1. Neutrino

      Expect more disturbing or anxious behavior after the polls close. The frantic cheer-coping of the usual suspects stirs up viewers, so one solution is to be patient, unplug and follow up after the dust has settled.

      All that doom and apocalypse rhetoric just upsets sleep, and there are enough other reasons for that without adding in politics. The general election is months off so there is plenty of time to get worked up, and as people point out, those months are a long time in the political world.

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      yeah, every one of those story snippets screamed in my head:”wait! isnt that what the whole jan 6 “insurrection” was all about?!”
      literally and shamelessly, “its ok when we do it”.

      1. John

        Of course it’s okay when we do it. That assumes that you are part of the ‘we’ that is doing it.

        Just as, it’s okay when I bomb you to promote democracy and “our values”, but it is a war crime for you to bomb me in support of an unapproved way of life. Like the international rules based order … stopping a moment to think it through … That is the rule of the rule based order! It’s okay when we do it.

        Cast your mind back ten years. Cookies in Maidan. F— the Eu. It was all perfectly proper.

        1. jsn

          Mike Benz was great on this, “they work really hard to build cross institutional consensus (Blackrock, JPMC, The Atlantic Council, that kind of institution), and to them that’s Democracy”

          “Our Democracy.”

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            There’s a word for integrating verticals like that. I know it’ll come to me. Something about a bundle of sticks….

            Needless to say, that’s quite different from the vision of government explained in the Federalist Papers; indeed, the whole structure (and culture) could be seen as a workaround for the separation of powers (“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place”). The struggle for money and power by Blob Players is ambition countering ambition, but it’s not constitutionally sanctioned; in fact, it’s extra-constitutional.

            1. ambrit

              ” The struggle for money and power by Blob Players is ambition countering ambition, but it’s not constitutionally sanctioned; in fact, it’s extra-constitutional.”
              A basic form of parallel institutions?

    3. Feral Finster

      No need. Just distract Trump with shiny objects and Twitter beefs, while hamstringing any policy initiatives with a constant hysterical conspiracy mongering.

      Worked just dandy from 2016-2020.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Just distract Trump with shiny objects and Twitter beefs

        I hate this “Trump is mentally deficient” trope. Trump didn’t win in 2016, flying around the country on his plane-ful of randos, by being “distracted by bright shiny objects.” Or almost win in 2020, when it took the whole strength of Democrats + press + spooks to bring him down.

        Yes, Trump is very undisciplined. Yes, he shoots his mouth off a lot. Yes, he’s a boor. Yes, he’s ignorant of governing. However, one might remember that the World Wrestling is all about shiny objects (belts, costumes) and beefs, and underneath it all is a very successful and lucrative business. The kayfabe is a surface manifestion. And so with Trump. Enough with the lazy cyncism, please.

    4. lyman alpha blob

      Not only is it absurd, but if they were to take that route, they would be following the judgements of Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Roberts. It’s the liberals and Coney Barrett who said assigning Congress the right to decide was beyond the scope of the case.

      But what Politico doesn’t mention is those five justices said Congress could decide, but with judicial review. It does make one wonder whether the five conservatives ruled as they did in the hopes that in the event of a Trump victory, the butthurt democrats would bite and the conservative Supremes would then be able to enjoy playing Lucy and pulling the football away from the feckless Democrat party one more time. I mean, our politics is all for show anyway, not for substance, amiright?

      I thought Greenwald had a very good rundown of the decision last night – https://rumble.com/v4h8kdr-system-update-238.html

    5. Darthbobber

      Well, if they did that and called for protests in DC at the same time, would it be an “insurrection” in its own right?

    6. Victor Sciamarelli

      >”We do live in a Democracy…”
      There is no mention of democracy in the Constitution. The framers feared tyranny which they thought arrived from either elite centralized power from above, or from majority power, tyranny of mob rule, from below. Therefore, centralized power would be controlled by checks and balances, and majority power by limits on voting.
      The goal of the Constitution was to protect and expand liberty; and not necessarily freedom which is something else. Protecting our democracy is almost irrelevant.
      Freedom means you can do what you want. Liberty means you can do what you want within the law. And good government with good laws makes for a stable, prosperous, and just society.
      I think it is safe to say that when a president can bypass the Congress to fund a genocidal war, political and corporate leaders can attack freedom of speech by labeling what they dislike as hate speech or disinformation, and unaccountable dark money funds political parties, the tyranny the framers feared has arrived.
      The rallying cry of citizens should be ‘defend our liberty’ rather than ‘protect our democracy.’

  7. Ranger Rick

    Re: What are they missing on inflation?
    They adamantly refuse to consider that people aren’t making any more money. How do you communicate with someone who refuses to take into account that prices rose but wages didn’t, or didn’t rise nearly as much?

    1. jsn

      Your head’s barely above water. The COVIDUkraineGreedflation pushes you 18% of your body height under water.

      Now it’s just barely pushing you down as it always had: you can just take a deep breath and drown, ending it all out of sight, or you can get mad as hell and fight.

      Neoliberalism was supposed to have weakened you so you’d do the former, if you do the latter you’ve obviously been treated too well for too long.

      They’re really sick these commentators.

      1. Feral Finster

        They don’t care.

        They’re doing well by doing good, see, and if you’re not doing well, it’s only because you’re manifestly not A Good Person, a card-carrying, lanyard wearing member of the PMC, a member of the ethically sourced totebag set.

    2. jhallc

      Will that bag of store brand coffee beans, that used to cost $5.99, eight or so months ago and now goes for $7.29 go back down? Maybe… but it will be sticky going down I’m sure.

      1. Wukchumni

        I don’t need to buy a 55 inch HD TV for $239-one of the few things deflating in price, but I do need home insurance which has gone up 20% each of the past 2 years, making a mockery of their supposed 2% inflation goal, hardeharhar!

        1. Pat

          I live in a small NYC apartment, and between business equipment I really need to divest since I retired last year and certain household items I cycle through I have a storage space. Said space has had three increases in the last two and a half years. All have been over ten percent, the most recent being 18% (this month with no warning.) Yes, I will have to stop trying to give my stock to former colleagues and see if I can line up a Salvation Army pick up.
          Now that one is partially discretionary, but the Con Edison “approved” increases not so much. I am using less electricity than last year but am paying over 10% more (in the announcements they make it sound less, but it is what they can add to the cost of purchasing the electricity, which is also up and not being talked about.) Oh and since they delayed Con Edison’s request, it was approved for two more increases in the eighteen month period that began just before the most recent increase. I can not wait.

        2. griffen

          These proponents of “good times, great living in America” are typically missing their mark of course. Yeah, for the Krugmans and Noahs the rate of inflation is coming down and Bidenomics is working wonders all over the country…\sarc

          Things aren’t going up as fast…but they sure as hell don’t seem to be declining anytime soon. And if the pricing does ever go down, it’s either because they managed to shrink another ounce from their packaging or there is suddenly a dearth of demand.

  8. DJG, Reality Czar

    The Trump (and Clinton) crisis of legitimacy. I think that we who frequent Naked Capitalism have been keeping score, but I’m not sure that many of the people who wrote the articles above are keeping score.

    In 2016, Clinton lost the election through two factors: The famous “basket of deplorables” remark, which she undoubtedly thought was devastating (her staff had told her it was) but that turned out to be self-devastating. Plus, factor two, the U.S. Constitution, which is set up to elect the president indirectly and federally — and not through popular vote. Something she should have known.

    Then a magic and evil interloper had to be invoked by Hillary and Her Diehards: Vladimir Putin. Man-spreader. So the Democrats declared the election of 2016 invalid.

    In 2020, Trump, who isn’t above tit for tat (and what business is more tit for tat than real-estate development?) returned the favor. Trump and his claque of louche lawyers (who can forget Sidney Powell?) declared the election of 2020 invalid. Various magical and evil interlopers have been invoked: Socialism! Absentee ballots!

    I hesitate to invoke the Roman Republic or the War of the Spanish Succession, but the U S of A is stuck in a power struggle that has degenerated into two sides that can’t compromise. Fortunately, Americans are blowhards, so the “impending civil war” is unlikely. Yet twenty or so years of foreign adventures and land wars have worn out the country, and it may be that the U S of A will indeed end up like Spain in the late 1700s and 1880s–an exhausted mess, clinging to past glories (Remember the Maine!).

    1. flora

      I’m guessing the 2 sides are not left vs right, but are the neocon/neoliberals vs the realpolitik/realeconomy people in both parties. / my 2 cents

      1. hk

        I don’t know if those are the factions, but you are definitely right that all these are taking place both parties are deeply fractured and all sorts of infighting (with potential for strange alliances) are becoming manifest. Rather than “neocon/neolibs,” I’d say those on one side are those who want to maintain the status quo in all dimensions and those who opposing them are, for all manner of reasons, are fed up with the status quo, but not necessarily with a single cohesive focal point. In other words, typical revolution stuff–we’d better hope that, when the status quo goes, the “discontented” faction can find their direction.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > we’d better hope that, when the status quo goes, the “discontented” faction can find their direction.

          I think all the revolutionary energy is on “the right.” I mean, the last time labor seized a capitol was in Wisconsin, the summer before Occupy (and the national Democrats promptly threw them under the bus).

      2. CA

        As the New York Times explained years ago, when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, neoconservatives knowing her hawkishness began to join up with and follow her. Democrats in turn were increasingly influenced by Secretary Clinton and allied neocons:


        July 5, 2014

        The Next Act of the Neocons
        Are Neocons Getting Ready to Ally With Hillary Clinton?


        April 23, 2016

        How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk
        Throughout her career she has displayed instincts on foreign policy that are more aggressive than those of President Obama — and most Democrats.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I concur – there may be a bang or two along the way, but it ends with the whimpers of onetime oligarchs, muttering to themselves as they shuffle through the ruins.

      Then the rest of might be able to afford the rent again.

    3. Daniil Adamov

      I’ve long thought that the USA’s position in the world is closer to Spain’s than to any other, more popular historical analogies on offer. A military and ideological superpower (leader of the free world/Catholic Europe), slowly rotting from within and losing ground throughout its outer sphere of interest, but no longer able to meaningfully adjust its course.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          Mostly. I was thinking more of the 17th century situation, when Spain was the ideological and military hegemon of Catholic Europe, but faced increasing setbacks at the hands of a variety of leaner, less overstretched rivals. It gave up ground very slowly. Socio-economic decay outpaced military decline, although its army was no longer what it once was either. It retained power within its sphere, but that sphere itself was inexorably shrinking.

      1. Feral Finster

        Interesting analogy. The Spanish Empire was fueled by a seemingly limitless river of Peruvian silver and brought down by an endless quagmire of fighting in the Netherlands.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          The Netherlands most of all, but there were other forever war theatres too, like Italy. Otherwise, yeah. It had that combination of incredible wealth and prestige with institutional rot and increasingly unjustified confidence.

      2. hk

        I’m guessing you mean Imperial Spain, of Charles V and Philip II? Yes, the analogies are striking–not just the obvious (vast economic assets being wasted on wide ranging pursuit of religious purity against heretics by force of arms), but also the process of deindustrialization due to the misbegotten wealth (there was a quote that I vaguely remember in an econ history book from some Spanish grandee at the height of their imperial power that scornfully talked about how they will let the English and the Dutch/Flemish make stuff because Spain has all the gold to buy them all or something.)

        1. vao

          Well, as I explained in my old comment, the analogy is more accurate when we consider Spain in the 18th century under the Bourbons dynasty. Charles V and Philip II reigned over an empire that was still dominant and had not yet been ruined by an endless string of military campaigns and the stupid decisions such as the expulsions of the Moors. Theirs is called the gold century of Spain for a reason. The 18th century? Not so much.

          1. eg

            Which allows us to say of the uniparty as Talleyrand did of the Bourbons, that they learned nothing and forgot nothing.

    4. Carolinian

      I think your analysis is correct. Trump 2020 was not an actual resurrection but rather him seeking his FUD revenge for 2016. But then Hillary probably justified her Russiagate as revenge for the “vast right wing conspiracy” and hubby’s gratuitous impeachment. And Gingrich and the repubs justified that as revenge for Nixon.

      Nixon is even starting to look better at this point even if critic Pauline Kael once said she could hear the Nixon voters out there in the dark, breathing. Our time is remarkably like then but the second time as farce except for the bodies that just keep piling up. Putin is surely correct that the world is tired of our soap opera.

    5. Feral Finster

      I have often thought it rich that HRC, the Anointed Queen of the PMC, the Front Row Kids, the much ballyhooed Most Qualified Candidate Evah! was brought down by the Electoral College, something that any C student taking remedial junior high school Civics ought to know about.

      1. digi_owl

        I guess they were betting on the college being in the bag and picking her no matter the actual votes…

        1. Daniil Adamov

          I think they just thought that Trump couldn’t win because Trump couldn’t possibly win.

          1. Pat

            They both underestimated him and the level of dissatisfaction in the electorate. He is a very good salesman, and people were (and are) deeply unhappy with the state of their world.

    1. tegnost

      It should read “I’m stepping down to spend more time with all the money private equity gave me for killing the carried interest tax”

  9. Camelotkidd

    Inquiring minds want to know what precipitated the Cookie Monster’s departure to spend more time with her family?

    1. nippersdad

      There were so many mentions of diplomacy in Blinken’s statement that it looks like that was the cause. Nuland does not do diplomacy, she is no Lavrov, and that is clearly what is going to be required for tying off the severed artery that she caused in Ukraine.

      Sullivan, Biden’s former campaign advisor, has clearly told Biden that he cannot go into November with two or three failed wars on his resume’ and still expect to win.

      1. vao

        Just speculating here, but could it be that there is a faction that is actually in favour of carrying on with the war and with attempts to corner Russia, but that there is a dispute about the best way to reach the objective?

        In other words: “That inept Victoria Nuland has been incapable of taking advantage of the favourable conditions in Ukraine, we should not double-down on how she proceeded, we know how to do it better and faster.” This might explain all those controversies about putting boots on the ground, sending ever longer-range missiles to Ukraine, or having F-16 and other aircraft attacking the Russians actually taking off from NATO countries.

    2. Samuel Conner

      Perhaps recognition that the EU is well and truly [family-blogg]ed. What more is there to do?

    3. Val

      Perhaps this was not the big surprise Victoria referenced from Maidan a few weeks past, but undeniable good news for potential human civilization.

    4. David in Friday Harbor

      I love the double-talk and outright lying in Blinken’s announcement:

      …indispensable to confronting Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine” Her involvement in “Ukraine” started long before 2022 and the “Special Military Operation” was hardly a full-scale invasion. The SMO was initially fought by the local Donbass militias and Wagner mercenaries with Russian logistical, air, and artillery support. The “feint” toward Kharkov and Kiev was clearly designed to force a speedy negotiated resolution. Except for:

      …marshaling a global coalition to ensure his strategic failure” Note the weasel-word strategic failure rather than military failure. They told Zelenskyy to walk away from the negotiated settlement in Istanbul that had been the Russian strategy to leave “Ukraine” an intact federation except for Crimea.

      …helping Ukraine work toward the day when it will be able to stand strongly on its own two feet” Keep “working” because that corrupt former Soviet republic’s day as a truly independent nation may never come. It would have collapsed without maintaining USSR levels of economic and infrastructure integration with the Russian Federation — and may still.

      It’s almost as if Nuland quit in a huff because Blinken is getting ready to cut-and-run like happened in Afghanistan…

  10. petal

    I figured that was a photo from Carla as soon as I saw it-reminded me very much of home.

    Any bets on how long it will take for the Ukrainian flags to come down from the LMIAL houses? And will the Cookie Lady be …quiet on her way out? Or raise as much cain as she can in the time remaining? Are her minions leaving as well? And how long before covid overtakes the WH/administration? It’s one way of getting rid of Joe, I suppose. Using covid wasn’t on my bingo card.

      1. tegnost

        love me I’m a liberal
        A house with lots of dem campaign signs if i recall correctly

  11. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Nuland

    Pushed all the way. I think it went something like this, starting at the 2:25 mark, with Lara Flynn Boyle playing the role of Nuland – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udX7jSS-BXU

    But whose role is played by Nicolas Cage?!?

    As I mentioned earlier in links, I wonder if some foreign actor told the US she’d have to go one way or the other before there would be any peace talks, otherwise the US was not to be trusted, no peace, and Biden’s approval rating stays in the toilet. If so, it was a great move.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      well, obviously she’s volunteered for the frontlines in ukraine.
      …but whatever…glad she wont be in foggy bottom.

    2. ian

      I think it’s fairly simple – she wouldn’t be ‘retiring’ if things were going swimmingly in Ukraine.
      It’s a huge tell.

      1. ambrit

        I wonder what her husband, Robert Kagan will be doing now. Will he be stepping down from the Brookings Institute?
        The Project for the New American Century is now unofficially ‘The Project for the New American Quarter Century.’
        Fukuyama was partly right; someone’s history is ending.

    3. John k

      Yes, but to what end? My wag is they’re giving up on Ukraine, both bc ME is more important and not yet lost. This maybe implies we will see msm try to get everybody to forget about ukraine asap. I don’t think this gets-to negotiations, Russia won’t want them and west won’t acknowledge a loss. west will just sulk while they push elsewhere, eg Moldova.
      Plus the China pivot faction must be getting stronger as the east European one gets weaker.

    4. Benny Profane

      This has to be connected to the German general tape release, somehow. Things are falling apart. Mecouris is sure that she planned the disaster of the summer offensive, so, there’s that. Funny, last we heard from her was her publicly warning Putin that 24 would bring him some “nasty” surprises. Well, surprise, Cookie Queen!

      Maybe negotiations are well under way, and one talking point was her retirement.

  12. Roger Blakely

    Re: (4) Taylor Swift has a cough.

    Life on planet Earth for Homo sapiens is fundamentally different since COVID-19. There is no way to do something like a Taylor Swift Tour without getting sick. Maybe such a tour could succeed if all of the concerts were held in open-air stadiums and if all of the principle performers did everything that they could to isolate themselves. Forget about staying healthy performing concerts in arenas.

  13. flora

    re: “Since then, the four universal megabanks that now dominate the economy — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — have grown significantly.”

    No mention of their criminal convictions? Crime that pays is crime that stays? (and grows?) And Politico thinks that might be a good thing?

    ohhhh kayyyy….. Break ’em up, I say. / ;)

  14. Jason Boxman

    Heh. LLMs are such garbage in, garbage out. I asked one to draw an image of a 6-sided die. It came back with two faces with 5 pips each, one with six pips. Obviously invalid in the real world, but this is Inception-style world, so I guess your totem can have as many same-sides as you want.

    Truly the stupidest timeline.

    On Swift, I wonder how someone can justify following COVID protocols — and thus being aware that there is risk — and putting millions and millions of deeply, passionate devotees at risk from that same disease. How does one square that circle? It’s so easy to bandy about the word “evil” as I do so often of late in this timeline, but that almost seems cartoonish at this late a date. It seems more like casual disinterest in others’ lives and lived experience. Not done with malice, done without any thought at all. Just a void.

    Perhaps that’s peak neoliberal atomization in a nutshell.

    1. Martin Oline

      I listened to the end and then re-started but the battery ran out before long. I will have to listen to the rest today. My comment is about what I heard concerning Rachael Maddow’s style. Perhaps Kim and Taibbi never listened to Limbaugh which is quite likely. I only heard his stuff at work occasionally but her style is directly copied from him. They act like they have secret undercover operatives embedded in the opposition’s cabal and now they are going to share the results of that conspiracy with you exclusively. The level of education of the listener is entirely irrelevant because it is the Real Scoop! on the level of the National Enquirer or perhaps it is closer to the Tattler. The only difference I see is she has a scolding, dismissive, and superior attitude and Russ was more bombastic. She has brought nothing new to the media in terms of technique. She is paid much more due to being on TV.

  15. Fastball

    I apologize for this take but the Yahoo finance article amuses the hell out of me. They continue to saw on the trope that the stock market equals how well the economy is doing, only to discount it a few more paragraphs down..and they’re puzzled by attitudes when their own graph shows them why and it’s right in front of their flat little faces. When your rent alone sucks up twice as many dollars of raise you managed to get, even if you managed to get an annual raise AT ALL, do these people think ordinary Americans should think things are peachy keen?

    As far as “it can always get worse” this is about the most deliberately offensive PMC take in the entire article. Yeah, it can get worse, and then we take the country apart in a revolution.

    1. lambert strether

      I was amused because this no-name dude fought his way through to a better understanding than many of the Bigfoot types, e.g. that inequity aversion could play a role. Also, “Maybe Americans just hate their leaders and want to punish them by telling pollsters everything sucks.”

      1. chris

        The economy is doing great! But only because we’ve defined the economy as a collection of things that have nothing to do with supporting the lives of US citizens. Or animals. Or other people on this planet. Or our own long term success and health…

        But that economy. Much wow. So much upping. Smooth positive slopes for miles. Exactly the kind lazy analysts like to see :)

  16. Wukchumni

    The National Park Service, already struggling to meet staffing and operational needs, will be saddled with a $150 million cut to its current budget if Congress approves a Senate-House compromise spending plan released by the two chambers’ appropriations committees. Additionally, the bills don’t provide any additional funds to help parks cover a 5.2 percent federal pay raise ordered last year.

    “The cuts Congress has proposed will reach every corner of our national parks, which now face even less staff and more delayed repair needs,” Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said Monday afternoon. “Congress is setting a course to go backwards, which ultimately means less protection for these places and the stories they hold. We can’t expect our national parks to meet their mission and safely welcome millions of visitors with less. Compromise is essential for the success of our country, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our most cherished places and the people who protect them.”

    The $150 million cut represents an overall 4.3 percent cut from FY23 funding, and a 1.2 percent (or $35 million) cut in the Park Service’s operations budget.


    Countless billions to fund wars and genocide overseas, but niggardly cheap when it comes to our crown jewels here @ home.

    1. chris

      Countless billions to fund wars and genocide overseas, but niggardly cheap when it comes to our crown jewels here @ home.

      That’s enough of that kind of talk! Using vocabulary like that will break the minds of the Google censors. I expect to receive cease and desist letters from our attempts at pedagogy. Or reports of pedantic behavior too! Using words that require an appreciation of English. For shame!

  17. Wukchumni

    “‘Clean’ property, private lenders could be Trump’s best option to get $540 million for legal judgments” [CNBC]. “They also say Trump can’t simply post a cash deposit — at least not in his New York civil business fraud case, where he is facing $454 million in fines and interest alone. ‘No one, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Donald Trump, has five hundred million laying around,’ Trump’s attorney Chris Kise told an appeals court judge last week

    Nothing is over until we decide it is!

    Was it over when the Germans bombed as Trump’s loan harbor?

    Hell no.

  18. ambrit

    Considering the “less sex at all levels” piece.
    “It would also be useful to have international data.”
    Anyone up for going around the world?

    1. Lee

      All I gotta say is that I’m so old my age group isn’t on the chart; but I do have a fair share of fond memories.

  19. Matthew G. Saroff

    I’d take Pirate Wires analysis of Google with a grain of salt.

    I did a quick google search, and his thing is that if there is a problem, it’s because of DEI.

    DEI may be A problem at the chocolate factory, but suggesting that it is THE problem, seems to me to be an oversimplification that prevents any understanding of the many problems that Google has.

  20. Vicky Cookies

    Send Victoria Nuland to the Eastern Front!

    Helluva job putting diplomacy back at the center of our foreign policy! What is it, half a million dead in Ukraine, “Toria”? Nordstream blown to bits, Gaza an abatoir, soft coups in Latin America, green berets in Taiwan..

    I’d rather have a State Dept staffed by hallucinating AI than this crop of incompetemnt, vicious, ugly neocons. Straight to the Eastern Front!

  21. chris

    Any updates on whether US super Tuesday races have a portion of the vote going to “uncommitted”? All I’ve seen so far are pundits lauding Biden for winning the primary in a landslide. Which shouldn’t be hard to do when you suppress media coverage of your possible opponents and the DNC does everything they can to ignore them. It would make me very happy to know Mr. Biden was stumbling over some uncommitted sandbags on his slow, painful, walk to the nomination…

    1. Carolinian

      Sounds like Biden was challenged with 13 percent uncommitted in Mass and 20 percent in Minnesota. Haley wins Vermont but being pasted in conservative states like Alabama.

    2. Late Introvert

      The 2024 Iowa CaucUps results were just announced. 12% of 10% voted 91% for Biden, on postcards you had to mail in.

      *results are still coming on the DNC app, so subject to revision

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > results are still coming on the DNC app, so subject to revision


        Yes indeedy. Not that any revisions will be needed, this time around.

  22. digi_owl

    Google also has this big issue where someone will start a personal project internally, have it get big, get promoted away from said project, and watch it languish and bitrot as people favor their own projects over maintaining the existing ones.

  23. Terry Flynn

    Am liking the Table of Contents :-)

    I wasn’t one to request it but sometimes you don’t know what you need.

  24. EarlyGray

    > sprawling HR bureaucracy that, yes, is totally obsessed with left-wing political dogma

    I’m aware this is not the main point of the article, but this just triggered me.
    Are they obsessed with in making sure the rich pay their fair share of taxes? Are they obsessed with ensuring that health care and quality education are provided to all regardless of income? Are they obsessed with making sure that affordable public housing is available to anyone who needs it?
    No? Are all they obsessed with is what is known these days as DEI?
    Then FFS don’t call it left-wing political dogma, it’s only a small subset of it and a subset that doesn’t upset the comfortable status of the PMC.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for everybody being treated equally regardless of gender, race, sexuality, etc. But a lot of the problems that people from minority and disadvantaged groups face would go away if decent social democratic policy were put in place.

    It’s awfully convenient how most of the true left-wing agenda can be ignored if our political arguments are framed around aspects that really don’t affect the rich.

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