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2:00PM Water Cooler 3/9/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

American Robin, West Babylon, Suffolk, New York, United States. “American Robin singing from the top of a building before dawn.”

* * *


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

Capitol Seizure

“Chuck Schumer Warns Buffalo Hat Guy Will Crawl Out Of Your TV And Kill You If You Watch Tucker’s Jan 6 Video” [Babylon Bee]. • All you really need to read is the headline….

Biden Administration

“FCC nominee Gigi Sohn withdraws after more than a year of fighting for post” [Politico]. “President Joe Biden’s long-stalled nominee for the Federal Communications Commission — Gigi Sohn — said on Tuesday she will withdraw her nomination to fill the fifth seat on the commission. Sohn’s withdrawal came shortly after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he would vote no on her nomination. The withdrawal marks a blow for Biden and many Senate Democrats who have fought since October 2021 to advance Sohn. It also cements the current 2-2 partisan tie at the FCC for several additional months…. Sohn [was] a former counselor to Obama-era FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and an advocate for net neutrality.”

“Biden upends politics, precedent in pivot on DC crime law” [Associated Press]. “President Joe Biden’s support of a Republican resolution to block new District of Columbia crime laws has split members of his own party amid rising concerns about crime in the nation’s capital and other cities. The GOP-led disapproval resolution is expected to easily pass the Senate on Wednesday with ample Democratic support. But most House Democrats voted against it last month, arguing as they have for many years that the District of Columbia should be able to govern itself. The Democratic support for the resolution, which comes as murders have spiked over a number of years in D.C., is a shift for Biden and his party and could allow Congress to nullify the city’s laws through the disapproval process for the first time in more than three decades.” • Commentary:

Plus, Warnock owes me six hundred bucks.

“U.S. Justice Dept takes a hard line on sentencing reform” [Reuters]. “The U.S. Justice Department is opposing a bipartisan proposal to restrict judges’ ability to impose longer sentences based on alleged crimes even if a unanimous jury has acquitted the defendant of those very same allegations. The government’s arguments are unavailing and the position is simply an expression of the Biden administration’s pivot back to ineffectual ‘tough-on-crime’ politics. The practice of using acquitted crimes as a basis for imposing longer jail terms has elicited visceral public outrage, intermittently, for decades.”

“US House votes against resolution to pull American troops out of Syria” [Andalu Agency]. “The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday against a resolution directing the Biden administration to withdraw all US troops from Syria. The war powers resolution was submitted by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz and was rejected in a 103-321 vote, with 47 Republicans and 56 Democrats voting ‘Yes.’ The bill cited section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, directing President Joe Biden to remove US armed forces from Syria within 180 days after the adoption of the resolution.”

“Tracking regulatory changes in the Biden era” [Brookings Institution]. • A good round-up, including revisions to Title IX.


“Casey DeSantis Is Clearly Auditioning to Be FLOTUS” [Jezebel]. “I feel deeply in my bones that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is running for president in 2024. … Another extremely obvious tell? His wife’s wardrobe lately. Casey DeSantis has been drenching herself in gold, bright American flag red, and so many capes…. Casey is a former TV anchor and producer whom Politico has described as ‘unquestionably the most important person influencing DeSantis’ policy and political operations…She is the governor’s closest confidant and has more sway than any other adviser.’ Some have even called her ‘co-governor‘ of the state, according to a profile published in Insider.” • To me, her wardrobe looks a little… provincial. Perhaps that will be an advantage, however.

“Youngkin fuels speculation that he might challenge Trump” [The Hill]. “Chatter is growing around the possibility of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) launching a 2024 presidential bid as he seeks to bolster his national profile. Youngkin has inserted himself into the national spotlight in recent weeks as other potential GOP contenders, including fellow Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of Florida, journey outside of their states to test the presidential waters. Last week, Youngkin made an appearance on CNBC’s morning show ‘Squawk Box’ and will participate in a live town hall on CNN on education, a hot-button issue for the GOP primary base. The governor also met with donors in New York last week. The visits come as recent polling has shown good news for Youngkin on the presidential front. A Roanoke College poll released last week showed the governor with a 57 percent approval rating, while President Biden’s approval sits at 38 percent. Among Independent voters, Youngkin beats the president 54 percent to 35 percent. And Youngkin is touting what he says is his administration’s success in the blue-leaning swing state. ”

AZ: Eeeewwww:

I wonder which ballot line Sinema will run on.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

“Treason of the Science Journals” [The Tablet]. I could have filed this under Covid Origins, but the moral of the story is more general. “The deeper phenomenon at work, however, is that in the U.S. a large number of professionals who cover science for general readers and for news publications like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal are not—and do not pretend to be—journalists per se. They are science writers whose field is science communications—a distinction with a huge difference. They see their role as translating the lofty work of pure science for a general audience, rather than as professional skeptics whose job is to investigate the competing interests, claims, and billion-dollar funding streams in the messy world of all-too-human scientists. As a product of its own hype, the science media has been granted a kind of epistemological special status on science-related issues.” “Fiat information,” IOW, transformed into symbolic capital. “On matters related to science, the thinking among consumer journalists goes, surely the science writers will have more, and better, things to say. That might be true, but on issues where science, money, power and crisis collide, it almost certainly is not. And no issue brought together those four horsemen of enlightened corruption more dramatically than the COVID-19 pandemic.” • The article is also a good summary of the “Proximal Origins” debacle, and well worth a read.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Does American Fascism Exist?” [The New Republic]. “Some insist that the similarities between contemporary American populism and fascism—their shared racism, reliance on the petit bourgeois, hypernationalism, and xenophobia—indicate that fascism, finally, has come to America. Others disagree, maintaining that the enabling structural conditions of classical European fascism—firsthand experience of total war, a powerful left, and a relatively weak state capable of being taken over—no longer exist, and that, whatever right-wing populism is, describing it as ‘fascist’ occludes more than it illuminates. Into this fray enters the intellectual historian Bruce Kuklick, whose Fascism Comes to America provides an entirely new perspective on a debate that’s become a bit exhausting. Unlike other pundits and thinkers, Kuklick is not interested in whether ‘fascism’ as such has arrived in the United States. Rather, he’s concerned with how the term itself has been used in the last century of American discourse. ‘Fascism,’ Kuklick’s exhaustive survey of U.S. politics and culture shows, has generally functioned as a so-called floating signifier. In the words of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who originated the phrase, a floating signifier is a term ‘void of meaning and thus apt to receive any meaning.’ At one point or another, every political perspective in the United States has been identified as fascist.” • Maybe the real fascists were the floating signifiers we met along the way.

“#StopWillow: Gen Z Organizes Millions Online to Pressure Biden to Stop Oil Project” [Teen Vogue]. “During the last week, the #StopWillow movement has taken over TikTok and spilled into the streets of Washington, DC. While the social media blitz may not halt President Joe Biden’s plans to implement the Willow Project, a proposed drilling venture on Alaska’s North Slope, some behind the viral TikTok campaign told Teen Vogue it wouldn’t end with whatever Biden’s decision would be. Gen Z for Change’s Elise Joshi, 20, and TikToker Alex Haraus, 25, two creators involved in the decentralized campaign, told Teen Vogue they estimate a combined 550 million views across platforms is lending a spotlight to concerned Alaskans and what they see as the broader interests of Gen Z.” • Creators. Swell.


“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); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

• Readers, thanks for the push. We are now up to 38/50 states (76%). Could those of you in states not listed help out by either with dashboard/wastewater links, or ruling your state out definitively? Thank you! (I think I have caught up with everybody I missed.)

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard), Marin; CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); 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, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, Joe, John, JM (6), JW, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (4), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3). (Readers, if you leave your link in comments, I credit you by your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle. I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy for readers to scan.)

• More like this, please! Total: 1 6 11 18 20 22 26 27 28 38/50 (76% of US states). We should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Thank you!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

This is the sort of approach I rarely hear:

And much more. I quote this at length, again because it’s rare:

I agree. It’s not a mere question of numbers; it’s the fact that “we” are cut off from each other, not least because of the protective measures we take. I’m not sure what to do about this.

* * *

This is the sort of approach I find it hard to do well, because it’s hard for me to stay calm:

* * *

Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:

“Covid Meetups” [COVID MEETUPS (JM)]. “A free service to find individuals, families and local businesses/services who take COVID precautions in your area.” • I played around with it some. It seems to be Facebook-driven, sadly, but you can use the Directory without logging in. I get rational hits from the U.S., but not from London, UK, FWIW.


“Don’t do like the others” (Google translation) [Ekstra Bladet]. “One by one the riders came running to be registered for the first stage. But when Jonas Vingegaard came rolling shortly before the first stage of Paris-Nice, something was different anyway. Of course, he is the defending Tour [de France] winner, but at the same time he was also the only one wearing a mask. – It’s to avoid getting sick. It is cold and there is still corona. I’d rather put the mask on now. – That is why you can still get sick. It’s not that. The less risk there is for that, the better, says Vingegaard.”

“I want to see your smile”:

Good for the principal!

This creep has gotten a lot of play in Australia recently:


Influencers and “I cough I can’t shake”:


“How to minimize COVID’s impacts once the federal emergency ‘ends’” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]. “Promising therapies and interventions exist. The question is whether there is the societal will to enact them…. New tools to enhance immunity could help reduce transmission. One of the most promising is the idea of nasal vaccines that elicit mucosal immunity. … Another way to reduce the burden of COVID-19 would be to improve air quality…. HEPA-filtered air, as provided in airplanes or hospitals, can dramatically improve air quality. Another approach—pending more safety and efficacy data –could be to disinfect the air with low wavelength far-UVC light, which cannot pass through the outermost layer of human skin but can readily inactivate airborne microbes. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November of 2021, could be one area for funding the necessary infrastructure improvements. The law provides financing for improving air quality in public places, but it will likely take a year or two for the money to filter down to communities… Another question is how to effectively continue activities with well-established public-health benefits, like masking indoors and in outdoor crowds. Despite how politically contentious masking has become, masks can be extremely effective. In universally masked settings, transmission was low even with reduced social distancing… Some strategies, like better medicines, will allow us to survive COVID. Others, like better vaccines and better air, could help quash outbreaks. Only time will tell if we will be able to ever rid ourselves of omicron and its subvariants. Others infectious disease threats could be looming, as well.”

“Covid backlash hobbles public health and future pandemic response” [WaPo]. “When the next pandemic sweeps the United States, health officials in Ohio won’t be able to shutter businesses or schools, even if they become epicenters of outbreaks. Nor will they be empowered to force Ohioans who have been exposed to go into quarantine. State officials in North Dakota are barred from directing people to wear masks to slow the spread. Not even the president can force federal agencies to issue vaccination or testing mandates to thwart its march. Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid. At least 30 states, nearly all led by Republican legislatures, have passed laws since 2020 that limit public health authority, according to a Washington Post analysis of laws collected by Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press as well as the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University.” • One hand washes the other: the Republicans destroyed public health at the state and local level, and Democrats did it at the Federal level (and in the media). Of course, even the worst Republican didn’t suggest mask-wearers were criminals, as did Democrat Eric Adams, mayor of the extremely Blue New York.

“Almost Half of All Public Health Workers Left Their Jobs Over the Past 5 Years” [MedPage Today]. “Nearly half of all public health workers in state and local agencies left their positions over the last half-decade, a new study found. Comparing public health agency staff lists from 2017 with those of 2021, researchers led by Jonathon P. Leider, PhD, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, discovered that 46% of workers were no longer present in 2021. Importantly, more than 100,000 workers — which amounts to half of the total governmental public health workforce — could leave by 2025 if current trends continue, the group detailed in Health Affairs. Their study tracked intent to leave as well as actual separations of 150,000 workers at close to 100 agencies participating in the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) in 2017 and 2021. ‘Even though we’ve had so many people already leave, we still have 40% plus of the workforce saying, ‘I’m thinking about leaving,’” Leider told MedPage Today. ‘These are the people that are more educated in public health science than ever before, in pandemic crisis management than ever before. How do you replace people like that?’” • You don’t. That’s the plan.

Elite Malfeasance

“The latest sign the White House Covid operations are winding down? Its proposed budget” [Politico]. “President Joe Biden is not expected to seek significant new Covid funding as part of his forthcoming budget proposal, the latest sign that the White House is preparing to wind down its emergency response operation later this year. The move comes as Biden has insisted that the public health crisis is under control, and amid a broader administration shift toward new priorities aimed at bolstering the post-pandemic economy and lowering consumer costs. The White House proposal, which is scheduled for release Thursday, is expected to drop a call Biden made last year for tens of billions of dollars to fuel the ongoing crisis response, including purchasing more vaccines and treatments, three people familiar with the matter told POLITICO. The budget may also leave out the administration’s prior request for new funding to jumpstart research aimed at developing the next generation of Covid vaccines and therapeutics. Health officials are currently discussing whether there’s existing money that can be reallocated toward the project.” • So much for nasal vaccines, and even the possibility of sterilizing vaccines. To be fair, repeated injections of a privatized vaccine are far more profitable for Big Pharma, which is doubtless top-of-mind for the eugenicsts in the Biden Administration.

GM wrote:

Note once again that it is impossible to calculate VE once they let it rip and most of the population was infected.

It is now an extremely complex mix of different exposure histories in the population — vaccinations, bivalent boosters, WT, Delta, various Omicron strains — with most of the infections entirely undocumented.

So we are comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated but infected, or vaccinated with bivalent boosted with vaccinated with the original course but without the bivalent booster, and in all of these groups there is a tremendous amount of previous undocumented infection.

How do you actually separate whatever effect the bivalent booster might be having in such a situation?

You simply can’t.

Stupid Nazis. They numbered all their victims, and used state-of-the-art punch card technology from IBM to keep track of them. We don’t keep track of any data at all!

* * *

Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from March 6:

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 4:

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 9:

-2.9%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,148,090 – 1,147,217 = 873 (873 * 365 = 318,645 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

★ NEW ★ Excess Deaths

Excess deaths (The Economist), published February 26:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learnning model. Again, we see a high plateau. I”m not sure how often this updates, and if it doesn’t, I’ll remove it. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing unemployment benefits jumped by 21,000 from the previous week to 211,000 on the week ending March 4th, the most since December 2022 and well above market expectations of 195,000. The latest value was the first upside surprise in one month, diverging from a series of labor data that underscored a stubbornly tight job market and hinting that labor conditions could start to soften.”

Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based employers announced 77.77K job cuts in February of 2023, the most for the month of February since 2009 and compared to 102.943K in January which was the highest reading since September of 2020. Job cuts occurred in all 30 industries, led by technology companies (21,387) and the health care/products space (9,749). So far this year, employers announced plans to cut 180,713 jobs, up 427% from the 34,309 cuts announced in the first two months of 2022 and the highest January-February total since 2009. The tech sector has announced 35% of all job cuts in 2023.” • Elon Musk leading the way? If so, remarkable class solidarity, rather like Uber taking one for the team to cripple public transport and create a whole new class of precarious workers. What’s a few billion dollars compared to that?

* * *

Energy: “U.S. Shale Boom Shows Signs of Peaking as Big Oil Wells Disappear” [Wall Street Journal]. “The boom in oil production that over the last decade made the U.S. the world’s largest producer is waning, suggesting the era of shale growth is nearing its peak. Frackers are hitting fewer big gushers in the Permian Basin, America’s busiest oil patch, the latest sign they have drained their catalog of good wells. Shale companies’ biggest and best wells are producing less oil, according to data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reported last year companies would exhaust their best U.S. inventory in a handful of years if they resumed the breakneck drilling pace of prepandemic times. Now, recent results out of the Permian, spread across West Texas and New Mexico, are mimicking the onset of a production plateau that has taken place at other, more mature U.S. shale plays.” • I don’t think fracked wells “gush.”

Real Estate: “Investors are measuring return to office rates by how much employees are drinking at the water cooler as the remote work wars rage on” [Fortune]. “The amount of water dispensed in machines sold by Bevi — a Boston-based startup that provides Internet-connected coolers to more than 5,000 businesses across the US — mirrors the office occupancy rates tracked by security firm Kastle Systems throughout the pandemic. In 2021, when the delta and omicron variants of Covid-19 gripped the nation, Bevi’s machines were operating at 28% of pre-pandemic levels for the full year, in line with Kastle’s 30% return-to-office rate. Last year, as offices slowly reopened, the figures increased in tandem, to just over 40%. They’ve risen again so far this year, although Bevi’s delivery volumes are now about 5 percentage points ahead of Kastle’s index. That could be due to increased consumption from smaller companies, which don’t often occupy the large commercial office buildings that Kastle tracks, according to Sean Grundy, Bevi’s co-founder and chief executive officer. Grundy said he’s received inquiries from hedge funds and other investors who want to examine his company’s data for a window into office-occupancy trends.” • Neat proxy!’

Tech: “From marketing to design, brands adopt AI tools despite risk” [Associated Press]. “Mattel has put the AI image generator DALL-E to work by having it come up with ideas for new Hot Wheels toy cars. Used vehicle seller CarMax is summarizing thousands of customer reviews with the same ‘generative’ AI technology that powers the popular chatbot ChatGPT. Meanwhile, Snapchat is bringing a chatbot to its messaging service. And the grocery delivery company Instacart is integrating ChatGPT to answer customers’ food questions. Coca-Cola plans to use generative AI to help create new marketing content. And while the company hasn’t detailed exactly how it plans to deploy the technology, the move reflects the growing pressure on businesses to harness tools that many of their employees and consumers are already trying on their own. ‘We must embrace the risks,’ said Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey in a recent video announcing a partnership with startup OpenAI — maker of both DALL-E and ChatGPT — through an alliance led by the consulting firm Bain. ‘We need to embrace those risks intelligently, experiment, build on those experiments, drive scale, but not taking those risks is a hopeless point of view to start from.’” • Since AI = BS, brands should do just fine with it.

Manufacturing: “US probes Tesla Autopilot, steering wheels that can come off” [Associated Press]. “U.S. safety regulators are turning up the heat on Tesla, announcing investigations into steering wheels coming off some SUVs and a fatal crash involving a Tesla suspected of using an automated driving system when it ran into a parked firetruck in California. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it is launching a special crash-investigation team to probe the Feb. 18 crash involving a Tesla Model S and a ladder truck from the Contra Costa County fire department. The firetruck probe is part of a larger investigation by the agency into multiple instances of Teslas using the automaker’s Autopilot system crashing into parked emergency vehicles that are tending to other crashes. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas in the past year, announcing multiple recalls and investigations.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 43 Fear (previous close: 45 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 9 at 1:14 PM ET.

The 420

“Mitch McConnell Is Hospitalized After Tripping at Washington Hotel” [New York Times]. • Blotter? Windowpane? Orange Sunshine?

“Oklahoma voters reject legalizing recreational marijuana” [Associated Press]. “On Tuesday’s legalization question, the “no” side was outspent more than 20-to-1, with supporters of the initiative spending more than $4.9 million, compared to about $219,000 against, last-minute campaign finance reports show…. The low barriers for entry into Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry has led to a flood of growers, processors and dispensary operators competing for a limited number of customers. Supporters had hoped the state’s marijuana industry would be buoyed by a rush of out-of-state customers, particularly from Texas, which has close to 8 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area just a little more than an hour drive from the Oklahoma border. Michelle Tilley, campaign director for Yes on 820, said despite Tuesday’s result, full marijuana legalization was inevitable. She noted that almost 400,000 Oklahomans already use marijuana legally and ‘many thousands more’ use it illegally. ‘A two-tiered system, where one group of Oklahomans is free to use this product and the other is treated like criminals does not make logical sense,’ she said in a statement.”

Book Nook

“How the Ring Got Good” [Robin Sloan]. Fascinating. “The History of The Lord of the Rings sounds like it might be a nerdy diegetic reference work, something from Elrond’s library. Oh — it’s far nerdier than that. These books present J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings at many stages of its development, from jotted notes to published text, with extensive commentary from Christopher Tolkien, the son who became THE great scholar of his father’s work. … Tolkien, for all his vaunted designs, only got to The Good Stuff when he was IN it, really working the text of the novels (or novel, if you consider The Lord of the Rings one big book). He could not worldbuild his way into a workable story; he had to muddle and discover and revise, just like the rest of us. Here is the example that took my breath away. Early in the published version of The Lord of the Rings (hereafter, LOTR) we learn about the inscription on the One Ring, which provides the whole engine of the plot…. In a single stroke, we get: a mythic backstory, a grand MacGuffin, a sense of language and history, the sublimely satisfying train of magic numbers — three … seven … nine … ONE! — plus something graphically weird and beautiful on the page. It’s all just tremendous — the perfect kernel of Tolkien’s appeal. And, guess what: Not only was the inscription missing from the early drafts of LOTR … the whole logic of the ring was missing, too. In its place was a mess. The ring possessed by Bilbo Baggins was one of thousands the Dark Lord manufactured, all basically equivalent: they made their wearers invisible, and eventually claimed their souls. They were like cursed candies scattered by Sauron across Middle-earth…. There are several revised approaches to “what’s the deal with the ring?” presented in The History of The Lord of the Rings, and, as you read through the drafts, the material just … slowly gets better! Bit by bit, the familiar angles emerge. There seems not to have been any magic moment: no electric thought in the bathtub, circa 1931, that sent Tolkien rushing to find a pen. It was just revision. I find this totally inspiring.” • Yes!!!


“Long Covid patients face medical debt after insurance denies claims” [NBC], “In order for the care a patient receives to be deemed medically necessary by an insurance provider, there has to be substantial research or evidence that shows that it works, she said. That’s ‘a key issue for long Covid,’ she said, because the illness is so new and still poorly understood. ‘Research, just like everything with Covid, is all new,’ she said. ‘Nobody really quite knows what works and nobody really understands why some people have it longer than others.’ To be sure, as of 2021, there are diagnostic codes for long Covid — key tools used by doctors to characterize medical diagnoses for insurance coverage, said Dr. Alan Kwan, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Those codes, however, don’t always cover the myriad health problems linked to long Covid, he said. Doctors may work hard to get a patient a formal diagnosis for long Covid to help with insurance, though there isn’t an official test for long Covid and the testing that is done may not be covered by insurance.” • First the killing, then the billing.

“Cost of COVID: New study says those with Long COVID pay thousands more for treatment” [9ABC]. “The symptoms that last for months or years after the initial infection, long COVID currently impacts 23 million Americans, or roughly 30% of COVID cases. A new study shows the condition comes with a hefty price tag. A Harvard study found those with Long COVID costs the U.S. economy $538 billion in medical expenses; and for each patient roughly $9,000 a year in medical costs.” • I’m surprised it’s that little.

“Responding to the crisis of care” (PDF) [BMJ]. “Healthcare is in crisis across most of the globe, and perhaps particularly in our two countries of the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which appear more disunited than ever by the greed and carelessness that drive socioeconomic and political polarisation, and the systematic degradation of our planet. There are two possible responses to this crisis. The first assumes that this is simply a crisis of organisation, efficiency, information, technology, and scale. It sees people as insufficiently studied biological machines, as sparsely detailed clouds of data, as inadequately monitored and regulated physiologies. The increasingly ruthless pipedream is that, if only the healthcare industry could access and use everyone’s biomedical and socioeconomic data, then their needs could be predicted, and a healthy future would be assured for all…. The second response assumes this is a crisis of care in and of itself. Care happens in the space between people, in an unhurried encounter. Only humans in interaction can care. It is in this interaction in which one notices a problem in the other and seeks to respond to the other’s predicament to improve their situation. In healthcare, this noticing goes beyond the biological to appreciate the biographical, and, fully aware that bodies are not machines and that emotions—both positive and negative—exert a powerful influence on every aspect of health. It goes beyond what makes living possible to consider what makes living meaningful. Care is not just the adherence to evidence-based guidelines to improve population-level metrics. The work of care discovers or invents ways forward. The effort of care fosters hope that the situation could be better in the future. It results in a way forward co-created with the intention of comforting always, while spanning from complex surgery to keeping company with the dying, from fixing to alleviating.” • Sure, but how to you monetize “the space between people” without a code + a transaction? Let’s be realistic here, people.

Zeitgeist Watch

UPDATE Indeed we are:

The Gallery

Just leaving this here because I may need it later:

And this because it makes me laugh:

Which I don’t do often for Cubist paintings!

Our Famously Free Press

“My Statement to Congress” [Matt Taibbi, Racket News]. “The original promise of the Internet was that it might democratize the exchange of information globally. A free internet would overwhelm all attempts to control information flow, its very existence a threat to anti-democratic forms of government everywhere. What we found in the Files was a sweeping effort to reverse that promise, and use machine learning and other tools to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control. Unfortunately, our own government appears to be playing a lead role….. In a free society we don’t mandate truth, we arrive at it through discussion and debate. Any group that claims the “confidence” to decide fact and fiction, especially in the name of protecting democracy, is always, itself, the real threat to democracy. This is why ‘anti-disinformation’ just doesn’t work. Any experienced journalist knows experts are often initially wrong, and sometimes they even lie. In fact, when elite opinion is too much in sync, this itself can be a red flag. We just saw this with the Covid lab-leak theory. Many of the institutions we’re now investigating initially labeled the idea that Covid came from a lab “disinformation” and conspiracy theory. Now apparently even the FBI takes it seriously. It’s not possible to instantly arrive at truth. It is however becoming technologically possible to instantly define and enforce a political consensus online, which I believe is what we’re looking at. This is a grave threat to people of all political persuasions.” • [applause].

Guillotine Watch

“Upper West Side votes against proposed rest stop for delivery workers at 72nd Street” [Gothamist]. “Upper West Side residents voted against transforming an empty newsstand at 72nd Street and Broadway into a new charging station for e-bike delivery workers on Tuesday night. More than 70 people showed up to the public meeting for Community Board 7. Ultimately, the group voted 27-8 against the resolution, with two members abstaining. Several Upper West Siders expressed concerns about the e-bikes’ lithium batteries, which have triggered deadly fires across the city. The most common concerns were about the hub’s location and the risks of placing a charging station so close to a heavily trafficked subway station.” • So long as they don’t call the manager when their food is late. But you know they do and will.

Class Warfare

“UAW tells Caterpillar workers it will not distribute full contract at informational meetings: ‘It was a propaganda show mixed with passive-aggressive bullying’” [WSWS]. “With the ratification vote on the tentative agreement reached between the United Auto Workers and Caterpillar rapidly approaching this weekend, the workers are being stonewalled by the UAW bureaucracy at so-called “informational meetings” this week to discuss the UAW-backed contract proposal. The UAW announced voting for the proposed contract would be held on Saturday and Sunday for workers at Peoria and Decatur, Illinois. Workers in Decatur have been split up into multiple meetings from Monday to Friday this week before they vote on Saturday and Sunday, preventing workers from voicing their concerns en masse. Workers in Peoria have had their informational meetings and voting times scheduled for the weekend, with virtually no time to discuss even the limited ‘highlights’ that have been handed to workers. Caterpillar workers who attended meetings in Decatur Tuesday reported that local UAW officials are refusing to distribute the full contract, claiming that it would be ‘leaked’ online. UAW officials told workers there was a copy of the full contract, which is over a hundred pages, at the union hall for individual workers to read, but that it would not be released digitally. In response, workers are demanding to know what the company and the union leadership have to hide as the information meetings consist of evasions and threats when workers ask questions.” • And “leaking” the contract online would be bad why? Whose contract is it, anyhow?

Prices rise because firms raise them:

“Chartism” (podcast) [In Our Time, BBC]. “On 21 May 1838 an estimated 150,000 people assembled on Glasgow Green for a mass demonstration. There they witnessed the launch of the People’s Charter, a list of demands for political reform. The changes they called for included voting by secret ballot, equal-sized constituencies and, most importantly, that all men should have the vote. The Chartists, as they came to be known, were the first national mass working-class movement. In the decade that followed, they collected six million signatures for their Petitions to Parliament: all were rejected, but their campaign had a significant and lasting impact.” • One of the most re-assuring things to me about “In Our Time” is that there is still excellent academic work being done. And communicated!

News of the Wired

Termination shock in reality?!


I can’t assess this study. Can climate mavens comment?

“Celebrity sightings have a built-in contradiction” (press release) [NewsWise]. n = 52. “Their popularity makes celebrities easy to spot. Strangers, however, can also get mistaken for celebrities, resulting in cases of false “celebrity sightings.” In attempting to explain the contradiction, a University of California, Riverside, study reports that celebrity faces are remembered more precisely but less accurately. Precision, in this context, refers to how memories for a particular face resemble each other over repeated memory retrievals, which can be likened to the clustering of arrows on a target in archery. Accuracy measures how remembered faces resemble newly encountered faces — or the deviation from the target in archery. ‘What our findings say is that people might accept errors by misidentifying someone as a celebrity in the interest of securing a ‘celebrity sighting,’; said Weiwei Zhang, an associate professor of psychology, who led the study that appears in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. ‘Our study explains why people are good and bad at spotting celebrities and highlights the importance of assessing both memory imprecision and bias in memory performance.’”

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From JL:

JL writes: “Small blue/violet Wishbone flower with a guest. The grasshopper is about 1cm from head to tail. Hope you can make out its long antennae.”

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

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Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor