2:00PM Water Cooler 11/21/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Western House-Martin, Foz da ribeira de Odeleite, Castro Marim, Faro, Portuga. ‘Call; Flight call.” With various other bonus birds.

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

Biden Administration

“What Antony Blinken’s wince at Biden did and didn’t mean:” [MSNBC]. “Blinken’s apparent pain at his boss’ blunt language has gone viral — inspiring mockery of the Biden administration, and prompting some right-wing commentators to describe Biden’s language as a sign of senility-induced incompetence. … Is Biden’s age a valid concern as he pursues another term in office? Yes. Does that definitively explain his behavior here? No. The simplest explanation is that Biden was being Biden…. First, it’s unclear that Biden’s comment could even be characterized as a gaffe. The question, after all, was whether the president would disavow a view he articulated just a few months ago. Biden knew if he changed his position he would be vulnerable to attacks of inconsistency out of political expediency.” Of course, Biden never should have put himself in that position to begin with, but here we are. More: “Second, even if one assumes that Biden veered from the kind of language his staff advised him to use, anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows that Biden has misspoken, said something off-color, or unexpectedly deviated from talking points for his entire political career — particularly in the realm of foreign policy.” And: “Blinken’s reaction was funny to witness, a rare example of a seasoned diplomat shedding their poker face. But it doesn’t mean Blinken thought Biden didn’t know what he was doing — he could’ve simply disagreed with the president’s on-the-fly judgment.” • I think the dynamic is that Blinken sees himself as Biden’s minder, and thinks that Biden really, really needs one. And he’s not wrong.

Our Famously Free Press


Less than a year to go!

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“Trump mocks Biden, DeSantis, Haley and Jimmy Carter in front of cheering Iowa crowd” [Des Moines Register]. “Trump, who remains the faraway frontrunner in the Republican primary race, focused the bulk of his speech on President Joe Biden — calling him a ‘stupid person,’ ‘incompetent’ and incapable of representing the U.S. on the world stage amid international crises.” Is he wrong? More: “‘This is not a man who should be running the country,’ Trump said. He also said former President Jimmy Carter — whose wife of 77 years, Rosalynn, entered hospice care Friday — is ‘the happiest person anywhere in this country right now … because his administration looked brilliant compared to these clowns.” Oh, the aghastitude! More: The crowd laughed, then broke into cheers and applause. Trump continued to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on ethanol, mocking his struggle to gain momentum in the race. ‘He’s going ‘whoosh,’ down the tubes,’ Trump said, motioning downwards. The former president also briefly attacked former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, calling her ‘Birdbrain’ and saying she, like DeSantis, was disloyal for running against him. ‘I know her well, she’s not up to the job,’ he said. Trump suggested that with a large margin of victory in Iowa, his challengers would concede and the party could turn their attention and resources to the general election. ‘We have to send a great signal, and maybe these people end it, say ‘it’s over now,” he said. ‘Because we have to focus on Crooked Joe Biden.’” • Trump seems in fine form; no wonder the crowd was cheering (which seemed to disgruntle the headline writer).

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“The Real Reason Why Biden Shouldn’t Drop Out” [The New Republic]. “Nothing in the president’s makeup suggests that he would abruptly jettison his reelection campaign, especially since Hamas’s attack on Israel has further convinced Biden that he has become the world’s Indispensable Man. Every sign emanating from his inner circle and reelection campaign suggests a stubborn refusal to even acknowledge his growing legion of Democratic doubters. But even if Biden were to accept the truth embedded in the polls, as Harry Truman did when he bowed out in 1952, the subsequent multicandidate scramble for the Democratic nomination would create as many (if not more) political problems as it would solve. … If Biden announced on the Monday after Thanksgiving that he would be retiring, it would give 2024 presidential contenders fewer than 100 days to declare their candidacies and define their image before 14 states pick delegates on Super Tuesday, March 5. And 11 other states will be holding Democratic primaries later in March. Organizing a campaign and raising the money at that pace would be gruelling enough. But candidates would also face high-intensity scrutiny from the media and the voters without any benefit from a learning curve. It would be the equivalent of opening a musical on Broadway without a single tryout and just three days of rehearsals. Unless you have run for president or witnessed a campaign close up, you have no idea how daunting it is…. [A]t this point, Biden—despite his obvious flaws as a candidate—is probably the Democrats’ best option for president against Trump. For in politics, it gets late early. And it is, sadly, too late for a compelling Biden replacement.” • Even if, conveniently, there were no contested primaries, and instead a smoke-filled room, the learning curve wouldn’t get any less steep (unless the candidate who emerged was already a deified media figure).

“The Axe Is Sharp” [MoDo, New York Times]. “David Axelrod is not a prick…. ‘I think he has a 50-50 shot here, but no better than that, maybe a little worse,’ Axelrod said.’He thinks he can cheat nature here and it’s really risky. They’ve got a real problem if they’re counting on Trump to win it for them. I remember Hillary doing that, too.’… [Biden] should not indulge the Irish chip on his shoulder. He needs to gather the sharpest minds in his party and hear what they have to say, not engage in petty feuds. If Trump manages to escape conviction in Jack Smith’s Washington case, which may be the only criminal trial that ends before the election, that’s going to turbocharge his campaign. Of course, if he’s convicted, that could turbocharge his campaign even more.” • I’ve read better from MoDo; what “sharpest minds”?

“Kamala Harris Is Biden’s No. 2 Problem” [Peggy Noonan]. “The incumbent is famously, historically unpopular and has been for some time, so it’s not a blip or event-related. He should help his party’s prospects by stepping aside and letting Democrats fight it out. He won’t, we all sense this…. Joe Biden’s main problem, the perception that he is too old for the job, is guaranteed to get worse each day. This makes his vice president more important than vice presidents ever have been. When people consider voting for Mr. Biden for the presidency they’ll know it is likely they’re really voting for Kamala Harris. This will only hurt Democratic fortunes, because she is uniquely unpopular. The practical path would be to make a change that reassures, to a veteran, highly regarded figure in whom people might feel confidence…. With her faith in her charm and ability to be warm and relatable, as they say, she forgot to be modest or to imitate modesty. …. The way to approach the vice presidency is with low-key humility and carefulness. You don’t take the job and shape it to your persona; you take your persona and fit it into the job, which existed long before you and ideally will exist long after.” •

“House GOP’s Biden impeachment effort heads into final stage” [Politico]. “House Republicans are closing in on a make-or-break moment in their drive to impeach Joe Biden, with GOP centrists remaining highly skeptical of the effort even as its leaders look to decide in January on whether to file formal articles against the president. Even with a planned deposition of Hunter Biden in the coming weeks, the party remains in a tense spot, with centrists signaling that the party’s investigation hasn’t yet met their bar for an impeachment vote and the right flank ratcheting up pressure to move forward. It’s all building to a decision on whether to pursue impeachment articles as soon as January. Republicans would likely accuse the president of improperly using his political office to further his family’s business dealings — though they haven’t yet found a smoking gun to that effect and some members acknowledge that seems increasingly unlikely. Impeachment advocates are still probing other issues as well, such as the federal investigation that resulted in a failed plea deal for Hunter Biden. ‘We get those depositions done this year and … then we can decide on whether or not there’s articles,’ House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told POLITICO, predicting that decision would happen early next year. But a familiar obstacle for Republicans stands in their way here, too: their thin majority.” • The “smoking gun” is that Hunter — dear Hunter! — is swanning about taking his Dad’s name in vain, and Dad isn’t doing anything, even as Hunter’s take is trickling into the bank account of anyone with “Biden Blood.” Why the heck is a clown like Gym Jordan in charge here, instead of Comer, who’s actually building a case using bank records?

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“Vivek Ramaswamy struggles to gain traction with Iowa Republicans as critics question his path ahead” [Associated Press]. “While Ramaswamy is packing his schedule with stops across Iowa, including multiple events on Tuesday and Wednesday, he has failed to move up in the 2024 Republican primary race and is increasingly at risk of becoming an afterthought. He is polling in the mid to high single digits and has left critics asking what his endgame is or if he is staying in the race only to boost former President Donald Trump…. Ramaswamy’s campaign said in early November that it would spend up to $8 million in advertising through the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. So far, the campaign has booked just $162,000 in broadcast and digital ads for the rest of the Iowa campaign, according to data from the media tracking firm AdImpact. Haley and her allied super PAC have reserved nearly $3.5 million over that same period, while DeSantis and his allied super PAC have booked more than $3.3 million.” • Hmm.

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“The No Labels party asked its supporters if they would pay $100 to help choose its 2024 nominee” [Associated Press]. “No Labels, a political organization that has alarmed some Democrats with talk of launching a third-party presidential candidate, has contemplated requiring a donation of at least $100 in order to cast a ballot at the group’s upcoming nominating convention, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The idea, which breaks from longstanding norms, would raise a significant hurdle to participating in the democratic process — in this case No Labels’ selection of its potential candidates for president and vice president. Neither the Democratic or Republican parties charge to vote at their conventions, where delegates vote for candidates chosen by voters through primaries or caucuses. The possibility of requiring a donation was included in an internal survey No Labels conducted in September. Screenshots of the survey were provided to the AP by a person who was invited to take it. The survey explored how No Labels should select candidates to run on a bipartisan ‘unity ticket’ if the 2024 election is headed for a rematch between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. No Labels officials said in a statement Friday that they will not charge delegates.” • So, out of the box, the first thing the problem-solvers come up with is a poll tax. Encouraging!

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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.

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“Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Michigan home spray-painted with the word ‘Nazis’” [Chicago Sun-Times]. • I condem this anti-semitic act. Sure, Obama’s former chief of staff presided over a torture site at Homan Square that disappeared and tortured a lot of Black people, but he’s no Nazi!


“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, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: 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, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Covid is Airborne

A retrospective:


“Dysregulations in hemostasis, metabolism, immune response, and angiogenesis in post-acute COVID-19 syndrome with and without postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome: a multi-omic profiling study” [Nature (Jason Boxman)]. N = 21. From the Abstract: “Collectively, these observations suggest a clear and distinct dysregulation in the proteome, cytokines/chemokines, and sphingolipid levels in [Post-acute COVID-19 (PACS)] patients compared to healthy subjects without any clear signature associated with [postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)].” And from the Discussion: “We identified ~ 200 proteins, 11 cytokines and 16–19 sphingolipids with altered levels in previously healthy non-hospitalized PACS-patients up to 18 months after contracting a relatively mild-to-moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection…. It is well-known that COVID-19 infection triggers a hyperinflammatory response during the acute phase of the infection. The majority of COVIDomics studies on patients with acute COVID-19 have shown that a pro-inflammatory and pro-coagulative signature is dominant and probably drives cardiovascular perturbations and complications during ongoing illness…. Our results suggest that alterations in hemostasis and apoptosis might play a key role in the PACS pathophysiology as several proteins involved in platelet activation and coagulation were dysregulated in PACS… .” • Yikes. The opening tweet of a thread on this article:

Testing and Tracking

“Verily’s COVID Testing Program Halted in San Francisco and Oakland” [KFF Health News]. “Amid fanfare in March, California officials celebrated the launch of a multimillion-dollar contract with Verily — Google’s health-focused sister company — that they said would vastly expand COVID testing among the state’s impoverished and underserved communities. But seven months later, San Francisco and Alameda counties — two of the state’s most populous — have severed ties with the company’s testing sites amid concerns about patients’ data privacy and complaints that funding intended to boost testing in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods instead was benefiting higher-income residents in other communities. People signing up for a test through Verily had to do so online, using an existing or newly created Gmail account; the sign-ups were offered only in English or Spanish; and participants were asked to provide sensitive personal information, including their home address and whether they were managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity or congestive heart failure, which could expose their data to third-party use…. Verily had two sites in Alameda County, and one was shuttered by May. The second, located at an Oakland church, closed in August and is set to reopen using a different testing vendor. Alameda County testing director Dr. Jocelyn Freeman Garrick said that while the Verily sites helped the county reach testing goals in terms of raw numbers, they were phased out because of long wait times of a week or more for results, and because the tests were not reaching the residents in greatest need.” • Nice company. No doubt results like this are why CDC picked them over Biobot for wastewater.


“Association of COVID-19 with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in children aged 0–5 years in the USA in 2022: a multicentre retrospective cohort study” [Family Medicine and Community Health]. N = 1.7 million children 0–5 years of age. From the Abstract: “COVID-19 was associated with a significantly increased risk for RSV infections among children aged 0–5 years in 2022. Similar findings were replicated for a study population of children aged 0–5 years in 2021. Our findings suggest that COVID-19 contributed to the 2022 surge of RSV cases in young children through the large buildup of COVID-19-infected children and the potential long-term adverse effects of COVID-19 on the immune and respiratory system.” • Wait. You’re telling me it wasn’t “immunity debt”?

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

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Lambert here: Lots of new results today, most up, starting with wastewater. (The one I worry about the most is ER visits, since I think that data is hard to game, and who wants to go to the ER, anyhow?) I think it’s time to send the relatives those clippings you saved on brain damage (also, of course, the 2022 clippings: here, here. And the 2020 one).

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, November 20:

Lambert here: Cases up, just in time for Thanksgiving (and tinfoil hat time: This is the, er, inflection point CDC was trying to conceal when they gave the contract to Verily and didn’t ensure a seamless transition).

Regional data:


• “Data Tracker” [Pandemic Mitigation Collaborative]. Not sure about this one, since I can’t find the methodology. Nevertheless:

That 1 in 63 people will be infected in November is an eye-catching figure. A first-class Acela car holds 44 people. A Greyhound bus, 52. A 737-400, 188.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, November 11:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: HV.1, EG.5 a strong second, with FL.1.15.1 and XBB. trailing. No BA.2.86 (although that has showed up in CDC’s airport testing). Still a Bouillabaisse…

From CDC, October 28:

Lambert here: I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “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.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, November 11:

Lambert here: Slight increases in some age groups, conforming to wastewater data. Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator until Verily gets its house in order (and working class-centric, since I would doubt the upper crust goes to the ER).

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. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


Bellwether New York City, data as of November 17:

Slight rise. (I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive, although the hospital-centric public health establishment loves it, hospitalization and deaths being the only metrics that matter [snort]).

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. November 11:

Lambert here: “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†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?


From Walgreens, November 20:

0.5%. Decline arrested. (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.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, November 11:

Lambert here: Increase (with backward revision; guess they thought it was over). I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good*, and we’re starved for data, so…. NOTE * Even if hospital infection control is trying to kill patients by eliminating universal masking with N95s.

From CDC, traveler’s data, October 30:

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, October 30:

BA.2.86 really rolling now among travelers, so it has to be getting loose. Variant mavens are worried:

No sign of JN.1 (a more evasive subvariant of BA.2.86).


Total: 1,182,945 – 1,182,259 = 686 (686 * 365 = 250,390 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). 

Excess Deaths

The Economist, November 18:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

The Economy: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to -0.49 in October 2023, the lowest in seven months, compared to -0.02 in September.”

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Lambert here: There are two Elon Musk stories going on simulaneously (or, to put it more pointedly, liberal Democrats are attacking Musk on two fronts). The first front is Media Matters’ claim that X (formerly known as Twitter), placed ads for major advertisers next to Nazi-adjacent accounts). The second is that Musk is himself anti-semitic, based on one of his tweets. We cover both below, in that order.

Tech: “Musk’s X sues liberal advocacy group Media Matters over its report on ads next to hate groups’ posts” [Associated Press]. “X’s complaint claims that Media Matters manipulated algorithms on the platform to create images of advertisers’ paid posts next to racist, incendiary content. The juxtapositions, according to the complaint, were ‘manufactured, inorganic and extraordinarily rare.’ It says Media Matters did this by using X accounts that just followed X users known to produce “extreme fringe content” and accounts owned by X’s major advertisers. This, the complaint says, led to a feed aimed at producing side-by-side placements that Media Matters could then screen shot in an effort to alienate X’s advertisers. Media Matters said Monday that it stands by its reporting and expects to prevail in court.” • David Brock’s Media Matters doesn’t do reporting, any more than the DNC press office does reporting. For skeptics, here is the complaint. X CORP., a Nevada corporation, Plaintiff, v. MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA, a Washington, D.C. non-profit corporation, and ERIC HANANOKI:

The irony here is that Twitter’s curation is one of its strongest features (not really shared by other social media platforms). So it makes sense that former Clinton enforcer David Brock would try to destroy it.

Tech: “Why Elon Musk Is Going ‘Thermonuclear’” [RealClearPolitics]. “The lawsuit is in response to a Media Matters report last week that X, the Musk-owned social media platform formerly known as Twitter, was placing ads for major brands such as Apple and IBM next to ‘pro-Nazi content.’ After some prodding from Media Matters, within a day of their report, a slew of major corporations, such as IBM, Disney, Comcast, Sony, NBC, and Warner Brothers, announced they were pulling ads from X. As part of his announcement, Musk posted a statement making specific allegations that Media Matters technologically manipulated the service to produce the desired juxtapositions of ads and extremist content – and that these contrived ads were seen by virtually no one.” Since Musk, the owner of the platform, has records of every action performed by the Media Matters account, this should not be a hard allegation to prove (modulo discovery). More: “Recall that in 2020, both Facebook and Twitter (before it was owned by Musk) immediately censored the New York Post for reporting the details contained on Hunter Biden’s now-notorious laptop. One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that the reason organizations such as Media Matters are ginning up slurs against Elon Musk is because we are heading into another presidential election.” • It seems obvious to me that liberal Democrats, enamored of/employed by the Censorship Industrial Complex, are outraged that X, owned by Musk, slipped from their grasp (and worse, that Elon Musk aired their filthy laundry with the Twitter Files). Liberal Democrats regard continued embubblement as existential; X threatens that; hence the continued assaults that we see.

“Elon Musk on antisemitic great replacement theory post: ‘You have said the actual truth’” [Forward]. “Elon Musk approved of a social media post that claimed ‘western Jewish populations’ were ‘flooding their country’ with ‘hordes of minorities,’ writing to the user who posted the message, ‘you have said the actual truth.’ The exchange came Wednesday, after a user on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, which Musk owns, shared a video from Stand Up to Jewish Hate, and invited antisemites to express their bigotry ‘to our faces.’ In response, a user whose handle is ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Eric’ posted that Jews are ‘pushing’ a ‘dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.’ He then went on to state that Jews were pushing minorities into Western countries, a conspiracy theory known as the great replacement, which motivated a number of antisemitic and racist attacks, including the October 2018 Tree of Life Massacre.” • The article includes the thread, unlike most of the coverage, and this is an accurate description. I dunno. I should say I have strong priors here, because I saw what the spooks, the press, Parliamentary Labor, and the Israeli Embassy did to Jeremy Corbyn with (false) charges of anti-semitism, and so my hermeneutic, at this point, is to begin with the idea that all such charges are performative and motivated (see above). I do note that “the artist” — who writes a pretty incoherent tweet — doesn’t actually use the phrase “Great Replacement.”

“Why ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt is praising Elon Musk as advertisers flee X over antisemitism” [Jerusalem Post]. “Yet even as companies including IBM, Apple and Disney are pulling their ad dollars in protest, the ADL is continuing to buy ads on X — and Greenblatt has shifted to praising Musk, this time for what he says is a meaningful effort to fight antisemitism. Musk had written another post, saying that two phrases common to pro-Palestinian protests — ‘decolonization,’ and ‘from the river to the sea’ — ‘necessarily imply genocide.’ He added that users would be suspended if they posted ‘clear calls for extreme violence.’” • Accurate. Here is Musk’s tweet:

Then again, Musk’s “truth” tweet was November 15; this is November 17.

“Elon Musk Antisemitic Row: President Biden and VP Kamala Harris join ‘threads’” [Economic Times]. “The move of joining ‘Threads’ comes after the White House commented on recent Elon Musk’s antisemitic controversy where he shared a conspiracy theory on X.” • So now we have Presidents endorsing platforms. Awesome. Because we all know what a fine, upstanding young man Mark Zuckerberg is.

Lambert here: As readers know, my dream is that AI goes through the enshittification cycle with great rapidity and force. From my armchair at 30,000 feet, I don’t believe that AI is going to become a super-intelligence, or anything like it. Silicon Valley can’t even get self-driving cars to work, and surely that’s a simpler problem than artificial general intelligence. Rather, AI will bring about a Philip K. Dick-style dystopia, a world where it’s never possible to reach a human to resolve a problem. For example, consider the following value extraction chain: An AI at the hospital upcodes one of your medical treatments. An AI at the insurance company jacks up your bill. When you complain to the insurance company, your reach an AI, which sends you into an AI-generated fruitless phone-tree. The possibilities are limitless!

Tech: “The Sam Altman drama points to a deeper split in the tech world” [Yahoo Finance]. “What is clear, though, is that the events at Openai are the most dramatic manifestation yet of a wider divide in Silicon Valley. On one side are the ‘doomers’, who believe that, left unchecked, AI poses an existential risk to humanity and hence advocate stricter regulations. Opposing them are ‘boomers’, who play down fears of an AK apocalypse and stress its potential to turbocharge progress. The camp that proves more influential could either encourage or stymie tighter regulations, which could in turn determine who will profit most from ai in the future. OpenAI’s corporate structure straddles the divide. Founded as a non-profit in 2015, the firm carved out a for-profit subsidiary three years later to finance its need for expensive computing capacity and brainpower in order to propel the technology forward. Satisfying the competing aims of doomers and boomers was always going to be difficult.” • As you can see from my comment above, I’m neither a Doomer nor a Boomer. Sadly, I can’t nuke the false binary with another rhyming word. Perhaps “ill-humored”?

Tech: “Microsoft and OpenAI: Navigating a complex partnership post-shakeup” [CTECH]. “Late Sunday night, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman will join Microsoft, where he will head a ‘new advanced AI research team.’ Altman will be joined by former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, who resigned following Altman’s ouster, and a number of other executives and employees who also resigned in protest over the removal of Altman. ‘We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,’ Nadella wrote in a post he published on X (formerly Twitter). Altman responded briefly: ‘The mission continues.’” • Looks like Microsoft is giving Clippy another shot at the Big Time:

Tech: “Exclusive: OpenAI investors considering suing the board after CEO’s abrupt firing” [Reuters]. “Some investors in OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT, are exploring legal recourse against the company’s board, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday, after the directors ousted CEO Sam Altman and sparked a potential mass exodus of employees. Sources said investors are working with legal advisers to study their options. It was not immediately clear if these investors will sue OpenAI. Investors worry that they could lose hundreds of millions of dollars they invested in OpenAI, a crown jewel in some of their portfolios, with the potential collapse of the hottest startup in the rapidly growing generative AI sector.” • See, it’s very important that investors assume no risk. That’s what puts the “venture” in venture capital! I hope they lose all their money, and I hope the stock options of the OpenAI staffers become worthless. AI delenda est.

Lambert bere: Anyhow, the obvious framing is capital: Economic capital (the investors; stock options), social capital (Altman’s very powerful social network, originally based at Y Combinator); and symbolic capital (lanyards at a “hot” startup).

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 62 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 21 at 12:31:11 PM ET. Based on what? Iodine futures?

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged. Again! [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most! •

Photo Book

“Depictions of Eros and Thanatos: Sacred Trees of Shintō Shrines Through the Lens of Ōsaka Hiroshi” [Nippon]. “Since earliest times, trees that grow in forests and on the grounds of Shintō shrines have been the object of worship as protective deities and as the spirits of the dead. Such trees have withstood vicissitudes in the weather and climate year after year and their forms have been molded by centuries of hardship. Some are twisted and gnarled and others have intertwined with other trees until they have become parasites living off each other. Many have grown old, wilted, and died, while others continue to grow, their leaves and branches seemingly stretching heavenward. Humans have interpreted the fates that have befallen trees variously as warnings or as sources of purification and courage.” • For example:

The Gallery

Great composition:

And pardon my ignorance; I had no idea Hopper was operating as late as 1960. This isn’t exactly a period piece, is it?

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

“Knuth Airgaps & Knuth Buffers” [taylor.town]. “Knuth knows how to maintain information hygeine. Knuth is unreachable via digital communication. He airgaps himself from the internet:…. He also maintains airgaps between his machines.” • Awesome! Of course, Knuth has a secretary….

“The Low Down on the Greatest Dictionary Collection in the World” [Atlas Obscura]. “Madeline Kripke’s first dictionary was a copy of Webster’s Collegiate that her parents gave her when she was a fifth grader in Omaha in the early 1950s. By the time of her death in 2020, at age 76, she had amassed a collection of dictionaries that occupied every flat surface of her two-bedroom Manhattan apartment—and overflowed into several warehouse spaces. Many believe that this chaotic, personal library is the world’s largest compendium of words and their usage…. Kripke—”the mistress of slang,” in the words of one colleague—dedicated decades of her life to curating this collection of words, including countless ones we might like to forget. When she passed away without a will, the fate of her overwhelming library, plus a trove of documents on the history of dictionary making, was uncertain. Auctioning it off in lots could have brought the highest bids, but Kripke’s family worked in conjunction with the lexicographic community to preserve what Adams calls “her legacy.” That it was ultimately purchased in total by Indiana University Bloomington, a state university that committed to making the works accessible to the public, seems in keeping with the way Kripke herself viewed the collection, as a resource for the curious.” • So if any of you, readers, have similar collections of whatever sort, don’t take the risk Kripke took!

“How blogging is different from tweeting” [Mark Carrigan]. “It occurred to me recently that I feel extremely differently about ‘outputs’ via Twitter than blogs. I first came across the notion of the ‘ideas garden’ via Doug Belshaw and it suggests a blog can be seen as a place where you help ideas take root and grow. This contrasts with the inherently performative feel of Twitter where the focus on immediate feedback means that individual item becoming a focal point for your reflection. In other words I care about the reaction a tweet gets because it is self-standing and immediately public whereas a blog post is an element of a large whole. It is a contribution to growing my ideas garden, for my own later use and whatever enjoyment others find in it, rather than something I have expectations of receiving a reaction for. The blog itself then comes to feel like something more than the sum of its parts: a cumulative production over 13 years and 5000+ posts which captures my intellectual development in a way more granular and authentic than anything I could manage by myself. Over time I see old posts I’d forgotten about resurfacing as people stumble across them and this long tail heightens my sense of the emergent whole. It’s become an ideas forest which people wander into from different directions, finding trails which I had long since forgotten about and inviting me to explore a now overgrown area to see if I should begin tending to it once more.” • Well put!

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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 AF:

AF writes: “Fall cleanup at mom’s house and she asked me to trim these birch trees. I’ve always enjoyed the colors and textures that naturally occur on the bark, especially this time of year. Pine trees were planted on the north side for winter protection and a perennial bush is filling in the space between.” I will add that birch bark is wonderful for fire-starting, far superior to newspaper.

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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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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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