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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/18/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Black Phoebe (Northern). American Canyon Campground,, San Luis Obispo, California, United States. Here is the “media note” to end all media notes:

NOTES: dawn +0.67hrs; species cut number 11 BNA: Song Initially Peaked Vocalization (“Tieur”). Simple Vocalization (“Tsip”). mf [These calls appear to represent both Initially Peaked Vocalizations (IPVs) and Simple Vocalizations given by a pair of birds (see BNA and Smith, W. J. 1970. Song-like displays of Sayornis species. Behaviour 37: 64-84). All calls given before about 0:26 appear to represent IPVs (moslty “chevron-peaked” forms but with “fully humped” forms given at 0:045 and 0:20-0:25). After 0:26, however, things become more confusing because the IPVs of one bird seem to grade into the Simple Vocalizations of the other, indicating either individual variation in Simple Vocalizations or that one of the birds is giving calls intermediate between Simple Vocalizations and IPVs (see Figure 3 of Smith). Quality changed from 1-2 to 2-1 – CAM – 4 April 2005]. Other Behaviors: Advertise. Habitat: Evergreen Forest, Coniferous Forest, Deciduous Forest, Riparian, Canyon.

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“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

“Biden White House Mounts Absurd Defense on Classified-Document Discoveries” [National Review]. “There are now at least three groups of classified documents that were kept in President Biden’s private office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., and at his home in Wilmington, Del., and yet the White House is sticking with the absurd defense that the president takes handling classified information ‘very seriously.’…. Back on November 2, 2022 — before the midterm elections — one of Biden’s personal lawyers, Patrick Moore, was at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, located in D.C., going through old papers from Biden’s time as vice president. . Did the coverage of former president Donald Trump’s retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago spur someone on Biden’s team to worry that classified documents had gotten mixed in with Biden’s nonclassified personal papers?… Then, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland, on December 20, President Biden’s personal counsel notified U.S. Attorney John Lausch that additional documents bearing classification markings were identified in the garage of the president’s private residence in Wilmington, Del. And this past weekend, President Biden’s lawyers found six more pages of documents with classification markings at the Wilmington residence.” • That “why” question is one of the big questions, the other one being which Democrat faction is driving this? I assume Harris, simply on the basis of cui bono.

“Democrats scramble to limit fallout from Biden documents debacle” [Financial Times]. “‘I think that there are questions that the administration is going to have to answer,’ Jeff Jackson, a newly elected House Democrat from North Carolina, told CNN on Sunday. ‘I think those questions are going to maybe have to be answered personally by the president himself. I think that the sooner that happens, the better. Did he do anything to obstruct the investigation? Did he do anything to obstruct the return of those documents?’ Yet Jackson insisted he would still back Biden in 2024. ‘He won the last one, and I think he would be the odds-on favourite winning the next one,’ he said. So far there has not been enough polling to judge whether Biden is suffering politically. His approval rating is still hovering close to 44 per cent, its highest level since late 2021, according to the RealClear Politics Average.”

“Word from the Wise? Former Intelligence Official Admits That They Always Assumed the Hunter Biden Emails Were Genuine” [Jonathan Turley]. “Douglas Wise, a former Defense Intelligence Agency deputy director and former senior CIA operations officer, is back in the news this week. In an interview with The Australian, Wise admits that he and others always knew that the emails on the Hunter Biden laptop were likely genuine. It was a remarkable admission from one of more than 50 former intelligence officials who signed a letter dismissing the Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 presidential election as likely ‘Russian disinformation.’ Yet, Wise still maintains that, while true, he and the other officials were right to call it out as likely ‘disinformation.’ Arguing that something is true, but still constitutes disinformation sounds a lot like . . . well . . . disinformation. The infamous letter from the former intel officials (including such Democratic figures like John Brennan, James Clapper, Leon Panetta and Jeremy Bash) was used by the media to assure the public that there was nothing to see in the scandal. It was the perfect deflection in giving a cooperative media cover to bury the story of how the Biden family engaged in influence peddling worth millions with foreign figures, including some with foreign intelligence connections. It worked beautifully. It was not until two years later that NPR, the New York Times, and other media outlets got around to telling the public the truth. Now some of the signatories are trying to rehabilitate themselves. It is not hard. Figures like Bash have been rewarded for their loyalty. Others like Brennan and Clapper have become regulars on CNN to continue to give their takes on intelligence. Wise, however, has tried to find some redeemable role in the letter. He told The Australian that “All of us figured that a significant portion of that content had to be real to make any Russian disinformation credible.’” • I understand the argument: “‘And some of it is good,’ Smiley conceded [of Russian “chickenfeed”] ‘Very good, I do think, and so it should be.’” At the same time, that’s not the argument the intelligence community made.


“Trump trounces DeSantis in potential GOP primary match-up, new poll finds” [The Hill]. “A Morning Consult poll released Wednesday showed Trump with 48 percent support among potential Republican primary voters, followed by DeSantis with 31 percent. Trump’s front-runner position differs from some polls since the November midterm elections, which have shown DeSantis closing the gap with Trump or taking a lead in some cases.”

Republican Funhouse

“McCarthy says Santos will be seated on committee” [The Hill]. “Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday said Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) will be seated on committees, after the embattled freshman lawmaker admitted to embellishing parts of his résumé…. ‘I try to stick by the Constitution. The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern, and he has to go through the Ethics [Committee], let him move through that,’ McCarthy said, adding ‘he will continue to serve.’” • Personally, I think McCarthy is right, even if he does desperately need to hang onto Santos’s vote. And I really, really dislike the concept of Democrats unelecting electeds based on moral panics they gin up (which I think is the precedent they want to set with all this).

“Rick Scott uses ‘alcoholism’ as metaphor for current Social Security, Medicare spending levels” [Florida Politics]. “During an interview on WDUN radio, Scott compared current spending levels on the entitlement programs to ‘alcoholism,’ suggesting a ’12-step program’ was necessary to corral the fiscal liability while responding to a question from host Martha Zoller about Social Security and Medicare spending specifically. ‘First, let’s acknowledge we have a problem. It’s like alcoholism. The first step of the 12 steps is, ‘You have a problem!’ OK? We have a spending problem in this country.’” • That’s not the first step at all. The first step is: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” I’m not sure what kind of brain thinks that being “powerless over alchohol” is at all like making sure elders live out their lives in some small measure of dignity. Possibly a pickled one?

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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“Republicans introduce ‘Pandemic Is Over’ act after Biden’s ‘unacceptable’ extension of COVID emergency” [FOX]. • FAFO. Did the Democrats really think this would not happen?

“New York’s Socialist Bench Just Got Even Bigger” [Jacobin]. “As of last week, when new elected officials were sworn in and began their jobs in the Albany, New York state has a total of eight socialists serving in its Assembly and Senate — more socialist representation than any other state in the country, and more than New York has seen in over a century…. For socialists, a key part of the answer is socializing the provision of basic human needs: transit, education, health care, childcare, housing.” • And the means of production?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Violent Far-Right Terrorist Threat to the Republican Party and American Conservatism” [Council on Foreign Relations]. From the heart of The Blob, if Blob’s have hearts: “[T]hose who see election and policy defeats as the far right’s main or only danger to the Republican Party overlook a far more concrete peril: a direct and imminent terrorist threat to the party and its leaders. In fact, in the post-Trump era, Republican politicians are just as frequently targeted by conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric spread by the violent far right as more typical victims on the political left…. The threats against Republican politicians—whether explicit or implicit—often come from their conservative political rivals. In one campaign ad, Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens, flanked by heavily-armed commandos in tactical gear, stormed into a home and proudly declared, ‘Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit.’ Last September, after Mitch McConnell agreed to a government funding deal, Trump declared on his Truth Social site that McConnell ‘has a DEATH WISH.’ Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, the two Republicans who served on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, received a deluge of violent threats. One caller told the former, ‘Gonna get your wife, gonna get your kids.’ A Trump-supporting constituent in New York’s 2nd District pled guilty to threatening to kill Representative Andrew Garbarino after the congressman was one of thirteen House Republicans to join Democrats in voting for an infrastructure bill. And perhaps most seriously, in December, a failed Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas, Douglas Keith Casey, was charged with threatening to kill Congressman Randy Weber, alleging that Weber had committed fraud in the primary election—despite Weber, a staunch conservative, having previously been 1 of 126 House Republicans to sign a Texas Supreme Court amicus brief in 2020 seeking to undo the presidential election results in several key states….. And the political right’s most extreme fringe, featuring neo-Nazis and white supremacists, freely threatens both the right and left as part of their broader assault against the liberal democratic order… As scholars Colin P. Clarke and Tim Wilson write, for the modern violent far-right in its interactions with its own party, ‘disagreement is akin to treachery and violence can have a cleansing effect.’” • “Neo-Nazis and white supremacists” who are good in Ukraine, of course. In our “liberal democratic order.”


Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

• Davos (1):

• Davos (2):

• Davos (3):

Let’s review! For the 1%, the pandemic is not over (even though they tell you different). They protect themselves with testing, as we have seen, with HEPA filters, with outdoor air, and possibly with UV (even though they tell you you don’t need these things). But then you knew that: “How Ashish Jha and Rochelle Walensky of Newton, MA Protect Their Children from Covid (But not Yours)” (September 2022). NOTE The lack of masks is, I think; a calculated risk; the risk of failing to accumulate symbolic capital via smiling, etc., is too great.

* * *

The political class protects itself (but not you):

* * *

• “Extraordinary Evasion of Neutralizing Antibody Response by Omicron XBB.1.5, CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 Variants” (preprint) [bioRxiv]. From the Abstract:

This study investigates the extent of neutralizing antibody escape by new subvariants XBB.1.5, CH.1.1, and CA.3.1, as well as their impacts on spike protein biology. Our results demonstrated a nearly complete escape of these variants from neutralizing antibodies stimulated by three doses of mRNA vaccine, but neutralization was rescued by a bivalent booster. However, . We also assessed neutralization by sera from individuals infected during the BA.4/5 wave of infection and observed similar trends of immune escape. In these cohorts, XBB.1.5 did not exhibit enhanced neutralization resistance over the recently dominant BQ.1.1 variant. Notably, the spike proteins of XBB.1.5, CH.1.1, and CA.3.1 all exhibited increased fusogenicity compared to BA.2, correlating with enhanced S processing. Overall, our results support the administration of new bivalent mRNA vaccines, especially in fighting against newly emerged Omicron subvariants, as well as the need for continued surveillance of Omicron subvariants.

No, that’s not at all what the results support; we aren’t going to get out of this mess by going round and round on the vaccine treadmill. What th results demand is a layered strategy that has reduced transmission as its cornerstone.

• “Is ‘Long Covid’ similar to ‘Long SARS’?” [Oxford Open Immunology]. “It is clear that Long SARS (post SARS ongoing symptomatology) exists, persists (apparently permanently) and can be devastatingly life-changing for some. Sufficient similarities exist between Long SARS and Long Covid (PASC) in symptoms, findings and course over time (so far) that one can predict that it is very highly likely that some Long Covid disability will persist permanently. For those interested in rehabilitation, it is once more noted that the peer group support was very highly valued by the patients.” • This is the bottom line for a very long review article; the author is based in Toronto, which from 2002-2003 “had the largest [SARS] outbreak outside of Asia.” So no, Covid is not “the flu.”

• “Adverse maternal, fetal, and newborn outcomes among pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 infection: an individual participant data meta-analysis: [BMJ]. From the Abstract: “This analysis indicates that SARS-CoV-2 infection at any time during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal death, severe maternal morbidities and neonatal morbidity, but not stillbirth or intrauterine growth restriction.”

* * *

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from January 17:

Lambert here: For now, I’m going to use this wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical 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.

• Case data in Canada (where — hear me out — they actually collect it):

Still a pandemic. Not endemic.


Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map,” which is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) The map is said to update Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

The previous map:

NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published January 18:

-3.7.%. Still heading down.


Wastewater data (CDC), January 14:

The whole country’s gone grey again. What is wrong with these people?

January 10:

And MWRA data, January 10:

Lambert here: Unmistakably down, north and south. However, not all the students are back; BU classes begin January 19; Harvard’s January 22.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), December 30:

Lambert here: BQ.1* still dominates, XBB moving up fast. Note all the BQ subvariants; it’s almost like something’s encouraging them, like maybe a policy of mass infection. Sure hope none of ’em get lucky, like XBB.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), December 24 (Nowcast off):

BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) Here is Region 2, the Northeast, where both BQ.1* and XBB are said to be higher, and are:

Holy moley, XBB.1.5! (Makes clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we ended up with different variants dominating different parts of the country.

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated January 14:

A retreat from the steady rise I have found so concerning.

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 14:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total:1,125,895 – 1,125,558 = 337 (337 * 365 = 123,005 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).

Lambert here: Deaths lag, so we have a nice little jump here as a consequence of whatever it is we’ve been going through.

It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial Production in the United States increased 1.6% year-on-year in December of 2022, the smallest rise since March of 2021, following a 2.2% gain in November.”

Manufacturing: “United States Capacity Utilization” [Trading Economics]. “Capacity Utilization in the United States decreased to 78.8% in December of 2022, the lowest in a year, following a downwardly revised 79.4% in November and well below forecasts of 79.6%.”

Inflation: “United States Producer Prices Final Demand Less Foods and Energy YoY” [Trading Economics]. “The producer price index for final demand less foods and energy in the United States rose by 5.5 percent from a year earlier in December of 2022, easing from a 6.2 percent advance in November and below market expectations of a 5.7 percent gain.”

Retail: “United States Retail Sales YoY” [Trading Economics]. “Retail Sales in the United States increased 6% year-on-year in December of 2022, the same as a downwardly revised 6% rise in November, and the weakest rate since the end of 2020.”

* * *

Commodities: “U.S. Lithium Production Is Set To Explode” [OilPrice.com]. “The federal government is throwing money at lithium producers to develop lithium supply chains fast enough to support the rapid renewable sector growth targeted by the Inflation Reduction Act. Just last week, Australian lithium company Ioneer said that the U.S. Department of Energy gave them a conditional commitment of a loan of up to USD $700 million. The company’s main project will be in Nevada, at the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmeralda County. “When fully operational, the site will produce enough lithium for 400,000 electric vehicles,” CNBC reports, “while also producing boron.” The Rhyolite Ridge project is just the latest in a series of lithium companies to introduce new or expanded plants in the U.S. since the unveiling of the Inflation Reduction Act. In addition to more Nevada facilities, plans have also been announced for lithium production centers in North Carolina and Tennessee. The Rhyolite Ridge plant hasn’t even become operational, and already EV producers including Ford and Toyota have already inked offtake agreements with Ioneer, underscoring the growing anxiety that there might not be enough lithium to go around once EVs and short-term renewable energy storage take off in earnest. That anxiety is understandable. If all the gas-powered cars in the world were replaced with electric cars overnight, projections show that the global supply of lithium would be completely depleted in just fifty years. Of course, this is just a thought experiment, but it is an important reminder that .” • No duh!

Banking: “Bank of America customers encounter Zelle money transfer delays. Here’s what we know” [Charlotte Observer]. “Bank of America is experiencing delays in online transactions conducted via Zelle, the bank confirmed in an online notice to customers Wednesday morning. On outage tracker DownDetector.com, customers reported missing funds and unexpected negative balances due to the problems with the digital payment network…. Created in 2017, the network is operated by Early Warning Services LLC, a company co-owned by seven banks: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Truist, U.S. Bank, PNC and Capital One. But many other banks use Zelle — a total of more than 1,700. Zelle is now the country’s most widely used money transfer service, with more than double Venmo’s payment volumes… Unlike Venmo, CashApp or other similar services, Zelle transfers money instantaneously from bank account to bank account with no entity in between.” • Ooops…

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 65 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 55 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 18 at 1:35 PM EST.

Feral Hog Watch

“‘They’re here! They’re here!’: wild pigs are trying to take over Canada” [The Narwhale (Sub-Boreal)]. “Alberta’s strategy [against feral hogs] incentivizes hunting directly, offering to pay hunters $75 per set of ears. The CBC reported last fall that zero kills had been made in the bounty program, but Brook is not a fan of the idea. ‘I have been vocally saying that a bounty is a great option if you want more wild pigs. That is a fantastic strategy — if you want to double your pigs,’ [Ryan Brook, an associate professor in agriculture and bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan] said sarcastically. He explains that research shows hunting actually accelerates the spread of wild pigs, as they flee to new areas to evade hunters. Ontario’s strategy bans the recreational hunting of wild pigs, which he approves of. The Alberta government did not respond to The Narwhal’s request for comment. While the bounty might not have been claimed yet, wild boar hunting in Alberta is wildly popular, in part because there is no limit on the season. At HogWild Specialties in Mayerthorpe, owner Earl Hagman sells both wild boar meat and overnight hunting packages. Large trophy boar hunts are $1,800, and hunters can bring any legal weapon and are guided through the property. Hagman says the packages are popular, and the business hosts around 10 hunters per month. However, he says most people ‘come for the meat’ because of Hagmans ‘natural’ raising process: meat animals are $1,000 each. Aside from the lack of season or quantity limitations, hunters are excited by the ‘thrill-seeking’ element to wild boar hunting, Brook explained. ‘People call wild pigs the poor man’s grizzly, because it’s one of the few species, like wild grizzlies, that will actually try and kill you.’” • “You do you” applied to feral hog control.

The Gallery

Monet as brutalized with Twitter’s new algorithmic cropping on the timeline:

(Actually, this isn’t nearly as brutal as the beheadings I’ve seen. All that’s cropped off is… some sky. And the horizon line is in the wrong place.

Monet as painted:

We should think of Twitter — given its monopoly status as a universal addressing space — as a national, public, and free museum, with paintings and artwork hung, as in a gallery, on its timeline. From that perspective, Twitter’s new (old, really) cropping algo is an abomination. How hard is it to shrink artwork down to the right width, and leave the rest intact (to some limit of force majeure, like 600px wide and a mile long). They had the algo working fine for two years, then they reverted to 2020. Why?

Groves of Academe

Ganging up on the AI:

Yes, maybe leverage what humans do well…. Or should do…

Class Warfare

“Medical Residents Unionize Over Pay, Working Conditions” [Wall Street Journal]. “Physicians-in-training at top teaching hospitals across the country are joining unions, demanding higher pay and better working conditions. The Committee of Interns and Residents, the largest group representing doctors in residency and fellowship programs, said it added chapters at five teaching hospitals last year and two in 2021, up from a prepandemic pace of roughly one a year. CIR, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, said it represents about 15% of the nation’s 140,000 residents and fellows. The pandemic’s strains spurred residents to organize, said Simranvir Kaur, a fourth-year resident specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford Medicine, where most of some 1,400 Stanford residents voted to form a union last May. Residents were working longer shifts without extra compensation and treating Covid-19 patients without adequate protective gear, Dr. Kaur said. ‘When there’s extra work, the burden falls on us,’ Dr. Kaur said. Stanford, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., said it is negotiating a union contract with its residents and declined to comment further.” • Good. Maybe in a few years these doctors will bring us #MedicareForAll.

“David Harvey: Socialists Must Be the Champions of Freedom” [David Harvey, Jacobin]. From 2020, still germane. ” Freedom means nothing if you don’t have enough to eat, if you are denied access to adequate healthcare, housing, transportation, education, and the like. The role of socialism is to provide those basic necessities so that then people are free to do exactly what they want. The endpoint of a socialist transition is a world in which individual capacities and powers are liberated entirely from wants, needs, and other political and social constraints. Rather than conceding that the right wing has a monopoly over the notion of individual freedom, we need to reclaim the idea of freedom for socialism itself. But Marx also pointed out that freedom is a double-edged sword. Laborers in a capitalist society, he says, are free in a double sense. They can freely offer their labor power to whomsoever they want in the labor market. They can offer it on whatever conditions of contract they can freely negotiate. sBut they are at the same time un-free, because they have been ‘freed’ from any control over or access to the means of production. They have, therefore, to surrender their labor power to the capitalist in order to live. This constitutes their double-edged freedom. For Marx this is the central contradiction of freedom under capitalism. In the chapter on the working day in Capital, he puts it this way: the capitalist is free to say to the laborer: ‘I want to employ you at the lowest wage possible for the largest number of hours possible doing exactly the work I specify. That is what I demand of you when I hire you.’ And the capitalist is free to do that in a market society because, as we know, market society is about bidding about this and bidding about that. On the other hand, the worker is also free to say, ‘You don’t have a right to make me work 14 hours a day. You don’t have a right to do anything you like with my labor power, particularly if that shortens my life and endangers my health and well-being. I am only willing to do a fair day’s work at a fair day’s wage.’ Given the nature of a market society, both the capitalist and the worker are right in terms of what they’re demanding. So, says Marx, they are both equally right by the law of exchanges that dominate in the market. Between equal rights, he then says, force decides. Class struggle between capital and labor decides the issue. The outcome rests on the power relation between capital and labor which can at some point turn coercive and violent.” • Rule #2.

News of the Wired

“The Terminal Escape Sequences Ocean is Deep and Dark: Debugging a Virtual Terminal” [Ethan Heilman]. • You’ll like this, if this is the sort of thing you like.

“Dads Have Been Older than Moms since the Dawn of Humanity, Study Suggests” [Scientific American]. “The researchers found that 26.9 years was the overall average age of conception during the past 250,000 years. But breaking this down by sex showed that men averaged around 30.7 years when they conceived a child, compared with 23.2 years for women. The numbers fluctuated over time, but the model suggested that men consistently had children later in life than women.” • Later than I would have thought. Hmm.

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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 RM:

RM writes: “May 14th in the little costal town of Hellvik Norway. No idea what it is but puts on a grand show.”

Kind readers, I think I have enough plants for now. Of course, you are always welcome to send more!

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