2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2023 | naked capitalism | #ThePayoff Wordle 613 X #twug Tommie #JJK214 Yuji Adin Ross #RHONJ #JJKSpoilers Creighton Vivek Daily Quordle 394

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I thought of jackdaws because of Konrad Lorenz’s wonderful King Solomon’s Ring, which I read when I was quite young (and unaware of Lorenz’s views on “social decline”).

EUrasian Jackdaw, Nord-Pas-de-Calais (retired), France. “Call, flight call.” And breaking waves?

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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

“Jill Biden says the US and Namibia ‘face many of the same challenges’” [The Hill]. “After the visit, the first lady and granddaughter Naomi Biden handed out boxes of White House M&Ms to a group of about 40 children standing outside in Katutura. ‘Hello, how are you? Candy from the White House!’ the first lady said. When she ran out of candy and a little boy came up to her, she gave him the tote bag the candy came in.”

“The Yalies take the wheel” [Politico]. “When President JOE BIDEN took office, he vowed to get rid of the buttoned-up, elitist culture that often defines Washington and, more specifically, White House hiring — the ‘pale, male and Yale’ flavor, as the old saying goes. Biden has made progress on the ‘pale’ and ‘male’ fronts, naming an all-female communications team when he first took office and elevating Black and Latino staffers to key decision-making roles. But he can’t seem to shake the Yale part. Or, more specifically, Yale Law School.” Goodness, it almost makes you think class > identity, where results are concerned. More; “Out of roughly 140 lawyers in the White House, approximately 36 hold degrees from Yale Law School, more than any other law school, according to a West Wing Playbook analysis. That figure doesn’t include the dozens of Yale Law graduates who have been appointed to agency positions throughout the Biden administration. The density of Yale lawyers on the White House campus has become a bit of a joke among some staffers who say it’s hard to go into a room without bumping into at least one alumni.” • George W. Bush, DeSantis, the Biden Administration…. I don’t think it’s fair, though, to remark on the “density” of Yale lawyers. Some of them are pretty bright, at least in their narrowly specialized fields.


“Watch: Trump stops at McDonald’s during East Palestine visit” [Fox8]. “While visiting the site of the horrific train derailment in East Palestine Wednesday, former President Donald Trump stopped in at a local restaurant — McDonald’s. ‘Is everyone willing to accept free food from Trump?’ he asked as he walked into the fast food spot, saying he planned to also purchase food for the local fire and police departments. He told the employees he knew the menu better than them and asked for a ‘nice array of things,’ while refraining to make an order for himself. Fielding questions from reporters, while getting his photo taken by nearby customers and employees alike, the President said he did not believe deregulation had anything to do with the train incident and that he had traveled to the area to make sure residents were taken care of.” • On “regulation,” see under Class Warfare; note that none of the reporters asked him about Precision Scheduled Railroading (and Trump, not being a detail person to say the least, probably doesn’t even know). Two Democrats react:

Always good to see liberal Democrats calling for the deaths of their political opponents; it’s an ever-green trope! Note also the focus on being smart (vs. IQ of 50), the deregulation talking point (it’s Trump’s fault the brake systems are bad, not Precision Scheduled Railroading and the “hot box”). Then there’s the usual refusal to accept reponsibility (Trump and Biden killed a million people between them, Biden killed more, and in my view has the greater culpabiliity, because he should have known better than to adopt a policy of mass infection without mitigation).

Personally, I think this is a good look for Trump, and not just because Biden was off swanning about in Kiev; Trump looks good striding around on the February grass in the black coat and red hat, no tie; it’s a much better look than the pomp of Air Force One. Still waiting for quondam Presidential hopeful and Democrat, Sherrod Brown, to show up. Then again, why would be? They’re only citizens.

“DeSantis wades into foreign policy, Ukraine” [The Hill]. “During an appearance on ‘Fox & Friends’ on Monday, the Florida governor and prospective White House contender blasted the Biden administration’s aid to Ukraine as a ‘blank-check policy’ and played down the threat that Moscow poses to NATO member countries in Europe. ‘They have effectively a blank-check policy with no clear strategic objective identified,’ DeSantis said. ‘These things can escalate. And I don’t think it’s in our interest to be getting into a proxy war with China getting involved over things like the borderlands or over Crimea.’” • Not the most coherent sentence. And not correct, either. There is a clear strategic objective in Ukraine: Regime change and the breakup of Russia. Not that we’re anywhere near achieving either of those things.

“The Forgotten Ron DeSantis Book” [The Atlantic]. Dreams From Our Founding Fathers (2011), a clear reference and contrast to Obama’s Dreams From My Father (the dude wrote two autobiographies; that should have told us something, in retrospect). It’s paywalled, but there’s this nugget: “Two of his children are named Madison and Mason presumably after James Madison and George Mason, the most intellectually interesting of the Virginians who helped fashion the Constitution.” I guess I can’t make jokes about how the PMC fights the battle against intergenerational precarity by sending “little Madison” to violin lessons. Oh well.

Republican Funhouse

“Why Are Republicans Going After ‘Wokeness’ Instead of Going After Biden?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “For the last couple of years, but especially so this year, Republicans have used a war on ‘woke’ to rally their voters. It feels as if there’s more energy on the right for defeating the ideology of ‘wokeness’ than in defeating President Biden. Talk to a bunch of GOP voters and many, if not most, describe the president as mentally compromised. Many think the 80-year-old president is simply a puppet who is being manipulated by liberal leaders to do their bidding. This isn’t to say that Republicans don’t want to see Biden defeated. They do. But, Biden himself doesn’t garner the same sort of intense seething and gnashing of teeth from Republicans that the prospect of another Trump term brings out in Democrats. One of the biggest targets for ‘anti-woke’ legislation is transgender issues and kids. According to the website Track Trans Legislation, 38 states have seen anti-trans bills proposed in 2023, including 107 bills that focus on health care restriction for youth and 75 bills that address school/curriculum issues. On its face, this is an issue that not only gets support from conservatives, but also finds acceptance across a more broad cross-section of the public. Washington Post columnist David Byler wrote that the public ‘has recently become less open to transgender rights’ quoting surveys showing that “sixty percent of American adults reported last summer that they oppose including options other than ‘male’ and ‘female’ on government documents. Fifty-eight percent favor requiring transgender athletes to compete on teams that match their sex at birth. Forty-one percent say transgender individuals should be required to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth (31 percent disagree and 28 percent don’t have a position). And Americans are roughly evenly split on whether public elementary schools should teach about gender identity.’ One of the reasons to talk this up, of course, is not simply to motivate the base, but to lure Democrats into a fight on terrain that is more challenging for them. Democrats would rather fight Republicans on issues where they have a noted advantage, like protecting Social Security and Medicare, than on things like gender identity where their coalition is divided.” • It has been my view for some time that sex and gender would be an issue in 2024; and that it would be ugly. Republican governors — Youngkin, DeSantis — are well-positioned to exploit this issue, since it’s mostly being fought out at the school board level. I also don’t know if the Democrats are that divided. The NGOs are not; the elected leadership is not.

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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What a great quote from SBF:

“[W]oke shit for transactional purposes.” Surely not? Atrios is 100% correct:

Still waiting for the blockbuster stories!

“‘Moderate PAC’ is latest big-money push to keep Democrats in line on Israel” [MondoWeiss]. “A new Democratic political action committee (PAC) has arisen, dedicated to cultivating what it refers to as ‘moderate policies.’ It stands against Republicans, as it supports only Democrats, but primarily, it aims to move the Democratic party to the right. It’s the latest iteration of conservative efforts to revive the classical conservatism that has been drowned by right-wing fanaticism, creating the so-called “Never-Trump Republicans” who don’t have a political home for the moment…. The new PAC, which intends to raise at least $20 million to target progressive candidates in the 2024 election, currently has only one major donor: billionaire Jeffrey Yass. That name may not be familiar to most Americans, but it’s one we need to get to know better. Yass, often referred to as the richest person in Pennsylvania, is the driving force behind funding for the Kohelet Forum, an organization that bears a great deal of responsibility for pushing Israeli policy to the far right, and whose network expands not only throughout Israel but also deep into the United States…. In the U.S., Yass is a major figure in the background of Republican donations. He is a leading funder of Club for Growth, which supports the Trump base of the Republican party, including many who sought to overturn the 2020 election.” • Oh good. More on Yass from (sigh) WikiPedia: “He is the co-founder and managing director of the Philadelphia-based Susquehanna International Group (SIG) and an early investor in TikTok. In 2001, he joined the executive advisory council of the Cato Institute.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Will the Left Stand Up to the Deep State?” [Compact]. “In 2020, Mickey Windecker showed up in Denver smoking cigars, driving a hearse loaded with guns, and talking ultra-radical claptrap about having served with Marxist Kurdish guerrillas in Syria. Despite his preposterous persona, Windecker managed to entrap one BLM activist into pleading guilty on weapons charges. He also worked to inflame peaceful demonstrations by ‘encouraging people to break windows and leading marches directly into police traps.’ Windecker and his FBI handlers even attempted to recruit BLM activists into an assassination plot against Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. Ultimately unsuccessful, this scheme shows the outrageous lengths to which the bureau will go to manufacture threats. It is reasonable to assume this was not the only recent FBI infiltration of a left political movement.” • So, the Democrats have a very clear choice here: Supporting BLM, or the organs of state security. I wonder why their choice will be?


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!

• Readers, since the national data systems in the United States are being vandalized, let’s start collecting links to state data, too. If readers would send me links (see Plant below) to their favorite State and local dashboards/wastewater sites, that would be great. Canadians, too! Or leave a link in Comments.

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Resources, United States (Local): CA (dashboard), Marin; CO (wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NM (dashboard); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater). No longer functional: UT (dashboard).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Festoonic, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JF, Joe, John, JM (2), JW, Michael King, LaRuse, mrsyk, otisyves, Petal (5), RK, nRL, RM, Rod, tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White. (Readers, 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 to scan. (If you leave your link in comments, I use your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle.)

• More like this, please! Total: 1 6 11 18 20 22 26/50 (52% 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!

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Look for the Helpers

“Inside these parents’ long, nerdy struggle over how to improve air quality in Calgary schools” [CBC]. “[T]his stuff matters, especially for Canadians, who spend so much time indoors during the winter months. These systems deliver the majority of the air we breathe…. School administrators say they’ve upgraded the filters in these systems “wherever possible” to a higher standard, known as MERV-13. These filters are much better at trapping tiny particles, such as viruses, in the air…. Both the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) say they’ve put ventilation upgrades at the core of their strategy to improve air quality in schools. In addition to MERV-13 filters, they say they have taken additional protective steps, such as setting the systems to maximize fresh-air intake and running them in ‘occupied mode’ before and after school each day to further flush out stale air and replace it with clean air. In Edmonton, however, the public school board has gone a step further. It made similar upgrades to its ventilation systems, but it didn’t stop there. It also purchased nearly 6,000 portable HEPA filter units — enough for every classroom and office — as an additional layer of protection from viruses, allergens and other airborne particles that can make people sick. ‘We invested in these measures in an effort to provide the safest possible learning and working environments for our staff and students,’ said Veronica Jubinville, a spokesperson with Edmonton Public Schools. Those portable HEPA filters were installed in Edmonton last spring. Ever since, the group of concerned parents here in Calgary have been wondering why the same can’t happen in their kids’ classrooms. ‘I can’t understand why anyone would block these measures,’ said Lacey Elliot, who has one child in kindergarten and another in Grade 2. ‘We all breathe air. We know how viruses are transmitted. We have the resources to keep our kids healthy and further help alleviate this public health issue. Why would we not do this?’” • Worth reading in full. The parents smuggled in CO2 meters!


“More than $200 Million in City-Purchased COVID Gear Auctioned Off For Just $500,000” [The City]. “An investigation by THE CITY has determined that since last summer, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has systematically tried to auction off millions of dollars worth of COVID-related personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies — gowns, face shields, hand sanitizer, KN95 masks, N95 masks — that the department decided are no longer needed. Many of these supplies remain in their original packaging and are brand-new. The City was able to connect specific auctions to 20 COVID-related medical supply contracts and confirmed the sales with a source familiar with the agency’s auction efforts who spoke to THE CITY on the condition of anonymity. About 9.5 million items purchased by the city government from $224 million in COVID-related contracts at the pandemic’s 2020 peak have been auctioned so far, garnering about $500,000.” • Why on earth didn’t the City just give it all away, to protect its own citizens?

Another flawless victory for scientific communication from the public health establishment:

Elite Malfeasance

“The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Be Over When Americans Think It Is” [Steven Phillips, Time]. “[T]he country will not fully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic until most people in our diverse nation accept the risk and consequences of exposure to a ubiquitous SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” • Rule #2. Hilarity ensues: Once again, “personal risk assessment” is an enormous tax on time. Further, the powers-that-be are systematically removing all the data sources the general public would use to perform risk assessments; Johns Hopkins shutting down its laudable efforts being only the most recent. Finally, elites have no inclination whatever to accept the “risks and consequences of exposure”; hence Davos Man ventilating and filtering his air; Biden ventilating and filtering his gymnasium appearance; and Jha and Walensky’s wealthy community spending millions to ventilate its school system. More: “A recent national poll demonstrates a strikingly divided public, not ready to make peace with the virus: while nearly half say that they have returned to their pre-COVID life, one-third still believe this is more than a year away or never.” “Make peace” with the virus? Did this dude really write that? “Make peace” with the vascular and neurological damage? “Make peace” with Long Covid? Also, one-third is a remarkably high number, given the enormous wave of eugenicist propaganda that daily engulfs us. Finally: “Instead a sharper understanding can be gained through an agnostic evaluation of the evidence and science. Today, this strongly supports a new paradigm of ‘living with the virus’ through accepting exposure for most Americans.” • What a vile screed. Phillips is a member of the American College of Epidemiology. I wonder if they support his view? Or have they joined what can only be characterized as a death cult? (Not for elites, of course; just for the rest of us.) Phillips is quite a character:

I don’t accept “dictates”; that’s not how Flex Nets work. Still, it’s good to know that Phillips is Blob-adjacent.

“The Flu-ification of COVID Policy Is Almost Complete” [The Atlantic]. The deck: “The government is pushing harder than ever to make ‘yearly COVID shots’ a thing.” Fortunately, the Covid variant train only leaves once a year. “A seasonal strategy works best for a seasonal virus—and SARS-CoV-2 just isn’t there yet, says Hana El Sahly, an infectious-disease physician at Baylor College of Medicine. Though flu viruses tend to hop between the globe’s hemispheres, alternately troubling the north and the south during their respective cold months, this new coronavirus has yet to confine its spread to one part of the calendar. (Marks, of the FDA, tried to address this concern at today’s meeting, asserting that “we’re starting to see some seasonality” and that fall was indeed very sensible for an annual rollout.) SARS-CoV-2 has also been spitting out concerning variants and subvariants at a faster rate than the flu (and flu shots already have a hard time keeping up with evolution). The FDA’s new proposal suggests picking SARS-CoV-2 variants in June to have a vaccine ready by September, a shorter timeline than is used for flu. That still might not be fast enough: “By the time we detect a variant, it will have ripped through the global population and, in a few more weeks, died down,” El Sahly told me. The world got a preview of this problem with last year’s bivalent shot, which overlapped with the dominance of its target subvariants for only a couple of months. A flu model for COVID would make more sense “if we had stable, predictable dynamics,” says Avnika Amin, a vaccine epidemiologist at Emory University. “I don’t think we’re at that point.”

The Jackpot

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 21:

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.

Lambert here: Once again, what happened on or before March 16? I’ve marked the date on the chart, because at least one other person has an answer:

I don’t think there’s just one factor, though. Walensky’s scarlet letter remark was February 24, 2022 (which speaks to keeping the case rate high, no matter that the case count is low).


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 23:

-1.8%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,143,760 – 1,142,981 – 1,142,704 = 779 (779 * 365 = 284,335 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). Well, the total wasn’t 192 again. Not that I feel better about it.

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. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)

• “Why the Covid-19 Death Toll in the U.S. Is Still Rising” [Wall Street Journal]. “The U.S. averaged about 400 deaths a day in a three-month span covering November through January, based on weekly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts of death certificates listing Covid-19 as the underlying or contributing cause. Data from the most recent weeks are incomplete. There has been significant improvement: The country averaged roughly 1,700 deaths a day in the same period a year before. The same wintertime period two years ago was even worse: about 2,800 daily deaths. The current pace, however, is still enough to keep Covid-19 among the major causes of death in the U.S. The disease ranked at No. 3 in 2020 and 2021, behind heart disease and cancer, and might rank there again in 2022 Deaths caused by Covid are heavily concentrated among the elderly, an analysis of CDC data shows. In recent weeks people 75 years and older have represented about seven of every 10 Covid-19 deaths. This age group peaked at 64% of the total during the severe winter surge two years ago and tumbled as low as a one-third of deaths when the Delta variant struck in 2021.” • Well, at least we’re helping to keep the Social Security trust fund solvent. Everyone must do their part!

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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The Bezzle: “Science Fiction Magazines Battle a Flood of Chatbot-Generated Stories” [New York Times]. “The editors of three science fiction magazines — Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction — said this week that they had been flooded by submissions of works of fiction generated by A.I. chatbots…. [Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld] declined to be more specific, saying he did not want to give those submitting the stories any advantages. The writing is also ‘bad in spectacular ways,’ Mr. Clarke said. ‘They’re just prompting, dumping, pasting and submitting to a magazine.’ He wrote on Twitter that the submissions were largely ‘driven by ‘side hustle’ experts making claims of easy money with ChatGPT.’ ‘It’s not just going to go away on its own, and I don’t have a solution,’ Mr. Clarke wrote on his blog. ‘I’m tinkering with some, but this isn’t a game of whack-a-mole that anyone can ‘win.’ The best we can hope for is to bail enough water to stay afloat. (Like we needed one more thing to bail.)’” • So OpenAI has enabled bottom-feeder tech hustlers to cream off the margin of small literary magazines. Swell. Good job. Progress.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 72 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 22 at 1:58 PM ET.

Photo Book


“Protecting the Legitimacy of Medical Expertise” [New England Journal of Medicine]. “Medical licensing gives doctors something uncommon in the United States: monopoly protection precluding unlicensed people from competing to provide services. In upholding the legality of state licensing of doctors in 1889, the Supreme Court observed that because ‘comparatively few can judge of the qualifications of [a physician’s] learning and skill,’ the public must rely on ‘the assurance given by his license, issued by an authority competent to judge in that respect, that he possesses the requisite qualifications.’ Licensing boards — composed largely of physicians, with some representation from the lay public — therefore have an obligation to ensure that the practitioners they license meet certain minimum standards. Additional privileges are conferred by certifying boards, which provide assurance that the specialized physicians they certify have met professionally determined standards at the end of training and over the course of their career; board certification is commonly relied on as part of hiring and privileging decisions in health care settings…. [E]xpertise and authority are increasingly seen as means for elites to establish and support existing hierarchies…. Perhaps the most substantial threat to expertise is that members of the public are coming to believe that facts don’t exist — that all facts are political and therefore a matter of opinion.” • The immediate stimulus for this article is state legislation prohibiting doctors from perscribing Ivermectin. That controversy aside, a remarkable number of M.D.s are swerving out of their lanes (see here) and leveraging their credentials to take eugenicist views on masking, epidemiology, public health, and so forth. If ever there is an example of “establishing” and “supporting” “existing hierarchies,” this is it. Ditto “facts don’t exist,” of which anti-masker doctors provide many fine examples. And speaking of IVM:

Note once again the hospital-centric viewpoint: Prophylaxis isn’t considered in Swaminathan’s little joke. And I like Greenhalgh; she’s done some great work!

Groves of Academe

Our Famously Free Press

Class Warfare

East Palestine:

“Railroaded Part Four – NTSB report day in East Palestine and my interview about it with The Lever” (interview) [The Holler]. John Russell of The Holler is interviewed by Frank Capallo of The Level: “[CAPALLO]: “You’ve also been speaking to the rail workers about this specific derailment, which they are saying was caused by a wheel bearing issue rather than the brake system. So can you go into a little bit of detail about that? Because I don’t think this is something that our audience has really heard about yet. [RUSSELL:] But there’s video of this wheel bearing glowing white hot for as much as 20 miles before the derailment. And this was caught by ring doorbell cameras, security footage, etc…. Because had these braking system has been updated and the chemicals classified accurately this disaster and the response likely would have been much less terrible. Rail workers have been telling me about this wheel bearing since I arrived here. And they’ve also told me that PSR, precision scheduled railroad, has put pressure on every aspect of how the railroads are run, including inspection and maintenance on things like wheel bearings.” • Well, I’m glad that finally somebody at The Level knows about the bearing (“the hot box“). (It has occurred to me that the immediate focus on regulating braking systems + regulation vs. bearings + Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has appeal for liberal Democrats, (a) because they could focus on blaming Trump (correctly) for deregulation, while (b) not talking to actual rail workers, who they just screwed over with their anti-strike legislation, and (c) definitely avoided talking about worker empowerment, let alone nationalization, which talking about PSR would have entailed. I was surprised to see Lever News erasing the views of rail workers, but these are strange times). However, I don’t see a reason to split the difference on braking systems. Again, if you investigate what rail workers have to say, you will find that the East Palestine train was improperly “blocked,” with the heavy cars at the front. I would need to know that new braking systems would bring an improperly blocked train to a safe stop. This is naturally not addressed

More on Norfolk Southern:

The thread also details another Norfolk Southern “hot box” incident, this time on an engine, which led to a derailment in which “dumped thousands of gallons of molten paraffin wax in the city of Sandusky, also in Ohio.”

“Norfolk Southern CEO to East Palestine residents: ‘I understand the anger’” [The Hill]. No, you don’t. You really don’t. “Jim Stewart, who said he has lived in East Palestine for 65 years, said that he no longer feels safe in the town, and is worried about the value of his home. He said he has had a lingering cough since the derailment and has developed a rash on his cheek. ‘Did you shorten my life, now? I want to retire and enjoy it. How are we gonna enjoy it? You burned me,’ he said. ‘We were going to sell our house. Our value went poof. Do I mow the grass? Do I — can I plant tomatoes next summer? What can I do? I’m afraid to.’” •

“Ohio train derailment: Residents confront officials as Norfolk Southern announces new cleanup plan” [ABC]. [Norfolk Southern Railway President and CEO Alan Shaw.] told East Palestine residents that Norfolk Southern is ‘absolutely focused on safety’ and the company invests more than $1 billion each year toward maintenance and equipment. But he admitted that ‘clearly this is a situation where our safety culture and our investments didn’t prevent this accident.’” • Nor did your bonuses, stock buybacks, or Precision Scheduled Railroading. “Safety culture” my Sweet Aunt Fanny. So guys like Shaw, that means having one man drive a two-mile long train. That’s what they’re aiming for, and it’s ridiculous.

“Norfolk Southern, in wake of toxic derailment, gives in on sick days for one of its unions” [CNN]. “Norfolk Southern has agreed to give one of its unions the paid sick days it demanded for members in negotiations last year, and is in talks to grant sick days to its other unions as well. The announcement comes hours after the company’s chief financial officer, Mark George, told investors that it is still struggling to fill the open positions it has at almost all 95 locations where staff is based. George also said the company may have cut staff too deep during the early days of the pandemic, and that it has had trouble bringing back laid-off staff members. ‘Norfolk Southern’s success is built upon , and we are committed to improving their quality of life in partnership with our union leaders,’ said Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw in a statement announcing the deal.” • Sounds like Shaw doesn’t want the railroads to be nationalized. We should do that whether he wants it or not.

News of the Wired

“‘He created something magical’: Calvin and Hobbes fans rejoice as creator plans first work in decades” [Guardian]. ” Last week’s announcement of Watterson’s first major work in nearly 30 years – The Mysteries, a vibrantly illustrated “fable for grown-ups” – stunned fans and called for celebration. ‘This is pretty exciting and monumental that he’s releasing a whole book,’ says Nevin Martell of Washington DC, a lifelong reader and the author of Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, a story of the strip and Watterson that’s also part memoir. ‘I’m surprised and yet not surprised – surprised in the sense that he’s putting something out, not surprised that since he is putting something out, it’s so wildly different from what he did on Calvin and Hobbes.’… The book is a collaboration between Watterson and the celebrated caricaturist John Kascht, and it appears far bleaker than either illustrator’s earlier work. The few published panels are sombre and foreboding, presented in shades of gray. ‘The style of the writing, the style of the art is intensely different from Calvin and Hobbes. And I think that’s a very conscious decision on [Watterson’s] part. He would not ever want to be pigeonholed as just the Calvin and Hobbes guy,’ Martell says.”

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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 KR:

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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:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:

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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