2:00PM Water Cooler 3/14/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Eastern Bluebird, Sharpsburg, Washington, Maryland, United States. “Male Eastern Bluebird singing at dawn.”

* * *


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

Capitol Seizure

“Pence says Trump ‘endangered my family’ on Jan. 6” [USA Today]. “‘President Trump was wrong,’ Pence said during remarks at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner attended by politicians and journalists. ‘I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.’”


“Virginia judge uses slavery-era law to argue human embryos can be considered property” [FOX]. “A Virginia judge determined that frozen human embryos are legally considered property, using a 19th century law regarding the treatment of slaves as the legal reasoning for his decision…. The law at the heart of the case governs how to divide ‘goods and chattels.’ The judge ruled that because embryos could not be bought or sold, they couldn’t be considered as such and therefore Honeyhline had no recourse under that law to claim custody of them. But after the ex-wife’s lawyer, Adam Kronfeld, asked the judge to reconsider, Gardiner conducted a deep dive into the history of the law. He found that before the Civil War, it also applied to slaves. The judge then researched old rulings that governed custody disputes involving slaves, and said he found parallels that forced him to reconsider whether the law should apply to embryos.”

Biden Administration

“Playbook: Biden’s crude move to the center” [Politico]. “We didn’t detect much of a classic triangulation strategy in Biden’s State of the Union speech — the junk fees riff was an exception — but since then he has made a series of high-profile moves that are disappointing progressives and creating a ‘Biden-moves-to-the-center’ narrative…. Deficit reduction…. Crime…. Immigration. For two-plus years, Biden has done a better-than-expected job keeping progressives and moderates together. He seems awfully unlikely to draw a primary challenger from the left, especially given the fact that the most influential progressive, Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.), is already backing Biden. And the DNC’s recently adopted primary schedule offers additional insurance by making South Carolina, where moderates have an advantage, the first primary state…. On the other hand, Biden’s current political situation obviously creates more incentives to tack to the center. He now has a Republican House that is cooking up a series of votes, like the crime-law repeal, to force Biden into difficult choices, and the simmering budget fight also gives him an incentive to emphasize spending restraint. With no primary opponent in sight, Biden is also highly motivated to see all big policy decisions in terms of how they will affect the general election, where moderate suburban voters, many of whom only recently fled the MAGA-fied Republican Party, will once again be the crucial swing vote.”

“The weird alliance between Matt Gaetz and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (it’s a good thing)” [Ryan Grim, Bad News]. “[T]he bipartisanship was real. Ilhan Omar, in fact, worked directly with Gaetz to get him to fix what was a mess of an original resolution. His first version gave just 15 days to evacuate Syria, which is as absurd as it sounds, and Omar warned him he’d lose every Democratic vote and most Republicans if we went with that. He agreed to bump it up to six months. So Omar, despite being outrageously kicked off the Foreign Affairs Committee by Republicans, is still playing a serious role in foreign policy.”


“Marianne Williamson” [Council on Foreign Relations]. A round-up of Williamson’s views on foreign policy. This caught my eye: “She would create a cabinet-level department of peace to counterbalance the Department of Defense. It would focus on preventing conflict, replacing military aid with peace-building programs, and increasing humanitarian aid.” • CFR’s link is broken, however.

“The Tragic Conundrum Of Ukraine” [Marianne Williamson, Transform]. “For those of us who have spent years opposing the influence of the military industrial complex on U.S. foreign policy, the situation poses a peculiar challenge. It’s possible to believe that the undue influence of the U.S. war machine – aided in Washington by “the Blob” of foreign policy experts – is very real, and at the same time believe the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a criminal venture that cannot be tolerated by the world. The United States has perpetrated its own egregious imperialistic ventures, a fact which shouldn’t be ignored by anyone. It’s not an overstatement to say that millions of people around the world – including thousands of U.S. military – have died as a result of our own misadventures. But that does not, and should not, give Vladimir Putin a pass on perpetrating an imperialistic war of his own…. Should Ukraine be given a blank check by the United States? No, it should not. But should it be given further support to push back an aggressor who would end its sovereign right to exist? I believe it should.”

“Marianne Williamson’s ‘This Week’ interview: Full transcript about her 2024 campaign” (transcript) [ABC]. ” I support the President’s basic policy here. If we were to if we were to withdraw military support from Ukraine right now, there would be no Ukraine. That is not acceptable to me…. [W]hile I do not support all of the rhetoric of the president regarding — regarding this war, for the most part, for the most part, I support that policy.” • Either “hypercapitalism” is “a sociopathic economic system” or it isn’t.

“Democratic leaders want the party to stop its Kamala Harris pile-on ahead of 2024” [CNN]. “Elizabeth Warren has called twice to apologize. Over a month later, Kamala Harris hasn’t called back. In a local Boston radio interview in late January, Warren was enthusiastic about President Joe Biden running for reelection but, asked if Biden should keep Harris as his running mate, she said, ‘I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team.’ … ‘Pretty insulting,’ is how one person close to Harris described the feelings of many in the vice president’s office and in her wider orbit…. [T]he Warren moment is infuriating many in Harris’s circle: To them, it’s the latest in a long string of snubs to a vice president whom they say has never gotten the respect or support she deserves. Warren’s words sting even more, they say, because they came from a former rival who in 2020 hoped to be picked as Biden’s running mate instead.” • I think if Biden slipped a cog Warren would throw her snake in the ring in a heartbeat.

“Ron DeSantis Says Protecting Ukraine Is Not a Key U.S. Interest” [New York Times]. “The venue Mr. DeSantis chose for his statement on a major foreign policy question revealed almost as much as the substance of the statement itself. The statement was broadcast on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” on Fox News. It was in response to a questionnaire that the host, Mr. Carlson, sent last week to all major prospective Republican presidential candidates, and is tantamount to an acknowledgment by Mr. DeSantis that a candidacy is in the offing…. ‘While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,’ Mr. DeSantis said in a statement that Mr. Carlson read aloud on his show.”

“Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Becomes Campaign Topic as GOP Warns Against Bailout” [Wall Street Journal]. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to enter the 2024 GOP nomination race later this year, suggested the bank’s collapse was related to the institution being distracted by diversity, equity and inclusion goals. He often argues such efforts go too far. ‘This bank, they’re so concerned with DEI and politics and all kinds of stuff, I think that really diverted from them focusing on their core mission,’ he said Sunday on Fox News.” • The DEI talking point is red meat for the base, but holy moley, is it dumb.

“Handicapping presidential primary ‘madness’” [The Hill]. Madness as in “March Madness,” not general insanity. I won’t go through the brackets — interesting trope! — but here’s the conclusion: “My Final Four would be Trump, DeSantis, Kemp and Sununu.”


“Vallas’s school reform is old, tired, and failed” [CPF Insider]. Vallas being one of the two remaining candidates in the Chicago mayoral race. “Vallas went all in on privatization in New Orleans, creating the first all-charter public school district in the country. The results have been dramatic, and terrible…. Friends, given what we’ve seen in our district—scandals, disinvestment, and poor ROI—and what we know about other districts where Vallas has brought his old-school style of choice-based reform to bear, we need to ask ourselves if this is really what we want, here, now, for our city and its beleaguered, tapped-dry, charter-school-scandal racked, already racially-stratified school district.”

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.

* * *

“Barney Frank’s Signature Bank Compensation” [The Rational Walk]. “The disclosures reveal that Mr. Frank was granted a total of 15,857 shares worth $2.36 million on the date of the grants (including dividend reinvestments). Through a series of sales, Mr. Frank received cash of $1.56 million for 10,324 shares…. To be clear, there is no indication that Mr. Frank or the Signature Bank board of directors did anything illegal, and I am not alleging that they did. I am expressing the opinion that this entire arrangement was highly corrupt and utterly shameful. It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where shame is almost entirely absent.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How one medical school became remarkably diverse — without considering race in admissions” [STAT]. “[O]ne school in California — the state with the country’s longest-standing ban on using race in admissions — has defied the odds. The University of California, Davis runs the country’s most diverse medical school after Howard, a historically Black university, and Florida International, a Hispanic-serving research university. What Davis, and its remarkably diverse class of 2026 demonstrates, is an alternative future for a post-affirmative action world, one where diversity might be achieved despite the many obstacles that stand in the way. The student body has gone from predominantly white and male in the years before California adopted its affirmative action ban in 1996 to one in which nearly half the current class comes from Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous populations — people who have been historically underrepresented in medicine, and sometimes mistreated by its practitioners… He started by diversifying the admissions committee and staff. ‘The reason things stay the same is because everyone involved is the usual suspects,’ he said. Because Davis had to use a race-neutral approach to admissions, Henderson focused on economics. ‘,” he said. “ — that’s how we skirted the issue.’ Applicants were given high marks if they had a ‘socioeconomic disadvantage score,’ shifting admissions criteria away, he said, from MCAT scores and GPAs to characteristics like grit, resilience, and perseverance.” • This isn’t skirting the issue at all! Class is the issue, and the article showed that race-based policies didn’t work!

“What do race and ethnicity mean? The US government is asking” [Associated Press]. • The consistent metaphor: Boxes to check.

“Fairfax County Removes Test Question Equating Political Ideologies With Race, Gender” [Associated Press].

The question appeared on a test given to students of an AP Government class at Fairfax County Public Schools’ Online Campus.

The multiple-choice question asked students, “Which of the following is an accurate comparison of liberals versus conservatives?”

The potential answers for “liberals” included “Young, white males;” “Middle aged, urban lesbian;” “College-educated black male professional” and “White, upper-middle class suburban male.”

The potential answers for “conservatives” included “East Coast, Ivy League educated scientists;” “Southern male migrant laborer;” “Catholic, midwestern middle-aged male” and “West coast, Hispanic teacher.”


“Why So Many Elites Feel Like Losers” [Freddie deBoer, Persuasion]. “Why does there appear to be such immense dissatisfaction, borne of unfulfilled artistic ambitions, at precisely the historical moment where creating and finding an audience have never been easier or more accessible? The first, obvious answer is that people don’t want simply to create, but to make a living creating, to create as a profession. And this is vastly more difficult to achieve. Making a living on Etsy is notoriously difficult, with about 90% of Etsy stores earning less than $400 a month. Estimates for payouts for a thousand views on YouTube are around $18 dollars; less than 12% of videos even reach that threshold. 90% of Twitch’s users stream to six average viewers or less, and a quarter of even the top 10,000 highest-paid accounts make less than minimum wage. The average OnlyFans account earns just $150 a month. It’s estimated that 99% of podcasts make no profit. 98.6% of Spotify artists make an average of just $36 a quarter. On Patreon, a platform that creators of all kinds use to monetize their work, less than 2% of users make even the federal monthly minimum wage. I have no numbers for Substack, but we can be sure that it’s a similar trend. That’s because the creator economy follows a power law distribution; the vast majority of people in it get tiny amounts of money and attention, while a small sliver of users are handsomely rewarded with both. Any individual creator might become one of the winners. But . The growing number of people who are hungry to get rich in the creator economy—who believe themselves to be deserving of success by dint of their education and hard work—coupled with the awareness that almost all of them will fail is an example of elite overproduction. We have an artistic class which is predominantly made up of people who enjoy none of the financial rewards afforded to artists. The second big problem, besides money, is a little more ephemeral—attention, exclusivity, acclaim. This is, of course, intimately tied to money, but it is a distinct scarce good that creators pursue. The desire to be celebrated for one’s artistic output is not something that I need to explain to you here. What’s a little subtler is the sense of cool that comes with holding down the designation of being an artist or creator. . The problem now is that, if you say ‘I make movies,’ the person you’re talking to will usually hear the unspoken part, ‘just like everyone else.’”


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

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

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

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard), Marin; CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

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

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

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

* * *

Look for the Helpers

“Introducing: The Covid Underground” [Covid Underground]. The deck: “Welcome to The Covid Underground, a newsletter for the Covid-free movement and all of those who continue to avoid infection.” More: “True health is the ability to change. About 10-30% of the U.S. population has changed their lives in the light of the freeing revelations of 2020, and we keep changing. We are dynamically, creatively faithful to what was— briefly— plain to all: normal is a dangerous illusion.” • Worth a read.

* * *

Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:

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

Covid Is Airborne

“Intro to CO2 Monitoring” [Joey Fox, It’s Airborne]. “ASHRAE’s position is that ‘all else being equal, higher CO2 concentrations correspond to lower outdoor air ventilation rates and the potential for an increased risk of airborne transmission’ while acknowledging many of the limitations stated here. Therefore, the best use of CO2 monitoring is to ensure that ventilation is functioning properly, as ventilation is the main method used to ensure adequate air quality. Monitoring CO2 levels can be a helpful tool in an overall strategy to ensure a healthy indoor environment.”



“Some will become violent.” Nobody tell Eric Adams1

“‘You Don’t See the Sun’: What We Heard This Week” [MedPage Today (Carla)]. “”The San Francisco health order is a ray of appropriate behavior in a gray wilderness.” — Jeoff B. Gordon, MD, MPH, a retired family doctor in Santa Cruz, on San Francisco’s orders that health workers must continue to wear face masks.”

“University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics drops mask requirement” [The Gazette]. “The Gazette asked UIHC whether there was a specific infection rate or COVID metric they used when deciding when to stop requiring masks, but the hospital staff did not provide that information by Friday afternoon.” • Amazing that the main front for masking should be health care facilities, but then again not so amazing; Hospital Infection Control has always “tenaciously resisted” masking, and they have a disportionate influence over policy (in addition to performing very badly as a field, as one would expect).

Hospital-Acquired Infection (HAI) should be redefined:

I need to check CDC guidance on this. However, if the account is correct, HAI as defined today excludes airborne infection a priori. This would have been bad in Florence Nightingale’s day — she insisted on ventilation — but it’s even worse today.

“Why isn’t the CDC warning parents that masking their kids creates unacceptably high levels of CO2?” [Environmental Research Journal]. From September 2022, but seems to have crawled out of the muck only recently. Here is a thorough debunking:

And much else. Cochrane imploded, this…. thing; anti-maskers are having a hard time on the science front.


“Propylene glycol inactivates respiratory viruses and prevents airborne transmission” (preprint) [bioRxiv]. Mouse study. From the Abstract: “We found that the ubiquitous, safe, inexpensive and biodegradable small molecule propylene glycol (PG) has robust virucidal activity. Propylene glycol rapidly inactivates influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and a broad range of other enveloped viruses, and reduces disease burden in mice when administered intranasally at concentrations commonly found in nasal sprays. Most critically, aerosolized PG efficiently abolishes influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infectivity within airborne droplets, potently preventing infection at levels significantly below those well-tolerated by mammals. We present PG vapor as a first-in-class non-toxic airborne virucide, to prevent transmission of existing and emergent viral pathogens, with clear and immediate implications for public health.” And: “Propylene glycol (PG, propan-1,2-diol) is a synthetic liquid compound, whose amphiphilic properties are : food and drink, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, including oral, topical, intravenous and nebulised drug delivery.” So the question: What if nasal sprays work bc of an INACTIVE ingredient?”

Elite Malfeasance

As the data slowly fades away:

IIRC, Johns Hopkins had handy charts:

Apparently, Google didn’t cut a deal with Worldometer or WHO for a data feed.

* * *

I blame the propaganda, but I don’t think anybody imagined how wildly successful it would be:

“Awkward silence” about protecting their own children.

A second example:

“She didn’t think that was it.” Why?

A third example:

* * *

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

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from March 13:

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

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 4:

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


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 14:

-2.0%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,148,993 – 1,148,391 = 602 (602 * 365 = 219,730 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

★ NEW ★ Excess Deaths

Excess deaths (The Economist), published Marh 7:

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

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual inflation rate in the US slowed to 6% in February of 2023, the lowest since September of 2021, in line with market forecasts, and compared to 6.4% in January.”

CPI: “United States Consumer Price Index (CPI)” [Trading Economics]. “The consumer price index in the United States rose by 6.0 percent year-on-year to 300.84 points in February 2023, broadly in line with market consensus of 300.86 points. The annual inflation rate slowed for an eighth consecutive month, suggesting inflationary pressure in the world’s largest economic cooled following the US Federal Reserve’s tightening campaign over the past year.”

Small Business Optimism: “United States Nfib Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States increased to 90.9 in February of 2023, the highest in three months, from 90.3 in January. About 38% of owners reported raising average selling prices, down 4 points from January. Still, companies continue to experience difficulties finding workers.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Meta to wind down NFTs on platforms amid crypto bust” [Channel News Asia]. • That’s a damn shame.

The Bezzle:

At least I hope it’s a bezzle.

Tech: “PayPal leans on Venmo for growth” [Payments Dive]. “PayPal is counting on its peer-to-peer tool Venmo to drive more use of the company’s digital payments services, with the two operations expected to converge in about a year.” • Hmm. Maybe this accounts for PayPal’s persistent efforts to get me into their app (including a dark pattern on the login page). No thanks.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 24 Extreme Fear (previous close: 19 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 46 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 14 at 1:45 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Anti-Semitism. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [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!

Humanity’s Best Friend

Dog people, don’t say I never did anything for you!

The Gallery


Somehow there seem to be more curves in this painting than there actually are.

Game of Thrones territory:

The Screening Room

“The Last Of Us Show Tries To Change What The Game Told Us About Joel” [Kotaku]. I can’t disentangle the spoilers, so I’m not going to quote anything. But I was quite taken with the HBO version of The Last of Us. Have any readers played the game?

“Alien Worlds – Macro Photos of Fungi and Slime Molds” [Kottke.org]. • Filing this here next to the above, for obvious reasons.

Groves of Academe

“Higher education is shockingly right-wing” [Steve Waldman, Interfluidity]. “Perhaps the stupidest idea that everyone takes for granted is that higher education in the United States is left-wing…. Whatever else colleges and universities do in the United States, they define and police our most consequential social hierarchy, the dividing line between a prosperous if precarious professional class and a larger, often immiserated, working class. The credentials universities provide are no guarantee of escape from paycheck-to-paycheck living, but statistically they are a near prerequisite. The academy itself is incredibly hierarchical. Within a university, distinctions reign between a graduate student or postdoc, an adjunct, an assistant professor on tenure track, an associate versus full professor. These ranks are salient and consequential, treated as legitimate and earnestly policed. Nothing is spared hierarchy in academia. Institutions are organized into pecking orders. Harvard University and Towson University are not the same. Everyone understands their relative rank, the social consequences of which are very real. If you are an academic at a level beyond community college or adjunct professorship, you have devoted your life to swimming upstream, besting competitors who will relegated to lower ranks or simply expectorated from academic life. It is a key part of your job to rank and sort other people, whether they be the undergrads that you grade or the faculty your department hires. You strive to have your work published in “top-tier” journals. To be an academic and be left-wing is like being a fish opposed to water. It is not persuasive. Or it ought not to be. Of course it is true that the vast majority of professors “identify” as progressive or liberal or left. That is understandable!” • Sounds like Waldman’s been reading Bourdieu.

Yes, that’s the point:

Class Warfare

The West’s policy of mass infection without mitigation and the workforce:

I think the elites know this, and have decided they can take the hit. Also, AI + robots (both bezzles, but that doesn’t mean elites don’t believe in them).

News of the Wired

“You don’t need to pursue happiness if you’ve already caught it” [Mexico News Daily]. “[G]arbage workers in Mexico… tend to be fearless. They don’t usually wear gloves or any kind of protective clothing. No masks. Their clothing trends toward the filthy side. They usually cling to the side of a truck as it barrels along…. Clearly, a very tough job undertaken by some very tough people… On this particular day, as I’m sitting in the micro and the garbage truck passes us, I notice three people sitting in the very back. As in, the very back where the garbage is stuffed. The truck is full. Of garbage. And they’re sitting right at the edge of the pile, probably on top of some of it…. They were two men and a boy: an older man in his late 50s, another man looking to be in his late 30s and a kid around 10. So, yeah, I figure it could’ve been three generations. I like to think that it was…. What really caught my attention was the kid, who was talking animatedly. He must have been telling funny stories because the other two men were laughing. Hard. This is while they’re all sitting at the edge of a pile of trash in the back of a garbage truck which, I’m certain, smelled awful…. Talking and laughing like they hadn’t a care in the world. Just having a grand old time. And it was impossible to see them and not question just what in the hell the rest of us are doing, especially us Americans who are constantly pursuing happiness. I had the feeling that those three guys, sitting there in the back of that garbage truck, they weren’t pursuing happiness. Somehow, and I really wish I knew how, they’d caught that son-of-a-bitch.” • On the one hand, a heart-warming story. On the other, everybody hates a tourist.

* * *

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 Angie Neer:

Angie Neer writes: “Tree shadow.”

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