By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Long-tailed Potoo, Amazonas, Brazil. “Recording without noise filter. If you want to hear the bird’s song more clearly, I uploaded the same recording with the filter in the same list.” I like all the night sounds; I wish I could have visited Amazonia. Have any readers?
“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
“Joe Biden expected to issue first presidential veto in anti-ESG vote” [Financial Times]. “Joe Biden is on course to issue the first veto of his presidency after two Democratic senators sided with Republican lawmakers in opposing a White House rule that allows fund managers to consider environmental, social and governance factors in their investment decisions. Jon Tester, a Democratic senator from Montana, on Wednesday afternoon said he would join fellow Democrat Joe Manchin in voting to roll back a US labour department rule that allows retirement plan fiduciaries to include ESG considerations in their investments. ‘At a time when working families are dealing with higher costs, from healthcare to housing, we need to be focused on ensuring Montanans’ retirement savings are on the strongest footing possible,’ Tester said in a statement. ‘I’m opposing this Biden administration rule because I believe it undermines retirement accounts for working Montanans and is wrong for my state.”
“See No Evil” [Harpers]. Gitmo, which Obama didn’t shut down, after promising to, and Biden did not shut down, after not promising to:
[Mansoor Adayfi:] As you know, Guantánamo was created out of the legal zone, out of the legal system. Torture was the mechanism of Guantánamo. Torture, abuse, and experimenting on prisoners. We went on a massive hunger strike in 2005. And there was force-feeding. It was torture.
I saw a fucking handsome person come in and he said, “I’m here to ensure that you are treated humanely.”
m[Mike Prysner:] It was Ron DeSantis?
[Adayfi:] Yes. And, “If you have any problems, if you have any concerns, just talk to me.” We were drowning in that place. So I was like, “Oh, this is cool. This person will raise the concerns.” But it was a piece of the game. What they were doing was looking for what hurts us more so they could use it against us. In 2006, when DeSantis was there, it was one of the worst times at Guantánamo. The administration, the guards, all of them were the worst. They cracked down on us so hard. When they came to break our hunger strike, a team came to us. The head of the team, he was a general. He said, “I have a job. I was sent here to break your fucking hunger strike. I don’t care why you are here. I don’t care who you are. My job is to make you eat. Today we are talking. Tomorrow there will be no talking.” The second day, they brought piles of Ensure and they started force-feeding us over and over again.
[Prysner:] For those who don’t know, Ensure is a thick milky nutritional shake mainly marketed on daytime television to elderly people. It is very hard to drink.
[Adayfi:] Yes, and Ron DeSantis was there watching us. We were crying, screaming. We were tied to the feeding chair. And he was watching. He was laughing. Our stomachs could not hold this amount of Ensure. They poured one can after another. So when he approached me, I said, “This is the way we are treated!” He said, “You should eat.” I threw up in his face. Literally on his face.
[Prysner:] Ron DeSantis?
[Adayfi:] In his face. Yeah.
This won’t get traction, of course (and plenty of people will say “Good for DeSantis!”). But worth a read.
“The Democratic Insider Who Fought the Trump Administration” (interview) [Douglas Letter, Pro Publica]. Review of some of Letter’s cases. Letter: “One is the census case. The Trump administration illegally attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. And during litigation, lots of evidence was put in the record that they were doing so for a very bad purpose, which was to keep down the count of Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans. So we joined a batch of states and others who were challenging the validity of that. I argued before the Supreme Court, and it’s an interesting opinion. The Supreme Court ruled in our favor, upholding the lower courts, and wrote a fairly narrow opinion but one that is quite meaningful. This was the first time that the Supreme Court had ruled that it did not trust the explanation given by the executive branch. The lower courts had held that the executive branch had acted in bad faith in making it seem like there was a valid justification for doing this. And the evidence showed that that was not true — that the Commerce Department folks who are in charge had asked the Justice Department to basically cook up a rationale. The Supreme Court affirmed and said that the citizenship question had to be stricken. I was very proud of that.”
“‘Panic station at Fox News’: how the Murdochs agonised over Trump’s loss” [Financial Times]. The deck: “Details of network’s handling of US election denialism explode into public view via Dominion lawsuit.” More: “Denver-based Dominion was catapulted into the limelight when the Trump campaign claimed its devices fraudulently awarded votes to Biden. In its lawsuit filed in March 2021, the voting machine company said those allegations were amplified by conservative news outlets, particularly Fox News, which gave them ‘a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved.’ The evidence — consisting of depositions and hundreds of internal company communications harvested during legal discovery — shows that Fox for months agonised over how to handle Trump’s election denialism. The December email to Scott came after Murdoch and his eldest son Lachlan, Fox chief executive, received a panicked text from Paul Ryan, former speaker of the House and a Fox board member. ‘We are entering a truly bizarre phase of this where [Trump] has actually convinced himself of this farce’, Ryan wrote as he urged Rupert and Lachlan to do the ‘right thing’ and broadcast a ‘solid pushback’ of the lies. Rupert asked Lachlan to call him to talk it over, noting Trump had ‘sounded really crazy’ that weekend in Georgia.” • Trump had the wrong theory of the case (and I don’t know why he latched on to electronic voting machines. Vulnerable as they inherently are, like all digital devices, but you still have to show the vulnerability applies in particular precincts. Now, if Trump had blamed the spooks, the press, and social media for suppressing the Hunter Biden story — and what’s sauce for Clinton’s emails is sauce for Hunter’s laptop — he would be looking pretty good right now).
“The Antiwar Conservatives Rise” [Rod Dreher, The American Conservative]. “Y’all know I’m sitting here in Budapest, agreeing with Viktor Orban and the Hungarian government that we need to be pushing hard — very hard — for peace. The Hungarians don’t have any love for the Russians, and have consistently and correctly condemned the Russian aggression. But they also don’t think the Ukrainians are God’s gift to humanity (ask them about how Kyiv treated the ethnic Hungarians of far western Ukraine before the war), and they do not want Ukraine to drag all of Europe into a catastrophic war. As with so much else, American conservatives are now trying to catch up with the wisdom of PM Orban. I hope they catch up before it’s too late.”
“Florida bill would require bloggers who write about the governor and legislators to register with the state” [NBC]. “A Republican state senator in Florida has introduced a bill that, if passed, would require bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, his Cabinet or state legislators to register with the state. Sen. Jason Brodeur’s bill, titled ‘Information Dissemination,’ would also require bloggers to disclose who’s paying them for their posts about certain elected officials and how much. ‘If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register’ with the appropriate office within five days of the post, the legislation says. It defines ‘elected state officer’ as ‘the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature.’ Failing to register would result in a fine of $25 a day, and the penalty would be capped at $2,500 per posting, NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa reported. The bill says the bloggers’ reports to the state ‘must include’ the ‘individual or entity that compensated the blogger for the blog post, and ‘the amount of compensation received from the individual or entity.’” • Stuck pig squeals. Maybe I should be reading more Florida blogs. Can readers suggest any? nNo Kossacks, please!
“New bill would eliminate Florida Democratic Party” [WESH]. “Spring Hill Republican Senator Blaise Ingoglia has filed SB 1248, which would be called ‘The Ultimate Cancel Act.’ While it does not mention the Democratic party’s name, it would direct the Florida Division of Elections to ‘immediately cancel the filings of a political party, to include its registration and approved status as a political party, if the party’s platform has previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude.’” • Owning the libs….
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.
* * *
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might have violated House rules with Met Gala gifts, watchdog says” [USA Today]. • It was dumb when she did it, and now it looks even more dumb. The complaint:
🚨BREAKING: The Office of Congressional Ethics has released a statement in which they say there is “substantial reason to believe” AOC “accepted impermissible associated with her attendance at the Met Gala in 2021” that violated “standards of conduct and federal law.” pic.twitter.com/cR215TfY6J
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 2, 2023
Rot in the Nevada Dems, unsurprisingly:
This memo comprises talking points that Judith and her team are using to justify her re-election. Not only is it pathetic for her to stand behind numbers so woefully substandard, her team does not give the indication that they know any better (2/8)
— Nnedi Stephens (@naijaluv409) March 2, 2023
Presumably the party chair will be re-elected…
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Dark money and special deals: How Leonard Leo and his friends benefited from his judicial activism” [Politico]. “A network of political non-profits formed by judicial activist Leonard Leo moved at least $43 million to a new firm he is leading, raising questions about how his conservative legal movement is funded. Leo’s own personal wealth appeared to have ballooned as his fundraising prowess accelerated since his efforts to cement the Supreme Court’s conservative majority helped to bring about its decision to overturn abortion rights. Most recently, Leo reaped a $1.6 billion windfall from a single donor in what is likely the biggest single political gift in U.S. history. Fundraising reports for 2022 have yet to be filed but spending by Leo’s aligned nonprofits on his for-profit business in 2020 and 2021 demonstrates the extent to which his money-raising benefited his own bottom line. And it shows how campaign-style politics — and the generous paydays that go along with it — are now adjacent to the Supreme Court, the one U.S. institution that’s supposed to be immune to it.” • Ka-ching.
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, we seem to hovering near 28 of 50 states. Could those of you in states not listed help out by either with dashboard/wastewater links, or ruling your state out definitively? Thank you! (Also, apologies to anybody I have missed; please leave the link in comments again).
Resources, United States (Local): 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); NM (dashboard); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OR (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (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 (2), JW, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White. (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 28/50 (56% 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
* * *
Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:
Thought I’d add this here in case anyone is interested. Places to find people who “Still Covid” in your area & online: https://t.co/T4ND4XbrpF & https://t.co/sP5wq4fAw5 You can also search on FB “Still Coviding ____” & see if there’s a specific group on your area.
— Adriel Rose (@adriel_rose) March 1, 2023
“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
“Estimated Airborne Decay of SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19)” [Department of Homeland Security (MinNYC)]. “Use the sliders to select the UV index, temperature and relative humidity of interest. Information on how long SARS-CoV-2 would be expected to remain stable in aerosols (airborne) will be displayed in the table below. Users can find the environmental conditions for a specific location by accessing general weather resources online.” • This is brilliant. It’s also screaming out to be an app — and integrated with 3Cs.
“Confronting Medical Misinformation” [Coalition for Trust in Health & Science (KLG)]. Their version of you do you: “All people have equitable access to the accurate, understandable and relevant information necessary to make health choices and decisions.” • KLG writes: “Notice the procedure masks instead of masks that work…head hits desk.” Speaking of misinformation:
If these people must be performative, could they at least model masking technology that… performs? The About page, fortunately, has no red flags, except for lack of funders, but this looks like a pretty low-budget operation to me.
“CSIS officer fired for complaining publicly about agency’s lack of COVID-19 masking” [Global News]. Canada: “A Canadian intelligence officer has been fired for speaking publicly about what he felt were inadequate COVID-19 policies at CSIS headquarters during the height of the pandemic. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service dismissed Gary Vos Smith for giving an interview to Global News about the lack of mandatory masking at the agency’s building in Ottawa. A disciplinary committee found that Vos Smith had acted ‘in an inappropriate manner,’ according to a termination letter he received from CSIS director David Vigneault on Nov. 16, 2022. The letter, obtained by Global News, also said he should have known his actions ‘could pose a notable risk to the organization as a whole and from an identity management perspective.’” And: “[M]any [CSIS employees] were unable to work remotely because of the secretive nature of their jobs. Some complained about inadequate health and safety protocols, and hundreds signed a mass grievance in February 2021, complaining about the lack of physical distancing at headquarters and weak policies on workplace masking. Vos Smith was the only one to do so openly.” • Our spooks are either more disciplined, more delusional, or…. already have good ventilation, as elites do.
“Antihistamines and azithromycin as a treatment for COVID-19 on primary health care – A retrospective observational study in elderly patients” [Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics (kareninca)]. n = 84. “Between March and April 2020, 84 elderly patients with suspected COVID-19 living in two nursing homes of Yepes, Toledo (Spain) were treated early with antihistamines (dexchlorpheniramine, cetirizine or loratadine), adding azithromycin in the 25 symptomatic cases. The outcomes are retrospectively reported…. Given the low fatality rate observed in our patient population, this treatment protocol merits immediate consideration for the treatment of COVID-19 and future evaluation in randomized controlled clinical trials, taking into account the probably decisive role of antihistamines, which was the only treatment most of our patients received.” • Alert reader kareninca says that Claritin is in her protocol because of this study. (Claritin is an anti-histamine, although with different active ingredients.)
On the origins debate:
In the debate about whether Covid came from a lab or a wet market, I’ve always come down hard on the side of it coming from organising society as an economy. So that keeping coffee shops and travel agents solvent takes priority over sheltering from a lethal virus.
— Henry Madison 🦠x0 (@RageSheen) March 2, 2023
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!
BioBot wastewater data from March 2:
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.
☆ NW ☆ Covid Emergency Room Visits
NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from February 25:
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 3:
-1.0%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,146,630 –
1,146,142 = 488 (488 * 365 = 178,120 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).
Tech: A recipe for beating Twitter’s “For You” algorithm:
I put together a hypothesis about Twitter’s For You algorithm and have used it twice now to get a tweet over 1,000 retweets (which is something I haven’t been able to do since last November).
*Very sad man who pays for Twitter voice* Here’s how I did it…
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) February 27, 2023
What I notice is that “For You” adheres much more closely to what I actually want to read than their previous algo did, and for better or worse, actually includes a lot of accounts I follow (and would therefore expect to find in the “Following” Tab).
Tech: “Your Ring camera features are about to change, and not in a good way” [Tech Radar]. “Starting March 29, smart home brand Ring will begin requiring users to purchase a Ring Protect Plan for its devices as it’s placing several currently free features behind a paywall. On that day, owners of either a Ring doorbell or camera(opens in new tab) will lose access to Home and Away Modes on the official app and Amazon Alexa without a subscription. Home Mode(opens in new tab), for those who don’t know, deactivates in-house sensors so people can move freely inside while keeping the ones outside a residence activated. Away Mode fully secures a house by arming all sensors and having the cameras constantly record; great for people who want to keep an eye on things while away. So as you can see, Ring is going to be charging people to use two of the more basic features.” • Let the enshittification begin!
Tech: “Amazon pauses construction of second headquarters in Virginia” [CNBC]. This is the building shaped like a giant screw. “The move comes as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has taken steps to curtail expenses across the company in the face of slowing revenue and a gloomy economic outlook. That’s led the company to announce the largest layoffs in its history, totaling more than 18,000 employees. Amazon is also reevaluating its real estate portfolio and sunsetting some projects.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 2 at 1:40 PM ET.
Groves of Academe
“Commentary: Go ahead and major in English. You’ll be fine!” [Los Angeles Times]. “Then there are the humanities majors. These are the people who couldn’t tolerate the idea of business school but somehow ended up with a sales job anyway, and who, while working quietly at the computer, decided most NFT art is unbelievable garbage [it is] and that ChatGPT is already boring [ditto]. We are discussing you today.” And: “Professional exile is the predominant experience of English majors today, who live like passport-holders from an ailing nation on a long-term visa — you have a book in you, but it’s not clear it will ever come out.” Or several. Finally, Arendt, DuBois, Homer: “The immeasurable value in encountering any of these writers — or spending time with any serious creative, intellectual or spiritual work — comes from cultivating the radical subjectivity that is our birthright as humans, the burden we carry for all time. Observation, testing and replication can and will build faster jets, better medicines or more capable AI. But where do rights come from? Whose history should be taught about the founding of the United States? What’s good prose, and who’s just a blowhard trying to show off? What immortal fire connects Johnny Cash with Kendrick Lamar? You don’t need to be an English major to ask any of these questions. You just need to be a seeker. But the humanities can help you look.”
“The Left Should Defend Classical Education” [Jacobin]. “[Roosevelt] Montás goes beyond the usual human capital arguments — reading Plato will help you get promoted at McKinsey! — making the case that college is not just about making a living, but also making life worth living. In advocating the canon for all, Montás is arguing for a more egalitarian model of schooling than our current one, which too often reserves liberal arts as a luxury for the few, while the working class is supposed to be grateful for a vocational education and a pile of debt. (Let them eat STEM!) Montás argues that the great books should be incorporated into every course of study, even the preprofessional. Montás is a voice in an ideological wilderness here: We don’t see many on the Left making the case for classical education. On campus, the student left tends to oppose these kinds of core courses as a stance against Eurocentrism, patriarchy, and racism, and much of the academic left agrees. But there is no reason why great books courses can’t be diverse; Montás devotes chapters in his book to African (St Augustine) as well as Indian (Mohandas Gandhi) thinkers. In any case, it’s anti-intellectual to reject ‘dead white men’; we would miss out on thousands of years of literature and philosophy, and thus, centuries of truth-seeking and inquiry. As my Brooklyn College student was suggesting, too, the culture we live in today has been formed by these works (without them, we don’t even know what an Achilles’ heel is). College administrators often reject great books programs to avoid the culture wars they inspire and out of professed commitment to ‘student choice,’ which sounds progressive but is just another way of reducing education to customer service.”
“The Art of the Shadow: How Painters Have Gotten It Wrong for Centuries” [The MIT Press Reader]. “In many cases, the rules of physics that apply in a real scene appear to be optional in a painting; they can be obeyed or ignored at the discretion of the artist to enhance the painting’s intended effect. Some strong deviations, such as Picasso’s skewed faces or the wildly colored shadows in the works of the Fauvist school, are meant to be noticed as ingredients of the style and message of the painting — they serve communication purposes. On top of that, an alternative physics operates in many paintings, one that few of us ever notice but is just as improbable. These transgressions of standard physics — impossible shadows, impossible colors, impossible reflections or contours — often pass unnoticed by the viewer and do not interfere with the viewer’s understanding of the scene. Because we do not notice them, transgressions of physics reveal that our visual brain uses a simpler, reduced physics to understand the world. Artists can endorse this alternative physics precisely because these particular deviations from true physics do not matter to the viewer: The artist can take shortcuts, presenting cues more economically and arranging surfaces and lights to suit the message of the piece rather than the requirements of the physical world. In discovering these shortcuts or strategies of image compression, artists act as research neuroscientists or as visual hackers, and we can learn a great deal from tracing their discoveries.” • Fascinating!
I think the shadows under the bridge are OK:
Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903 #museumarchive #europeanart https://t.co/oPahOXrLUc pic.twitter.com/mX7PvVzM7p
— Claude Monet (@artistmonet) March 3, 2023
“Huge New Study Shows Why Exercise Should Be The First Choice in Treating Depression” [Science Alert]. A meta-study. “Because individual studies have looked at such a wide variety of physical activity types, intensities, population subgroups, and comparison groups, it may be difficult for clinicians to make sense of evidence suggesting physical activity is beneficial in the treatment of mental health disorders. So [clinical exercise physiologist Ben Singh from UniSA] and his colleagues at UniSA conducted a broader type of study called an umbrella review, to evaluate how all kinds of physical activity affect depression, anxiety, and psychological distress in adults. An umbrella review examines a collection of reviews rather than individual studies to provide an overall picture of what existing research says about a specific subject. Put simply, it provides ‘umbrella’ coverage of all the evidence on a topic. The research team extracted all the eligible studies published prior to 2022 from 12 electronic databases. Overall, they analyzed 97 reviews that included 1039 trials with more than 128,119 participants. When comparing the effects of exercise to those of usual care across all populations, they found that exercise improved symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress 1.5 times better than talk therapy or medication. ‘We also found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercise such as walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga,’ says Singh.” • Here is the original. After looking at that horrid Cochrane study, I really don’t want to regard meta-studies as unproblematic, so maybe readers can dig into the methodology.
“Meet the men paying to have their jaws broken in the name of ‘manliness’” [GQ]. “In 2019, Ali started hanging out on Looksmax.org, an online forum in which men strive to achieve their “aesthetic potential”. Looksmaxing is a facet of the manosphere, that swamp of online communities that’s often a potent mix of toxic masculinity, men’s rights and misogyny. There, one can encounter a whole array of influencers, from pickup artists and provocateurs like Jordan Peterson to self-proclaimed misogynists like Andrew Tate. The manosphere is dominated by “red pill” ideology, which references the scene in The Matrix when Neo chooses to take a red capsule instead of a blue one and, in so doing, see the world as it truly is. To be “redpilled” can refer to any unsettling awakening; in this particular context, it describes an understanding of society in which modern men have become disadvantaged by a feminist power shift that leaves them unable to find sexual partners. Women, meanwhile – or so the distorted logic goes – can take their pick.” • Hence, “jawline fluidity.”
“The Weird (and Wired) Truth Behind What’s Really in Coca-Cola” [Eater]. “By the early 20th century, cocaine’s popularity had stirred up a powerful opposition movement, which linked the drug with delinquency and madness — particularly in the South, where racist fears that the drug was leading Black users into crime led to the first American bans of the drug. Following suit, Coke’s then-president, a devout Southern Christian named Asa Candler, decided to make a change to the drink’s secret formula. He insisted on keeping the coca leaf, so that Coca-Cola still contained coca — but he switched to ‘decocainized’ coca leaves, with all traces of the drug removed. The newly formulated ingredient would be combined with kola nut in a powder given the mysterious cover name ‘Merchandise #5.’ Coca-Cola might have taken the cocaine out of their drink, but the company still needed to source coca leaves, which became more and more challenging. By 1914, the American federal government had officially restricted cocaine to medicinal use. So, as the government began debating an official import ban, Coke sent its lobbyists into the fray, pushing for a special exemption. Their fingerprints are all over the Harrison Act of 1922, which banned the import of coca leaves, but included a section permitting the use of ‘de-cocainized coca leaves or preparations made therefrom, or to any other preparations of coca leaves that do not contain cocaine.’ Only two companies were given special permits by the act to import those coca leaves for processing — one of which was Maywood Chemical Works, of Maywood, New Jersey, whose biggest customer was the Coca-Cola company.” • And still is. I wonder what “decocainized” means in practice….
“Young People and Enthusiast Cars Are Saving Manual Transmissions” [The Drive]. “Manual cars reached an all-time low market share in 2021, consisting of less than 1% of new car sales, according to J.D. Power figures. Since their 0.9% floor, there has been a rebound. Sales rose in 2022 to 1.2% and now in 2023 manual cars consist of 1.7% of the new car market. That represents a year-to-date rise of 12.2%… The evidence says fans of the stick shift aren’t dying out, either. Half of the buyers of manual Acura Integras were between the ages of 18 and 46. Likewise, a quarter of new MX-5 buyers are 18 to 35. In short, there are small but solid indications that the stick isn’t dead yet.” And: “The resistance to performance for performance’s sake and electrification altogether is growing, though, and not necessarily in a reactionary anti-environmental way.” Perhaps it’s resistance to the digital?
Norfolk Southern Toxic Train Bomb:
“In a growing petrochemical hub, the East Palestine derailment triggers ‘an uneasy feeling’” [Grist]. “[T]he [controlled burn] didn’t go quite as planned. A towering, bulbous cloud of black smoke erupted from the train in the explosion and then spread over the surrounding area like a pool of oil, where it hung in the low atmosphere for hours and hours. Experts have attributed the smoke’s stubborn refusal to dissipate to a weather phenomenon called an inversion, where warm air that rises into the atmosphere after a sunny day traps the cold air coming off the ground as night falls. “The smoke that was supposed to stay up started banking down a bit on the area,” [fireman Chris] Laderer explained.” • Couldn’t they have checked for an inversion? What’s up with that? This whole piece is well worth a read. Seems like Appalachia is a lot like NOLA, and not just because of petrochemical disasters.
“What Norfolk Southern’s History of Accidents Say About the Company and Industry” [Cleveland Scene (Carla)]. “Derailments litter the past five years of Norfolk Southern’s accident reports. To be fair, most of those incidents are relatively benign: Nothing spills, nobody gets hurt. Still the frequency of these incidents is hard to miss. Axios noted that in a recent earnings call executives acknowledged accidents are climbing. The Dispatch recently reported that Norfolk Southern is near the top of major rail companies when it comes to accidents per million miles. Speaking on background, one former conductor said Norfolk Southern doesn’t have great reputation when it comes to safety. A consultant with significant experience in the industry said among the big four railroads, Norfolk Southern isn’t as bad as Union Pacific, but it’s still pushing the bounds of safe operation.”
“It’s Not Only Doctors. Hospitals Are Burning Out Janitors, Too.” [Peste]. From October 2022, still germane. “Burnout is something that happens to a worker when they are overworked and underpaid. But such circumstances are de-emphasized in the very term “burnout,” which, you’ll notice, does not emphasize the material but the psychological. A worker is supposed to find meaning. Pay, benefits, time off, and health care are secondary. But the least well-paid workers, those with demanding jobs just as essential as clinicians, don’t even get the psychological support. Physicians joke that their employers tend to emphasize the psychological as a treatment for burnout – resilience, yoga, pizza parties – and not, say, more pay or generous sick leave. But janitors and food service workers (who are often contracted out to hospitals, not direct employees) don’t even get these psychological benefits meant to distract from material needs. Healthcare institutions, governments, and lay people at least make an outward show of respect for doctors and nurses. Witness the rituals of applause and pot-banging in many cities at the outset of the pandemic, and the banners, now a little sad and worn, praising “health care heroes” that adorn many a hospital lobby. Too few are praising the people that make the medical centers run.” • And who are as at risk medically as HCWs, if not more so, and more at risk socially.
Prices rise because firms raise them:
He told investors: “We still have several CPGs (Consumer Packaged Good companies) that are trying to pass through costs more than probably their inflation.”
In other words, they’re choosing to raise prices beyond the amount inflation is driving up their costs. /2
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) March 2, 2023
News of the Wired
“A Three-Dimensional Taxonomy of Achievement Emotions” [APA PsychNet]. “In line with current definitions (e.g., Scherer & Moors, 2019), we view emotions as multicomponent changes in an organism’s psychophysical system that occur in response to events or situations important to the organism. These changes can comprise affective, cognitive, physiological, motivational, and expressive-behavioral components. For example, anxiety before an exam typically includes nervous, uneasy feelings (affective), worries about possible failure (cognitive), physiological arousal (physiological), impulses to avoid taking the exam (motivation), and anxious facial expressions (expressive behavior). Each of these components can involve multiple processes, such as physiological arousal comprising processes triggered in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Following “critical” emotion theories that question classic conceptions of emotions as hard-wired affect programs (Moors, 2017), we contend that these processes are coupled in probabilistic ways and can vary between and within persons. For example, behavioral expressions of emotion vary more across persons and cultures than previously thought (Barrett et al., 2019).
As such, emotions are best viewed as affective episodes that include multiple, loosely connected changes in a multidimensional space of component processes. However, the patterns of these changes are not arbitrary. Instead, some patterns are more likely to occur in response to specific events. These prototypical patterns make it possible to distinguish between different emotions, semantically represent them in language, and use verbal self-report to assess them (Fontaine et al., 2013). Given the flexibility of the multicomponent patterns that we call emotions, we believe it is best not to view them as categories defined by clear-cut boundaries, but rather as prototypes representing families of similar patterns (see Russell & Barrett, 1999, for a similar view).”
“Lichen Latte, Anyone?” [JSTOR Daily]. “[A] few centuries ago, lichen were welcome medicaments in the ancient and early modern apothecary…. [L]ichen still appears in our alimentary routines. According to the authors of Urban Lichens: A Field Guide for Northeastern North America, ‘usnic acid harvested from lichens is often used as an ingredient in all-natural toothpaste and deodorant’ for its antimicrobial properties. But DIY apothecary beware: the compound can be toxic in higher doses, and lichens sequester pollutants like heavy metals from the air that could reappear in homemade brews. Better, perhaps, to appreciate the versatility of lichens from a relative distance.” • So, no.
Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From JL:
JL writes: “A wild Dendrobium display in the late afternoon sun. We first discovered these high in our tangerine trees — they appear to be quite adept at propagating themselves.”
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