By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Wood Thrush, Parc du Sanctuaire, Drummond, Quebec, Canada. “Grive des bois, chant: ‘a-a-iola tzzziiii, a-a-ioli tzzziiii, a-a-iola tzzziiii.’” Oh, so that’s what they’re saying!
* * *
“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’s quote has already appeared in Links, but I feel that posting the video is a public duty. Here we see Biden exhibiting his famous “empathy,” the personal characteristic the political class loves and respects him for:
“I sometimes underestimate it because I stopped thinking about it, but I’m sure you don’t: We lost 1 — over 1 million people in several years to COVID.” –@POTUS
It’s clear you do not think about a pandemic that is killing roughly 4,000 a week, Mr. President.
— Joaquín Beltrán (@joaquinlife) January 22, 2023
Naturally, Biden will not pay a political price for this extraordinary Kinsley gaffe, but I have questions: Did everybody in the White House “stop thinking” about a million deaths, or only Biden? If so, what did they do to prevent them? Not much, if you look at the record. And how many deaths does it take to get Biden to “think”? Apparently not a million. Ten million? A hundred million? A billion? This question will become increasingly relevant as The Blob talks itself into heaving some nukes at Russia to avoid defeat in Ukraine.
“NEW EMAILS: Biden White House Behind Facebook Censorship of The BMJ’s Pfizer Investigation” [Disinformation Chronicles]. “Late 2021, I wrote a bombshell BMJ investigation that found data integrity problems in Pfizer’s COVID-19 clinical trial, based on internal documents provided by an American whistleblower. As the investigation took off on social media, Facebook began censoring it, leading to a back and forth between The BMJ and Facebook, as well as coverage in multiple outlets over ‘fact checkers’ who check narratives—not facts. New emails released during litigation against the Biden administration now explain Facebook’s move to target The BMJ. Months prior to The BMJ’s investigation, a Facebook employee emailed White House officials Andy Slavitt and Rob Flaherty, detailing how the social media giant would reduce virality of vaccine stories that might discourage the administration’s vaccine policies even if they contained ‘true content.’ ‘As you know, in addition to removing vaccine misinformation, we have been focused on reducing virality of content discouraging vaccines that does not contain actionable misinformation,’ reads the Facebook email to White House officials Slavitt and Flaherty. “….”” • Oh.
Another story that’s not part of The Narrative:
The CEO of United Airlines accused his rivals of committing fraud by selling tickets on flights they know they can’t service. This statement by an airline CEO about the industry’s problems is so much harsher than anything Pete Buttigieg has said or done. https://t.co/dW7SAt6Ji8 pic.twitter.com/cXUSn2o9l0
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) January 19, 2023
Mayo Pete, a precious object that must be kept wrapped in tissue…
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.
* * *
Realignment and Legitimacy
“What’s the Matter with Men?” [The Atlantic]. “Many social scientists agree that contemporary American men are mired in malaise, even as they disagree about the causes. In academic performance, boys are well behind girls in elementary school, high school, and college, where the sex ratio is approaching two female undergraduates for every one male. (It was an even split at the start of the nineteen-eighties.) Rage among self-designated ‘incels’ and other elements of the online ‘manosphere’ appears to be steering some impressionable teens toward misogyny. Men are increasingly dropping out of work during their prime working years, overdosing, drinking themselves to death, and generally dying earlier, including by suicide. And men are powering the new brand of reactionary Republican politics, premised on a return to better times, when America was great—and, unsubtly, when men could really be men. The question is what to make of the paroxysm. For the revanchist right, the plight of American men is existential. It is an affront to biological (and perhaps Biblical) determinism, a threat to an entire social order. Yet, for all the strides that women have made since gaining the right to vote, the highest echelons of power remain lopsidedly male. The detoxification of masculinity, progressives say, is a messy and necessary process; sore losers of undeserved privilege don’t merit much sympathy. Richard V. Reeves, a British American scholar of inequality and social mobility, and a self-described ‘conscientious objector in the culture wars,’ would like to skip past the moralizing and analyze men in the state that he finds them: beset by bewildering changes that they cannot adapt to. His latest book, ‘Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It’ (Brookings), argues that the rapid liberation of women and the labor-market shift toward brains and away from brawn have left men bereft of what the sociologist David Morgan calls ‘ontological security.’ They now confront the prospect of ‘cultural redundancy,’ Reeves writes. He sees telltale signs in the way that boys are floundering at school and men are leaving work and failing to perform their paternal obligations.” • If by “the labor-market shift toward brains” is meant the hegemony of the credentialed PMC, I’m not sure that “brains” is the word I’d choose.
“Help! Help! There’s been a terrible accident!” seems broadly relevant:
Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.
I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful).
Stay safe out there!
* * *
• Droplet goons have a lot to answer for:
Chadwick was a lawyer & public health advocate. Story in his words from 1838:
Orphanage. 700 kids. 1/3rd caught typhoid. 30 died
Drs say it’s food but food is excellent
Chadwick brings in ventilation expert who says it’s air
— Jonathan Mesiano-Crookston 🌬️🔅#COVIDisAirborne (@jmcrookston) March 19, 2021
* * *
• Oddly, the rigorous application of the “Swiss Cheese Model” of layered Covid protection at Davos don’t seem to be part of The Narrative:
School air vs Davos WEF air
— David Fisman (@DFisman) January 20, 2023
I guess they don’t want people getting ideas.
• Not at Google:
I tried various another keywords, but the result is more more or less the same.
WSWS and Slate are both worthy publications but of limited reach. Unlike, say, the Times:
But we’ll always have Boing Boing–
• “The #DavosStandard safe air should be for all of us” [Boing Boing]. “Folks who have long been advocating for similar safety measures for public spaces, schools, workplaces, and more are taking to Twitter to praise the measures in effect at the WEF, and to spread the news that we should all have access to safe places to work, gather, learn, and more…. We should all be asking the same question — shouldn’t we all be as protected from COVID-19 as the attendees at the World Economic Forum are?” • But we aren’t asking that question, are we? Given what we now know from The Twitter Files about about the Democrat Party, the intelligence community, and the press, you have to ask: Is there a reason, other laziness, stupidity, and the PMC hive mind, for this story to be getting no coverage at all? After all, hashtags often make it into the mainstream quite easily.
* * *
• Now this here is what they call a subtweet:
Hi, my name is Bob, and here is a twenty five tweet thread on why I’m going to do the thing I want to do.
— tern (@1goodtern) January 21, 2023
* * *
• A good question to keep asking:
How did any societal, safety related changes ever happen? How did things like helmets, life jackets, safety goggles etc ever make it past the panel of experts who didn’t believe in them because they didn’t want to live in fear? #BringBackMasks #COVID19 #COVIDisAirborne
— Keith Muise (@keetmuise) January 21, 2023
NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from January 19:
Lambert here: For now, I’m going to use this 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.
The previous map:
NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published January 23:
-1.0.%. Still falling, but rate of decrease is slowing.
Wastewater data (CDC), January 17:
Easing off, though you do have to wonder what’s the point of a national system where half the country has gone dark.
And MWRA data, January 19:
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 9:
Lambert here: BQ.1* and XBB still dominate. However, CH.1.91 appears for the first time at 1.9%. That’s a little unsettling, because a Tweet in Links, January 11 from GM drew attention to it (“displays such a high relative growth advantage”) and in Water Cooler, January 18, from Nature: “CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 variants were highly resistant to both monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccinations.” Now here is CH.1.1 in the Walgreens variant data. Let’s see what CDC does with it tomorrow. The Covid variant train always leaves on time, and there’s always another train coming!
Lambert here: Wierdly, the screen shot about has been replaced today by data from “10/7/2022.” (It’s clearly not current data; BQ.1* and XBB do not dominate.
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), December 31 (Nowcast off):
BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. CH.1, unlike the Walgreens chart, does not appear. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) Here is Region 2, the Northeast, where both BQ.1* and XBB are said to be higher, and are:
Makes clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we ended up with different variants dominating different parts of the country.
• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated January 19:
• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 20:
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,128,807 –
1,128,330 = 477 (477 * 365 = 463,915 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).
Lambert here: Deaths lag, and now we have some confirmation that whatever we just went through is decreasing.
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.
There are no official statistics of interest today.
* * *
ChatGPT is a FREE marketing assistant
But only if you know how to use it correctly.
That’s why I built a MASSIVE chatgpt marketing guide:
84+ new prompts that actually make sense
And for 24 hours, it’s free!
• Reply ‘brains’ pic.twitter.com/dJwau4d6EO
— Persistant AI (@persistantai) January 17, 2023
SEO types and marketers jumping on the ChatGPT bandwagon. That should tell you something.
Tech: “The Company That Controls Dating” [The Cut]. “Match Group, the company that helped start online dating in the ’90s… now owns most of the dating-app market. Match became a giant under the leadership of a billionaire entertainment mogul [Barry Diller], whose directive was to aggressively eat the competition: It bought OkCupid and Plenty of Fish in the 2010s, incubated Tinder, and purchased Hinge, the ‘anti-Tinder,’ in 2018. Today, Match is a dating-app conglomerate with millions of users and over 45 brands around the world. These brands use the same business model based on subscriptions and in-app features — like Hinge’s ‘roses’ and Tinder’s ‘super likes’ — that promise users a leg up in the dating game. ;When you send a rose, you have a far higher chance of getting a response and getting into a conversation than you don’t,’ says Amarnath Thombre, CEO of Match Group Americas. ‘We are constantly looking at ways to give users a way to enhance their chance at succeeding on the app,’ he adds. ‘That’s something that users are always willing to pay for.’ But while these ‘superpowers’ make Match Group a lot of money — in 2021, for example, Tinder earned $1.7 billion — users are wondering if they get them any closer to connecting with real-life people. ‘‘ said one dater. ‘Nothing has come from it at all,’ said another dater of spending hundreds of dollars on dating apps. ‘It’s like: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I need to get off this app.’” • Well, think about the incentives. Does Diller make more money if one of your dates “takes you off the market,” or not? Honestly, this is more disgusting than social media’s dopamine loop (though akin to it). Collecting rents from messing up people’s relationships!
* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 66 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 23 at 1:30 PM EST.
Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most!
— Paul Cezanne (@cezanneart) January 21, 2023
My favorite Beatle:
Now I grant Ringo’s drumming is not what Monosynapsis had in mind with this wonderful comment:
Seeing that there are quite a few knowledgeable pple and musicians(!) here I’ll try my best to be as succint and yet informative as I can.
Lets rigourously distinguish the theoretical metalayer (western notation(= deficient in this regard) XOR mathematical models(computational analysis(=>reductionism) from the rootsy practical layer (=> how it is played,learned) and internalised(!!).
binary and ternary grid present at the same time. The pulse (= ‘beat’) stays invariably the same. We arent concerned with the pulse but its *subdivisions*.
Binary subdivision in 16ths would be: 1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a (all events evenly spaced)
Ternary subdivision of the *same space* would be counted as: 1ea 2ea 3ea 4ea (all events evenly spaced)
These are the two grids. Both of them are present at all times.
Theoretically one could now place any musical event on any of these gridlines. This is well known and present to some degree in western classical music (triplets/quintuplets/septuplets etc.). But what is now african is to merge both of these grids dynamically, creating a new hybrid grid which reflects both some binary and some ternary aspects. So, for example the ‘e’ of the binary grid gets pushed a bit towards its ternary twin (= delayed), the & stays the same (middle/half of the beat) and the ‘a’ gets also pulled towards its ternary shadow (accelerated/anticipated), all this whilst playing binary 16ths, but now every second 16th note is either delayed or accelerated a bit. This is now the ‘new’ grid on which every musician in the group places musical events.
This is now a new subdivion grid. The one I’ve described is very common in gnawa music from Morocco and with slight variations in Samba and Maracatu in Brazil.
See here for a nice theoretical approach/visualization => http://general-theory-of-rhythm.org/basic-principles/
In africa we have no theory. By this I mean that noone learns music by placing some MIDI notes on a grid, then moves them back or forth in a DAW by some mseconds, extrapolates it and then starts to compose. This is purely analytical and at best experimental. What you learn is the mircotiming grid of your geographical place and era by listening and playing with others. Like dialects. Nawlins second line push and pull, Memphis Drag, Mississipi Hill country shuffling, Nashville Train beats… these are all very precise regional microtiming patterns which can only be learned through exposure and absorbtion. Dialects. If we want to learn we need to listen and replicate. A million times over.
But practicing irregular (often called ‘irrational’ in western music theory (!!)) subdivision patterns in a methodical way (you pick some gnawa or maracatu 16ths) is a very good approach to get into it. Just programm your DAW and start counting in this new weird way for some time. Then play all the grooves you now on it and see what happens.
*****and then ****
and then these grids are elastic:
Tempo : as a rule of thumb, (straight = binary)
the slower it gets the more dramatic the shifts between ternary and binary tend to become, more tension, more weirdness.
Lambert here: “The faster it gets, the straighter it becomes” reminds me of the finance catchphrase “in a crisis, things correlate” (applies to asset classes, but I’d say everything).
in a pop/rock setting (coming finally to Charlie Watts now) subtle hints of this push/pull interplay can (must) be introduced: playing on top of the beat, in front of it, or behind it by a subtle amount introduce hints of this polyrhythmic approach. Usually called ‘in the pocket’. Rock/Pop aint polyrhythmic, but a little pulling here and some pushing there manipulate the spacetime, creating what we call ‘the groove’.
Further Listening/reading from a US centered approach:
Quest Love (D’angelo)
Sorry if this is all obtuse and confused…it isnt easy at all to express.
Well… I do think that isolated track from Ringo is not at all what one would expect!
“Scenes from Tampa’s ‘dead mall,’ alive with nostalgia” [Tampa Bay Times]. “If you haven’t been to the mall in a while, it’s striking how it not only triggers nostalgia, but trades in it. T-shirts on wall displays feature Nirvana and Snoop Dogg and Bob Ross, like it seems they always have. A photo booth sits ready to spit strips of portraits. The Look dine-in movie theater was preparing to show 1984′s ‘Gremlins’ that night. ‘Everything in this mall is really old, like a time capsule,’ the Spencer’s employee said. She described people visiting Hot Topic just to photograph the ‘goth gates,’ devilish metal barriers at the entrance with spider-web designs. ‘That’s the last Hot Topic in the country with the old goth gates.’ Hot Topic manager Micah Castro, over the screamy sounds of Children of Bodom’s ‘Are You Dead Yet,’ said he believes that is true. He said anime merch keeps his location going. Then he answered the landline phone, and explained that yes, they were open, and yes, still in the mall, which is also still open. ‘I get calls like that at least once a day,” he said. “People literally think this mall is decommissioned.’”
I think if we discovered an endangered species of monkey that let huge swaths of its population starve to death so that one monkey could sit on an enormous pile of food, we would decide those monkeys were too stupid to save and leave them to their fate
— Janel Comeau (@VeryBadLlama) January 21, 2023
“The Intergenerational Transmission of Employers and the Earnings of Young Workers” (PDF) [Center for Equitable Growth]. From the Conclusion: “This paper combines survey and administrative data in order to investigate how the earnings of young workers are affected by the intergenerational transmission of employers. I start with a descriptive analysis, and find that 7% of individuals work for the employer of a parent at their first stable job and 29% do so at some point between the ages of 18 and 30. This tendency is best explained by parents playing a direct role in the hiring or job search process to help children who have limited options in the labor market. I then use an instrumental variables strategy, which exploits exogenous variation in the availability of jobs at the parent’s employer, and find that . These large earnings benefits are explained by parents providing access to higher-paying employers: Young workers who find their first stable job at the employer of a parent start their careers on a higher rung of the job ladder. Individuals with higher-earning parents are more likely to work for the employer of a parent, and benefit more conditional on doing so, and thus the intergenerational transmis- sion of employers increases the intergenerational persistence in earnings.” • Well, who doesn’t want the best for their children….
Trader Joe’s (1):
The Trader Joe’s book is the most savage business book I’ve read. Paraphrasing:
“Our customers were over-educated and underpaid professionals”
“We cater to the newly educated masses. They may lose part (or all) of their income but they will retain their new tastes”
— Sebastian Bensusan (@sebasbensu) January 20, 2023
Trader Joe’s (2):
The book also makes clear how much of groceries is (regulatory) arbitrage:
“We couldn’t call whey butter (a cheese by-product) ‘butter’, so we called it ‘beurre’, put it next to regular butter and discounted it”
“When they de-regulated milk, we lost 20% of our gross margins”
— Sebastian Bensusan (@sebasbensu) January 20, 2023
News of the Wired
“War on Empathy” [Peste Magazine]. “A recent series of media stories depicting individuals advocating for stronger COVID policies as unsympathetic characters on the fringes of society ignited a firestorm among [non-eugenicist] public health experts and grassroots advocates alike. To a public looking to change the channel on the long-running tragedy of the pandemic, these commentaries and the ensuing backlash may seem unremarkable. Yet these pieces not only ignore the ongoing toll of the pandemic, they also have material consequences. Taken together, these accounts can be read as warning shots in a broader war on empathy. Though the pandemic continues to claim losses on par with the September 11 attacks each week, it has prompted far less in the way of societal reckoning. Instead of calling for a national memorial to pay tribute to those lost or a commission to examine systemic failures in pandemic response, a growing chorus of prominent journalists and pundits have taken aim at another target—the proponents of a more vigorous public health response. A December story in the New York Times called such individuals ‘the last holdouts,’ depicting those attempting to avoid coronavirus infection as eccentric agoraphobes, paranoid contrarians, and social misfits. A recent essay in the New Yorker described the People’s CDC—a grassroots organization seeking to provide clear and actionable information about the pandemic—as a ‘ragtag coalition’ given to making ‘eye-popping statements’ about public health. A piece in The New Republic went even further, suggesting that Long COVID sufferers may be afflicted with a psychosomatic complaint, not a true medical diagnosis. Framing legitimate political critiques and demands for action as grudges held by an intractable out-group, these stories report the pandemic more as a trend piece than as hard news. Yet the desire for better COVID protections is not concentrated among the well-heeled, as these accounts have misleadingly suggested. Reflecting the pandemic’s sharply uneven impacts, Black and Hispanic Americans as well as individuals with a disability have consistently voiced greater concern about COVID and supported a stronger policy response. By suggesting that well-to-do ‘liberals’ are the vanguard of COVID mitigations, these stories shift attention away from the groups that have been most impacted and that remain at greatest risk.” • And of course the liberals make the story all about them. Also worth noting that mask usage is inversely correlated to income. Worth reading in full, though perhaps more moderate in tone than I would like.
“Search Results: Type equal to ‘Timeline’” [David Rumsey Map Collection]. Here’s one for American political parties:
* * *
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 JB:
JB writes: “Saw these, thought of you, and took these photos whilst being attended
at Mayo Clinic earlier today. Sorry, no idea what they are . . . plants,
otherwise? No clue!” Readers? (And I am sure we all wish JB the best of luck.)
* * *
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!