2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2022 1

Rather like chamber music for spring songbirds. I like the human voice at the end with the birds singing along, as opposed to the “LNS catalog number [blah blah blah blah] one must so often slog through at the beginning. “I’m in a gully….’

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

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

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!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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As I clamber through Bourdieu’s Forms of Capital, I found this nugget on pages 39-40:

The problem is that in explaining and communicating the results of our analysis, we are often obliged to use the phrase “in the last analysis.”…. People who cannot tolerate scientific objectification will immediately jump on this kind of phrase, saying “How stupid it is to say that the Critique of Judgment, one of philosophy’s most sacred writings, expresses the objective interests of a category of the German bourgeioisie!” (I can say this because that is what they said about my analysis of the Critique of Judgment.) In fact, things are more complicated: since these objective interests coincide with the interests of the commentators on the Critique of Judgment, who are professors of philosophy at a certain moment in time, the Critique of Judgment is, so to speak, read and not read: People are so at home with it that they don’t see that they are involved.” Fish: “What is water?” More: “In truth, the mystery of social facts and social logic — although I am not keen on the word mystery — for me is that formidably complicated things are at work, a kind of labyrigth of intentions appears, which can be grasped and summarized in the sort of proposition that I summarized just now: “There is an objective intention to….”, “Everything happens as if….”. The problem is that very often in political polemics, people have got into the habit of using very rudimentary sociological analysis, and saying things like “This is only the interest of the upwardly mobile petite bourgeioisie. One of the major problems of sociological analysis, as I concieve it, is that it often takes an enormous efffort to reconstruct this kind of extremely complex network of relations, with their minor mystifications, petty prejudice and personal attacks, to reach conclusions that in the last analysis boil down to something extremely simple.” • Hence our difficulties, which I freely admit, with the term “PMC” — see above — which is at best a placeholder. But you go to class warfare with the placeholders you have. When I read Bourdieu, it’s like everything I’ve read or written as a more-or-less daily political blogger for 2022 – 2003 = 19 years is being named, ruthlessly examined, and tightened up, or discarded. It’s exhilarating, though I hope, er, in the final analysis to have terms slash concepts that are a bit more, well, weaponized usable. In a good way, of course.

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“Poll: Democratic Party More Unpopular Than Donald Trump” [Peter Daou, Direct Left]. From an NBC News poll conducted January 14-18, 2022: “Donald Trump: 37 percent positive, 51 percent negative (-14). Democratic Party: 33 percent positive, 48 percent negative (-15).” • Hardly surprising.

“With Some Voters ‘Ready to Move On,’ Democrats Search for New Message on Virus” [New York Times]. • The Democrats butchered their response to the pandemic. The Republicans have no solution other than “live your life.” Surely there’s an opening for a candidate that hates both parties? (And I use the word “hate” advisedly.)


“Progressives wake up: Eric Adams’ war on crime is about class, not color” [New York Post]. “Adams, a former NYPD captain who pushed for reforms, insisted last year that ‘the prerequisite for prosperity is public safety.’ That message won him the lion’s share of black votes in the Democratic primary — a whopping 63%. Adams beat Defund-the-Police-and-‘create trauma-informed care in our schools’ Maya Wiley and wealthy hotspot favorite Kathryn Garcia handily in Brooklyn and The Bronx, including in public-housing units. Adams won by making crime his campaign’s center. Some voters worried a lot about the historic increase in violence heading into the primaries: Just 53% of New Yorkers without college degrees felt safe walking around their neighborhoods — compared with 72% of those with college degrees. And when asked how to deal with the surge in shootings and violent crime, college-educated voters were significantly more likely to select the ‘Defund the Police’ option — ‘Move resources away from police to fund programs that deal with mental health’ — than those without degrees. As is so often the case with today’s overeducated white progressives, the price of the policies that make them feel righteous is paid by the most vulnerable — poor and working-class people of color who have to live with the consequences.” • Throwing that red meat!

“The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!” –2 Samuel 19:1

2020 Post Mortem

“Fulton judges greenlight special grand jury for Trump probe” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “The judges on Fulton County’s Superior Court bench on Monday cleared the way for a special grand jury to be used for District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation of former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results…. Willis’ criminal probe, launched nearly a year ago, is centered on the Jan. 2, 2021, phone call that Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the 11,780 votes to overcome Joe Biden’s win here…. Special grand juries, which include 16 to 23 people, are rare in Georgia. They can’t issue indictments but can subpoena witnesses and compel the production of documents and information. Unlike regular grand juries, they can be seated for longer than two months and are focused on a singular topic rather than many.”

“Judges on top Texas criminal court deluged with calls, emails as AG Paxton fumes over election fraud ruling” [Houston Chronicle]. “Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges’ phone lines and email inboxes have been flooded for more than a week by callers angry about a ruling made by the state’s highest criminal court last month that stripped Attorney General Ken Paxton of the authority to prosecute election fraud cases without cooperation of the local district attorney or county attorney…. Paxton has publicly blasted the court’s Republican judges for the decision. He and other Republicans have also suggested Democratic district attorneys will not be vigilant against election fraud. ‘Now, thanks to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, Soros-funded district attorneys will have sole power to decide whether election fraud has occurred in Texas,’ Paxton wrote on Twitter at the time of the decision, referring to the Democratic mega-donor. ‘This ruling could be devastating for future elections in Texas.’” • But… the judges were Republican. Is Soros spreading his money around that lavishly? Maybe this Paxton dude and Rachel Maddow could go on cable, together. They could try to outdo each other.

Trump Legacy

“Donald Trump’s New Media Company Is the Top SPAC Short of 2022” [Institutional Investor]. “SPAC short sellers have sensed a gift in the not-yet consummated deal between Trump Media and Technology Group and the Digital World Acquisition Group, a high-flying SPAC that is also under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to its securities filing. That SPAC is now the most shorted one in the world, according to a new report from S3 Partners, which tracks short interest. Digital World is also the only short in the market with more than $100 million in short interest, S3 Partners found. As of January 20, the short interest in that SPAC was almost 13 percent, for a total of $323.73 million. So far, shorts have been losing money on this bet.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Warnings of ‘Civil War’ Risk Harming Efforts Against Political Violence” [War on the Rocks]. “The emerging cottage industry of speculation and alarm specifically about a civil war in the United States worries us. The shape and content of this debate — covered in venues as mainstream as NPR — risks mis-framing an urgent problem for non-specialist audiences. Rather than asking whether the United States will have a new civil war, commentators ought to be asking: What kinds of risks for political violence does the United States face? What forms might that political violence take? Who might perpetrate this violence, and which communities will be most affected by it? Retraining our focus on political violence allows us to consider the real risks ahead for the country, to work alongside the many groups already actively trying to push back illiberal violence, and to protect its most likely victims. Scholars of civil war typically understand the concept as one specific manifestation of violence among many. Although researchers may disagree on the particulars, they agree broadly that civil wars are conflicts within a country between the ruling government of that country and named, politically motivated armed groups that commit violence against one another above some threshold of battlefield casualties. For expert audiences, civil war violence is not one-sided violence — where an armed group targets civilians or the government with no organized retaliation — nor is it simply one-directional state repression. It is not indiscriminate terrorism aimed at the population, or even systematic, targeted campaigns of violence against minorities or specific groups. Rather, to be categorized as a “civil war,” violence must be part of a meaningful contest over the central government of the country, or a meaningful effort at secession. Civil war scholar Barbara Walter, who has been a prominent voice in this debate, has been careful to note she wants to avoid “an exercise in fear-mongering.” When she warns of a civil war, she points not to something akin to the U.S. Civil War — still the most destructive war in the country’s history — but rather to something with the intensity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles or Italy’s Years of Lead. ‘The next war is going to be more decentralized, fought by small groups and individuals using terrorism and guerrilla warfare to destabilize the country,’ Walter told Vox’s Zack Beauchamp, adding that ‘We are closer to that type of civil war than most people realize.’ In our own work, we have researched political violence that can occur in the absence of civil wars, or alongside them. Our concern with the frame Walter and others offer — and with the attached ‘civil war or not‘ headlines — is that it misses the wide array of other kinds of political violence the United States has not only historically experienced, but is currently experiencing. Crisp scholarly definitions belie the lived experience of political violence, which can be pervasive without ever rising to the level of civil war.

“Why More Inexperienced Candidates Are Running — And Winning” [FiveThirtyEight]. • Handy chart:

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“This Isn’t Jim Crow 2.0” [The Atlantic]. “Jim Crow was a terrible injustice and remains a stain on our country, but that is not where we are today. The 2020 election had the highest voter turnout in the nation’s history, including among Black, Latino, and Asian American voters; 59.4 percent of eligible African Americans voted, compared with 65.3 percent of white Americans. And that discrepancy in the percentage of white and Black voters is partially reflective of age—white voters tend to be older, and older Americans are more likely to vote—not systematic disenfranchisement. The voting-law changes made by state legislatures since 2020 also do not take us back to Jim Crow. Many of these laws simply return voting practices to those in effect before the pandemic. Are we really supposed to believe that the voting laws in place in 2012—when our nation’s first Black president and then–Vice President Biden were reelected—are equivalent to Jim Crow?… Ambiguity in an existing law called the Electoral Count Act, written nearly a century and a half ago, led the January 6 rioters to believe that they could change the result of a free and fair election—which should worry every American. If that were the case, a sitting vice president would be able to simply anoint the ticket nominated by his or her party—which would be entirely at odds with our constitutional system of transferring power based on statewide popular votes. To end this absurd notion, the process needs to be spelled out more clearly in the statute. Thankfully, a bipartisan group of leaders is now focused on that issue.” • This thesis does give an account of why the NGOs are up in arms on this (they are funded to be) and the electeds are not (they know their districts).

“Pro-Trump death threats prompt bills in 3 states to protect election workers” [Reuters]. “In Vermont, lawmakers are considering bills to make it easier to prosecute people who threaten election officials. In Maine, proposed legislation would stiffen penalties for such intimidation. In Washington, state senators voted this month to make threatening election workers a felony. The measures follow a Reuters series of investigative reports documenting a nationwide wave of threats and harassment against election administrators by Donald Trump supporters who embrace the former president’s false voting-fraud claims. Sponsors and supporters of the legislation in all three states.”


Case count by United States regions:

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Bouncy bouncy. But that’s peak behavior, albeit at an amplitude hitherto unseen. Looks like the Northeast is leading the rest of the country down (as they would, being first). If you look at the two previous peaks, you’ll see we’ve had declines, followed by rises, followed by final declines.That said, it would sure be nice if “rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick” applied, but we can’t know that yet. Previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecedented. Should be interesting what happens when B.2 arrives.

Note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” seems to be the case in South Africa (with a very different population from our own):

(I am but a simple tape-watcher, and say nothing of clinical effects, long Covid, stress on the health care system, co-morbidities, etc.)

Then again, speaking of gaming case numbers (ChiGal):

Again, I am but a simple tape-watcher. I look at the curves as narratives; I don’t trust the numbers whatever. But in the aggregate, I think we can dope out when and where things are getting better, when and where they are getting worse, and the state changes between them (particularly when as now, different streams of data reinforce each other). Given the Third World quality of our data, that’s probably the best we can do.

The official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise!

“The kids are not alright: Data suggests 10% of children with COVID-19 become ‘long-haulers’” [Salon]. “Because the data is preliminary, estimates thus far vary wildly on the prevalence of what is now known as “long Covid” in children and adolescents. …. While there is no official definition of pediatric long Covid at this time, the parameters typically include the persistence (or return) of symptoms 12 weeks following the initial infection. Some criteria look for new or persistent symptoms 30 days out from the acute infection. Another key is ruling out of alternative medical explanations — making the process of diagnosis lengthy and requiring a multi-disciplinary team. … However, there is now growing consensus that somewhere around 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in kids turn into long Covid — at least according to the data collected for primarily pre-omicron and pre-vaccine cases.” • Trump came for your parents. Then Biden came for your kids….

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NOT UPDATED MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

“Strengthening Public Health Surveillance Through Wastewater Testing : An Essential Investment for the COVID-19 Pandemic and Future Health Threats” [World Bank Open Knowledge Repository]. From the PDF, a handy chart:

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Don’t we want to “interrupt the chain of transmission”? This is something else the molasses-brained Biden Administration could have done a year ago, before they adopted their disastrous Vax-only policy (and always remembering that democidal elites are a parsimonious explanation).

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From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

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Great news in California, the Northeast, the lower Mississippi (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.

The previous release:

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Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Great news (reinforced by MWRA data and case data). (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 891,595 889,197. I have added an anti-triumphalist black “Fauci Line.” As we know, deaths are a lagging indicator. I assume the absurdity of the “Omicron is mild” talking point is, at this point, self-evident.

“People Are Hiding That Their Unvaccinated Loved Ones Died of COVID” [The Atlantic]. “Now the majority of COVID deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated, and many deaths are likely preventable. The compassion extended to the virus’s victims is no longer universal. Sometimes, in place of condolences, loved ones receive scorn… [M]any obituaries and memorial posts on social media don’t tell the full story, referencing pneumonia or other complications that stemmed from COVID-19 without invoking the coronavirus itself. Sometimes, no cause of death is given.” • I would imagine this desire to hide feeds back to hospitals and coroners too, as IIRC it did during the AIDS crisis…. So, the PMC shaming and fingerwagging turns out to nuke the very data professionals rely upon for their own decision-making.

And speaking of the PMC:

Apparently, I am not the only one who can draw a “Fauci Line:”

“Omnicron is milder… milder…. milder” [echo effect]….

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Good news here too. For the time being.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the US fifth district fell to a 4-month low of 8 in January of 2022 from 16 in December, due to declines in the indexes for new orders and employment. Survey results indicated firms continued to struggle to find the skills that they need despite solid increases in wages. The third component in the composite index, the index for shipments, increased slightly. The backlog of orders index dropped considerably, while the index for vendor lead time remained high and inventories indexes remained near historic lows. Firms’ perceptions about changes in local business conditions remained slightly negative; however, firms are optimistic about future conditions.”

Housing: “United States Case Shiller Home Price Index YoY” [Trading Economics]. “The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index in the US rose 18.3% year-on-year in November of 2021, the least since May but slightly above forecasts of 18%. House prices remain elevated due to low inventory and fast turnaround but the increasing mortgage rates are starting to weigh.”

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Manufacturing: “Boeing Adds $450 Million to Air-Taxi Effort” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company’s Silicon Valley-based Wisk venture joins an expanding crowd of electric air vehicles that have attracted billions of dollars in new funding over the past year. Some aim to start service by the middle of the decade, though those efforts hinge on an evolving regulatory framework to ensure passenger safety…. Wisk was formed in 2019 through a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk Corp., an electric aircraft maker co-founded by Mr. Page. Wisk is developing an aircraft seating three to four passengers that can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, flying autonomously without any pilot…. Details on the latest version that Wisk intends to operate commercially—and which likely will be larger—are due to be disclosed later this year, according to Boeing.” • Air taxis? After the 747? The 777? Heck, the B-52? Air taxis? Really?

Tech: This is so, so bad:

To answer one question downthread: The avatars in the Metaverse have nothing below the waist, because if they did, the Metaverse would be instantly deluged in pr0n. You’re welcome.

Mr. Market: “U.S. stocks renew slide after wild day on Wall Street” [MarketWatch]. “Here we go again. After a wild day of trading that saw a 1,000-point-plus upside reversal by the Dow, U.S. stocks were back under pressure Tuesday as the Federal Reserve kicked off a two-day policy meeting and investors sifted through a mixed bag of corporate earnings. Trading remained volatile, however, with equities tumbling sharply in early trade before trimming the decline.”

The Fed: “The Real Secret of Central Banking: There Are No Maestros” [James Mason, Barrons]. “Perhaps, though, we should take a step back and ask if the Fed is really all-powerful. You might like to see inflation come down; I’d like to see stronger labor markets. But can the Fed give either of us what we want?… To be sure, no one would claim that the Fed is powerless. Raise rates enough, and borrowers unable to roll over their loans will face default; as asset values fall and balance sheets weaken, households will have no choice but to drastically curtail consumption. But being able to sink a ship is not the same as being able to steer it. The fact that the Fed can, if it tries hard enough, trigger a recession, does not mean that it can maintain steady growth. Perhaps it’s time to admit that there are no central banking “maestros” who know the secret of maintaining full employment and price stability. Balancing these critical social objectives requires a variety of tools, not just a single interest rate. And it is, for better or worse, the responsibility of our elected government.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Fear (previous close: 41 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 65 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 25 at 1:37pm.

Department of Feline Felicity

And so what if it’s Russian:

Groves of Academe

Thia does seem odd:

Guillotine Watch

Sitting duck:

This guy… First, he foments war with Iran, as a Republican. Now, he foments war with Russia, as a Democrat:

Class Warfare

Why are there so many [glass bowls]?

“This Company Spent More Than $1 Million On Union-Busting Consultants” [HuffPo]. “When Cemex truck drivers in Las Vegas and Southern California decided to join the Teamsters in 2018, the ready-mix concrete company did all it could to stop them. Cemex quickly hired a “union avoidance” firm that it would pay more than $1 million to try to dissuade workers from organizing. Cemex managed to narrowly defeat the union in a March 2019 election, but not without traipsing all over the law and illegally firing a female driver who had been organizing her co-workers, according to trial testimony. The anti-union campaign was so rife with threats that a judge at the National Labor Relations Board ruled last month that Cemex committed “extraordinary violations” right up until ballots were cast. The case offers a window into how aggressively many companies respond when workers exercise their right to form a union — even at a place like Cemex, which already employs Teamsters members in other locations and has previously negotiated contracts with the union. ‘It was so traumatic for me,’ said Diana Ornelas, 29, the driver who the judge found was wrongly suspended and then fired. NLRB administrative law judge John T. Giannopoulos found many of the company’s witnesses not to be credible when they testified about what happened. He even determined that one of Cemex’s anti-union consultants — who is supposed to understand the legal boundaries better than anyone onsite — violated the law by telling workers Cemex might simply close its ready-mix cement operation rather than deal with unionized drivers.”

News of the Wired

The measure of all things?

Big time! Big time!

(The comments, unusually for YouTube, are insightful and humane.)

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (kd):

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kd writes: “Abandoned shed in the Willamette Valley.” Amazing prospects!

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