2:00PM Water Cooler 10/14/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 10/14/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Wayanad, Kerala, India.

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Politics

“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

“The logic of the insult and the logic of scientific classification represent the two extreme poles of what a classification may be in the social world.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“Biden admin declares post-Cold War era ‘definitively over’” [Politico]. I posted the original yesterday. “The language in the new document echoes the Trump administration’s national security strategy, which asserted ‘great power competition returned,’ and the second Obama-era iteration, which emphasized the need to revitalize democracy at home while partnering with allies on global issues. It makes sense, as Biden, Sullivan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken repeatedly in both Trumpian and Obamian terms on world affairs, sometimes in the same sentence.”

2022

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PA: “Fellow stroke survivor Chris Van Hollen is going to bat for John Fetterman in the hotly contested Pennsylvania Senate race” [Politico]. “‘John Fetterman is clearly up to the task of serving in the U.S. Senate and getting better every day,’ Van Hollen said in a statement to POLITICO. ‘The way Mehmet Oz has tried to exploit this situation, including John’s use of closed captions, is reprehensible. This experience gives John even greater insight into and empathy for the health care struggles of other Americans and will make him an even better senator.’ Van Hollen isn’t the only sitting senator this year to experience a stroke. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) had a stroke in January. Luján told POLITICO in September that he’s spoken to Fetterman and that the conversations have ‘gone very well.’ ‘Campaigns can bring out the worst in folks,’ he said. ‘He’s strong, he’s capable, he’s engaged.’” • We’ll see. The coming debate is high stakes. I’d really like to see that puppy-killing charlaton Oz eviscerated, but I’m not sure Fetterman is that sort of politician.

2024

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!). 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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Well, at least we’ve moved beyond the race card to the idpol card:

The worst part is funding Nazis. Wait, the worst part is fomenting nuclear war. It’s beyond absurd to file this incident under “civility.” Apples go bad awful fast in the Washington barrel, and watching @AOC squander her potential has been one of the less pleasant experiences of the last few years. I mean, this is the Democrat bench? The ones who will save us when some meteor strike finally whacks the dinosaurs?

Republican Funhouse

We can hope:

“How an urban myth about litter boxes in schools became a GOP talking point” [NBC]. “At least 20 conservative candidates and elected officials have claimed this year that K-12 schools are placing litter boxes on campus or making other accommodations for students who identify as cats, according to an NBC News review of public statements. Every school district that has been named by those 20 politicians said either to NBC News or in public statements that these claims are untrue. There is no evidence that any school has deployed litter boxes for students to use because they identify as cats. NBC News found one example of a school district keeping cat litter on campuses for students to use — but it had nothing to do with accommodating children who identify as animals…. In Colorado, GOP gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl insisted in several recent interviews that students were dressing and identifying as cats, disrupting class, and the state’s schools were tolerating it. Some children, she alleged, would only communicate in barks and hisses. Her campaign declined to answer questions about Ganahl’s claims, but in one interview with a local Fox affiliate, she suggested ‘there’s a lot of this going on’ in Jefferson County. The Jefferson County school district disputed Ganahl’s claims and said its dress code prohibits costumes at school. The district — where Columbine High School is located — has been stocking classrooms with small amounts of cat litter since 2017, but as part of “go buckets” that contain emergency supplies in case students are locked in a classroom during a shooting. The buckets also contain candy for diabetic students, a map of the school, flashlights, wet wipes and first aid items.” • Gad.

Realignment and Legitimacy

#COVID19

“Readout of the White House Summit on Improving Indoor Air Quality” [Whitehouse.gov]. “In addition to new, updated COVID-19 vaccines and lifesaving treatments, improving indoor air quality within the buildings we use every day is an essential part of the Biden Administration’s plan to manage COVID-19 this fall and winter. As people spend more time indoors this fall and winter, contagious viruses like COVID-19 can spread more easily. The Administration has called on business and school leaders to take key steps to improve indoor air quality in their buildings as a key way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” Oh, great. “Has called on.” Heaven forfend there should be, say, OSHA regulations. Oddly, there seem to be no unions represented at this conference: Not teachers, not airline attendants, not nurses. Odd! (And odd that the unions didn’t muscle their way in. Indeed, unions have been curiously absent from the whole #CovidIsAirborne discussion.)

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• ”The Masks We’ll Wear in the Next Pandemic” [The Atlantic]. “For some pandemic-prevention experts, the takeaway here is that pharmaceutical interventions alone simply won’t cut it. Though shots and drugs may be essential to softening a virus’s blow once it arrives, they are by nature reactive rather than preventive. To guard against future pandemics, what we should focus on, some experts say, is attacking viruses where they’re most vulnerable, before pharmaceutical interventions are even necessary. Specifically, they argue, we should be focusing on the air we breathe…. Abraar Karan, an infectious-disease physician and global-health expert at Stanford, told me. ‘The one thing that’s stayed consistent is the route of transmission.’ The most fearsome pandemics are airborne.” Scream at the top of your lungs for a year, win every brutal scientific combat, as the aerosol/airborne scientists have done, and get thrown into the “some experts” bucket [pounds head on desk]. Nor, apparently, are any of these scientists in the author’s Rolodex. Only an infectious disease expert from Stanford (i.e., the crowd that pushed droplet dogma until the dogma wouldn’t hunt). More: “Stanford’s Karan envisions a world in which everyone in the country has their own elastomeric respirator—not, in most cases, for everyday use, but available when necessary. Rather than constantly replenishing your stock of reusable masks, you would simply swap out the filters in your elastomeric (or perhaps it will be a PAPR) every so often. The mask would be transparent, so that a friend could see your smile, and relatively comfortable, so that you could wear it all day without it cutting into your nose or pulling on your ears. When you came home at night, you would spend a few minutes disinfecting it.” • My friends know I can smile with my eyes, ffs. Gawd, I hate that trope. In any case, readers know that I too have been screaming for masks to become a consumer good, indeed a fashion item, like Nike shoes. We know how to do this.

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• Disagreeing with Vinay Prasad is good, actually. A thread:

Worth noting that the anti-mask contingent, at least in high PM2.5 areas, cares neither about spreading Covid, nor about the health effects of PM2.5 (significant, as the thread shows). Why, it’s almost as if “living in fear” was a mere talking point!

• One more:

• We learn nothing:

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Transmission

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. (This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.)

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Lambert here: I have to say, I’m seeing more yellow and more blue, which continues to please. But is the pandemic “over”? Well….

Positivity

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, October 13:

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0.2%.

Lambert here: I forgot to update the date. In fact, Walgreens has been updating faithfully, unlike some I could mention. Also, I have added an anti-triumphalist black “Fauci Line” to remind us all that even though Biden says the pandemic is over, and even though the positivity rate is dropping, it is still at the second highest point it has even been.

Readers, please click through on this, if you have a minute. Since Walgreens did the right thing, let’s give this project some stats.

Wastewater

STILL NOT UPDATED FFS Wastewater data (CDC), September 24:

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Lambert here: Note the dates, which moved backward from October 4 to September 24. Some sort of backward revision? In any case, we are now 18 19 days behind on wastewater data. Good job with the leading indicator, CDC. Adding: Looks like we’ve moved to once a week, here? If so, then this wording in the page header needs to be corrected: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates Mon-Fri by 8pm ET†.” And the note: “†Data will update Monday through Friday as soon as they are reviewed and verified, oftentimes before 8 pm ET. Updates will occur the following day when reporting coincides with a federal holiday. Note: Daily updates (Mon-Fri) might be delayed due to delays in reporting.” Oh.

October 4:

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Variants

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? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].

Variant data, national (Walgreens), October 1:

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Variant data, national (CDC), September 24 (Nowcast off):

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Here is Fiegel-Ding today’s release:

Caveat: Fiegel-Ding’s screen shot uses the CDC’s Nowcast model, which is a projection. I refuse to use CDC’s models, which is why our screen shots differ. Nonetheless, my “Nowcast” screen shot shows significant doubling behavior by BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. And yes, CDC did retroactively add them, but that was because (see the highlighted portion in the notes on my screen shot at bottom right) CDC had previously aggregated them under BA.5. Previously, it looked like BA.5 was shrinking, and BA.4.6 was increasing. Now it turns out that the real danger — BQ.1.1 is very immune evasive, “even able to dodge most neutralizing antibodies elicited by infection with BA.5″ — was hidden in BA.5 after all. This is not, to put it mildly, a stellar example of scientific communication by CDC. And since BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are moving allong quite nicely, it will be interesting to see where we are with them by the time the Thanksgiving holiday system is upon us. At CDC’s stately pace, that’s only five releases away..

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,089,916 – 1,089,385 = 531 (531 * 365 = 193,815, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line. NOTE I may need to configure this as well.

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.

Stats Watch

Patient readers, I’d like to beef up this section again, having beefed down the Covid section (because the Centers for Disease doesn’t believe in data). This will take a bit of time, as I get back in form. –lambert

Retail: “United States Retail Sales” [Trading Economics]. “Retail sales in the US rose by 8.2 percent year-on-year in September 2022, easing from an upwardly revised 9.4 percent growth in the previous month. It was the smallest increase in retail trade since April, as high inflation and rising borrowing costs hit demand.”

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Investing: “BlackRock Gets Read the Right Wing’s Riot Act” [John Authers, Bloomberg]. “This letter to Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock Inc., from John Schroder, Louisiana’s state treasurer, is well worth reading. In it, he explains why BlackRock’s espousal of ESG funds (although the money it runs for Louisiana is not on an ESG basis) has led the state to divest from all BlackRock funds. It expresses the philosophy of opposition to environmental, social and governance investing most eloquently. But the bottom line, I fear, is that it cedes an essential point to the backers of ESG. Fund managers are allowed to take the broader interests of their members into account, and not just the narrowly financial ones; and it is perfectly justifiable to base investment decisions on political ends or principles. Most of BlackRock’s funds are not run on an ESG basis, and Schroder accepts that the the company invests in plenty of energy companies. However, it is necessary to take this measure to protect the interests of people in Louisiana who rely on the oil industry.”

Banking: “Custodia Bank accuses Fed of favoritism toward BNY Mellon” [Banking Dive]. “The Federal Reserve’s granting BNY Mellon the ability to take custody of clients’ crypto assets is an example of the regulator showing favoritism toward an incumbent financial institution, digital-asset bank Custodia Bank said in a court brief it filed Wednesday… Dollar and digital bank Custodia, which has been waiting 2½ years for a Fed master account, sued the Federal Reserve in June over what it claims is an ‘unlawful delay’ in processing its application.” • Custodia. Wyoming. Digital Assets. Crypto. Sounds legit.

Concentration: “Why A Kroger/Albertsons Merger Is A Bad Idea” [Forbes]. “The combination would be great for investors and top executives, who have extracted windfall profits from both chains since the pandemic began, pocketing billions in dividends and buybacks. Profit margins have soared as a result of price inflation above the rate of cost increases, alongside record sales from greater consumer demand for stay at home cooking, store brands and comfort foods.” So what’s the issue? More: “A merger may make it tougher for unions; a 2004 grocery strike for better wages in California was squashed once Kroger and Albertsons joined forces against their own employees. And a merger would also mean large scale layoffs in redundant white collar jobs, such as office-based marketing, procurement, analytics, digital sales and category management roles. And the combination would mean big problems for nearly everyone else in the supply chain.”

Labor Market: “Intel Is Planning Thousands of Job Cuts in Face of PC Slump” [Bloomberg]. “Intel Corp. is planning a major reduction in headcount, likely numbering in the thousands, to cut costs and cope with a sputtering personal-computer market, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The layoffs will be announced as early as this month, with the company planning to make the move around the same time as its third-quarter earnings report on Oct. 27, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. The chipmaker had 113,700 employees as of July.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 21 Extreme Fear (previous close: 24 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 21 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 14 at 1:38 PM EDT. No crash yet.

Book Nook

“Tinker, tailor, lover, spy” [Times Literary Supplement]. “Le Carré had many things to hide, some more germane to his published work than others. His life breaks neatly into two parts: the first, by far the more absorbing, if disquieting, includes a childhood marked by appalling abuse and neglect courtesy of his charming con-artist father, who lurched from the high life (hosting the visiting Australian Test team, owning racehorses, standing for parliament) to the low (several bankruptcies, the ruthless defrauding of family and friends, a number of prison sentences served in jails across the world). Le Carré and his brother Tony were abandoned by their mother when still small, and educated in the cold and brutal world of British boarding schools; he wrote to his brother Tony in 2007, when he was seventy-five, that their parents ‘fucked us up rotten.’ Le Carré was picked up as a student by MI5 and later moved to MI6. In 1958 John Marriot, the head of personnel at MI5, astutely asked him, ‘have you got over your father yet?’ (He never did.) At Oxford he had pretended to fall in with the Communists, informing on his fellow students. For MI6 he was based in Germany. In the early 1960s, when The Spy Who Came in from the Cold made him suddenly and unimaginably rich, le Carré left the service, and for the next fifty years or so was a millionaire celebrity writer of espionage fiction, and a persistent philanderer.”

The Gallery

How I feel after I’ve had my coffee too (and could Vuillard actually draw?):

Readers, that was a terrific discussion we had yesterday on photography. I hope if we have artists in another other visual/spatial media that they will feel free to weigh in generally, as a matter of course. Painters, sculptors, musicians etc.

Class Warfare

“How We Create–Then Blame–A Viral Underclass” (interview) [Steven Thrasher, MedScape]. On Thrasher’s The Viral Underclass; the interviewer is Eric Topol (!). Long and well worth a read. Here is one nugget: “viruses give us this map of understanding that there is no distinct me and distinct you. There’s always this organic material that potentially can be transmitting between us, and our fates are linked to one another. … Viruses are continually telling us that the fates of people on the globe are connected to each other. The risk we always have is not the same, but our fates are connected to one another. As we think about climate change and the changes that are going to happen in the world, there are lots of lessons that we’ve had in the past few years. The most powerful to me is that we’re always going to have a connection to one another, whether we like it or not. And the borders that we imagine to be very strong around gender, race, or nationality are fictions. The viruses can cross between them, and they give us a map for learning how to work with one another in an interconnected way.”

Union youth:

What an amazing story. I’m coming around to the idea that an important story on unions is these bottom up efforts. Sort of a “50 state strategy,” except for unions; away from the chokepoints in the supply chains, but in every city and town (and farm).

News of the Wired

“A man who lost 80 pounds on a ‘game changer’ weight-loss drug also lost his desire to drink alcohol. Experts say the drug could be a treatment for addiction” [Business Insider]. “Some patients taking the weight-loss drug semaglutide were surprised it reduced their urge to drink. The drug affects the brain’s reward circuits, decreasing addictive behaviors as well as hunger. At least one doctor says he’s successfully using it to treat patients with alcohol-use disorder.” • Hmm. A miracle cure?

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