2:00PM Water Cooler 10/6/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 10/6/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Rufous-brown Solitaire, Nariño, Colombia.

* * *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

“Disasters divert Biden’s fall agenda” [Politico]. • Wait. Biden had an agenda? I mean, beyond fomenting war with a nuclear power and instituting eugenics as the baseline for public health policy?


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AZ: “Rep. Liz Cheney Says Arizona GOP Candidates Threaten Democracy” [HuffPo]. “Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Wednesday said the Republican candidates for Arizona governor and secretary of state pose a huge risk for democracy because both say they will refuse to certify election results if they don’t like the results….Cheney also leveled broadsides as what she said was a growing “Putin wing” of the Republican Party who want America to withdraw from the world stage and refuse to defend freedom in other countries.”

NV: “Democrats’ Troubles in Nevada Are a Microcosm of Nationwide Headwinds” [New York Times]. “The Culinary Workers Union members who are knocking on doors to get out the vote are on the cursed-at front lines of the Democratic Party’s midterm battle. Most voters do not open their doors. And when some do answer, the canvassers might wish they hadn’t. ‘You think I am going to vote for those Democrats after all they’ve done to ruin the economy?’ a voter shouted one evening last week from her entryway in a working-class neighborhood of East Las Vegas. Miguel Gonzalez, a 55-year-old chef who described himself as a conservative Christian who has voted for Republicans for most of his life, was more polite but no more convinced. ‘I don’t agree with anything Democrats are doing at all,’ he said after taking a fistful of fliers from the union canvassers. Those who know Nevada best have always viewed its blue-state status as something befitting a desert: a kind of mirage. Democrats are actually a minority among registered voters, and most of the party’s victories in the last decade were narrowly decided. But the state has long been a symbolic linchpin for the party — vital to its national coalition and its hold on the blue West. Now, Democrats in Nevada are facing potential losses up and down the ballot in November and bracing for a seismic shift that could help Republicans win control of both houses of Congress. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto remains one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the country. Gov. Steve Sisolak is fighting his most formidable challenger yet. And the state’s three House Democrats could all lose their seats.” • I suppose the bright side would be that the Reid machine will be cleaned out at last. But it’s more likely it will be more powerful than ever.

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.

* * *

“Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at Weekly Press Conference” [Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House]. ” Right now, the best thing that we can do for our economy is to have comprehensive immigration reform. We have a shortage of workers in our country, and you see even in Florida some of the farmers and the growers saying, ‘Why are you shipping these immigrants up north? We need them to pick the crops down here.’” • Oh.

Republican Funhouse

Trump Legacy

“Is There Anything That Will Make the ‘Former Guy’ Go Away?” [New York Times]. Betteridge’s Law applies. Nevertheless, a conversation between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens: “[Bret:] My main problem with most G.O.P. hopefuls is that they are what I’ve come to call ‘one-sheep Republicans.’ Not sure if I need to explain — Gail: Oh, let yourself go. Bret: It’s a reference to an old joke about an old man whose lifetime of good deeds on behalf of his little village is undone on account of a single unfortunate moment of passion with a woolly companion. The point is that much as I prefer most Republican policy proposals on stuff like regulation and taxes, the refusal to forthrightly accept the results of the last election is their sheep. Gail: Bret, whenever I look at a Republican on TV, I will now see a little fluffy creature baa-ing softly in the corner. Thanks.” • Gotta respect the meme-age, but yikes.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A Dose of Rational Optimism” (review) [Dissent]. Review of Brad DeLong’s Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century. “Humanity, the Berkeley economist argues, spent nearly the entirety of its history condemned to poverty by an insufficient supply of calories and a chronically excessive birth rate. But in the “long twentieth century”—the period between 1870 and 2010—an almost miraculous transformation took place: more and more people lived longer, healthier, more prosperous lives than ever before. Arenas of intellect and creative expression that were once accessible only to the most privileged of elites became the common experiences of mass cultures. Humans did not find utopia, DeLong argues, but we stumbled in its general direction. In the grim morass that has followed the financial crisis of 2008, it is refreshing to receive a dose of rational optimism—however tempered—from a serious intellectual examining our place in the grand scheme of history. DeLong does not avert his readers’ eyes from the brutalities of imperial conquest, genocide, and revolution gone awry, which define the political milieu of the era under his microscope. But his narrative is fundamentally hopeful: people can accomplish amazing things on a colossal scale. Not that long ago, we did so all the time. This perspective is refreshing precisely because everyone, DeLong included, knows that something has gone terribly wrong.” • Maybe I at least have to give this book the random opening test.

“The most common restaurant cuisine in every state, and a chain-restaurant mystery” [WaPo]. “When Clio Andris and Xiaofan Liang gave us early access to the latest update of their delightful data on chain restaurants, they already had identified its most compelling mystery: Places that support Donald Trump also tend to have the most franchise foods. But why? It turns out ‘the foodscape is very political,’ said Liang, a PhD candidate at Georgia Tech’s School of City & Regional Planning. ‘Places with a high percentage of Trump voters have a higher percentage of chains. We didn’t expect it.’ Chain restaurants — those ubiquitous monuments to corporate consistency, from Applebee’s to Arby’s, Olive Garden to Pizza Hut — are most common in Kentucky, West Virginia and Alabama. They’re rarest in Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii. Maine, New York and D.C. also tend to have fewer chains.” • The map:

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Half the country!


Patient readers: Holy moley, the Walgreens site came alive again! That makes me feel a lot less mournful about the state of our data, since we now have some checks on CDC (variants and positivity).

Tomorrow, however, I do CDC’s Rapid Riser and Hospitalization charts for the last time, since the interagency hairball that publishes them is going to weekly publication on Friday, and I don’t think that’s frequent enough to be useful. Too bad they couldn’t have waited until after holiday travel, but there we are. The case counts are undercounts, but it seems to be they’re the best we have. I am not sure, however, that “the best we have” is good enough.

Since case counts, hospitalization, and deaths all correlate, I think we can agree there was no back-to-school surge in September. Dropping positivity reinforces that. What worries me, however, is the emergence of a new, vaccine-escaping variant, before or during the holidays. I’m reluctant to rely only variant data for this, since variant data is really laggy (not enough labwork fast enough). Wastewater data helps here, but CDC coverage is really patchy, and in any case I want a check on them. What worries me is that “experts say” that what happens in the UK happens in the US about a month later; and the UK is having a surge. I’m open to suggestions from readers on how to handle that, and for sources with which to revise this section (and, incidentally, save myself some time so I can write more about the economy under Stats, which is neglected). Should I abandon case counts entirely, for example? Since Johns Hopkins is mumbling about cutting them back? Focus on more local sources for wastewater? Readers, thoughts?

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• “Lineage diversity” is the dotted line:

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• Re-upping an extremely long and useful thread on superspreading events:

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• Hmm. One wonders why:

I went and checked:

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December’s only two months away, so why do anything? Can readers comment on whether this stinks as much as it seems to?

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• Remember when kids didn’t get Covid? Good times:

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• “Once Known for Vaccine Skeptics, Marin Now Tells Them ‘You’re Not Welcome’” [New York Times]. The deck: “The wealthy California county just north of San Francisco has one of the nation’s highest Covid-19 vaccination rates after years of being known for parents who opposed shots for childhood diseases.” • ”They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

• “CDC: Keep Family From Catching Your Covid By Isolating In A Separate Room” [Forbes]. Now they tell us. An “Editor’s Pick,” no less. “A new CDC study shows that isolating in separate rooms significantly reduced the odds of SARS-CoV-2 transmission between household members. Isolating in separate rooms proved to be the most effective mitigation measure against onward SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission regardless of age, gender, vaccination status, and other risk factors. While vaccination was found to reduce the risk of infection, it did not appear to reduce transmission within the household. Both vaccinated (primary vaccination series) and unvaccinated adults and children with varying demographic factors were found to transmit the virus at similar rates. The study serves as a reminder that we should not ignore public health and nonmedical interventions such as masking and isolating, even as mandates are dropping and much of the world is experiencing fatigue.” • Interestingly, although the CDC study linked to has many CDC authors, it was published at Open Forum Infectious Diseases, not at Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report.

* * *

Case Count

Case count for the United States:

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Cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the nominal case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~43,300. Today, it’s ~40,721 and 40,721 * 6 = a Biden line at 244,326. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of the first surge in New York, in the spring of 2020 (after which the Times printed the images of the 100,000 who died, considering that a large number, as it was at the time).

Regional case count for four weeks:

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The South:

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Probably it will turn out that all Florida’s records were destroyed by Hurricane Ian, what a shame.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

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Frankly. the steady drop among all this smallish Southern states collectively gives me more hope than anything else.

The West:

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This drop is the reason the national figures dropped. Every time there’s been a drop this large, it’s been revised away.


Wastewater data (CDC), October 2:

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Lambert here: I’m pleased to see that there are now some live sites in New York City.

For grins, September 1:

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An alert reader suggested taking a look at the MWRA data from the Boston area, and lo and behold:

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Lambert here: Both North and South sewer systems showed a slight drop.

This is a seven-day average, mind you, so the rise is no fluke. (MRWA is divided into north and south sewersheds. Both are rising.) Let us also remember that the Boston area is not only the home of many, many students, it’s also a PMC center, and we have already seen one ginormous superspreader event from the conference in Boston. Boston also has a major international airport, another cause of spread.


UPDATED From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, October 4:

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0.4%. Nevertheless encouraging.

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


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. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Use the community transmission immediately below.

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….

Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), October 4:

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Previous Rapid Riser data:

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Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), October 4:

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See the NOTE below. It’s mind-boggling that this report is being cut back at a time when hospitalization is rising in the Northeast. I mean, I thought hospitalization was what these guys cared about?

NOTE: From CDC: “Effective September 23, 2022, the Community Profile Report will only be updated once a week, on Fridays. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the delayed upload for 09/30/2022.” At top right, the Download is labeled “Updated: October 4, 2022.” The file name: “Community_Profile_Report_20220929.pfd.” Even in the smallest things, CDC just lies and lies. To be fair, this file is really produced by “an interagency team with representatives from multiple agencies and offices (including the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the Indian Health Service. So they’re all lying, not just the CDC. “The way to control and direct a mentat, Nefud, is through his information. False information–false results”. -Baron Harkonnen.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. 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].

UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 24:

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Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its appearance in CDC data below.

Variant data, national (CDC), September 10 (Nowcast off):

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Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,086,685 – 1,085,366 = 1319 (1319 * 365 = 481,435, 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.

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.

• Meanwhile in Australia:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 29,000 to 219,000 in the week that ended October 1st, jumping from the five-month low hit in the prior week and sharply above expectations of 203,000, suggesting some loosening in labor market conditions.”

* * *

Retail: “Amazon debuts new shopping portal for customers on government assistance” [CNN]. “Amazon on Monday launched a new shopping portal called Amazon Access that is designed for shoppers receiving government assistance. The shopfront features SNAP EBT on Amazon, information about the Amazon Layaway program that all shoppers can use to pay for their orders over time and spotlights discounts and coupons for any customer on essential grocery items. Amazon already offers some services for low-income customers, such as discounted Amazon Prime membership. It also accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits for groceries purchased through Amazon Grocery, Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods. The company said the new portal is meant to be a centralized hub that puts these individual benefits all in one place. ‘Given the tough economic climate with many facing rising costs on essential needs, we want our customers to know about all the accessible offerings available on Amazon, no matter their circumstances,’ said Nancy Dalton, head of community partnerships for Amazon Access. Amazon (AMZN) also announced it has renamed its discounted Prime membership to Prime Access. Eligible customers can sign up for the service on Amazon (AMZN) Access.” • Access. BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!

Tech: Why Google’s products are as they are:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 32 Fear (previous close: 30 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 14 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 6 at 12:59 PM EDT.

Feral Hog Watch

This tweet went viral:

Two clickthroughs, and the story is attested, albeit from 2013: “Drunk and boarish: swigging pig hogs 18 beers at campsite” [Guardian].

Department of Feline Felicity

“The Case for Cats” [The Atlantic]. “If I’m being completely honest, maybe it’s the feline personality that’s my personal catnip. My cats are just as cuddly as any dog I’ve ever had—probably more. They’re affectionate and personable; they come running when we call; they greet us at the door. And every cat I’ve met has been such a distinct individual, such a character: bursting with strong opinions, clear-cut preferences, bizarre and memorable quirks. And those traits are steadfast. Whether they’re scared, happy, suspicious, or confused, Calvin and Hobbes are always Calvin and Hobbes. I get that cats can sometimes be contrarian. I get that their outer shell can sometimes be tough to crack. But for me, that makes them all the more fascinating. Their trust and affection is hard-won. So when it’s earned, it feels that much more meaningful.” • I love my ruthlessly efficient little predator….

Health Care

Medicare for All? Why?

I was at the periphery of the last major push for single payer, where “Medicare for All” became the talking point because (it was felt) “single payer” was too technical, and in retrospect I think the rebranding was a mistake. Too many people have had bad experiences with Medicare having been crapified, and in any case Medicare Advantage is hollowing out Medicare proper from the inside. And then the “For All” part, meant to imply improvement, got lost in the shuffle. And then the liberal Democrats got Joe Biden in, and he anesthetized everything. So it goes.

Groves of Academe


I would need to check Taleb’s writings carefully, but if “contagion” is a metaphor, like “hive mind,” instead of a mechanism, I’d be disappointed.

Zeitgeist Watch

“At Topeka Gun & Knife Show, cruel ironies fester amid aisles of weapons” [Kansas Reflector]. At the Topeka Gun & Knife Show: “I step out of the show instead, past a cheerful blonde with a U.S. flag and a poster that says, “Register to vote.” Next to her, a uniformed police officer is posted, and I recognize her. She often provides security at our church, which makes me think of a time — not that long ago — when none of us worried about shooters storming into worship services with semi-automatic weapons that fire up to 60 bullets a minute, exploding organs. How strange to see her here now, providing security for gun buyers in a center named for a hospital. At the exit, I once again pass the small square signs that show crossed-out handguns, and I realize that the last time I was here, a dozen hard-working nurses were receiving the crowd, keeping the COVID-19 vaccine syringes going, making sure we were all safer and less likely to die.”

Class Warfare

“Alabama Paper Mill Workers Want Their Lives Back — And They’re Giving Up $30,000 To Get It” [The Real News]. “In the morning of Oct. 1, after a 50-hour voting period, almost 500 union members from three United Steel Workers (USW) locals at WestRock’s Mahrt Mill paper mill in Cottonton, Alabama, voted to reject a second contract offer from the company. The refusal to ratify WestRock’s ‘last, best, and final’ offer came as a result of the company insisting on removing contract language pertaining to what the workers there call ‘penalties’ for long hours. Members resoundingly rejected this contract, even though it included an unheard-of $28,000 ratification bonus—increased from an already staggering offer of $20,000, which workers already rejected on Sept. 21. Members resoundingly rejected this contract, even though it included an unheard-of $28,000 ratification bonus—increased from an already staggering offer of $20,000, which workers already rejected on Sept. 21. The penalties in question include time-and-a-half pay on Sundays (which turns into double time if an employee was already at or above 40 hours for the week), and time-and-a-half pay retroactively applied for one’s whole shift if said shift goes over 16 hours (what’s known as ‘Hog Law’ in the industry).” • Not just the signing bonus; time-and-a-half (!). Commentary:

“Why are we so afraid to govern?” [Worcester Sucks and I Love It]. “The vocabulary itself is a buffer against reform. So if I accurately described the demand The Worcester Together Affordable Housing Coalition made at a rally Wednesday—to alter a draft inclusionary zoning ordinance so that the required 10 percent of income-restricted units in new developments would be set to accommodate households making 60 percent of the area median income instead of 80 percent, as it’s currently written—it feels like I’m speaking in some sort of foreign language. The people who stand to gain from the status quo this language perpetuates are quite fluent—the developers, the hedge fund managers, the attorneys and the City Hall people who work with (for?) them. They know what I’m saying! On the other hand, the people who stand to lose—really, anyone who lives here and makes less than $100,000 a year—couldn’t be blamed for having no idea what any of that means. If you’re not a housing advocate or work in public policy or a weird nerd (me), why the hell would you bother to learn this impossibly boring language? Smart policies that would have real popular appeal are thus buried behind a fog of inscrutability. It’s just so hard to craft a compelling message. So I suppose the best way to kick off my attempt at such a message is to quote the only person in history to come up with a good one: Jimmy McMillan, who famously said in no uncertain terms that the rent is just too damn high.”

News of the Wired

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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. From:

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