2:00PM Water Cooler 11/15/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/15/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Querétaro, Mexico. The spectrogram looks a bit like cuneiform.

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“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 Administration

President Superspreader?

“Biden says Democrats will not be able to pass abortion-rights legislation” [NBC]. • That was fast. My goodness, I thought the Democrats were still in power until January?


The House:

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“The 2022 Midterms Were One of the Best Elections the Left Has Had in Memory” [Jacobin]. “The major top-line success for the Left this election is the addition of several new insurgent candidates who, like “the Squad” of 2018, were backed by progressive outside groups — notably the Working Families Party (WFP) and Justice Democrats — with little or no support from established party networks. The total of such members now rises to twelve, after four such insurgent candidates sailed to victory in safe blue seats for which they won primaries earlier this year. This year’s crop is Summer Lee (PA-12), Greg Casar (TX-35), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), and Maxwell Frost (FL-10). This group is notable, among other things, for its seriousness commitments to left-wing policy.” • Isn’t it pretty to think so.

“This was the year liberal democracy fought back” [Janan Ganesh, Financial Times]. • This is a silly column. Liberal so-called democracy really fought back in 2020, when in the UK Labour electeds and bureaucrats, with the help of the press and the spooks, defenestrated Jeremy Corybyn on “baseless” charges of anti-Semitism, and o the US liberal Democrat Barack Obama staged “the Night of the Long Knives,” and made sure that Bernie Sanders would never take the nomination.

“In Secretary of State Races, Election Deniers (Mostly) Lose” [Bolts]. “All election deniers who ran for secretary of state in battleground states—buoyed by endorsements from Trump—lost on Tuesday, blocking major avenues for the former president to manipulate the next election. Jim Marchant, the Republican nominee in Nevada, came closest, losing to Democrat Francisco Aguilar by two percentage points. In Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico, incumbent Democratic secretaries of state crushed their far-right challengers Kristina Karamo, Kim Crockett, and Audrey Trujillo by margins ranging from 9 to 14 percentage points—all far more than Joe Biden’s margins of victory two years ago. Mark Finchem, an Arizona lawmaker who has since 2020 championed proposals to decertify his own state’s presidential results, repeated just this fall that the votes of Arizona’s two most populous counties should be “tossed out.” He lost his bid on Tuesday, trailing in both of these counties decisively. Election deniers also failed to take over secretary of state offices in blue states like Massachusetts and Vermont, lost elections for governor in places where the winner can appoint a secretary of state, and fell short for other offices from which they may have exerted significant if indirect influence on elections, such as Michigan’s attorney general or New Mexico’s supreme court.” • I’m really of two minds about the election denier bucket, since I’m sure there are gradations. Not only that, election deniers are the only political faction demanding paper ballots, in my view righteous. So….)

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TX: “Texas governor calls for investigation into Houston-area elections” [The Hill]. “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday called for an investigation into ‘widespread problems’ in Houston-area elections during the midterms. ‘The allegations of election improprieties in our state’s largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct. Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened. Integrity in the election process is essential. To achieve that standard, a thorough investigation is warranted,’ Abbott said in a statement. The Republican governor, who defeated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke last week, called on the Texas secretary of state, the state attorney general and the Texas Rangers “to initiate investigations into allegations of improprieties in the ay that the 2022 elections were conducted in Harris County.’ A number of polling locations in Harris County allegedly failed to open on time on Election Day, which spurred the Texas Civil Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas to file an emergency lawsuit — and the county’s 782 polling places were ordered to stay open an hour past their typical closing time.”


I see you quiver with antici…. pation:

“DeSantis brushes off Trump attacks: ‘All that’s just noise’” [The Hill]. DeSantis: “I think what you learn is, all that’s just noise, and really what matters is, are you leading, are you getting in front of issues, are you delivering results for people and are you standing up for folks? And if you do that, then none of that stuff matters.”

“Why the midterms make me optimistic for America” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. “Only recently, Florida was considered a highly competitive purple state. Obama won it in 2012, and gubernatorial races there have usually been very close. But in the 2022 midterms, Ron DeSantis won a crushing 20-point victory, and Republicans won solidly pretty much everywhere on the ballot. Turning Florida into a deep red state is a major coup for Republicans, and they owe a lot of it to DeSantis. And DeSantis did it in part because he won over the state’s Hispanic voters. The much-talked-about Hispanic shift toward the GOP is proceeding only slowly at the national level, but in Florida it has been a major shift (and not just among Cubans either). DeSantis seems to have an almost Reaganesque ability to stake out culture-war positions that drive elite liberals up the wall while failing to scare away the ethnic working class.”• I always enjoy reader reactions to Smith. Is he wrong here? (And how on earth did a tired old hack and former Republican like Crist get nominated?)

“Rupert Murdoch urges Donald Trump not to run in 2024, threatening to back a Democrat if he does” [iNews]. “One senior News Corp source told i: “We have been clear with Donald. There have been conversations between them during which Rupert made it clear to Donald that we cannot back another run for the White House.’ It is also understood that Mr Murdoch’s son Lachlan, who is co-chairman of News Corp and chief executive of Fox News’ parent company Fox Corporation, has informed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that the family’s media clout would get behind him should he run for the White House, even if Mr Trump stands against him and whether Joe Biden is the Democrat candidate or not.”

“Michelle Obama: Trump victory ‘still hurts’ after six years” [The Hill]. • That’s a damn shame.

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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“How Democrats Can Build a John Fetterman 2.0” [Michael Sokolove, New York Times]. ” I talked to Mr. Fetterman’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, about what lessons can be drawn from the campaign. ‘It’s about embracing candidates for who they are and not trying to nominate the same cookie-cutter people or mold them into something they’re not,’ he said. ‘And you can’t try to slice off entire demographic categories and ignore them. It’s a recipe for failure.’ Ms. [Anat Shenker-Osorio, a Bay Area-based strategist for progressive candidates and organizations] told me that the Democratic establishment in Pennsylvania lined up in the spring primary behind Mr. Fetterman’s opponent, Conor Lamb, a moderate congressman from a family with a deep history in Democratic politics. Mr. Fetterman ‘was deemed too lefty,’ she said. ‘They desperately wanted Lamb. So, as step one, how about we put an ax through ‘electability’ and recall that the middle of the road is where you get run over.’” • I would have like to have had some interviews with panels of voters, instead of yet another emptied Rolodex. “Bay area strategist”? Really? (That said, yes, every county and social media, though Sololove doesn’t take the view, as I do, that Fetterman’s use of social media was a shiny bauble to distract the press, who otherwise would have gone into their “pull the wings off flies” mode well before the debate.)

Realignment and Legitimacy


Lambert here: I can’t call a winter surge, though we’ll really have to wait for Thanksgiving travel. However, high transmission (CDC), the elevation and continued increase in positivity (Walgreens), and the steady takeover of BQ.1* (CDC; Walgreens) are all a little unsettling (as is the apparent proliferation of variants). Stay safe out there! (As far as Thanksgiving travel goes, lacking CDC’s “Rapid Riser” counties feature, the best we can do, I think, is follow the news and look at wastewater. I would order risk from highest to lowest at JFK/LGA (New York), ORD (Chicago), and then LAX (Los Angeles) and ATL (Atlanta). Since New York — as of this writing, and of course all the data is delayed, making personal risk assessment an epic in delusion, but I digress — is a BQ.1* hotbed, I’d try to use EWR (Newark) not JFK/LGA. My $0.02!

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• ”ASHRAE Positions on Infectious Aerosols Approved by the ASHRAE Board of Directors October 13, 2022″ (PDF) [ASHRAE]. ASHRAE = American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. This is big:

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Now if somebody could just tell those weasels at CDC and in the Biden administration that #CovidIsAirborne. Commentary:

Marr being an exceptional aerosol scientist, congratulations to her.

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• ”Why Do They *Think* That?” [Essays you didn’t want to read]. A question you and I have been rumuninating on, which the post partially answers with a long explanation of cognitive heuristics, biases and fallacies, with examples. To me, this passage was key:

“People wish to be seen (by themselves and others) as reasonable. Because of this, when folks try to decide on a ‘rational’ response to an environmental threat, they often look at the array of available risk mitigation options and try to pick a percentage of these that is neither an ‘under-response’ or an ‘over-response.’… Unfortunately, that’s not the way risk actually works; a threat is what it is, and it isn’t going to negotiate with you regarding how much you have to do or what is a ‘fair’ amount of effort…. Unfortunately, US public health leaders have been promoting this framing of risk in relative (vs. absolute) terms throughout the pandemic. Their stated reason is that they believe they’d never get full compliance anyway, and that asking for it would only trigger reactant noncompliance. But when policy makers are also clearly more interested in economic heath than in public health, I suspect that argument is something of a dissonance-reducing rationalization on their part. People in many other societies have willingly done much more to reduce risk than we have here. If US residents had been told clearly why and how to reduce risk, and the government had made various tools more available, we would likely have seen both a larger uptake in risk reduction measures and a more positive attitude toward that mitigation. (Remember that free N95s were ready to mail out to the whole country, when Trump pulled the plug*.) Thanks to the illusory truth effect (which holds that statements are more likely to be accepted as true the more often they’re repeated), messaging from people like Rochelle Walensky and Ashish Jha has created and endlessly reinforced the notions that ‘Mitigation is Hard,’ ‘People Are Too Tired,’ ‘Previous Mitigations Are No Longer Necessary’ and ‘It’s Totally Fine for Everyone if Everyone Does ‘You Do You.’’ Those who push back against those messages are both violating group norms and reminding others of unpleasant truths they’ve been already assured they can stop thinking about. It’s no wonder the sight of a masked face promotes resentment.

The whole post is worth a read. NOTE * I don’t love Trump, but in this he would have been following WHO and CDC guidance.

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• “Why Masks Still Matter” [Time]. “Currently, the CDC does not list masks under their guidance to Americans for how to prevent flu. And data has been mixed in the past with regard to what type of mask would truly be needed. A randomized trial examining whether use of N95 respirators versus medical masks in preventing influenza among healthcare workers found no significant difference. However, the study was primarily conducted in outpatient clinic settings, which are notably different than within a hospital, or within a crowded public setting for longer periods of time. In another randomized trial, use of N95 masks was associated with significantly lower rates of respiratory illness, and lower rates of bacterial colonization of the respiratory tract. Furthermore, COVID-19 mitigation efforts of the past two seasons very likely contributed to exceptionally low flu transmission, as noted by the CDC. Given that flu is less transmissible than COVID-19, the level of community masking needed to blunt transmission would likely be lower and more easily achievable. With limited yet mixed data, we would be wise to heed caution and err on the side of masking in high risk, indoor crowded public settings where these diseases spread most easily.” • Obviously, this post confirms my priors, but to be fair I do not know how the flu or RSV are transmitted (either the current dominant paradigm or whatever the science actually says). Meanwhile, the Brownstone Institute must feel threatened, because they’ve dropped a great load:

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“Journal of Some Plague Years” [David Fisman, Dropbox]. • Even though this is a slideshow, it’s worth a read for the timeline, public health’s reign of error. This slide is useful on hegemonic PMC* failure:

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NOTE The aerosol scientists are PMC too, let us not forget. Clearly they’re not hegemonic; I call them exceptional for the personal qualities and institutional support required to assault the hegemonic paradigm.

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• That pernicious “immunity debt” meme:

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• Majestic Petri Dish docks in Sydney:

We learn nothing….


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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NOT UPDATED From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published November 12:

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-0.1%. Down.


Wastewater data (CDC), November 11:

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Lambert here: An enormous number of counties have gone dark (grey dot, no data) in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, and Oregon. I don’t know whether that’s because they’ve dropped out of the program. or CDC butchered the data, or CDC’s contractor, Biobot, had problems. (Biobot’s data page includes the following disclaimers: “Not all locations may have submitted recent samples,” and “Biobot’s scheduled variant data update is delayed.” Maybe so.)

Lambert here: Each dot on the map is a sewershed that you can click for data. Today, LAX (or rather, the humongous Los Angeles County, which includes LAX, in the Westchester neighborhood):

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We already found elevated levels (orange dot) in JFK/LGA’s county, Queen, We looked at ORD’s county, Cook (one of two counties, actually), which was not elevated (blue dot). Today, CDC’s map says LAX’s county is not elevated (blue dot) but we can see a slight rise in its chart. Heck, here’s ATL (Cobb):

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November 7:

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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), October 25:

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Lambert here: BQ.1* moving along quite briskly.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), October 22 (Nowcast off):

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BQ.1* moving along quite briskly. New York/New Jersey (Region 2) numbers are higher:

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NOT UPDATED As check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated November 11:

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Lambert here: For the first time in awhile, an almost imperceptible decline. Let’s wait and see.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,100,296 – 1,100,127 = 169 (169 * 365 = 61,685, which is 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).

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.

• Total deaths in the US have not decreased as much as one might think:

• “Official mortality data for England reveal systematic undercounting of deaths occurring within first two weeks of Covid-19 vaccination” (preprint) [ResearchGate]. “For both covid and non-covid deaths, the two weeks of post first vaccination deaths appear to have been omitted from the ONS dataset. This pattern is repeated in all age groups over 60. A variety of factors could have led to deaths in the first 14 days being omitted in the ONS dataset, including miscategorisation, reporting lags and data handling or transcription errors. The dataset is therefore corrupted, making any inferences about vaccine efficacy or safety that are reliant on the data, moot. Accordingly, the ONS should publicly withdraw their dataset and call for the retraction of any claims made by others that are based upon it.” • Oh. From March 2022. Still germane? Readers?

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Producer Price Inflation MoM” [Trading Economics]. “The Producer Price Index for final demand in the US rose 0.2% month-over-month in October of 2022, the same as a downwardly revised 0.2% increase in September and below market forecasts of 0.4%. Goods cost went up 0.6%, the largest advance since a 2.2% rise in June, mainly pushed by a 5.7% jump in gasoline cost. Prices for diesel fuel, fresh and dry vegetables, residential electric power, chicken eggs, and oil field and gas field machinery also advanced. In contrast, the index for passenger cars declined 1.5%. Meanwhile, services cost fell 0.1%, the first decline since November of 2020. Prices for fuels and lubricants retailing were down 7.7%…”

Manufacturing: “United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NY Empire State Manufacturing Index surged 13.6 points to 4.5 in November 2022, compared with market expectations of -5.0 and pointing to the first month of improvement in the New York State’s business activity since July. New orders decreased slightly, while shipments expanded modestly. Delivery times were little changed, and inventories grew significantly. Labor market indicators pointed to a solid increase in employment and a longer average workweek.”

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Shipping: “FedEx Freight to begin driver furloughs next month” [Freight Waves]. “FedEx Freight, the less-than-truckload arm of FedEx Corp. and the nation’s largest LTL carrier, said Saturday it will furlough an undetermined number of drivers starting in early December… The action was taken in response to slowing macroeconomic conditions that have impacted LTL demand in recent weeks, the unit said. The LTL segment, which has shown very strong growth coming out of the pandemic, has seen volumes level off recently due to economic uncertainty caused by high inflation and recession concerns.”

The Bezzle: “prosecution futures,” good call from 2017 (!):


The Economy: “About 37% of small businesses, which between them employ almost half of all Americans working in the private sector, were unable to pay their rent in full in October” [Unusual Whales]. n = 4789. “Rent delinquency rates among US small businesses increased significantly [in October], a new report shows. About 37% of small businesses, which between them employ almost half of all Americans working in the private sector, were unable to pay their rent in full in October. That’s according to a survey from Boston-based Alignable, a network of 7 million small business members. It’s up seven percentage points from last month and is now at the highest pace this year, the survey showed.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 69 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 15 at 1:02 PM EST. Holy moley! Moving along quite nicely to Extreme Greed!

The Gallery

“Spotlight: Canadian Abstract Expressionist Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Work Takes Center Stage in His Native Quebec” [ArtNet]. “Utilizing a wide array of media, including aerosol paint, stencils, and collage, alongside traditional materials like lithography and acrylic paint, Riopelle’s signature style is marked by experimentation, color acuity, and dense compositions.” • I’m a big fan of Quebec Abstract Expressionism, which I think can stand with the more well-known New York school, and has the additional advantage, AFAIK, of not being funded by spooks.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Permanent Jewelry Locks In Customers, Sets Off Metal Detectors” [Wall Street Journal]. “People are getting hooked on permanent jewelry that requires a special tool or scissors to remove. Fans of the welded, soldered or securely fastened jewelry say they love not having to think about losing expensive pieces or fiddling with finicky clasps.” • Seeking permanence where there is none to be had?

Class Warfare

“Boilermakers’ union becomes third to reject tentative contract deal” [Trains]. “The boilermakers’ union that represents 300 railroad workers has rejected their tentative agreement with the U.S. Class I systems, becoming the third labor organization to give a new contract a thumbs down…. But the two largest unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the SMART-TD that represents conductors — won’t announce their ballot results until Nov. 21. Industry observers believe BLET and SMART-TD are likely to vote down their agreements, setting up the prospect of the first nationwide railroad strike since one that led to a brief lockout in 1992.”

Inflation and real wages:

News of the Wired

“Please Don’t Put Your Suitcase on the Bed, Ever” [Pocket]. • The wheels are filthy!

Reminds me of Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine:

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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 ChetG:

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ChetG writes: “Attached are two autumn photos. The first is somewhat flat but an interesting autumn pattern; the second is my favorite, combining color and the sense of distance. Both come from the bordering game land and are taken today, on mostly non-hunting Sunday.”

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