2:00PM Water Cooler 11/28/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/28/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, you can start reading now, there’s more than enough! I really outdid myself collecting material over what was for me a five-day weekend. So, more to come! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Ornate Flycatcher (Western), Milpe Bird Sanctuary, Pichincha, Ecuador.

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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

“White House looks to tell ‘great story of America’ with holiday decor” [The Hill]. “‘During your visit to the People’s House, through rooms full of history and holiday decor, in the mirrored ornaments and reflective lights, our hope is that you feel at home and find yourself in the great story of America,’ the first lady said. ‘As our country gathers for the holidays, traditions may vary, but our shared American values — a belief in possibility, optimism, and unity — endure season after season,’ she added.”

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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Lambert here: I can’t call a winter surge, but I’m not uncalling it either. High transmission (CDC), the elevation and continued increase in positivity (Walgreens), and the steady takeover of BQ.1* (CDC; Walgreens) are all more than a little unsettling (as is the apparent proliferation of variants). Stay safe out there! (As one might expect at the beginning of a holiday surge, wastewater in Queens County, NY (JFK/LGA), Cook County, IL (ORD), and Los Angeles County (LAX) are all elevated, with JFK/LGA and LAX being more elevated than last week, and ORD the same. Hospitalization in BQ.1*-dominated New York continued to increase before Thanksgiving, so let’s see what happens after.

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This is very big:

“Outbreak Reports: An Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariant BA.2.76 in an Outdoor Park — Chongqing Municipality, China, August 2022” [China CDC Weekly]. The original article, referred to in Links this morning. “The first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case infected with the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant BA.2.76 who caused local transmission was reported in Chongqing Municipality on August 16, 2022. For 35 minutes, the Patient Zero jogged along a lake at a local park without wearing a mask. Among the 2,836 people potentially exposed at the time, 39 tested positive. Overall, 38 out of 39 cases did not wear a mask on the morning of August 16. All 39 cases lacked any previous exposure to the variant before testing positive on their nucleic acid test.” • “Fleeting contact” at scale. Mask up! On China generally:

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From the Department of “I Got This Cough Over The Holidays I Just Can’t Shake”:

“‘The View’ Cohost Ana Navarro Got “Stuck Quarantining” In NYC Hotel After Testing Positive For Covid” [Deadline]. “‘It’s been a hell of a week. COVID got me again. Tested positive on Monday. Got stuck quarantining in a hotel in NYC. Took treatment,’ [Ana Navarro] shared on Instagram on Saturday, Nov. 26. ‘Fortunately, now feeling good and testing negative. I was triple-boosted and thought that protected me. I didn’t wear a mask anywhere. I got complacent.’”

“Sharon Stone reveals unlucky outcome following doctor’s visit as she catches Covid” [Hello]. “The mother-of-three reflected on the irony of the situation: ‘I managed to not get Covid for so long, do you know how I got Covid – because they stopped wearing masks. And do you know where I got Covid, from a nurse!’ … Detailing some of her symptoms, she added: ‘The scrambled brain, the isolation, it’s a lot.’” • A parallel case:

Another parallel case:

Is it really too much to ask that hospitals not spread disease? Yes, yes, I know “Healthcare-Acquired Infections” can make any hospital a death trap are a thing, but HCWs not masking really marks a new low for “infection control” (along with the infection control departments and administrators. For CDC’s abrogation of infection control for airborne Covid, see NC here.)

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• “Testing Toronto’s indoor spaces for virus transmission risk” [Toronto City News]. “Toronto is participating in what’s being billed as the first ever city-wide program to test and rate the indoor air quality of spaces where people work, shop, and gather. The City is partnering with BreatheEasy, which uses a 20 minute rapid air safety test to determine air quality ratings. ‘So what the system does it releases droplets into the air that are like human breath, and they move the way that human breath does in the space and are cleared by HVAC filters, by air purifiers, by the native air motion and air system in the building as well as natural ventilation,’ explains Sam Molyneux, the co-founder of BreatheEasy. ‘What the sensors do is they measure how quickly these particles are cleared from the space.’ … So far, almost 130 locations in the 50 busiest blocks of downtown Toronto have been tested to provide a vivid day-in-the-life view of airborne infection safety and risks. … ‘We started using that technology as a way of creating really safe spaces,’ says IQ CEO Kane Willmot. ‘It is a way to take the invisible and make it visible. So we are able to find out if there are airborne contaminants in our space, also do swabbing as well throughout our space to see if there is any COVID, or any sort of bacteria.” • Terrific. Why can’t we do this? Why can’t China?

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• Brain worms (1):

• Brain worms (2):

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• Maskstravaganza:

“Airgami wins BARDA Mask Innovation Challenge!” (press release) [Airgami]. “Gary Disbrow, Head of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), announced today that the Airgami® origami mask, by Air99 LLC, has been named a first-place winner in the second and final phase of the Mask Innovation Challenge sponsored by BARDA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST). ‘The Airgami mask leverages origami principles to improve fit, breathability, and aesthetics. The unique design increases the overall filtering and breathing surface area which exceeded the criteria of the Target Product Profile (TPP) during the final round of testing.’” • This is extremely neat, and naturally led to an immediate grant of Federal monies to ramp up production. Ha ha, kidding! From the top of the page: “Airgami is NOT taking new orders at the moment. Please check back early-December.

Fulfillment time of existing orders is up to THREE WEEKS. Thank you for your patience.”

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• ”Health+ Long Covid Human-Centered Design Report” (PDF) [HHS]. Report of an HHS contractor. “To ensure that solutions are implemented that respond to the real and immediate needs of people impacted by Long COVID—people with Long COVID, their caregivers, health care researchers and professionals, and Long COVID advocacy groups—HHS selected Coforma’s Health+™ program and its human-centered design process to launch Health+ Long COVID. The goal of this process is to understand the lived experiences and needs of people impacted by Long COVID across the United States, and to identify opportunities to improve government services and simultaneously advance interagency efforts to increase their quality of life and care. This report, commissioned by HHS and independently produced by Coforma, is a result of the Health+ Long COVID cycle.” • Sounds… Well, I don’t know what it sounds like. Do any readers have experience with Coforma or their process? (Also, “interagency” in the national security world also means slow, complicated, highly bureaucratized (besides yielding the results that we see)).


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

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From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published November 27:

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3.0%. That’s quite a jump.


Wastewater data (CDC), November 21:

November 19:

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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.

Variant data, national (Walgreens), November 13:

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Lambert here: BQ.1* moving along quite briskly, though lower than CDC. XBB coming up on the charts.

Variant data, national (CDC), November 5 (Nowcast off):

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BQ.1* moving along quite briskly. Note the appearance of XBB, and see the highlighted note: Like BQ.1*, XBB appears suddenly when CDC decides to disaggregate the data. Exactly as with CDC’s infamous “green map,” a lag is introduced, this time by CDC’s decision-making process; Walgreens had XBB last week, but CDC has it only this week. I don’t see what purpose the aggregation serves. If the issue is a jillion low-circulation variants would make the table impossibly long and confusing for users, that’s a UI/UX issue; handle it with software. Have a slider/filter that aggregates variants under 1%, say. Allow scrolling the results. Whatever. But stop concealing data!

• “New COVID Variant XBB Is Gaining Ground Among Americans” [US News]. “Known as XBB, this latest subvariant now represents 3.1% of new COVID cases throughout the U.S. and 5% of cases in the Northeast. Based on preliminary estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of XBB may be doubling every 12 days. However, the variant shouldn’t pose the same threat that the emergence of Omicron posed a year ago, CBS News reported. ‘Where we’ve seen surges, they’ve seen mostly it be driven by seasonality, people coming inside, spending more time around one another, but not being specifically being driven by the emergence of a new variant,’ the CDC’s Ian Williams told the agency’s emergency response and preparedness advisers earlier this month, CBS News reported.” • Biden’s January 2021 Omicron surge wasn’t driven by Omicron? What am I missing here? (See the Walgreens variant chart above for a vivid sense of how Omicron conquered all before it. (And in the final paragraphs, US News amplifies CDC’s horrid “community levels” (“green map”) metric. Horrid reporting [pounds head on desk].

New York/New Jersey (Region 2) numbers are higher:

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Here is Queens County, NY (JFK/LGA), now flashing red for the holidays:

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• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated November 24:

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Lambert here: Increasing, after leveling out.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,104,755 – 1,103,355 = 1400 (1400 * 365 = 511,000 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

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

Manufacturing: “United States Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ general business activity index for manufacturing in Texas increased to -14.4 in November of 2022 from -19.4 in the prior month. The prices paid for raw materials index fell sharply to 22.6 from 32 in October, supporting lower inflation for prices received for finished goods (13.9 vs 22.2). On the other hand, the production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell to 0.8 points from 6 in the prior month, suggesting further deceleration in output growth.”

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Retail: “It’s not your imagination: Shopping on Amazon has gotten worse” [WaPo]. “The first page of Amazon results includes an average of about nine sponsored listings, according to a study of 70 search terms conducted in 2020 and 2021 by data firm Profitero. That was twice as many ads as Walmart displayed, and four times as many as Target…. I call it the “shill results” business. Even when they contain a tiny disclaimer label — as do Amazon’s — these kinds of ads can be misleading because they fill up spaces people have every reason to expect to contain trustworthy, independent information. What’s worse, many other apps and online marketplaces are following Amazon’s lead. Shill results now crowd Apple and Google’s smartphone app stores — search for an app used for couple’s therapy, and you’ll get an ad for a dating app….. Amazon has turned shill results into its next big thing. After selling $31 billion in ads last year, Amazon became the third-largest online ad company in the United States, trailing only Google and Facebook….. [I]n my experience, Amazon’s ads are often not useful, not informative and can make shopping a little bit harder. If you are searching for a cat bed, you have an expectation that Amazon will show you the cat beds that are most useful for you. Not $389 cat beds. Not the pet bed Amazon makes the most money from. Not a weird knockoff.”

The Bezzle: “BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as Latest Crypto Casualty” [Wall Street Journal]. “Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi Inc. filed for bankruptcy Monday, making it the latest major digital-assets firm to fail since FTX, with which BlockFi is financially intertwined. BlockFi’s chapter 11 filing continues the march of crypto platforms forced into insolvency following this summer’s crypto-price downturn and this month’s failure of FTX, a big exchange with ties throughout the largely unregulated industry. BlockFi, based in Jersey City, N.J., is only beginning to answer how its hundreds of thousands of customers will fare. The company’s top 10 creditors alone are owed close to $1.2 billion, according to its filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Trenton, N.J, with the total amount of liabilities likely to be much larger. The firm, founded in 2017 by Zac Prince and Flori Marquez and backed by Thiel Capital spinout Valar Ventures, lends money to customers using their cryptocurrency assets as collateral. Bain Capital, Tiger Global Management and a fund operated by the Winklevoss twins are also included among BlockFi’s equity investors, according to PitchBook Data Inc.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 28 at 1:41 PM EST.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Anti-Semitism. “Attacks against Jews have been on the increase” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

Xmas Pregame Festivities


The Conservatory

Psychedelia I’ve never heard, from alert reader ThirtyOne:

Zeitgeist Watch

Reminds me of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS (which I admit I have never read):

“Ancient Apocalypse archaeology update 2: Are there underground chambers at Gunung Padang?” [ArcheoThoughts]. • No. Thanks, Netflix.

“‘Goncharov’ isn’t a real Martin Scorsese movie, but Tumblr convinced the internet it’s a classic” [NBC]. “Martin Scorsese’s 1973 mafia masterpiece “Goncharov” is re-emerging online as film buffs obsess over the tale of corrupted power and loss. Its haunting theme song is finally on Spotify. The poster — which features Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Cybill Shepherd against an Italian cityscape — has gone viral. The film’s love triangle and homoerotic undertones have inspired hundreds of stories on the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own. The catch: “Goncharov” isn’t real. It’s an elaborate, and convincing, Tumblr bit. The fictional film follows Goncharov, a former Russian mobster and discotheque manager who gives up a life of crime to settle in the “seemingly idyllic Naples” with his wife Katya after the fall of the Soviet Union. But in Naples, he meets Andrey “The Banker” Daddano, who becomes his rival and implied love interest. While she grieves her father’s death, Katya meets Sofia, and they develop a close friendship brimming with implied sexual tension… The movie’s title can be traced back to a years-old Tumblr post, when a user published a photo of a pair of “knockoff boots.” Instead of a brand name, the tag on the boots read: ‘The greatest mafia movie ever made. Martin Scorsese presents GONCHAROV. Domenico Proccacci production. A film by Matteo JWHJ0715. About the Naples mafia.’ The user appears to have since deleted their blog. In 2020, another Tumblr user reblogged the post with a screenshot of a comment that read, ‘this idiot hasn’t seen goncharov.’ The fake film ‘inexplicably started to pick up traction’ during the weekend of Nov. 19, according to Polygon. The New York Times reports that ‘Goncharov’ was the top trending topic on Tumblr by Monday evening, followed by ‘Martin Scorsese.’ In the week since, it’s made its way to Twitter and TikTok, where the tag #goncharov has over 7 million views.” • Would Hubertus Bigend please pick up the nearest white courtesy phone?

A little too on-the-nose:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“William Wells Brown, Wildcat Banker” [The Public Domain Review]. I just extract the money part, but the whole piece is worth a read; Brown is a fascinating figure. “As Brown explains it, the lack of small change in Monroe — a nationwide scarcity in this period — created a demand for shinplasters: small denomination bills issued by private businesses serving as Wildcat banks (like Brown’s barber shop) and backed by nothing more than the confidence of the local community. In Bank Notes and Shinplasters: The Rage for Paper Money in the Early Republic, Joshua R. Greenberg recounts how during the 1830s these western banks were often labelled as fraudulent, “wild cat” organizations, the joke being that such banks — in order to discourage anyone from trying to redeem their notes — were “located in areas so remote that only wildcats lived nearby”. Value often decreased over distance: dollars from a Monroe, Michigan bank were worth less in New York City because the issuing bank was regarded as unreliable, while the note itself was harder to redeem (the note holder would have to travel almost six hundred miles to cash it, if it could be cashed at all). Americans would need to constantly haggle over the perceived value of hundreds of different bank notes in their day-to-day lives, while papers like Counterfeit Detector and Bank Note List and Thompson’s Bank Note Reporter provided detailed — and constantly shifting — lists of which notes were reliable and which were not.” • This seems familiar somehow.

Guillotine Watch

“Balenciaga files $25M suit over controversial ad amid ‘BDSM teddy bear’ backlash” [New York Post]. Exceptionally nasty stuff, every bit as creepy as described, perhaps moreso, though I’m not going to reproduce the images. “The fashion house brought the suit Friday against production company North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his eponymous company for the inclusion in one of the ads of legal documents from a US Supreme Court decision on child porn laws. The fashion brand ad also showed unsettling pictures of a child holding teddy bears dressed in bondage outfits in ads that came out around the same time. The two-page court summons doesn’t mention the BDSM teddy bears.” • This suit is ridiculous. Anybody who knows anything about fashion, fashion photography, advertising, or advertising agencies knows that the client obessively reviews an ad at every stage of production, and has the final signoff. The only reason I can think of for Balenciaga to run it is shock value, followed by the Streisand effect. which would occur among Balenciaga’s customers, who are the sort of wealthy people who can pay for couture. So what does that say about our elites? Not that they’re all lizard people… but some are the sort of people who visit Little St. James. Or worse. And they somehow almost never get turned in! Good summary here.

“Sam Bankman-Fried’s Truly Effective Philanthropy: Teaching” [Dean Baker, CEPR]. “Recognizing the enormous waste and corruption in the financial sector, Bankman-Fried decided that the best way to attack it was by putting himself at the center of a scandal hitting finance at its most vulnerable point: the crypto craze…. The potential benefits here are enormous. If we can just downsize the financial sector by 10 percent, it will free up more than $300 billion a year for productive purposes. That comes to more than $2,500 a year for every family in the country. As the effective philanthropy folks say, you can buy a lot of mosquito netting with $300 billion a year…. So, Bankman-Fried knew what he was doing in running a Ponzi-scheme and making himself look like one of the most despicable people alive. He may spend a lot of time in prison and be viewed with universal contempt for the rest of his life, but if his crimes lead to a crackdown on finance, he will have provided a great service to humanity.” • This is irony along the lines of Swift’s Modest Proposal. A lot of the online commentary seems to have missed this.

News of the Wired

“Neuroexistentialism” [Philosophers Magazine]. “The constructive project of neuroexistentialism, then, is to make use of the knowledge and insights of the behavioural, cognitive, and neurosciences to satisfy our existential concerns and achieve some level of flourishing and fulfilment. While much progress has already been made on this front, the project continues. And since naturalism is the only game in town, it’s one we should all hope succeeds.” • Hmm.

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