2:00PM Water Cooler 11/9/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/9/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

European Turtle-Dove, Kelling Heath, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom.

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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

“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

“Staff changes are coming to the White House. Will Klain be part of them?” [Politico]. “According to people familiar with the internal deliberations, Klain was the foremost advocate for Biden seizing on the July 4 holiday to hold an ‘Independence from Covid-19’ event on the South Lawn. He rejected input from other members of the Covid team who were anxious about declaring victory prematurely, although Biden did include a qualifier, that his words were “not to say the battle against COVID-19 is over.’” • Ron, good job. And electorally, it was a good job, as the midterms show. As I keep saying, the most important of the “lesssons learned” from Covid is that our ruling class can slaughter a million citizens without any riots. That’s an important lesson, and Ron was very much a part of that.

2022

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Democracy was on the ballot, and won. From the head of the Council on Foreign Relations:

Allow me to translate: Now the Democrats can return to fomenting war with nuclear powers, normalizing pandemics, and union-busting. Friends, there’s good news tonight!

“Senator Big Sweaty Lunk” [Atrios, Eschaton]. “I realized I didn’t even have any predictions for yesterday. I don’t mean I failed to BLOG them, I mean I just didn’t have any in my head at all.” • So I wasn’t the only one. For those who came in late, Atrios was my blogfather, and introduced me to blogging in 2003 or so (for which I will be forever grateful). The topic: Democratic politics! So it’s a curious data point for some future historian that, after so many years — 2022 – 2003 = 19 (!!) — we both ended up in the same place, on the same election, and on the same day.

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Here is the state of play from FiveThirtyEight:

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“Battle for Senate control a toss-up with four seats left to be called” [CBS]. “CBS News characterizes the races in Georgia and Nevada as toss-ups, with Georgia likely headed for a run-off in December between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. CBS News characterizes Arizona as leaning Democrat. Alaska, where three candidates are on the ballot, had not yet been called early Wednesday.”

“House Midterm Elections 2022” [NBC]. “Though NBC News cannot project control of the House at this time, the Decision Desk has released its estimate for the U.S. House of Representatives as a whole, which reflects the most probable outcome for partisan control. To arrive at the House Estimate, the NBC News Decision Desk calculates the probability of a Democratic, Republican or third-party victory in each of the 435 individual House races based on pre-election research. On election night, election analysts examine all the available vote data in real time, adjusting the probabilities for each House race accordingly. Based on those probabilities, NBC News’ Decision Desk then calculates the most probable outcome for control of the chamber and provides a margin of error plus or minus the number of seats that could still be won by either party. The Decision Desk will project partisan control of the U.S. House based on this estimate when we are at a minimum of 99.5% confident in the outcome.” • The projection is R: 222, D: 213, FWIW. (What I wanted was a simple list of undecided House races, but a quick search didn’t bring it to light. Readers?

“MAGA Candidates Flounder in Midterms” [National Review]. “President Trump’s handpicked and endorsed candidates largely underperformed or outright lost their midterm contests on Tuesday, deflating the former president’s status as a party kingmaker and likely 2024 GOP presidential nominee. Trump’s influence was felt across the board: his hand-picked Senate candidates, political novices who secured their respective nominations largely on the strength of his endorsement, drastically underperformed expectations. House Republican challengers and incumbents who embraced his election denialism — and gubernatorial candidates who did the same — faced similar struggles…. [H]is poor showing in crucial battleground states has unsettled many Republicans. Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s strong performance will position him well to challenge Trump if he decides to enter the race.” • Sad to see the National Review clambering onto the bandwagon of a short-torso-ed vulgarian like DeSantis.

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NY: “House Democrats’ campaign chief concedes to Lawler in stunning loss” [The Hill]. “Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), the head of House Democrats’ campaign arm, conceded his race on Wednesday against state Assemblyman Mike Lawler (R), a major blow to the party and a stunning defeat for the man charged with propelling other House Democrats to victory.” • Maloney is the dude who muscled another Democrat out of his own district after a reapportionment, so it would be hilarious if the Democrats lost the House by this one vote.

PA: I’m hoisting this comment from last night’s open thread, frankly to preen a little:

PA called for Fetterman:

I don’t expect anything from Fetterman on policy, but I think his race was very interesting from a technical perspective for two reasons:

1) Use of social media. You can’t call a social media campaign brilliant until the candidate wins, but Fetterman did, so now I will. (a) Fetterman used social media to introduce Oz to Pennsylvania, in essence arguing/showing/meming that Oz was really from New Jersey. This campaign was so infectious I had to stop myself from piling on. It also had the great merit of being true. Tweets and memes are something the national press can focus on, and that is what they did, with the effect that (b) when Fetterman had his stroke, his social media became a bright shiny bauble for the press to focus on, which is exactly what they did. Whoever ran Fetterman’s social media campaign will have many opportunities henceforth.

More importantly, (2) Fetterman’s “every county” strategy was important and non-stupid/non-corrupt Democrats, if any, will emulate it. (a) Fetterman’s strategy was to pick up Republican voters at the margin in Red counties (of which there are many, many in Philadelphia). So he visited them. This strategy worked. When Fetterman had his stroke, he was, as it were, pre-insulated[1] from whatever the national press and the Oz campaign might say. People had seen him, and felt they knew him. There are plenty of people in Pennsylvania, still by custom and practice an industrial state, who have had medical issues and worked through them and come back from them. I believe that was in play here. (This theory also makes the late visits by parachuted in Democrat celebrities irrelevant, which recommends it in my eyes.)

Fetterman’s “every county” strategy reminds me of Howard Dean’s “50 state” strategy, also successful. (It’s worth noting that as soon as Obama and Rahm Emmanuel took power, they abolished the strategy and defenestrated Dean (with the result, IMNSHO, that Dean threw in the towel, said “[family blog] it, I’m in it for the money” and tragically became the corrupt hack he is today. This happens a lot with Democrats. It will therefore be interesting to see if the “every county” strategy is erased, or highlighted, in the coming days.

Here’s one metric of success for the “every county” strategy:

(Note also that Democrat facehuggers strategists and consultants get commissions from media buys. Both Fetterman’s use of social media and the “every county” strategy take money out of their pockets. It will be interesting to see which media figures operate on their behalf in the coverage.)

In addition, Fetterman’s victory comes as the expense of the Pennsylvania Democrat establishment and the ghouls in the national press, an outcome that makes me very happy.

If Fetterman’s “every county” strategy is adopted by more Democrats — heck, more Republicans — I think that would greatly improve politics in this country. Do as Chris Arnade would do; walk around. Get out of the bubble. (Here I am thinking of the World War I British staff officer who went to the front, and broke down in tears when he actually saw the mud that he and his fellow officers had sent the troops out into, back in the Chateau.)

So I’m happy. (Readers will recall that in this comment I’m basically recapitulating everything I’ve said about the technical characteristics of the Fetterman campaign for the last year. That makes me happy too.)

Also, Dr. Oz is a puppy-killing charlatan. From New Jersey.

NOTE I should also mention that Fetterman in essence embedded himself in Braddock. I’n not sure that’s possible for most candidates (and here we mention Fetterman’s family money). I would also like to know more about the role of Fetterman’s wife, Gisele (with one “l”). She did a very creditable job as a campaign surrogate with no experience. (I also wonder, speculating wildly, if she had anything to do with the social media strategy, since nobody has come forward, as of this date, to take credit for it.)

NOTES

[1] It’s also possible that our horrid “debate” format, which should be abolished and handed back to the League of Women, really tripped Fetterman up, and that his local appearances went better, and that the “every county” strategy primed voters to accept this:

2024

“When Trump Announces Candidacy, Watchdog Will File Insurrection Disqualification Challenge” [HuffPo]. “‘The evidence that Trump engaged in insurrection is overwhelming,’ Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement last week. ‘We are ready, willing and able to take action to make sure the Constitution is upheld and Trump is prevented from holding office.’ Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, bars any officials who have taken an oath of office to defend the government from reelection if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government — or have ‘given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.’ CREW sent a letter to Trump on Thursday alerting him to the planned challenge if he announces his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. ‘CREW believes you are barred from holding office Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment because you engaged in insurrection against the government you swore to defend,’ states the letter. ‘By summoning a violent mob to disrupt the transition of presidential power mandated by the Constitution after having sworn to defend the same, you made yourself ineligible to hold public office again.’”

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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Realignment and Legitimacy

“‘I wanted to wear a purple ball gown with a crimson silk cape” [Scalawag]. “I love the pomp and circumstance of voting even if the chorus of horns that accompanies my balloting is only in my head, and my poll site is a dingy concrete-block community hall…. As much as I know inherently that the electoral system leaves so many behind—the Black, the queer, the nontraditional family, the immigrant, the rural, those with records, the insurance-less, those of us in states that don’t “matter”—a lifetime of civic education indoctrinated me to believe the act of exercising this right is my highest function as a citizen. And I wanted to dress for it. I’m sentimental like that. I love the Black Southern culture of voting, showing up and showing out in your Sunday best. I love the older men crushing their hats in their hands when they cross the poll threshold, the women with tweedy suits and feathers in their feminine fedoras, my father dressing to vote before work with his newsboy hat, Members Only jacket and wide-leg slacks.”

“Survey finds increasing number of Protestants want their church to be politically homogenous” [Christian Post]. “According to a study released Tuesday by Lifeway Research, an organization that surveys ongoing trends in church ministries, 50% of non-Catholics surveyed in the U.S. prefer to attend a politically homogenous church, while 41% disagreed and 10% were uncertain. At least 55% of participants believe they are attending a church that shares their political views. Fewer than a quarter disagreed (23%) or aren’t sure (22%). Lifeway Research conducted the survey online from Sept. 19-29, using a national pre-recruited panel of over 1,000 Americans. The study’s margin of error was +/- 3.3%, with a 95% confidence level. ‘Studies have shown that voting patterns and political affiliation correlate with the type of church and amount of church involvement someone has,’ Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said in a statement. ‘But when asked if churchgoers want political similarity to flow back into their church relationships, this is desirable for only half of churchgoers.’”

#COVID19

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!

• Covid and culthood:

And:

Not to mention funding and immediate access to media forums.

A good long thread.

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• ”Room-level ventilation in schools and universities” [Atmospheric Environment]. “The direct flow measurement techniques used by building managers and engineers to characterize ventilation rates in mechanically ventilated buildings cannot be applied to naturally ventilated spaces. Other approaches for characterizing ventilation may require technical expertise for execution or data interpretation, or specialized instrumentation, which reduces accessibility. As educators, administrators, and building managers plan for safe operations in the wake of COVID-19, there is a need for practical approaches for characterizing ventilation on the room level, as well as support for small-scale, short-term decision making, e.g., with respect to opening windows and doors and running fans, air conditioners, or supplemental air cleaning. Here, we describe efforts taken by this group of scientists and educators using different approaches to characterize ventilation in educational spaces in different U.S. locations in collaboration with facilities managers, administrators, and other decision makers. We discuss our findings, best practices, and lessons learned.” • Well worth a read, especially if you in the field.

• Maskstravaganza: Readers may wish to look into ReadiMask, “[T]he only full-face respirator that seals to your face using a hypoallergenic medical adhesive at the perimeter of the mask. Masks that apply with elastic straps or ties do not fit properly, allowing gaps around the edges of the mask where contaminants can enter, but ReadiMask’s medical adhesive creates a tight seal that enables the filter and eyeshield to provide substantial protection. The ReadiMask is pocket-sized, virtually weightless, and available with or without the eyeshield.” • There’s innovation in this field, and manufactured in America too.

• Maskstravaganza: When the American Public Health Association can’t be bothered to enforce its own policies:

No doubt masked speakers wouldn’t look good on television….

• Maskstravaganza: “Respirator Debt™” lol:

• Maskstravaganza:

* * *

• “The notion that COVID-19 has been vanquished is not supported by the facts” [David Berger, Sydney Morning Herald]. “The pleasing notion that COVID has now been vanquished, however, that it has been turned into ‘just another seasonal upper-respiratory virus’ by vaccination, ‘hybrid’ immunity from repeated infection and natural attenuation of the virus itself, is not supported by the facts. New variants continue to arrive, irrespective of season, and the world is now on its eighth. Actuarial analysis from around the world, including in Australia, shows an ongoing 10 to 15 per cent excess death rate, as compared with before the pandemic…. But deaths are not the only metric. High rates of long COVID, consisting of a smorgasbord of chronic conditions, are already being felt in terms of labour shortages and seem set to be accumulating both human and economic effects over time.”

• ”AHPRA’s made a serious mistake in trying to silence Dr David Berger” [AusDoc]. From July, still germane. “Dr David Berger has been told to pull his head in by the Medical Board of Australia who wants him to undergo a re-education course ‘in relation to behaving professionally and courteously to colleagues and other practitioners’. His offence, according to the board, was his passionate Tweets, sometimes containing the odd expletive, critiquing public health measures, dopey commentators and the politics of the pandemic.” • ZOMG mean tweets!

• ”Fallout continues from Ahpra “over-reach”” [Insight]. “What is at issue though is robust criticism of what Dr Berger and others might argue are fools making foolish policies. Is Ahpra saying there are no fools or foolish ideas in politics, big pharma or medicine, or just that if there are we must not say so? Why should doctors, and no-one else in the community, be forced to feign respect for mediocre or incompetent authorities or individuals? The law must to be applied equally to everyone; you should not single out one person who opposes government policy while apparently not acting on myriad others who are emotionally pejorative online, and who now threaten and follow through with anonymous reports to Ahpra when they do not like what a doctor says. Ahpra is, in my view, open to being used as a tool of anonymous bullies, while they say without irony they are trying to improve culture.” • Ahpra = Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

• And from Berger:

* * *

“Free sunscreen, ear plugs — and Covid shots? At the NASCAR race, vaccinations are still a tough sell” [STAT]. “It’s a modest dent in stagnating vaccination rates as public health officials attempt to rally fatigued Americans before an expected winter surge, but among a key group of vaccine holdouts: rural, largely conservative Americans. The NASCAR tents are also a flagship test of federal health officials’ now yearslong strategy to build Covid-19 vaccine confidence by enlisting people, from religious leaders to local organizers, in their trusted communities, to take on the challenge that has eluded public health officials for nearly two years now.” Really? How’s that been working out? Then again: “‘I believe in vaccinations,’ the nurse, who also declined to give her name because of her occupation, insisted. Just not these ones. ‘If you have to get vaccinated every four months, it doesn’t f—ing work.’” And: “NASCAR itself has resisted vaccine requirements for its drivers and swerved questions about its stance, though vaccinated drivers who are Covid-19-exposed can return to racing sooner than unvaccinated peers. But if racing officials and drivers were to speak publicly about vaccine safety, they could reach what NASCAR claims are 75 million fans worldwide.” • Or maybe — hear me out — if there were a “whole of government response”? On a layered strategy?

* * *

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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Positivity

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, November 7:

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1.0%. Decrease.

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), November 5:

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November 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? [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), October 24:

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

Variant data, national (CDC), October 15 (Nowcast off):

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

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UPDATED And as a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization continues to increase, from November 9:

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Lambert here: I’ve added yellow lines to show the slopes of previous surges. This one seems pretty sedate, as surges go.

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,098,524 – 1,098,387 = 137 (137 * 365 = 50,005, which is today’s LivingWith™ number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the LivingWith™ 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.

• Turns out the Times is run by sentimentalists:

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Of course, this was under the former guy. And as it turns out, the losses are indeed calculable; indeed the Biden administration calculated them, and the midterms show that their calculations were right.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle: “Facebook Parent Meta Announces Layoffs of 11,000 Staff” [Wall Street Journal]. • I should have sympathy for the workers, I suppose. But Meta is a literal force for evil. I wouldn’t feel bad for sailors who lost their jobs on slave- or opium ships…. Makes me a petty bourgieos idealist, I suppose!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 57 Greed (previous close: 58 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 9 at 1:58 PM EST.

The Gallery

Cornell boxes are great!

And for the eclipse”:

Class Warfare

“Railroad unions push back threatened strike date” [CNN]. “The threat of a freight railroad strike has been pushed back to early December, as four major unions have agreed to coordinate the date on which they could potentially go on strike. The third-largest railroad union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employe Division, had been prepared to strike as soon as November 20, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. But the group announced Wednesday that is has agreed to extend negotiations with the railroads until at least December 4, the deadline set by another union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. The rank and file members of both unions have rejected the tentative agreements reached with the railroads in September, mostly over the lack of sick pay in the contracts. A strike by any one rail union would lead to a shutdown of America’s major freight railroads, as all the other unions, even those that have ratified contracts, would honor the picket lines. That could cause severe economic problems, as 30% of America’s freight moves by rail, when measured by weight and distance traveled. The two largest rail unions, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union, which represents conductors, are holding their own ratification votes, the results of which are due November 21. If one or both of those unions reject the deals, they would be prepared to strike December 9. If those contracts are voted down, the BMWED and Signalmen have agreed to further push back their strike deadline to that date. The BMWED and Signalmen are engaged in negotiations with railroad management seeking deals that union leaders believe their members would ratify. The unions hope the extension will prevent Congress from imposing a contract or order them to keep working into the new year, when Republicans might be in control of one or both houses of Congress.”

News of the Wired

“The text editor for poets” [Versepad]. • Or lyricists, of which we have several in the commentariat?

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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 AM:

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AM writes: “Pointy and sharp plant seen near the beach just outside Quilty, County Clare, Ireland.”

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