2:00PM Water Cooler 12/23/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/23/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Lark Bunting, Pawnee National Grasslands, Weld, Colorado, United States. Adult male flight song. A lot going on in the grasslands!

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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

Capitol Seizure

“Jan. 6 transcripts reveal new details on how Pa. Republicans tried to help Trump stay in the White House” [Philadephia Inquirer]. • As I’ve said, I think contacts with state election officials is likely to be the most fruitful line of enquiry, whether in PA or GA. That said, “tried”? We’re not charging Trump with attempted insurrection, right?

Biden Administration

Moar eugenics:


“Kamala Harris, A Very Turbulent Year in America, and the Challenge of Being First” (interview) [Vanity Fair]. “This idea of public-private partnerships is something Harris’s team is particularly committed to. During our meeting [Harris] told me about time spent working on community banks and banks focused on the problems in developing areas. Still the root causes of migration aren’t going to be solved with a few billion dollars in investments. Harris told me, ‘A large part of the issue that is affecting that region, and really globally, we’re seeing these migration changes, because if you couple the pandemic, what it caused in terms of a crash to the economy, and you include the climate crisis, and what that has meant to those economies because so many of these countries are agricultural-based in terms of not only their industry and therefore they’re income, but if you can’t grow food, you can’t eat. That’s about food insecurity, and if you can’t eat where you live, you leave.” • I don’t think the underlined text is actually a sentence. Meanwhile, the best thing you could do for Mexico in terms of food security would be to stop overwhelming their farmers with cheap, bad corn.

Republican Funhouse

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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Our Famously Free Press

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Churchgoing and belief in God stand at historic lows, despite a megachurch surge” [The Hill]. “Church membership, church attendance and belief in God all declined during the pandemic years, survey data suggest, accelerating decades long trends away from organized worship. In-person church attendance plummeted by 45 percent in the pandemic, according to an ABC News analysis. At least one-fifth of Americans today embrace no religion at all…. The lone, striking countertrend is a steep rise in nondenominational Protestants, who attend churches outside the “mainline” denominations — the once-ubiquitous Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans. Nondenominational Protestants — “nons” — became a majority in 2021, signaling a new era of churches and clergies untethered from religious tradition.” • Interesting….


Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges. There is also the TripleDemic aspect, which I don’t know enough about.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet. Wastewater has taken off in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, right on time, two weeks after Thanksgiving. Those are not only in themselves large cities, they are all the sites of international airports (reminiscent of the initial surge in spring 2020, which emanated, via air travel, from New York). Wastewater is a leading indicator for cases, which in turn lead hospitalization (and death). In addition, positivity has begun to increase again (Walgreens), and BQ.1* has taken over. Finally, I’m hearing a ton of anecdotes (and do add yours in comments).

Stay safe out there! If you are planning to travel on Xmas, do consider your plans carefully.


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• Metrics are important!

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• Maskstravaganza: “Why mask mandates aren’t coming back even though covid is” [WaPo]. “‘You didn’t see a lot of people walking around with masks in a bad flu season pre-pandemic, and as you know, not everyone is amenable to wearing a mask,’ CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recently told The Washington Post.” • Not everybody is amenable to wearing a seatbelt. Or not smoking in public. Amazing the Post doesn’t call this quote out in any way.

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• A good question of “immunity debt” goons:

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• “Transmission Route of Rhinovirus – the causative agent for common cold. A systematic review”

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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.) The map updates Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

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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. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published December 22:

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1.3%. Increase. NOTE: Of course, it’s an open question how good a proxy Walgreen’s self-selected subjects are for the general population, especially because they didn’t go the home-testing route, but we go with the data we have.


Wastewater data (CDC), December 19:

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Too much red (especially with Ohio back online). JFK/LGA (Queens County, NY), ORD (Cook County, IL), SFO (San Francisco, CA), LAX (Los Angeles), and ATL (Cobb County, GA) are all red.

December 18:

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NOT UPDATED And MWRA data, December 20:

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Lambert here: Up in the North, down in the South, but the trend is still clear. Presumably we’ll see a drop when the students leave town.


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), December 11:

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Lambert here: BQ.1* dominates, XBB coming up fast on the outside. Not sure why this data is coming out before CDC’s, since in the past they both got it from Pango on Fridays.

Variant data, national (CDC), December 3 (Nowcast off):

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BQ.1* takes first place. Note the appearance of XBB. Here is Region 2, the Northeast, where both BQ.1* and XBB are said to higher, and are:

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• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated December 22:

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Resuming the upward climb after a short plateau.

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated December 19:

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We’ll see what is hospitalization is like about two weeks into January, after holiday travel has ended.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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I don’t know why this chart has turned red. Perhaps they’re holding a masque?

Total: 1,115,748 – 1,114,931 = 817 (817 * 365 = 298,205 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 Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “Durable goods orders in the US, which measure the cost of orders received by manufacturers of goods meant to last at least three years, fell by 2.1% month-over-month in November 2022. It was the sharpest decrease since April 2020 and well above market forecasts of a 0.6% decline.”

Housing: “United States Building Permits” [Trading Economics]. “Building permits in the United States tumbled 10.6 percent from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.351 million in November 2022, the lowest level since June 2020 and compared to a preliminary estimate of 1.342 million, revised data showed. Permits, a proxy for future construction, have been falling as soaring prices and rising mortgage rates hit demand and activity.”

Income: “United States Personal Income” [Trading Economics]. “Personal income in the United States increased 0.4 percent from a month earlier in November of 2022, following a 0.7 percent rise in October and above market expectations of a 0.3 percent gain. The increase primarily reflected increases in compensation and personal income receipts on assets.”

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Tech: “Silicon Valley is coming for your gut biome” [NBC]. • Rent-A-Biome™. No.

Tech: “Meta and Alphabet lose dominance over US digital ads market” [Financial Times]. “Meta and Alphabet have lost their dominance over the digital advertising market they have ruled for years, as the duopoly is hit by fast-growing competition from rivals Amazon, TikTok, Microsoft and Apple. The share of US ad revenues held by Facebook’s parent Meta and Google owner Alphabet is projected to fall by 2.5 percentage points to 48.4 per cent this year, the first time the two groups will not hold a majority share of the market since 2014, according to research group Insider Intelligence. This will mark the fifth consecutive annual decline for the duopoly, whose share of the market has fallen from a peak of 54.7 per cent in 2017 and is forecast to decline to 43.9 per cent by 2024. Worldwide, Meta and ‘Four years ago, you wouldn’t be talking about either [TikTok or Amazon] in advertising,’ said [Jerry Dischler, head of ads at Google]. ‘So it’s really telling that more and more people are acknowledging that advertising is a great and scalable business model.’” • Oh good. More doomscrolling, clickbait, and virality.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 38 Fear (previous close: 35 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 43 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 23 at 12:20 PM EST.

Xmas Pregame Festivities

The real meaning (making some assumptions about history, here) of Christ’s birth, as expressed by Mary, his mother. A thread:


Quoting the third of the Magnificat’s four parts:


Luke 4: 18-19:


A Magnificat:

The 420

“Have a safe trip: Oregon trains magic mushroom facilitators” [Associated Press]. “[30 men and women] are among the first crop of students being trained how to accompany patients tripping on psilocybin, as Oregon prepares to become the first U.S. state to offer controlled use of the psychedelic mushroom to the public. Expected to be available to the public in mid- or late-2023, the program is charting a potential course for other states. Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109 on psilocybin by an 11% margin in 2020. In November, Colorado voters also passed a ballot measure allowing regulated use of ‘magic mushrooms’ starting in 2024. On Dec. 16, California state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced a bill to legalize psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.” • Maybe I should have filed this under “Xmas Pregame Festivities”? Maybe not–

“A Bad Trip With The Toad Shaman” [Texas Observer]. “[Brooke] Tarrer, leader of a group she calls the Universal Shamans of the New Tomorrow, holds a lighter under a glass vial at the end of a pipe. The white, dried toad poison inside begins to smoke, and the man inhales it deeply. She helps him lie down, extends his legs and brushes a fan made of condor feathers along his body. For about 20 minutes, the man remains nearly motionless, as he undergoes an intense psychedelic experience. Meanwhile, Tarrer and four facilitators also dressed in white with red sashes, serve the powerful ‘sacrament’ to three other people. One woman sobs uncontrollably for a few minutes. Another man writhes, heaves and drools in the sand for nearly half an hour. All emerge from their trance with hypnotic, euphoric smiles. Then, suddenly, the ritual takes an unnerving turn as Tarrer shifts her attention to me….” • Oh.

Our Famously Free Press

Somehow I don’t think Seymour Hersh would get the same treatment:

“Twitter changed science — what happens now it’s in turmoil?” [Nature]. “For hundreds of thousands of scientists, Twitter is a sounding board, megaphone and common room: a place to broadcast research findings, debate issues in academia and interact with people who they wouldn’t normally meet up with. ‘I would never be able to know so many scientists without it,’ says Oded Rechavi, who works on transgenerational inheritance at Tel Aviv University in Israel. ‘It increases democracy in science and gives you more opportunities, no matter where you are.’ Since the site’s founding in 2006, Twitter executives have often asserted that it aims to be nothing less than a ‘public town square’ of communication; it now claims almost 250 million daily users. At that scale, abuse, misinformation and bots have been ever-present, but for many researchers, the advantages of rapid, widespread communication to each other and an engaged public outweighed these problems. The threat of Twitter changing radically under its new management, or perhaps disappearing altogether, has raised concerns and questions for researchers. How well has this vast social-media platform benefited science, and to what extent has it harmed it? If it disappears, would researchers want to recreate it elsewhere?” • Let me know how recreating Twitter elsewhere scales….

Zeitgeist Watch

“How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive and Fresh” [Good Housekeeping]. From the final paragraph: “When you’re officially done with your tree, you have a couple options: You can start a new compost pile with it, recycle it or turn it into mulch yourself.” • Filing this here because I don’t think these suggestions would have appeared twenty or perhaps even ten years ago. Progress!

Groves of Academe

“Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative” [Stanford University]. “The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) is a multi-phase, multi-year project to address harmful language in IT at Stanford. EHLI is one of the actions prioritized in the Statement of Solidarity and Commitment to Action, which was published by the Stanford CIO Council (CIOC) and People of Color in Technology (POC-IT) affinity group in December 2020. The goal of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is to eliminate* many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language in Stanford websites and code.” • For example:

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No, it very doesn’t:

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Anyhow, nice work if you can get it.

“3 Princeton DEI staff members resign, alleging lack of support” [Daily Princetonian]. “‘Folks like myself are treated like we’re on an assembly line,’ [Jordan “JT” Turner, former Associate Director of Athletics for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)] said. ‘You hire us, you fire us, and you bring someone else in, and people will just stay in their roles of leadership and get away with it.’” Yes, that’s how the modern university works. More : “[Dr. Jim Scholl] explained that the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity hosted periodic meetings and luncheons for ‘DEI practitioners’ on campus. As one of the staff members considered to be a ‘DEI practitioner,’ they said that these luncheons and other meetings of the group, as well as the label itself, often felt performative.” “Considered to be” by whom? I don’t want to go all credentialist — well, maybe I do, this is a university — but what the heck is a DEI “practioner”? More: “[University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss] emphasized that there are 15 departments at the University engaged in DEI learning paths, which will include University-wide learning and guided resources, as well as facilitated workshops and self-directed study.” • I suppose that DEI practioners do “learning paths” (different from courses or workshops, apparently.). dunno. I shouldn’t react so badly to exciting new vocabularies, I suppose. To me, this all boils down to academic politics being a rough game. But that’s why they pay you the big bucks. (Also, and I hate even to bring this up, but the topic of the article is the three people who resigned: Turner, Scholl, and Ross (I only mentioned Scholl). That makes using the “they” pronoun a stumbling block for the reader who is pressed temporally; it’s impossible to know whether “they” refers to one, two, or all three, so one must constantly refer back to check.)

“Wendell Berry: UK’s plans for Memorial Hall dishonor art, artists, history and ‘honest thought.’” [Wendell Berry, Lexington Herald-Leader]. “The university’s allegation against the fresco is that “it depicts in distorted fashion the way enslaved people and other marginalized peoples were treated in Kentucky.” If this statement were to be made in a freshman theme, or in a court of law, it would need to be supported by some sort of authority. Surely in this case we need the testimony of historians who know the history of central Kentucky. If any members of the university’s history department are familiar with the history in question, their silence about it is an embarrassment to them and to the university. In its official disesteem for her work, the university has offered not even a polite regard to Ann O’Hanlon, who was still in her twenties when she painted the fresco, already a remarkably gifted and accomplished young artist. She was also a graduate of the University of Kentucky, which has paid little attention to her and her work until now, when it has allowed to fall upon her, with no effort to limit its damage, the implication that she was a racist. So much for the university’s interest in justice to women. Tanya and I know very well that Ann O’Hanlon was not a racist, as we think is shown by the character of her attention to black people in her fresco. If only to validate their intelligence, President Capilouto and his supporters ought to ask themselves a question that to us is obvious: What would they think of the fresco if there were no black people in it? If only to vindicate their reputation as critics and patrons of the arts, the president and his supporters need to remember that they paid the artist Karyn Olivier to make a second prominent work of art in Memorial Hall that would respond to the O’Hanlon fresco from the point of view of a black person. But now they appear to have abandoned any interest in her or her work, as well as her appeal to keep the fresco in place.” • Obviously, the University of Kentucky’s administrators are greatly overpaid.” • Here’s the mural again (a portion of it):

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Class Warfare

Not “surreal” if you listen to the Fed. Or maybe it is:

News of the Wired

“The Etymology of Unobtanium” [Smithsonian]. “The silly-sounding name of the material provided a ready punchline at the time, and even 13 years later, some still haven’t figured out unobtanium is a real thing. Not an actual, corporeal substance like copper or tin or sour grapes, but a concept in engineering dating back at least as far as the 1950s. James R. Hansen’s space history Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917-1958 documents the term’s usage in an October 1957 meeting lamenting ‘the lack of a superior high-temperature material (which the Langley structures people dubbed ‘unobtanium’).’ The word became a sort of placeholder for an unknown material that would have the properties designers required of it, like plugging X into an equation.”

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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 Copeland:

Copeland writes: “Here is a section of our alternative lawn, with English Daisies and clover in addition to the lawn grasses. English Daisies bloom over and extended period, mostly in autumn and spring.”

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