2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Pleasing chirrups.

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Politics

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Biden Adminstration

At least the Trump administration never claimed to be the adults in the room:

Mass hysteria? *** crickets *** But the voiceover is great! Totally Fifties, the video ought to look like a black-and-white newsreel:

I don’t find the concept that our national security class has completely lost its mind reassuring in the least. (Though, to be fair, there may be money involved.)

Democrats en Déshabillé

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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Impressive party discipline from Democrats:

Zakarin is quite right. For more on CPAC, see below.

But she’s a vet!

2022

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“The Dirty Secret of Inflation: Corporations Are Jacking Up Prices and Profits” [John Nichols, The Nation]. “History makes it clear that midterm elections are tough for the party that controls the White House and Congress. Voters take out their frustrations on those who are in positions of power. And that is doubly true in moments of economic turbulence, as Jimmy Carter and the Democrats learned in 1978, as Ronald Reagan and the Republicans learned in 1986, as Barack Obama and the Democrats learned in 2010. There have been only a few instances of a president’s seeing his party’s position in Congress improve in a midterm election. Yet, remarkably, one such moment did occur during the Great Depression. In the midterm election year of 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt put the blame for hard times on self-serving speculators, greedy bankers, and profiteering CEOs. Said FDR, “The fault lies with Wall Street.” Instead of letting corporate spin form the narrative of the Great Depression and the New Deal response to it, Roosevelt used his 1934 State of the Union address to speak “of those individuals who have evaded the spirit and purpose of our tax laws, of those high officials of banks or corporations who have grown rich at the expense of their stockholders or the public, of those reckless speculators with their own or other people’s money whose operations have injured the values of the farmers’ crops and the savings of the poor.” Throughout 1934, FDR never let up when it came to calling out speculators, monopolists, and price gougers. He promised that New Deal Democrats with increased congressional majorities would hold the bad actors to account. Voters approved. In November, they gave Democrats nine more seats in the House and nine more in the Senate, where the party achieved a rare supermajority.

“Trump’s Risky 2022 Endorsement Strategy” [New York Magazine]. “Trump’s heavy involvement in 2022 races could dilute the expectation that the midterms will be a referendum on the increasingly unpopular Joe Biden, who despite his troubles is more popular than his predecessor was at this stage of his presidency…. Before the current cycle, Trump endorsed 43 candidates in competitive primaries with his preferred pols winning 37 races and losing six.” Not bad. More: “All in all, Trump is engaged in a risky 2022 endorsement strategy that might backfire or might confirm his mastery of the GOP. He can’t seem to help himself; it’s in his nature to intervene in every direction, so he will.” • Well, 37 / 43 = 86%. If Trump were playing the ponies, he’d be doing pretty well.

2024

Tulsi, no:

Trump Legacy

“Trump Fans Are Making DWAC the Best-Performing SPAC of Its Kind” [Bloomberg]. “In a cooling market for SPACs, the shell company tied to Donald Trump’s new tech and media venture has recorded outsized stock gains. Supporters such as Rafael Morales help show why. ‘This is a bigger calling — this is my man Trump about to roll out a company,’ Morales, a 40-year-old military veteran from New York City, remembers thinking when he first heard about Digital World Acquisition Corp. He bought almost $100,000 worth at about $109 a share on Oct. 22, two days after the company announced a deal to merge with Trump Media & Technology Group. The stock dropped to $82 at the end of last week — but it was still up more than 700% since the deal announcement. Even though he’s well in the red, Morales is optimistic. ‘I believe in Trump. I believe in him.’” • Morales bought at the peak?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Why Progressives Can’t Quit Their Masks” [National Review]. “While there has been a quietly energetic campaign to memory-hole the fact, some of you will remember that, in the run-up to the 2020 presidential campaign, vaccine skepticism was a Democratic thing, not a Republican thing. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, and every third progressive nitwit on Twitter cast doubt on the safety and the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines that were being developed under Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to expedite a vaccine. It was childishly predictable: With Election Day looming, anything that might redound to the credit of the Trump administration had to be cast into doubt or held up for scorn. We are governed by people who have never mentally or morally progressed beyond the politics of the junior-high lunchroom.” True dat. More: “I think that if I could learn two things about a person — the situations in which he will wear a mask even if it is not strictly required and the situations in which he will refuse to comply with a mask requirement — I could probably tell you for whom he voted in 2020…. And that is what is making unmasking — and a more general return to normal — so difficult for so many of our progressive friends: It has become a cultural and social issue, and a quasi-religious one at that. For a certain kind of progressive, giving up masking feels like giving in. It doesn’t feel to them like the epidemic has been beaten — it feels to them like they have been beaten, and their cultural enemies (Joe Rogan, and that estranged uncle who is angry on Facebook) have won.” • Wrong on the science (masking works; one of many studies), and wrong on the politics. “Progressives,” especially those who dominate the press, are working hard to frame masking as a purely individual responsibility. And the Biden Adminsitration has consistently framed masking as a punishment to be lifted as soon as possible (rather than a civic responsbility). Further, at least according to polling, a majority of the public will continue to mask. I hope this reflects a “plague on both your houses” mentality, and intensifies. And here’s a new study on masking:

“The Fall Of The Meritocracy” [The American Conservative]. “How did the West’s meritocratic elites, with all their scientific-technological prowess, end up driving their societies into a ditch of distrust, rancor, and division? What led the meritocracy to badly overplay its hand on lockdowns, masking, social distancing and, above all, vaccine mandates, triggering explosive popular uprisings like the one in Canada? It won’t do for the meritocracy’s apologists to blame the unenlightened and irrational mass of people who refuse to comply with what’s good for them, which would amount to circular reasoning: The whole promise of meritocratic governance is that the ruling class’s sheer intelligence and ability can overcome the messy antagonisms of “ordinary” politics—yet that, evidently, has not be the case. Why?” And: “We’d do well to turn to Michael Young, the British sociologist, Labour party peer, and author who coined the word “meritocracy” in a dystopian novel first published in 1958. The novel, The Rise of the Meritocracy, proved enormously influential on our side of the pond, especially among such heterodox thinkers as Christopher Lasch and Michael Lind. And deservedly so, for Young masterfully grasped trends underway in his time and projected them into the future.” • Another damn book to read. I love the part about the book’s last footnote.

“Taking the Skinheads Bowling” [John Ganz, Unpopular Front]. “The old story of fascism and the origin of totalitarianism in general was that they the consequences of atomization: they preyed on the fragmentation and decay of social bonds and the transformation of society from an organized body of interests represented in clubs, voluntary associations, and political parties into a rootless mass of frightened, lonely, and confused individuals…. But this picture has been questioned recently and researchers are now countenancing what’s been called the ‘dark side of social capital.’ (After all, isn’t the Ku Klux Klan a form of civic association, too?)…. This immediately brought to mind Gabriel Winant’s n+1 essay ‘We Live in A Society,’ where he argued…. that strong associational bonds still exist in the U.S. in the form of homeowners’ associations and the like and these often have an important racial component—what the authors of the above paper might call ‘the ‘forces of tradition’’ that work to ‘restrict social change.’” • Churches, too; GiveSendGo is a way of transforming social capital, mostly of Christian congregations, into cash (and often for purposes I would call good, like funding people’s health care bills).

“COVID-19 Isn’t Going Anywhere — And Americans Know It” [FiveThirtyEight]. I like the barely concealed note of triumph in the headline. More: “What Americans want regarding COVID-19 is all over the place. And there’s only so much the polls can tell you. For instance, they can’t list every public health response to COVID-19, much less every combination of responses. But polls show that support is shifting more toward individual precautions than toward COVID-19 protections mandated for society at large.” Propaganda works. More: “And Americans seem to be OK with being more cautious in their personal decisions. That is, they’re more willing to undergo measures like mask-wearing or vaccinations for themselves, though they may not want to institute it as a requirement.” • We’re two years into this thing, and those psychos at CDC still don’t state their theory of transmission (should be aerosols) nor does the White House. So how in the name of all that is holy do they expect people to assess risk? As in the doggerel I quoted yesterday: “Why look before we leap? Let’s simply shut our eyes and jump! And enjoy a glass of water from the Broad Street Pump!”

Eisenhower was far too kind:

“The Authority Blob” [Tablet] From 2021, still germane. A roundtable discussion: “Although George Washington promoted the idea of a single federal university that would create a nonsectional, national American elite and even bequeathed money to endow it, from the American War of Independence until the late 20th century the United States had multiple regional Anglo-American Protestant elites, not a single national elite. Only in the past half century has a truly national, post-Protestant, multiracial secular elite emerged from the assimilation of old regional elites and upwardly mobile Americans. The agency of assimilation and upward mobility has been the culturally leftist and technocratic university, which has replaced the mainline Protestant church as the source of both elite values and elite credentialing. The new national overclass is multiracial but monocultural: a group of highly educated people, mostly from affluent families, who look different but think the same. They even sound the same: The nationalized overclass accent is a version of the placeless TV broadcaster variant of American English, in which the hard ‘Rs’ and flat stresses of the Midwest are often mixed with the question-like, sentence-ending ‘uptalk’ of the California Valley Girl dialect.” • I only read transcripts. Is this true? Do the members of The Blob really sound like Valley Girls? Readers? (I’d welcome video evidence; it’s a hilarious and deflating true fact — if true — and it would be a fun post to write. But I have no idea where to begin.)

#COVID19

I’ve said for some time that CDC numbers are good for narrative purposes: Are things better, or worse? Is there a wave, or not? Is there a peak, or not? Now we have a much better idea of what CDC’s internals are really like, and how sketchy and partial the releases are . (Readers will note that I dropped the vaccination counts long ago.) What is remarkable is how bad the situation looks, even considered as a narrative. Commentary:

Case count by United States regions:

2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2022 2.

I have again added a “Fauci Line” to congratulate Biden and his team — Klain, Zeints, Fauci, Walensky — for finally falling below their own second-highest peak, although still comfortably above the first peak achieved by the former guy. (Rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick; the slope of the downward curve is more or less the same as the upward curve. Previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecedented.) I wonder if there will be plateau when BA.2 takes hold. Since the Northeast has form, that is probably the region to watch for this behavior first.

The official narrative was “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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Continues encouraging (and independent from the CDC). No jump from the return of the students yet, which is even more encouraging, especially if you’re in “Waiting for BA.2” mode.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

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Looking good, though what’s that little cluster around DC doing? Maine is a data problem. (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.)

The previous release:

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:

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A few more speckles of improvement in the solid red.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Sea of green once more. From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 960,157 959,412. A continous drop in the death date, which is good news. Sadly,1000000 – 960,157 = 39,843, and 39,843 / 6 days until Biden’s State of the Union Speech is 6,640.5, so I guess we won’t break a million in time. I was hoping for a ribbon cutting ceremony of some kind. Maybe the West Wing staff could have staged a photo op with funny hats and noisemakers. Walensky’s staff could have joined in by Zoom. Ah well, nevertheless. I have drawn a Fauci Line to congratulate the Biden Administration for having fallen below the peak achieved by the former guy.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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What’s up with Germany and France?

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the US fifth district decreased to a 5-month low of 1 in February of 2022 from 8 in the previous month, due to declines in the indexes for shipments (-11 vs 14 in January) and new orders (-3 vs 6). However, the third component in the composite index, employment, increased to 20 from 4 in January. Firms reported decreases in order backlogs, as the index became negative for the first time since June 2020. Vendor lead times increased for many firms as that index remained at near-historic highs. Firms’ perceptions about changes in local business conditions remained slightly negative; however, firms remained optimistic about future conditions. Firms continued to report increasing wages while also citing challenges finding workers with the necessary skills.”

Housing: “United States Case Shiller Home Price Index YoY” [Trading Economics]. “In 2021, both the 20-City Composite index (18.6%) and the National index (18.8%) increased at record rates, driven in part by a change in locational preferences as households reacted to the COVID pandemic, low inventory, fast turnaround, and high costs for raw materials. In December alone the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index went up 18.6% year-on-year, accelerating for the first time in 5 months and above market forecasts of 18%. Phoenix (32.5%), Tampa (29.4%), and Miami (27.3%) reported the highest annual gains among the 20 cities.” • So, big bets on air conditioning and the failure of the ocean to rise?

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The Bezzle: “Virgin Hyperloop axes half its staff to focus on freight” [Financial Times]. “Government-owned DP World, which has a 76 per cent stake in Virgin Hyperloop, is working on a hyperloop-enabled cargo system to deliver freight at ‘the speed of flight and closer to the cost of trucking’ by connecting with existing road, rail and air transport. But since its inception, critics have cited the high costs of bringing the system to market even if it wins regulatory approval…. ‘It’s abundantly clear that potential customers are interested in cargo, while passenger is somewhat farther away,” DP World said. “Focusing on pallets is easier to do — there is less risk for passengers and less of a regulatory process.’”

Tech:

Anybody who thinks Twitter is a cesspit already should try the Daily Kos comments section….

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 31 Fear (previous close: 39 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 39 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 22 at 1:53pm. Ukraine hasn’t made Mr. Market very fearful.

The Tube

““Euphoria” Fans Have Made Over 600,000 Playlists Since Season 2 Began” [Teen Vogue]. “It’s a well-known fact that Euphoria has a hold on contemporary pop culture, one that hasn’t let up since its series premiere back in 2019. We can easily see why, as the wildly successful — and ever-chaotic — HBO teen drama has something for everyone. Viewers flock to the screen each week to devour the show’s gripping performances, trendsetting makeup, fashion, and of course, music. And one thing about Euphoria? It’s always going to spark an exciting wave of creativity amongst its fans. Since the show’s season two premiere on January 9 — which broke records as the most watched episode of an HBO series ever — there’s been a major increase in streams and creation of Euphoria-related playlists.” • Playlists are creative works? Alrighty then. However, I can now post this viral clip:

A popular cultural wave has to break pretty far up the beach to reach me…. But I’m told the cinematography in this scene is excellent.

Class Warfare

Working class, eh? Assuming WaPo didn’t jigger the data:

The press made the same mistake, if mistake it was, with Trump voters, who were presented as working class, where the Trump electorate as a whole was wealthier than average. (That’s not to deny that the Trump electorate had a working class component. Synecddche — part (tendentiously) chosen to represent a whole — is a terrible prbolem in The Discourse today.)

News of the Wired

Two of my favorite podcasts:

“10.87- Anarchy in Ukraine” [Mike Duncan, Revolutions]. “Nestor Makhno thy time has come.” • Ukraine in the news of late. More on Makkno, certainly preferable to whatever forebears the Azov Battalion looks to.

“#378- BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG (Part the Sixty-fourth)” [Mike and Tracy Youngdahl, The Civil War]. “In which we look at the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge, and get the Confederates started off on their retreat from Gettysburg.” • In which Bobby Lee gets his slave-owning ass deservedly whipped, while proving that charging fortified positions is problematic (World War I chateau generals take note), especially when uphill. Ditto (World War I chateau generals take note) “softening up” the enemy’s fortified positions with massive artillery bombardments. Indeed, you could look at Lee’s inflated sense of the Army of Northern Virginia’s capabilities after Chancellorsville as equivalent to the French pre-World War I notion of elan, where it turned out that moral virtues weren’t…. enough.

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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. Today’s plant (RH):

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RH writes: “Grape vine along the Potomac River, occasionally submerged.”

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