2:00PM Water Cooler 2/9/2022

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

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

“Tunes of the forest” [Bangkok Post (Furzy Mouse)]. It is a heavenly radio broadcast that reminds villagers twice a day — morning and late afternoon — of their feathered companions under threat of extinction. Despite being hampered by lockdowns, artists have managed to imitate birdsong for public announcement systems to promote human-animal relationships. Broadcast in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Phimai, the sonic intervention, More-Than-Human-Songs, is produced by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and two local bird imitators.” • I think the focus should be on the two local bird imitators, who ought to have been named in the lead along with Eliasson. Here is the broadcast (in Thai, except for the birds, of course):

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“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

Capitol Seizure

“Twenty-First Century Fascism: Where We Are” [Verso]. Worth reading in full: “Differently from the fascist militia in 1920-1925 or the SA in 1930-1933, which expressed the fall of the state monopoly of violence in postwar Italy and Germany respectively, the Trump militias are a poisoned legacy of American history, the history of a country in which individual weapons are considered as a feature of political freedom. As frightening as it can be, this is not the sign of a collapsing state. In the 1930s, the European industrial, financial, and military elites supported fascism as a solution to endemic political crises, institutional paralysis, and, above all, as a defense against Bolshevism. Today, they support neoliberalism. In the US, the ‘establishment’ can support the Republican Party as a customary alternative to the Democratic Party, but the Pentagon would never endorse a putsch of white supremacists to impede Joe Biden’s election to the executive. In Europe, the establishment is embodied by the EU and firmly opposes all those populist, nationalist and post-fascist movements claiming a return to ‘national sovereignties.’… In the last analysis, however, the future of the radical right movements will not exclusively depend on their own internal evolution, ideological orientation and strategic choices; nor will it depend on the support they could get from the global elites; in the end, it will depend on the capacity of the left to sketch an alternative.” • So how is the left doing on that?

“Declining share of Americans see Trump as primarily responsible for Jan. 6” [The Hill]. “The results from Pew show that 43 percent of respondents view Trump as being primarily responsible for the attack, a drop from 52 percent last year. The surveys were taken shortly after the attack and its anniversary…. The number of Republicans who say Trump bears no responsibility at all for the attack grew from 46 percent to 57 percent over the last year, while the share of Democrats who see Trump as having “a lot” of responsibility for the attack dropped from 81 percent to 70 percent.”

Biden Adminstration

“Pelosi buckles, pushes stock-trading ban” [Axios]. “Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are planning to “amend the STOCK Act, the 2012 law governing how members disclose the purchase or sale of stocks, to eliminate the trading of individual stocks by members of Congress,” Punchbowl News reports…. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) have already reached a deal to file a stock-ban bill, Axios’ Sophia Cai reports…. But other Democratic Senators have lined up behind a less stringent proposal from Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) that would require members of Congress and their spouses to put their stock portfolios in a blind trust…. : Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so, Axios’ Dan Primack notes.” • Here are several summaries of Congressional trading.

So, did Temple Grandin consult on the Democrat Covid policy? Apparently not, or they’d be doing a better job:

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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“Top Georgia Democrats build financial edge over Republicans” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “In just two months, Democrat Stacey Abrams amassed $9.2 million, outdoing both Gov. Brian Kemp and his Republican rival, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. She collected nearly $2 million more in that span than Kemp did over a six-month period. Perdue tallied only about $1 million since December. And Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock raised $9.8 million in the final three months of 2021, making him the nation’s top Senate fundraiser for the second quarter in a row. He easily outdid Herschel Walker, his top Republican rival, whose $5.4 million haul was the most of any GOP Senate challenger in the nation.” • Well… Amy McGrath raised a ton of money, too. And Raphael Warnock owes me six hundred bucks.

I can’t wait for the midterms:

“AOC: Capitalism is ‘not a redeemable system for us’” (interview) [Yahoo Finance]. AOC: “[C]apitalism at its core, what we’re talking about when we talk about that, is the absolute pursuit of profit at all human, environmental, and social cost. That is what we’re really discussing. And what we’re also discussing is the ability for a very small group of actual capitalists– and that is people who have so much money that their money makes money, and they don’t have to work. And they can control industry. They can control our energy sources. They can control our labor. They can control massive markets that they dictate and can capture governments. And they can essentially have power over the many. And to me that is not a redeemable system for us to be able to participate in for the prosperity and peace for the vast majority of people.” • Good messaging. Now stick to it. I’m sort of amazed to see this; AOC must be very confident in her district and/or her ability to fundraise nationally — all those cooking videos must have paid off (and no, I’m not joking).

Republican Funhouse

Rubio’s staff must hate him:

Who let Rubio in front of a camera with his shirt like that?

Our Famously Free Press

“The Blue Stack Strikes Back” [Zaid Jilani, Tablet]. “If you look back at any of the recent controversies over free speech—from QAnon to COVID to the last two presidential elections—this is how things work when a development or outcome is seen as unfavorable or undesirable by the favored political camp: First, activists create a panic about misinformation or offensive speech. Second, the social media platforms try to meet them halfway by introducing measures like warning labels. Third, the activists realize they’ve drawn blood, and continue to push for outright censorship. Finally, the social media platforms give in and remove the offending voice from their platforms altogether. The institutions successfully driving this push for ideological conformity across American life—progressive nonprofits, large portions of the news media, woke corporations, Democrats in government—can collectively be called the “blue stack,” which represents an enforcement mechanism for the ruling ideology to express hegemony over American democracy. The blue stack presents America’s elite with something they’ve always craved but has been out of reach in a liberal democracy: the power to swiftly crush ideological opponents by silencing them and destroying their livelihoods. Typically, American cultural, business, and communication systems have been too decentralized and too diffuse to allow one ideological faction to express power in that way. American elites, unlike their Chinese counterparts, have never had the ability to imprison people for wrong-think or derank undesirables in a social credit system. But the alliance between the media, progressive activists, certain government officials and bureaucrats, technology firms, and other powerful institutions like business and banking now allows them to shape events through what Tablet’s Wesley Yang has called the vertical messaging apparatus. When a politically inconvenient story appears at an inopportune time—one about, say, the corruption of the Democratic presidential candidate’s son—the blue stack takes unified action to quickly suppress it. Dozens of former officials from the intelligence community can sign a letter baselessly insinuating that the Hunter Biden story was just Russian disinformation, the mainstream media can publish it, and social media companies friendly to or fearful of the Democratic Party can collude to limit access to the original reporting.” • Sounds about right.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Different results from Monmouth:

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“Column: These pundits and pols say they’re ‘done with COVID.’ But COVID’s not done with us” [Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times]. “At a certain level, it’s understandable that nearly two years of pandemic-related restrictions have people fed up and desperate to get back to some semblance of normal life. But that’s no excuse for the premature and dangerous declarations by elite commentators and vote-scrounging politicians that the crisis is over. For them and their social circles and fellow ideologues, perhaps it is over. Many live in a bubble that has protected them from the worst ravages of COVID-19. For millions of Americans, however, it’s not nearly over. They’re the survivors left behind by the 67,000 Americans who died of COVID in the last month, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not to forget the survivors, relatives and friends of the nearly 900,000 Americans who have perished in the pandemic, and the countless more suffering “long COVID” — those whose health has been compromised for months or possibly years by their encounter with the virus…. That brings us back to examining who has suffered the most from the pandemic. “Among working-aged Americans, those with 2019 household incomes less than $25,000 were 3.5 times as likely to report missing an entire week of work mainly due to their own or loved ones’ COVID-19 symptoms, relative to those earning $100,000 or more,” reports Julia Raifman of Boston University. Access to and uptake of vaccines and boosters are closely correlated with income. The share of fully boosted Americans with incomes less than $25,000 is only 22.2%, compared with 43% among those with incomes in the $75,000-to-$100,000 range and 56.6% of those with incomes of $100,000 or more.” • Hiltzik is on fire with this one; it’s so good to hear this said. But, Democrats throwing the working class under the bus? Say it’s not so!

“IT’S OVER — America Officially Surrenders to Covid” [Peter Daou, Direct Left]. “With the daily death toll near the highest point of the pandemic, the Biden administration has decided to abandon the farce that it is any better than Trump and Republicans. As the White House signals total surrender to the virus, Democratic officials across the country are ditching even the most basic mitigation measures.” • As I keep saying: Democidal elites is a parsimonious explanation. Commentary:

“New York joins several other U.S. states in rolling back mask mandates as infections fall.” [New York Times]. “Still, the easing of New York’s pandemic restrictions on businesses comes as Democratic-led states from New Jersey to California have announced similar moves this week, in a loosely coordinated effort that is the result of months of public-health planning, back-channel discussions and political focus groups that began in the weeks after the November election.” So this was the real Democrat plan at all, not that rubbish the Biden transition team emitted. Good to know. More: “The moves highlight how even local officials who installed sweeping safety measures early in the pandemic are now preparing to live permanently with the virus.” It’s not the goddamned “offiicials” who are going to have any problems; they’ll do fine, just fine. More: “The moves to eliminate mask mandates in these states come as the number of reported cases has dipped to its lowest level since the highly contagious Omicron variant touched off a wave of cases in December.” You just have to have been tapewatching along with me to know how delusional this talking point is.” • Tell me more about those focus groups, mentioned only once. Which Democratic strategist ran them? What were the results? And why in the name of all that is holy didn’t we do some focus groups to buld support for non-pharmaceutical interventions, so we could avoid mandates in the first place? A story that raises more questions than it answers….

“‘Full blown’ pandemic phase of Covid nearly over in US, declares Anthony Fauci” [Financial Times]. “The US is heading out of the “full blown” pandemic phase of Covid-19, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said, as he predicted a combination of vaccinations, treatments and prior infection would soon make the virus more manageable. Dr Anthony Fauci told the Financial Times he hoped there would be an end to all pandemic-related restrictions in the coming months including mandatory wearing of masks. In his most optimistic comments about the trajectory of the pandemic since the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Fauci outlined a scenario in which local health departments would lead the response to the virus rather than the Biden administration. Fauci said: ‘As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of Covid-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated. There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus.’” • Musical interlude. Commentary:


Case count by United States regions:

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I have again added an anti-triumphalist “Fauci Line” to highlight that the peak created by Biden and his team — Klain, Zeints, Fauci, Walensky — was so enormous that even now, after rapid decline, the case (under-)count is only a little below the best the former guy could do. The adults in the room reallly rose to the occasion on this one. (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!

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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Continues encouraging. 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.

A good question:

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

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Continued improvement. Tennesse reports weekly. (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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I have published CDC’s Rapid Riser report because I felt it would pinpoint outbreaks early, and because I felt something dynamic would be more useful to readers making travel plans (it’s one thing to have high community spread; it’s another to have systems stressed because things are getting rapidly worse). With that reminder, here is the CDC’s latest chart on Community Spread:

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Totally the time to relax all restrictions, eh? Unless you’re actively trying to spread the virus (which is what giving up does).

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Dammit, Guam. (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: 932,443 928,879. I have drawn an ant-trIumphalist “Fauci Line.” Sadly, the Biden administration has only managed a death rate equal to the first peak under Trump, then considered a national disaster. I sure hope we break a million before Biden’s State of the Union speech.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Good news here too. For the time being. Speaking of the Dominican Republic:

Good luck to them.

Stats Watch

Inventories: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Economics]. “Wholesale inventories in the US advanced 2.2 percent month-over-month to $789.4 billion in December of 2021, up from a 1.7 percent increase in the prior month and above a preliminary estimate of 2.1 percent. It was the 17th consecutive month of gains, amid increases in inventories of both durable goods (2.6 percent vs 2.6 percent in November) and nondurable ones (1.6 percent vs 0.4 percent). On a yearly basis, wholesale inventories advanced 18.5 percent in December.”

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The Bezzle: “Tesla recalls 26,681 U.S. vehicles over windshield defrosting software” [Reuters]. “Tesla Inc is recalling 26,681 vehicles in the United States because a software error may result in windshield defrosting problems, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Wednesday. Tesla told U.S. regulators the error may cause a valve in the heat pump to open unintentionally and trap the refrigerant inside the evaporator. Tesla will perform an over-the-air software update to address the issue. The recall covers some 2021-2022 Model 3, Model S, Model X, and 2020-2022 Model Y vehicles that may not comply with a federal motor vehicle safety standard. It is the latest in a string of recent recalls for the Texas-based EV manufacturer.” • More Tesla news:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 40 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 36 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 9 at 1:33pm. Moving toward neutral?

Groves of Academe

Why has nobody made an NFT of this:

Health Care

“Paper used to support claims that ivermectin reduces COVID-19 hospitalizations is withdrawn by preprint server” [Retraction Watch]. “The overseers of the preprint server SocArXiv have withdrawn a paper which claims that treating Covid patients with ivermectin dramatically reduces their odds of hospitalization, calling the work ‘misleading’ and ‘part of an unethical program by the government of Mexico City to dispense hundreds of thousands of doses of an inappropriate medication to people who were sick with COVID-19.’ ‘Ivermectin and the odds of hospitalization due to COVID-19: evidence from a quasi-experimental analysis based on a public intervention in Mexico City,’ has been a source of controversy for SocArXiv since it was accepted for the site in May 2021. The paper was written by José Merino, head of the Digital Agency for Public Innovation (DAPI), along with co-authors DAPI, the Mexican Social Security Institute and the Mexico City Ministry of Health.” • My reading: socRxiv has two issues: 1) Ethical (“dispensing unproven medication”). Now that we’re doing human challenge trials in the UK — $6,200 to risk covid infection — I would have thought such niceties had been put to rest, but wev. 2) Scientific. socRxiv cites to Polifact (!!). (There’s a reference to a Twitter thread on the science but it’s not *cited* by socRciv.) Am I missing something? (Meanwhile, there are three hits on “remdesivir,” but no retractions. NEJM and Lancet were allowed to place “expressions of concern” on papers about remdesivir, whose producers stock was ramped by Fauci based on a press release, and which WHO now recommends against (“there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients”). I suppose all Retraction Watch can do is watch, but the disparity seems worthy of comment. Oh, and the socRxiv committee nuked the paper partly because of “a community groundswell beseeching us to act.” Will Ignaz Semmelweis please pick up the nearest white courtesy phone?

Zeitgeist Watch

“Where Did All the Workers Go?” [The Ethical Skeptic]. “As a person who does corporate strategy, and has faced some of these related issues in conducting planning for my clients – I hope at least, that I bear a clean and direct grasp of how the employment market is affected by certain factors. This may not be popular, and my intention is not to excuse-make for this generation – nonetheless it is the truth. As a 24 year old in the United States of America (this is not me, this is a collection summarizing what I have heard or observed from this generation).” #23: “Knowing a trade is much more valuable than having a degree now. Work for yourself, part time is the way to go. If you can fix a pipe, circuit board, or electric motor, you are far more valuable than a college educated cubicle-dweller managing the overdue payment notification team.” Amen to that. Be Jackpot-ready. #25: “Video games are incredibly real and immersive now, and highly addictive, on large 4K screens with fantastic sound. There is a new one each week. The social network around them is incredible, a lot of people just like me.” Still waiting for some sort of politics to emerge from, or be carried on within, this environoment. #29: “Online porn is far less trouble than a real live friend of the opposite sex. Having one of those is like owning a monkey, with a chance of accidental pregnancy. Plus, after all, I live in my parents’ basement…” • I dunno. This reminds me of the rise of incels in Korea. A garden would be immersive… but hard to do in a basement, no?

My goodness:

Blake before there was Blake?

Class Warfare

“A Labor Stunner in Mexico Augurs Greater Equality — on Both Sides of the Border” [Inequality.org]. “What keeps wages in Mexico so low? Mexico’s corrupt traditional union powerhouse, the Confederación de Trabajadores de México, has played a key role. Leaders of unions connected to this confederation, the CTM, have essentially served as pliant junior partners to the PRI political party, the ruling party for most of Mexico’s modern history. With PRI support, CTM leaders have signed sweetheart contracts with employers that have kept wages low and workers in the dark. But CTM’s lockgrip over labor relations in Mexico started cracking when the reform-minded Morena party swept into office nationally in the 2018 elections. CTM had suddenly lost its political patron, and rank-and-file Mexican workers had a national administration actually interested in protecting their rights, via both new laws and the serious enforcement of already existing labor statutes. Meanwhile, midway through 2020, the successor trade agreement to NAFTA went into full effect. This new agreement has one important saving grace: a series of provisions, pushed hard by U.S.-based unions, that aim to help workers freely choose the unions that represent them. This past week saw these provisions put to their ultimate test. In Silao’s massive General Motors plant, over 6,500 workers finally had the opportunity to pick a union of their own choice.” • With results that we see!

“REI Workers ‘Fed Up,’ Seeking Union Recognition” [Women’s Wear Daily]. “On Friday, the National Labor Relations Board received a petition for union election at Recreational Equipment Inc., (or REI as it’s known) on behalf of 116 REI SoHo employees who wish for formal union election and recognition. The organizers sought representation from the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, and the United Food and Commercial Workers coalition, or UFCW. This store, in particular, has been a happening spot throughout the pandemic, as outdoor activities and enjoyment have been on the rise… REI employees are speaking out against lax mask-wearing or COVID-19 safety and disclosure protocols in store (REI saw policy changes last year adapted from the CDC, as well as state and local guidance) and values shifts, according to union organizers…. The REI Co-op was founded in 1938 on the premise of a collective love of the outdoors, mountaineering and recreation of all kinds, whether hiking, skiing, camping or the like. About 1 million new members join the co-op a year for a onetime $20 fee, receiving dividends back on their purchases each year for life. The co-op counts roughly 13,000 employees. But REI also counts 20 million lifetime co-op members who may have an opinion on the latest organizing efforts — a handful of whom have already expressed pro-union stances in customer feedback forums and the like online.”


News of the Wired

Here is Virtual Railfan’s webcam for Santa Fe Junction, Kansas City, Missouri, one of the “busiest junctions in America“:

Relaxing to watch; and a reminder of how enormous this country is. Lots and lots of containers!

Ancient jackpots:

Haikus, as well:

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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: “Three kinds of mushroom on one stump (Birch).” I stan for stumps, so good.

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