2:00PM Water Cooler 3/11/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 3/11/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

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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

Trucker Convoys

“Activism, Uncensored: The People’s Convoy” [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “In a terrific piece of coast-to-coast video journalism, culminating in a story that’s still live — the “Freedom Convoy,” an American version of Canadian trucker protests, is still engaged in daily circling of the Beltway — TK partners News2Share chronicles the convoy’s journey from Adelanto, California to Washington, D.C. Ford Fischer and his crew also shoot a counterprotest in Washington, as well as a meeting held between the truckers and three oft-maligned Republican members of congress: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Thomas Massie. This extended video captures enough of the atmosphere around the protests to make it accessible, without covering up any warts…. A delegation went to Washington to meet with the three Twitter-infamous members of congress. In that meeting, a trucker veered from mandates to talk about prices. ‘In 2012, I went through this with Obama. When fuel prices hit $5 a gallon, I had a truck that was paid for, I was profitable,’ he said (reportedly the national average never made it to $5 a gallon then, though it did hit that number in spots). He went on: ‘Then, I lost everything. I had to sell my truck, even though it was paid for, go to the oil fields of North Dakota, and get a job as a company driver, and it’s taken me ten years to work my way back up.’ Referring to current skyrocketing gas prices, and offering a preview of potential future disputes, he added: ‘We are right now on the precipice of losing our collective asses… You cannot run a truck on six dollars a gallon.’ Overall, News2Share does a great job giving a nuanced portrayal of all sides of the current culture war, showing a complex dispute from multiple angles.”

Biden Adminstration

“More Sanctions on Russia, Means More Economic Instability and Headwinds for Democrats” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “‘The notion that [Republicans] want to now come here and lecture us,’ Jeffries said earlier on Tuesday, ‘when Vladimir Putin is the one responsible if gas prices increase significantly here in America — Vladimir Putin — and they shouldn’t provide any aid and comfort to him.’ Of course, there’s a limit to how much blame the Russian president can get for our current pain at the pump. While there has been a drastic short-term spike in gas prices over the last week, overall gas prices had been rising long before the invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, voters have been giving low marks to Biden’s handling of the economy for the last few months, suggesting that this pivot to Putin will meet voter skepticism. Even so, recent polling suggests that Americans are more willing to accept economic pain to punish Putin. A Wall Street Journal poll, published Tuesday, found 79 percent of Americans favored a ban on Russian oil imports, even if the prohibition increased energy prices. A Quinnipiac poll released last week found similar support (71 percent), even with the knowledge that gas prices could go up. A late February CNN poll found that just 34 percent of Americans thought that the impact on gas prices should be a ‘major concern’ for U.S. policymakers as they considered next steps on Russia. It’s understandable that as Americans watch the horror inflicted upon innocent Ukrainians, they want to deny any support — monetary or otherwise — to Putin. But, there’s sure to be a limit to this altruism, especially with such uncertainty about the final outcome. Will Americans feel as positive (and generous) if Russia succeeds in overthrowing the Zelenskyy government? Or, if this war drags on for weeks on end.”

“The 17 lawmakers who voted against the Russian oil ban” [The Hill]. • Two Democrats: Ilhan Omar and Cori Bush. So know we know who has stones and who doesn’t.

“Ukraine Museums Desperately Working To Preserve Priceless Hunter Biden Paintings” [Babylon Bee]. “According to sources, most of the paintings were initially purchased for the Burisma boardroom with the tacit understanding that then-Vice President Joe Biden would look out for Ukraine.”

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“Covid aid faces uncertain path on Capitol Hill as White House warns of severe consequences” [Poliitico]. “‘My biggest concern at this point is that we have to get something supported by 10 Republicans in the Senate,’ Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) told reporters on a call Thursday morning. ‘The White House is out of money at this point to fight the global vaccination war, and they’re running on fumes to fight the domestic Covid war. How could we possibly leave ourselves in this position?’” • Covid is so over. We don’t need to spend any money on it. Read the room!

“IRS plans to hire 10,000 workers to relieve massive backlog” [ABC]. ” The IRS said Thursday it plans to hire 10,000 new workers to help reduce a massive backlog that the government says will make this tax season the most challenging in history. The agency released a plan to work down the tens of millions of filings that includes speeding up the traditionally slow hiring process, relying more on automated processes and bringing on more contract workers to help with mailroom and paper processing. Getting it done will be the big challenge, tax experts say. The agency faces a backlog of around 20 million pieces of correspondence, which is more than 15 times as large as in a normal filing season, according to the agency. And the IRS workforce is the same size it was in 1970, though the U.S. population has grown exponentially and the U.S. tax code has become increasingly complicated. Additionally, the need to administer pandemic-related programs has imposed an entirely new workload on the agency.”

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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2022

“Bracing for Losses, Democrats Look to Biden for a Reset” [New York Times]. “Gone is the talk of a transformative agenda to remake the country’s social safety net that was once going to be the centerpiece of Democrats’ sales pitch to voters. The words “Build Back Better” were all but forbidden among the groggy lawmakers who arrived after only a few hours of sleep. Speaking to reporters, Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joked that the slogan for Mr. Biden’s defunct social policy and climate bill had become like the evil Voldemort in ‘Harry Potter’ — that which must not be named. Instead, after a year of supporting his agenda, House Democrats have pivoted to beseeching Mr. Biden to act on his own through executive actions to address the outstanding issues they care about before they face voters in November. Ms. Jayapal said the president could pass executive actions to cap the price of insulin, raise the overtime eligibility threshold in order to increase wages for tens of millions of people, and fix the so-called family glitch in the Affordable Care Act. This is when workers with modest incomes can’t afford their employers’ family policies, yet fail to qualify for government subsidies to buy their own insurance.”

“Biden, Democrats Lose Ground on Key Issues, WSJ Poll Finds” [Wall Street Journal]. Wall Street Journal poll. “The survey also found Republicans making gains among minority groups. By 9 percentage points, Hispanic voters in the new poll said they would back a Republican candidate for Congress over a Democrat. The two parties had been tied among Hispanic voters in the Journal’s survey in November. Democratic margins also eroded among Black voters, who favored a Democrat for Congress by 35 percentage points in the new survey, down from 56 points in November. Support for a Republican candidate rose to 27% among Black voters, up from 12% in November.”

2024

“Tulsi Gabbard crosses party lines and goes after the ‘power elite’ in CPAC speech where she earns standing ovation for praising the Durham probe into ‘Clinton corruption’ and blasting FISA courts” [Daily Mail]. “She then asked Ronald Reagan dinner attendees to join her in ‘an alternative universe.’ ‘One where our leaders actually took their oath of office to the Constitution seriously,’ she said. ‘If we were living in this world, they would shut down secret FISA courts and stop three letter agencies like the NSA, FBI and CIA from illegally spying on Americans.’ ‘They would denounce the Attorney General of the United States for his disgraceful attacks on American parents like those Loudoun County and across the country,’ she continued. In Loudoun County, Virginia parents were demonstrating against mask-wearing and the teaching of critical race theory. She then name-dropped Clapper and the Durham probe. Special Counsel John Durham is investigating the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe. Connected to that is the use of FISA warrants, which former President Donald Trump and his allies have criticized as one was used to monitor Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for the ex-president’s 2016 campaign.” • I don’t know who Gabbard would want second on her ticket, though.

Realignment and Legitimacy

We have the most frivolous, delusional, and self-centered professional managerial class in the world. She is talking about her son.

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A New York Times reporter, of course. It is true that Mandavilli is on the Covid beat. Here’s another Times reporter:

If I were being briefed by a public health official, or in the unlikely event I was interviewing a doctor, you can bet I would listen respectfully. After all, they might know something I don’t! These reporters, at the pinnacle of their trade (the Times) seem to believe that they are also at the pinnacle of all professions, simply because they write about them. It’s bizarre.

Making your spouse into a straw:

#COVID19

Case count by United States regions:

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Fellow tapewatchers will note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” phase is done with, and the case count is now leveling down. At a level that, a year ago, was considered a crisis, but we’re “over” Covid now, so I suppose not. I have added a Fauci Line.

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. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it.

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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Flattened out, continues encouraging (and independent from the CDC).

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.

Wastewater in California:

For grins, national –but not necessarily representative — wastewater data from Biobot:

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Would I like a lot more breakdowns on that data, both geographically and by time. And while the wastewater data is current, a month time-lag on variants? Really?

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

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Those notes in red at the bottom make me wonder about what else is wrong. (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.) And what’s with Idaho?

The previous release:

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

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Continuing slow improvement, assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Not 100% green. 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.)

Just a reminder:

As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 991,260 989,473. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

This FT chart, and its conclusion, have gone everywhere. But not all agree with it:

Another critique:

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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The excess deaths chart appears weekly, on Friday:

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Look at the qualifications in that drop-down. And the ginormous typo, helpfully highlighted, has been there for weeks. CDC, if you’re reading this, please send a signal by getting this fixed. And then throw some documents over the transom. In complete confidentiality! Obviously, nobody at CDC is checking the excess deaths chart. One can only wonder why.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

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The Bezzle: “U.S. eliminates human controls requirement for fully automated vehicles” [Reuters]. “”For vehicles designed to be solely operated by an [automated driving system] ADS, manually operated driving controls are logically unnecessary,” [the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’ said.” • Even an escalator has a kill switch. Trains have emergency brakes. But not robot cars? (Also, “ADS” is a new acronym to me. I don’t like new acronyms. What level of autonomy are we talking here? Five?)

The Bezzle: “Bankers Had Their Crisis. Now It’s Lawyers’ Turn” [Bloomberg]. “The global financial crisis exposed flaws in the oversight of banking, ending the era of so-called light-tough regulation. In the U.K., that meant breaking up the old watchdog, the Financial Services Authority. The drive was to refocus the banking sector on serving its core domestic corporate customers and ordinary individuals. The repercussions from the war in Ukraine should prompt a similar rethinking of how to keep tabs on the legal profession.” • Hmm. So if they do that, what is the City of London for?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 14 Extreme Fear (previous close: 15 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 17 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 10 at 1:20pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Food Supply. “Wheat hits an all-time high on the Invasion of Ukraine by Russia” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

Our Famously Free Press

Good Lord, Matty’s not being ironic (I checked the thread):

The Gallery

Manchester, in the UK:

Zeitgeist Watch

Some children go to Happyville, some go to Pain City:

Guillotine Watch

Money to burn:

Class Warfare

“‘It Is Disheartening’ New York restaurant workers react to the end of the citywide vaccine mandate.” [New York Magazine]. “‘Let’s call it seven weeks removed from Omicron running rampant,’ says Elijah Servance III, a bartender at Queensyard in midtown. ‘I don’t know what data or what stuff y’all are seeing that makes you feel eight weeks later like, No, it’s all good — just get rid of the masks. Don’t worry about the unvaccinated.’ At his bar, he says, he’ll often do 300 covers a night. ‘What if 100 of those people are unvaccinated?’ he asks. ‘I just think it’s foolish to open that Pandora’s box without a different safeguard in its place.’” • The idea that the vaccines do not prevent tranmission has never penetrated, an enormous success for the Biden Administration.

Will nobody think of the real estate investors:

News of the Wired

“Actor Jussie Smollett sentenced to probation, jail time for staging hate crime” [Reuters]. “His case took an unexpected turn in spring 2019 when the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped a 16-count indictment against him in exchange for Smollett forfeiting his $10,000 bond without admitting wrongdoing. The dismissal drew criticism from then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago’s police superintendent, who called the reversal a miscarriage of justice. In 2019, a special prosecutor assigned to the case recommended charging Smollett again and a grand jury returned an indictment.” • Thanks, Rahm. And 2019? So long ago? Filing this here because I’m not sure we know the everything about this very odd story.

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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 (SD):

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SD writes: “Birch trees at sunrise.”

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