2:00PM Water Cooler 3/21/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 3/21/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, I’m sorry this is a few minutes late. I got hung up in the coppices! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Alert reader Judith wrote:

Male American Woodcock are sky dancing and calling “peent” in the dark, hoping to find a mate. Birders are squinting into the darkness, hoping at least to hear the mating calls.

So herewith! From the Notes: “Flight sounds were normalized separately from the peent calls but the recording was a single uninterrupted recording made at 8:30 PM.”

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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

Biden Adminstration

“United and Still Polarized” [Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report]. “Overall, it’s important to remember that most Americans don’t have fixed opinions on foreign policy. Instead, their opinions are impacted by real-world events. Trump’s isolationism and nationalism were attractive to many voters who had grown weary of the blood and treasure the U.S. was spending in endless wars in middle eastern countries. China, not Russia, was seen by many as our biggest geopolitical threat. As such, there’s a good chance that opinions not just of this current conflict, but of those in the future, will be just as fluid.” • If, as I think we do, by “real-world events” we mean propaganda, Americans opinions may not be “fixed,” but will be fixed for them.

“‘Slava Ukraini’: Zelenskyy becomes Congress’ great unifier” [Associated Press]. • Oh good. From Georgetown Security Studies Review:

The most pronounced [post-2014] development is the official comeback of the call-and-response “Slava Ukraini, heroyam slava!” (in English “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the Heroes!”). The chant dates back almost 100 years and has been used by a variety of groups, each using the same call but creating their own responses. The combination that gained popularity during the 2013-14 Euromaidan protests, however, traces back to the 1930s, when it was employed by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA). These organizations fought for Ukrainian independence before and during World War II, allying with Nazi Germany to achieve this goal and perpetrating atrocities against tens of thousands of Jews and Poles. Today the call-and-response is widely used by Ukrainians as the soldiers’ battle cry, an end note in Poroshenko’s national addresses, during press conferences with Western counterparts, and as a slogan for the pro-European reform of Ukraine.

These little chlidren on Capitol Hill have no idea what they’re playing with. Or… they do.

A good rant:

Never let it be said that Democrats don’t deliver! It’s only a question of to whom.

“‘Never Anything Solved’: People Who Lost Family To Police Violence Lament Stalled Reform” [HuffPo]. “Biden never supported defunding the police, nor did the vast majority of Democrats in Congress, despite activists’ demands. But Biden did pledge a wide range of policing reforms when he was running for president in 2020, particularly after Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. Many of those reforms were packaged into the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but that died an ignominious death in the Senate last year. In the face of strong Republican opposition, it couldn’t attract enough support to clear the 60-vote filibuster. Nevertheless, Biden could take a suite of actions through executive orders – he could ban no-knock warrants, qualified immunity, officers shooting into moving vehicles, and chokeholds. It is also unclear how the reforms will differ from the Department of Justice imposing restrictions on chokeholds and no-knock warrants last year. Many people hoped Biden would have announced those actions already: CNBC reported in mid-January that he was planning to sign some executive orders on policing ‘in the run-up to his State of the Union Address on March 1.’ That didn’t happen. And a White House official told HuffPost there is no timeline for any further reform. The official added that the administration believes addressing crime directly creates ‘the political space’ to bring about police reform and prevents any ‘demagoguing by Republicans’ who oppose any police reform efforts.” • And this time the Democrats did it without even standing up a Deray…..

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 Cuomo aides seek to get out of lawsuit filed by female trooper” [Albany Times-Union]. “An attorney for former Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Richard Azzopardi, who remains a spokesman for Cuomo, wrote a letter to U.S. District Court this week indicating he will file a motion to have the federal complaint against them dismissed. DeRosa is accused in the lawsuit of aiding and abetting Cuomo’s alleged misconduct, and both are accused of retaliating against the female trooper…. ‘The discrimination claims against Ms. DeRosa should be dismissed because nowhere is it alleged that she knew Gov. Cuomo was harassing Trooper 1,’ Shechtman wrote to the court. ‘Nor can it plausibly be inferred that Ms. DeRosa knew of Gov. Cuomo’s allegedly harassing conduct. … If Gov. Cuomo was sexually harassing Trooper 1, it is unimaginable that he would have told anyone on his senior staff about his unlawful conduct. Indeed, the amended complaint alleges that he told Trooper 1 not to ‘tell anyone about our conversations.’” • Unimaginable?


“Mass leadership exit hits nation’s state legislatures” [The Hill]. “Nearly a third of the top leaders in the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers will quit their posts this year, signaling a wave of turnover that will hand power to a new generation. At least 30 state House Speakers, Senate presidents and majority leaders have either resigned or said they will retire at the end of their current terms, according to a tracker maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).”


“Unpacking Biden’s Vulnerabilities” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “While there are a lot of things at work here, one that is not talked about much is that Democratic members of Congress don’t seem to fear Biden, the White House staff, or their own leadership. Perhaps their party is a little too (small “d”) democratic. There seems to be no sanction, no penalty, for Democratic members who held up their own president’s signature pieces of legislation; they feared no repercussions either from the president or the party leadership. The end result was that both Biden and the Democratic leadership looked weak and ineffectual, and the process seemed disorganized and chaotic.”

“‘Do the right thing’: How US, allies united to punish Putin” [Associated Press]. “Just days before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, President Joe Biden quietly dispatched a team to European Union headquarters in Belgium. These were not spy chiefs or generals, but experts in reading fine print and tracking the flow of money, computer chips and other goods around the world…. When there was a deadlock, U.S. negotiators would put Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on the phone. ‘You can say ‘no’ now, but when the body bags are coming out of Ukraine, you’re not going to want to be a holdout,’ Raimondo said she told allied counterparts. ‘Do the right thing.’” • Filing this here, because Raimondo was put in charge of this important task. Not Harris.


Republican Funhouse

“Shakeup of Texas border mission leadership continues as pair of two-star generals departs” [Texas Tribune]. “Less than 72 hours after Gov. Greg Abbott replaced the Texas National Guard’s top general, two more top officials from the agency have suddenly stepped down, signaling a wide-ranging shakeup amid heavy criticism of the governor’s controversial border mission…. Over the past year, Texas officials have deployed thousands of troops and dedicated billions of dollars to stem an increase in migrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border. But the operation has been mired in controversy as National Guard troops have called it a disaster. Several service members tied to the mission have also died by suicide, leading to calls for an investigation from congressional Democrats.” • I was a bit staggered by the concept of Texas having actual generals, until I understood they were from the National Guard.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The ex-Hollywood filmmaker bankrolling a far-right political revolt in rural California” [Los Angeles Times]. “Reverge Anselmo, a former U.S. Marine, former novelist, ex-filmmaker, former vintner and guardian of a vast fortune, abandoned his stunning Shasta County estate in 2014 in a huff. He’d been battling the county over, among other things, his decision to construct a Catholic chapel without full permits on his vineyard, and after a legal setback decided to pack it in…. Then, in 2021, Anselmo learned that far-right activists were making a documentary about efforts to recall Shasta County elected officials. He summoned the film crew to his family home in Greenwich, Conn. — the one he calls ‘Marie Antoinette’s house’ because it is modeled after the Palace of Versailles — and began contributing to their efforts. On Feb. 1, Shasta County voters stunned the state’s political establishment by tossing Republican Supervisor Leonard Moty, a former police chief, on charges that he wasn’t conservative enough. The recall backers — a populist coalition that includes anti-mask parents, business owners, California secessionists and militia members — say they are just getting started. They plan to take control of the county by winning more Shasta posts in the June elections, while exporting their confrontational model to other communities nationwide. Many Democrats and mainstream Republicans are aghast, fearful that far-right activists are preparing to reorder Northern California and other rural parts of the state. ‘You are going to see more recall efforts taking place at the local government level,’ Republican political consultant Mike Madrid warned during a radio interview last month. ‘Militia-style, white nationalist efforts designed to shut down local public agencies as the way to start spreading social disruption. … It is happening already all over the place.’”


From the archives:

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Case count by United States regions:

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Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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So cases really have leveled out. This is the new normal, I suppose.

Fellow tapewatchers will note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” phase is done with, and the case count is now leveling out. 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 is “Covid is Over.” In the fall, 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). That narrative was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?

This is not good news:

This is not good either: “U.S. Surgeon General Urges Calm in Response to New Covid Wave in Europe” [National Review]. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: “We should be prepared that Covid hasn’t gone away. There may be rises and falls in the months ahead, but here’s the key: Our goal is to keep people out of the hospital, it’s to save their lives. We have more tools to do that than ever before. If we get people these tools — vaccines, boosters, treatments — then we can actually get through waves that may come and go.” • Erasing non-pharmaceutical interventions, including masks, entirely. These people are not fit for office.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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The MRWA is divided into two sections, North and South. Both have started rising, and now the rise has visibly affected this chart, which aggregates them. The aggregate of the enormous Omicron spike conceals change, but change there is. Of course, it’s a very small rise. Maybe this time the movie will end differently.

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.

CDC — incredibly — seems to be butchering wastewater data:

I’m obviously not a minimizer, but a 1000% rise unsupported by other data seems sus. Maybe it’s a “coding error” (see below).

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

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Every so often I think of doing away with this chart. Then something like Nevada happens. 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 from yesterday:

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

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Farewell, sea of 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.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 997,933 996,072. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Apparently, CDC — and I know this will come as shock to you — CDC has butchered death counts too. They have revised them — this, too, will come as a shock — downward:

Here is the footnote (you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and then open an accordion). I have helpfulluy

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A “coding error.” Informative!

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Stats Watch

National Activity: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index edged down to 0.51 in February of 2022 from 0.59 in January, pointing to a slight decrease in economic growth. Production-related indicators contributed 0.22, down slightly from 0.25 in January; and the contribution of the personal consumption and housing category fell to –0.04 from 0.21. On the other hand, the contribution of the sales, orders, and inventories category was unchanged at 0.04; and employment-related indicators contributed 0.28, up from 0.10.”

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* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 16 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 21 at 1:30pm. Not sure what’s in Mr. Market’s mind, here. Settling in for the long haul in Ukraine?

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Global Turmoil. “The warfare in Ukraine has pushed this category higher” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

Sports Desk


The Gallery

Looks like the eye of one of Max Ernst’s birds:

Photo Book

“Have iPhone Cameras Become Too Smart?” [The New Yorker]. “The iPhone camera also analyzes each image semantically, with the help of a graphics-processing unit, which picks out specific elements of a frame—faces, landscapes, skies—and exposes each one differently. On both the 12 Pro and 13 Pro, I’ve found that the image processing makes clouds and contrails stand out with more clarity than the human eye can perceive, creating skies that resemble the supersaturated horizons of an anime film or a video game. Andy Adams, a longtime photo blogger, told me, ‘H.D.R. is a technique that, like salt, should be applied very judiciously.’ Now every photo we take on our iPhones has had the salt applied generously, whether it is needed or not.” • But perhaps anime and video games are now the dominant aesthetic? Especially among those who program the iPhone? (For myself, I’m tired of being hit over the head with “unforgettable” photos, and not just wartime propaganda, thought that, too. Please, allow me some space to comtemplate before grabbing my heartstrings and tugging!)

Screening Room

I read the Foundation series when I was a teenager, and I don’t see why it needs “production values” more than, say, the original Star Trek TV series:

Does make you wonder what horrors Amazon will visit upon The Silmarillion. (I do think The Silmarillion was not published because it was just bad, but that doesn’t mean the suits at Amazon won’t make it worse.)

Groves of Academe

“Sorry, we could not find an online recruitment with that job number. Please browse open recruitments below”:

But it should be true!

Zeitgeist Watch

A parable of fungibility:

Symbol manipulators tend to think that the world can be changed as easily as cells on one of their spreadsheets: Oil is fungible, labor is fungible, weapons are fungible, limbs are functional. They aren’t. At some point, material reality breaks through.

The Agony Column

“Beauty and wonder of science boosts researchers’ well-being” [Nature]. “Scientists’ ability to experience wonder, awe and beauty in their work is associated with higher levels of job satisfaction and better mental health, finds an international survey of researchers. Brandon Vaidyanathan, a sociologist at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and his colleagues collected responses from more than 3,000 scientists — mainly biologists and physicists — in India, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. They asked participants about their job satisfaction and workplace culture, their experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of aesthetics in science. The answers revealed that, far from the caricature of scientists as exclusively rational and logical beings, “this beauty stuff is really important”, Vaidyanathan says. “It shapes the practice of science and is associated with all kinds of well-being outcomes.’” • I may sound like Polyanna here, but it seems unlikely to me that a world as beautiful as this one will permit itself to be destroyed. That does not, of course, mean that we as a species will survive, but then nothing ever did. All we can do is try to make sure, within whatever our sphere of action may be — possibly quite small! — what is to come is better rather than worse. To the gardens!

Class Warfare

“Canada’s CP Rail shuts down railroad, workers strike” [Reuters]. “Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) (CP.TO) halted operations and locked out workers over a labor dispute early on Sunday, with each side blaming the other for a halt that will likely disrupt shipment of key commodities at a time of soaring prices. CP had notified the union on Wednesday that it would lock out employees on Sunday, barring a breakthrough in talks on a deal covering pensions, pay and benefits. It said the key bargaining issue is the union’s request for higher pension caps. Chief Financial Officer Nadeem Velani told a New York investor conference on Tuesday that the railway was unwilling to accept that demand. Canada’s Nutrien said this week it may need to reduce potash production at its mines in the province of Saskatchewan if the shutdown lasts longer than a few days.” • Potash, eh? More fertilizer problems….

News of the Wired

“What is a question” [The Philosophers’ Magazine]. “I asked one hundred people to write down the first ten questions that came into their head. With the exception of ‘how are you’, none of the resulting one thousand questions were the same (‘how are you’ was repeated 4 times). The questions range from ‘do you love me’ to ‘do you want cashback’ and include gems such as ‘am I getting uglier’, ‘is a giraffe bigger than an elephant’, and ‘how long does a pack of cheese last’. Add to this all the questions that you have asked today and all the questions in this article. What, if anything, unifies this diverse group. This is in essence the question we have been asking.”

Magnificent thread on gathering sticks for coppices:

The end product:

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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. Via (JJD):

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

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My favorite kind of garden!

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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