2:00PM Water Cooler 3/23/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 3/23/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

American Woodcock week at Naked Capitalism. Note: “Tracks 1 and 2 – Wing noises followed by flight song (doodling) of display flight. Low quality due to handling noise and difficulty tracking the high flying bird in fading light. Tracks 3 and 4 – Bomber recordings of the nasal enticements of a male strutting about on his display court! See Track 5 for additional notes on behavior.” Holy moley! “Nasal enticements!”

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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

“White House officials say U.S. has exhausted funds to buy potential fourth vaccine dose for all Americans” [WaPo]. “[W]ith House lawmakers in their home districts this week and unable to agree with Senate leaders on how to finance any package, there is no sign the stalemate will end soon.” • Idea: Make the vaccine money a line item in a bill sending weapons to Ukraine.

“Kamala Harris viewed White House aides not standing when she walked into a room as ‘a sign of disrespect,’ book says” [Business Insider]. “Vice President Kamala Harris felt slighted by White House aides not standing when she entered into a room, part of a pattern of ‘perceived snubs’ that the former senator was ‘fixated’ on, a forthcoming book by the New York Times correspondents Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns reportedly says.” And then: “Martin and Burns also reportedly detail Harris’ dissatisfaction with her policy agenda, writing that the vice president’s staffers proposed that she oversee relationships with Nordic countries, to no avail. According to Politico, the authors described the proposal as ‘a low-risk diplomatic assignment that might have helped Harris get adjusted to the international stage in welcoming venues like Oslo and Copenhagen.’” • I’m genuinely at a loss here. Is it customary for people to stand when a high official enters the room? Seems more like Versailles than a functioning democracy….

“Graham gets combative with Jackson: ‘What faith are you, by the way?’”[The Hill]. “Graham opened his questioning by asking Jackson abruptly about her faith. ‘What faith are you, by the way?” he asked. When she responded she is a nondenominational protestant, Graham then asked: ‘Could you fairly judge a Catholic?’ When Jackson said she didn’t feel comfortable talking about her personal religious views, Graham then pivoted quickly to how Democrats scrutinized Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith in 2017 and 2020. ‘How would you feel if a senator up here said of your faith ‘the dogma lives loudly within you and that’s of concern’?” he said, alluding to what Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) famously told Barrett when she was nominated to a federal appeals court in 2017.” • Musical interlude

“Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson refuses to define the word ‘woman’ because she’s ‘not a biologist’ as she is grilled on day two of her confirmation hearing” [Daily Mail]. “Quoting late Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Blackburn said: ‘Physical differences between men and women are enduring. The two sexes are not fungible. A community made up exclusively of one sex is different from a community composed of both.’ ‘Do you agree with Justice Ginsburg that there are physical differences between men and women that are enduring?’ the senator asked. When Jackson claimed she had never heard the quote, Blackburn asked directly: ‘Can you define the word ‘woman’?’ ‘Can I provide a definition?’ Jackson responded. ‘No, I can’t,’ she declared, before adding: ‘I’m not a biologist’. Jackson’s staunch refusal to offer a definition of a woman came at the end of the second day of questioning which tackled the big issues of race, abortion and judicial philosophy.” • The Ginsberg quote comes from her opinion in United States v. Virginia et al. (94-1941), 518 U.S. 515 (1996). Ginsberg in turn is cites to Ballard v. United States, 329 U.S. 187, 193 (1946), written by William O. Douglas. Here is what Douglas wrote:

It is said, however, that an all male panel drawn from the various groups within a community will be as truly representative as if women were included. The thought is that the factors which tend to influence the action of women are the same as those which influence the action of men—personality, background, economic status—and not sex.9 Yet it is not enough to say that women when sitting as jurors neither act nor tend to act as a class. Men likewise do not act as a class. But if the shoe were on the other foot, who would claim that a jury was truly representative of the community if all men were intentionally and systematically excluded from the panel? The truth is that the two sexes are not fungible; a community made up exclusively of one is different from a community composed of both; the subtle interplay of influence one on the other is among the imponderables.10 To insulate the courtroom from either may not in a given case make an iota of difference. Yet a flavor, a distinct quality is lost if either sex is excluded. The exclusion of one may indeed make the jury less representative of the community than would be true if an economic or racial group were excluded.


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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I’ve been thinking of common characteristics of “the PMC,” because so many are on display in the current Ukraine war fever. I should say immediately that these are characteristics of the class; if Balzac were writing a novel, one of whose characters was an “ideal type” of the PMC, these are the characteristics he should include. The class, like everything else, has internal contradictions, and in any case there individuals different by temperament, character, location, profession, etc. However, if we look for characteristics that dominate, I think this list is a good start:

Beliefs of

• Identity politics
• Micro-aggression
• Personalization
• “Fighting for”

Sociology of• ”Predatory precarity
• Credentialism
• Schooling behavior

Psychology of• Moralizing
• Sentimental identification
• Doubling down

Under “Psychology of,” I considered adding displacement, projection, and denial but I wasn’t sure how peculiar to the PMC they were. For “schooling behavior,” here is an image that shows what I mean:

Examples of “schooling behavior” include Ukraine war fever, Black Lives Matter (for the PMC), RussiaGate, etc. Note also I think “predatory precarity” can give an account of a lot of the academic (and party) behaviors we see, as backstabbing, snitching, betrayal, and so forth. Readers, is this a good start?

“The Other Manchin’s Conflicts Of Interest” [The Lever]. “Far less attention has been afforded to the senator’s wife, Gayle Manchin, a former West Virginia secretary of education, who in March 2021 was appointed by President Joe Biden to co-chair a commission that distributes federal infrastructure grants across 13 states, including West Virginia. But now an investigation suggests Manchin might have financial ties to a recipient of funding from that commission, an economic development partnership agency called the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Late last summer, ARC, awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Appalachian Investors Alliance (AIA), a non-profit foundation that works to deliver investment to small Appalachian businesses. The nonprofit’s director, Mike Green, is a prominent West Virginia venture capital manager who also serves as the officer and organizer of West Virginia Growth Investment LLC — a company in which Gayle Manchin has invested, according to federal financial disclosures.” • Wowsers, an Appalachian NGO? I’m sure the Trillbillies will love this….


“Speaking Of Democratic Moderates” [Eschaton]. On Lamb v. Fetterman: “Spending a bunch of rich people money to send the message that the Democratic party (as this points out, Fetterman *is* the sitting Lieutenant Governor, remember) is filled with a bunch of cophating commies is not particularly helpful to the brand!…. Conflict in primaries is fine to me, but people concerned about Brand Democrat are generally the people who spend their campaign money tearing it down. I’m not a filthy commie cophater like [checks sign on door] the Democratic Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania! Vote Democrat. As caricatures, Fetterman’s the kind of guy political consultants tell you they want and Lamb’s the kind of guy they deliver. Like telling you they want a regular guy, such as a farmer, but what they mean is they want a guy who owns a 160,000 acre farm property.”

“Vulnerable Democrats eye GOP transit mask repeal” [Axios]. “The chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm and some of the vulnerable members he’s charged with re-electing are voicing support for a Republican-led mask mandate repeal bill….’I’m completely over mask mandates,’ Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Axios. ‘I don’t think they make any sense anymore. I’m for whatever gets rid of mask mandates as quickly as possible.’ ‘I think you’re safer on an airplane than you are in a restaurant or at the gym, so I don’t know why we’re wearing masks in the air.’ … The White House has threatened to veto the resolution, and there’s nowhere near the level of support in either chamber for a veto override.” • So I guess masks aren’t a “Scarlet Letter” after all? (I wish I knew where this “done with”/”over” locution came from. My impression is that it’s an adult who is “over” or “done with” a child’s behavior, but I’m not sure at all. Can any readers shed light?


“2024 United States presidential election” [Wikipedia]. Yes, there’s already a Wikipedia page. The list of potential candidate is interesting (entertainingly including Joe Manchin). I don’t know if I’d put money on any of ’em.

“Presidential candidates, 2024” [BallotPedia]. Another list (including Stacey Abrams and Hillary Clinton; Wikipedia accepts their denials). Gina Raimondo, interestingly, on both lists. Whatever else one might say about 2016 and 2020, they weren’t mediocre. But that’s how these lists look.

“Jared Polis: The Gaymer Democrats Need?” [The Bulwark]. “Yet despite any, uh, eccentricities, it has been Polis, more than maybe any other Democrat in the country, who has succeeded at delivering for Colorado on the central promise of the Joe Biden presidency—one that has consistently flummoxed the president himself: returning a bit of normalcy to our tumultuous partisan politics. Polis has brought down the temperature, brought politicians from across the aisle into the fold, and governed in a way that appeals to (or at least earns grudging acknowledgement from) many Republican voters. In a midterm year looking ugly for Democrats, Polis is running for re-election—and that normalcy is paying big dividends for him.” • Colorado readers?

Our Famously Free Press

One for the memory hole, just like Iraq:

No opposition parties to the right banned. Naturally.

Clinton Legacy

How about Sunset Boulevard?

All Quiet on the Eastern Front?

Republican Funhouse

Realignment and Legitimacy



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 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?

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.

For grins, here is the regional Biobot Analytics data for the last six weeks:

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(Linear for the last six weeks with end date of March 16.) Confirms MWRA’s slight rise in the Northeast. Note also the increasing dominance of BA.2, also in the Northeast. I wish Biobot would make this data current and detailed enough to really serve as a check on CDC (which, as I noted yesterday, hasn’t got the kinks in its dashboard worked out, even if we could trust them not to jigger the data).

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 (which, if it is data, is persistent and also not noted by CDC). 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: 999,792 998,840. Big, big milestone almost achieved, and on a bipartisan basis, too. Fortunately, the numbers are headed downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Stats Watch

Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the United States fell 2% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 772 thousand in February of 2022, following a revised 8.4% drop in the previous month and below market expectations of 810 thousand.”

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The Bezzle:

And of course:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 44 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 22 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 23 at 1:27pm. Not sure what’s in Mr. Market’s mind, here. Settling in for the long haul in Ukraine? Weapons stocks?

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

Note, however, the remark about Covid:

Small behavioral changes add up. Not spitting on the floor became the new normal (and enforced by law):

The Gallery

Low key (1):

Low key (2):

Whistler, IIRC, collected Japanese prints; he could not have seen Hasui’s, which dates from 1930, but I wonder if he saw a similar one.


My continuing quest:

I wonder if it’s any good as a game?

Our Famously Free Press

“In Defense Of Mass Censorship” [The Onion]. “When The Onion’s editorial board convened to discuss the tumultuous events of the previous month, one conclusion became evident: The world stands at a crossroads. Two visions of our collective future stand before us: On one side is a free and enlightened society, dedicated to the principles of openness, tolerance, and debate; the other is built upon ignorance, fear, and the suppression of dissent. Today, the path forward could not be clearer. Simply put, we need mass censorship now.”

Groves of Academe

“UCLA Pummeled Over Adjunct Job Without Pay” [Insider Higher Ed]. “The job listing for an assistant adjunct professor was very clear: ‘The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA seeks applications for an assistant adjunct professor on a without salary basis. Applicants must understand there will be no compensation for this position.’… Bill Kisliuk, director of media relations at UCLA, said the university’s action was not outside the norm in higher education. ;UCLA is committed to providing fair compensation to faculty across the institution. Some positions may be without salary when individuals are compensated by other sources and a formal affiliation with UCLA is necessary,’ he said. ‘These positions are considered when an individual can realize other benefits from the appointment that advance their scholarship, such as the ability to apply for or maintain grants, mentor students and participate in research that can benefit society. These arrangements are common in academia and, in cases where formal classroom teaching is a component, compensation for these services is provided commensurate to experience and with an eye to equity within the unit.’ Before he knew of UCLA’s response, Timothy Burke, a professor of history at Swarthmore College, posted on Facebook. ‘I’m seeing a lot of people coming up with explanations that attempt to rationalize this: it’s for an internal candidate who has a funding stream elsewhere, it’s an attempt to help a candidate coming over from industry gain the teaching experience that will make them competitive, it’s some other insidery plan, it’s union-busting,’ he wrote. ‘Even the ‘innocent’ explanations are disgusting because no matter what they are, the whole thing is a *lie*. It’s corrupting: it legitimates the concept of asking a Ph.D. to work for free, it mocks the idea that a nationally advertised search is meant to look for nationally qualified candidates. That this is coming from a state that supposedly has liberal politics and respect for public higher education, in a city that is liberal, in a community of allegedly liberal administrators and faculty, should tell roughly how much all those political alignments are worth when it comes to exploiting labor and corrupting rules.” • Oof. On the bright side, if they can hire a professor to work for nothing, they can probably fund another administrator!

“Why Are Scholars Such Snitches?” [Chronicle of Higher Education]. “[Has higher education], on the whole, become a hotbed of craven snitches. From everything I’ve heard and experienced, the answer is yes….. Let us provisionally define snitching as turning someone in anonymously, for either minor or nonexistent offenses, or pretextually. Also: using institutional mechanisms to kneecap rivals, harass enemies, settle scores and grudges, or advantage oneself. Not to mention squealing on someone for social-media posts and joining online mobs to protest exercises of academic and intellectual freedom. This last is a variant of the “social-justice snitch,” a burgeoning category composed of those who want to defund the police and reform the criminal-justice system but are nevertheless happy to feed the maws of a frequently unprocedural and (many say) racist campus-justice system. There are, to be sure, right-wing students and organizations dedicated to harassing professors whose politics they object to, but that’s to be expected. What’s not is the so-called campus left failing to notice the degree to which the “carceral turn” in American higher ed — the prosecutorial ethos, the resources reallocated to regulation and punishment — shares a certain cultural logic with the rise of mass incarceration and over-policing in off-campus America. Or that the zeal for policing intellectual borders has certain resonances with the signature tactics of Trumpian America, for which unpoliced borders are equally intolerable. But what care social-justice types about fostering the carceral university if those with suspect politics can be flattened, even — fingers crossed! — expelled, or left unemployed and penurious?… Is snitching a function of character, the result of a trait you either possess or don’t? Or is it rather that certain institutional contexts, like prisons, incentivize snitching? In higher ed’s overfunded, secretive, and ever-expanding punishment infrastructure (hiring for which now vastly outstrips new faculty lines), glutted with vague regulations about everything from romance to comportment to humor, snitching has become a blood sport.” • See my comments on the PMC above. Perhaps I was too kind.

Class Warfare

“Life expectancy in the US dropped by an astounding 1.8 years during the first year of the pandemic” [WSWS]. You say that like it’s a bad thing. “Despite the grim news on the decline in life expectancy, stocks traded higher on the President’s announcement that there would be little done in the way of impeding the surge of infections. Having recouped all their losses from Monday when Omicron’s dominance was announced, yesterday the Dow closed 261 points up at 35,753. As comparisons between China and the US show, the drop in life expectancy is a purely political phenomenon attributable to the policies the ruling elites have employed that continue to place profits over lives, as evidenced by the financial aristocracy’s trillions amassed.”

News of the Wired

“Early Modern Memes: The Reuse and Recycling of Woodcuts in 17th-Century English Popular Print” [The Public Domain Review]. “In recent years meme culture has exploded the potential of stock imagery. The repetition and reuse of images in internet memes, particularly those that deliberately exploit stock photos that are somehow both generic and oddly specific, has striking parallels to woodcut culture in seventeenth-century England. Just ask ‘distracted boyfriend’, lustfully ogling a passing woman while his indignant girlfriend looks on in disgust. Originally uploaded to the stock photo database iStock under the description ‘Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl’, this twenty-first-century ‘how-de-do man’ has become common fodder for internet culture. He reappears again and again, each of the characters in the image relabeled to create a new nexus of interpretation. But this time, printers and booksellers are not the gatekeepers of meaning. Anyone can download the image, add their own text, and share their meme with an audience online. Whereas woodcuts could be shared unencumbered by copyright laws that wouldn’t start appearing until the eighteenth century, stock photo imagery and the memes that use them seem to replicate despite their legal ownership. Although stock photos like the disloyal man’s are not intended to be used for free, the internet has made paywalls easily scalable. Once the image sharing and content aggregating websites get ahold of them, there’s no stopping their potential spread. A quicker, easier, and more anonymous process than a woodcut changing hands from one printer to another, but a not dissimilar one.”

AI generated?

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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 JU:

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JU writes: “Here’s a photo of Golden Poppies amidst a granite outcrop, giving it the look of gold veins in quartz. I think we are many weeks away from peaking and fields of gold will expand into epic proportions and then disappear all of the sudden.”

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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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