By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
More strange sounds from Oz!!!
* * *
“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 convoy laps Washington, DC, beltway to protest Covid-19 measures” [CNN]. “A convoy of vehicles lapped the Washington, DC, beltway Sunday morning to demand an end to Covid-19 mandates and restrictions…. The group — which included dozens of vehicles, including some eighteen-wheelers, according to footage from CNN affiliate WUSA — planned to drive at least two loops around the beltway before returning to Hagerstown, Maryland, Maureen Steele, an organizer with the ‘People’s Convoy’ told CNN. They did not plan to enter the city proper.
Sunday’s protest may mark the beginning of several days of disruptions, according to District of Columbia emergency management officials.
On Sunday, Christopher Rodriguez, director of the District of Columbia’s Homeland and Emergency Management Agency, estimated that there were 1,000 vehicles at the time up in Hagerstown, Maryland, and that the ultimate number of vehicles could reach 2,000 over the next several days.”
We spent four hours walking around the “Peoples Convoy” Trucker encampment at the Hagerstown Speedway in MD. Anyone dismissing this as a failed event by the crazy fringe is missing the big picture.
Here are five important take-aways. 🧵
— Terry Bouton (@TerryBoutonHist) March 6, 2022
U.S. trucker convoy arrives and slows traffic on the Beltway near D.C. https://t.co/36y5zSgyRK
— Malina Barnes (@MalinaBarnes) March 7, 2022
The #PeoplesConvoyUSA is getting ready to hit the road for the beltway soon after the morning meeting wrapped up, just as they announced Sens. @RonJohnsonWI and @tedcruz would be meeting with them tomorrow. (🎥 for @latimes) pic.twitter.com/ffargDjEcY
— Kent Nishimura (西村賢一) (@kentnish) March 7, 2022
“Biden urges return to office” [Yahoo News]. “‘Because of the progress we’ve made fighting COVID, Americans can not only get back to work, but they can go to the office and safely fill our great downtown cities again,’ Biden said during remarks from the White House that touched on February’s encouraging job numbers, which saw the unemployment rate fall to 3.8 percent. ‘Most Americans can remove their masks, return to work and move forward safely.’” • Totally. What’s the risk of a few bloodclots compared to a return to our beloved cubes? Commentary:
— Nations Advocating Total Obliteration (@DoomScrollingML) March 6, 2022
“White House transparency disputes imperil funds to buy Covid therapeutics” [STAT]. “The White House hasn’t publicly detailed exactly how it’s spent the more than $4 trillion Congress authorized for Covid-19 relief — and now, that lack of transparency could imperil its request for more money to fight the pandemic and buy therapeutics. Amid heated negotiations over a government funding bill, three dozen Republican senators including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are refusing to consider more Covid-19 relief funding unless the federal government provides a full accounting of how funds have been spent. The White House disputes the accusations that there has been a lack of transparency, and an administration official said the White House briefs Congress on a regular and bipartisan basis about details of the status of relief funding. And the budget crunch is even more severe than the administration has let on. The White House has held off on buying millions of courses of Pfizer’s highly effective antiviral drug that the White House already committed to buy due to budget constraints, according to public contract disclosures and the Department of Defense, which issues the contracts. In January, the White House announced that it was doubling its order of Pfizer’s antiviral, named Paxlovid, committing to buy an extra 10 million courses. But according to public contracts, the White House has only actually contracted for 835,000 of those courses to date.”
“Former Biden COVID-19 advisers, experts call for more action from White House” [The Hill]. “A group of 53 authors — some of whom served on President Biden’s COVID-19 task force before he entered the White House — have released a roadmap for the “next normal,” arguing for further action as the country prepares to live with COVID-19. In their report released Monday, the authors acknowledged the sense of fatigue that many people are now experiencing as the pandemic stretches into its third year. ‘Americans are beyond tired of waking up to uncertainty about what the future holds thanks to a COVID pandemic that feels never-ending,’ said Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, who coordinated the report. ‘As the threat of Omicron fades and Americans are looking for direction, it’s time the country maps out a way forward so that people can start to live their lives in a next normal,’ he added.” • Well, it’s always “beyond tiring” to be involved in a complete debacle that cost a million lives. Where the heck were these goodthinkers over the last two years?
“High Demand for Drug to Prevent Covid in the Vulnerable, Yet Doses Go Unused” [New York Times]. “As much of the nation unmasks [breaks out pom poms] amid plummeting caseloads and fresh hope that the pandemic is fading, the Biden administration has insisted it will continue protecting the more than seven million Americans with weakened immune systems who remain vulnerable to Covid. Evusheld, which was developed by AstraZeneca with financial support from the federal government, is essential to its strategy. But there is so much confusion about the drug among health care providers that roughly 80 percent of the available doses are sitting unused in warehouses and on pharmacy and hospital shelves.”
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!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“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.
* * *
* * *
“Senate Republicans set sights on blue state ‘sleeper’ races” [The Hill]. “President Biden’s sagging approval ratings, combined with the fact that the party in power tends to lose ground in Congress in midterm elections, has Republicans looking for new offensive opportunities. ‘It’s dependent on Biden’s numbers essentially staying where they are or falling even further,’ Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, said. ‘If 65 percent of voters going into Election Day feel the country is still on the wrong track, they’re going to blame the Democratic president, Democratic House and Democratic Senate.’ ‘The more that goes on, the more the map expands for Republicans,’ he added. ‘It’s not necessarily about predicting victories, but as these numbers continue [for Democrats], opportunities for Republicans are only going to increase.’” On the other hand: “While the GOP is playing offense in Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire and Nevada, the party is also defending Senate seats in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin. At the same time, the party is riddled with internal disagreements over former President Trump and his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.”
“Can Biden Improve His Grade With Democratic Voters?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “In late January and earlier this week, I sat (virtually) in two focus groups of Democrats who primarily vote in presidential elections, but are not consistent midterm voters. These are the kinds of voters Democrats need to turn out in 2022. The January group was majority people of color. The early March group was composed of Democrats who were white. Progressive political organizations sponsored both groups. Like so many voters across the political spectrum, these folks were concerned about inflation and crime and the lingering effects of COVID. But, mostly, they were exhausted and anxious. When asked to describe the state of the country, they used words like ‘disappointed,’ ‘frustrated,’ ‘tired’ and ‘confused.’ They were happy to be rid of Trump, but they didn’t find much to be excited about under Biden. When asked what they liked about Biden, they mentioned things like ‘bipartisan’ and ‘trying to help our country.’ But, overall, said one Democratic woman this week, he’s just ‘average.’ ‘He wants to be the moral center but he’s not compelling or dynamic to energize people.’ The late January group of Democrats agreed Biden’s intentions are ‘in the right place.’ Still, for a range of reasons, they felt that he’s not able to get stuff done. Many were also deeply discouraged by the lack of progress on issues that are important to them. ‘Things aren’t changing for the better the way they could be,’ said one of the participants this week. ‘There’s too much talk and false hope,’ said one man in the late January group. ‘No one is really doing anything.’ While they gave Biden credit for getting the infrastructure bill into law, they were frustrated that Republicans refused to cooperate. ‘That bill was universally seen as the greatest thing to happen to infrastructure in history,’ said one man in this week’s group of Democratic voters, ‘But, even getting to it was like pulling teeth. Republicans still voted no.’ Others in the group pointed to the hypocrisy of GOP lawmakers who voted against the bill but happily promoted its benefits to their constituents. But, even as this behavior frustrated the Democrats in the group, it didn’t make them more committed to showing up to vote this fall. When asked by the moderator if the GOP obstruction made them feel discouraged, or if it instead inspired them to go out and ‘beat those Republicans’ in the election, most chose discouraged.” • No mention of Joe Manchin, Democrat.
“Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback” [Wall Street Journal]. Wall Street Journal being helpful: “Several circumstances—President Biden’s low approval rating, doubts over his capacity to run for re-election at 82, Vice President Kamala Harris’s unpopularity, and the absence of another strong Democrat to lead the ticket in 2024—have created a leadership vacuum in the party, which Mrs. Clinton viably could fill. She is already in an advantageous position to become the 2024 Democratic nominee. She is an experienced national figure who is younger than Mr. Biden and can offer a different approach from the disorganized and unpopular one the party is currently taking. If Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022, Mrs. Clinton can use the party’s loss as a basis to run for president again, enabling her to claim the title of ‘change candidate.’” • Wowsers.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Why Democracy Is Dying” [James Kwak, GEN]. ” I have argued for years that progressive Democrats should not compromise with moderates, let alone conservative Republicans—that the path to political victory and to a better society begins with an undiluted focus on the economic welfare of ordinary people. Today, however, our top priority has to be protecting democracy from Donald Trump and his followers. (If you don’t believe me, please read Barton Gellman’s analysis.) Unchecked economic inequality certainly helped make Trumpism possible. But even the most enlightened economic policies, enacted today, would be unable to reverse the tide of inequality in time for the 2024 election…. To begin with, it’s important to realize that the most likely scenario is not that American democracy is overthrown by a mob assault on the Capitol. Neither the Pentagon nor even this Supreme Court would uphold that outcome. Instead, the coup will occur under cover of procedural legality. Republican state legislatures—operating under the well-established principles that states have primary responsibility for elections and that the legislature determines how presidential electors are chosen—are already passing laws giving them the power to intervene at key points in the voting process.” • Kwak, interestingly, doesn’t proffer a solution.
Case count by United States regions:
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 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?
* * *
The “Waning Wall”:
In the next few weeks, we’re going to find out just how much of our “immunity wall” was actually “mask immunity.”
— Dr. Lisa Iannattone (@lisa_iannattone) March 5, 2022
“CDC Data: ‘Stealth’ Omicron Cases Doubling Every Week in the U.S.” [US News]. “Cases of a highly transmissible omicron subvariant are doubling in the U.S. every week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2, or “stealth” omicron, was responsible for 8% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. last week, the CDC estimates. That’s up from 4% the week prior and 2% the week before that. Experts have raised concerns that the relaxation of mitigation measures like mask mandates could give the subvariant an extra advantage as it spreads in the U.S., and they have questioned if the country is doing enough sequencing to understand the true number of BA.2 infections. BA.2 is already the dominant lineage in 18 countries, according to the World Health Organization. The subvariant’s unofficial nickname of “stealth” omicron stems from a testing response that makes the lineage look like the delta variant, so it requires additional sequencing that the more common omicron subvariant did not.” • Here from CDC is the variant tracker:
This is CDC’s “NowCast.” The name and the presentation suggest that we are seeing data, but we are seeing a model. As CDC, to their credit, says:
Nowcast is a model that estimates more recent proportions of circulating variants and enables timely public health action. CDC is providing weekly Nowcast estimates which will be updated every week on Tuesday.
Readers will recall that the last CDC model I encountered went very, very badly — for CDC.
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.
* * *
I’m just waiting for CDC to find a way to jigger the wastewater statistics:
— Biobot Analytics (@BiobotAnalytics) March 2, 2022
From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:
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.)
The previous release:
“Health update: Vermont’s COVID-19 outlook improves” [Vermont Public Radio]. “COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are declining in Vermont, and health officials say they expect the numbers to keep falling. , there are still questions about how to keep older Vermonters and those with compromised immune systems safe.” • Amazing how “the endemic phase” because conventional wisdom without, so far as I can tell, any scientific justification at all. Is it wishful thinking? Is it MBAs thinking their spreadsheets rule the world, instead of the other way round? It’s bizarre. Like so much else.
Those notes in red also make me think “Potemkin Village”:
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 7, 2022
Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:
Continuing slow improvement, assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered.
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Sea of green once more. From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)
Death rate (Our World in Data):
. Heading downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci line.
There are no official statistics of note today.
* * *
— Resource 🇺🇦 Conversations (@YETICapital99) March 7, 2022
Many charts on this thread.
The Bezzle: “Musk Takes China’s Ambassador to U.S. for a Spin in New Tesla” [Bloomberg]. “Dressed in a black suit and tie, Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk took China’s Ambassador to the U.S. for a drive in a Model S Plaid, an experience the passenger described as a ‘smooth ride.’ The diplomat, Qin Gang, shared photographs from the car on Twitter. He also posted a shot from a meeting with Musk, in which they discussed everything from cars to ‘stars in the sky’ and ‘the meaning of life.’”
Tech: “Husband Returning Late At Night Accidentally Killed By Frightened Google Home” [The Onion]. • Hard to believe this hasn’t happened….
We’ve regained 90% of the 22 million jobs lost in the pandemic. But we’re still well below where we would have been if we’d continued to experience the job growth we’d been getting before Covid. pic.twitter.com/JSmCfia4Qm
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) March 4, 2022
We’re still down about 136,000 jobs in laundry services pic.twitter.com/jL5SA5UGc5
— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) March 4, 2022
* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 14 Extreme Fear (previous close: 17 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 24 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 7 at 1:07pm.
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.)
‘Guerrilla pharmacologists’ provide drug-checking service at @mcgillu. University’s zero-tolerance policy has left students less willing to openly discuss safer drug-use practices, by @gwynethboone https://t.co/AqdVeGrKVs via @mtlgazette @CSSDP #MDMA #opioids #HarmReduction
— André Picard (@picardonhealth) March 5, 2022
Our Famously Free Press
One of my favorite accounts:
— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) March 6, 2022
“This Is the Teamster Effort To Organize the Truckers at the Ports” (podcast) [Odd Lots]. “Some truckers make good money and have a high degree of control of their schedule. Others work for low pay under exceptionally difficult conditions. Port truckers, in particular, have dealt with poor pay, high debts, wage theft, and other difficult conditions. But an effort is being made to organize for a better situation. On this episode, we speak with Ron Herrera, Director of the Teamsters Port Division, on the union’s efforts, as well as how it fits into broader supply chain stress.”
News of the Wired
What is wrong with these people:
Bonus Round! Watching Ep 1 of @Netflix‘s new show for kids, and so far this fine gentleman, at a lathe, with his face shield up, putting his hand on a spinning workpiece with his wedding ring on, is going to show us how a degloving (specifically a ring avulsion) injury happens. pic.twitter.com/Zlml39YTce
— Naomi Wu 机械妖姬 (@RealSexyCyborg) March 7, 2022
Why on earth is this person on television?
— Laid Off at Fifty. Now What? (@loafnw) March 5, 2022
* * *
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:
* * *
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.
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!