2:00PM Water Cooler 5/11/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 5/11/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Hermit Thrush Week at Naked Capitalism (hat tip Noone from Nowheresville). From New York, the Adirondacks. Fifteen minutes (!). I’n not sure this thrush repeats the same riff twice.

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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

Biden Adminstration

“Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe is still the only one circulated inside Supreme Court” [Politico]. “Justice Samuel Alito’s sweeping and blunt draft majority opinion from February overturning Roe remains the court’s only circulated draft in the pending Mississippi abortion case, POLITICO has learned, and none of the conservative justices who initially sided with Alito have to date switched their votes. No dissenting draft opinions have circulated from any justice, including the three liberals. That could explain why no second draft of Alito’s majority opinion has been distributed, as typically the two sides react to one another’s written arguments and recast their own. As the nine justices prepare for their scheduled, private, closed-door conference this week, they face one of the greatest crises in modern Supreme Court history, with an internal leak investigation under way, an agitated nation focused on whether the constitutional right to abortion is about to be overturned, and some justices facing angry protests at their homes.”

“The Memo: Biden plays a weak hand on inflation” [The Hill]. “Biden extoled some of the actions he has taken in a White House speech Tuesday. But the key lever to bring the inflation rate down — the power to increase interest rates — is held by the Federal Reserve. This leaves Biden trying to put a dramatic gloss on some moves that are likely to have only a modest impact. The president outlined how his administration is releasing millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, broadening the availability of an ethanol-blend gasoline and attempting to ease supply-chain constraints. Biden also sought to empathize with the problems Americans are facing as prices spiral upwards. ‘Families all across America are hurting,’ he acknowledged, asserting that ‘all of my plan is focused on lowering costs for the average family in America.’ But Biden’s limited leverage over inflation will be cast into stark relief again Wednesday morning when the Department of Labor releases new figures for April.”• Which weren’t as bad for Biden as they might have been.

I think the Order of Saint Olga went to Pelosi’s head:

2022

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“4 polling takeaways ahead of the 2022 midterm election” [Matthew Dowd, MSNBC]. Hilariously, the chief strategist for the Bush–Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, but Bush gave Michelle candy, so here we are. “[I]n the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Biden has a net minus-12-point approval rating, while Democrats have a 5-point lead on the generic ballot…. A small segment of voters is likely to be key players in the battle for control of Congress and statehouses: voters who dislike both Trump and Biden. Today, that group represents a not insignificant number of all likely voters and a huge opportunity for the party that can capture it…. Among the group of voters who dislike both Trump and Biden heading into the 2022 midterms, each party has advantages on distinct issues. The GOP has a significant advantage on inflation and the economy, with only a small lead on dealing with immigration and the border. Democrats have a large advantage on voting rights, abortion rights, education and protecting the rights of citizens based on sex or race…. Tied to the above dynamic, the GOP is spending way too much time delving into cultural issues that Democrats lead on. Meanwhile, Democrats are spending too much time worrying and talking about inflation and the economy and not enough time raising the stakes of this election and making a broader argument based on fundamental rights and American democracy…. Everyone covering the midterm elections must be careful not to buy into old patterns that may not apply this year (such as that the GOP is automatically going to win because of Biden’s poor approval ratings, as in previous midterm results). And of course, polling numbers change — they are not always determinative on Election Day, nor do they always perfectly reflect voters’ gut-level motivations. For example, when I was chief strategist for George W. Bush in 2004, the No. 1 issue in the polls was the economy, but our campaign proceeded to make the argument that the election was about national security. (And it worked.)”

PA:

No, they won’t. First, they’ll get the lightning back in the bottle. Then, they’ll stash the bottle in the vaults where the dry powder is stored (linking to this classic post in case some newer readers haven’t seen it).

PA: “GOP staffers fired after possible ‘ballot harvesting’ operation found in Pa.” [Patriot-News]. “The fallout from the discovery of a potential GOP “ballot harvesting” operation in South Philadelphia continued Tuesday, as two state party staffers lost their jobs, the matter became fodder for attacks in the Republican primary for governor, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle jockeyed to define just what the situation said — or didn’t — about the security of voting by mail…. The [Philadelphia Inquirer] found that dozens of Republican mail ballots for the May 17 primary were being diverted to a P.O. Box registered to the Republican Registration Coalition. The committee’s chairman — Billy Lanzilotti, a onetime Republican ward leader in Philadelphia and former campaign staffer for U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R., Bucks — said he’d helped the voters fill out their ballot applications, inserting his P.O. box on the form where voters would typically write their home addresses. Though Lanzilotti maintained he was doing this as a ‘service to the voters’ and intended to hand deliver the ballots once they arrived, many of the affected voters said they did not remember applying to vote by mail and had no idea why their ballots were going to Lanzilotti instead of directly to them. One said Lanzilotti had delivered his ballot back to the city once it had been filled out — which would violate state law. Of the top 10 mailing addresses for Philadelphia ballots, Lanzilotti’s P.O. box was the only one that was not an elections office or a nursing home.”

TX: “Democrats Are Still Boosting Antiabortion Congressman Henry Cuellar” [Jacobin]. Because of course they are. “A new super PAC led by consultants for Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns is diving into a Texas primary to support a conservative Democrat who opposes abortion…. With the runoff only weeks away, Cuellar, the last remaining antiabortion Democrat in the House, has seen little outside support from Democratic groups — until now. On April 29, America United, a super PAC formed recently to back Latino House candidates, placed $241,000 worth of independent expenditures backing Cuellar, despite the fact his challenger is also Latina.” • Cuellar is a Latina? No wonder he’s doing well.

2024

“Gavin Newsom 🖤 Oligarch Valley” [Yasha Levine]. “‘Philanthropists’ is an interesting way for the Governor of California to describe one of the most powerful forces in farming in the state — a billionaire family that owns something like 300 square miles of Oligarch Valley land, has its own toxic corporate farm worker town, and, from their ridiculous mansion in Beverly Hills, has been on a destructive quest to eviscerate the state’s river system and plunder its aquifers, helping fuel a mass extinction in the San Francisco Bay Delta…all so they can grow and export pistachios, a fringe snack food that people around here barely eat. But then calling these rapacious oligarchs “philanthropists” is exactly the point. Governor Gavin was going out to Pasadena to do some public relations work: to lend his name and image and the respectably of his public office to Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s ongoing effort to rebrand themselves as do-gooders and environmentalists, rather than the industrial-scale destroyers of the environment that they are. Their latest ploy is this $750 million ‘Resnick Sustainability Center’ that they’re building at Caltech — a joke considering that the Resnick’s entire business model is based on unsustainably terraforming the land and plundering resources to the maximum. But then it’s not so funny what you realize that what the Resnicks probably have in mind with all this ‘sustainability’ talk is making sure their own industrial plunder will be sustained as long as possible without any serious political challenges. It looks like that’s what their Caltech investment is about….. Speaking of supply chains. Gavin’s not just doing this for kicks. This is about duty and honor. The Resnicks have long been backers of his political career, going back to when he was mayor of San Francisco. Most recently, they threw $250,000 into his anti-recall campaign. And the governor himself’s no stranger to California’s tight-knit oligarchic politics. He’s essentially part of the extended Getty clan…and that family, as well as a few others, provided crucial backing to get his political career off the ground.” • From CalMatters, a handy diagram of the California oligarchy:

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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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Republican Funhouse

Good to see The Squad and left elected generally speaking out on our proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Oh, wait….

The Republicans are gonna make me vote for them, aren’t they:

#COVID19

Mask extravaganza:

Mask manufacturers are one of the more harmless forms of industry, but the Biden administration’s assault on non-pharamaceutical interventions has caused them problems:

NOTE These manufacturers are the domestic manufacturers we sorely needed when Covid first hit. Ah well, nevertheless.

Anti-masker bullying:

It’s a mystery (1):

It’s a mystery (2):

Too bad there was nothing like that at the White House Correspondents Association superspreader event. You had to bring your own sensor as part of your personal risk assessment:

Realignment and Legitimacy

Only 8:40PM and already in the Red Zone.

Here is a handy chart on one-way masking, so you can calculate how anti-maskers affect your personal risk assessment:

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Lambert here: I am but a humble tape-watcher, but if some trusting, non-realist soul tells you that “Covid is over,” you can tell them that cases are up, transmission is up, test positivity is up, hospitalization is up, rapid riser counties are up, and wastewater is up, too. And this is all from data designed to support the narrative that “Covid is over,” and gamed within an inch of its life. So, if signals like that are flashing red, consider what the real signal must be like. (Note also this is all with BA.2 only, and with what the establishment considers an “immune wall” made from vaccination and prior infection. Since semper aliquid novi Africam adferre, and we’ve let ‘er rip at the airports…. Well, I just hope we get lucky with BA.4 and BA.5. “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” –Otto von Bismarck.

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If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case count by United States regions:

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Looks like the train is rolling, now. Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out. Also remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. One source said they though cases might be undercounted by a factor of six. Gottlieb thinks we only pick up one in seven or eight. The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. The blue “Biden Line” shows what the case count would be if it were 79,000 * 6 = 474,000, i.e. not gamed. (I changed the Biden Line from dotted to solid because the dotted line was too hard to draw properly in my crude tool.)

I have helpfully periodized the peaks, #1 – #6. Worth noting from the “Fauci Line”: Trump’s peaks (#1 and #3) aren’t so high as Biden’s (#4 and #5). Also worth noting: Biden’s peak #6 is already higher than Biden’s peaks #1 and #2, although of course we don’t know how high #6 will go. And if we accept the case count from the Biden Line, Biden’s peaks #5 and #6 are the Top Two 🏆. Thank God the adults are in charge.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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Worth noting that cases have doubled in four weeks.

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.

However, and astonishingly, it looks like CDC is gaming “the green map” is well. Thread:

Do we have any SQL mavens in the house who would like to replicate this work?

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

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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.

From Biobot Analytics:

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Northeast unflattened, and — hat tip to readers for pointing to this — it looks like past aggregation was adjusted up. But that drop in the West looks like an adjustment, too. Do we have any readers who track non-biobot wastewater in the West?

Cases lag wastewater data.

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

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Both East and West coasts slightly worse. (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.) It would be nice if the falling wastewater measures in California presaged a drop in cases. (OTOH, the Biobot data is only as good as the non-representative sample it uses, so…).

The previous release:

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

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The Northeast remains stubbornly and solidly red. Now California is red as well. The Upper Midwest is moving that way, too. (The Unorganized Territories in Maine are back to red, good job.)

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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This map is very dynamic! Now the orangization back to the Northeast. (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: 1,025,104 1,024,752. Now even the death rate is up. By a lot. Did CDC discover a bunch of death certificates stuffed in a drawer? I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Broadly down. (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

Stats Watch

“United States Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “Annual inflation rate in the US slowed to 8.3% in April from a 41-year high of 8.5% in March, but less than market forecasts of 8.1%. Energy prices increased 30.3%, below 32% in March namely gasoline (43.6% vs 48%) while fuel oil increased more (80.5% vs 70.1%). On the other hand, food prices jumped 9.4%, the most since April 1981 and prices also rose faster for shelter (5.1% vs 5%) and new vehicles (13.2% vs 12.5%). On a monthly basis, consumer prices were up 0.3%, slightly more than expectations of 0.2% but below a 16-year high of 1.2% in March. ”

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The Bezzle: “Bolt Built $11 Billion Payment Business on Inflated Metrics and Eager Investors” [New York Times]. “In a rush to show growth, Bolt often overstated its technological capability and misrepresented the number of merchants using its service, some of the people said. In presentations to investors, it included the names of customers before verifying whether those merchants were able to use its technology. For a time, a fraud detection product it was pitching to merchants was more dependent on manual review than Mr. Breslow implied, according to a former employee.” • Another entrepreneur selling empty boxes out of the back of his Tesla in Silicon Valley. And speaking of empty boxes–

Mr. Bitcoin is having a sad:

The Bezzle: “Why has the Terra stablecoin broken its US dollar peg and should you care?” [MoneyWeek]. “The Terra stablecoin is supposed to match the value of the US dollar – but its value has crashed…. TerraUSD’s algorithm is supposed to keep it pegged to the US dollar by adjusting supply via a sister token, luna.” • Oh-k-a-a-a-y…..

The Bezzle:

Stoller is right.

The Bezzle: But who is the Soros of the Terra short? A thread:

Readers, this one is beyond me. Can somebody explain?

The Bezzle: “All my apes are gone:!

That’s a damn shame.

The Bezzle:

The Bezzle: The Internet of Things:

Sounds to me like some bot is running a phishing operation and somehow got into Alexandria’s traffic control system. Anyhow, when you hear the phrase “smart contracts,” think of this.

The Bezzle: The Internet of Things:

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When you hear the phrase “smart contracts,” think of this too.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 21 Extreme Fear (previous close: 22 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 38 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 11 at 1:16 PM EDT.

Sports Desk

“Why Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike bit another horse after the race” [The Sporting News]. • Feisty!

The Gallery

Tweeted by John Constable, not painted by him:

This one had me going!

Zeitgeist Watch

Police State Watch

“A Grandmother Needed Paperwork For a Glucose Monitor. The NYPD Broke Her Arm.” [Hell Gate]. ““We’re asking you to leave, you’re not leaving, and you’re not allowed to record,” an officer says in the video. “Turn around.” With that, half a dozen cops close in around Rodney, and in short order, she is on the ground, screaming, as officers twist her arms. ‘It felt like they were breaking my arm,’ Rodney said. ‘And yes, it turns out they did.’ A medical report confirms that Rodney suffered a fractured elbow. ‘I’m not playing with you!’ the officer bellows as he works to get Rodney into handcuffs and leg shackles. ‘I’m a diabetic,’ Rodney sobs. ‘I just need a piece of paper.’ ‘Now you’re going to jail,’ the officer replies. As Rodney is brought to her feet and frog-marched out of the vestibule and into the precinct house, the officer, who, like other police surrounding Rodney, is not wearing a mask himself, grabs her mask from her mouth and pulls it up over her eyes so she can’t see. ‘Put your mask up,’ he says. ‘All you had to do was cooperate. You did this to yourself.’” • If this were a scene in a dystopian novel, I might wonder if it were a little over the top.

Class Warfare

“Target Workers Are Joining the Union Wave” [The New Republic (marym)]. Awesome news. “Many of these campaigns have important things in common. These are the kind of low-wage, service-sector workers who seemed so impossible to unionize for so long. Amazon and Starbucks workers aren’t bringing in organizers from big, established unions, but instead workers are leading the way themselves. And they’re going store by store, location by location. It was long thought that such a campaign couldn’t work. ‘What people didn’t recognize is the contagion factor.’ said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Target Workers Unite is hoping to instigate exactly that kind of national spread…. They’re working with the Industrial Workers of the World and plan to make Target Workers Unite a subsidiary of IWW, which they hope will allow them to issue union cards at any store that wants to hold an election…. As with their counterparts at Amazon and Starbucks, the Target workers are clear that they’re using a different model than that of big industrial unions like the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, or SEIU. The Amazon Labor Union is completely independent, and while Starbucks workers are mostly organizing with Workers United, an affiliate of SEIU, the union is letting workers themselves do the organizing, acting instead as a resource. ‘They build a workforce overwhelmingly around contingent, precarious, transient workers.’ [Adam Ryan, one of the lead organizers at Target Workers Unite] tells his co-workers that IWW won’t send people in from headquarters who tell them what to do.”• The whole article is worth reading, and as at Amazon, was sparked by management decisions during the pandemic.

News of the Wired

“The man who married a hologram in Japan can no longer communicate with his virtual wife” [Entrepreneur]. “Fictosexuality is the term used to describe those people who are sexually attracted to fictional characters and in Japan little by little it becomes a trend, to the extent that there are companies that develop technology to offer users holographic couples. Akihiko Kondo took his love for a fictional character one step further by holding a “getting married” ceremony with Hatsune Miku , a virtual singer who has starred in several video games and has even accompanied Lady Gaga on her world tours. The ceremony took place in 2019, after the man was able to communicate with the hologram via Gatebox , a company that develops devices to holographically show characters that do not exist.” Gibson’s Idoru, which has fictosexuality as a theme, was published in 1996 so, good call. More: “[T]he support for the Gatebox software that allowed the interaction of the man with his virtual wife, is no longer available and for the same reason, can no longer communicate with her.” • If your emotional well-being depends on a platform, you don’t have emotional well-being.

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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. From:

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NOTE ON PAYPAL: As some readers may know, PayPal whacked Consortium News’s account, for no justification that I can see. It’s to be hoped that Consortium News has its account completely restored, and that NC doesn’t come under the same ban hammer. In the meantime, until I/we can come up with an alternative, I must continue to rely on PayPal (and rely I do). I will be cleaning out the account daily, and PayPal does give a heads-up, so your risk is minimal. Please carry on as before, or, if you feel you must, write me and I will send you directions for sending a check. Please put “PayPal” in the subject line. Thank you for your support! It is much appreciated, and helps me with responsibilities. –lambert

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