2:00PM Water Cooler 6/16/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/16/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. A chorus.

“Sparrow ID Guides from Macaulay Library and Bird Academy” [The Cornell Lab of Ornithology]. Free downloads. “Sparrows are a challenge to birders of all skill levels because they’re often skulky and hard to see. At first they seem like dull brown birds, but when you get a good look, they show beautiful and intricate patterns on their feathers. Because many species are hard to see, they are sought after by avid listers and those who appreciate the beauty of birds. Whether you’re at home or out in the field, these helpful four-sheet sparrow reference guides have full-color photos of eastern, central, western and widespread sparrows.”

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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

Capitol Seizure

“Exclusive: Read Judge Luttig’s statement to January 6 committee” [CNN]. • I give credit to Luttig for telling Pence that the “Eastman Memo” on how the Vice President can throw out electoral votes was cray cray (and to Pence for following through). However, Luttig’s statement is fustian bombast. It’s worse than Thompson’s opener, which I would not have thought possible, not least because it’s longer. Just give me the theory of the case.

Biden Administration

“Biden’s New Pandemic Plan Could Shift Control From the CDC to the White House and Disease Experts Aren’t Happy” [Politico]. ” With researchers predicting there’s an approximately a 50 percent chance the U.S. will experience another Covid-like pandemic in the next 25 years, the Biden administration is working out the details of a new National Biodefense Strategy it hopes will do a better job at containing dangerous germs than the last time around….. here are hints that there will be a restructuring that will shift management for a crisis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the White House in an attempt to avoid the power struggles between agencies that gummed up the government’s Covid response.” It wasn’t a power struggle between agencies that caused CDC to butcher its test kit rollout. That’s on CDC alone. More: “It’s the shifting of power away from the CDC and to the White House that worries pandemic experts…. ‘The bottom line is it’s not a good idea,’ said Peter Hotez, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine. ‘This sends a vote of no-confidence in the CDC.’” So? More: “Hotez is most concerned about the possibility the White House ends up in charge of pandemic responses. ‘I think we’ve seen what happened with the Trump White House,’ he said. ‘It allowed political influence to affect the pandemic response. That’s one reason you want this based anywhere but Washington, DC.’” • Well, we do elect Presidents for a reason…

“VP Harris to launch task force on online harassment after shootings” [Reuters]. • Another project for Harris not to go anywhere with (unless it’s cutting a deal on antitrust in exchange for censorship, which won’t be Harris’s decision anyway).


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GA: “Herschel Walker’s campaign acknowledges second son after report” [The Hill]. • Two? Typical American extravagance….

TX: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s lead tightens over Democrat Beto O’Rourke, new poll shows” [Houston Chronicle]. “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke has plummeted since December, a new poll released by Quinnipiac University shows. Abbott is leading O’Rourke 48 percent to 43 percent according to the poll of 1,257 Texas registered voters taken between June 9 and June 13. In December, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Abbott up by 15 percentage points, leading 52 percent to 37 percent. It is one of the first major polls in the race since the mass shooting in Uvalde last month, in which 19 children and two adults were killed….. Abbott’s lead is largely due to white men where he is winning 69 percent to just 26 percent for O’Rourke. And among independents, Abbott is winning 46 percent to 40 percent for O’Rourke.”


“Betting markets favor DeSantis over Trump for 2024 Republican presidential nomination, as Elon Musk voices support for Florida governor” [MarketWatch (Re Silc)]. “DeSantis has a 38% chance, ahead of Trump’s 36% and 7% for Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Former Vice President Mike Pence is at 6%, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina gets 4%, and other Republican politicians are at 3% or lower. Trump had the edge over DeSantis in March, April and May…. The former president’s prospects have edged down from 38% on June 8 in the wake of public hearings held by the House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The hearings have featured searing charges against Trump, painting a portrait of him as at the center of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election that was won by President Joe Biden.”

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

“Where the 10 House Republicans who impeached Trump stand” [The Hill]. “In all, 10 House Republicans moved to impeach the former president, and while half of them have chosen not to seek reelection, others are taking their chances with voters this year.” • Pretty high mortality rate.

Holy Lord, the Mercatus Center?

Healthy conversations, brought to you by the Koch Brothers….

Clinton Legacy

“Hillary Clinton: “I don’t think the media is doing its job” (interview) [The New Statesman]. Clinton: “I don’t think the media is doing its job to be honest. I think you’ve got a right-wing media machine led by Fox and others, and a very potent right-wing presence on social media, and the so-called mainstream media hasn’t yet caught up to the reality we live in. They are much too reluctant to stand up for the truth in the face of massive lying – to call a lie a lie – to be on record as saying that we are in a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, and it can’t just be business as usual.” • Holy Lord, RussiaGate?

Realignment and Legitimacy

Trump wasn’t the only one who spoke the quiet part out loud:

“Elephant In The Zoom” [The Intercept]. The deck: “Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” • I ran this yesterday, but this additional commentary rings true:


Lambert here: In order to focus more on variants and rising watewaster, I’ve removed the MWRA wastewater chart, and the world cases chart. Today, frustratingly, my main source for case data, 91-DIVOC, has moved and changed to a new format that doesn’t work for what I want to do. I suppose this is a consequence of Covid being over.

I am but a humble tape-watcher, and I’m perplexed about the current state of play. Case data is showing the fiddling-and-diddling behavior characteristic of a peak; on the other hand, the South (home of Abbot and DeSantis) is rising. Further, nothing I hear in anecdotal case data tells me there’s any relief. Hospitalization data (trailing) is easing (and so the hospital-centric public health establishment probably thinks Covid is done). Positivity data (leading) has been fiddling and diddling as it too does at peaks (latest, down). Then again, waste-water data (leading) is up everywhere but the Northeast. The wild card is variants BA.4/5 (and I thought we were supposed to be giving names to these things). All the variant sources I have say BA.4/5 are up, but they differ as to how much and where, and the data is two weeks behind (hat tip, CDC; who could have known we’d need to track variant data?). I am reminded of the “stairstep” (see the Case count chart below: I muttered about this at the time) that marked the Delta/Omicron transition, just before Omicron’s amazing take-off. Perhaps a BA.4/5 transition will exhibit the same behavior. OTOH, I could be projecting patterns into clouds.

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Mastravaganza (1):

A nurse shouldn’t be applauding the spread of an airborne pathogen, especially in a hospital.

Mastravaganza (2):

What? You can tell?!

“Are face masks a problem for emotion recognition? Not when the whole body is visible.” [psyRxiv]. From 2021, still germane. From the Significance Statement: “Face masks have become a ubiquitous part of daily life in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has caused a sudden and stark change in our social interactions, not only limiting face-to-face contact with others, but also creating a physical barrier to seeing the entire face of the person with whom you are interacting. Several pieces of research have explored this issue in terms of the impact of a face mask on emotion recognition, social connectedness, memory and trust. The conclusion has been that face masks pose a potentially serious issue for cohesive social interaction, with emotion recognition in particular being affected by masks. However, these studies have shown pictures of the face in isolation, which is something one is rarely going to see in real life. Here by including the rest of the body and showing that emotion recognition remains largely unchanged by face-masks we hope to alleviate some of these fears arising from these previous studies.” • From this long thread which includes other studies:

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Another PMC supersoreading event:

“Dr. Anthony Fauci tests positive for COVID days after visiting Worcester, College of the Holy Cross” [MassAlive (antidlc)]. “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, has tested positive for COVID-19 just four days after traveling to Worcester to attend a ceremony at his alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, officials said…. Fauci attended a building rededication ceremony at Holy Cross on Saturday, where the school’s Integrated Science Complex was renamed in his honor. Over a thousand people crowded into a tightly packed atrium for about 30 minutes to hear Fauci and college officials speak. Few attendees donned masks. Fauci wore a KN95 mask at certain points throughout the ceremony, but removed it to give a speech and talk with reporters.” • I wondered aloud if Fauci was infected at a superspreader event. And lo and beholdl!

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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“Air purification — Luchtreiniging — Purificaton d’air — HEPA” [Carl Van Keirsbilck, Medium]. “In this document you will find an overview of studies on the effectiveness of air cleaning to remove SARS-COV-2 from the air in different settings (schools, gym, hospitals, …) and thus greatly reduce the chance of infection.” • A big round-up.

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NOT UPDATED 91-DIVOC has moved and I don’t like the new charts; for example, I can’t get a US total on the same chart as the regional subtotals. Case count by United States regions:

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More or less level. Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 100,800. Today, it’s 106900, and 100,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 641400. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes had a basis in reality. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises.

• ”Florida undercounted COVID cases and deaths, failed to get test results, state audit says” [Miami Herald]. “Florida’s COVID-19 data was so inaccurate, incomplete and delayed during the first months of the pandemic that government officials and the public may not have had necessary information to determine the effectiveness of the state’s COVID-19 precautions and the best plan to fight the virus, according to a state report released Monday. Covering the state’s pandemic response from March to October 2020, the yearlong analysis by the Florida Auditor General found missing case and death data, unreported ethnic and racial details, and incomplete contact tracing as the coronavirus spread across the state. In addition, the report concluded that state health officials did not perform routine checks on the data to ensure accuracy and did not follow up on discrepancies.”

NOT UPDATED As above. Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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More or less level.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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Down 2.8%. This tracker fiddles and diddles at peaks, but also not at peaks. (I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to and check on the goons at CDC.)

NOT UPDATED Wastewater data from Biobot Analytics:

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NOT UPDATED Variant data, regional (Biobot), May 25:

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NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), May 28:

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NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), May 28:

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

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Better on the West Coast, worse in the Southwest, status quo in the South and Midwest, quiet in the Northeast.

The previous release:

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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. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Use the community transmission immediately below.

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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West Coast, and Midwest are all red. Seeing some orange (“substantial”) on the East Coast. Great Plains speckled with yellow and blue. Go Vermont!

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Very volatile.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,037,664 1,036,483. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US dropped to -3.3 in June of 2022, well below forecasts pointing to growth of 5.5, signaling the first contraction in factory activity since May of 2020.”

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits decreased by 3K to 229K in the week ended June 11th, below market forecasts of 210K pointing again to the exceptionally tight labor market.”

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Tech: “YouTube’s new corrections feature lets creators fix the record more easily” [YouTube]. “YouTube is introducing a new feature named ‘corrections’ that lets creators easily add more obvious corrections. After a video has been uploaded, creators can add corrections that will appear as infocards in the top right-hand corner of a video at the relevant timestamp (but only, it seems, for the first correction in any given video). Viewers can then click on the card to expand the correction notes in the video’s description.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 14 Extreme Fear (previous close: 20 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 31 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 16 at 1:25 PM EDT.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Andreessen on Learning to Love the Humanities (Ep. 152)” [Conversations with Tyler]. “Without understanding the deep patterns of human behavior, how can you know what to build, or who should build it, or how? For Marc, that means reading deeply in the humanities: ‘I spent the first 25 years of my life trying to understand how machines work,’ Marc says. ‘Then I spent the second 25 years, so far, trying to figure out how people work. It turns out people are a lot more complicated.’ Marc joined Tyler to discuss his ever-growing appreciation for the humanities and morel…” • If Andreessen truly loves the humanities, he’d be defending blogging and RSS with his dying breath, which he does not do. Change happens at the margins. The margins of Walled Gardems…. are walls.

“The Zen Playboy” [The Nation]. “After the [Whole Earth Catalog’s] success, [Stewart Brand] committed himself to realizing a new ideal: the “Zen playboy.” In 1986, while he vacationed on a colonial ranch in Kenya and dreamed of a book called Sleeping With Lions, the remainder of the Whole Earth team sent him a letter saying the project was broke and they would have to cut him off. Well into his 40s, Brand could still count on a check from Mom. But how to spend his time? What role could history offer him?mBefore he knew it, Brand was on a Shell oil platform, helping the company’s managers find an innovative way to restructure the workforce, despite the labor union’s objections. In the second half of his life, Brand betrayed everything he’d ever embraced in the first half, with the notable exception of capitalism, of which he’s remained in favor. Soon he and several others who worked for Shell began their own consultancy firm. From the mind that created the Whole Earth Catalog came the Global Business Network. Brand charged more than $100,000 a year to show up at the occasional meeting, where he was known for falling asleep.” • Ouch.

Book Nook

Joyce’s Ulysses takes place on June 16. This is Bloomsday:

Wall art?

I can generally hear Ulysses as spoken while reading. I’m sure I’m not alone:

Class Warfare

“West Coast port union, employers say no plan for strike or lockout” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) employer group have been in negotiations since May. They said they do not expect to reach a deal before the high-stakes labor agreement, which covers workers at key ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, expires on July 1. In a joint statement released Tuesday, the ILWU and PMA said that at a meeting in Los Angeles on Friday, they shared with U.S. President Joe Biden their commitment to reaching a deal. ‘Neither party is preparing for a strike or a lockout,’ they said. The news came just hours before the nation’s busiest ocean trade gateway in Los Angeles, which employs the lion’s share of West Coast port workers, reported near record imports for May. Import volumes at the Port of Los Angeles are easing from the levels seen during the throes of the pandemic, when home-bound shoppers binged on everything from exercise equipment to garden supplies. Still, they remain about 20% above normal – stoking shipper anxieties that any breakdown in the often-contentious labor talks could spawn work slowdowns, gum up cargo flows and send inflation-fueling transportation costs even higher.”

Have any readers seen notes like this?

News of the Wired

“If you’re renting, chances are your home is cold. With power prices soaring, here’s what you can do to keep warm” [The Conversation]. • Winter is coming, unless you’re Australian, in which case it’s already here.

“My crafting makes me a better engineer—but it took me a while to realize” [Science]. “Soon I was seeing more examples of connections between engineering and craft that I had previously overlooked. When working on the wheelchair project, I put my sewing skills to use creating cushioned grips for the handles. The engineering “design kitchen” where my undergrad classmates and I tested our ideas was stocked with inexpensive tools including felt, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks—materials that would not be out of place in a craft bin, I now realized. I saw how crafting taught me to persevere when my product didn’t match my initial vision and to consider the failed creation a learning and prototyping experience, just as an engineer must.”

“Watercolor Basics” [tombetthauser]. “Some personal stuff that I observed help frustrated and talented art students over the past 10+ years making, learning and teaching art professionally for no reason. Geared towards developing an everyday open-ended watercolor practice for expressive observational painting more than old-school illustration. Put together for a dev friend who bought some paints.” • This looks like a really, really good list (maybe could use some simplification for a beginner). Maybe something to do outside in the summer and fall?

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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 AG:

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AG writes: “I remembered to take a photo of the first Humboldt’s Lily bloom in our garden, and here it is. Grass Valley, CA, 2700 ft elevation.”

If you eat a lot of lemons (guurst):

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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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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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