2:00PM Water Cooler 6/22/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/22/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, I’m going to go through and beef this up a little. Covid coverage plus 1/6 plus is clogging my filters, and so I’m chugging along a bit more slowly than usual. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Roberts’s Warbler, Manicaland, Zimbabwe. Chatter, chatter!

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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

Capitol Seizure

“The January 6th Scam” [Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report]. “There really isn’t a lot to say about what happened on January 6, 2021. Trump riled up his supporters to either stop the electoral college certification or just to yank the establishment’s chain. There was no threat to what most Americans think of as democracy and no path for a government to be overthrown even if that is what the mob wanted to achieve. Mostly they were motivated by racism, a white mob in the classic American sense without any high minded thought about the electoral process. They didn’t want to believe that their guy lost, so they broke in and trashed the place. But that simple explanation isn’t very useful to people with ulterior motives who want to win while also stabbing voters in the back. If progressives really want to learn something from January 6th they ought to ask themselves why the right are willing to travel across the country and break into the Capitol while they can’t get more than a handful of people to protest anything.” • Bingo.

Biden Administration

“Senators hail ‘bipartisan breakthrough’ on gun safety legislation” [The Hill]. “Senate negotiators on Tuesday reached a long-awaited deal on a bipartisan gun safety bill to take firearms away from dangerous people and provide billions of dollars in new mental health funding. The legislation represents a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on the charged issues of gun violence and gun control, breaking nearly 30 years of stalemate on those issues. The bill does not ban assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines or significantly expand background-check requirements for gun purchases, reforms that were top Democratic priorities a decade ago. But it does give states more resources to take guns away from dangerous individuals, even if they haven’t been convicted of a crime, and provides billions of dollars in funding for mental health treatment.” • Anybody who could smuggle one of those Armalite things past the metal detectors in a stadium could whack hundreds, not mere tens. I suppose it’s only a matter of time, and maybe then we’d get some decent legislation.

“Joe Manchin signals he’s open to extend Obamacare aid — but seeks to restrict richer families from qualifying” [Business Insider]. “Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia signaled he’s open to extending enhanced subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, a move that would help Democrats avert a huge political threat in the November midterms from millions of people learning about spiking monthly premiums only weeks before casting ballots…. “The main thing here is the means-testing,” he said in a brief interview on Wednesday evening. “We should be helping the people who really need it the most and are really having the hardest time.’” • That’s our Democrats — means-testing an already means-tested program.

2022

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PA: So far, Fetterman’s variant of the “front porch” strategy (“I’ll hit the campaign trail when the doctors approve”) seems to be doing OK:

I wonder if Doctor Oz will be deked into doing armchair diagnosis….

2024

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

Realignment and Legitimacy

“I’m Not Sexist, Other Voters Are” [Liz Lenz, Men Yell at Me]. “[In 2017, when Regina Bateson, a former diplomat and academic, ran for office] circular reasoning from voters who liked her and wanted to vote for her but were worried about the sexism that she’d face in a general election. It was a frustrating logic, one that wouldn’t be swayed by truth or actualities. Women did win. They could win…. When Bateson lost, she decided to study the infuriating logic of voters, which she termed “strategic discrimination.” Her resulting research offers insight into the sexist logic of electability and a better framework for assessing elected officials.” More:

LL: Something that jumped out at me in your research was that people overestimate how racist and sexist other people truly are.

RB: Yes. Massively. You do see this in other fields and professions and aspects of society, especially when there have been patterns of discrimination in the past, people have a tendency to hold on to their kind of knowledge from the past about how others think and how others behave.

And it almost seems like people are updating their own preferences and their own views more quickly than they’re able to update their beliefs about what other people think. In the paper, I quoted some psychologists and other research on how people get stuck in the prejudices of the past and perpetuate them because they believe that they’re still true. Even if other people’s views have actually changed.

It’s our beliefs about other people’s beliefs that hold us back sometimes.

Sounds like a Keynesian beauty contest.

“The Billionaire Family Pushing Synthetic Sex Identities (SSI)” [The Tablet]. “One of the most powerful yet unremarked-upon drivers of our current wars over definitions of gender is a concerted push by members of one of the richest families in the United States to transition Americans from a dimorphic definition of sex to the broad acceptance and propagation of synthetic sex identities (SSI).” Beware of all enterprises that require new acronyms. Nevertheless, it’s always good to follow the money, and especially family office money. More: “Over the past decade, the Pritzkers of Illinois, who helped put Barack Obama in the White House and include among their number former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, current Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and philanthropist Jennifer Pritzker, appear to have used a family philanthropic apparatus to drive an ideology and practice of disembodiment into our medical, legal, cultural, and educational institutions.” • Hmm. Lots and lots of detail on the funding, though. And the Pritzkers will no doubt heavily fund the Democrat Party in 2022 and 2024, too, so hold on to your hats.

RussiaGate

Realignment and Legitimacy

#COVID19

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. However, 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. Then again, waste-water data (leading) is slightly downThe 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.

* * *

“Ventilation is crucial, but until recently it took a backseat to other covid measures” [WaPo]. Rather, it was tied up, gagged, and stuffed in the trunk by droplet goons at CDC, WHO, and in the public health establishment generally (see here and here among many; NC readers know the story well). The article does contain an excellent timeline of official folly, but also contains some howlers: “For more than two years, scientists and researchers have known the coronavirus often infects people through ultra-tiny particles that hang out in the air — not just the bigger droplets that masks are supposed to protect against.” N95 masks protect against aerosols. That’s why people should wear them. More: “But it wasn’t until March that the White House pivoted its strategy to stress ventilation measures, in addition to face coverings, as a primary method of slowing the spread of the virus.” First, if there is any such stress, it’s not visible (the White House Office of Science and Technology has no clout, sadly, and there’s no funding for ventilation. And of course the Biden Administration has systematically destroyed masking as a non-pharmaceutical intervention). Second, masks aren’t “face coverings” because — hear me out — they don’t cover the whole face; not, for example, the windows of the soul, the eyes. More: “But spreading the message of covid spread through aerosol droplets was especially challenging.” And conflating aerosols and droplets with “aerosol droplets” doesn’t help, does it? More, this tweet:

Tell me you don’t know what a Corsi-Rosenthal box is without telling me you don’t know what a Corsi-Rosenthal box. (Of course, both Corsi and Rosenthal worked at state schools, not Yale. Perhaps that’s it [bangs head on desk].

• Maskstravaganza: Obama models masking. Watch all the way to end:

#CovidIsAirborne, and spreads by breathing, talking, singing, and shouting. Jerk.

• Maskstravaganza:

I’m not the only one whose back teeth itch when hearing “Let’s see your smile!” Reassuring!

• “Mild”:

• More reassurance:

A very good thing!

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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.

* * *

I cannot find a case count chart that integrates regional and national subtotals, so we are that much stupider. I thought the New York Times had the nicest data presentationL

Case count for the United States:

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The totals are or less level, but under the hood the BA.4/5 are making up a greater and greater proportion of cases. 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 ~96,000. Today, it’s 100,500, and 100,500 * 6 = a Biden line at 603,000. 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.

• “Coronavirus: French face Covid-19 upsurge, other Europeans see increase” [South China Morning Post]. “France is facing a new wave of Covid-19 infections fuelled by new variants of the disease, French vaccination chief Alain Fischer said on Wednesday, as daily new cases reached an almost two-month peak the day before at more than 95,000. Speaking on France 2 television, he said there was no doubt there was once again an upsurge of the pandemic in the country, adding he was personally in favour of reinstating mandatory face mask wearing on public transport… Other European countries, especially Portugal, are also seeing an increase, due two new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, are likely to become dominant in the region. The variants do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other forms of Omicron but as they are somewhat more infectious than the latter, it could lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC said.” • Good thing we kept testing at international airports. Oh, wait….

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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0.0%. (I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to and check on the goons at CDC.)

NOT UPDATED Wastewater data, regional (Biobot Analytics), June 15:

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Wastewater data (CDC), June 22:

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I thought I’d give CDC’s wastewaster page another shot, and here it is. I don’t want to be cranky about this, but you’d think that the world’s premier public health agency would be able to keep its website up and running consistently. How am I supposed to do my personal risk assessment?

• So I must rely on this tweet from the CDC:

NOT UPDATED Variant data, regional (Biobot), June 15:

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Variant data, national (Walgreens), June 15:

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In 18 days, BA.4/5 has gone from 18 days, 9.66 to 28.47 (and this is not according to some sorta model, like CDC’s NowCast, which gives 35%). Nice doubling behavior, implying BA.4/5 should be happily dominant just in time for the travel weekend of July 4, good job everyone.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), June 4:

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Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is.

NOT UPDATED From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

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Status quo.

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. More and more orange (“substantial”) on the East Coast. Great Plains speckled with yellow and blue.

NOT UPDATED Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Very volatile.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,038,900 1,038,385. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

• Optimism:

Let’s wait until the reinfections — the reinfections that the Biden Administration has built into the system through its Let ‘Er Rip policy — begin to kick in.

Stats Watch

[To come].

* * *

Supply Chain: This is a cheap shot at the young person:

Who created the situation? Who set up the supply chain? Who profited? For some reason, they are not in the picture at all.

The 420

Combining one’s pleasures:

Book Nook

“Do you take us for a gang of brainless lizards?” [Letters of Note]. • Rejection letters. T.S. Eliot’s rejection letter to George Orwell is clarifying.

Zeitgeist Watch

Great metaphor…. For something:

“Buy Now, Pay Later Is Exploding in Popularity as Experts Warn of Overspending Risks” [Bloomberg]. • Another metaphor…..

Class Warfare

“What the Right Doesn’t Get About the Labor Left” [Sohrab Ahmari, Compact]. Well worth a read, though a bit dyspeptic on masks as a cultural marker. “America’s class structure isn’t all that complicated. Those who wish to map its contours would be better served by examining things like labor markets and capital flows than critical theory. Roughly speaking, there is the top 0.1 percent, the largest owners of capital; the top 1.1 percent, composed of Wall Street executives and other high managers; and the top 5 to 10 percent of professionals who service the assets of the first two groups. The bottom 90 percent, meanwhile, comprises blue-collar workers, nonmanagerial workers, non-college-educated workers, and downwardly mobile college-educated ones. That last group is the target of much right-wing ire, because its members often share the cultural views of the upper 10 percent. Indeed, those who work in media, information, and education often serve as the frontline enforcers of elite ideology. Even so, the wages of that last cohort have remained stagnant for about 30 years, all the more painful for a generation brought up to believe that a college degree is the pathway to a stable life. By any serious material measure, no one in the bottom 90 percent can be counted a part of the ruling class. To suggest otherwise is to stretch the notion beyond recognition. Yet so much of what passes for “class analysis” on the New Right is premised on the notion that the college-educated precariat is in the driver’s seat of the national economy, of politics and culture.” • Note that he mostly trashes the left (and here I don’t mean liberals) using (facile) cultural tropes, but his criticism of the right is strategic.

“The maddening saga of how an Alzheimer’s ‘cabal’ thwarted progress toward a cure for decades” [STAT]. From 2019, but highly reminscent of the droplet goons: ” The most influential researchers have long believed so dogmatically in one theory of Alzheimer’s that they systematically thwarted alternative approaches. Several scientists described those who controlled the Alzheimer’s agenda as ‘a cabal.’ In more than two dozen interviews, scientists whose ideas fell outside the dogma recounted how, for decades, believers in the dominant hypothesis suppressed research on alternative ideas: They influenced what studies got published in top journals, which scientists got funded, who got tenure, and who got speaking slots at reputation-buffing scientific conferences. This stifling of competing ideas, say a growing number of scholars, is a big reason why there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s. (The four approved drugs have no effect on the disease, providing only a temporary memory boost.)” • So there’s [genuflects] Science, and then there’s actually existing science.

News of the Wired

“Tear out your lawn, check. Drought-tolerant plants, check. Next up: recycled water” [Los Angeles Times]. “‘If we’re going to adapt to climate change, we need to recognize the impacts on the region, which means longer dry cycles and extreme rain events, so when it rains, it will rain more intensely,’ said Melanie Winter, founder and director of the River Project, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring the Los Angeles River watershed. ‘We’re basically looking at aridification and flood.’ At a minimum, this means we should be installing gutters on our roofs, permeable walks and driveways around our homes and storage tanks in our yards — not barrels, because they’re not big enough to hold the water that pours off a roof in a single rainfall, Winter said.” • Interesting. Do any readers have projects like this underway?

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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 ChiGal:

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ChiGal writes: “Snake in the garden: taken during a walk on Wooded Isle in Jackson Park, where the red crane in the background is the only tell of how close the sprawling construction site for Obama’s monument to his own ego is….”

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