2:00PM Water Cooler 6/7/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/7/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

White-throated Sparrow (hat tip, Randy). New York, United States. And whole chorus of other birds! If you have a suggestion for a sparrow species, please leave it in comments. I’m surprised at how different their calls are.

“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

Biden Adminstration

“In snub to Biden, Mexico’s president won’t attend US-hosted Summit of the Americas” [USA Today]. “Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Monday that he is skipping this week’s Ninth Summit of the Americas, a blow to President Joe Biden as he tries to unite the region to address migration. ‘There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited,’ López Obrador said at a press conference Monday after the United States refused to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the summit. He said Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, will attend the summit instead. López Obrador said he will meet with Biden in July. López Obrador has been threatening to boycott the summit if the United States didn’t invite every country in the region, including the autocratic leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The Biden administration said they do not want to invite countries that have not upheld democratic principles.” • I’m so tired of us moralizing about democracy (or “our democracy”). The A.A. slogan applies: “Clean your own side of the street first.”

“Legal claims shed light on founder of faith group tied to Amy Coney Barrett” [Guardian]. “The founder of the People of Praise, a secretive charismatic Christian group that counts the supreme court justice Amy Coney Barrett as a member, was described in a sworn affidavit filed in the 1990s as exerting almost total control over one of the group’s female members, including making all decisions about her finances and dating relationships. The court documents also described alleged instances of a sexualized atmosphere in the home of the founder, Kevin Ranaghan, and his wife, Dorothy Ranaghan…. Barrett, 50, lived with Dorothy and Kevin Ranaghan in their nine-bedroom South Bend, Indiana, home while she attended law school, according to public records… There is no indication that Amy Coney Barrett lived in the house at the time when the Carnick children were visiting or witnessed any of the alleged behavior described in the court documents…. Cynthia Carnick [the complainant] stated in the [affidavit] documents that she had witnessed Dorothy Ranaghan tie the arms and legs of two of the Ranaghans’ daughters – who were three and five at the time the incidents were allegedly witnessed – to their crib with a necktie. She also said that the Ranaghans allegedly practiced ‘sexual displays’ in front of their children and other adults, such as Dorothy Ranaghan lying with her clothes on and ‘rocking’ on top of Kevin Ranaghan in their TV room. Cynthia Carnick – who no longer uses Carnick as her last name – declined to comment but said that she stood by the statement she made at the time.” • Well, now we know!


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“Even in a Great Year, Republicans’ Winnable Seats Are Limited” [Charlie Cook, Cook Political Report]. “Just as it is rare for rivers to reverse their flow, in the last six months before a midterm election the clear direction of that campaign almost never reverses…. With inflation running at nearly a 40-year high and fears of a recession growing, this is certainly a combustible situation for any party in power. A Quinnipiac University national poll earlier this month indicated that 85 percent of Americans expect a recession in the next year. This column has previously discussed “issue contamination”—that is, when voters are mad at a president on one issue, it colors their view of that president’s performance on other issues as well. The public’s memory of Biden and his administration insisting that there would not be an inflation problem is not hazy in the least bit. It’s akin to Trump’s dismissiveness about the coronavirus. It is hard for any other issue to provide any buoyancy when one big issue is pulling a president down.”

“House GOP incumbents battling primary challengers running to their right” [The Hill]. “Several House Republicans with primary elections on Tuesday face challengers running to the incumbents’ political right. These challengers have attempted to tie themselves to the policies and ideas of former President Trump. The result, in some races, are battles on the airwaves with incumbents shelling out to mount defenses through ads. Incumbents in these races have an advantage in polling — when it’s available — and in fundraising.” • We’ll see!

CA: “Six races to watch in the California primary” [The Hill]. District attorney recall election in San Francisco (Chesa Boudin), Los Angeles mayor’s election (Karen Bass, Rick Caruso), Los Angeles County sheriff’s election (Alex Villanueva), CA-27 (Garcia (R) via Smith (D)), CA-40 (Kim v. Paths), CA-49 (Levin v. Republican free-for-all)

PA: “Fetterman airs first general election ad on Fox” [Politico]. “The commercial, which was shared exclusively with POLITICO, portrays Fetterman as a political outsider who has pushed for policies that benefit the working class. Braxton White, an Army veteran and local school board member, says in the spot that for years ‘Washington, D.C. attacked towns like’ Braddock — a struggling steel town in southwestern Pennsylvania where Fetterman previously served as mayor — by writing ‘bad deals that sent away our jobs’ and approving ‘the drugs that kill our kids.’ And he’s not wrong. More: “The ad then draws a contrast in Fetterman, saying that ‘for 20 years, he’s lived in a place like this, building, pushing, fighting.’ It highlights his support for a $15 minimum wage, revitalizing the manufacturing industry, and ‘good American jobs.’ The 30-second spot, which begins airing Tuesday, will run on Fox News in the Pittsburgh, Scranton and Johnstown media markets. It will also air on broadcast television in Johnstown.” • Fox, eh? Right out of the box? Fetterman seems to believe that the establishment Democrats “have no place to go.” About time.

PA: “Fetterman’s wife says Democratic Senate candidate may be away from campaign trail until July as he recovers from a stroke” [CNN]. “‘I think he deserves a month break to come back as strong as ever,’ Giselle Fetterman said in an interview with CNN. ‘This is going to be a tough race and a really important race. I want him to be fully ready for it.’ Asked if John Fetterman, who serves as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, would return to campaigning by July in one of the nation’s marquee Senate contests, she replied: ‘Maybe. I think so. That’s my hope.’ And asked whether she could envision a scenario where he would not be able to return to the campaign in one of the nation’s most closely watched contests, in which he faces Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, she quickly said no.

‘I don’t see that, but more importantly, his doctors don’t see that,’ she said. ‘They are all confident he will make a full recovery.’ She also said the campaign was not opposed to more information being released by the team of doctors in Lancaster who treated her husband for the stroke, but said it is the policy of the Lancaster General Hospital to not talk about patient care. ‘We have asked, but that’s not the protocol of the hospital,’ she said. ‘It’s not up to us, we’ve asked. That’s up to their policies.’” • Hmm. Well, as I’ve said, I’d prefer an unrehabilitated stroke victim to any Establishment Democrat, so I retain my position of non-aghastitude. I also have to assume that Fetterman knows his voters; he ought to, having criss-crossed the state.


“Trump on the brink?” [NBC]. “Former President Donald Trump is bored at Mar-a-Lago and anxious to get back in the political arena — as a candidate, not a kingmaker — according to his advisers, who are divided over whether he should launch a third bid for the presidency as early as this summer. While many Trump confidants believe he should wait until after November’s midterm elections — and caution that he has not yet made a final decision about running — some say he could move more quickly to harness supporters and deny fuel to the busload of GOP hopefuls in his rearview mirror…. While he casts a longer shadow over his party than that of any former president in modern times, the footsteps of 2024 Republican hopefuls are growing louder. Several of them have visited early primary states, endorsed candidates in the midterms or delivered high-profile speeches designed to elevate their standing in the party. That pack includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.” • 1/6 madness aside, who on that list would have the stones to do anything like Operation Warp Speed?

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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“The Institutionalist” [Rebecca Traister, New York Magazine]. The deck: “Dianne Feinstein fought for gun control, civil rights, and abortion access for half a century. Where did it all go wrong?” And, looking at that list, it did. This is a really good profile of Feinstein, who really does belong to another place and time. FInal paragraph: “There is a great story in Roberts’s biography about how when Feinstein was on the Board of Supervisors, she got word that the headmistress of her old school, Sacred Heart, had been arrested protesting on behalf of farmworkers with Cesar Chavez. That headmistress, Sister Mary Mardel, told Roberts about how her former pupil had called the jail to speak to her. ‘Sister, what are you doing in jail?’ Feinstein had asked her in alarm. ‘What about all the white gloves?’” • Kinda the right question for Democrats generally.


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, wastewater detection is up, and hospitalization is elevated in many states. 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. But it’s starting to look like we won’t.

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• A DIY project, useful for wildfires, too:

• More on Long Covid:


So the self-reported figures are, if anything, low?

• And more on neurological issues:

I guess the Yankee candles proxy has a competitor — but one with a much stronger odor. (And will people be able to detect gas leaks anymore?)

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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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The steady upward climb resumes. 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 blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 106,000. Today, it’s 117,300, and 117,300 * 6 = a Biden line at 702,000. 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.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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The steady upward climb resumes, especially in the South, which jibes with both the positivity and Rapid Riser counties.

• “Is the Covid pandemic finally nearing its end?” [Guardian]. • No.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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Fiddling and diddling. This tracker does this at peaks, but also not at peaks. I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

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Both South and North down.

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.

Cases lag wastewater data.

From Biobot Analytics:

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Another wild round of unexplained revisions. On the bright side, they’ve revised the variant data. Note that BA.4 and BA.5 are increasing in the South (as of May 18). Here is confirming CDC variant data as of May 21 for CDC Region 6:

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I wanted to see Texas and Louisiana, so I picked Region 6; I haven’t been able to coerce CDC’s national map into providing data across regions.

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

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This could be the breakout in the South I’ve been waiting for; look at Texas and Louisiana (and North Carolina). This would jibe with both case data and wastewater data.

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.

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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East coast, West Coast, and Midwest are all red. Great Plains speckled with yellow. (As has been the case for weeks, even while people were yammering that “Covid is over!”)

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Much improved, much more green. I think the hospital-centric goons at CDC are starting to think it’s all over. I doubt it.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,033,830 1,032,862. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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

Stats Watch

Supply Chain: “United States LMI Logistics Managers Index Current” [Trading Economics]. “The Logistics Manager’s Index in the US fell for a second month to 67.1 in May of 2022, the lowest since December of 2020 and down considerably from March’s all-time high of 76.2. The reading showed the logistics industry continues to expand, driven primarily by strong growth in inventory (69.3 vs 72.3 in April) and warehousing metrics, as supply chains continue struggling to find the capacity needed to deal with high levels of inventory. Warehousing Capacity (45.9 vs 40.8) extended a streak of 21 consecutive months of contraction as shipping containers continue to be a chokepoint as they sit on docks due to a shortage in available space.”

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Tech: “Vectorized and performance-portable Quicksort” [Google Open Source Blog]. “Today we’re sharing open source code that can sort arrays of numbers about ten times as fast as the C++ std::sort, and outperforms state of the art architecture-specific algorithms, while being portable across all modern CPU architectures.” • And we’ve got a lot of data to sort!

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 30 Fear (previous close: 29 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 26 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 7 at 1:09 PM EDT.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

Screening Room

Now do “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

The Gallery

I have to admit I love this stuff:

Somehow, despite the overwhelming complexity, it appears simple and ordered.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Better vaguely right than precisely wrong in effective altruism: the problem of marginalism” [Economics and Philosophy]. “We raise a practical problem for [Effective altruism (EA)], which is that there is a crucial empirical presupposition implicit in its charity assessment methods which is false in many contexts. This is the presupposition that the magnitude of the benefits (or harms) generated by some charity vary continuously in the scale of the intervention performed.” • If I interpret this correctly, this means that more money ≠ more good. Oopsie. Commentary:

Excel jockeys with MBAs again.

Class Warfare

“Most workers who died of COVID in 2020 had something essential in common, study finds” [Miami Herald]. “Most working-age Americans who died of COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic were so-called essential workers in labor, service and retail jobs that required on-site attendance and prolonged contact with others, according to a recently published study led by a University of South Florida epidemiologist. The study looks back on COVID-19 deaths in 2020 and affirms what many had already known or suspected — that Americans who could not work from home and who labored in low-paying jobs with few or no benefits, such as paid sick leave and health insurance coverage, bore the brunt of deaths during the pandemic’s first year, said Jason Salemi, an associate professor in USF’s College of Public Health and co-author of the study. Salemi said the finding, while perhaps expected, left him with two takeaways: That essential workers need more protections during an infectious disease pandemic, and that society’s desire to ‘return to normal’ will mean different things for different people — with inequitable consequences.” • Sadly, education had to be used as a proxy for class. Nevertheless. Funny how you never saw anything about essential workers on those “In this house….” signs. Or workers at all. Here is the original study.

News of the Wired

“Bodily maps of emotions” [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]. “Emotions are often felt in the body, and somatosensory feedback has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Here we reveal maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method. In five experiments, participants (n = 701) were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. Different emotions were consistently associated with statistically separable bodily sensation maps across experiments. These maps were concordant across West European and East Asian samples. Statistical classifiers distinguished emotion-specific activation maps accurately, confirming independence of topographies across emotions. We propose that emotions are represented in the somatosensory system as culturally universal categorical somatotopic maps.” • Cultural universals, eh?

Good calls (legit):


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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: “Horse chestnuts are in flower.” I feel I should know more about chestnuts than I do. Do we have a chestnut maven in the readership?

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