2:00PM Water Cooler 7/12/2023

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/12/2023 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Dune Lark, Port Nolloth, Northern Cape, South Africa.

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“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

The Supremes

“Justices teach when the Supreme Court isn’t in session. It can double as an all-expenses-paid trip” [Associated Press]. “Teaching is encouraged as a way to demystify the nation’s highest court while exposing the justices to a cross-section of the public. For decades, they have traveled the globe during court recesses to lecture. It is a permissible practice so long as their earning are less than the court’s roughly $30,000 cap on outside income…. Documents obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests reveal that some all-expenses-paid trips — to Italy, Iceland and Hawaii, among others — are light on classroom instruction, with ample time carved out for the justices’ leisure…. ‘This is a level of luxury that most Americans will never see. And the fact that the justices are receiving it by virtue of their positions seems to be outside ethical bounds,’ said Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan watchdog group dedicated to following the Supreme Court. The particulars of these excursions are often shrouded from public view because the justices are only required to offer a spare accounting on their annual financial disclosure forms. But details obtained by the AP reveal that these trips, which would cost the justices thousands of dollars if paid out of pocket, are in some cases subsidized by anonymous donors to the schools whose motivations can be difficult to assess.” • Oh?

“Book sales, a lure for money and more takeaways from the AP investigation into Supreme Court ethics” [Associated Press]. “Supreme Court justices insist that they cannot and do not participate in fundraising events. But the emails obtained by the AP show that the court’s definition of a fundraiser — an event that raises more than it costs or where guests are asked for contributions — excludes much of the work that typically goes into persuading a wealthy donor to cut a check. That’s given schools wide latitude to court rich patrons. For instance, ahead of a 2017 event with Justice Clarence Thomas, officials at McLennan Community College in Texas worked with the prominent conservative lawyer Ken Starr and his wife, Alice, to craft a guest list designed to reward school patrons and incentivize future contributions. In an interview, Starr’s widow called it ‘friendraising.’ In an email planning the event, the executive director of the college’s foundation wrote that she had thoughts about whom to invite ‘mainly because they are wealthy conservative Catholics who would align with Clarence Thomas and who have not previously given.’…. Thomas isn’t the only one whose status as a justice has been leveraged by schools eager to capitalize with donors. Before Justice Elena Kagan visited the University of Colorado’s law school, one official suggested a ‘larger donor to staff ratio’ for a 2019 dinner with her, emails show. Another event organizer said the organizer was ‘open to suggestions about which VIP donors to cultivate relationships with.’ A school spokesperson said the attendees weren’t asked for any donations connected to the event. Clemson University in South Carolina hosted Sotomayor for a 2017 session with students and for a private luncheon. One official said it was hoped the events, which included donors, would ‘ultimately generate resources’ for the university’s Humanities Advancement Board, which played a lead organizing role. As university officials devised a guest list, an alumni relations official wrote: ‘When you say $1M donors, please be sure to include our corporate donors at that level, too.’” • Ick.


Time for the Countdown Clock!

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“Trump says Biden ‘dragging’ US ‘into World War III’ by sending Ukraine cluster bombs” [The Hill]. • Asking for my vote….

“‘5 laps ahead’: Trump thumbs his nose at Iowa traditions” [Politico]. “He’s threatening to skip the primary debates. He’s publicly trashing the Republican governor of Iowa, infuriating traditional GOP operatives in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. And on Friday, for the second time in two months, Donald Trump will duck a major cattle call of GOP primary contenders there. If it’s the prerogative of the frontrunner to pick and choose his spots, the former president is taking it to a new level, thumbing his nose at any institution or Republican politician he prefers not to court or appear alongside. In a more competitive presidential primary, not being on the debate stage or snubbing Gov. Kim Reynolds might matter more. But in this GOP contest, it’s a reflection of Trump’s dominance that he can dismiss them — so far, with seemingly no price to pay. ‘Part of the reason he’s five laps ahead is this how he deals with things,’ said Dave Carney, a Republican strategist based in New Hampshire. ‘He doesn’t play the traditional candidate card. He will not mow a single lawn in New Hampshire this summer — other candidates might.’”

“The Memo: Trump delaying tactic on trial could scramble 2024 race” [The Hill]. “The decision by former President Trump’s legal team to seek a long delay of his trial in the Mar-a-Lago documents case is injecting fresh volatility into the 2024 presidential race. The filing from Trump’s lawyers, which came less than an hour before a Monday night deadline, seeks an indefinite postponement of the trial, which had been scheduled for December. If their demand were acceded to by the judge in the case, it would open the door to several explosive scenarios. One is the trial taking place in the heat of GOP primary season. Another is the proceedings occurring after Trump plausibly becomes the Republican nominee for president. A third is the trial being pushed past the date — Jan. 20, 2025 — on which Trump could become president again. ‘There is most assuredly no reason for any expedited trial, and the ends of justice are best served by a continuance,’ Trump lawyers Christopher Kise and Todd Blanche wrote in the filing, in which they were joined by lawyers for the former president’s co-defendant, Walt Nauta. A situation in which no trial at all takes place before the 2024 general election is the one that most worries independent legal experts, as well as Trump critics. Even legal minds who have no fondness for the former president acknowledge a sitting president could order the Department of Justice to discontinue a case — even if it’s a case where that president is himself indicted. Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, said the debate about whether a president can pardon himself could end up being moot.”

“Justice Department reverses course on defending Trump in E. Jean Carroll case” [NBC]. The deck: “DOJ backed off its earlier position that Trump was acting within the scope of his presidential duties when he made “crude and disrespectful” comments about the writer.”

“Fulton County DA empaneling new grand jury to weigh Trump election charges” [ABC]. “The Atlanta-area prosecutor investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia is empaneling a new grand jury that could ultimately decide whether to approve charges against former President Donald Trump…. [Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis] officially launched the probe in February 2021, sparked in part by the now-infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump pleaded with Raffensperger to ‘find 11,780 votes,’ the exact number Trump needed to win Georgia…. In April, Willis signaled publicly that potential charges could be brought as soon as this summer.” • “Infamous” the call may be, but not infamous enough for one grand jury to do the job?

“Maggie Haberman Says Trump Trial is GOP Field’s ‘Best Bet’ To Beat Him: ‘Explain To Me What’s Going To Stop Him’” [Mediaite]. Haberman: “[T]he other candidates who are competing against him in the Republican primary and in the Iowa caucuses… are hoping that this trial takes place before the caucuses. That is in some ways their best bet, because otherwise, I guess you have to explain to me what’s going to stop him.” • Well, another candidate, like… like… like….

“Insight: Swing state Republicans bleed donors and cash over Trump’s false election claims” [Reuters]. “Real estate mogul Ron Weiser has been one of the biggest donors to the Michigan Republican Party, giving $4.5 million in the recent midterm election cycle. But no more. Weiser, former chair of the party, has halted his funding, citing concerns about the organization’s stewardship. He says he doesn’t agree with Republicans who promote falsehoods about election results and insists it’s ‘ludicrous’ to claim Donald Trump, who lost Michigan by 154,000 votes in 2020, carried the state. ‘I question whether the state party has the necessary expertise to spend the money well,” he said. The withdrawal of bankrollers like Weiser reflects the high price Republicans in the battleground states of Michigan and Arizona are paying for their full-throated support of former President Trump and his unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. The two parties have hemorrhaged money in recent years, undermining Republican efforts to win back the ultra-competitive states that could determine who wins the White House and control of the U.S. Congress in next November’s elections, according to a Reuters review of financial filings, plus interviews with six major donors and three election campaign experts.”

MI: “Trump lands endorsements from six GOP reps in Michigan” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump received endorsements from all six members of Michigan’s Republican delegation in the House, his campaign announced Tuesday. The campaign said in a release that GOP Reps. Tim Walberg, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar, Jack Bergman, Lisa McClain and John James declared their support for the former president in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating contest. All of them will serve as the leaders of Trump’s Michigan federal leadership team, working to try to help Trump win the state’s electoral votes. Trump previously endorsed all six in their races for their House seats during last year’s midterm elections. The release notes that Trump’s win in Michigan during the 2016 election marked the first time a Republican won the state in a presidential race in nearly 30 years. He won the state in 2016 by about 10,000 votes but lost when running for reelection in 2020 by about 150,000 votes.”

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“Ron DeSantis says he wouldn’t be Trump’s running mate: ‘I’m not a No. 2 guy’” [NBC]. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he would not be former President Donald Trump’s running mate if given the opportunity to join him on the ticket. ‘I don’t think so. I’m not a No. 2 guy,’ DeSantis said on the ‘Wisconsin Right Now’ radio show, saying he would rather stay on as governor because the vice presidency ‘doesn’t really have any authority.’ Asked about his own thoughts on a running mate, DeSantis said, ‘It’s a little bit presumptuous to be doing that at this stage.’ ‘I’m here to win the early primaries, and that’s what we’ve got to do first,’ he added.”

“Murdochs Start to Sour on DeSantis: ‘They Can Smell a Loser’” [Rolling Stone]. “Since the beginning of the Biden presidency, the powerful Murdoch family has favored the Florida governor in the 2024 presidential primary, largely due to a conviction that DeSantis would be a more electable, and less chaotic, evolution from Donald Trump. But in recent weeks, the Murdochs have grown increasingly displeased with the DeSantis campaign’s perceived stumbles, lackluster polling, and inability to swiftly dethrone Trump, multiple sources tell Rolling Stone. They have also seriously questioned whether the governor is capable of defeating Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch in particular has been voicing his doubts and frustrations in private discussions and calls, at times wondering if a DeSantis ‘comeback’ is possible at this point. Murdoch is the longtime patriarch of the family that controls Fox News, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other media properties that are highly influential among conservatives. ‘[Rupert’s] understandable worry is that we may end up being stuck with Trump anyway,’ a senior Fox source tells Rolling Stone. ‘And DeSantis is underperforming. Anybody can see that … [and the Murdochs], they’re seeing it, too.’” • That’s a damned shame.

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“DeSantis Confronts a Murdoch Empire No Longer Quite So Supportive” [New York Times]. “Mr. Murdoch has privately told people that he would still like to see Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia enter the race, according to a person with knowledge of the remarks. And he has made clear in private discussions over the last two years that he thinks Mr. Trump, despite his popularity with Fox News viewers, is unhealthy for the Republican Party.”

“‘Stop sitting on the sidelines’: Youngkin challenges pro-Trump Republicans’ election strategy” [Raw Story]. “Gov. Glenn Youngkin launched a new initiative Tuesday to push Virginia Republicans to take advantage of laws Democrats passed making it easier to vote early, despite lingering resistance to mail voting from the party’s pro-Trump wing. The ‘Secure Your Vote’ program pushed by Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC and the Republican Party of Virginia encourages voters to sign up for the state’s permanent absentee voting list, which allows ballots to be automatically mailed to participants every election cycle. That list and absentee voting itself have come under sharp criticism from some GOP lawmakers who argue ballots going out via mail are more susceptible to fraud. ‘Republicans gotta stop sitting on the sidelines and allowing the Democrats to do a better job of voting early,’ Youngkin said in an appearance Tuesday morning on Fox News, where he said his party puts itself at a disadvantage by ceding Virginia’s 45-day early voting window to its opponents.”

“‘If Republicans Nominate Trump, We Are Willingly Reelecting Biden’: Will Hurd On Forbes Road To 2024” [Forbes]. “Hurd is a self-described ‘dark horse’ contender — a Morning Consult tracker has him with 0% support just over a week after his announcement. The same poll found former President Trump, someone who Hurd has frequently spoken out against, far and away leading the pack at 57%. How will he make a lane for himself in this crowded race? ‘If you’re trying to be a clone of Donald Trump,’ Hurd tells Forbes, ‘you’re going to have a difficult time.’ The Texas Republican also vows to not support Trump should he clinch the Republican nomination, a move that will keep him off the RNC’s first debate stage. ‘I just can’t lie to the American public in order to get access to a microphone.’ He also offered a stark warning to the Republican Party should they nominate Trump: “We are willingly reelecting Joe Biden — period. Full stop.’” • A dark horse who will stay dark?

“The GOP’s tribal warfare” [The Spectator]. ” it is very clearly no longer the old GOP. And the reason it is not is that in 2016 Trump did something that is still under-discussed: he was able to build a base among the furthest-right voters, and then, using his celebrity, to hoover up votes from lower-information moderates who largely tuned out the other campaigns and were exposed only to Trump. These voters are still an identifiable bloc in the Trump primary coalition. We can see this lower-information cohort in a breakdown of the Republican primary electorate when we test fifteen different concerns with the language conservative voters might use themselves — from ‘wokeness’ in schools and corporations, to racial and gender ideology, to socialism, to ‘soft on crime prosecutors,’ to the US becoming too enmeshed in the war in Ukraine. And we find a solid core — 32 percent — who are extremely concerned about nearly everything, who are predominantly very conservative and most likely to be considering both Trump and DeSantis, but are backing the former president by a 3:1 margin. About a quarter of Republicans are simply a milder version of this, divided into two groups: 20 percent who tend to say they are merely very concerned about nearly all these topics, where Trump leads by a more modest twenty points, and a 6 percent splinter faction who are extremely concerned about most issues but reject the Trump-led attacks on fellow Republicans monkeying with Social Security and Medicare. The largest remaining group are those we call MAGA Moderates, who are 20 percent of the party. They are not highly exercised about the outrage du jour, registering low levels of concern across issues (though they are slightly higher on Trumpian totems like Ukraine intervention or protecting entitlements). The MAGA Moderates follow conservative media at much lower rates, are considering the fewest number of candidates, are two-thirds female, and the least college-educated group. Trump currently leads a full Republican ballot with these voters with 57 percent, with, among his challengers, only DeSantis (barely) cracking double digits.” • Worth a read.” • “Trumpian totems like Ukraine intervention or protecting entitlements.” Asking for my vote…

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“Pritzker goes global” [Politico]. “Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is heading out on a trade mission to London right on the heels of President Joe Biden’s visit across the pond…. Not so long ago, such a trip would have raised eyebrows since overseas ventures by state officials might indicate an effort to expand their foreign policy chops ahead of seeking higher office. But Pritzker, who has been mentioned as a possible (future) presidential candidate, is a firm backer of Biden’s reelection bid and has acted as a surrogate for the campaign.”• Uh huh [nods vigorously].

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Republican Funhouse

“McCarthy summons GOP factions to counter threat of a new conservative rebellion” [Politico]. “With the House back for a final stretch before its August recess, McCarthy on Tuesday afternoon summoned a group of leaders from multiple corners of his conference to shape a strategy for staving off further right-wing revolts — which his team can’t afford this summer. Underscoring the urgency of their task, the group of GOP lawmakers met in the shadow of what could become a new right-flank rebellion over the rule for debating a must-pass Pentagon policy bill…. Another conservative said he’s not ruling out taking a drastic step to voice his discontent to leadership: voting against debate on the defense policy bill, essentially blocking it from coming to the floor. ‘It’s 1,500 amendments for something as important as the national defense authorization. We need to make sure they’re the right amendments. … It takes a long time,’ said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who holds unique power on the House Rules panel.”

2020 Post Mortem

“‘I was cruising to election’: New Bob Woodward tapes reveal Trump blamed COVID for killing rallies” [Raw Story]. “‘If we didn’t have the virus, I was 10, 12, points up. I was cruising to election,’ Trump complained. ‘Yeah, well, people are worried about the virus,’ Woodward explained. ‘I know that, Bob. But the virus has nothing to do with me,’ Trump complained. ‘With COVID, you really can’t do rallies — probably airport rallies — but you can’t do stadium rallies, you can’t do the indoor arena rallies.’”

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

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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Realignment and Legitimacy

Based on cellphone data, “Only 3% of Americans attend services “weekly,” far fewer than the ~22% who report to do so in surveys.”

“Families trying to keep Nashville school shooter’s writings private win legal victory” [USA Today]. I missed this from early June: “Ownership of the writings of a shooter who carried out a deadly attack at Nashville’s Covenant School will be transferred to nearly 100 families who sued to prevent the documents from being made public. The unexpected announcement came Thursday from attorney David Raybin. He represents the parents of the shooter, who was a former student at the school and killed 3 students and 3 teachers in March.” • Thereby burying the issue; I’ve always thought the goal was protecting the church, so by all means let the parents do that.

“How False History Is Used to Justify Discrimination Against Asian Americans” [The Tablet]. “In the aftermath of the ruling, rather than celebrating the victory against racial discrimination, a number of prominent media figures advanced a narrative blaming Asian Americans for betraying other racial minorities. The narrative went as follows: Black Americans and their work leading the Civil Rights Movement are the reason you Asians are in America in the first place—how dare you now sell out the very people you should be thanking for bringing you here….. This trope about Asian American debts did not emerge spontaneously in the last few weeks. It was seeded into the public discourse by the most influential project of historical reframing in recent American history: the activist-journalism of The New York Times’ “1619 Project.” In her opening essay for the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones asserts that ‘Because of black Americans, black and brown immigrants from across the globe are able to come to the United States and live in a country in which legal discrimination is no longer allowed. It is a truly American irony that some Asian-Americans, among the groups able to immigrate to the United States because of the black civil rights struggle, are now suing universities to end programs designed to help the descendants of the enslaved.’ Now taught across the country in public school curriculums, the claims of the 1619 Project have become official history… Except that this narrative is utterly false. On the contrary, many Black Americans were understandably anti-immigration. In the early 20th century, Black workers in the then-nascent labor movement worried that immigrants—Europeans, West Indians, and Asians alike—would take away their jobs. A. Philip Randolph, the leader of the first successful Black labor union in America and a key organizer of the Civil Rights Movement’s 1963 March on Washington, maintained a hardline restrictionist stance on immigration. Randolph declared that ‘It is time to call a halt on this grand rush for American gold, which over-floods the labor market, resulting in lowering the standard of living, race-riots, and general social degradation. The excessive immigration is against the interests of the masses of all races and nationalities in the country—both foreign and native.’” • Hmm. Here at least is a source for the Randolph quote.


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Losing their minds:


“Prenol, but Not Vitamin C, of Fruit Binds to SARS-CoV-2 Spike S1 to Inhibit Viral Entry: Implications for COVID-19” [The Journal of Immunology]. “Fruit consumption may be beneficial for fighting infection. Although vitamin C is the celebrity component of fruit, its role in COVID-19 is unclear. Because spike S1 of SARS-CoV-2 binds to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) on host cells to enter the cell and initiate COVID-19, using an α-screen–based assay, we screened vitamin C and other components of fruit for inhibiting the interaction between spike S1 and ACE2. We found that prenol, but neither vitamin C nor other major components of fruit (e.g., cyanidin and rutin), reduced the interaction between spike S1 and ACE2.” • From Wikipedia (sorry): “Prenol occurs naturally in citrus fruits, cranberry, bilberry, currants, grapes, raspberry, blackberry, tomato, white bread, hop oil, coffee, arctic bramble, cloudberry and passion fruit.” Prenol is manufactured industrially. There is a Prenol medication, but it’s a steroid. So I’m not sure if this article has practical implications. Though I can always drink more coffee!

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

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Elite Maleficence

“The CDC is in crisis — can its new leader save it?” [Nature]. “Once regarded as the gold standard for public-health agencies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) faces an unprecedented crisis, fuelled by chronic underfunding and anger about the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now the agency has a new leader to try to put things right: Mandy Cohen, a physician who served as North Carolina’s health secretary until the end of 2021. She started her tenure as CDC director on Monday. Cohen takes over the role previously filled by Rochelle Walensky, an infectious-disease specialist who left the CDC less than a year after announcing an initiative to overhaul the agency’s structure and operations. Among the challenges that Cohen inherits are restoring public and political support for the CDC, rebuilding the agency’s infrastructure and improving its ability to make quick decisions in the face of emergencies. But public-health specialists say that Cohen’s experience at the state level has equipped her well to tackle the task. ‘Dr Cohen spent several years working in North Carolina, having to do this tricky balance between what is the right thing to do from a purely scientific perspective, and how that can be implemented when you consider all of the challenges of public policy,’ says Jay Varma, co-director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.” • Cohen starting out with visible support for Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions:

Oh, wait….

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, July 10:

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Lambert here: Still a trend upward. Happy July 4! Absent a new variant to race though the dry tinder, I don’t see an oncoming debacle even with July 4 travel. But plenty of people will still get sick (again).

Regional data:

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If you look at yesterday’s Biobot regional data, you’ll see that the data for both the West and the South has been retrospectively revised (upwardly).

Regional variant data:

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Whatever the cause of the uptick in the Northeast, it’s not EG.5 (the orange pie slice), which seems evenly distributed.



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Lambert here: EG.5 moving like a bat out of hell, showing unactionable nature (uselessness) of these CDC two-week-lag charts (here, and in positivity, too). They’re not even performative!

From CDC, June 24:

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Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, July 1:

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NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, July 10:

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5.7%. Going vertical, though the absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say. Interestingly, these do not correlate with the regional figures for wastewater.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, June 19:

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Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data. They say “maps,” but I don’t see one….


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, June 28:

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Lambert here: The WHO data is worthless, so I replaced it with the Iowa Covid Data Tracker. Their method: “These data have been sourced, via the API from the CDC: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Conditions-Contributing-to-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Stat/hk9y-quqm. This visualization updates on Wednesday evenings. Data are provisional and are adjusted weekly by the CDC.” I can’t seem to get a pop-up that shows a total of the three causes (top right). Readers?

Total: 1,168,533 – 1,168,5051,168,414 = 28 (28 * 365 = 10,220 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

Excess Deaths

Excess deaths (The Economist), July 12:

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Lambert here: This is now being updated daily. Odd. Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual inflation rate in the US slowed to 3% in June of 2023, the lowest since March of 2021 and compared to 4% in May and expectations of 3.1%. The slowdown is partly due to a high base effect from last year when a surge in energy and food prices pushed the headline inflation rate to 1981-highs of 9.1%.”

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Apparel: “Indiana’s Top Business School Proudly Partnered With Shein, Then Quietly Cut Ties” [Forbes]. “March 2022, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business struck a deal with Shein, the Chinese-born fast fashion giant. Students would be able to learn about company practices and get access to executives while doing research for the company, and Shein would be able to scout talent — similar to the school’s other partnerships with companies like Macy’s and The Home Depot. The partnership, Shein’s first with an American university, was aptly timed. Indiana was set to be the location of Shein’s first American warehouse, which would open at the end of 2022 with the promise to create 850 new jobs. But after an effusive press release noted the partnership was a ‘natural fit’ that would highlight ‘the economic growth Shein is bringing to Indiana,’ the university quietly scuttled the deal just months later — and no one knows why. Kelley’s glowing press release was deleted from its website, and the school has never explained what happened.” But: “‘I don’t think anybody knows what that deal was,’ Mary Embry, a senior lecturer in merchandising, who teaches in Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design, a sister school to Kelley, told Forbes. But, she noted, Shein’s clothing is ‘not ethical,’ and ‘I think it was very tactical of [Kelley] to let it die.’”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 80 Extreme Greed (previous close: 79 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 79 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 12 at 1:39 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

America, America….


The Gallery

A painting is not “immersive” by definition:

This exhibit can have nothing to do with Van Gogh’s intent; what’s the point?

News of the Wired

“Counting sheep on the Chajnantor plateau” [European Southern Observatory]. • Headline anchoring….

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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 RM:

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RM writes: “Dogwood tree in the yard of the Cuyahoga National Park. They rent this out for weddings and other parties. Such a stunning sight amongst all the green trees.”

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the 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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