2:00PM Water Cooler 7/19/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/19/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Hume’s Lark, Ladakh, India. Tomorrow, Locke’s Lark!

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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 Administration

“Kamala Harris’ chief speechwriter is departing” [Politico]. “Vice President Kamala Harris’ director of speechwriting, Meghan Groob, is leaving the office less than four months into the job…/ Groob was hired in April after Harris’ first chief speechwriter, Kate Childs Graham, left at the end of February. She had previously worked as a speechwriter for Bill Gates and as an editorial director at Gates Ventures.” • Oh. Anyhow, Groob is not Rohini Kosoglu, who left to spend more time her family the other day. Rats leaving a sinking ship, I would say.


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“The Republican Ticket Is Being Helped by the Last People You’d Expect” [Brian Beutler, New York Times]. “In Arizona, Democrats have intervened on behalf of Kari Lake, a candidate for governor who has fanned lies about the 2020 election and demanded the imprisonment of the Democratic front-runner. In Pennsylvania, Democrats ran ads boosting Doug Mastriano, a Christian theocrat who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection before running for governor…. To say that the Democratic strategy of putting a thumb on the scale for these charlatans and conspiracy theorists, in this political climate, has alarmed prominent liberals would be an understatement…. It’s beyond dispute that playing games in the other party’s primaries can sometimes turn losing races into winnable ones. Democrats maintained a brittle grip on the Senate in the first half of the past decade largely by egging along the G.O.P. in its penchant for nominating extremists. In the canonical case, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, ran ads in 2012 that amplified the many wacky things a far-right underdog in the G.O.P. primary named Todd Akin had said, and declared him “too conservative” for office. The reverse psychology worked.” • Until it didn’t.

KY: “A “Defund-the-CIA” Democratic Candidate for Congress is Calling Biden a “War Criminal” and Demanding His Immediate Impeachment” [Covert Action Magazine (jo6pacP]. “Geoff Young won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District on May 17, 2022. He will face the incumbent, Republican Andy Barr, in the general election on November 8, 2022. His platform calls for abolishing the CIA, cutting the military budget, ending U.S. support for AFRICOM and taxing the rich more. Unsurprisingly, Kentucky’s Democratic Party establishment says it won’t support Young in the general election against his Republican opponent.” • Holy moley! Alert reader 430 MLK comments: “I’ll be voting for Young, a longtime thorn in the side of the KY Dem establishment. In his primary, he won all the rural counties and lost only in Fayette County (home of the University of Kentucky).”

MD: “Profile of a GOP voter: Meddling Dems target hunters, country music lovers” [Axios]. “Democrats boosting a hard-right Republican gubernatorial candidate in Maryland are targeting a particular brand of voter: she loves hunting and country music, has no interest in yoga or public libraries and lives in one of America’s wealthiest ZIP codes…. If those apparent efforts to elevate spoiler candidates backfire, the result would be powerful elected officials with fringe views on issues ranging from abortion to “election integrity.’” • The Pied Piper strategy again? What could go wrong?


“Frustrated Democrats mull drastic step: Challenging Biden in 2024” [The Hill]. “[Biden’s] loyalists have defended him against the increasingly negative headlines. They say he stepped into a mess made by former President Trump and that some of the lawmakers in Congress who were supposed to help him turn things around have been difficult and disappointing. But that willingness to prop up the sinking president has been wearing thin. Day by day, Democrats are considering a possible new scenario: challenging the sitting president for the 2024 nomination…. A pair of governors have recently taken steps that have elevated their national profile. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) traveled to the White House this week and met with Ron Klain, the president’s chief of staff, while Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) also went to the Oval Office and on a separate occasion to New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state. On Saturday, he’ll be in Florida, a crucial swing state where Trump resides.” Ugh. More: “Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who skyrocketed to prominence after winning the Iowa caucuses in 2020, officially changed his home state registration to Michigan, one of the top general election battlegrounds. Ugh. More: “Others, including Sanders’s two presidential campaign co-chairs, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and former Ohio House candidate and activist Nina Turner, have been talked about as possible challengers.” • Weak.

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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Realignment and Legitimacy

“Yes, Things Are Really As Bad As You’ve Heard” [Wesley Yang, Year Zero]. Yang quoting a teacher source: “In my short career as an educator, I’ve had countless experiences like this – encounters with colleagues and administrators so surreal that even close friends chided me for exaggerating or “playing into right-wing tropes” when I repeat them. And there’s a sense in which I don’t blame them, because things really are that crazy out here…. [For example, I once attended another meeting – lots of meetings when you’re a teacher! – where we were working to approve a new weekly schedule for students. When I said I was concerned that it would require leaving some sections of the curriculum untaught, a colleague said that might actually be a good thing, because most of our students are white and their test scores dropping slightly would help shrink the racial achievement gap in our state. Again, to clarify: I don’t mean my colleague had a more nuanced approach to testing that a dishonest interlocutor could twist to sound like that. I mean my colleague literally spoke those words. (To be fair, one other teacher did speak up and challenge them this time, albeit very politely.) Now, [does this[ anecdotes, no matter how explicitly I describe [it], sound like something out of James Lindsay’s fever dreams? Yes! Are these things that did, in fact, happen? Also yes!”


• ”With a sniff or a swallow, new vaccines aim to put the brakes on Covid-19 spread” [CNN]. This is actually pretty good. “As the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, it changes. That’s helped it get past our firewalls, the immunity created by vaccines or left behind after we recover from an infection. Which is why, well into the third year of the pandemic, we’re in the midst of another wave of Covid-19 caused by the most immune-evasive variant yet, BA.5. And more variants are coming. Even as vaccine manufacturers race to update the first-generation shots in the hopes of patching up our protection for the fall, other scientists are taking a different approach, making vaccines delivered via nasal sprays or tablets that would deploy more immune defenders to the body’s front lines: the lining of the mouth, nose and throat. ‘The hope is to shore up the defenses right there in the nose so that the virus can’t even replicate in the nose,’ said Dr. Ellen Foxman, an immunobiologist at the Yale School of Medicine. ‘And then someone who has a really effective mucosal vaccination can’t even really support viral replication or make viruses that can infect other people.’ …. many scientists say the approach needs an injection of funding to accelerate the pace of development, much in the same way the billions of dollars doled out by Operation Warp Speed delivered the first generation of Covid-19 vaccines in record time.” • Absolute, mind-boggling dereliction of duty by the Biden Administration, here. They had a successful business model in front of them, and they didn’t replicate it! (And this is the charitable explanation, the uncharitable one being that democidal elites is a parsomonious explanation (and if you want another data point on that, consider the Biden Administration’s destruction of the domestic mask industry)).

• ”With monkeypox spreading globally, many experts believe the virus can’t be contained” [Helen Branswell, STAT]. “It has been a mere nine weeks since the United Kingdom announced it had detected four cases of monkeypox, a virus endemic only in West and Central Africa. In that time, the number of cases has mushroomed to nearly 13,000 in over 60 countries throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, new parts of Africa, South Asia, and Australia. The growth in cases and the geographic spread has been rapid and relentless. Now, even as global health officials race to curb spread of the virus, most experts polled by STAT said they don’t believe it will be possible to contain it. ‘I think we missed that train at this point,’ said Gary Kobinger, director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch and a member of an expert committee that advises the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program.” • It’s odd that the Norms Fairy isn’t aghast at this. But then I was surprised that a liberal Democrat Administration would preside over the demolition of public health, even as a concept.

“School Ventilation: A Vital Tool to Reduce COVID-19 Spread” (PDF) [Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins]. “Flexible funds are now available under the American Rescue Plan to invest in K-12 schools to reduce risks related to COVID-19. As administrators consider how they may use these funds to address their schools’ needs, we maintain that healthy air should be a priority in schools to (1) increase safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and potential future respiratory disease outbreaks and (2) improve student learning. Investments in healthy indoor air for K-12 schools are crucial for the health of the nation.” Two key points about what not to do, which readers know, of course:

3. School systems should use only proven technologies for improving indoor air quality: appropriate ventilation, HEPA filtration, or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. They should not use chemical foggers or any “air cleaner” other than filtration and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. School systems should not use unproven technologies such as ozone generators, ionization, plasma, and air disinfection with chemical foggers and sprays. The effect of these cleaning methods on children has not been tested and may be detrimental to their health. The primary aim for improving air quality should be to remove contaminants and impurities from the air and not to introduce new substances into the air.

4. School administrators and decision makers should stop enhanced cleaning, disinfecting, “deep clean” days, and any other expensive and disruptive cleaning.

Readers, any of you can get this in front of your local school administrators or school boards, so that they don’t spend their money foolishly over the summer, that would be great. Thank you!

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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

Case count for the United States:

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The train is still rolling. There was a weird, plateau-like “fiddling and diddling” stage before the Omicron explosion, too. This conjuncture feels the same. Under the hood the BA.4/BA.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. The previous count was ~135,400. Today, it’s ~125,900 and 135,400 * 6 = a Biden line at 755,400 per day. That’s rather a lot of cases per day, when you think about it. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes we’ve seen have 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.

Regional case count for four weeks:

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Now the South and West.

The South:

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Florida and Texas, still neck and neck.

The West:

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So, the national drop resolves to California.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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0.1%. Down! (I wonder if there’s a Keynesian Beauty Contest effect, here; that is, if people encounter a sympotomatic person, whether in their social circle or in normal activity, they are more likely to get a test, because they believe, correctly, that it’s more likely they will be infected.) What we are seeing here is the steepest and largest acceleration of positivity on Walgreen’s chart.


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. For July 17, 2020:

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Status quo, i.e. it’s a not-over pandemic.

Lambert here: After the move from the CDC to the laughingly named ‘https://healthdata.gov,” this notice appeared: “Effective June 22, 2022, the Community Profile Report will only be updated twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.” So now the administration has belatedly come to the realization that we’re in a BA.5 surge, and yet essential data for making our personal risk assessment is only available twice a week. What’s the over/under on whether they actually deliver tomorrow?

NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), July 14:

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Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama, Illinois all worse. California better, oddlly. I don’t like those little pink speckles in New York, because the Northeast has been quiet for some time (note slight rise in case data). What’s that all about

Previous Rapid Riser data:

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NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 14:

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Very volatile. Haven’t seen so little green (good) in quite some time.

• “With Tulsa’s COVID risk upgraded and cases rising, local ER leaders push precautions, vaccination” [Tulsa World]. “Tulsa County’s COVID-19 risk has been upgraded from the lowest to the highest level in recent weeks as cases have continued to rise across the state since the summer holidays began. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks community-level risk to help get public health recommendations to residents based on the most recently available local data. According to data from spokeswoman Lauren Landwerlin, the number of COVID-19 patients has nearly doubled each month since May across all of Saint Francis Health System. She confirmed that those are patients for whom COVID-19 is the chief complaint. Most of those who spoke Friday offered similar guidance for anyone concerned about becoming infected: Go back to early-pandemic precautions, including social distance, masking, hand-washing and monitoring symptoms.” • Here’s CDC’s “community levels” metric again, causing non-pharmaceutical intervention to kick in too late.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), June 30:

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Variant data, national (CDC), July 2:

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BA.5 moving along nicely.


Wastewater data (CDC), Jul 13, 2022:

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Lots of orange, more red. Not good. This chart works a bit like rapid riser counties: “This metric shows whether SARS-CoV-2 levels at a site are currently higher or lower than past historical levels at the same site. 0% means levels are the lowest they have been at the site; 100% means levels are the highest they have been at the site.” So, there’s a bunch of red dots on the West Coast. That’s 100%, so that means “levels are the highest they’ve ever been.” Not broken down by variant, CDC, good job.

Lambert here: This page was loading so slowly that I began to wonder if this is how CDC had chosen to sabotage wastewater efforts. However, after some experimentation, I find I must turn off my VPN to get this page to load. Good job, CDC.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,049,274 1,048,843. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a nice, simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US dropped 2% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 1.559 million units in June of 2022, the lowest since September last year. Figures were also lower than forecasts of 1.58 million but follow an upwardly revised 1.591 million rate in May. The housing sector has been cooling amid soaring prices and mortgage rates.”

Housing: “United States Building Permits” [Trading Economics]. “Building permits in the US, a proxy for future construction, decreased 0.6% to an annualized rate of 1.685 million in June of 2022, the lowest level since September last year and compared to forecasts of 1.65 million. It was the third consecutive month of declines in permits.”

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Commodities: “Ships wait up to three weeks to load grain at Albany port after bumper WA crop” [Hellenic Shipping News]. Albany in Western Australia. “Ships are waiting at anchor for up to three weeks to load grain at Albany port as supply chain issues cause delays…. The delays come after many crews faced lengthy times at sea in isolation due to COVID outbreaks on ships during the pandemic…. Grain co-operative CBH’s head of operations Duncan Gray said delays were expected after a record grain harvest in Western Australia in 2021. ‘We’re looking at 23 million tonnes in the supply chain and we won’t be able to get that out [of the ports] this year,’ Mr Gray said. He acknowledged the bottleneck stemmed from delays in rail transport but said the state’s grain trucks were working at record levels.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 34 Fear (previous close: 27 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 19 at 1:29 PM EDT.

Groves of Academe

“$100K got Uber research published in prestigious outlet” [Felix Salmon, Axios]. “A major NBER research paper c0-authored by Alan Krueger, the former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, was revealed last week to have been paid for by Uber as ‘part of a production line of political ammunition that could be fed to politicians and the media,’ in the words of Guardian investigative reporter Felicity Lawrence…. Uber paid Krueger $100,000 for the controversial 2016 study, which has been cited by 981 scholarly articles to date. A payment of that magnitude “is not trivial and is relevant,” one high-profile economist tells Axios.” • Commentary:

More Stoller:

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(I used a screen dump here because Wolfers has, perhaps wisely, deleted the tweet Stoller quoted.)

Class Warfare

“Is it any surprise that tensions in labour markets are rising?” [Tax Research UK]. “Real wages are falling fast. That is the message from the [Office for National Statistics] today. The message from Tory leadership rivals a couple of days ago was ‘accept it, because we’re not going to do anything about it’. And the message from the bank of England is ‘you’re not having it tough enough, have another interest rate rise’.”

News of the Wired

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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: “While out on a hike with the range specialist from the USGS we came across a patch of echinacea (echinacea angustifolia, also known as a narrow leaf purple coneflower). He pulled out a knife and dug out about four inches off the root and skinned it. He handed me this little white root and said chew it!! I did and after about five minutes I was foaming at the mouth like I had rabies… It made my mouth totally numb and my tongue felt like a piece of wood. Evidently the Indians and settlers used it if they had to pull a tooth, or at least that’s the story and I’m sticking to it.” Don’t try this at home!

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