2:00PM Water Cooler 7/22/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/22/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Mongolian Short-toed Lark, Sühbaatar, Mongolia. I picked this lark for the name, but what a virtuoso!

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Capitol Seizure

“Cheney says Jan. 6 panel will hold more hearings in September” [The Hill]. Cheney: “In the course of these hearings we have received new evidence, and new witnesses have bravely stepped forward. Efforts to litigate and overcome immunity and executive privilege claims have been successful, and those continue. Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break.” • Well, I was tired of “the walls are closing in” anyhow. So I’m hopeful the Committee will have a theory of the case in September, even if that is uncomfortably close to the midterms.

And speaking of chopping down Presidential timber:

Hawley running — the best part of the video is where they lovingly slow it down, so you can see Hawley running twice — has nothing to do with any theory of the case the Committee is trying to put together, if indeed it is doing so. It’s just a piece of oppo, dropped from Democrat strategists to pick up. I have no issue withi making fun of Hawley, but a serious Congressional inquiry isn’t the place for it. (I think, in retrospect, McCarthy was tactically right to make sure only Never Trumpers were on the Commitee, though Trump was ticked at him for it; there’s now nobody to prevent the Democrats from over-reaching themselves, as they did here.)

“Is the Secret Service’s Claim About Erased Text Messages Plausible? (Updated)” [Zero Day]. “Efforts by a congressional committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection hit a roadblock last week when it came to light that text messages the committee sought from the phones of Secret Service agents may have been permanently deleted last year as part of a scheduled device migration…. To find out if messages erased in a factory reset are lost for good, and whether the agency was following best practices when it told agents to back up phones on their own before the reset, I spoke with Heather Mahalik, senior director of digital intelligence at Cellebrite, and Robert Osgood, a 26-year veteran of the FBI who worked for the bureau as a digital forensics examiner and is currently director of the forensics and telecommunications program at George Mason University. … Both Osgood and Mahalik said that if the phones underwent a factory reset, then the messages will still be on the phone if the data has not been overwritten by other data since the reset. But they said the messages would not be readable due to the way factory resets work, and therefore would essentially be unrecoverable…. To adhere to rules that require federal agencies to retain government records, the Secret Service should have an automated collection system in place to backup things like text messages on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the agency had such a tool…. It should be noted, though, that having an automated collection tool doesn’t guarantee data is backed up properly. In 2018 when officials sought to obtain text messages from the phones of FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok — a former FBI attorney and agent, respectively — they discovered that the collection tool failed to collect data from about 10 percent of FBI devices. Notably, although the FBI had such a collection tool in place at the time, its parent organization — the Department of Justice — did not.”


Biden Administration


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“The Pete Buttigieg Fake Governing Problem” [Matt Stoller, BIG]. “The reality is that our industrial systems are breaking down because our government isn’t constraining the powerful people who run them according to short-term profit maximizing goals. That’s why the airlines, for instance, are a mess. Despite consumer complaints about the industry being up 300% since 2019, and $5-15B of tickets that went un-refunded during Covid, the airlines are unchastened. And the reason is that Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has created an environment ripe for cheating by having his agency issue a record low number of aviation enforcement orders….. The airlines cheated people during the initial stages of the pandemic, but so did banks. Bank of America, for instance, froze people’s accounts who were getting unemployment help. But unlike with airlines, there is a real regulator on consumer protection for banks – the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra. And the CFPB forced Bank of America to refund customers, and on top of that fined the bank $100 million for “botching the disbursement of unemployment insurance.” Another bank regulator followed the CFPB and issued a separate $125 million fine. The difference between Chopra and Buttigieg is stark…. There are also quieter levers useful to governing. There’s a lot of carping about bad judges of late, and for good reason. But enforcers can also shape how judges think about the law. For instance, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, run by anti-monopolist Jonathan Kanter, just issued a ‘statement of interest’ in a private lawsuit opposing trucking firms that agree with one another not to hire truckers from each other. The Antitrust Division not only enforces the law directly, but shapes the law through these kinds of briefs. Kanter is trying to create a legal prohibition against these ‘no-hire’ agreements. It isn’t flashy, it isn’t instant, but it restructures markets.”

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 Tyranny Of Structurelessness” [Jo Freeman]. This classic from the 70s is worth reading in full. I’m filing it away here because of passages like this: “Elites are not conspiracies. Very seldom does a small group of people get together and deliberately try to take over a larger group for its own ends. Elites are nothing more, and nothing less, than groups of friends who also happen to participate in the same political activities. They would probably maintain their friendship whether or not they were involved in political activities; they would probably be involved in political activities whether or not they maintained their friendships. It is the coincidence of these two phenomena which creates elites in any group and makes them so difficult to break.” • I tend to think of factions (with Madison) as being knitted together by interest. It’s important, I think, to include friendship (and marriage) to our network analysis, as Freeman reminds us.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What Keeps a Crowd from Becoming a Mob?” [Scientific American]. “A classic theory in psychology suggested that people in large crowds lose their sense of self and become emotionally impulsive and susceptible to the influence of others. As a consequence, the logic went, those in a crowd become reckless, violent and destructive. Though this characterization of crowd psychology is out of date, it’s been hard to shake. Many people still assume that groups will invariably engage in risky behavior. Indeed, fear that crowds will behave badly looms large in discussion of reopening society. Our research on cultural events in Denmark offers a more nuanced insight into these questions, informed by a contemporary understanding of group behavior. Crowds are neither inherently wise nor necessarily reckless. Instead the attitudes and behaviors of people within a crowd reflect the intentions that brought them together in the first place. What people do in a crowd is fundamentally connected to questions of what the crowd is (its “identity”) and what it stands for or represents (its values and norms, for example).”


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Readers will recall that I was sure Leana Wen, M.D. would surely win the coveted “Sociopath of the Day” award, but today she outdid herself. Using Biden’s bout with Covid as a newshooik, Wen slithered into the OpEd pages of WaPo and emitted the following:

“Opinion Biden’s covid diagnosis is a teaching moment for the country” [Leana Wen, WaPo]. “President Biden’s covid-19 diagnosis is an opportunity for his administration to demonstrate the success of his leadership on the pandemic and what living with the coronavirus looks like…. Biden, his medical team and others in the administration have done all the right things to demonstrate what should happen after a covid diagnosis. Right after he tested positive, his staff canceled public events. He entered isolation, and White House staff near him were cut to the minimum number. The administration began reaching out to those with whom he had exposure so that they can follow precautions and get tested.” Obviously, an “essental worker” has no, zero, zip, zilch, nada ability to do “all the right things.” Contact tracing for Jane Sixpack? Really? Wen really is telling you to follow Rule #2; that is the teaching moment, here: Elites have “access” to what you do not. I’m gonna stroke out if I read to much more of this steaming load, but just one more excerpt: “Another key lesson is that it’s inevitable that everyone — even the president of the United States — will be exposed to the coronavirus. That’s why vaccination and boosters are so important.” No! The dose makes the poison! That’s why — since, as we all know, vax prevents neither infection or reinfection — ventilation and masking are important: They minimize the amount of virus you inhale, and so you either don’t get Covid at all, or get a truly mild case. But oh, no, I just had to keep reading: “Getting the coronavirus should not come with stigma or be perceived as a failure; rather, it should reflect the new normal going forward. Indeed, this is almost certainly not the only time Biden will get the coronavirus. He, like the rest of us, could contract the virus once a year or more.” • Holy moley, the damage the virus inflicts is cumulative. Biden’s pills won’t work in 2024 if he has two more bouts; he won’t have two neurons left to rub together. I kept reading, oh gawd: “Biden is back at work and carrying out all the duties of his office. That’s exactly as it should be.” • No, it’s not. That’s a recipe for long Covid. So, unbelievably, Wen is trying to get Biden killed, along with the rest of us! Rarely have I seen a sociopath work so hard to be recognized. Leana Wen, congratulations!

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(Oh, and no mention of non-pharamaceutical interventions.) And here we have Ron Klain endorsing Wen by retweeting her:

Another strong candidate! Ron, come on down!

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• ”The pandemic and the boiling frog story” [Eric Topol, Ground Truths]. “Why do I remain optimistic? Because SARS-CoV-2 is a much easier virus to prevail over than influenza. We have never had a flu vaccine with 95% efficacy; we’re lucky to have multivalent ones that are 40% effective. Tamiflu is a weak hitter compared with Paxlovid. The virus’s main protease (Mpro) makes for an enviable choke point to take it down SARS-CoV-2, even though resistance to the drug from mutations in Mpro will likely manifest in the months ahead. Although the mutations with functional consequences have been considerable with SARS-CoV-2, they are minimal compared with the head of the influenza virus. Variant-proof ‘universal’ coronavirus vaccines and nasal vaccines to block transmission and infection are our way to turn off the heat and get ahead of the virus’s evolutionary arc. We know what we need to do; we’re just not doing it. The boiling frog metaphor is contributing to the lack of taking action.” • Or we do know what we’re doing, and we are doing it.

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• Maskstravaganza: People are still willing to wear masks, despite the propaganda:

Shows you what a noisy and obnoxious minority can do when backed by the media (and with elites solidly behind them).

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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

Lambert here: 91-DIVOC updating again, fortunately; I assumet there was a glitch at Johns Hopkins, or a glitch that manifested there.

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 ~125,900. Today, it’s ~123,000 and 123,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 738,000 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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The South:

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Florida and Texas, still trading places.

The West:

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NOT UPDATES From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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1.1%. Up. (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 20, 2020:

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Status quo, i.e. it’s a totally 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?

Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), July 21:

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Status quo for counties but more yellow than red.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

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Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 21:

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Lots of yellow. Haven’t seen so little green (good) in quite some time.


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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NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), July 20:

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BA.5 moving along nicely.


Wastewater data (CDC), Jul 18:

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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: 1,051,235 1,050,702. 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

There are no statistics of interest today.

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The Bezzle: “Amazon’s self-driving robotaxi is ‘really close’ to human transport as vehicle passes key safety tests” [The Sun]. “AMAZON’s robotaxi startup, Zoox, is the first self-driving tech company to achieve a five-star federal crash rating from the NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.]…. The Amazon driving startup is reluctant to give a timetable for their robotaxi’s release since the vehicle will need approval from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles [DMV] and the US Department of Transportation [DOT]. Zoox has been a California-based company since its inception eight years ago. DMV and DOT approval would allow Zoox to operate on public roads as a rideshare service.” • I hate the styling, which seems ubiquious among startups. You can tell the designer wanted to make them look harmless, and that’s why they look terrifying, like psychotic Teletubbies:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 41 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 26 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 22 at 1:33 PM EDT

Book Nook


On the thread, I learned that Jan Needle’s The Wild Wood is The Wind in the Willows, told from the viewpoint of the weasels.

The Conservatory

I was heartened by the readers yesterday who protested that, yes, there is good new music out there. Mark Giselson:

Music thrives in bad times and right now y’all are missing a world of incredibly fascinating new music. African musicians collaborating with German DJs, aging reggae artists have hooked up with the London trap scene, plus something like a million musicians with home computer studios and streaming capabilities. The living/breathing wing of the fine arts seem to be sliding into patron-sponsored events like the Rilke Project.

As one of Gioia’s commenters points out, people simply are not buying music anymore. They pay for a streaming service or get involved with some kind of sharing network with their friends. Old music still sells because the people who listen to it don’t know how to access music otherwise now that radio is seemingly for everything but music.

Don’t worry about the kids. After decades of pop dumbing itself down, the kids are listening to some amazing new stuff (as well as some really bad stuff but Sturgeon’s Law applies).

Or Eureka Springs:

There was a story linked here a few years back about how few kids learn to play instruments compared to a few decades ago. Not long after that on a whim I went down to New Orleans to catch Maceo Parker at Tipitina’s. Now I’ve been to NOLA enough in my life that I could drive a cab like a local but I always managed to miss Mardi Gras. Well we get to town/TIPS in the garden district and the streets are filled with Mardi Gras parades of young people in marching bands – playing real instruments. Kids from all over several states. Funky jazzy stuff. Not that football band merde. That gave me more hope than Obama leaving office.

On the genre front, there are too many making them all practically meaningless. What they call R&B now has neither R or B to it…..

I used to scour the net a few times a year with many bookmarks to get me started and in a few sessions I could have a nice long playlist of new to me stuff. Even some whole album/CD’s. How rare it is now to find young bands who compose an album as a whole work. Almost all of those bookmarked for revisiting for leads over the last 20 years are gone or as useless as Pitchfork. last year I think my singles playlist ended up with half a dozen songs, rather than 50 to 150.

One needs to know and understand some critics. Today’s critics with most who like to talk about art, they really don’t communicate well. And of course search engines are crap and places like amazon reviews, particularly music, are not the place to read. I’m at a complete loss as to how to find new grooves.

All that said… Jack White, Patti Smith, Aaron Kamm and the One Drops, Big Smith have all been excellent live shows this year.

In lieu of functional search, could readers drop some of their favorite links? (Or even send some to me via email?) Thanks!

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

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