2:00PM Water Cooler 7/25/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/25/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, I got wrapped around the axle presenting Rochelle Walensky with her award, and so please check back in just a few minutes after I’ve added a bit to Politics.

Bird Song of the Day

Pink-breasted Lark, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Recordist’s Notes: “Song of two birds from the ground.” I am keeping on with larks because there are so many of them!

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Politics

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

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

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

Biden Administration

“COVID-19 ‘is going to be with us forever,’ White House says” [Yahoo News] (July 23). On SARS-CoV-2: “‘This virus is going to be with us forever,’ Jha said during a press briefing otherwise devoted to an update on the president’s health. ‘It’s really, really important that people build up their immunity against this virus,’ he added, emphasizing that vaccination is the best means of doing so.” • Mission accomplished!

“Transcript: White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha on ‘Face the Nation,’ July 24, 2022” [CBS]. On monkeypox: “The plan is to eliminate this virus from the United States. I think we can do that we’ve got the vaccines, and we’ve got the diagnostic tests.” • Oh.

2022

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AZ: “Trump looked surprised when his supporters loudly booed him at an Arizona rally over his Congress endorsement” [Insider]. “Former President Donald Trump appeared flustered when he was booed at a rally in Arizona on Friday when speaking about one of his recent Congress endorsements. Trump, used to adulation from his super-loyal MAGA followers, looked uncomfortable when he hyped Eli Crane, a candidate in the Arizona GOP congressional primary, and the crowd responded negatively, in large part. Former President Donald Trump appeared flustered when he was booed at a rally in Arizona on Friday when speaking about one of his recent Congress endorsements. Trump, used to adulation from his super-loyal MAGA followers, looked uncomfortable when he hyped Eli Crane, a candidate in the Arizona GOP congressional primary, and the crowd responded negatively, in large part.” • Trump learns to fear the base?

PA: “John Fetterman inches back onto the campaign trail in Philly with first fund-raiser appearances since stroke” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. “Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, largely absent from the campaign trail for two months, is slowly resuming his campaign after a stroke that nearly killed him…. Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania hosted a Thursday evening fund-raiser attended by about 150 people, many politically engaged Jewish Democrats from the region. The evening event, held at a private residence in Wynnewood, was closed to the media. Fetterman received a standing ovation as he walked outside to meet the friendly crowd. He spoke for about 25 minutes, according to attendees, who described him as sharp and energetic. He did not take questions, but stayed behind afterward to chat with the guests and take pictures. ‘Frankly, I think the people in the audience were more nervous than he was about, ‘Would he be able to do this?’” said Steve Irwin, a board member for the group and lawyer from Pittsburgh who attended. ‘But he spoke seamlessly. He really seemed like John. He was very positive, very energetic, and he showed a warmth that I don’t think he often allowed to come through before the stroke.’” • We’ll see.

PA: “Fetterman: ’100% able’ to run for Pa. Senate after stroke” [Associated Press]. “In his first media interview since having a stroke two months ago, Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman of Pennsylvania said Wednesday he is ‘100% able to run fully and to win’ against Republican Mehmet Oz in November. Fetterman, speaking over video with a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter, disclosed for the first time that he is having lingering, sporadic difficulties with hearing and speaking. But Fetterman, 52, insisted he has ‘no physical limits,’ noted he is working with a speech therapist and said he would not run if he thought he could not endure the demands of a campaign. ‘I would never be in this if we were not absolutely, 100% able to run fully and to win — and we believe that we are,’ Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor, told the newspaper.” • We’ll see.

2024

“Trump’s silence on Jan. 6 is damning” [New York Post]. But the URL: trumps-jan-6-silence-renders-him-unworthy-for-2024-reelection. Presumably somebody checked with Rupert before running this?

Republican Funhouse

“Embrace for Hungary’s Orban deepens among US conservatives” [Associated Press]. “When heads of state visit the U.S., the top item on their itinerary is usually a White House visit. For Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban next month, it will be addressing a conference of conservative activists in Dallas. Orban’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he’ll be joined by former President Donald Trump and right-wing icons such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is the most dramatic indication yet of how a leader criticized for pushing anti-democratic principles has become a hero to segments of the Republican Party. Orban has curbed immigration and stymied those who envision a more middle-of-the-road European democracy for their country. He’s done so by seizing control of Hungary’s judiciary and media, leading many international analysts to label him as the face of a new wave of authoritarianism. He also is accused of enabling widespread corruption and nepotism, using state resources to enrich a tight circle of political allies.” • I remember when Rod Dreher went to Hungary, which he seemed to regard as the last dying light of Western Civilization. I never thought of Dreher as a conservative movement thought leader, but perhaps I was wrong. He was certainly firstest with the mostest, at least in the mainstream.

I used to post like this all the time, back in the day:

“Getting to the Bottom of Face Processing. Species-Specific Inversion Effects for Faces and Behinds in Humans and Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes)” [PLOS One]. From the Abstract: ” In four different delayed matching-to-sample tasks with upright and inverted body parts, we show that humans demonstrate a face, but not a behind inversion effect and that chimpanzees show a behind, but no clear face inversion effect. The findings suggest an evolutionary shift in socio-sexual signalling function from behinds to faces, two hairless, symmetrical and attractive body parts, which might have attuned the human brain to process faces, and the human face to become more behind-like.” For example:

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What can I say? It was my first thought. (Perhaps this explains why he grew the beard.)

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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Oh, come on:

Does anyone really believe that Paul turned to Nancy and said “Hey, honey…..” When did they get married? The Harding Administration? He didn’t have to, ffs!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Congress Can’t Interpret the 12th Amendment” [The American Conservative]. “In the wake of the 2020 election, many questions arose about the power of the vice president of the United States during the counting of the electoral votes. The 12th Amendment provides that, in the counting of electoral votes, the president of the Senate (the vice president) shall ‘in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.’ The clause is ambiguous; clearly, the vice president is tasked with opening the certificates (the electoral votes certified by the states). But, it is not clear from the text alone that the vice president has the authority to count the votes, because of the use of the passive voice: it says ‘the votes shall then be counted,’ rather than the vice president ‘shall count the votes.’” The article’s point: “the point is this: the authority to open the certified electoral votes from the states and count them, as well as the question of which state-level actor has the final authority to certify election results, are constitutional questions, not statutory ones.” • For me, the discussion centers what must be the starting point for any definition of a political party: The ballot. The ballot line, ballot access, and ballot counting. (Of course, Federalism makes our balloting system fractal; but the Republicans are not cray cray to focus on the topic, regardless of cray cray about any particular election. In fact, they are thinking, and acting, strategically.)

Good point:

Certainly true for the Reformation; Luther wrote some really, really great hymns it’s a pleasure to sing even today. Somewhere I picked up the saying, “A singing congregation cannot be beaten,” but I don’t know where. Certainly applies here!

#COVID19

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I’m really surprised that Rochelle Walensky hasn’t won the Sociopath of the Day Award; perhaps there were just too many opportunities to pick just one. Anyhow, I had to get up from my machine and walk around a little after I read this transcript:

MR. DIAMOND: Let’s stay on the White House for a second. The White House has pledged to go beyond CDC guidance in caring for President Biden, for example, to make sure that he stays in isolation until he tests negative. If the White House thinks that’s the right approach for the president, shouldn’t that be the right approach for all Americans?

Let the bafflegab begin:

DR. WALENSKY: Yeah, I think we can all agree that the president’s protocols likely go above and beyond and have the resources to go above and beyond what every American is able and has the capacity to do. As we put forward our CDC guidance, we have to do so so that they are relevant, feasible, followable by Americans…..

So we should never put forward guidance that 100% of the population can follow? We should never try to elevate our game? We should never give people the effing resources so that they could follow best practice guidance instead of the lowest common denominator? We should never engineer scientific communication to encourage, as it were, a good standard? I can certainly understand why the molasses-brained, flaccid, and democidal administration hired Walensky.

….and that is Americans that live in urban jurisdictions and rural jurisdictions, that have resources and less resources, that have, you know, work constraints and many other things. So, when we put forward our guidance, we do so so that they reflect such that every American is able to follow them. We have said in our isolation guidance–that is guidance after you have been infected–that you really should stay home for those first five days. You shouldn’t consider going out after those five days unless your symptoms have really fully resolved. And if they have, you should wear a mask if you decide to go out for those second five days.

I’m not even going to go into why Walensky’s five day “guidance” [goes in search of bucket].

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“Nasal Drug Delivery Technology Market Report 2022-2032” (analyst report) [VisionGain]. Not nasal vaccines specifically, but nasal delivery devices: “Nasal inhalation devices are subject to ongoing innovation by pharmaceutical firms and device partners to improve the care and support offered to patients, in addition to their intuitive design. In the case of emergency treatments, for example, training kits that closely mimic the real-life experience of administering a nasal spray have been designed with the goal of improving compliance and lowering mortality risk. Lock-out mechanisms on devices are also being developed to improve patient safety, while the introduction of laterally actuated nasal sprays gives more comfort and simplicity for some patient populations. Dose counters have long been recognized as aiding adherence, and fast technological advancements have expanded on this foundation to build an ecosystem of linked devices that encourage higher adherence in a more ‘active’ way.” • No apps, please.

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• Maskstravaganza: “Put Your Face in Airplane Mode” [The Atlantic]. “Here’s the cheat code: Instead of masking up for your whole flight, just cover up at the start and end of it. Those crucial few minutes—first when you’re boarding the plane, and then after you’ve landed—account for only a sliver of your travel time, but they are by far the riskiest for breathing in viral particles. Everyone already knows to switch off cellphone service when their flight is about to leave the gate, and then to turn it on the second they’ve landed. Something like the same principle could work for masking, too. Call it “airplane mode” for your face: Keep your mask in place until your plane is in the air, and then put it on again after you land. Otherwise, you’re free to breathe about the cabin.” The Aranet4 meters are telling us something like this. Let’s just remember that low(ered) risk is not the same as no risk. And of course, this “cheat code” doesn’t work in all cases. As the author’s lead makes clear:

As we sat on the JFK tarmac for a solid two hours, a maskless woman directly in front of me didn’t stop coughing. They were sputtering, throaty noises like nothing I have heard before: Less your usual ack and more like huh-khleagggghhh.

Well, the maskless woman made her personal risk assessment, so what’s the issue?

• Maskstravaganza: “Reduction of secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in households by face mask use, disinfection and social distancing: a cohort study in Beijing, China” [BMJ Global]. From the resutls: “Face mask use by the primary case and family contacts before the primary case developed symptoms was 79% effective in reducing transmission.” • There’s more here on fomites, which I will address in a future post.

• ”Endemic Covid-19 Looks Pretty Brutal” [David Wallace-Wells, New York Times]. “But where once we saw morality plays, in many cases justifiably, we may now more clearly see the underlying landscape of the disease as a once-in-a-generation, or perhaps once-in-a-century, pandemic event, against which many nations of the world were able to marshal first human resources and then the incredible power of pharmaceutical innovation — though not quite well enough to overcome our social and political dysfunctions or to deliver a truly miraculous and permanent pandemic exit.” • I’m not sure Wallace-Wells is that childishly optimistic, but why would anyone be?

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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 ~123,000. Today, it’s ~123,300 and 123,300 * 6 = a Biden line at 739,800 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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Drop in Florida drives the national case count

The West:

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Positivity

NOT UPDATED From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, July 19:

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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.

Transmission

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 21, 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?

NOT UPDATED 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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NOT UPDATED 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.

Variants

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].

Variant data, national (Walgreens), July 10:

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Variant data, national (CDC), July 20:

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BA.5 moving along nicely.

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), Jul 19:

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I found this chart hard to read, so I filtered the output to the highest levels (somewhat like Rapid Riser Counties, see on here). What’s visible is that a lot of cities are in trouble; but that doverage is really patchy. Illinois, for example, has always had a lot of coverage, but the dots stop at the Illinois border. 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.

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,051,996 1,051,235. 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

The Gallery

I did a good bit of collage as a natural extension of doing paste-up, but Ernst FTW:

Zeitgeist Watch

“Lawsuit: Dallas Taco Bell manager poured scalding water on customers over incorrect order” [USA Today]. “The two Black females were locked in the fast-food restaurant’s dining room by the manager after they tried to resolve an issue with their $30 order prepared incorrectly twice in the drive-through, according to a statement from [lawyer Ben] Crump’s office sent to USA TODAY. The pair discussed their order with store employees for almost ten minutes, “wondering why the employees could not simply go back and prepare the food that they had paid for,” the lawsuit alleges. ‘The employees refused to do so and became combative.’ The restaurant manager, the suit continues, had not been involved in any of the conversations in the dining room, but came from behind the counter with a scalding bucket of water and poured it onto the woman and the minor.”

“A Taste for Cannibalism?” [New York Times]. “As to what may be fueling the desire for cannibalism stories today, Ms. Lyle, the ‘Yellowjackets’ co-creator, said, ‘I think that we’re obviously in a very strange moment.’ She listed the pandemic, climate change, school shootings and years of political cacophony as possible factors. ‘I feel like the unthinkable has become the thinkable,’ Ms. Lyle said, ‘and cannibalism is very much squarely in that category of the unthinkable.’” • Better than eating bugs, I suppose.

News of the Wired

“Mechanics invent an axle that can achieve steering angles of up to 80 degrees” [Interesting Engineering]. “U.S.- German auto parts company ZF has engineered a strut suspension front axle concept that allows the front wheels to turn up to an incredible 80 degrees. The invention is called EasyTurn…. Imagine no longer having to worry about tight spaces or tricky U-turns.” • Although we don’t know if its ready for to market.

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