2:00PM Water Cooler 8/18/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 8/18/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Summer Tanager, Kerr Wildlife Management Area, Texas, United States. This duet does sound summery. Very hot, very quiet, very still.

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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

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Biden Administration

Elites infecting themselves with Covid (1):

I count 11. Suppose 20% of the 11 get Long Covid. That’s ~2 Cabinet members with brain damage. Of course, in Becerra’s case it wouldn’t be noticeable, but what if the executives with impaired executive function are Austin and Blinken? (See here at NC for a post on this concern.)

Elites infecting themselves with Covid (2):

So, if you’re vaccinated, the assumption is that you don’t transmit [bangs head on desk]. More:

I’m betting on top-down strategy, and that elites really believe they’re invulnerable.

* * *

“White House solicits ideas on student debt relief as Biden’s decision looms” [Politico]. • I’d go with means-testing, complex eligibility requirements, a long phase-in period, pay-fors, and a ceiling considerably less than the total debt “owed.”


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“Senate Control is a Toss Up, Rating Changes in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Utah” [Jessica Taylor, Cook Political Report]. “Nightmares of Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are taunting Republican lawmakers and Senate strategists as fears grow that this midterm cycle could be 2010 and 2012 all over again. Plagued with weak, divisive candidates in many key races, the palpable trepidation among a dozen GOP insiders we spoke to is that — despite a favorable political climate and history that shows they should be able to net at least one seat to break the 50-50 logjam — their efforts to win back Senate control will fall short even as Republicans easily flip the House. If that premonition comes true, it’d be deja vu to twelve years earlier, which is probably the most recent pro-Republican climate that is closest to how the past year has shaped up for the GOP. Even though Democrats suffered a “shellacking” and lost 63 seats in President Obama’s first midterm election, Republicans left winnable races on the table, with Angle in Nevada, O’Donnell in Delaware and Ken Buck in Colorado unable to deliver victories.”

“The Political Winds Swirl Yet Again” [Charlie Cook, Cook Political Report]. “While it was never likely that any single or even a combination of several issues would overshadow the referendum nature of a midterm election, this midterm has suddenly begun to look less typical. It still seems doubtful that things have changed enough to save the Democratic majority in the House, but it is plausible that this could shave a half dozen or a dozen seats from the losses that they otherwise might have sustained. In the Senate, things have gotten much more interesting. A trio of sub-optimal candidates have dimmed a bit GOP hopes in the three most visible Senate races—Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. None of these races are over, but each look like an uphill climb for Republicans, meaning that another trio has become even more important—Nevada, New Hampshire, and Colorado. In New Hampshire, there is a lot riding on the Sept. 13 Republican primary: Should state Senate President Chuck Morse prevail in the GOP primary, Sen. Maggie Hassan can be expected to have a very tight race, but if retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc wins, Republican odds of taking the seat go down a fair amount. Republicans did nominate their more conventional and centrist candidate in Colorado, Joe O’Dea, making their long shot bid to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet not quite as long as before.” • Hmm….

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AK: “Murkowski advances in Alaska Senate race, Palin in House” [Associated Press]. “Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski advanced from her primary along with Kelly Tshibaka, her GOP rival endorsed by former President Donald Trump, while another Trump-backed candidate, Republican Sarah Palin, was among the candidates bound for the November general election in the race for Alaska’s only House seat. Murkowski had expressed confidence that she would advance and earlier in the day told reporters that ‘what matters is winning in November.’ Tshibaka called the results ‘the first step in breaking the Murkowski monarchy’s grip on Alaska.’ Tshibaka also said she was thankful ‘for the strong and unwavering support President Trump has shown Alaska.’ A Murkowski has held the Senate seat since 1981. Before Lisa Murkowski, who has been in the Senate since late 2002, it was her father, Frank Murkowski. Under a voter-approved elections process being used for the first time in Alaska elections this year, party primaries have been scrapped and ranked choice voting is being used in general elections. The top four vote-getters in a primary race, regardless of party affiliation, are to advance to the general election.” • Interesting on RCV.

PA: Wut.

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I know that the more fortunate sharing the wealth with the less fortunate is a time-honored tradition, but Seth Moulton might as well be Conor Lamb.

PA: Words of the Master:

PA: More Wegner’s fallout:

Maybe Oz’s staff is all from New Jersey….

PA: ‘Cook Political Report shifts Pennsylvania Senate race to ‘lean Democrat’” [The HIll]. “Its update on the Pennsylvania race also comes despite the fact that Oz has former President Trump’s endorsement for a seat currently held by a Republican, retiring Sen. Pat Toomey. Additionally, Oz has had more time to meet with voters on the trail than Fetterman, who suffered a stroke earlier this year.”

WI: “How this populist Democrat is taking on Ron Johnson in Wisconsin” [The Hill]. “Democrats have gone all-in on Mandela Barnes, the state’s 35-year-old lieutenant governor, to oust Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) as part of their keep-the-Senate strategy this fall. Critics think it will take a lot to see that seat turn blue. Skeptical optimists call it a toss-up. But others see a nation in economic hardship over inflation, a myriad of GOP scandals and a flawed, unpopular opponent as encouragement that the purple battleground could actually deliver Barnes a victory….. Democrats in Washington have leaned into Barnes’s obvious progressive streak. He’s against corporate PAC money and is for Medicare for All and environmental protections by way of a Green New Deal that’s tailored to Wisconsin’s priorities. He’s also backed by liberal Senate heavyweights, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose ranks he hopes to join, and a slew of grassroots organizations. Notably, Barnes has also secured support from Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who endorsed early in the race.” • Ah, Clyburn.

WY: “In the Ways That Count, Liz Cheney Won” [Frank Bruni, New York Times]. “Come January, she will no longer be Representative Cheney because she represents steadfast principle in an era with a devastating deficit of it. History will smile on her for that…. I don’t mean to idealize her too much — easy to do, given the cowardice of so many others in her party. She’s not some paragon of altruism, and a few conservatives I respect rolled their eyes when she first separated herself from the House pack to denounce Trump in the most sweeping terms possible. They sensed that she had inherited Dick Cheney’s arrogance. They suspected that her motives included grandstanding. They rightly augured that she’d become more of a political celebrity in exile than she would by playing along, and they guessed that she was making that calculation. But there could be no dispute, at least not among honest and sensible patriots, about the correctness of her positions on Trump, on her party’s fealty to him and on the peril that he poses to the future of American democracy.” • Commentary:


“DOJ battles in court to keep Mar-a-Lago warrant details secret” [Politico]. “The federal judge who authorized the search warrant of former President Donald Trump’s private residence is hearing arguments on Thursday over whether to release the affidavit that details the Department of Justice’s rationale for the unprecedented search. While the affidavit is unlikely to be released publicly, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart is expected to discuss the warrant for the first time since the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and seized more than a dozen boxes of documents, including classified information. Even if he opts against releasing it, Reinhart, who has seen the affidavit and found it created probable cause for the search, may provide insight about the document’s contents. A wide array of media organizations has asked Reinhart to unseal the affidavit, citing the extraordinary public interest, but proposing redactions as necessary to protect the integrity of the investigation. Justice Department prosecutors have argued that the redactions would need to be so extensive as to render the affidavit useless.”

“FBI search cements Trump’s hold on GOP” [The Hill]. “[T]hose close to Trump believe the search and subsequent outcry make it even likelier he will be the Republican nominee in 2024…. A Politico-Morning Consult poll released last Thursday found that 57 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independents would vote for Trump if the 2024 primary were held today, up from 53 percent a month ago. In that same timespan, DeSantis lost 6 percentage points of support. DeSantis is among the potential 2024 challengers to Trump whose ambitions may temporarily be put in check because of the FBI raid. The Florida governor, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others who are considered possible presidential candidates have been forced to temporarily drop any subtle campaigns to highlight differences with Trump in favor of decrying the FBI search as an abuse of power.”

“Trump Is Back on the Ballot” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. “Big-money Republicans hoped that 2022 would be the year the GOP quietly sidelined Trump. Those hopes have been fading all year, as extreme and unstable pro-Trump candidates have triumphed in primary after primary. Their last best hope was that the reelection of Ron DeSantis as governor of Florida would painlessly shoulder Trump out of contention for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Now that hope, too, is dying. DeSantis ran in 2018 as a craven Trump sycophant. He had four years to become his own man. He battled culture wars—even turning against his former backers at Disney—all to prove himself the snarling alpha-male bully that Republican primary voters reward. But since the Mar-a-Lago search, DeSantis has dropped back into the beta-male role, sidekick and cheering section for Trump. Trump has reasserted dominance. DeSantis has submitted. And if Republican presidential politics in the Trump era has one rule, it’s that there’s no recovery from submission. Roll over once, and you cannot get back on your feet again.”

Republican Funhouse

Irritable mental gestures:

I haven’t had time to track down the provenance, but I can well believe this is not parody.

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.

* * *

“Trump Derangement Syndrome Returns” [Margaret Kimberly, Black Agenda Report]. “Worse than the silly Trump inspired derangement is the way that those who call themselves left or progressive have chosen to defend federal law enforcement and bad legislation like the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is a relic from the earliest days of the cold war, and Woodrow Wilson’s infamous Palmer Raids which targeted the left for persecution and prosecution. Barack Obama used it more than all previous presidents combined in order to prosecute journalists who published what the state didn’t want us to know. As for the FBI, its Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO, created dissension in the liberation movement, targeted individuals for prosecution, spied on Martin Luther King and told him to commit suicide, and killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark among others. The FBI continues to use informants to entrap Black people in phony terror cases.”


Lambert here: The decision on how to handle the Coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be that advocated by the Great Barrington Declaration crowd of democidal loons: Let ‘er rip. It seems reasonably clear that this collective decision on behalf of society wasn’t made at any level of “our democracy,” but…. higher up, by an elite that hates masking, thinks pills and injections can give them invulnerability, and loves to socialize at conferences and other such superspreading events. The “let me see your smile” attitude comes from the top.

“Bharat Biotech completes clinical development for phase III trials and booster doses for BBV154 intranasal covid vaccine” (press release) [Bharat Biotech]. Key point: “Data from both Phase III human clinical trials have been submitted for approval to National Regulatory Authorities.” • Press release from August 15. This whole process has seemed, to me, to go as slow as molasses. Perhaps resistance from other manufacturers?

* * *

Walensky’s Greatest Hits:

Walensky should have resigned when she saw that memo.

* * *

“Oklahoma school closes due to COVID-19 cases” [KFOR]. ““Due to an increasingly high number of positive covid tests for both students and staff, we are forced to close for this week to allow time for everyone to get better and not continue to spread the virus,” Mannsville Superintendent Brandi Price-Kelty posted on Facebook.”

“OU Health officials expect COVID surge once Oklahoma students return to school next week” [KFOR]. “This week’s COVID numbers in the state suggest cases have gone down, but now as students head back to school as early as next week, University of Oklahoma Health doctors are expecting a spike in COVID cases across Oklahoma, and they say it can come fast…. Masks are welcome and encouraged, plus schools still have enhanced cleaning protocols in place. ‘All of our buildings and every space in the building has an air ionization system that filters and cleans the air. And so that’s in classrooms, in community spaces, in cafeterias. So, everywhere within a school building and also in the office buildings,’ said Courtney Scott, Executive Director of Communications at [Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS)].” • Oh gawd. Cleaning surfaces, and some scumbag sold the public schools ionizers (here, here) [bangs head on desk].

* * *

A personal risk assessment:

You’d really need an app for this. And a phone with sensors?

* * *

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.

* * *

Case Count

Case count for the United States:

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Today’s story is the South.

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 ~ 109,200. Today, it’s ~ 99,800 and 99,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 598,800 per day. First case count below (nominal) 100,000 for a long time. (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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The South (minus Texas and Florida):

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Encouraging on North Carolina. Tennessee did in fact have data issues, but now Kentucky is up (flood shelters?).

The West:

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From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, August 15:

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NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. 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.)

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NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), August 17:

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I suppose that if case counts are indeed level, it’s likely there would be few rapid risers.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

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NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), August a7:

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Pretty calm on the hospital front. If you’re CDC, and that’s all that matters to you — because Long Covid isn’t a thing, and everybody who is really sick can get to a hospital — you’re probably feeling good right now.


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), August 6:

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Complete takeover by BA.5/BA.4. I wonder what’s coming next?

Variant data, national (CDC), July 23 (Nowcast off):

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BA.5 moving along nicely.


Wastewater data (CDC), August 14:

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For grins, August 13:

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Looks unchanged. What I’m really worried about is an increase in grey dots, because that would mean the system is being shut down..

Lambert here: I added grey to orange and red. Grey, not on the legend at bottom right, is “No recent data.” How is there no recent data for New York City, a major international hub and already the epicenter of at least one surge? How is there none for upstate New York, which only recently was full of rapid-riser counties? The same with West Virginia, Michigan, and Oregon. If I were the paranoid sort, I’d theorize that CDC moved in on the only accurate data source we’ve got, in order to corrupt and destroy it.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Lambert here: If in fact the drop in cases is real, as CDC seems to believe, we should start seeing deaths, which lag, drop around September 1.

Total: 1,064,207 – 1,063,087 = 1120 (365 * 1120 = 408,800; today’s LivingWith™* number. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a 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. NOTE * Perhaps YouGenix™ would be better? Sounds friendlier, somehow.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefit fell by 2,000 to 250,000 the week that ended August 13th, well below expectations of 265,000.”

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US rose to 6.2 in August of 2022 from -12.3 in July, returning to positive territory after two consecutive negative readings and above market expectations of -5. Although the general activity index turned positive, it was low, and the new orders index remained negative. The employment index increased, while the price indexes continued to decline but remained elevated.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 Neutral (previous close: 55 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 18 at 1:39 PM EDT.

The Gallery

Maybe this should have gone under Zeitgeist Watch:

News of the Wired

Perhaps I should do starlings next?

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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: “I rode in to my friend’s place in Butte, Montana and found this one snacking out on the flowers.”

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