2:00PM Water Cooler 8/24/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 8/24/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Satin Bowerbird, Queensland, Australia. “Calls of a male next to its bower.”

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

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

“You can’t really dust for vomit.” Nigel Tufnel, This is Spinal Tap

Biden Administration

“2022’s States with the Most and Least Student Debt” [WalletHub]. Handy map:

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Dark is more. PA is #2.


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“Sour, Frustrated Electorates Are Rarely Kind to Incumbents” [National Review].

But if you told me that:

then I would tell you that I expect the incumbent party to do really badly. A frustrated, disappointed, stressed, angry public does not say, “please give me more of this, elected officials.”

True in the abstract. Perhaps voters view Biden as so detached from all reality that they don’t hold high actual functioning Democrat responsible for him, which would make it hard to make the election a referendum. (Also make it hard for Biden to claim his own accomplishments of course.)

“Red Wave Looks More Like a Ripple” [The Cook Political Report]. “That sound you hear is the crash of expectations of big GOP gains in the House this fall. Democrats notched a huge victory in New York’s 19th CD last night as Democrat Pat Ryan defeated Republican Marc Molinaro 51% to 49% in a Hudson Valley special election both parties had invested in. That’s roughly the same margin President Biden had carried the seat by in 2020. The result shouldn’t be shocking, considering Democrats had outperformed in other recent specials in NE-01 and MN-01. But Molinaro, regarded as a pragmatic executive of blue-leaning Dutchess County, had led in multiple polls throughout the race. Ryan, the younger Ulster County executive and decorated Army veteran, prevailed after a late push to make abortion rights the centerpiece of the campaign. In Florida, former Governor and current Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist easily won his primary and will face GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall. The fact that this low-key primary attracted as many votes (1.5 million) as the more high-profile Democratic gubernatorial and Senate contests of 2018, suggests that Democratic enthusiasm has been elevated….”



Politics ain’t beanbag…


“The Great Disappearing Raid Story” [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “In sum: Joe Biden didn’t know the raid was coming, Merrick Garland blamed Trump for the raid becoming public at all and took three days to take responsibility for ordering it, and Trump’s crime has moved from mishandling ‘nuclear documents’ to keeping ‘Sensitive Compartmented Information,’ whose possession by Trump poses ‘exceptionally grave’ risk to the United States. Something about all this stinks. On one hand, we’re in the same place we’ve been a hundred times in the Trump era, waiting for the big reveal. We were here before Michael Cohen’s testimony, before the Mueller report, before the Ukraine whistleblower letter, the Barr memo, and countless other expected bombshells. On the other hand, the evidentiary hype train has been turned off early this time. The deadline for more news out of Reinhart’s court about what’s inside the affidavit is this Thursday, when Garland is supposed to submit his proposed redactions, yet the story is getting more coverage on Fox (Gutfield! incredibly surged to the top of late-night comedy ratings after the raid) than in mainstream press, which appears to be tiptoeing back from the case much as administration officials did in the first week.” • We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’m so excited by all this I can barely contain myself.

“Youngkin plans midterm campaign stops — including a 2024 early state” [Politico]. “Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is set to make a campaign stop next month in Nevada, his first appearance in early 2024 nominating state and part of a broader midterm push that’s coming amid speculation he’s weighing a presidential bid. Youngkin — who earlier this year launched a political action committee, another traditional step for a politician with national ambitions — is preparing a fall travel schedule that will include stops on behalf of Republican candidates for governor in more than a half-dozen states. The list includes Georgia, where Youngkin will travel next month to bolster Gov. Brian Kemp, who is in a high-profile race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Other states Youngkin is expected to visit includes New Mexico, Oregon, and Kansas — all states where Republican challengers are looking to knock off incumbent Democrats. The party is particularly focused on Nevada, where Lombardo, the Clark County sheriff, is looking to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.” • We’ll see how Youngkin takes to the national stage. I mean, so far Youngkin has knocked off McAuliffee, a really vile Clintonite who ran a horrid campaign.

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

“Smoke and Mirrors” [The Nation (Thistlebreath)]. “During the early 1970s—the “silent phase” of neoliberalism’s ascent, as Gerstle terms it—the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Business Roundtable were all established, demonstrating that wealthy donors with neoliberal convictions were ready to go on the offensive. These well-funded think tanks sought not only to promote the concept of deregulation but also to change the very way we spoke about politics and economics. Their intellectuals embarked on a massive propaganda campaign to demonize organized labor, government power, and liberal jurisprudence and to persuade the public that the creeping stagflation of the time was the logical outcome of a government-regulated economy. This ascendant neoliberalism was not just a project of the Republican Party: It was bipartisan and already evident in Jimmy Carter’s administration in the late 1970s, before Ronald Reagan’s near-landslide election in 1980 secured its reign.” • A review of Gary Gerstle’s The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order. One more [family-blogging] book to read….


• ”How a $100 box is changing the way people protect themselves against coronavirus” [Dallas Morning News]. “Enter the Corsi-Rosenthal Box, a do-it-yourself air filtration system with North Texas ties that has taken the internet by storm. Each box typically costs under $100 to make and is more effective than other, pricier options like High Efficiency Particulate Air filters. The simple contraption consists of a box fan, four MERV13 furnace filters that can be purchased online or in store, some cardboard and strips of tape. It’s the brainchild of air quality researcher Richard Corsi, dean of engineering at the University of California, Davis, and Jim Rosenthal, CEO of Texas-based company Tex-Air Filters. …. The White House recognized the need for better ventilation and launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge in March to call on building operators, like schools and companies, to up their inside air quality. But interest in such investments has been weak, even with billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 funding for schools that can be used to upgrade ventilation systems. Portable air filters can make up for outdated ventilation systems, although they tend to come with hefty price tags. Standalone devices that use HEPA filters can cost upwards of $300 to $400, and that doesn’t include the price of filter replacements. So when the DIY air filter prototype – designed by Corsi and first constructed by Rosenthal in the summer of 2020 – worked, the two were elated. With MERV13 filters making up each side of the cube, the box fan on top pulls air through the filters and blows clean air out of the top. In a 700-square-foot classroom with nine-foot ceilings, a Corsi-Rosenthal Box on the highest fan setting can add the equivalent of about seven-and-a-half to eight air changes per hour, Corsi said. ‘If we started at two air changes per hour and we added eight air changes per hour, we’re roughly getting about an 80% reduction in inhalation dose with that single Corsi-Rosenthal Box,’ he said. ‘That’s a huge reduction. That’s like everybody wearing pretty decent masks in the classroom.’” • As I’ve been screaming for the White House to do for years, have Dr. Jill go on Good Morning America with Corsi and/or Rosenthal and build a CR box with some cute kids. “Interest is weak” because the White House, CDC, Klain, and the usual suspects have done nothing to build interest [pounds head on desk]. Just because it’s a cheap way to safe kids from illness and death — is that so wrong?

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“Covid intranasal vaccine phase III trials over, proven safe: Bharat Biotech” [Financial Express]. “Bharat Biotech has completed clinical development for phase III trials and booster doses for its intranasal Covid-19 vaccine (BBV154). The company on Monday said BBV154 has proven to be safe, well-tolerated and immunogenic in subjects in controlled clinical trials phase III. Data from both phase III human clinical trials have been submitted for approval to national regulatory authorities. If approved, this would the country’s first intranasal Covid vaccine. Two separate and simultaneous clinical trials were conducted to evaluate the vaccine as a primary dose (two-dose) schedule, and a heterologous booster dose for subjects who have previously received two doses of the two commonly administered Covid vaccines in India.” Here is the Bharat press release:

So here we are: Phase III trial complete, India regulatory approval required. How strange this is not Big News in the Free World, despite (say) this article in Science by Topol (“Operation Nasal Vaccine—Lightning speed to counter COVID-19“). One article–

“Scientists hope nasal vaccines will help halt Covid transmission” [Guardian]. “Many now view a nasal vaccine as the most realistic way of achieving nasal immunity and breaking the chain of Covid transmission. More than a dozen clinical trials of nasal vaccines are under way, including a phase 1 trial of a nasal version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.” • Not one mention of Bharat. Amazing. And speaking of suppression–

“Cuba’s Mambisa vaccine candidate meets study expectations” [Prensa Latina]. “Mambisa, Cuba’s only anti-Covid-19 vaccine candidate administered nasally, managed to get more than 70 percent of the volunteers participating in the clinical study to increase their antibody titers fourfold, they reported today. In short, he said, 96 percent exhibit a high level of protection after receiving the benefit of the immunizer. Likewise, he added that in the case of Mambisa, the induction of specific memory cells of the nasal mucosa was confirmed. This allows us to anticipate that the vaccine contributes to a sterilizing immunity, that is, in addition to preventing the severity or symptoms of the infection, it cuts transmission, one of the fundamental objectives of nasal vaccines.” • Interesting, at least. And also not covered in the West. Because sterilizing immunity would mean a loss of billions to Big Pharma? Because eliminating needles would mean a loss to Big Hospitals? Because cutting transmission is not a goal for the political class? Hard to say….

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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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But wait for the regional stories…

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 nominal 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 ~81,600. Today, it’s ~87,700 and 87,700 * 6 = a Biden line at 526,200 per day. (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. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of November 1, 2021, and we are very far from that of July 1, 2021. And the real level is much worse.

Regional case count for four weeks:

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The South:

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Florida Man still grabbing cases out of the drawer.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

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Tennessee, WTF? Was the records department flooded?

The West:

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Up again…


Wastewater data (CDC), August 20:

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Not happy with the grey dots in California, or virtually no dots in Texas and Florida. We have no check on case numbers in critical states.

For grins, August 19:

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What I’m really worried about is an increase in grey dots (“no recent data”). because that would mean the effort is being shut down or defunded.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, August 22:

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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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Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), August 24:

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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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Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), August 24:

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Lots of green, which should make the hospital-centric goons at the Centers for Disease happy.

NOTE: Rapid Riser and Hospitalization data are updated Wednesdays and Fridays.


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 13:

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No sign of BA2.75 at Walgreens, despite its success in India and presence in Bay Area wastewater.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), July 30 (Nowcast off):

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BA.5/BA.4 moving along nicely.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Lambert here: Deaths, like positivity and transmission, are on a “high plateau.” 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: 1,066,416 – 1,066,082 = 334 (334 * 365 = 121,910; today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, thought they can talk themselves into anything. 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.

Zeitgeist Watch

Seems legit:

Because what we’re getting is less and less scripting, character, and plot, and more and more green screens and special effect. Who knew that “learn to code” would be a form of agnotology? (To be fair, this does not seem to be true in many games. But I would bet that many game artists and developer have not been subjected to the credentialing process.)

Class Warfare

“Estimating Labor Market Power” [José A. Azar, Steven T. Berry & Ioana Marinescu, NBER]. “As recognized by Robinson (1933), job differentiation is one possible source of imperfect competition in the labor market. When jobs are differentiated, workers cannot costlessly substitute between jobs: even if a job pays more than another job, it is likely to be different in ways that are relevant to the worker’s well-being, e.g. the alternative job may be further from the worker’s home (Marinescu and Rathelot, 2018). Such job differentiation can allow firms to pay workers less than their marginal revenue product.” • Hmm.

News of the Wired

“Why are there so few economies of scale in construction? Part I” [Construction Physics]. ” [T]he very concept of ‘cost per square foot’ suggests a cost function that is largely independent of overall building size. Similarly, we see few apparent economies of scale in production methods. Large volume builders use substantially the same methods of construction that small volume builders do, and do not in general produce buildings more cheaply.” • Hmm.

“The Secret Language of Signs” [Slate]. Actual road-signs: “Signage—the kind we see on city streets, in airports, on highways, in hospital corridors—is the most useful thing we pay no attention to. When it works well, it tells us where we are (as when an Interstate marker assures us we’re on the right highway) and it helps us to get where we want to go (as when an airport banner directs us to our gate). When it fails, we miss trains, we’re late to appointments, we spend hours pacing the indistinguishable floors of underground parking garages, muttering to ourselves in mounting frustration and fury. And in some cases, especially where automobiles are involved, the consequences of bad signage can be fatal. Bad signs can send perfectly ordinary citizens into spirals of obsession. Take Richard Ankrom, a Los Angeles artist who thought the junction of the 110 freeway and the 5 freeway was badly marked. In 2001, he put on an outfit that looked like the ones Caltrans highway workers wore, climbed up onto a freeway gantry, and mounted an aluminum sign he’d manufactured himself according to state specs. The sign stayed up for nine months without anyone noticing what he’d done; when the story leaked to the press and Caltrans finally cottoned on, the agency left the sign up for eight more years (eventually replacing it with one of their own that served the same function).” • In the caption: “Guerilla public service.”

“Do not try this at home: Medieval medicine under the spotlight in major new project” [University of Cambridge]. Very beautiful scanned images of medieval books; worth a look for that alone. More: “A bewildering array of ingredients – animal, mineral and vegetable – are mentioned in these recipes. There are herbs that you would find in modern-day gardens and on supermarket shelves – sage, rosemary, thyme, bay, mint – as well as common perennial plants: walwort, henbane, betony, and comfrey. Medieval physicians also had access to and used a variety of spices in their formulations, such as cumin, pepper, and ginger, and often mixed ingredients with ale, white wine, vinegar or milk.” Jackpot-compliant, or at least moreso than modern medicine. But where are the RCTs? More: “Behind each recipe, however distantly, there lies a human story: experiences of illness and of pain, but also the desire to live and to be healthy. Some of the most moving are those that remedies that speak of the hopes or tragic disappointments of medieval people.” • This, too.


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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 JM:

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JM writes: “This is a photo of an oak seedling with a curious sort of growth attached. There was a second oak seedling nearby with the same kind of growth. It was taken in the spring in a shady damp edge to a small lagoon. I was wondering if anyone could identify this.” Readers?

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