2:00PM Water Cooler 9/14/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/14/2022 1

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Patient readers, our site issue seem to have been — crossed fingers — resolved, but they left me behind the eight ball. So here is a Politics-less Water Cooler. More to come soon. –lambert

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Arctic Loon, Finnmark, Norway. “Habitat: Large expense of open water on the river.” I think I hear the person doing the recording wading through the water, too.

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“Role of scientific advice in covid-19 policy” [BMJ]. “Key message”:

“Study co-authored by B.C.’s top doctor says 80 per cent of kids, youth have had COVID-19” [Globe and Mail]. “Filiatrault said one of the most jarring aspects of the study is the authors’ assertion that the levels of infection, combined with vaccination, have resulted in ‘more robust hybrid immunity.’…. Filiatrault said one of the most jarring aspects of the study is the authors’ assertion that the levels of infection, combined with vaccination, have resulted in ‘more robust hybrid immunity.’” • So Henry’s opposition to non-pharmaceutical interventions was, well, eugenic. Bonnie, good job. Commentary:

“How Polio Crept Back Into the U.S.” [ProPublica]. “Many question whether the expansion of wastewater testing fueled by the pandemic will last. [Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine], the American Academy of Pediatrics’ infectious diseases committee chair, said the recent polio case is another signal that more disease tracking is critical. ‘Maybe this is a clarion call for us to really start building better surveillance networks,’ she said.” • Why, yes. Yes it is [pounds head on desk].

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“Public perception of COVID risk at low point: survey” [The Hill]. “The percentage of respondents who said they sometimes or always wear a mask when outside the home has dropped to 37 percent, down from 71 percent last September and 89 percent in September 2020. Americans reporting they’re at least somewhat concerned about COVID-19 has also dipped, though not quite as steeply: The share is now at 57 percent, down from around 80 percent last September. Of that number, 28 percent are worried about spreading the virus to others and 18 percent are worried about contracting long COVID-19 symptoms. Twelve percent reported being worried about hospitalization and 11 percent about death. Just under half of Americans, or 46 percent, report they “have returned to their pre-COVID lives” — up from 18 percent in January — while 65 percent believe there is little or no risk in doing so.” • That discrepancy between 46 percent “have returned to their pre-COVID lives” while “65 percent believe there is little or no risk in doing so” screams for analysis. If they truly think there’s no risk, why don’t they do it? The headline is more than a little deceptive… And masking is more prevalent than the press would have you believe…

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What if… everything were a “personal risk assessment”?

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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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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 ~79,500. Today, it’s ~73,400 and 73,400 * 6 = a Biden line at 440,400. (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.

Lambert here: The fall in case count looks impressive enough. What the Fauci Line shows, however, is that we have at last achieved the level of the initial peak, when New York was storing the bodies in refrigerator trucks. So the endzone celebrations are, to my mind, premature. Not that anyone will throw a flag. Of course, the real story is in the charts for California and the South. See below.

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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Data problems, no doubt.

The West:

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Wastewater data (CDC), September 10:

For grins, September 9:

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From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 9:

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2.8%. Should be a leading indicator, if Walgreen’s customers are an adequate national proxy. Interesting who’s not (especially the grain belt) and who’s not.


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), September 9:

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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), September 14:

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Sea of green!

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].

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), August 27:

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Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its success in India and presence in Bay Area wastewater.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), August 20 (Nowcast off):

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Still no sign of BA.2.75. I looked at all the regions, too.

BA.2.75 in Ontario and Quebec, Canada:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: It is interesting that the deaths per 100,000 curve — with its curious recent flattening — has more or less the same shape as the case curve, suggesting that a “Biden Curve” would have more or less the same shape as the case count curve, as opposed to the straight line I am drawing for the current level.

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Total: 1,076,343 – 1,076,053 = 290 (290 * 365 = 105,850, which is 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.

Stats Watch

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The Bezzle:

Yeah, where are the web3 bros? It’s gone quiet suddenly.

The Bezzle: “‘Scary easy. Sketchy as hell.’: How startups are pushing Adderall on TikTok” [Vox]. • Ugh, but hard to get excited about TikTok after what Big Pharma and the school systems have alread done.

Tech: “Google’s ‘Rest and Vest’ Days for Senior Employees Are Over, Says the CEO. It’s a Brilliant Idea” [Inc.]. “With looming recessions and inflationary pressures, there’s growing concern of slower growth and fiercer competition. At the conference, Pichai talked about TikTok and other entrants in the Chinese market. Things that they didn’t have to think about two years ago are suddenly becoming real issues for the big guns. There will be a number of solutions put in place to find efficiencies and weather this economic downtown. One of the approaches just may be a concerted effort in uncovering the resters-and-vesters and calling them out. Or getting rid of them altogether.” • If you think Google sucks now, just wait ’til the coders don’t get free lunches and massages any more.

Finance: “SEC fines BNY Mellon, TD, Jefferies on muni bond violations” [Banking Dive]. “NY Mellon, TD and Jefferies have each settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after the agency found the banks failed to comply with disclosure requirements concerning municipal bond offerings, the SEC said Tuesday. As part of the settlement, BNY Mellon will pay a $300,000 penalty and nearly $657,000 in disgorgement, plus prejudgment interest. TD and Jefferies, meanwhile, will each pay a $100,000 penalty and roughly $53,000 and $43,000, respectively, in disgorgement and interest. The SEC also charged financial services firm Oppenheimer with the same violations on 354 offerings but also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging the company made deceptive statements. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and a civil money penalty, the SEC said.” • Municipal bonds, eh?

Retail: “Milk, Diapers and Checking Accounts: Banking Comes to Walmart” [Bloomberg]. “A venture that’s majority-backed by Walmart Inc. is poised to emerge from the shadows this month with digital bank accounts meant for the retail giant’s 1.6 million US employees and legions of weekly shoppers. In coming weeks, the company will start offering the accounts to thousands of workers and a small percentage of its online customers as part of an initial beta test of the new service, according to people with knowledge of the matter.”

The Bezzle: “How Are My Apes Doing” [Eschaton]. • Starbucks, OMG….

Tech: Kill them with fire (dk):

Frankly, I’m surprised the cops didn’t whack the robot. If it were human, they might have.

Tech: “Four takeaways from the Twitter whistleblower hearing” [The Hill]. 1. “Twitter lacks framework for protecting user data.” 2. “US regulators’ enforcement not up to par.” 3. “Bipartisan consensus to target tech, but lack of action on bills.” 4. “Calls for Twitter to be restructured.” • We shouldn’t be calling for Twitter management to be restructured, ffs. We should be calling for it to be broken up, as all the platforms should be broken up.

Tech: “Twitter Whistleblower Testifies About Breaches, Vulnerabilities on the Platform” [SFist]. “Zatko previously claimed in media interviews that Twitter executives don’t understand where user data on the platform — which includes IP addresses and the locations from which users tweet — goes when it gets deleted, or if it gets deleted at all. And, per CNN, Zatko testified today that Twitter collects and retains all kinds of data that it doesn’t properly keep track of — and that executives don’t seem to have a clue what data exists, where it is, or how it’s stored.” • Facebook has the same problem. If Silicon Valley’s engineers really don’t know what happens to our data, they’re overpaid. And there must be some theory that would put the executives in jail.

Tech: “Google faces $25.4 billion damages claims in UK, Dutch courts over adtech practices” [Reuters]. “lphabet unit Google (GOOGL.O) will face damages claims for up to 25 billion euros ($25.4 billion) over its digital advertising practices in two suits to be filed in British and Dutch courts in the coming weeks by a law firm on behalf of publishers.” • I like that the claim in the billions. That seems right.

The Fed: “‘They Should Do 100’: Wall Street Debates the Fed’s Next Rate Move” [Bloomberg]. “Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and the President Emeritus of Harvard University, tweeted that if he was a Fed official, he would pick ‘a 100 basis points move to reinforce credibility.’” • Awesome. That was our theory in Vietnam, too. The “best and the brightest” are still at it….

The Fed: “Inflation’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” [John Authers, Bloomberg]. “All [measures] except the core inflation measure, which rose but remains below its peak from March this year, are at fresh highs for this cycle, and at their highest in decades. A year ago, the fact that these measures remained largely under control was a key point of evidence for those who believed inflation was transitory. Now, they suggest it could be very much more long-lived…. Some commentators have tried to say that the direction of inflation was still downward, and that the market overreacted. I think such a view is simply wrong. From the point of the view of the Fed, this report could scarcely have been worse, and that means it’s bad for everyone…. ‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ So the great poet William Shakespeare is supposed to have said — although there’s no evidence that he ever actually did. But it certainly played out in American markets Tuesday, which saw US stocks fall in a broad-based selloff after the CPI announcement. Overconfidence leading into the day created the biggest selloff in more than two years.” • Sloppy factchecking by Bloomberg on that Shakespeare quote; 30 seconds on the Google shows it’s Facebook flotsam. I think the quote Authers is looking for is from the Buddha: “The cause of suffering is desire.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 40 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 13 at 1:42 PM EDT.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Civil Rights. “The lack of negative activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.). Finally, climate. I like “maxium,” because it menas a human is reallly doing this.

The Gallery


Zeitgeist Watch

Accentuate the positive:

He’s right, actually.

“Closing the curtain on Norm Macdonald’s comedy” [Spectator World]. “What made his appearances so memorable was the versatility: he mastered every format — the around-the-barn anecdote, the one-liner or the old-school joke. I have heard variations of the moth joke dating back to middle school, but only Macdonald saw the potential to turn it into Russian literature…. A joke should catch people by surprise; it should never pander. Applause is voluntary, but laughter is involuntary,” Norm recalled in the greatest work of fiction in the aughts, Based on a True Story. He hated lazy comedy that played for “clapter,” but also shock for shock’s sake. That may seem odd for a man who was banned from the state of Iowa in 1997 and took to the Dennis Miller radio show with his “virulent anti-Semite” ventriloquist dummy. (“My Jewish friend says I should just burn him, but I say two wrongs don’t make a right.”) Anybody can use profanity, but it takes true comedic genius to turn cliché into punchline. Macdonald recognized that plainspoken folk wisdom could surprise in a postmodern age dominated by euphemism and jargon….” • Here is the moth joke (because the setup is both long and grim, I’m going to give the link instead of embedding it, but the punchline is brilliant, a variation of “it’s my nature”).

Class Warfare

I say the railroad workers should strike to prove they can:

Back in the day, I was thinking along the same lines:

My concept was that I would blog — that being my real work — and get my health insurance from Starbucks. For me, fate intervened. I wonder how many Starbucks workers are in a similar situation today.

News of the Wired

Bros being bros:

But not getting whacked by the cops. Odd!

“Consciousness has no gender” [IAI News]. “Here’s a question I’ve been pitting to friends and family this last month: if tomorrow you woke up without a body, would you be able to guess what gender you are?… But my point is this: if biological sex is not the determining factor of gender, and culture is permanently shifting decade by decade and country by country, what is the determining factor? If there is no objective criterion, and the choice of gender is simply ‘what feels right for the individual’, then there are suddenly as many genders as there are individuals, in fact possibly as many genders as there are people who have ever lived, at any time and in any place. So why bother with gender at all? For, in giving oneself a gender, isn’t one automatically being sexist?” • The hypothetical of waking up without a body seems like the sort of thing a Silicon Valley squillionaire would think. It’s just not possible, and if it were possible, it would be bad (see C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength). So that word “automatically” is doing some very, very heavy lifting.

“The Myopia Generation” [The Atlantic]. Literally, not metaphorically. “We may not know exactly how ogling screens all day and spending so much time indoors are affecting us, or which is doing more damage, but we do know that myopia is a clear consequence of living at odds with our biology. The optometrists I spoke with all said they try to push better vision habits, such as limiting screen time and playing outside. But this only goes so far. Today, taking a phone away from a teenager may be no more practical than feeding a toddler a raw hunter-gatherer diet. So this is where we’ve ended up, for those of us who can even afford it: adding chemicals and putting pieces of plastic in our eyes every day, in hopes of tricking them back to their natural state.” • As the proud wearer of progressive trifocals — if only I could find them — I concur that I should play more outside. So should we all!

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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 IM:

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IM writes: “More west coast vegetation. This is from Little Qualicum Falls, on Vancouver Island. A deeply cut canyon through a patch of intruded grandiorite. I kind of like the blurred foliage in NE and SW corners, but readers can make up their own minds! No zoom, a cliff in front, no tripod for ultra depth of field, no alternative.”

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