BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, once more I must apologize for a Monday debacle. But the two cases can be distinguished! Without going into tedious personal detail, I can say that the cause of the previous debacle, a time-slip, was what I then felt to be a disaster; the cause of this debacle was the reweaving of the effects of that disaster, which required a trip into the deep, deep boonies, from where I was not able to reach adequate communications facilities in time (because my triply redundant system of connectivity is still acting up, ffs). Hopefully I have resumed level flight! –lambert P.S. While offline, I started Pierre Bourdieu’s Manet, which looks to be extraordinary a few pages in. It’s all about a revolution of “the eye,” with Manet’s works as the occasion for the exposition. This is an attractive approach, because we get to think of revolution without fretting about Bolsheviks, French lawyers and journalists, or other malefactors. It’s slow going though — Bourdieu’s prose is like the lightest, fluffiest, most delicious soufflé imaginable, except it goes for the length of a football field. You will get a report in due course (one donor asked for more Bourdieu) but I really can’t say when.

Bird Song of the Day

Hermit Thrush, Ferd’s Bog, Hamilton, New York, United States. “Dawn song.”

* * *


“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“Joint Chiefs shuffle: Biden’s top contenders to replace Trump’s military leaders” [Politico]. “Donald Trump handpicked the nation’s top military brass while he was in office. Now it’s Joe Biden’s turn. As many as five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the eight most senior uniformed leaders who advise the president on military issues, are scheduled to leave their assignments this year. Besides the Joint Chiefs chair, the heads of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and potentially the Air Force are all set to leave. Three of the military’s top operational commanders are changing over as well: The heads of Northern Command, Space Command and Cyber Command…. ‘These are legacy moments for the Biden administration, but they are also the guard rails for the republic,’ Peter Feaver, a former staffer on the National Security Council and author of ‘Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations.’” • There’s that “guard rails” trope again, yech. And does that “for the republic” really imply the Pentagon was 1/6-adjacent? Highly dubious. Plus, do I detect the blame cannons for a future Ukraine cluster being deployed against “Trump’s generals”?


“Democratic presidential longshot Marianne Williamson on challenging Biden: ‘We should have as many people running in an election as feel moved’” [HuffPo].

MarketWatch: In a nutshell, could you explain why you’re running for president?

Williamson: I’m running for president because I believe that some things need to be said and some changes need to be made, in order to repair some serious damage that’s been done to our democracy, to our country, to our people and to our environment over the last 50 years.

MarketWatch: You’ve talked about running to address “systemic economic injustices endured by millions of Americans” because of the “undue influence of corporate money on our political system.” What do you see as the top examples of that?

Williamson: During the 1970s, the average American worker had decent benefits, could afford a home, could afford a yearly vacation, could afford a car and could afford to send their child to college. In the last 48 years, there has been a $50 trillion transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% to the top 1% of Americans. That transfer has decimated our middle class. We are now at a point where if you are among 20% of Americans, then the economy’s doing pretty well for you. But, unfortunately, that 20% is surrounded by a vast sea of economic despair. We have 60,000 people in the United States who die every year because they can’t afford healthcare [XLV, -0.08%,’* one in four Americans living with a medical debt, and 18 million Americans unable to fill the prescriptions that their doctors give to them.

If you are in the club in America, if you are making it in America — and I have sold some books, so I understand the high side of the free market and have benefited, and I’m grateful for that — but no conscious persons wants to feel that they create wealth at the expense of other people having a chance. That is not American. It’s not what the American Dream is supposed to be.

Really? NOTE * I love that MarketWatch’s algo inserted a ticker symbol right after “healthcare.” That’s where we are!

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

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.

* * *

“Senate Dems weighing a Clarence Thomas invite to future Supreme Court ethics hearing” [Politico]. “Senate Democrats are eyeing an invitation to Justice Clarence Thomas — whose friendship with a billionaire GOP donor has drawn heightened scrutiny in recent weeks — for a forthcoming hearing on the Supreme Court’s ethical standards. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee met Monday evening in Chair Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) office to discuss details of the hearing, which is still in the planning stages. ‘We’re going to have hearings. This work period, I hope. Maybe even in the next few weeks,’ Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said after the meeting. Rather than making the politically explosive move of subpoenaing Thomas, Blumenthal said he hoped the justice would answer committee members’ questions voluntarily. Earlier in the day, when asked if he’d consider subpoenaing Thomas for his testimony, Durbin told reporters that his panel would ‘talk about a number of options.’” • You say “potentially explosive” like that’s a bad thing! Why allow the Pro Publica story to go forward if you don’t intend to act on it?


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. We are now up to 50/50 states (100%). This is really great! (It occurs to me that there are uses to which this data might be put, beyond helping people with “personal risk assessments” appropriate to their state. For example, thinking pessimistically, we might maintain the list and see which states go dark and when. We might also tabulate the properties of each site and look for differences and commonalities, for example the use of GIS (an exercise in Federalism). I do not that CA remains a little sketchy; it feels a little odd that there’s no statewide site, but I’ve never been able to find one. Also, my working assumption was that each state would have one site. That’s turned out not to be true; see e.g. ID. Trivially, it means I need to punctuate this list properly. Less trivially, there may be more local sites that should be added. NY city in NY state springs to mind, but I’m sure there are others. FL also springs to mind as a special case, because DeSantis will most probably be a Presidental candidate, and IIRC there was some foofra about their state dashboard. Thanks again!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

* * *

Look for the Helpers

Scenes from a marriage:

Scientific Communication

Somehow the wrong message reached this nurse:

I wonder if the “lady” was smiling as she said it.


“Deficient Phagocytosis in Circulating Monocytes from Patients with COVID-19-Associated Mucormycosis” [American Society for Microbiology]. “A number of cases of mucormycosis, often fatal, were reported among severe COVID-19 patients from India as well as from some other parts of the world. However, specific immunocellular mechanisms that underlie susceptibility to this fungal infection in COVID-19 remain largely unexplored. Our study reports a deficiency in phagocytosis by monocytes in COVID-19 patients who are concomitantly afflicted with mucormycosis, with this deficiency being linked to a characteristic monocyte transcriptome as well as a circulating cytokine signature. The functional phenotype and cytokine signature of the monocytes may provide useful biomarkers for detecting potential susceptibility to mucormycosis in COVID-19 as well as in other viral infections.” • Mucormycosis is a “serious but rare fungal infection.” Not Cordyceps, fortunately!

Elite Malfeasance


* * *

Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “something awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau (with, of course, deeper knowledge of the sequelae “we” have already decided to accept or, rather, to profit from). That will be the operational definition of “living with Covid.” More as I think on this.

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from April 13:

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 2

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.

• Straw in the wind:


Lambert here: I recurated my Twitter feed for my new account, and it may be I’m creating a echo chamber. Still, “we” have deliberately blinded and deluded “ourselves,” so anecdote is what we have, and this is the sort of anecdote I am seeing. Also, I’m not happy with what I read about XBB.1.16 (“Arcturus”) at all. If you are adjacent to someone with conjunctivitis, watch out! (Great deck on the second link: “Experts watch XBB.1.16 strain for potential to shatter hopes of staving off a new U.S. surge until winter.” Staving off? Staving off?! Who’s trying to do that? More happy thoughts on conjunctivitis:

I have done a quick search, and I’m not sure there’s danger to the eyes beyond conjunctivitis, although the virus does show up in tears. I know we have readers who follow Covid and the eyes more closely than I do, so comments welcome.

• “‘Arcturus,’ a COVID variant sweeping India, is now in the U.S., the CDC says—and it’s coming in hot. What it means for the future of the pandemic” [Fortune]. “A new Omicron spawn fueling a surge of cases in India—considered the most transmissible COVID variant yet—has reached reportable levels in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. And it’s coming in hot. XBB.1.16, dubbed ‘Arcturus’ by variant trackers, is estimated to be behind 7% of COVID cases in the country this week, according to the CDC’s Nowcast, a viral forecast released each Friday by the national public health agency.” And you’ll never guess! It’s mild!: “The variant doesn’t look to cause more severe disease, according to a COVID situation report released Thursday by the World Health Organization.” • We can’t know that, of course.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from April 8:

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 3

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


I’m afraid the Walgreen’s positivity tracker has shut down, since it hasn’t updated since April 11, and all without any announcement. It’s as if we’re heading into a storm, and the first thing the captain did was order the sextant, compass, log line, sandglass, and ship’s clock thrown overboard. Then they detached the wheel from the rudder. “We have the tools.” No, we don’t. We have also decided not to know what the job is, even.


NOT UPDATED Death rate (Our World in Data):

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 4

Total: 1,158,255 – 1,158,017 = 238 (238 * 365 = 202,575 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

Lambert here: WHO turned off the feed? Odd that Walgreen’s positivity shut down on April 11, and the WHO death count on April 12. Was there a memo I didn’t get?

Excess Deaths

NOT UPDATED Excess deaths (The Economist), published April 2:

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 5

Lambert here: Big jump from the last reading in the “Central Estimate.”

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. Looks like a data issue, to me. I”m not sure how often this updates, and if it doesn’t, I’ll remove it. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it.

Stats Watch

* * *

Tech: “The Case of the iPhone Case Poll” [Daring Fireball]. “The whole thing got me wondering how many of my followers use a case on their phones. So I asked in a poll, on both Mastodon and Twitter.” Never mind the results per se: “Let’s just get this out of I started the Twitter poll a few hours after the Mastodon poll, but ran them on the same day (March 4), for the same duration (24 hours), and with the exact same language. There were 9,171 responses on Mastodon (split 30/35/35 percent, respectively) and 7,880 responses on Twitter (split 31/32/37 percent). So on the engagement front, Mastodon flat out won, by a margin of over 1,000 responses, despite the fact that I have only 39,000 followers on Mastodon, compared to 362,500 followers on Twitter. Again, by no means am I even vaguely trying to argue that Mastodon is a more popular platform with more engagement than Twitter overall. But amongst my followers, it clearly is. I expected Mastodon to fare well in this test, but I did not expect it to win.the way: the people who follow me on Mastodon and Twitter are, of course, not representative of the general public. I mean come on, that should go without saying.” • Interesting…..

Tech: “Rethink reporting of evaluation results in AI” [Science]. “Artificial intelligence (AI) systems have begun to be deployed in high-stakes contexts, including autonomous driving and medical diagnosis. In contexts such as these, the consequences of system failures can be devastating. It is therefore vital that researchers and policy-makers have a full understanding of the capabilities and weaknesses of AI systems so that they can make informed decisions about where these systems are safe to use and how they might be improved. Unfortunately, current approaches to AI evaluation make it exceedingly difficult to build such an understanding, for two key reasons. First, aggregate metrics make it hard to predict how a system will perform in a particular situation. Second, the instance-by-instance evaluation results that could be used to unpack these aggregate metrics are rarely made available (1). Here, we propose a path forward in which results are presented in more nuanced ways and instance-by-instance evaluation results are made publicly available.” • Wait. You’re saying it’s just barely possible — hear me out — that all AI evaliuations hitherto could have been gamed? Say it’s not so. (I’m also extremely surprised, except not, to see “Science” treating “autonomous driving” as anything other than a scam (absent enormous infrastructural investment to optimize the built environment for the algos.)

Tech: “AT&T Wireless traffic shaping apparently making some websites unusable” [Adriano Caloiaro]. “When I’m living in my RV, wireless service providers are my primary source of connectivity. So when either AT&T or Verizon make major changes, I take notice.” Skipping the tech tests where notice is taken. The conclusion: “I now have a pretty clear picture of what is likely happening. Good old-fashion traffic shaping. Now that the router is connected directly to AT&T, the true test of traffic shaping is transfer rates while connected to a VPN. I’ll let the image speak for itself… As of the time of writing, I’m unsure what is causing such a significant slowdown. It has rendered some websites effectively useless. Everything in this writeup indicates, to me, that AT&T is engaged in extremely aggressive traffic shaping for some plans, rendering many websites nearly unusable. Do you have any ideas how to diagnose this problem further? Do you know the best way engage AT&T’s technical folks to take this seriously?” • There follows extensive correspondence with other users and AT&T tech support. Readers, can anyone make sense of this?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 70 Greed (previous close: 69 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 59 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 17 at 8:59 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes down two on #42 Plagues (“The coronavirus pandemic has been declared over” and #44 Food Supply “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most!

Lambert here: I’m surprised to find myself in a more apocalyptic frame of mind than the Rapture Index, but here we are. On Plagues, I think “has been declared” (note lack of agency) is doing rather a lot of work; cf. Ezekiel 22:27.

The Gallery

Some Manet to whet the apetite:

News of the Wired

“De-stressing” [Alex Charlton]. “[ messages] started to move into a darker territory, deliberately attempting to create a sense of scarcity where there really wasn’t…. This doesn’t feel like a healthy way of selling. Apart from raising my anxiety levels during what should be the enjoyable process of planning a trip, if I’m being presented not with clear availability stats but unqualified red-alert scarcity warnings then I start to mistrust the site.” • Like so much digital technology! Plenty of dark patterns. Personally, I just ignore the messages….

* * *

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 Copeland:

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 6

Copeland writes: “Lysichiton americanus – Swamp Lantern in Gold Beach Oregon.”

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:

BELATED 2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2023 7

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email