2:00PM Water Cooler 1/30/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I had an enormous collection of links today, for some reason, and so I may be a little bit behind the current newsflow. I hope to catch up tomorrow! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Crimson Finch (Black-bellied), Mornington Sanctuary, Western Australia, Australia. “Dense forest along a creek. Flock of about 50 individuals foraging and perching.” Lots going on!

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Politics

“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

“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

“The Myth of Jeffrey Zients” [Revolving Door Project]. “Klain was an excellent chief of staff precisely because of his political judgment.” • Holy moley. What’s wrong with these people?

“Yes, Mr. President, There Is Some There There” [David Axelrod, The Atlantic]. “For now, the Biden docudrama is like a ball of yarn for House Republicans intent on tearing into the president, which risks hurting his standing among the broader public. It also could make it harder for the DOJ to pursue a case against Trump. But the president and his team might be willing to endure weeks or months more of shouted questions they cannot or will not answer if that means the special counsel ultimately absolves him of any serious wrongdoing.” • Axelrod, eh? So Obama was the hand that held the dagger. Interesting. Surely Obama must know what Harris is? Who is his candidate? Please don’t tell me “Michelle.”

“Drop Box Outside National Archives Allows Ex-Presidents To Anonymously Return Classified Documents” [The Onion]. “‘Any past commander-in-chief who may have mistakenly taken home any files with classified markings may use this drop box to return them without judgment or repercussions,’ said Debra Steidel Wall, acting archivist of the United States, who added that the box would be available 24/7 for any former leader of the country to stop by with records containing national security secrets and discreetly slide them through the slot.”

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!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“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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I get email. Subject line: “Attention, XXXXXX: Activate Your Democratic Membership”:

This is wild. Mothership Strategies, or whichever Democratic strategist concocted this abomination, has gone completely round the twist. They’re implying — no, they’re saying, several times, outright — that the Democrat Party is a membership organization. But it’s not. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

“What the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party Has Planned Next” [In These Times]. • More union-busting? War with a nuclear power? Mass infection without mitigation? Always something to look forward to!

“Inside the Slow Implosion of the Democratic Party’s Vaunted Campaign Tech Firm” [The Intercept]. This ran in Links a couple of days ago, but I wanted to call some of the material ou. “LESS THAN TWO years after a British private equity firm acquired the campaign tech firm that holds the Democratic Party’s most sensitive data, the new parent company laid off at least 140 people. In a companywide email on January 12, Mark Layden, the chief executive of Bonterra, the new merged company created by the private equity firm, notified staff that, in its pursuit of “long-term, efficient growth,” 10 percent of the company would be let go. Within the next several minutes, people who were laid off received emails telling them that they no longer had a job.” Nice people! More: “At NGP VAN — one of the two major organizations that run the Democratic Party’s vaunted* organizing, voter file, and compliance tools — and EveryAction, the fundraising software company it operates under, some 40 people lost their jobs in the layoffs. For some employees and strategists, the layoff announcement was confirmation of exactly what they had feared from the start: that the private equity firm, Apax, would try to maximize revenue by cutting costs, firing people, and effectively hollowing out the acquired companies with potentially drastic implications for the Democratic Party and liberal organizations that rely on NGP VAN and EveryAction.” • So the Democrat Party outsourced the crown jewels. Who could have known that would be a problem? NOTE * “Vaunted” my Sweet Aunt Fanny.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Political crisis emerges within leadership of Democratic Socialists of America” [WSWS]. Competing left factions, but nonetheless: “A long string of actions by the DSA is breaking down the illusions of thousands of DSA members who joined the organization believing it was an opponent of imperialist war and capitalism. But these actions of the DSA are exposing the reality that the DSA is nothing but a faction of the Democratic Party. Among the most important are the DSA’s elected officials’ votes to arm the Israeli occupation of Palestine, provide US imperialism with tens of billions of dollars to escalate the war with nuclear-armed Russia, and illegalize the potential strike by 100,000 railroad workers. With the coming to power of Biden, the DSA has dropped the more confrontational veneer that it maintained while Trump was president. Its representatives in Congress have routinely promoted the false ‘progressive; bona fides of the Biden administration while denouncing left-wing criticism of his administration. It was in March 2021, shortly after Biden’s inauguration, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacked antiwar and anti-capitalist criticism of the Democratic establishment as ‘bad faith’ and ‘privileged.’”

#COVID19

Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful).

Stay safe out there!

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“Opinion The time has come for a major reset at the CDC” [WaPo]. “The loss of public trust can also be remedied if Dr. Walensky and future agency chiefs demonstrate forceful leadership in a public health crisis.” • If only one would come along! Meanwhile, everybody who is anybody is “lying flat” (or flat lying):

• “Covid-19 pandemic review: insights from wastewater intelligence over the years” [Biobot Analytics]. “Now that Biobot has data available for multiple years, we are adding a new plot to our public dashboard that shows SARS-CoV-2 concentrations by month, with all years on the same plot. This way of visualizing the data makes it easier to relate where we are now to previous points in the pandemic. Unlike diseases such as influenza where year-over-year plots would typically show a strong seasonal pattern peaking in the winter months and consistently low levels during the summer, this view makes it clear that SARS-CoV-2 has not settled into a strong predictable seasonal pattern…. Despite the overall lack of consistent year-round seasonal trends, there has been a pattern observed each year of increasing SARS-CoV-2 concentrations in wastewater in the Fall/Winter, which begin to decrease in early January. Looking at the plot, you can see the timing of this peak is nearly identical in each of the three years.”

Just happened this year, too. Maybe SARS-CoV-2 needs Xmas music in the stores to survive?

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• “Here’s 150+ Sources on Covid to Share with Everyone You Know” [Jessica Wildfire, OK Doomer]. “Two things seem clear at this point. First, the general public vastly underestimates the threat Covid poses to them, nor do they grasp the depth of the government’s deception to convince them to disregard their own health for the sake of the economy. Second, nothing is going to change until more people start learning the truth. So I looked for better ways to arrange and share information. Earlier this month, I started making lists with a social bookmarking app. There’s something reassuring about a wall of organized sources. In my experience, it does something to see everything all laid out in a way that’s visually accessible. It’s hard to ignore the overwhelming evidence. For a while now, I’ve wanted to respond to some of these Covid minimizers with a mic drop, and I think an evolving mega-list comes close.” • Useful. I’m not sure about the rhetorical technique (“You can’t handle the truth!”) but still useful. Readers may wish to dig deeper.

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• Maskstravaganza: “New York City Mask Guide” [Mandate Masks NY]. “This guide includes a list of museums, businesses, and other public spaces in NYC that still require masks and other COVID-19 prevention efforts to protect people, including higher-risk staff, customers, and visitors.” • Should be nation-wide. In essence, a Green Book* for maskers. NOTE Gotta say, the only good search on this was from DDG. All the other ones were larded up with plugs for the movie; I wanted the history.

• Maskstravaganza: “Navajo Nation Ends COVID Mask Mandate After Almost 3 Years” [WebMD]. “The Navajo Nation ended its COVID-19 mask mandate on Friday, almost three years after it was instituted. ‘It’s time for the Navajo people to get back to work,’ Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said in a news release. ‘It’s time for them to be able to open their chapter houses to conduct local business and to receive services they are asking for and deserve.’ The reservation has entered ‘low risk’ status in terms of hospital usage for COVID patients, the release said.” • I assume the chapter houses have been well ventilated?

• Maskstravaganza: In response to this:

This:

• Can’t post this too many times:


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• “Deaths in pregnant or recently pregnant women have risen, especially for unrelated causes such as drug poisoning and homicide” [CNN]. n = 4,535. “The mortality rate of pregnant and recently pregnant women in the United States rose almost 30% between 2019 and 2020, according to a new study…. Jeffrey Howard, an author of the study and associate professor of public health at the University of Texas at San Antonio… says the research is consistent with increasing death rates among pregnant and postpartum women, but says this trend was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pregnancy-related mortality rate increased by 4.4% annually from 2015 to 2019 compared with 29% from 2019 to 2020. What Howard finds especially striking is the number of deaths not due to pregnancy. ‘If you go back to 2015, most of the deaths in this population were from pregnancy-specific causes. I think it was around 60% and 40% were from other causes. By 2020, it’s kind of flip-flopped where the majority of the deaths are coming from other causes, not pregnancy-specific,’ Howard said. The findings can be largely attributed to the stressors brought on by the pandemic, he said. Rebecca Lawn, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, agrees.”

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from January 26:

Leveling out to the previous high plateau?

Lambert here: 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.

• “Study: Home COVID tests lead to vast undercount of cases, positivity rates” [Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy]. “With over 80% of US COVID-19 tests now being conducted at home, official case counts underreport the number of positive results and greatly underestimate the number of true infections, suggests a research letter published yesterday in JAMA Network Open…. Home testing patterns differ by demographic subgroup, as previously shown, perhaps because of differential COVID-19 worry or availability and cost of test kits…. ‘Our findings confirm common wisdom that official COVID-19 case counts increasingly underestimate the number of people who test positive and vastly underestimate the number of true infections,’ they wrote. ‘The percentage test positivity in officially reported tests appears to reflect home test positivity, though these trends may be diverging.’” • Oh, good.

Transmission

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map,” which is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) The map is said to update Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

The previous map:

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. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.

Positivity

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published January 30:

-0.1.%. Leveling out at a high plateau?

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), January 24:

Really easing off now, fortunately, though you do have to wonder what’s the point of a national system where half the country has gone dark.

January 23:

And MWRA data, January 26:

Looks to me like New England’s regional surge is winding down. No bump from the students returning. Readers?

Variants

Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. 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? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 16:

Lambert here: XBB overtakes BQ, but CH is coming up on the outside. That’s a little unsettling, because a Tweet in Links, January 11 from GM drew attention to it (“displays such a high relative growth advantage”) and in Water Cooler, January 18, from Nature: “CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 variants were highly resistant to both monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccinations.” Now here is CH.1.1 in the Walgreens variant data. Let’s see what CDC does with it tomorrow, if anything. The Covid variant train always leaves on time, and there’s always another train coming!

Lambert here: Wierdly, the screen shot about has been replaced today by data from “10/7/2022.” (It’s clearly not current data; BQ.1* and XBB do not dominate.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), January 7 (Weighted Estimates Only*):

BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) CH.* now appears, a week after Walgreens. Here is Region 2, the Northeast:

CH.1* appears, but slightly below the national average. XBB utterly dominates, making clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we ended up with different variants dominating different parts of the country.

NOTE * CDC used to have a “Nowcast Off” radio button, which I used because of my bad experience with CDC models like Nowcast. CDC explains (I think) the change in the following note:

Weighted estimates (provided for all weeks except the most recent three weeks) are variant proportions that are based on empirical (observed) genomic sequencing data. These estimates are not available for the most recent weeks because of the time it takes to generate the unweighted data, including sample collection, specimen treatment, shipping, analysis, and upload into public databases.

Sublineages with weighted estimates less than 1% of all circulating variants are combined with their parent lineage. When the weighted estimate of a sublineage crosses the 1% threshold and has substitutions in the spike protein that could affect vaccine efficacy, transmission, or severity, it may be separated from its parent lineage and displayed on its own in the variant proportions data.

Nowcast estimates (provided for the most recent three weeks when the “Nowcast on” option is selected below) are model-based projections of variant proportions for the most recent weeks to enable timely public health action. CDC uses the Nowcast to forecast variant proportions before the weighted estimates are available for a given week.

Someone who can interpret The Great Runes can look at this; but I don’t have time today.

As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated January 28:

Not as high as Biden’s ginormous jouissance, but still high.

• NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 23:

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: Here also a high plateau, if these numbers run true to form.

Total: 1,132,256 – 1,130,962 = 1294 (1294 * 365 = 472,310 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).

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. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ general business activity index for manufacturing in Texas rose 11.6 points to -8.4 in January of 2023, from an upwardly revised 20 in December. The latest reading pointed to the ninth consecutive month of contraction in activity, though the weakest in the current sequence.”

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago PMI in the United States increased to 44.9 points in December of 2022 recovering slightly from a 30-month low of 37.20 points hit in November and compared to market forecasts of 40. The reading pointed to a fourth consecutive month of contraction in business activity in the Chicago region.”

* * *

Shipping: Clever:

The Bezzle: Why on earth is Moody legitimizing stablecoins?

Well, we know why. Yves deprecates The Big Short (the movie following fictionalised shorts in the Great Financial Crash) but it gets the sociology right a lot of the time:

“Now you see.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 69 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 30 at 1:34 PM EST.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Israel. “Israel has been hit with some of the worst violence in years” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most!

Photo Book

“Searching for Saul Leiter” [FlakPhoto], “I was late to the game in terms of Leiter. My first experience with his work was in 2006 when Lisa Hostetler staged an exhibition of his color photography at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Leiter’s winter picture was in the press kit, and I was immediately hooked. I loved its painterly qualities and how it looked like a dream. I come back to this picture often and only recently noticed that Saul appears to have wiped some of the condensation from the window before making the image. Talk about seeing!” • The image:

The Gallery

Lovely from a formalist perspective; the curve remindsd me of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” But what makes this art propaganda is — you guessed it…

… — the smiles. If you look carefully, the workers seem to be exerting no effort; they are posed in attitudes that suggest strain, but there is no strain. Happy workers!

Health Care

Our betters:

A whole hour! Imagine that! Literally anybody commenting on NC’s posts on nasal sprays or Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes is more mentally disciplined and indeed smarter than this Furman dude. More public-spirited, too.

Class Warfare

“To be Scientific is to be Communist” [Liam Kofi Bright, Social Epistemology]. The Abstract: “What differentiates scientific research from non-scientific inquiry? Philosophers addressing this question have typically been inspired by the exalted social place and intellectual achievements of science. They have hence tended to point to some epistemic virtue or methodological feature of science that sets it apart. Our discussion on the other hand is motivated by the case of commercial research, which we argue is distinct from (and often epistemically inferior to) academic research. We consider a deflationary view in which science refers to whatever is regarded as epistemically successful, but find that this does not leave room for the important notion of scientific error and fails to capture distinctive social elements of science. This leads us to the view that a demarcation criterion should be a widely upheld social norm without immediate epistemic connotations. Our tentative answer is the communist norm, which calls on scientists to share their work widely for public scrutiny and evaluation.” • Well, for some definition of “communist.”

News of the Wired

“The Knitting Clock” [Kottke.org]. “Artist Siren Elise Wilhelmsen designed a clock that knits while it tells time — the clock makes one two-meter long scarf every 365 days. “Time is manifested in physical objects; in things that grow, develop or extinguish. Time is an ever forward-moving force and I wanted to make a clock based on times true nature, more than the numbers we have attached.” Here it is:

* * *

I apologize for blowing past the final day of “Feel Good Fresno Week” on Friday. There was a lot to do. So herewith:

“Fresno ponding basins filling up as storm brings steady rain” [ABC30]. “The steady rain has been filling up ponding basins. The City of Fresno prepared before the storm drenched the valley. ‘Checking pumps, making sure those are working, draining down an of our ponding basins to create room for this storm water that’s coming in right now,’ said Public Works Director Scott Mozier. The flow has been non-stop through the Flood Control District’s 150 storm water basins and 700 miles of pipeline…. “These ponding basins are connected to canals and so, in between storms and during storms, we’re de-watering what’s going on in the urban environment, put it into the canal and taking it out to the rural areas so we can sink it into the ground,” s aid [Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO].” • But what, you ask, is a “ponding basin”?

“HONORING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FRESNO METROPOLITAN FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT” [Hon. Jim Costa, House of Representatives, Congressional Record].

Over 50 years ago, the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District was created in order to regulate flooding that had plagued the community for over 80 years. From the outset, the Flood Control District committed itself to managing the flood, storm, surface and ground water resources of the area with the goal of preventing property damage and personal injury as a result of floods. The agency works to conserve such waters for local, domestic and agricultural use. In addition, it seeks to maximize the public use and benefit of the District’s programs and infrastructure. This has resulted in the use of ponding basins for recreational purposes such as soccer fields, baseball diamonds and parks. The district has generated 22 recreational sites, including the Sloan Johnson Oso de Oro Lake Park in Fresno, which serves to accommodate disabled children.

Here is a ponding basin:

Readers, I really enjoyed “Feel Good Fresno Week,” which Wuk invented. Maybe “Feel Good ___ Week,” for other much-maligned localities, would be fun to read? For example, Cleveland? Please suggest in comments. (This is for localities, not topics or entities. So, no “Feel Good Elephants” week, no “Feel Good NGOs” week, etc.)

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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:

Wow!!

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