2:00PM Water Cooler 6/15/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, I have a household emergency. Please play the birdsong or talk amongst yourselves for ten minutes while I finish up. –lambert UPDATE Finished. Sorry about that.

Reader query: For those of you who have wood stoves, is it to late to buy seasoned wood by the cord, and if not, when is it too late? Thank you! –lambert NOTE I abolished my much-loved wood stove and much-hated oil burner in favor of natural gas some years ago; I don’t think it was a mistake, but perhaps it’s not going to net out as well as I thought over time.

Bird Song of the Day

Dead Sea Sparrow. Şanlıurfa, Türkiye. Habitat: Creek, Thicket/Brush, Scrub. Lots going on.

“Sparrow ID Guides from Macaulay Library and Bird Academy” [The Cornell Lab of Ornithology]. Free downloads. “Sparrows are a challenge to birders of all skill levels because they’re often skulky and hard to see. At first they seem like dull brown birds, but when you get a good look, they show beautiful and intricate patterns on their feathers. Because many species are hard to see, they are sought after by avid listers and those who appreciate the beauty of birds. Whether you’re at home or out in the field, these helpful four-sheet sparrow reference guides have full-color photos of eastern, central, western and widespread sparrows.”

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Politics

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

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Capitol Seizure

“Trump Knew Exactly What He Was Doing on Jan. 6” [Bloomberg]. “Did Donald Trump believe he was telling the truth when he claimed that the 2020 election, which he lost, was rigged against him? I think not, but I’m just one person. Fortunately, lots of other White House advisers, such as former Attorney General William Barr, told Trump in the days and weeks after the election that there was no fraud. Barr called the claims “bullshit,” “rubbish” and “idiotic.” Trump’s advisers were surprised, sometime stunned, that he plowed ahead anyway. Those were just some of the revelations from the second day of testimony of the select congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. One reason this matters is that the hearing’s most important audience isn’t voters or historians. It’s an audience of one: Attorney General Merrick Garland. If Garland’s Justice Department decides to charge Trump with electoral fraud, it will need to demonstrate to a jury that Trump intended to commit a crime when he staged an attempted coup — and that he knew what he was doing was wrong. The Jan. 6 committee is laying lots of persuasive evidence on Garland’s desk.” And of course there is a financial incentive: “Staying in power wasn’t Trump’s only goal in propagating the big lie. It was also making him money. His campaign has hauled in about $250 million from donors who believed he was using the money to combat election fraud, according to the Jan. 6 committee.” • Of course, if money was Trump’s only motivation — plausible? — then by definition “staying in power” wasn’t one. Hypothetical Trump testimony: “I was only in it for the money. I knew Stone and that drunk Giuliani’s wacky scheme would never work, because everytime I tried it, somebody stepped in and stopped me! Our system worked. So did mine. That makes me smart!”

“Capitol Police: Loudermilk did nothing improper regarding Jan. 5 tour” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “U.S. Capitol Police have determined that Georgia U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk did nothing wrong when he joined a group of constituents touring the Capitol complex on Jan. 5, 2021. ‘A constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House Office Buildings is not a suspicious group or ‘reconnaissance tour,’ ‘he and Davis wrote in a joint response. Manger’s letter said that review of the surveillance footage showed a group of 12 people entering the House building where Loudermilk’s office is located. Eventually the group grew to 15 people, and a congressional staffer met them at the entrance and walked with them toward Loudermilk’s suite. The cameras later caught Loudermilk with the group visiting an exhibit located in an adjacent office building. Loudermilk then left the tour and it continued on in the adjacent building, the letter said. At no time did the group enter the tunnel area that would have led to them to the main Capitol building.” • Commentary:

(Dude, fix the mask!) Readers know my views on digital evidence. I wait Dupree’s interview with him.

“The Ginni Thomas Jan. 6 scandal keeps getting worse. But there’s a silver lining” [MSNBC]. From the lead: “Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent two sets of emails to a combined 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona — 27 more than previously believed, and more than half of the GOP members of the state Legislature at the time — urging them to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in their state. In one email, she demanded that they ‘stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.’” • Presumably, MSNBC’s opinion columnist picked out the most damning quote, which turns out to be…. “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.” This is bad? (Of course, it’s utterly unseemly that Ginni Thomas is doing this, and Thomas should recuse himself from any case his wife is involved as a political activist. This is a media critique; and perhaps if I read all the emails something even more damning would emerge. Then again, it was the columnist’s job to make that clear….)

Biden Administration

“Biden warns Big Oil over gas output” [Axios]. Not available on the White House site, as yet. From the copy at Axios, the caught my eye: “But , refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable.” • The Bush Adminstration intoned time-a-war “time of war” constantly, on the flimsiest of excuses. So it’s unpleasant to hear it again. Further, what “war”? Has a war been declared? By Congress? Who, exactly, are we at war with? Russia? Biden in his New York Times Op-Ed: “We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia.” That was May 31, two weeks ago. Did I miss the memo?

Shameful:

More deaths than Trump, the Vax + Pavlovid debacle, public health no longer “politically viable” (as we say), including non-pharmaceutical interventions like masks, and reinfections multiple times a year as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, neither party, nor any faction within either party, can raise these issues. Logjams wherever you look.

2022

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“Democrats play with fire in GOP primaries” [Axios]. “Democratic groups are buying ads touting some of the most extreme pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries around the country — meddling in GOP contests to set up more favorable matchups in November. Why it matters: The risky gambit assumes general-election voters will reject candidates who embrace conspiracy theories or lies about the 2020 election. But it could dramatically backfire by vaulting fringe Republicans into national office. Driving the news: Ahead of last week’s primaries, the Nancy Pelosi-affiliated House Majority PAC funded a 30-second TV ad promoting self-declared ‘Trump Conservative’ Chris Mathys against moderate Republican Rep. David Valadao in California’s 22nd District.” • Pelosi’s a genius. What could possibly go wrong?

“Crime” as an issue:

And:

PA: Fetterman’s “front porch” strategy?

TX: “Republican Mayra Flores flips House seat in Texas special election” [The Hill]. “Flores, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 6 years old, will become the country’s first Mexican-born congresswoman. The congresswoman-elect has frequently touted her husband’s job as a Border Patrol agent. Her win will likely further boost Republican optimism about the party’s prospects in southern Texas and along the border.” • Well, I guess the identity politics aspect is settled; the Republicans have a candidate that “looks like America.” Like AOC, in fact:

Incidentally, the bullet points at right are clear and simply, and all imply policy. I vehemently disagree with them, but clear and simple they are. Can Democrats say the same? (Oh, and Sanders won the Texas border counties in 2020 (though not the state). Those votes were there for liberal Democrats. They just didn’t want them.)

TX: “Elon Musk votes for Mayra Flores in Texas special election, suggests he likes DeSantis for president” [FOX]. • Abbot: For this I gave Tesla those tax breaks?”

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!). ; 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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Realignment and Legitimacy

Trump wasn’t the only one who spoke the quiet part out loud:

“Elephant In The Zoom” [The Intercept]. The deck: “Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” • I ran this yesterday, but this additional commentary rings true:

#COVID19

Lambert here: In order to focus more on variants and rising watewaster, I’ve removed the MWRA wastewater chart, and the world cases chart.

I am but a humble tape-watcher, and I’m perplexed about the current state of play. Case data is showing the fiddling-and-diddling behavior characteristic of a peak; on the other hand, the South (home of Abbot and DeSantis) is rising. Further, nothing I hear in anecdotal case data tells me there’s any relief. Hospitalization data (trailing) is easing (and so the hospital-centric public health establishment probably thinks Covid is done). Positivity data (leading) has been fiddling and diddling as it too does at peaks (latest, down). Then again, waste-water data (leading) is up everywhere but the Northeast. The wild card is variants BA.4/5 (and I thought we were supposed to be giving names to these things). All the variant sources I have say BA.4/5 are up, but they differ as to how much and where, and the data is two weeks behind (hat tip, CDC; who could have known we’d need to track variant data?). I am reminded of the “stairstep” (see the Case count chart below: I muttered about this at the time) that marked the Delta/Omicron transition, just before Omicron’s amazing take-off. Perhaps a BA.4/5 transition will exhibit the same behavior. OTOH, I could be projecting patterns into clouds.

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• Another tapewatcher:

• Yet another superspreader conference, this one in Canada:


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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 by United States regions:

More or less level. Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 100,800. Today, it’s 106900, and 100,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 641400. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes had a basis in reality. (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.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

More or less level.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

Down 1.9%. This tracker fiddles and diddles at peaks, but also not at peaks. (I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to and check on the goons at CDC.)

NOT UPDATED Wastewater data from Biobot Analytics:

Lambert here: A serious country updates its wastewater data, wtf. Since MRWA was updated (more or less) daily, but isn’t helpful, I’ll have to find some equivalant local sources in the West and South.

• “Wastewater surveillance in smaller college communities may aid future public health initiatives” [medRxiv]. “astewater-based epidemiology has been used for previous public health threats, and more recently has been established as a complementary method of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance. Here we describe the application of wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in two university campus communities located in rural Lincoln Parish, Louisiana. This cost-effective approach is especially well suited to rural areas where limited access to testing may worsen the spread of COVID-19 and quickly exhaust the capacity of local healthcare systems. Our work demonstrates that local universities can leverage scientific resources to advance public health equity in rural areas and enhance their community involvement.” • That’s great. We could have kickstarted this a year ago, but fortunately under President Biden’s “Operation Derp Speed” we will do that in a time period of a decade from now to never, good job.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, regional (Biobot), May 25:

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), May 28:

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), May 28:

Lambert here: A serious country updates its variant data, wtf.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Status quo.

The previous release:

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:

West Coast, and Midwest are all red. Seeing some orange (“substantial”) on the East Coast. Great Plains speckled with yellow and blue. Go Vermont!

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Very volatile.

A new way for hospitals to game the data:

IM Doc writes: “I would guess with Omicron about 60% of the patients were on Dexamethasone – so no – not an adequate proxy” for hospitalization.

Just a reminder:

As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,036,483 1,036,084. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Stats Watch

Retail: “U.S. Retail Sales” [Trading Economics]. “Retail sales in the US unexpectedly fell 0.3% mom in May of 2022, the first decline so far this year and compared to market forecasts of a 0.2% rise. It follows a downwardy revised 0.7% increase in April, as high inflation, gasoline prices and borrowing costs hurt spending on non-essential goods. Auto sales recorded the biggest decline (-4%) and sales also fell at electronics & appliance stores (-1.3%); miscellaneous store retailers (-1.1%); nonstore retailers (-1%); furniture stores (-0.9%); and health & personal care stores (-0.2%).”

Manufacturing: “United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The New York Empire State Manufacturing Index rose to -1.2 in June of 2022 from -11.6 in May, missing market forecasts of 3. New orders and shipments edged slightly higher, and unfilled orders declined for the first time in over a year. Delivery times lengthened at a slower pace than in recent months, and inventories grew significantly. Labor market indicators pointed to a solid increase in employment and a longer average workweek.”

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Concentration: Handy chart somebody should hand to Lina Kahn:

(Greenfeld writes on write entrepreneurship, creativity, and performance improvement. This is from a thread of helpful hints for “founders.”)

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 18 Extreme Fear (previous close: 17 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 15 at 1:44 PM EDT.

The Gallery

Fauvism, but geometrical?

Under the Influence

“They called it! Kim Kardashian really did damage that iconic Marilyn Monroe dress” [Los Angeles Times]. “In shocking news to no one: The historic Marilyn Monroe gown that reality star Kim Kardashian wore to the Met Gala last month is showing signs of damage and, conservators say, now will have the reality star enmeshed in the story of the dress. Before and after images posted on Instagram this week show new wear and tear on the garment, which Monroe wore in 1962 to sing a sensual ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy. The images, posted by private collector the Marilyn Monroe Collection, show the iconic 60-year-old piece appearing to have threadbare sequins, tears along the back closure, puckering and pulled seams after ‘The Kardashians’ star wore it to the annual fashion affair.” And: “Ripley’s Believe It or Not, acquired the gown in 2016 for nearly $5 million, and said the gown was believed to be valued at more than $10 million around the time Kardashian wore it.” • So what did we expect?

Class Warfare

“AFL-CIO Blocks Debate on Union Democracy Reforms – Amazon Labor Union & Starbucks Workers Excluded from Convention – Shuler Criticizes AFL-CIO Organizing Approach” [Payday Report]. “Earlier today, many were unexpectedly locked out of the AFL-CIO convention after the Secret Service closed the doors for the arrival of President Joe Biden. The lockout infuriated activists and delegates who had arrived early to see Biden, but many also saw it as a metaphor for how people are being excluded from the convention as a whole. Shockingly, the AFL-CIO did not invite the Amazon Labor Union, since it’s an independent union and doesn’t belong to the AFL-CIO. Nor did the convention invite members of the SEIU-affiliated Starbucks Workers United. ‘It’s just petty,’ one senior union official told Payday Report. ‘Starbucks and Amazon are two of the most exciting campaigns in recent memory, and we don’t even have anyone here from those campaigns to learn lessons from these campaigns.’ And of course: “Prior to the convention, the Vermont AFL-CIO submitted a motion that would allow for every member of the labor movement to vote on electing the leadership of the national AFL-CIO. Many unions, such as the Teamsters, the UAW, the Steelworkers, and NewsGuild allow their rank-and-file members to vote on leadership. In contrast, the leadership of the AFL-CIO is selected by a body of 500 delegates. The Executive Council blocked the motion from being considered in an open debate. Instead, only motions that passed by unanimous votes were brought to the floor.” • Not encouraging.

While the AFL-CIO fiddles, Starbucks burns their coffee. Wait, that’s not what I mean. Anyhow:

That is the kind of militancy we like to see. It also has the great merit of being true. More like this, please.

“AFL-CIO unveils plan to grow but some union leaders underwhelmed” [Guardian]. “At the AFL-CIO’s convention in Philadelphia, Liz Shuler, the federation’s president, unveiled a new effort, announcing: ‘In the next 10 years we will organize and grow our movement by more than 1 million working people. How’s that for a goal!’ Shuler received a standing ovation [because of course she did], but several union presidents later said they were underwhelmed by the goal, which would mean growth of 100,000 union members annually or less than 1% a year for the nation’s unions. ‘I applaud putting out a goal,’ said D Taylor, president of Unite Here, the hotel workers’ union. ‘But I think that number is too low. We have to aim much higher.’ In the year before the pandemic, Taylor said, his union organized 22,000 workers, increasing its membership by 8% that year. Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said: ‘I like the new emphasis on organizing. I like the slogan ‘organize and rise’. But I think we should be far bolder. Remember, the CIO [the Congress of Industrial Organizations] organized 2 or 3 million workers in six months or a year in some of its great periods [in the 1930s]. We shouldn’t be doing this in an incremental way, especially when people are so inspired. We should do this in a bold way.’”

News of the Wired

“A biological super glue from mistletoe berries?” (press release) [McGill]. “Each mistletoe berry can produce up to two metres of a gluey thread called viscin. It allows the seeds of this parasitic plant to stick to and infect host plants. Since ancient times, mistletoe berries have been explored as treatments for everything from infertility and epilepsy to cancer. But, until now, no one has fully investigated the potential medical or technical uses of the glue itself. A recent paper from McGill University and the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, published in PNAS Nexus, suggests that through simple processing, viscin’s ultra-stiff flexible fibres, which adhere to both skin and cartilage as well as to various synthetic materials, could have a range of applications – both biomedical and beyond.” • So now I understand the tradition…

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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 SG:

SG writes: “Pistachio tree in Sicily.”

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