Home Economy 2:00PM Water Cooler 7/19/2023 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/19/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Mexican Whip-poor-will, Chloride Creek (Gila NF 226), Sierra, New Mexico, United States.

* * *


“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

“White House Says COVID Testing Protocols Still in Place After Israeli Delegation Members Test Positive” [C-SPAN]. Karine Jean-Pierre: “As you know, we have testing protocols any time somebody meet with the President.”

They know. They just don’t want you to know. Their lives and health matter. Yours don’t. It couldn’t be more clear.


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Why is Joe Biden so unpopular?” [Yahoo News]. “At this point in his term — about 910 days in — Joe Biden is the second-most-unpopular president in modern U.S. history. As of July 18, Biden’s average job-approval rating, according to the poll aggregators at FiveThirtyEight, is a paltry 39.1%; his average disapproval rating is 55.4%. That means his ‘net approval rating’ is -16.3%, which is well ‘underwater,’ as pollsters like to say. Negative 16.3% is also really bad historically speaking. In fact, the only president with weaker numbers than Biden was Jimmy Carter, who hit -28.6% on day 910…. In the past, a president’s standing has tended to improve along with conditions in the country. Yet Biden’s numbers haven’t budged; since September 2022, his approval rating has remained mired around 40% while his disapproval rating has never broken out of the low to mid-50s. The question is why. Is it something systemic — the way Americans are increasingly stuck in their own partisan media bubbles and unwilling to give presidents of the opposing party any credit? Is it the economy — the way certain indicators (such as real wages and the cost of services) have yet to fully recover even as the overall picture brightens? Or is it Biden himself — his advanced age, his frequent gaffes, his ongoing family drama? And can the president turn things around in time for the 2024 election?” • Because Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

* * *

“‘Here to help’: Pete Buttigieg, federal officials survey Vermont’s flood damage” [VT Digger]. • Next, East Palestine?

“Newsom’s mental health plan would take $700 million away from services, redirect money to housing homeless” [FOX]. • Taking money away from the NGOs, and giving it to the construction unions?

* * *

“If not DeSantis, who? Five alternatives to Trump for the GOP nomination” [The Hill]. • Scott, Haley, Ramaswamy, Christie, None of the above (Youngkin, Kemp, Pence). “Trump has to be buoyed by the lack of any one person who is really endangering his march toward the nomination.”

“Tim Scott-boosting super PAC drops $40 million in fall ad reservations”” [Politico]. “A super PAC aligned with Sen. Tim Scott is dropping $40 million in fall ad reservations, the largest buy of the presidential race so far… The new television and digital advertisements are set to start running Sept. 7 — just after the super PAC’s $7 million summer ad campaign winds down — and will go through January. The television ads will run in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — as well as on national cable networks — just as the primary debate season is underway. Scott remains locked in a slow-moving fight with a handful of other candidates for the No. 3 spot in the GOP primary. He is under pressure to boost his name recognition with voters to advance in the polls.”

“Youngkin administration halts teacher diversity grants legislators had funded” [Daily Progress]. “The Virginia Department of Education under the Youngkin administration halted the dissemination of grants intended to help provisionally licensed teachers of color receive their full teaching license, despite funding from the state legislature…. The administration has also made a point to roll back diversity efforts. One month after his inauguration, Youngkin’s new education department scrapped dozens of resources for schools on the department’s website aimed at promoting diversity and equity, calling them divisive and at times discriminatory. Virginia’s chief diversity official, Martin Brown, slammed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at a Virginia Military Institute event in April and said ‘DEI is dead.’” • Youngkin quietly getting boxes checked, with this and also with the next–

“Virginia Department of Education Releases Model Policies to Ensure Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” [Virginia Department of Education]. “After the 2021 Model Policies purposefully kept parents in the dark about their child’s health and wellbeing at school, the 2023 Model Policies restore parental rights in decision making about their child’s identity while protecting the safety and dignity of all students.”

* * *

“Barack Obama, in TikTok starring Kankakee Public Library staffers, launches drive against book bans” [Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times]. “Book bans are brewing as an issue that could energize voters — on the left and right — from local contests for library and school boards to the White House — heading into the 2024 election cycle. Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina — all red states — are where book bans are most common. Blue Illinois in June became the first state in the nation to protect libraries from, according to the legislation, ‘attempts to ban, remove or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials.’ The new law, driven by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and — both Democrats ahead of the curve on this — came as the Chicago-based American Library Association said that in 2022 in Illinois, there were 67 attempts to ban books.’” • Hmm.

Good for Williamson, especially since Jayapal just got kneecapped for a much milder statement:

2020 Post Mortem

“Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Charges 16 ‘False Electors’ with Election Law and Forgery Felonies” (press release) [Michigan Department of Attorney General]. July 18:

These defendants are alleged to have met covertly in the basement of the Michigan Republican Party headquarters on December 14th, and signed their names to multiple certificates stating they were the “duly elected and qualified electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America for the State of Michigan.” These false documents were then transmitted to the United States Senate and National Archives in a coordinated effort to award the state’s electoral votes to the candidate of their choosing, in place of the candidates actually elected by the people of Michigan.

“The evidence will demonstrate there was no legal authority for the false electors to purport to act as ‘duly elected presidential electors’ and execute the false electoral documents,” Nessel continued. “Every serious challenge to the election had been denied, dismissed, or otherwise rejected by the time the false electors convened. There was no legitimate legal avenue or plausible use of such a document or an alternative slate of electors. There was only the desperate effort of these defendants, who we have charged with deliberately attempting to interfere with and overturn our free and fair election process, and along with it, the will of millions of Michigan voters. That the effort failed and democracy prevailed does not erase the crimes of those who enacted the false electors plot.”

I will have to understand the actual case better. The first thing that strikes me is the age of the defendants: 55, 55, 56, 64, 65, 68, 69, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 76, 81, and 82. This New Yorker puff-piece, in an unrelated incident, appeared July 17–

“How Gretchen Whitmer Made Michigan a Democratic Stronghold” [Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker]. “She endured an armed mob at the state capitol and a plot by a group linked to a right-wing militia to kidnap and kill her. Last November, Whitmer tied her candidacy to a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion and won reëlection by ten points, sweeping the suburbs so convincingly that the Democrats gained control of both houses of the Michigan legislature for the first time in forty years. Since then, Whitmer’s Democratic majority has allocated more than a billion dollars to support the auto industry’s green transition; quintupled a tax credit for poor families; repealed a law that made Michigan a right-to-work state; and enacted new protections for L.G.B.T.Q. people. After a forty-three-year-old local man went on a shooting spree at Michigan State University, in February, killing three students, some modest, if hard-won, gun-control measures were put in place.” • About that “plot by a group linked to a right-wing militia to kidnap and kill her”: “We Shouldn’t Trust the FBI’s Narrative on the Gretchen Whitmer Kidnapping Scheme,” and “The FBI Allegedly Used At Least 12 Informants In The Michigan Kidnapping Case.” Amazing, or not, that Wallace-Wells erases that part (if indeed the erasure was his). So the spooks and the press love Whitmer. Good, right?

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.

* * *

“A new strategy to take on AIPAC: Actually take them on” [Ryan Grim]. “But contra the chilling effect AIPAC may be having nationwide, one challenger to an incumbent Democrat in Houston is taking the polar opposite approach. Pervez Agwan is running against the AIPAC-endorsed Rep. Lizzie Fletcher as an ‘unapologetically progressive Dem’ and criticizing Fletcher for taking money from AIPAC, hoping to turn any impending spending against him into a weakness for Fletcher. ‘To take money from a lobbying group that dictates your foreign policy, I think it’s completely unacceptable,’ Agwan told The Intercept in an interview. ‘I do not think it’s OK to take money from a group that openly keeps an apartheid system and an open-air prison where people’s rights are violated.’”


“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; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); 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: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

Via MN, “super cool citizen science covid data effort”:

The whole thread is worth a read to see what they do; Iowa COVID-19 Tracker (above) has a similar approach and level of effort.

Censorship and Propaganda

I remain agnostic over whether “Proximal Origins” is how “science” is done at a high level, regardless of topic. What does seem clear is that Science‘s reporting on the matter — which, to be fair, would involved Science covering itself, and the press is never part of the story – was sub-optimal from a public health perspective:

However, to repeat what I said earlier today, Covid has shown how often people focus on what they can see; I do it too. In this case, what people can see is Anderson, Fauci, Collins, et al. So that’s where the story goes. What people do not see is, as it were, the negative space, which structures everything, as negative space will do: The unnamed “higher-ups,” and “intel” (the latter seemingly involved from jump). Hopefully we’ll get a little more insight into the unseeable, and the unsayable, as the story rumbles on.


“The Challenges of Defining, Understanding, and Addressing Long COVID” [Pfizer (!!)]. “7 Hypotheses on Long COVID’s Cause… 1. Viral Persistence; 2. Immune Dysregulation; 3. Latent virus reactivation; 4. Autoimmunity; 5. Microclots; 6. Dysfunctional Neurological Signaling; 7. Disruption of the Microbiome.” And: “After carefully considering each one, [Magdia De Jesus, PhD, Director of Scientific Strategy and Portfolio Lead in Pfizer’s Worldwide Medical and Safety Division] flags the two hypotheses that scientists seem to be addressing first: Viral Persistence and Immune Dysregulation, which have several ongoing clinical trials. Although the other hypotheses are being addressed, scientists are taking a stepwise approach to their research because of long COVID’s complexity.” • Good news, Long Covid is legit. Bad news, Pfizer did the legitimating. Commentary:


“Professor believes nasal spray invention prevented him getting Covid” [News.com]. “The spray’s key ingredient is the drug heparin, which is an anticoagulant — or blood thinner — that stops your blood from forming clots or making them bigger, according to the Cleveland Clinic…. According to Prof [Don] Campbell, health experts have known for 20 years the drug could also be used to block the proliferation of influenza in laboratory cultures. He thought a similar concept could work for blocking Covid…. After several unsuccessful attempts at securing funding, the researchers were finally able to secure $4.2 million from the Andrews government… The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Monash University and The Northern Hospital are looking for 400 families to trial the solution — but this has been a challenge…. Prof Campbell reassured the use of heparin is safe given it’s the second most widely used drug in the world that’s been used as an intravenous anticoagulant for eight decades. ‘If you’ve been using something for 80 years, and it’s the second most widely used drug on Earth, we know all about it,’ he said.” • Hmm.

“Something Awful”

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. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, July 17:

Lambert here: A distinct upward trend. Not seeing the upward slope of doubling behavior, but we are now — just scan the chart backward — at a level above every previous valley.

Regional data:

Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.

Regional variant data:

Whatever the cause of the uptick in the Northeast, it’s not EG.5 (the orange pie slice), which seems evenly distributed.



Lambert here: EG.5 moving like a bat out of hell, showing unactionable nature (uselessness) of these CDC two-week-lag charts (here, and in positivity, too). They’re not even performative!

From CDC, June 24:

Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, July 15:

Lambert here: Notice the slight increase.

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. 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.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, July 17:

1.1%. Going up, though the absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say. Interestingly, these do not correlate with the regional figures for wastewater. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From CDC, June 26:

Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data. They say “maps,” but I don’t see one….


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, July 12:

Lambert here: The WHO data is worthless, so I replaced it with the Iowa Covid Data Tracker. Their method: “These data have been sourced, via the API from the CDC: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Conditions-Contributing-to-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Stat/hk9y-quqm. This visualization updates on Wednesday evenings. Data are provisional and are adjusted weekly by the CDC.” I can’t seem to get a pop-up that shows a total of the three causes (top right). Readers?

Total: 1,168,944 – 1,168,9141,168,414 = 30 (30 * 365 = 10950 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).

Excess Deaths

The Economist, July 19:

Lambert here: This is now being updated daily. Odd. Based on a machine-learning model. (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

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle: “Nasdaq pauses crypto custody plans citing the ‘shifting’ regulatory climate” [CNBC]. “Nasdaq is pausing its plans to release a crypto custody business, CEO Adena Friedman said on the company’s earnings call Wednesday. ‘Considering the shifting business and regulatory environment in the US, we’ve made the decision to halt our launch of the U.S. digital assets custodian business and our related efforts to pursue a relevant license,’ she said. ‘However, we continue to build and deliver technology capabilities that position Nasdaq as a leading digital asset software solutions provider to the broader global industry.’ Nasdaq still provides the company listing for Coinbase and filed the paperwork for recent bitcoin ETF applications from BlackRock and others.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 84 Extreme Greed (previous close: 82 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 80 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 19 at 1:31 PM ET.

The Conservatory

“Where Johnny Cash Came From” [Humanities]. “Cash’s roots were humble. He grew up on government-granted land in the Arkansas Delta, and that hardscrabble world of poor farmers helped define his musical career. During his early years as a musician, he performed for small audiences like the Merigold High School junior class in Merigold, Mississippi, a Delta town with a population of 664. In 1955, the class planned a fund-raiser to support their trip to Washington and invited Elvis Presley to perform at the event. Their classmate Larry Speakes—who later served as White House press secretary during the Ronald Reagan administration—and his band had recently played on the same stage with Elvis at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, where he met Bob Neal, Presley’s manager at the time. Speakes phoned Neal, who told him that Presley’s fee to do the show would be $85, which Speakes said they could not afford. Neal then offered to send both Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins for $35, and Speakes readily accepted. The legendary concert was in the school gymnasium, which was built by the New Deal Works Progress Administration in 1938. It drew a sellout audience of 400, and tickets sold for 60 cents each.” • Musical interlude:

The Gallery



The second portrait, to me, is the only that only Degas could have painted. Not a grey area at all…

Zeitgeist Watch

Pool report:

“Skater Girls Are Having All The Fun” [Byline]. “When I was 6 years old, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a skater boy. I loved every part of the skateboarding culture, from the busted boards and sticker-covered helmets to the 00s punk music that blared from boomboxes at the skatepark and the ever-present bottles of Mountain Dew and Monster. My dream never really came true. Sure, I learned how to get up on a board and push off, and I managed to steer myself cautiously around the flat parts of the park while my older brother yelled, “Faster! You have to go faster!” But I never skated the way I saw all the older boys skating—plunging into the bowl, grinding rails, speeding down the sidewalk, and wiping out spectacularly after a wheel ran over an unseen pebble.” • Since “wiping out spectacularly” involves crashing into impermeable surfaces like concrete, the whole enterprise strikes me as just as nutty as, say, skiiing. Then again, I lived in Philly of Love Park fame, the whole enterprise strikes me as harmless, and actually rather sweet. And then again: “‘I was skating alone constantly and wanted women to join, not only because of the constant unwanted male attention you get as a woman on a skateboard but because it was something I loved so deeply and wished I could share with other women,’ Osinski told Amadeus Magazine. ‘Thanks to my lucky stars, after a few months of recruiting random women for group skates, I finally met the most magical women who all loved skating and wanted to create a movement of empowering women through skate just as much as I did.’” • So perhaps not so sweet. Still, “empowering women” through skateboarding? Some, I suppose….

News of the Wired

“Welcome to BookWyrm” [BookWyrm]. “BookWyrm is a social network for tracking your reading, talking about books, writing reviews, and discovering what to read next. Federation allows BookWyrm users to join small, trusted communities that can connect with one another, and with other ActivityPub services like Mastodon and Pleroma.” • Interesting?

* * *

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 Paul Riche:

Paul Riche writes: “Beautiful ‘Queen of the Night’ in my neighbor’s garden this morning.”

* * *

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