Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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2:00PM Water Cooler 9/23/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, this will be a bit light. As you know, I’m a big LeCarré fan, ndd I discovered the BBC’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (the television series, in six parts) was on YouTube, legitimately. So I binge-watched it, instead of gathering Water Cooler material. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle for me. –Lambert. P.S. Alec Guinness, although not podgy enough, is superb as Smiley. The entire cast is a glorious ensemble…

Bird Song of the Day

Northern Gray-headed Sparrow, Tarengire National Park, Tanzania. “In campground, 2 seen in a tree over the tent. Dawn song.”

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“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

“You can’t really dust for vomit.” Nigel Tufnel, This is Spinal Tap

Biden Administration

“Support from women boosts Biden to another year-high approval rating: poll” [The Hill]. • It’s amazing to see the Demcorats make hay out of not delivering on Roe.


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“Trump to unleash millions in the midterms in possible prelude to 2024” [Politico]. “Donald Trump’s top lieutenants are launching a new super PAC that is expected to spend heavily to bolster his endorsed candidates in the midterm election — and, some people close to the former president say, could become a campaign apparatus if he runs in 2024. Sanctioned by the former president, the new group, dubbed MAGA, Inc., will become the primary vehicle for Trump’s operation to engage in political activity in 2022. The outfit is designed to funnel large sums into key races and could conceivably be used to boost Trump in the event he seeks the White House again.” • My first thought: A little late. My second: At the margin, it might make a difference in tight races if Trump makes good picks. We’ll see.

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!). 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.

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“U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz unlikely to face charges in sex-trafficking probe, report says” [Orlando Sentinel]. “Citing concerns about the credibility of key witnesses against him — including Seminole County’s former tax collector, Joel Greenberg — career Justice Department prosecutors have recommended against charging U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz with sex trafficking, according to a report.” • Ah, those “career prosecutors.”

Republican Funhouse

Realignment and Legitimacy


After Yves exposed Andrew Bowden for similar behavior, the SEC heaved him over the side. I guess it’s different if you’re a congress critter.

“FBI misled judge who signed warrant for Beverly Hills seizure of $86 million in cash” [Los Angeles Times]. • The FBI? Surely not.


“Italian study shows ventilation can cut school COVID cases by 82%” [Reuters]. “An experiment overseen by the Hume foundation think-tank compared coronavirus contagion in 10,441 classrooms in Italy’s central Marche region. COVID infections were steeply lower in the 316 classrooms that had mechanical ventilation systems, with the reduction in cases more marked according to the strength of the systems. With applications guaranteeing a complete replacement of the air in a classroom 2.4 times in an hour, infections were reduced by 40%. They were lowered by 66.8% with four air replacements per hour and by 82.5% with six air replacements, the study showed.” • We ran this story when it appeared, back in March. Recent commentary:

Needless to say, the United States is unlikely to replicate the Italian study. If you think that solving airborne tranmission is an engineering problem, that’s not an issue. If you think that ventilation requires an RCT, it is.

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A thread on the history of pandemic planning. Some factoids:

The Center for Disease has been broken for a long time.

“The Next Pandemic Could Be Worse than Covid. We’re Unprepared” [Politico]. “As with every “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” so far except for the Zika virus, the global Covid response has centered around our best defense: vaccines.” • Best and only, apparently.

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• Maskstravaganaza: “Stanford researchers find wildfire smoke is unraveling decades of air quality gains, exposing millions of Americans to extreme pollution levels” (press release) [Stanford University]. “Using statistical modeling and artificial intelligence techniques, the researchers estimated concentrations of PM2.5 specifically from wildfire smoke in sharp enough detail to reveal variations within individual counties and individual smoke events from coast to coast from 2006 to 2020. ‘We found that people are being exposed to more days with wildfire smoke and more extreme days with high levels of fine particulate matter from smoke,” said lead study author Marissa Childs.” • Your N95 or better should protect you against PM2.5. That’s why compliance in some parts of Asia was so good, because people were already accustomed to wearing them. Of course, in this country, presumably it is not OK to wear a mask when your motivation is Covid, but it is OK to wear a mask when your motivation is wildfires. Or is it? It’s so confusing!

Case Count

Case count for the United States:

Cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the nominal case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~59,200. Today, it’s ~52,800 and 52,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 316,800. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of August, 2021, and we are very far from that of March, 2021. And the real level is much worse.

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

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

The West:

California on a high plateau all of its own, with yet another backward revision.


Wastewater data (CDC), September 19:

Lambert here: I added all the dots back in. The number of grey dots really concerns me. How can all the sites for international air travel center New York be grey (“no recent data”). And California’s pretty gappy, too.

For grins, September 18:

NOTE To get the CDC data pages to load, I have to turn off my VPN. Thanks for the security breach, CDC.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 21:

-2.1%. Good news!


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.)

Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), September 23:

I suppose that if case counts are indeed level, it’s likely there would be few rapid risers. Those two red areas in Northern Maine and upstate New York are both on the way to Quebec, Canada.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), September 23:

Not a sea of green.

NOTE: Rapid Riser and Hospitalization data are updated Wednesdays and Fridays.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 10:

Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its appearance in CDC data below.

Variant data, national (CDC), September 10 (Nowcast off):

Two highlights: BA.4.6 has assumed a slightly greater proportion (more in the NowCast model, which I refuse to use). What about BA.2.75?

The above chart shows variants nationally. I have gone through the CDC regions and made a table. As you can see, BA.2.75 is prominent in Region 2 (New York and New Jersey), followed by Region 5 (Midwest), and Region 1 (Northeast). Hmm.

Table 1: CDC Regional BA.2.75 Data, Sorted by % Total (September 23)

CDC Region % Total States in Region
Region 2: 1.3% (0.8%) New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
Region 8: 1.3% (0.0%) Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
Region 9: 1.2% (0.0%) Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands….
Region 6: 0.6% (0.0%) Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas
Region 3: 0.5% (0.4%) Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia
Region 4: 0.4% (0.4%) Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee
Region 5: 0.4% (0.7%) Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin
Region 7: 0.3% (0.3%) lowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska
Region 10: 0.3% (0.0%) Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington
Region 1: 0.1% (0.7%) Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont

LEGEND: Previous CDC variant release shown in parentheses, (thus).

Not encouraging. Of course, the absolute numbers are small, but we’ve seen that movie before. I especially don’t like the jump in Region 2, because the New York area is “spready,” based on past history. Region 1, on the other hand, dropped.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: Not sure why World in Data changed the color to red.

Total: 1,080,836 – 1,080,356 = 480 (480 * 365 = 175,200, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line.

It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

There are not official statistics of interest today.

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Finance: Huh?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 21 Extreme Fear (previous close: 26 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 35 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 23 at 1:42 PM EDT.

Our Famously Free Press

“Democratic firms prevail in suit against Project Veritas” [Politico]. “A federal court jury on Thursday awarded $120,000 in damages to Democratic consulting firms targeted by Project Veritas, a conservative group specializing in hidden-camera video stings, in connection with recordings made in 2016 by an operative who obtained an internship using a false name and story. The jury of four men and five women concluded that the actions of the former operative, Allison Maass, breached a fiduciary duty to the consulting firms and amounted to fraudulent misrepresentation, according to the verdict form. Recordings made by Maass and other operatives depicting what the group said were efforts to incite violence at rallies for then-President Donald Trump drew significant media attention in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. A key figure behind the Democratic consultancies, Robert Creamer, said the firms lost organizing contracts after the release of the videos. He adamantly denied encouraging violence during so-called bracketing efforts around Trump events. Project Veritas’ founder, James O’Keefe, refers to Maass and others who conduct the stings as journalists. Vowing an appeal, he said the jury verdict endangered hidden-camera work by a wide range of journalists.” •

The Gallery

Like listening to YouTubes on Ukraine today?

Groves of Academe

A university administrator actually approved these abominations:

Class Warfare

We still haven’t seen a contract for the railroad workers, so now it’s not there’s no deal, it’s that there’s really no deal. Here is on snippet that somehow escaped:

The timeline is looking pretty sketchy, too:

Disgruntled individuals? Perhaps. The obvious answer would be for the union leadership to come clean with a full copy of the TA, and with actual contract language ASAP.

“U.S.-China Tensions Fuel Outflow of Chinese Scientists From U.S. Universities” [Wall Street Journal]. An increasing number of scientists and engineers of Chinese descent are giving up tenured positions at top-tier American universities to leave for China or elsewhere, in a sign of the U.S.’s fading appeal for a group that has been a driver of innovation. The trend, driven in part by what many of the scholars describe as an increasingly hostile political and racial environment, has caused the Biden administration to work with scholars of Chinese descent to address concerns. More than 1,400 U.S.-trained Chinese scientists dropped their U.S. academic or corporate affiliation for a Chinese one in 2021, a 22% jump from the previous year, according to data gathered by researchers from Princeton University, Harvard University and the Massachuseolo found that China-born scientists account for nearly 30% of artificial-intelligence researchers working for U.S. institutions.” Oh? And: “Chinese and other foreign-born scientists have been a source of national strength, Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and chairman of the U.S. government’s National Security Commission on AI, said in an interview. ‘We should never aim to cut ourselves off from a country that is home to 1.4 billion, with immense talent.’” • Especially as people of Schmidt’s class are nuking the university system here. But why build when you can buy?tts Institute of Technology.” And: “A 2020 analysis by Chicago-based think tank MacroP

News of the Wired

“Be critical or be corrupted” [CJ Cenizal]. On The Wire: “What began as the homicide division’s initial reaction to a problem becomes a chain reaction. More metrics blossom and breed bad behavior. The department measures crime in terms of felonies, so they show a reduction in crime by reclassifying felonies as misdemeanors, thus letting violent criminals off the hook. Meanwhile they use their arrest rate to measure effectiveness, so they demonstrate an effective police force by arresting people for minor infractions like loitering. The metrics incentivize counterproductive behavior and, over time, develop into a self-perpetuating culture. This is corruption…. What can we do about this entropic tendency of organizations towards corruption? We can carefully design our metrics and think critically about the behaviors we expect them to incentivize. This one’s obvious…. We can extend self-awareness and critical thinking to all decisions made within an organization. We just have to consider every decision’s second-order effects.” • Hmm.

The Streisand Effect?

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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 AB:

AB writes: My sunflowers made the local news: “Towering Sunflowers In Alameda: Photo Of The Day.” Congratulations!

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