2:00PM Water Cooler 2/2/2024 | naked capitalism

Politics

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

The Constitutional Order (Invasion)

“Congressman urging Texas to ignore the Supreme Court is backed by major law firms” [Popular Information]. “Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) is publicly urging Texas to ignore the Supreme Court. In previously unreported comments, Roy explained that he feared his position would push the country into ‘a post-constitutional world.’ But, Roy said, the Supreme Court is ‘pushing our hand’ by issuing a ruling related to the southern border that he opposes, and the Supreme Court needs to ‘feel the pressure.’ Major law firms and numerous prominent corporations are financially backing Roy’s reelection campaign, according to a Popular Information analysis of federal campaign finance filings…. Roy’s 2024 reelection campaign is supported by two prominent law firms. Covington & Burling is an international law firm based in Washington, DC…. Roy also received $750 on May 17, 2023, from the PAC of another prestigious DC-based law firm, Akin Gump…. Since 2023, Roy has also received financial support from the PACs of major corporations and professional organizations, including Valero Energy ($2,500), Union Pacific ($2,000), iHeartMedia ($2,000), Toyota ($1,000), Dell ($1,000), and the National Association of Realtors ($1,000).”

2024

Less than a year to go!

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Trump (R): “Inside Trump’s election A-team: Lean, mean and largely unseen” [Reuters]. ” A veteran tactician who worked on Ronald Reagan’s campaign. An ex-Marine wounded in the Middle East. The former voice of UFC cage-fighting. A golf caddie turned social media maestro. Meet Donald Trump’s election A-team. They are among a handful of distinctive figures who form a tight, disciplined inner circle around the former president in his bid for the White House, according to interviews with more than a dozen people close to the Trump campaign including current and former officials, donors and strategists. This core campaign team of a half-dozen aides is unswervingly loyal to their boss and chooses to stay mostly in the background, the people interviewed said, marking a stark departure from Trump’s previous, looser orbit of advisers which was characterized by infighting, media leaks and firings. ‘We go to war with people that we trust,’ said Trump’s campaign co-manager Chris LaCivita, a 57-year-old former Marine injured in the 1991 Gulf War who became a political consultant…/The two veteran political operators and their small team have helped Trump build a huge lead in the race for the Republican nomination. They have helped him land major endorsements, lobby state Republican parties for beneficial rule changes, relentlessly mock his rivals, develop the successful strategy of campaigning on his multiple criminal indictments, and make sure events are packed with red cap-wearing supporters. ‘Most people don’t know who Susie Wiles is. Most people don’t know who Chris LaCivita is. That’s not a bad thing,’ Corey Lewandowski, a campaign manager of Trump’s 2016 operation who remains close to him, said in an interview. ‘They’re doing their job every day. And there’s one guy whose name is on the side of the plane: It’s Donald Trump, and he likes it that way.’ The team’s success to date suggests Trump could give Democratic President Joe Biden a much tougher time than four years ago in their likely November match-up. ‘Biden is going to be facing a first-class Trump operation this time around,’ said veteran Republican consultant Scott Reed, who has worked on presidential and senatorial races. ‘Most of the hangers-on have been jettisoned.’” • So Trump displayed adaptability; he learned that electoral politics is, in fact, very difficult and made some good hires.

Trump (R): “Dispelling The Zombie Myth Of White Evangelical Support For Trump” [Religion Dispatches]. “Despite its zombie-like resurrections since Trump’s rise to power, the assertion that unchurched White evangelicals are the most supportive of Trump is not supported by the preponderance of evidence…. The general assertion that church attendance has significantly declined among White evangelical Protestants is simply not supported by the evidence. In the general population, church attendance levels have indeed been dropping over the last few decades. However, church attendance levels among White evangelical Protestants have remained significantly higher than the general population…. Today, only about one in four White evangelical Protestants report seldom or never attending church—a proportion far too small to move the needle on overall support for Trump, even if they were his greatest supporters…. More importantly, since Trump first garnered the GOP nomination and was elected president in 2016, there is no basis for the claim that Trump’s support is higher among White evangelicals who are not connected to churches. In fact, the data have consistently shown the opposite: that support for Trump has been lower among White evangelical Protestants who seldom or never attend church.”

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Haley (R): “Nikki Haley Should Go for Broke” [Peggy Noonan]. .A great party is trying to produce its presidential nominee. Donald Trump is the leader in the contest so far, and looks likely to be the victor. But the cycle has just started (61 delegates allocated, 2,368 to go) and the party isn’t united, it’s split, roughly 50/50 pro-Trump and not. Nikki Haley is right to stay in and fight. No one has the right to shut her down. She’s stumping in her home state, South Carolina, and getting a lot of advice. I remember George H.W. Bush at a difficult point in the GOP primaries in 1988, after he lost Iowa. All his friends were saying, ‘You have to show you’re strong!’ He’d listen politely, thank them, now and then ask if they had any specific ideas on how to show ‘strength.’ They’d wave their hands and flounder. Finally Bush growled to his aides: How do they want me to show it? Maybe I’ll get off the plane, go up to the greeting party and slug ’em in the face, plaster ’em, maybe that’ll do it. That’s from memory, thus no quote marks, but I think of it when the subject is the well-meaning but useless advice candidates under pressure receive. For useful advice I turned to my friend Landon Parvin, savant and veteran Washington speechwriter, who tore himself away from work to offer practical thoughts. Go for broke, Landon said; there’s only one subject now and it’s Mr. Trump. Go at him, make it new. ‘Feel the freedom of your situation,’ he says to Ms. Haley. ‘Self-respect is at issue. You’re not slinking off under pressure. There is something glorious about a last stand.’ ‘You alone now carry the banner. Speak up for all the Republicans who have been demeaned, diminished and threatened by Trump. He can no longer hurt you. Pick up the sword. You don’t have to give Shakespeare’s band-of-brothers speech but live it!’” • Hmm.

Haley (R): “What Is Nikki Haley Doing?” [RealClearPolitics]. “Imagine that you previously served in President Trump’s cabinet and were so horrified by what you saw that you concluded he should never sit in the Oval Office again. Or, imagine that you simply despise the guy and think he’s categorically unfit to be president. What would you do? YMMV (your mileage may vary, for readers below a certain age), but you could certainly do a whole lot worse than what Haley is doing. By staying in and needling the former president, she delays him from claiming the mantle of GOP nominee and from transitioning to the general election. She knocks him off message, as he feels compelled to punch down, hard (as opposed to giving, say, his gracious Iowa speech). Her criticisms echo those coming from President Biden’s camp, so they probably soften Biden up some for the general election. What’s in it for her? … A job from wealthy donors? A network television show? The speaking circuit? Plenty of opportunities are available for failed presidential candidates, especially those who attack a candidate the establishment genuinely despises.”

Haley (R): “Don’t underestimate Nikki Haley – for starters, just look at how she gets under Trump’s skin” [Emma Brockes, Guardian]. “The striking thing about Haley over the last few weeks is how effective she has been in getting under Trump’s skin. This, as we know, is a notoriously hard thing to do if one is invested in maintaining one’s dignity. Michelle Obama’s old adage – ‘when they go low, we go high’ – doesn’t work with Trump, who keeps going lower and lower until the moral high ground is a point of light in the sky so distant it might as well be an alien life form. Haley, unlike her male rivals, uses a very particular tone towards the former president that feels connected to her relative youth and also her gender…. Haley, it strikes me, has studied Margaret Thatcher very closely and in fact, along with Hillary Clinton (and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and, funnily enough, Joan Jett) cites her as a personal hero. In her public interactions with Trump, she has for years adopted a mode of condescension reminiscent of Thatcher addressing her enemies in the House of Commons, an arch response, steeped in sarcasm, to the argument that women in politics lack a tone of command. When Trump tweeted in 2016: ‘The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!’ she replied, simply, ‘Bless your heart.’ Yes, it’s the ‘oh, bless’ level of political discourse. You can disapprove of it, but weirdly, in this instance, it landed, leaving Trump looking vaguely pathetic. The tone Haley has adopted is one of the very few that breaks through and hits him where he hurts, at the level of personal and physical vanity. Since then, she has maintained towards the Republican frontrunner the vibe of a nurse – ‘Now, then, Mr Trump; have we taken our pills today?’ – pandering to an elderly man.” • Hmm. I don’t see this, but maybe that’s because I rely on text. Readers?

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Biden (D): “Biden’s 2024 Campaign Is Worse Than Churchill’s Pudding” [Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal]. “Winston Churchill reportedly once rejected an indifferent dessert, saying: “Take away this pudding! It has no theme.” Mr. Biden’s campaign is worse than Mr. Churchill’s pudding. He not only lacks an effective, simple story line about who he is and what this contest is about; his attempts so far to draw one have only muddled things further. He was elected in 2020 as a transitional figure who was supposed to return normality to the White House. Then in 2021 and 2022, his staff hyped him as the most transformational president since at least Lyndon B. Johnson. This year he is depicted as the defender of democracy and abortion. That may not be all that helpful to his re-election. Team Biden doesn’t seem to understand that attacking Mr. Trump as a fundamental threat to democracy revs up his base. Right or wrong, MAGA supporters see four indictments, a hostile media, and efforts to kick Mr. Trump off the ballot as threats to democracy. Most attacks on him have strengthened their devotion. But railing about Mr. Trump’s traversing of norms doesn’t energize Biden voters, many of whom remain generally lethargic. The president would have more success focusing on specific matters that independents and swayable Republicans care about. For one, Mr. Trump promises to pardon those now imprisoned for offenses, including violent ones, related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots. That’s unacceptable to most Americans. He keeps claiming he won the 2020 election. While most Republicans believe that, nearly a third disagree, as do most independents. Abortion may help turn out otherwise unenthusiastic Democrats in states with ballot measures on the issue, but the issue may not be all that Team Biden thinks it is. Neither Mr. Trump nor Nikki Haley is likely to mishandle the issue by supporting a six- or 10-week national ban. While consumer confidence is rapidly rising, Mr. Biden still doesn’t have an economic message that clicks with voters. Last year he used ‘Bidenomics’ to describe what he claimed was a thriving economy, even though most Americans thought it stank. Now, though inflation is receding and growth is good, most voters are still adjusting to three years of price inflation and wages that didn’t keep up. Immigration is a disaster for Mr. Biden. If Congress doesn’t pass border-security legislation, the president can’t simply blame Republicans. People know he has neglected the southern border for three years.” • Rove is a pro. This is well-urged. Could it be that desperation has pushed Never-Trumpers into abandoning the well-worn genre of offering Democrats a poisoned chalice under the guise of well-meant, good faith advice that will help them win?

Biden (D): “Biden accepts mayor’s invitation to visit East Palestine, Ohio, a year after train derailment” [Associated Press]. ” President Joe Biden will visit the eastern Ohio community that was devastated by a fiery train derailment almost one year ago, accepting an invitation from the East Palestine mayor to see firsthand how the cleanup of spilled toxic chemicals and the recovery are coming along. Mayor Trent Conaway, a conservative who does not support Biden, said Wednesday he extended the invitation to the Democratic president because he thinks the visit will be good for his community. ‘I’m as red as they come. I’m as conservative as they come. Sometimes I have to do what’s best for the people so, yes, that’s why I invited him,’ Conaway said in an interview with The Associated Press. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier Wednesday that Biden would visit sometime in February. She said the White House and local officials were still hashing out timing for Biden’s long-awaited trip.” • You’ve got to invite the vampire across the threshold…

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Newsom (D): “California general who retired in scandal sues, alleging Gavin Newsom ignored antisemitism” [Sacramento Bee]. ” A former California Air National Guard brigadier general who retired in scandal is now suing the state, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, alleging that it was an atmosphere of antisemitism, not misconduct, that forced him out of a job. Retired Gen. Jeffrey Magram filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lawsuit names Newsom and California Military Department Adjutant General Matthew Beevers as defendants. “Beevers discriminated against Magram by harassing and wrongfully terminating Magram because of Magram’s Jewish faith, Jewish heritage, and Magram’s complaints about Beevers’ antisemitic discrimination and harassment,” the lawsuit contends. Magram’s lawsuit alleges that Beevers created a hostile work environment by making numerous antisemitic remarks. Magram alleged that he informed Newsom’s office of these remarks on six occasions but the governor took no action.” • Odd.

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Phillips (D): “80% of Dean Phillips’ Q4 presidential fundraising was from his own wallet” [Axios]. “Rep. Dean Phillips gave his campaign a $4 million loan during the fourth quarter of 2023, while he pulled in about $1 million from other donors, his public filing with the Federal Election Commission shows. Phillips earlier this month called his long-shot presidential campaign the most “important philanthropic pursuit of [his] life” and said he will do ‘what it takes’ to sustain his campaign. Phillips, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, told reporters in New Hampshire earlier this month that he’d donated $5 million so far. Of the roughly $1 million that Phillips raised from outside donors, about $225,900 came from unitemized contributions less than $200, while $790,000 came from itemized contributions over $200.

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West (I): Another party:

West is not yet on the ballot in Utah….

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MN: “Republicans smeared Ilhan Omar over a faulty translation. Here’s what she really said” (transcript) [Minnesota Reformer]. “Social media posts have asserted Omar said they are ‘people who know they are Somalians first, Muslims second.’ This led to a wave of attacks about Omar’s failing to state her allegiance to the United States…. Neither of the Reformer’s translations show she said ‘Somalians first, Muslims second.’ Indeed, the term ‘Somalian’ is not used by Somalis, who prefer the term “Somali.’” From the transcript: “We Somalis are people who love each other. It’s possible that we might sometimes have disagreements but we are also people who can rely on each other. We are people who are siblings. We are people with courage. We are people who know that they are Somali and Muslim. We are people who support each other.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

“The union vote is becoming more Republican” [Harry Enten, CNN]. “Take a look at recent New York Times/Siena College polling in the six closest swing states that Biden won in 2020: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden and Trump were tied at 47% among union members when asked who they’d vote for in 2024. When these swing state voters were asked how they voted in 2020, Biden won the group by an 8-point margin. The union vote is especially important in Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Somewhere between 14% and 15% of employees in these three states are represented by unions. (Between 12% and 13% of employees in these states are themselves union members.) The latest polling may be a surprise given that union workers are generally thought of as a strong Democratic group. It shouldn’t be. Biden won union workers – who reside primarily in blue states – by 22 points, according to the 2020 Cooperative Election Study survey by Harvard University. Compare that with Bill Clinton’s performance in 1992, when he won the national popular vote by a similar margin to Biden 28 years later. But Clinton won union members by 31 points, according to an American National Election Studies survey. We’re a far cry from 1948, when Democrat Harry Truman won union workers by 62 points over Republican Thomas Dewey.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

#COVID19

“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 (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, 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, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Scientific Communication

“The importance of accurate, sensitive reporting on long COVID” [Association of Health Care Journalists]. “An estimated 28% of people ever infected with COVID in the U.S. report having experienced long COVID symptoms, according to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. …. The good news is that 17% of those who have had long COVID report no longer having symptoms. But more discouragingly, 11% continue to live with the condition — and still no FDA-approved medications can effectively treat it yet. Among that group, commonly called “long haulers,” nearly eight out of 10 people (79%) report that long COVID symptoms limit their day-to-day activities. More than a quarter (27%) say those limitations are significant. Yet I still meet people in my everyday life who haven’t heard of long COVID, perhaps largely because media coverage of it is so sparing. People are admittedly [propaganda works] tired of hearing about COVID, but as we’re in the midst of the largest COVID spike since Omicron, the virus clearly isn’t tired of us. And people cannot remain vigilant about taking measures to reduce their risk of infection — and therefore their risk of long COVID — if journalists do not regularly report on it.” • I don’t understand the spectrum between “no symptoms” and “live with,” but regardless, the numbers are big.

Sequelae

Wierd (partial) overlap between “secession” states and Long Covid:

Prevention

“Efficacy of Povidone-Iodine Nasal and Oral Antiseptic Preparations Against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” [Ear, Nose, and Throat Journal]. NC stanned for Povidone early (links here, here, here in August 2021). However, hat tip to alert reader Jabura Basaidai for finding this link, which dates to April 2021, and to which we had not linked. From the Abstract: “This study evaluated nasal and oral antiseptic formulations of PVP-I for virucidal activity against SARS-CoV-2. This is the first report on the efficacy of PVP-I against the virus that causes COVID-19…. Nasal and oral PVP-I antiseptic solutions are effective at inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 at a variety of concentrations after 60-second exposure times.” • Now would be a good time not to relax your protocols; if Povidone or equivalent nasal/oral sprays were layers in your system of layered protection, they should be layers now. We may be tired of the virus, but the virus is not tired of us….

Elite Maleficence

“A CDC Update on the Draft 2024 Guideline to Prevent Transmission of Pathogens in Healthcare Settings [CDC]. I posted the a tweet on this, the original post. “A draft set of framework recommendations was reviewed by HICPAC in November 2023 and approved by the HICPAC committee for sending to CDC for review. The draft recommendations document is posted on the CDC website at https://blogs.cdc.gov/safehealthcare/november-hicpac-public-meeting-recap/. Based on the significant interest in the draft recommendations, CDC is taking a proactive step of communicating back to HICPAC some initial questions and comments on which we would like additional consideration before submitting the guideline into the Federal Register for public comment. In addition, CDC is working to expand the scope of technical backgrounds of participants on the HICPAC Isolation Guideline Workgroup and eventually among the committee members through established processes in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) regulations and guidance. The expanded workgroup and the HICPAC with the newly appointed members will review and discuss these additional considerations and guideline at the next HICPAC meeting, which is open to the public.” Key point: “Another issue relevant to preventing transmission through air is to make sure that a draft set of recommendations cannot be misread to suggest equivalency between facemasks and NIOSH Approved respirators, which is not scientifically correct nor the intent of the draft language. Although masks can provide some level of filtration, the level of filtration is not comparable to NIOSH Approved respirators. Respiratory protection remains an important part of personal protective equipment to keep healthcare personnel safe.” • I read this blog post, in its totality, as CDC pushing HICPAC toward a clean, clear statement on aerosols, which is encouraging (though doubtless the hospital infection departments driving HICPAC will keep fighting this tooth and nail, driven, I would speculate, by liability concerns, besides institutional inertia). Then again:

And then again:

Yes, this Tweet is on the hidden list. Whoever is running the CDC Twitter account is “Vax and relax.” Both anti-vax (and good faith vax critiques) plus pro-mask tweets are hidden, good job.

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“Study Shows Hospital Outcomes for Flu and COVID-19 Have Become More Similar” [Flu News & Spotlight, CDC]. ” A new CDC study has found that more recent COVID-19 hospitalizations among adults experienced fewer severe outcomes than during earlier parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the proportion of severe hospital outcomes from COVID-19 became more similar to adults hospitalized with flu.” • Besides being hospital-centric, the agenda here is pretty clear.

“Updated Covid vaccine has 54% effectiveness, new data suggest” [STAT]. “Arnold Monto, a veteran vaccine effectiveness researcher at the University of Michigan, said the findings are what are expected at this point for Covid vaccine boosters. ‘We’re moving into the era of 50%, 60% percent efficacy. Reminds you of flu [vaccine], doesn’t it?’ Monto said.” • Same agenda: Covid = flu (escape flu doesn’t cause cardiovascular and neurological damage, there’s no such thing as Long Flu, and AFAIK, flu doesn’t invade all the tissues of the body where ACE2 receptors are to be found.

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TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

LEGEND

1) for charts new today; all others are not updated.

2) For a full-size/full-resolution image, Command-click (MacOS) or right-click (Windows) on the chart thumbnail and “open image in new tab.”

NOTES

[1] Even after a decline, we’re still higher than any of the surges under Trump.

[2] Slight increase in MWRA wastewater data, as of January 25, i.e. the incubation period from the student’s return:

[3] “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.

[4] “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. And of course, we’re not even getting into the quality of the wastewater sites that we have as a proxy for Covid infection overall.

[5] Decrease for the city aligns with wastewater data.

[6] “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”.

[7] -0.7%. (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.)

[8] Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

[9] Up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the United States held at 3.7% in January 2024, unchanged from the previous month and slightly below the market consensus of 3.8%. The activity rate was also flat at 62.5% last month, remaining at the lowest level since February 2023.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods edged up 0.2% month-over-month in December 2023, following a 2.6% surge in November, and in line with market forecasts.”

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Advertising: “Ad firm that marketed OxyContin agrees to $350M settlement” [The Hill]. “An advertising agency that helped develop a marketing strategy to sell opioids like OxyContin agreed to a $350 million national settlement, attorneys general announced Thursday. The settlement will be paid by Publicis Health, part of the French media conglomerate Publicis Groupe and one of the world’s largest health care advertising companies. It marks the first time an advertising company has reached a major settlement over the U.S. opioid epidemic. The settlement money will be divided among every state and will mostly be used to fund opioid abatement, treatment and prevention efforts. Publicis agreed to pay the entire settlement in the next two months, including $7 million that will be used for states’ legal fees. The agreement prohibits Publicis from accepting any future contracts related to the marketing or sale of opioids and requires it to make public hundreds of thousands of internal documents detailing its work in opioid promotion.”

Distribution: “Amazon reports better-than-expected results as revenue jumps 14%” [CNBC]. “Amazon easily topped Wall Street’s expectations for earnings, indicating that CEO Andy Jassy’s efforts to rein in costs are paying off. Net income surged to $10.6 billion, or $1.00 per share, compared to $278 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier. The company laid off 27,000 employees between late 2022 and mid-2023, and ended some of its more unproven bets. It has continued to look for ways to trim expenses in other areas, such as its fulfillment business. In January, it announced cuts in Prime Video, MGM Studios and Twitch, among other units.”

Manufacturing: “Tesla’s week gets worse: Fines, safety investigation, and massive recall” [Ars Technica]. “It’s been a rough week for Tesla. On Tuesday, a court in Delaware voided a massive $55.8 billion pay package for CEO Elon Musk. Then, news emerged that Tesla was being sued by 25 different counties in California for years of dumping toxic waste. That was followed by a recall affecting 2.2 million Teslas. Now, Ars has learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation is investigating the company after 2,388 complaints of steering failure affecting the model-year 2023 Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover.” • Oh, Elon.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 70 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 73 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 2 at 3:07:36 PM ET.

Photo Book

“This Camera Is Taking a 1,000-Year-Long Exposure Photo of Tucson’s Desert Landscape” [Smithsonian]. “While most cameras snap photos in a matter of milliseconds, Jonathon Keats, an experimental philosopher at the University of Arizona, is slowing things down: He has set up a camera to capture a single image of a desert landscape in Tucson over the span of 1,000 years. The image will be ready in 3023. The recently installed ‘Millennium Camera’ is located on the path of a hiking trail facing Tumamoc Hill, according to ScienceAlert’s David Nield. Nearby signage asks onlookers to contemplate what the next millennium might look like.”

The Gallery

“A Trove of ‘Lost Basquiats’ Led to a Splashy Exhibition. Then the FBI Showed Up.” [The Atlantic]. “[T]he paintings that appeared on eBay in the fall of 2012 featured skeletal figures with frenzied eyes, blocky crowns, and gnashing rows of teeth. They were done in brilliant blues and electric reds, mostly on scraps of cardboard that ranged from notebook-size to as big as a kitchen table. According to the man who was selling them—a professional auctioneer named Michael Barzman—he’d found them in a storage unit whose contents he’d bought after its renter had fallen behind on his bills. Barzman claimed he’d tossed the art in the trash. Then he’d fished it out and put it online…. In early 2022, 25 of the pieces, all attributed to Basquiat, made their public debut at the Orlando Museum of Art, or OMA, a 100-year-old institution whose past shows have included works by Rembrandt and Robert Rauschenberg…. The celebration ended when, four months into the show’s run, FBI agents seized all 25 artworks on the grounds that they were evidence of conspiracy and fraud. De Groft was promptly fired. Then, last spring, the FBI announced that Barzman had confessed to forging ‘most of’ the works in the museum’s show: According to the bureau, he and a friend, identified only as ‘J.F.,’ had spent ‘a maximum of 30 minutes on each image and as little as five minutes on others.’ But [the museum’s then-director, Aaron De Groft] and others argue that’s simply not possible: Neither Barzman nor J.F. has the sophistication or technical skills to create works that so closely resemble Basquiat’s, they say. Along with the paintings’ owners and a handful of other art professionals, De Groft maintains that the works are genuine. ‘Barzman and J.F. are the least likely Basquiat art forgers imaginable,’ one of the owners wrote in a court filing. OMA is now suing De Groft, who has launched a countersuit of his own. The dispute has highlighted a fundamental predicament: The art world is crawling with counterfeits—estimates of the proportion of art on the secondary market that isn’t what it claims to be range from 40 to 70 percent—and it can be maddeningly difficult to distinguish a forgery from the real thing. Attributions can flip repeatedly during the life of an artwork, a phenomenon that has become even more common as experts reassess collections with help from new scientific techniques. The result is that the question of authenticity, which seems like it should be cut-and-dried, has come to seem quite fluid. That can create confusion, but also opportunities.” • If only “J.F.” were Hunter Biden! That would be so great (and no, Basquiat is primitive looking, but five to thirty minutes? No).

Legit:

Class Warfare

“Cognitive dysfunction after covid-19” [BMJ]. UK. From the Abstract: “Cognitive problems are common after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and can be disabling and frightening…. Symptoms tend to improve, but this may take up to a year. Those with chronically persistent symptoms lasting more than 12 months have a lower chance of improving.” From the text: “The most frequent symptoms seem to affect memory, attention, and concentration but discrete impairments are also seen in attentional and executive processing, different types of memory, visuospatial processing, and language. Many patients show deficits in multiple domains, which may or may not correlate with self-reported symptoms.” From the “Patient Experience” sidebar: “At the time of my infection I was a drama teacher in a secondary school. I remember being at work in January 2021 and finding it impossible to concentrate on what I had to do. Trying to focus made my head spin, and working on a computer screen was almost impossible. In the classroom I couldn’t process what was happening around me like I used to be able to, there was a sharpness lost, and that had a significant impact on both my teaching ability and classroom management. After several attempts at returning to work it became clear that I wasn’t able to continue, and I left teaching in January 2022.” As for the scale: “As of March 2023, when the Office for National Statistics stopped collecting data on this condition, 1.879 million individuals had self-assessed as having long covid—symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks following acute covid-19 infection.” • So, the most we can say is “that’s a lot.” This must be affecting the labor market, as I show here, but a definitive picture remains elusive. I’d welcome links from readers on this topic. (I think the most interesting immediately useful data would be proxies, like bad Yankee Candles reviews were a proxy for Covid infection, at least in the first two (?) waves, because those variants caused anosmia. But what is a good proxy for cognitive problems, especially lack of executive function? Or do people just carry on?

News of the Wired

“Japan’s digital nomad visas to require ¥10 million in income” [Japan Times]. “Japan plans to begin issuing six-month visas for digital nomads with an annual income of ¥10 million ($68,300) or more, the Immigration Services Agency (ISA) announced Friday. The program is expected to start by the end of March. Digital nomads — which refers to people who work remotely while only staying in any one place for the short or midterm — from 49 countries and territories will be able to stay in Japan under the ‘specified activities’ visa category. Self-employed applicants are eligible as well.” • Hmm.

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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, lichen, 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 Irrational:

Irrational writes: “Walk in the woods about a year ago, location Schuttrange, Luxembourg.”

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