2:00PM Water Cooler 10/24/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, the Politics section is so thin because I decided to start with Covid (and Verily’s horrid wastewater dashboards). I will beef it up shortly. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

American White Pelican, Summer Lake Wildlife Area, Lake, Oregon, United States. “Heavy wing beats and movement on water by two birds.”

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

Biden Administration

“The five-front war that the US is unprepared to fight” [Harlan Ullman, The Hill]. “Today, President Joe Biden faces more complicated and risk-filled tasks: the prospect of a five-front war with fewer allies. This five-front war is not all “hot” in that bullets are flying everywhere. However, escalation is a growing danger. The first two fronts are [1] as ‘the pacing threat’ and [2] as the ‘acute threat.’ China is an economic and military superpower; Russia is a military one. And both are testing and challenging American global leadership…. With the Oct. 7 Hamas offensive against [3] … and the conflict in [4] , two hot wars are underway. This accounts for four fronts. Perhaps the most debilitating is the [5] . Politics, no matter the importance or triviality of the issue, is profoundly dividing the nation across party and ideological lines. The two opposing sides have visceral and even irreparable differences not amenable to compromise…. White Houses have difficulty in dealing with one crisis let alone more. Now, five imminent crises are in place. No matter how competent senior White House officials are, the bandwidth and the ability to focus simultaneously on several conflicts is very limited. Media demands for briefings as well as difficult and embarrassing questions are unhelpful to any White House. And the “loyal” opposition will be determined to eviscerate the president…. What does this mean? Since World War II, it is impossible to recall any time when the United States confronted as many testing issues and crises as today. There is no manual or book in existence on how to manage a five-front war. Biden is the most experienced foreign policy president America has had since Bush 41. But how good is his strategic judgment? Could any single president safely navigate the extraordinarily treacherous waters of a five-front war? We will see.” • First, the first four fronts, and maybe the fifth, can be collapsed into one: the end of empire. (Simple, but not necessarily tractable.) Second, Axios uses a similar “five” trope, though they call “fronts” “crises.” Their Big Five: [1] Israel’s response to the Hamas terrorist attack, [2] Vladimir Putin meeting in China this week with Xi Jinping, [3] a malicious Iran, [4] North Korea, and [5] a massive spread of doctored or wholly fake videos to manipulate what people see and think in real time. Seems to me [5] from Axios and [5] from Ullman in The Hill are two sides of the same coin: And the Censorship Industrial Complex is the answer to both. (I wonder why 5?)


Time for the Countdown Clock!

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“Trump Might Win and Have Dems To Thank” [RealClearPolitics]. “There are always a lot of moving pieces in an election and it’s early, but Trump’s current support basically comes from three groups: Those who know, love, and miss him; those who may not miss him but miss 2019’s peace and prosperity; and those who believe Democrats are corrupting our justice system to persecute a political opponent. Since 2020, Democrats have solidified support for Trump with the first two groups to the point where you have to wonder whether it was intentional – and then they literally created the third group…. And who doesn’t miss 2019’s low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, secure border, urban calm, peace breaking out in the Middle East, and no one seriously contemplating World War III.” • I ran this before, but it’s worth repeating. Also, Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

“Trump Plots to Pull Out of NATO — If He Doesn’t Get His Way” [Rolling Stone]. Bastard keeps asking for my vote. “[T]he former president mistakenly spoke of the alliance as a kind of protection racket, in which members’ spending obligations were paid to the U.S. as dues rather than a general requirement for countries to spend set amounts on defense as they saw fit.” • “Mistakenly”? Seems to me that Trump has an understanding of how the Empire operates of with The Other Bearded One would thoroughly approve…

* * *

“The Memo: Democrats divided on Biden’s vulnerabilities for 2024” [The Hill]. “[I]n head-to-head polls against four-times-indicted former President Trump, Biden is in a dead heat at best. Now, polls in battleground states are flashing warning signs as well…. ‘What the White House has not come to terms with is, next year’s election is going to be a referendum on the president — and right now he is losing that vote,’ the [Democratic] strategist said. ‘The fact that he is tied with a former president who faces 91 charges — and yet the White House does not seem to grasp that they have a fundamental reelection problem — is unbelievable,’ the frustrated strategist added…. Several polls in key states from Bloomberg/Morning Consult this week showed Biden behind, albeit by relatively narrow margins, in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The president carried all four states in 2020. Not every poll predicts doom. Some recent polls give Biden a narrow edge nationwide — by 1 point in an Economist/YouGov poll and by 3 points in an NPR/PBS/Marist survey earlier this month. But the tightness of the numbers churns up concerns that have been commonplace in Democratic circles for some time.”

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“How has RFK Jr. raised all that money?” [Politico]. “In fact, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — the environmental lawyer-turned-vaccine skeptic who has never held public office — raised more money in the latest fundraising period than anyone else running for president other than Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis. Now an independent candidate after leaving the Democratic primary, Kennedy’s powerhouse fundraising — the Kennedy family scion collected an eyebrow-raising $8.7 million in the third quarter — is making it harder to dismiss his potential impact as a player in 2024…. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Kennedy’s donors represent a range of professionals from across the entertainment industry…. A significant number of these artists and industry professionals hail from Kennedy’s home state of California — about $2.6 million of his take came from California, more than any other state. … A significant chunk of Kennedy’s backers work in the health industry. There are physicians, dentists, psychologists and nurses, who make up more than $500,000 of Kennedy’s haul to date. And there’s also a brigade of practitioners of alternative medicine… at least $100,000 from donors who previously gave to committees associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former President Donald Trump donated to Kennedy in the first few months after his launch — and the total from ex-Trump donors continued to grow in the most recent quarter.”

Republican Funhouse

“Is There a New Left Stirring Within The New Right?” [John Judis, The Liberal Patriot]. By Betteridge’s Law, no. “[T]here is a segment of recent politics that is sometimes identified with the ‘new right’ but in reality offers a much more heterodox—and interesting—approach to politics and policy, one that’s well worth considering by liberals and left-wingers alike. This new tendency can be found in the policy group, American Compass, the online magazine Compact, and the journal American Affairs. Its leading intellectuals are Oren Cass of American Compass, Julius Krein of American Affairs, Sohrab Ahmari of Compact, and author Michael Lind. What distinguishes these thinkers from others is their engagement with what used to be called ‘the labor question’ namely, how America can fulfill its original promise of political and economic equality in a society where the owners and managers of capital have inordinate power over labor and politics. These thinkers consider questions that were once confined to the left: how to revive the American labor movement and now to tame the power of multinational corporations and global banks. They often cite left-wing and liberal writers like John Kenneth Galbraith and Karl Polanyi. The most recent and noteworthy examples are Lind’s Hell to Pay, Ahmari’s Tyranny, Inc., and Oren Cass and American Compass’s Rebuilding American Capitalism.”• Analytically, this is not hard. If you want “political and economic equality in a society where the owners and managers of capital have inordinate power over labor and politics” then you give workers control over the means of production. I doubt these fresh doxies will be willing to entertain the possibility.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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The existential position of Democrat Party supporters:

Some decades ago, I remember there was a joke on Daily Kos about this very scenario: A man carrying (the Democrat) donkey on his back. He just couldn’t give it up! But I can’t quite remember it. Readers?

“AG Ellison seeks to shutter nearly two dozen nonprofits implicated in $250 million Feeding Our Future fraud” [Sahan Journal]. “Attorney General Keith Ellison is seeking to dissolve nearly two dozen nonprofits that were allegedly involved in a federal food-aid fraud scandal. Ellison’s office filed civil lawsuits Wednesday to shut down 23 nonprofits that were either established or reestablished shortly before the fraud allegedly started in 2020. The scandal, known as the Feeding Our Future case, involved several dozen suspects stealing an estimated $250 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars meant to feed underprivileged children, prosecutors have said. Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has charged 60 defendants in the case with counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. Fourteen defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. The remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty. The alleged fraud involved sponsor organizations like Feeding Our Future receiving federal funds through the Minnesota Department of Education. The sponsor organizations then distributed those funds to food vendors and food sites, which were supposed to provide ready-to-eat meals to local children. Instead, federal prosecutors say, the defendants spent most of the money on private purchases like luxury homes and flashy cars.” • Many of the non-profits had other state contracts. Good for EIllison; a Democrat going after NGOs is remarkable. The scheme is of the sort generally described as “sprawling,” and I wonder if Ilhan Omar is touched in any way. (The stories don’t mention the party to which the many defendants belong, but from class and cultural markers I infer Democrats.) Readers?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A Month When Decades Happen” [William Kristol, The Bulwark]. Kristol quoting Lenin (the other Bearded One). What is the world coming to? “Fifty years ago, we had another October in which decades of history happened. October 1973 saw the Yom Kippur War, a tense nuclear showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union, the oil embargo, Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation, and President Richard Nixon’s firing Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating Watergate…. But the events also stimulated a reaction that arguably led to the strengthening of democratic guardrails in the United States, to an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1978, to economic liberalization in China and India, and after 1979 to a turn in U.S. foreign policy and a defense buildup that helped end the Cold War.” • As I’ve said, I loathe that “guardrail” metaphor, possibly 2023’s laziest trope, and the competition is fierce. It implies, for starters, that the road was built in the right place, and that one’s car is heading in the right direction. And maybe if the lunatic driver stopped swerving toward that darned cliff, the guardrail wouldn’t even be needed.


“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!

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ComicCons get it right, as opposed to, say, Infectious Disease conferences:

Hey, remember when CDC’s “infection detective” conference turned into a superspreader event? CDC was going to investigate that. I wonder when we’ll hear about the results?

Covid is Airborne

Only a month ’til superspreading season the Holidays, so start negotiating your airborne protections now:

Immune System Dysregulation

“As we are hit with yet another Covid wave, I want to reflect on the promises of herd immunity by infection…” [Anthony J. Leonardi, ThreadReader]. “…..with special consideration of claims that pre-existing cross-reactive T cell immunity to other coronaviruses was aiding in achieving the herd-immunity threshold . These two circumstances are not unrelated. The reason we are having constant reinfection with sars cov 2 is because we gave the virus the keys to the kingdom: enough replication to enable evolution to escape key parts of our immune systems. In 2020, I warned that resting hopes of herd immunity on T cell immunity was perilous and a bad idea. I said it would enable mutations and evolution of the virus to the extent to facilitate reinfection. Now, this is our reality.” • A must-read, and usefully connected both to the article from Cell under Variants, and Elite Maleficence.


“Population immunity predicts evolutionary trajectories of SARS-CoV-2” [Cell]. It does in a model. From the Abstract: “The large-scale evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been marked by rapid turnover of genetic clades. New variants show intrinsic changes, notably increased transmissibility, and antigenic changes that reduce cross-immunity induced by previous infections or vaccinations. How this functional variation shapes global evolution has remained unclear. Here, we establish a predictive fitness model for SARS-CoV-2 that integrates antigenic and intrinsic selection. The model is informed by tracking of time-resolved sequence data, epidemiological records, and cross-neutralization data of viral variants. Our inference shows that . The fitness model can serve continued surveillance in two ways. First, it successfully predicts the short-term evolution of circulating strains and flags emerging variants likely to displace the previously predominant variant. Second, it predicts likely antigenic profiles of successful escape variants prior to their emergence.”• Hmm. Not really my beat, and I hope somebody from the Brain Trust will weigh in. (FWIW, my first thought is that whatever the “dominant force” might be today, that has surely been shaped by our abandonment of all non-pharmaceutical interventions (including non-pissant lockdowns in the beginning).


“COVID’s Damage Lingers in the Heart” [Harvard Medicine]. “The number of COVID-19 cases is once again spiking [wouldn’t know it from the news!] — and the coronavirus continues to evolve. The latest omicron variant, BA.2.86, has more than thirty mutations that could allow it to evade the immune system’s defenses. Given the ongoing threat, research into COVID-19’s cardiovascular effects ‘remains vitally important,’ says Anne-Marie Anagnostopoulos, a cardiologist and an HMS instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. ‘We need a greater understanding of the associated pathophysiology to develop better treatments…. In most people — especially those who’ve been vaccinated — COVID-19 produces flu-like symptoms that typically resolve within a few days or weeks. But other people progress to a second, and more dangerous, phase of the disease, as pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines proliferate in the blood. During this so-called cytokine storm, the immune system becomes hyperactive, ‘causing a different set of problems,’ says Dara Lee Lewis, MD ’92, an HMS instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s and director of noninvasive testing and co-director of the Women’s Cardiology Program at the Lown Cardiology Group in Boston. ‘Patients can develop weakened heart muscles, low oxygen levels, blood clots, fluid in the lungs — problems that may require hospitalization.’” • Cytokine storms are well known, but it’s good to see an explainer reach the mainstream.

“Is Recovery Just the Beginning? Persistent Symptoms and Health and Performance Deterioration in Post-COVID-19, non-hospitalised University Students – A Cross-Sectional Study” [medRxiv]. N = “214 students, averaging 21.8 years of age.” Questionaire. From the Abstract: “Trends of improvement in physical and mental health, as well as error rate, were observed within the first two years post-infection. However, fatigue and reaction time showed a trend of deterioration. Beyond the two-year mark, physical health and error rate continued to improve, while mental health began to deteriorate. Fatigue and reaction time continued to decline. Overall, .”

“Bacterial bloodstream infection in critically ill patients with COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study” [Therapeutic Advances in Infectious Disease]. “Among the 201 included patients, 43 (21.4%) patients developed [bloodstream infections (BSIs)].” Nevertheless: “The occurrence of BSI did not significantly influence mortality, which may be attributed to prompt and appropriate interventions, including early detection and appropriate management. Prompt initiation of empirical antibiotics, followed by adjustment according to culture results, may help prevent adverse outcomes. Additionally, all patients in this study had severe COVID-19, which may have been the major determinant of mortality.”

“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.

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Elite Maleficence

They knew (1):

Going through a trove of FOIAed emails…

They knew (2):

A very long thread from the UK Covid inquiry; I don’t know enough about the players (except for Ryan and Conley) to comment. Perhaps some UK readers will step in.

* * *

Case Data

Lambert: Here is the current state Verily’s wastewater dashboard, weeks after CDC gave the Alphabet brain geniuses the national wastewater contract. Seamless transition, totally. This is the brutal UI/UX dashboard:

There is, of course, no national data. Hilariously, the pop-up that documents the color-coding for the locations covers up the current data; I’ve helpfully highligheted the data that does show at right. Who coded this? The boss’s brother-in-law?

This is the recommended clickthough at data.wastewaterscan.org:

Verily says the clickthrough is the same data “viewed in more detail,” and somehow they’ve made it national. At least there’s a checkbox to that effect which, with some effort, you can find and select. I managed to mess with the date-range slider bar at bottom to get coverage all the way back to July 2020, which misses the initial peak entirely. But as you can see, however, this data gives you no sense of the complete course of the pandemic, in great contrast to Biobot’s simple, clean, and complete presentation (below). Why, it’s almost as is if CDC hired Verily to erase the history!

NEVER TO BE UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, October 2:

Lambert here: Leveling out to a high plateau wasn’t on my Bingo card! Perhaps FL.1.5.1, high in the Northeast, has something going for it that other variants don’t have?

Regional data:

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


NOT UPDATED From CDC, October 14:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“), with HV.1 a strong second, and XBB. and FL.1.15.1 trailing. No BA.2.86. Still a Bouillabaisse…

From CDC, September 16:

Lambert here: 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

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, October 14:

Lambert here: Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator until Verily gets its house in order (and working class-centric, since I would doubt the upper crust goes to the ER).

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.


Bellwether New York City, data as of October 24:

Still decreasing. (New York State is now falling, too.) I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive (although the hospital-centric public health establishment loves it, hospitalization and deaths being the only metrics that matter).

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. October 14:

Lambert here: “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†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?


Lambert here: Not at all happy to see positivity upticks when CDC has knocked out our wastewater data. Nice timing, guys!

From Walgreens, October 23:

0.7%. Slight increase. (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.)

From Cleveland Clinic, October 21:

Lambert here: Slight increase. I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good*, and we’re starved for data, so…. NOTE * Even if hospital infection control is trying to kill patients by eliminating universal masking with N95s.

From CDC, traveler’s data, October 2:

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers:

Sudden big BA.2.86 appearance.

• “Neutralization escape by SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant BA.2.86” [Vaccine]. From the Discussion: These data suggest that BA.2.86 evolved directly from the less resistant BA.2 variant, rather than from the current highly resistant circulating recombinant variants, which presumably were selected for increased NAb escape following infection with XBB lineage viruses. Thus, . Our findings are concordant with other studies from the U.S [4], [5] but contrast with studies from Asia [6], [7], which may reflect differences in population immunity due to different vaccine and variant exposures in various regions of the world.” • [wipes brow].


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, September 27:

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: 1,180,119 – 1,179,671 = 448 (448 * 365 = 163,520 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, October 23:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the Richmond area decreased to 3 in October 2023 from 5 in September. Of its three component indexes, shipments edged up to 9 from 7, new orders fell to -4 from 3, and employment remained at 7. Most firms continued to report declining backlogs and vendor lead time as these indexes both remained negative. Meanwhile, two of the three spending indexes decreased.”

* * *

Tech: “Study Reveals: Threads is the most Invasive apps, shares 86% of your data with others” [The Money Mongers]. • What, Zuckerberg? (See discussion of social media, including Threads, here.)

Tech: “Cloud giants sound alarm on record-breaking DDoS attacks” [Cybersecurity Dive]. “AWS, Cloudflare and Google observed mass exploits of a novel zero-day vulnerability used to launch distributed denial of service attacks reaching a record-breaking scale, the companies said Tuesday. Security researchers warned threat actors are exploiting the zero-day vulnerability, HTTP/2 Rapid Reset, to launch a series of attacks. Observations of peak requests per second during the attacks varied widely between AWS, Cloudflare and Google.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 28 Fear (previous close: 26 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 24 at 12:52:40 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes down one Date Settings. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most! • The goat sacrificers are going to defile the Al Aqsa mosque, and the Rapture Index is down? I hardly had them in the contrarian box!

The Jackpot

“Transcript: Bethany McLean on Pandemic Fails” (interview) [The Big Picture]. Interesting, though not especially rigorous, but worth a skim. Interesting to see these ideas percolating out into the business press. “The anti-vax sentiment did start under Democrats when they were, when they were the Trump vaccines. And so you had Democrats like Cuomo saying, I don’t know about these things. They’re being rushed by Trump. And you had a lot of skepticism about the vaccines being generated by Democrats before the vaccines were even produced. And then once they were produced and once the Biden administration started pushing them, it’s as if as soon as Biden said that these vaccines are good, the anti-vax sentiment shifted to the right because it flipped. Heaven forbid that Biden was saying, and Democrats were saying something was good, then it had to be bad. And it just, it really is just profoundly depressing and upsetting.”

Zeitgeist Watch


I’ve gotta say that “front hole” (which I’ve seen elsewhere) is the most obscene language I’ve ever encountered for genitalia. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but if we’re teaching our children this, we should stop.

The Gallery

It hadn’t occurred to me that Hieronymus Bosch was a genre painter, but look:

And look:

And while we’re at it, here’s some disaster pr0n:

Groves of Academe

I hope you don’t know anybody who operates this way:

Class Warfare

“5,000 UAW members go on strike at Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas” [CBS]. “The UAW has expanded its strike again, and called 5,000 members at one of General Motors’ most profitable plants to join the strike. UAW members at the Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas joined the strike on Tuesday, Oct. 24. This comes hours after GM announced a quarterly profit of more than $3 billion. The earnings are down 7% from last year due to the UAW strike and increased warranty costs. ‘Another record quarter, another record year. As we’ve said for months: record profits equal record contracts,’ said UAW President Shawn Fain. ‘It’s time GM workers, and the whole working class, get their fair share.’ According to the UAW, despite having record earnings, GM’s offer is behind Ford’s offer and includes, ‘a two-tier wage progression, the weakest 401(k) contribution offer on the table, a deficient COLA and other shortcomings.’”

“California’s Labor Victories Could Be Contagious” [The Nation]. “Last week, labor scored its latest victory in a long run of success stories in 2023. In the face of a three-day strike by nurses, ER technicians, and pharmacists earlier in the month, and the prospect of additional strike action in November by the coalition of unions representing 85,000 workers unless an agreement was reached, Kaiser Permanente agreed to a minimum wage of $25 per hour for California employees—90 percent of its employees are based in the Golden State—and $23 for employees elsewhere in the country. The healthcare giant also accepted a 21 percent pay increase for workers over four years, and the hiring of more staff to address chronic labor shortages. The deal was finalized in a meeting in San Francisco that ended in the middle of the night, presided over by acting Labor Secretary Julie Su. It had the backing of President Biden and Vice President Harris, both of whom made strong statements in favor of collective bargaining and the right to organize. More healthcare workers went out on strike during the three-day action than had ever before walked off the job in the United States in a single action. It was, quite rightly, seen as a historic moment, in which organized labor asserted its power within the healthcare system more than it has ever previously managed to do.” • I can’t help but wonder if the “labor coalition” (interesting in itself) would have won even bigger gains if the national Democrats had not bee involved.

“The Moral Authority of Marc Rowan” [Maureen Tkacik, The American Prospect]. The deck: “The private equity billionaire is leading a boycott of an Ivy League oligarch factory over a Palestinian literary festival it held last month.” The “Ivy League oligarch factory” is Penn’s famous Wharton Business School. But it gets even more repugnant: “In the 33 years since a group of Michael Milken protégés founded the consummate modern private equity firm, Apollo has run its businesses ragged. The economic analysts at Moody’s have consistently found that Apollo portfolio companies plunged into distress or default around two-thirds of the time, the highest rate in the business. Since the pandemic began, the financial giant and its subsidiaries have been involved in at least 20 corporate bankruptcies, from the dramatic (and ‘perplexing,’ in the Financial Times’ characterization) liquidation of the trucking company Yellow to the unexpectedly ‘messy’ bankruptcy of serial looting victim Serta Simmons Bedding…. Sometimes Apollo’s ‘investments’ fail as a result of having made Apollo insiders unimaginably rich; other times, Apollo leverages its mastery of the bankruptcy code to enrich itself off other private equity firms’ failures. First-year associates, according to Business Insider, typically make a base salary of $450,000; Apollo founder Leon Black is worth more than $12 billion. And Black’s longtime disciple and current Apollo chief executive officer Marc Rowan is estimated to be worth $5.8 billion. I bring this up today only because that same Marc Rowan has spent the past week casting himself on cable news and on the anti-woke celebrity publisher Bari Weiss’s Free Press website as some kind of moral authority.” And “If Rowan were truly interested in rehabilitating the reputation of the firm he co-founded, he might forswear wage theft or dividends that leave large employers insolvent or strategic bankruptcies designed specifically to bust unions and plunder their pension funds. But that would require Rowan to acknowledge the carnage with which his company’s insatiable drive for speedy investment returns has littered flyover country. As the scheme to punish his alma mater illustrates, ‘bullying detractors into exhausted submission’ is more amenable to his comfort zone.” • “Anti-woke celebrity publisher Bari Weiss” is not unfair, not unfair at all. Fun stuff. Tkacik is always worth a read!

News of the Wired

“When is a privacy button not a privacy button? When Google runs it, claims lawsuit” [The Register]. “The complaint cites internal Google communication about the true nature of the WAA control: “As summarized by a Google employee in an internal email, ‘WAA (or any of the other controls) does not actually control what is stored by Google, but simply what the user has access to. This is really bad. … I for one didn’t realize Google actually stored all of my activity even if those controls were off and I work at Google! Seems sort of silly to turn them off as I’m not any safer with them off than on.’” • Denialist brain damage, just in a less usual context….

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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 IM:

IM writes: “The neighbourhood Amanita Muscaria is back! It was so dry last autumn that the mycelium gave fruiting bodies a pass, but this year, there was enough rain to bring them out. They love the European hornbeams. The edgy, urban nature of this particular shroom is highlighted by the car in the background.” Don’t eat this mushroom! It’s toxic!

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