2:00PM Water Cooler 6/14/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, an initial rethink of the Covid section took much more time than I thought, so I will again break my rule and do some updates in the Politics section. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Grassland Sparrow. Distrito Federal, Brazil. Very atmospheric. And if you are sparrow fans, please leave suggestions in comments!

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

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

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

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

Capitol Seizure

“Jan. 6 committee will not make any criminal referrals, chairman says” [NBC (ChrisRUEcon)]. Others, however, disagree. “The chair of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot said Monday night that the panel will not make any criminal referrals, even though its leaders have previously hinted at the possibility of doing so. ‘Our job is to look at the facts and circumstances around January 6 — what caused it — and make recommendations after that,’ Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters as he left the House chamber after the second day of public hearings by the panel. When pressed on the matter and whether the committee had ruled out the possibility of referring criminal charges, particularly for former President Donald Trump, Thompson replied: ‘We don’t have authority.’” Thanks, Nancy! “But the committee’s vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., suggested later on Monday that a decision was not yet final. ‘The committee has not issued a conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals. We will announce a decision on that at an appropriate time,’ she said in a statement on Twitter. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., tweeted in a separate statement, that the committee ‘has yet to vote,’ on recommending criminal referrals.” • If the committee puts together a theory of case in which Trump broke the law, then — “rule of law!!!!”, “our democracy!!!!” — of course there should be a criminal referral, wtf. Anything else would give the unfortunate impression that all the Democrats were doing was re-impeaching Trump over the same set of events, just two years later.

“Pelosi’s Court: How the Jan. 6 Committee Undermined its Own Legitimacy” [Jonathan Turley, The Hill]. “There is considerable evidence that Trump’s people planned for a certification challenge, but that was always anticipated….. Indeed, if opposing views were allowed [come on], then Republicans likely would call for the testimony of committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who voted to challenge the certification of the 2004 results of President George W. Bush’s reelection; committee member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) sought to challenge Trump’s certification in 2016. Both did so under the very law that Trump’s congressional supporters used in 2020. And Pelosi and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) praised the challenge organized by then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2004. The difference, of course, is that while there were violent protests in 2016 in Washington, there was not a riot that breached the Capitol.”

Biden Administration

“White House Plans Saudi Arabia Trip But Says It’s Not About Oil” [Bloomberg]. • Not The Onion. After the headline writer wrote that, they probably had to leave for the day.


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PA: “John Fetterman’s new campaign manager is Philly-based Biden alum Brendan McPhillips” [Philadelphia Inquirer (Michael Ismoe)]. “Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has hired a Philadelphia-based veteran of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign to lead his U.S. Senate run in the general election. Brendan McPhillips, a Democratic strategist who ran Biden’s campaign in Pennsylvania, will become Fetterman’s campaign manager, the campaign said Monday. McPhillips ran Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic presidential campaign in Iowa and has known Fetterman since 2015.” • First reaction: Yech! After consideration, here’s McPhillips’s bio:

McPhillips began a career in politics immediately after graduating college. His experience working on national campaigns includes Pennsylvania political director for the 2016 Clinton campaign and regional field director for the 2012 Obama campaign. McPhillips has also worked on gubernatorial and Congressional campaigns, including Andrew Gillum’s (D) 2018 primary campaign in Florida, John Fetterman’s (D) 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, and Kevin Strouse’s (D) U.S. House campaign.

Same reaction. That said, Fetterman won the primary (and his all-important brand) by visiting every Pennsylvania county, no matter how red. That was the cornerstone of his appeal. All he really had to do was keep pointing out that Oz was really from New Jersey. So why tamper with success? One reason is that hiring McPhillips makes it slighltly less likely that the Democrats will knife him. I’d speculate, however, that his stroke debilitated him more than we know (and there are the dreaded lifestyle changes, too).. Fetterman’s primary ground war must have been physically gruelling: Lots of travel, lots of bad food… and lots of danger of Covid. Fetterman’s got the cash for a less gruelling air war, and it takes a pro to organize such a thing. We’ll see if I’m right when Fetterman gets back on the trail, however gingerly.


“Liz Cheney for President?” [Robert Reich]. “In her courage and integrity, Cheney — although conservative — reminds me of Senator Paul Wellstone, one of the most progressive politicians I’ve ever known. They also have in common a love of democracy.” • AAAAAUGGHGH!!!! Help me!!!!!!! My eyes!!!!!!!!!

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

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

• ”UK at start of new Covid wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5, new data suggests” [MSN]. “If you thought Covid-19 was dead and gone, think again. Early signs indicate that the UK may be at the start of a new wave of Covid infections driven by BA.4 and BA.5… According to preliminary data by Kei Sato at the University of Tokyo and colleagues, BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 may have evolved to re-favour infection of lung cells, rather than upper respiratory tract tissue – making them more similar to earlier variants, such as Alpha or Delta. The propensity of earlier Omicron variants to prefer infecting non-lung tissue may be one reason why infections tend to be milder in most people.” The article concludes: “With luck, BA.4 and BA.5 will present just a minor blip in the UK’s transition out of the Covid crisis. But their emergence is a reminder that smooth sailing is by no means guaranteed.” • ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

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• Smile!

• Brain damage considered not severe by CDC:

• “Xavier Becerra isolating in Sacramento after testing positive for COVID-19 during LA summit” [Sacramentoo Bee]. “U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive Monday for COVID-19 in Sacramento, the secretary’s second infection in a month…. ‘He is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and is experiencing symptoms,’ [Health and Human Services spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim] wrote. ‘He will continue to perform his duties as HHS Secretary, working in isolation.’” • First I’ve heard from Becerra in months; I was wondering if he was OK. Apparently not. Oh, and we know what “mild” means. Then there’s this:

Makes you wonder if the Summit of the Americas was one of those superspreader events PMCs like so much. Superspreader events like these–

• “The irony — and ignominy — of medical conferences as superspreader events” [STAT]. “During the second week in May, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM), a large medical organization, held its annual meeting in person in New Orleans… Organizers of the conference reported expecting more than 3,000 attendees, one of the largest events the society had ever hosted, and social media images from conference events showed large, closely packed indoor crowds in close contact and without masks on…. With cases and hospitalizations rising in many parts of the country, including New Orleans, and a community vaccination rate of around 50% for the host city, attending a large, multi-day, indoor meeting with after-hours socializing in the community posed numerous safety risks. In fact, a computing conference held in New Orleans the prior week was under scrutiny as a high transmission event. Yet the SAEM’s Covid policy was not modified to reflect contemporaneous public health data. Nor did the organizers implement a vaccine verification system, require boosters, or incorporate a Covid-19 testing strategy. . The three of us did not attend the conference in person, and are grateful for making that decision. The week after the conference, news of Covid-19 cases began circulating among our colleagues. Some shared stories of becoming ill, others described how they were pulled in to cover the shifts of others who were struck by Covid. To come up with a back-of-the-envelope estimate, we reached out informally to 15 emergency medicine programs across the country to see how many of their attending physicians, fellows, residents, and research staff attended the conference and how many cases were thought to have resulted from the conference. . While there are many caveats to the data (it’s a nonrandom, convenience sample, the data are self-reported estimates), they suggest that .” • Don’t worry. All the cases are mild. (STAT has to do a “back of the envelope” calcuation because the United States is not a serious country, and there’s no such thing as contact tracing.)

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If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case count by United States regions:

Level. Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 107,700. Today, it’s 100,800, and 100,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 604,800. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes had a basis in reality. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:


And in the South:

(US Census region: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.)

(Miami-Dade County, population 2.706 million; Palm Beach County, population 1.482 million.)

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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

NOT UPDATED MWRA wastewater data:

Both South and North down. NOTE: I think I’m going to kill this one off (for now). With variants, I have too many charts.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

Cases lag wastewater data.

Wastewater data from Biobot Analytics:

Variant data, regional (Biobot), May 25:

Variant data, national (Walgreens), May 28:

Variant data, national (CDC), May 28:

You will note that the variant data differs by source. Moreover, the data is two weeks old. Not good!

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

Status quo; South a little improved.

The previous release:

NOTE I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Use the community transmission immediately below.

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

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

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Very volatile.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,036,084 1,035,847. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data. NOTE I think I’m going to kill this one off. With variants, I have too many charts.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation:

Inflation: “United States Producer Price Inflation MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Producer prices in the US increased 0.8% mom in May of 2022, following a 0.4% rise in April and matching forecasts. Prices of goods went up 1.4% with the biggest jump reported for gasoline (8.4%) followed by jet fuel, residential natural gas, steel mill products, diesel fuel, and processed young chickens.”

Zeitgeist Watch: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States edged down to 93.1 in May of 2022, the lowest since April of 2020, and compared to 93.2 in April. The share of owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months hit a record low.”

Zeitgeist Watch: “United States IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index in the US fell to 38.1 in June of 2022 from 41.2 in the previous month, the lowest since August 2011…. Meanwhile, household financial stress hit the highest level since April 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, as gas prices hit new records fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the inflation rate hit a new 40-year-high 8.6%.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 18 Extreme Fear (previous close: 28 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 29 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 13 at 1:20 PM EDT.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Interest Rates. “Rates are being pushed up by higher inflation” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

The Conservatory

Quite the rhythm section these guys have (hat tip wukchumni):

The Gallery

“‘She was the real pioneer.’ Marisol and Andy Warhol share the pop art limelight at PAMM” [Miami Herald]. “She was a sculptor, soft spoken and glamorous. Her work was featured in New York City’s best galleries. Magazines called her mysterious. Andy Warhol called her a friend. And though she played a key role the pop art movement of the ‘60s, her contributions were largely forgotten. Her name was Marisol, and she’s getting her due at the Pérez Art Museum Miami…. The goal of the show is to ‘place Marisol back into the pop art origin story of New York,; said Maritza Lacayo, assistant curator at PAMM.” • Example:

Police State Watch

“Texas Police Want Uvalde Bodycam Footage Suppressed Because It Could Expose Law Enforcement ‘Weakness’” [Vice]. • Why, it’s almost as if they have something to hide. Are we sure the gunman shot all the children?

News of the Wired

Location in Google; I don’t think this is human-made:

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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 DCBlogger:

DCBlogger: “Cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and bush sugar baby watermelon in converted shopping cart.” I like using string in gardening because it rots.

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