By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Patient readers, I’m going to add some more under Politics, because if I don’t catch up now, I never will! –lambert
Bird Song of the Day
Purple Martin, Georgia, United States. Recording made in 1955! Another species of songbird.
“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
“Opinion: Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan” [WaPo]. No suspense in the Post “newsroom,” I see:
Today, America must remember that vow. We must stand by Taiwan, which is an island of resilience. Taiwan is a leader in governance: currently, in addressing the covid-19 pandemic and championing environmental conservation and climate action. It is a leader in peace, security and economic dynamism: with an entrepreneurial spirit, culture of innovation and technological prowess that are envies of the world.
Yet, disturbingly, this vibrant, robust democracy — named one of the freest in the world by Freedom House and proudly led by a woman, President Tsai Ing-wen — is under threat.
In recent years, Beijing has dramatically intensified tensions with Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has ramped up patrols of bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft near and even over Taiwan’s air defense zone, leading the U.S. Defense Department to conclude that China’s army is “likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force.”
The PRC has also taken the fight into cyberspace, launching scores of attacks on Taiwan government agencies each day. At the same time, Beijing is squeezing Taiwan economically, pressuring global corporations to cut ties with the island, intimidating countries that cooperate with Taiwan, and clamping down on tourism from the PRC.
In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.
Our visit — one of several congressional delegations to the island — in no way contradicts the long-standing one-China policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances. The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.
Our visit is part of our broader trip to the Pacific — including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan — focused on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance.
Shouldn’t we lose the war in Ukraine first? Meanwhile:
RT @YuanTalks: #Chinese #military will hold exercises near #Taiwan on Aug 4 – 7, reported official Xinhua News Agency late Tue after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan. pic.twitter.com/PahwgD7fSz
— COT-Report (@COTReport_de) August 2, 2022
Oh, look. A cauldron.
* * *
PA: Does Dr. Oz have a campaign staff? Do they not have media buyers in New Jersey?
Facebook ad spending in #PASen, May 1 – Present:
— FWIW (@FWIWnews) August 1, 2022
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.
* * *
“Slice of Profits From North Carolina Casino Goes to Relatives of Politicians” [Wall Street Journal]. “A company profiting from a new North Carolina tribal casino gave shares to politicians’ family members and high-profile political figures as the casino’s backers were seeking federal approval for the project, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. One of the stakes is held by John B. Clyburn, a brother of Rep. James Clyburn, the powerful South Carolina Democratic congressman who introduced a bill in Congress last year that smoothed the way for the new Catawba Two Kings Casino. Other stakes went to Michael Haley, husband of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who served in the Trump administration as ambassador to the United Nations; Butch Bowers, a lawyer who has represented both Ms. Haley and former President Donald Trump; and Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic political operative who helped manage campaigns in 2008 for Hillary Clinton and then-vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, according to the documents. The stakes, held indirectly through another entity, gave each of the recipients a slice of a slot-machine leasing company called Kings Mountain Equipment Supply LLC, whose major shareholders include financial backers of the casino or their associates, according to the documents. The company gets 20 cents of every $1 in profits the casino generates from hundreds of slot machines. The shareholdings are small—far less than 1% ownership for each recipient, the documents show. Those involved deny any quid pro quo.” • I don’t think people like Clyburn became what they are today by turning down anything, no matter how “small.” Why take shares at all, for pity’s sake?
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Do We Get the Government We Deserve?” [Wisdom of Crowds]. “The reality is that even in advanced democracies such as our own, it becomes challenging to believe in small-d democracy under conditions of duress. We, as Americans, are currently living under such conditions. By this I mean something quite specific. When electoral outcomes seem personally threatening, because so much (or too much) is at stake, then it becomes easier for one to put aside his or her supposed commitment to democracy. We are seeing a version of this with a Republican Party that, to various degrees, has indicated discomfort with—or outright opposition to—an election outcome in 2020 that was not to its liking. I don’t think Democrats would have been nearly as bad, but I do think that the counterfactual history of a Trump victory in 2020 would have created some degree of political instability, driven by the inability of tens of millions of Democrats to come to terms with the legitimacy of a second-term Trump presidency.”• Not controversial, given that the Democrat response to 2016 was RussiaGate.
As readers know, I stan for nasal sprays and vaccines:
“Evaluating the efficacy and safety of a novel prophylactic nasal spray in the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection: A multi-centre, double blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial” [ScienceDirect]. “This study reports the development of a prophylactic nasal spray targeted to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is simple to produce and easily affordable…. The nasal spray was administered 3 times daily over a 45 day course…. The test agent significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers, with 62% fewer infections when compared to placebo. It was found to be safe and well tolerated and offers a novel treatment option for prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” • I have to say, “Don’t try this at home,” but here are the ingredients (though not, naturally, their proportions):
The components of the test spray include sterile water, polyethylene glycol 400, poloxamer 188, xylitol, disodium hydrogen phosphate, sodium chloride, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, ginger oil, eucalyptus oil, basil oil, clove oil, sodium hydrogen carbonate, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, sodium hyaluronate, calcium chloride dihydrate, benzalkonium chloride, magnesium chloride hexahydrate, potassium chloride, glycerol, and zinc chloride.
Ring any bells with our more medically aggressive readers? The entire piece is well worth a read, because it has comparison to other studies of nasal sprays. It’s mostly written in English (not jargon).
“Next Generation Covid Vaccine Update: Intranasal & Other Mucosal Vaxes” [Hilda Bastian, Absolutely Maybe]. Bastian’s periodically updated list. “There are 88 mucosal vaccines in this post with preclinical and/or clinical trial results, or registered trials—16 more than in my last post…. There is still only 1 mucosal Covid vax rolled out—the Razi Cov Pars vaccine in Iran. But several vaccines have advanced.” •
“Three Pressing Questions About Monkeypox: Spread, Vaccination, Treatment” [New York Times]. Given that smallpox vaccines work for monkeypox: “In 2018, the F.D.A. approved a drug to treat smallpox called tecovirimat, or TPOXX, based on data from animal studies. There are only limited data on its use in people. Supply is not an issue: The national stockpile holds about 1.7 million doses. Yet the drug has been difficult to acquire, and that has meant that ambiguities about how well and for whom the drug works have persisted even as case counts rise. Because tecovirimat is not approved specifically to treat monkeypox, it can only be prescribed through a cumbersome “investigational drug protocol” that, until recently, required doctors to send the C.D.C. detailed reports, a journal maintained by the patients to record their progress and photographs of the lesions. With so many hurdles, many clinics did not offer tecovirimat at all; even physicians at well-funded institutions were managing to treat only two or three patients per day.” • Groundpox Day.
Our new monkeypox Czar:
Robert Fenton and Dr. Daskalakis both bring outstanding leadership & expertise to this response.https://t.co/YeTaYRp6wX
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) August 2, 2022
Daskalakis is, naturally, a droplet goon–
“Monkeypox: Avoiding the Mistakes of Past Infectious Disease Epidemics” [Demetre Daskalakis, R. Paul McClung, Leandro Mena, et al, Annals of Internal Medicine]. “Monkeypox virus infection can be transmitted through cutaneous routes during close or intimate contact with a person whose lesions are not yet crusted over and healed, via fomites that have had contact with a person with monkeypox, and by respiratory droplets among people with close, sustained face-to-face contact.” But as we linked to yesterday:
@LauraMiers @CZEdwards @danaparish @laurieallee I’m incensed bc the CDC has collab’d in DR Congo for years & generated what is known abt prevention. CDC puts airborne transmission *first* https://t.co/fQgOU3AZ5I
— Victoria Cochran, M.Div. – #Nicethings2 (@lavika) July 31, 2022
So, apparently, Monkeypox is airborne (“spread through the air when they cough, sneeze, “). Now, I have very strong priors on airborne transmission, as readers know. So I’m not making a strong claim, here (i.e., I haven’t seen that Monkeypox fills a room like cigarette smoke). But again, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before: Mixed messaging at the best, no real theory of transmission that the public can understand and act upon, and no investigation except by out-of-paradigm outsiders. (It’s not called “droplet dogma” for nothing.) How I would like to be wrong!
Maskstravaganza: Handy response to “masks don’t work”:
Mask wearing is literally the same type of thing as refrigerators, sunscreen, bug spray, spaying your pets, cancer screening, seatbelts.
NONE of those things work perfectly all the time. But ALL of them help reduce harms some of the time.
Harm reduction is the goal.
— Dr Ellie Murray, ScD (@EpiEllie) July 29, 2022
“This DIY box helps clear indoor air of the coronavirus. Why aren’t more people using them?” [Los Angeles Times]. “‘People aren’t embracing any of the other things that can avert disaster in this pandemic,’ said LeVine, a 49-year-old cannabis company executive with an electrical engineering degree who started building trippy do-it-yourself filtration boxes as a hobby. ‘Maybe I can create a way to clean the air that people want in the middle of the room.’ As the pandemic drags on, not just for aerosol scientists and epidemiologists, but for a grab bag of concerned citizens like LeVine.” • To answer the question, more people aren’t using Corsi-Rosenthal boxes because Dr. Jill Biden never went on the Today Show and assembled one, in the midst of some adoring school kids. This isn’t hard.
“Experts support this DIY project to protect your post-COVID-19 lungs during wildfire season” [Loma Linda University]. • Easy-to-follow directions for building a CR box.
Another passion project:
Boston is doing it. https://t.co/WHH0ha819k
— Cheryl White (@LadyScorcher) August 1, 2022
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, or, Aleister Crowley as Ur-Libertarian:
How do you pretend you don’t hate the parent who bought their sick close contact kid to sport? How do you forgive the ones who sent their kid with a brand new hacking cough because he “wanted to come”?
I’m serious. How do you let it go? Because it’s destroying my mental health.
— Covid is Airborne in schools (@AugersMonster) July 31, 2022
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.
Case count for the United States:
Lambert here: This tapewatcher is slightly befuddled by the case data. Set aside the worrying assumption that the curves for real cases are the same shape as the curves for reported cases, even though there’s nothing to prove this. But cases are not going through the roof, at least in terms of case reporting. Data artifact? “Vaccine wall”? Why this slow, sawtooth pattern when BA.5 is known to be very infectious? Speaking of immunity walls:
• “Immunity walls” [Eric Topol, Ground Truths]. “There have been marked differences for how the population of different countries respond to the Covid pandemic, perhaps best exemplified in the BA.5 variant wave…. The “immunity wall” of a population is an aggregate of many factors that include demographics such as age and comorbidities, like obesity or diabetes. Age is especially important given immunosenescence, the less potent immune response generally mounted with advanced age. For the pandemic, of particular note, it includes prior infections, vaccines, boosters, combined infections and boosters (hybrid immunity) and waning of the immunity from vaccines or infections over time. … With that background, let’s probe deeper into why the patterns are so different between New Zealand, Australia vs South Africa, US, and many other countries…. To summarize, the impact of BA.5 that I have described as the worst variant of the pandemic by its biologic properties is seen clinically where there are less intact immunity walls, mostly as a function of prior infections and the type (main variant underpinning) of infections. Our immunity wall in the United States has helped provide a lesser hit of BA.5, now starting to show a plateau of hospitalizations at a level below that of other countries in Europe, even though our vaccination and booster rate in the US is substantially lower than these countries.” • I’m not the only tape-watcher….
Dems will kill you in higher numbers. They will just not let health agencies track the blood on their hands from a Bidens Covid massacre let er rip strategy. pic.twitter.com/hfIVzHUX4J
— Earnie Banks (@_EarnieBanks) July 26, 2022
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 DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~125,000 Today, it’s ~125,000 and 125,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 750,000 per day. That’s rather a lot of cases per day, when you think about it. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes we’ve seen have 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.
Regional case count for four weeks:
A slow upswing in the rest of the south, beneath the Florida and Texas gyrations.
North Carolina and Georgia have no data today (hence the gaps in the chart).
California drives the national drop. This big drop is supported by yesterday’s Walgreens positivity data (although not by wastewater. The populations for these two populations don’t necessarily overlap, however.) But I’m just not sure I can trust California data. For example, here is San Diego wastewater:
What do California readers think?
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, July 31:
-0.4%. (I wonder if there’s a Keynesian Beauty Contest effect, here; that is, if people encounter a sympotomatic person, whether in their social circle or in normal activity, they are more likely to get a test, because they believe, correctly, that it’s more likely they will be infected.) What we are seeing here is the steepest and largest acceleration of positivity on Walgreen’s chart.
Lambert here: See Water Cooler of 7/29 for oddities with the chart on that day (like no value at all for New York). We do see a rapid change in slope from 7/27 to today, 7/31. However, such changes are not unprecedented at a peak. Somebody who knows the math of Keynesian beauty contests can tell me: If one person known to be infected in a social circle causes multiple people to get tested, wouldn’t changes in the infection rate, whether up or down, get amplified in the testing rate?
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.
Status quo, i.e. it’s a totally not-over pandemic.
Lambert here: After the move from the CDC to the laughingly named ‘https://healthdata.gov,” this notice appeared: “Effective June 22, 2022, the Community Profile Report will only be updated twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.” So now the administration has belatedly come to the realization that we’re in a BA.5 surge, and yet essential data for making our personal risk assessments is only available twice a week.
NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), July 29:
Previous Rapid Riser data:
NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 29:
More green. Good!
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), July 14:
Variant data, national (CDC), July 16 (Nowcast off):
BA.5 moving along nicely.
Wastewater data (CDC), July 29:
I found this chart hard to read, so I filtered the output to the highest (red) and next-highest (orange) levels (somewhat like Rapid Riser Counties, see on here). What’s visible is that a lot of cities are in trouble; but that coverage is really patchy. Illinois, for example, has always had a lot of coverage, but the dots stop at the Illinois border. This chart works a bit like rapid riser counties: “This metric shows whether SARS-CoV-2 levels at a site are currently higher or lower than past historical levels at the same site. 0% means levels are the lowest they have been at the site; 100% means levels are the highest they have been at the site.” So, there’s a bunch of red dots on the West Coast. That’s 100%, so that means “levels are the highest they’ve ever been.” Not broken down by variant, CDC, good job.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
1,054,422. It’s curious that deaths are fiddling and diddling just like cases. Suggests the effect in cases is real, whatever the actual level of infection.I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a nice, simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.
Employment Situation: “United States Job Openings” [Trading Economics]. “The number of job openings in the US fell by 605,000 from a month earlier to 10.7 million in June of 2022, the lowest in nine months and below market expectations of 11 million. It was the third consecutive drop in job openings after a record level in March. The largest decreases in job openings were in retail trade (-343,000), wholesale trade (-82,000), and in state and local government education (-62,000).”
Retail: “SPAM goes on lockdown due to inflation in NYC” [New York Post (jr)]. “It’s the nation’s crises in a can. Inflation and crime have gotten so bad in Gotham that even cheap meat like Spam has to be locked up. At Duane Reade’s store in the Port Authority bus depot, the shelf-stable product — only $3.99 a can — is now being stocked in plastic, anti-theft cases. ‘I’ve never seen that before!’ one cashier laughed while using a magnet to remove a can of Spam from its cage. The cashier was among the employees, tourists and store regulars stunned that the iconic blue-and-yellow cans are now being kept under lock-and-key — some even poking fun at the sight as ‘a sort of Jeff Koons homage,’ per one viral tweet.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 42 Fear (previous close: 39 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 35 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 2 at 1:43 PM EDT.
Rapture Index: Closes up one on Earthquakes. “A Deadly Quakes strikes the Philippines” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 189. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) I’ve been waiting for the Rapture Index to hit the all time high again. Now it has.
Maybe I should have put this under “Zeitgeist Watch”:
common people is a song that has become more and more relevant as life has gone along. in the past year i feel like i’ve had like half a dozen convos where i was like “actually, this is like that song common people, have you heard it? let me send you a link”
— Summer Of The Shark Truther (@bombsfall) July 31, 2022
I learned about “Common People” from alert reader Petal back in 2019, IIRC. Catchy tune. Here’s a live version:
How it started (1):
— Pablo Picasso (@pablocubist) July 30, 2022
How it’s going (1):
— Dorothea Tanning (@D_Tanning_Art) July 28, 2022
How it started (2):
— MoMA: Drawings and Prints (Bot) (@moma_drawings) July 26, 2022
How it’s going (2):
I don’t even play an art historian on TV, but if Louise Bourgeois orginated “punk pasteup” that would be awesome. Bourgeois is terrific, even the giant spiders.
“Why So Many Supercars Have Montana License Plates” [Bloomberg]. • Regulatory arbitrage, our most distinctive competence as a country after bloated weaponry.
“Socioeconomic status and public health in Australia: A wastewater-based study” [Environment Internationa]l. From the Abstract: ” In this study, fifteen wastewater samples covering 27% of the Australian population were collected during a population Census. The samples were analysed with a workflow employing liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry and chemometric tools for non-target analysis. Socioeconomic characteristics of catchment areas were generated using Geospatial Information Systems software….. Markers of public health (e.g., cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease, anxiety disorder and type 2 diabetes) were identified in the wastewater samples by the proposed workflow. They were positively correlated with descriptors of disadvantage in education, occupation, marital status and income, and negatively correlated with descriptors of advantage in education and occupation. In addition, markers of polypropylene glycol (PPG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG) related compounds were positively correlated with housing and occupation disadvantage. High positive correlations were found between separated and divorced people and specific drugs used to treat cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Our robust non-targeted methodology in combination with Census data can identify relationships between biomarkers of public health, human behaviour and lifestyle and socio-demographics of whole populations.” • Wastewater really seems to be having a moment these days.
News of the Wired
Out of box thinking:
I remember a story about a person who had an absurd log file to parse, and it was too large to look at with any reasonable method, so they turned it into an audio file and listened to it. When the pattern changed dramatically, they went right to the distinct area.
— Erin Sparling (@everyplace) July 30, 2022
I wonder if we could process a lot of media the same way; perhaps a change in “the current thing” would equate to a sudden change in tone or texture. This would certainly be quicker than actually listening to it all.
The timeline Sluggo is in, is the best timeline….
— Nancy (@SluggoIsLit) July 31, 2022
… as any economist will tell you. If that were a real fifty-dollar bill, somebody would already have picked it up.
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: “This is from the continental divide, up in Yoho park in BC. There is a nurse log underneath the foliage. Cool forest greens for the hot summer days.” Gorgeous light. Definition of “nurse log”; museum-grade nurse logs.
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