By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
Loria’s Satinbird, Papua New Guinea. There is exactly one recording of Loria’s Satinbird, from 1993. Here it is! (I think there’s a waterfall in the background.)
“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
“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“Will anti-vaccine activism in the USA reverse global goals?” [ABC News]. “First lady Jill Biden left COVID-19 isolation on Sunday after twice testing negative for the coronavirus and reunited with President Joe Biden at their Delaware beach home.” • Really? She couldn’t just return to the White House after five days? Why?
* * *
“Could Democrats Really Pull Off a Miracle in November?” (interview) [Amy Cook, New York Magazine]. “The president’s not much more popular than before. The economy is better, but it’s still not great. Are people more optimistic? What I’m really going to be watching for in these next couple of months is not whether voters think the economy has suddenly recovered or that everything’s awesome but whether Americans are more optimistic. I think it helps Democrats if there’s a sense that things are at least headed in the right direction and that they have something to sell to voters — to say, ‘We’re actually doing something. We’re taking this seriously. We’re focused on the things that people care about.’” • Ha. Zeitgeist watch! (Walter’s no dummy, so this is interesting.) And the same in a different venue, earlier–
“Vibe Shift” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “Will the drop in gas prices, favorable media coverage of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, and a laser-like focus on selling the most popular elements of that new law, convince enough voters that Democrats are indeed ‘on their side’? Or, will Republican ads that link persistently high prices at the grocery store and gas pump to Democratic policy decisions, be more effective? Earlier this week, I was able to see how this match-up of messages might play out with voters this fall. At a focus group of white male swing voters, the moderator presented a list of Democratic accomplishments, including things like the infrastructure bill, the Recovery Act, and, of course, the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act. Also noted were low unemployment and strong job growth. When asked to respond, a man from Georgia replied, ‘I don’t disagree with anything here. But, I am paying double for lumber and groceries than I was three years ago.’”
“‘It’s a rip-off’: GOP spending under fire as Senate hopefuls seek rescue” [WaPo]. “Republican Senate hopefuls are getting crushed on airwaves across the country while their national campaign fund is pulling ads and running low on cash — leading some campaign advisers to ask where all the money went and to demand an audit of the committee’s finances, according to Republican strategists involved in the discussions. In a highly unusual move, the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week canceled bookings worth about $10 million, including in the critical states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona. A spokesman said the NRSC is not abandoning those races but prioritizing ad spots that are shared with campaigns and benefit from discounted rates. Still, the cancellations forfeit cheaper prices that came from booking early, and better budgeting could have covered both. ‘The fact that they canceled these reservations was a huge problem — you can’t get them back,’ said one Senate Republican strategist, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. ‘You can’t win elections if you don’t have money to run ads.’” • Sadly. Personallly, I’d abolish all digital political advertising to force the parties to engage entirely on the ground (and through local print media. Ah well, nevertheles…). See below at “An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives.” That may help.
* * *
PA: “Mehmet Oz’s new hometown is a private, religious community where opinions on him are split” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. “Lisa Oz’s mother is a minister with the Convention Church, a branch of the [Swedenborgian] New Church, and her great-grandfather helped build the cathedral [in Oz’s adopted town, Bryn Athyn]. Her mother is a member of the Asplundh family, one of several highly successful families in town. The family’s tree business, Asplundh Tree Expert LLC, is one of the largest U.S. companies, with 34,000 employees and some $5 billion in revenue. The company is owned by about 200 Asplundh family members, who collectively are worth about $3 billion — and several have contributed generously to Oz’s campaign.” • American gentry! But back to Oz’s residency: “Jeremy Finkeldey, who lives down the road from the home the Ozes bought, sees the relocation as a political move that might not be permanent. ‘Oz has never lived in Bryn Athyn,’ Finkeldey said. ‘He married into a Bryn Athyn family and after he decided to run for our Senate seat vacated by Toomey, he bought Michael Pitcairn’s old place … and put up two Oz signs at the end of the driveway.’ Oz does not currently live in the home, which he’s said still needs renovations. So far, no construction permits have been filed in Lower Moreland.” • Hmm.
[room of political consultants who make $300K a year debating how to respond to allegations that dr. oz’s set contained a closet of human organs] first of all it’s really more of a walk-in étagère
— soul nate (@MNateShyamalan) August 19, 2022
One thing I’m really enjoying about Fetterman vs. Oz — and Fetterman had better remember it’s not even Labor Day yet — is that the snark is so often genuinely funny. It brings back happier, more innocent times.
PA: “To support working Pennsylvanians, we need to hold Washington accountable” [John Fetterman, Times-Leader]. “[W]hile my opponent, Dr. Oz, has been trying to familiarize himself with his new state — and, apparently, with grocery stores — I’ve been putting in work, talking to people across the commonwealth, and coming up with a plan that will improve the lives of working Pennsylvanians. The first step of fighting inflation and bringing costs down starts with making more stuff right here in America and bringing jobs home. Because for too long, out-of-touch politicians in Washington have sold out people on factory floors to benefit their friends in corporate boardrooms, passing bad trade deals that have sent thousands of good-paying jobs overseas. We’ll bring back American manufacturing by punishing the companies that ship jobs overseas, strengthening ‘Buy American’ requirements for companies that do business with the federal government, and mandating that companies we buy from make their products right here at home. And while we’re at it, we should crack down on companies that falsely claim their products are made here and punish them for ripping off and misleading the American people. If we make more stuff here in America, prices won’t spike every time there’s a problem overseas. We don’t need to be outsourcing any more jobs and production to China, while making inflation worse. But when it comes to bringing costs down for working Pennsylvanians, we can’t end there. It’s time we crack down on the big, price gouging corporations that are making record profits while jacking up prices for all of us.”
“Trump pushes for un-redacted affidavit’s release, despite the risks” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump is pushing for the full, unredacted release of the affidavit that led to the search warrant for his Mar-a-Lago estate, a move that carries risks for both Trump and the Justice Department. ‘Pres. Trump has made his view clear that the American people should be permitted to see the unredacted affidavit related to the raid and break-in of his home,’ Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for the former president, said Thursday after Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said he may be willing to unseal portions of the document. Reinhart ordered Justice Department officials to suggest redactions to the document by next Thursday. ‘Today, magistrate Judge Reinhard rejected the DOJ’s [Justice Department’s] cynical attempt to hide the whole affidavit from Americans,’ Budowich continued. ‘However, no redactions should be necessary and the whole affidavit should be released, given the Democrats’ penchant for using redactions to hide government corruption, just like they did with the Russia hoax.’”
“An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives” [New York Times]. “A new conservative nonprofit group scored a $1.6 billion windfall last year via a little-known donor — an extraordinary sum that could give Republicans and their causes a huge financial boost ahead of the midterms, and for years to come. The source of the money was Barre Seid, an electronics manufacturing mogul, and the donation is among the largest — if not the largest — single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit. The beneficiary is a new political group controlled by Leonard A. Leo, an activist who has used his connections to Republican donors and politicians to help engineer the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court and to finance battles over abortion rights, voting rules and climate change policy. This windfall will help cement Mr. Leo’s status as a kingmaker in conservative big money politics…. For perspective, the $1.6 billion that the Marble trust reaped from the sale is slightly more than the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats.” • Once again, Democrat layers of indirection vs. Republican simplicity and directness.
MTG asking for my vote again:
“Oh, yeah.” Marjorie Taylor Greene confirms she’s a “machine gal,” someone who wants to eliminate voting machines. pic.twitter.com/r1GCnrljpY
— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) August 22, 2022
I can just barely see electronic tabulators. But ballots? No. The Democrat position on hand-marked paper ballots is disgraceful.
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.
Realignment and Legitimacy
Interesting theory, but portraits are painted by the winners:
Let’s start with the English Civil War. Here we have Prince Rupert, Charles I, the death mask of Oliver Cromwell, and John Pym. Show a child these pictures, and ask who they think the good guys are, and the child will say the more handsome royalists! His instincts are not wrong. pic.twitter.com/GPgydR2rqE
— Arthur Bloom 🇺🇸 (@j_arthur_bloom) August 20, 2022
Joey Steel was quite the hottie, no question….
* * *
Sometimes the govt does such a good job providing a service that people forget it’s the govt doing the job, and none dare call it socialism. Medicare & FDIC count but my favorite example is GPS, which everyone on the planet uses every day while never wondering who provides it. pic.twitter.com/2IB22hqb3a
— Carlos Mucha (@mucha_carlos) August 21, 2022
• “Fauci, top infectious disease expert, to retire in December” [Associated Press]. That’s a damn shame. “Fauci found himself marginalized by the Trump administration, increasingly kept out of major decisions about the federal response, but he continued to speak out publicly in media interviews, advocating social distancing and face coverings in public settings before the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.” • What a whitewash. Fauci’s noble lies on masking (not “poor messaging,” but lying) were the first obvious step in the catastrophic destruction of trust in public health (although perhaps we should not have been surprised).
• ”Statement by Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.” (press release) [NIH]. “While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring. After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field. I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats.” • MSNBC slot?
• Trump weighs in:
NEW Trump statement on Fauci: pic.twitter.com/mYexvw1tPd
— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) June 3, 2021
A refreshing lack of sycophancy…..
• This is absolutely terrific. Please distribute widely:
Presenting v4.0 aka the “I can’t believe we’re still doing this in August 2022” version.
Additions: new concerns addressed, pdf with hotspot links to references. Interactive pdf link here: https://t.co/Rdup91LOMO https://t.co/PIUEDgkcxN pic.twitter.com/tFaLkPB6Qn
— Amanda Hu (@amandalhu) August 22, 2022
This should be in the hands of anyone who attends a school board meeting, or encounters resistance from the administrative layer on fixing ventilation issues. You’d think there’d be something as simple, compact, and powerful as this at the Centers for Disease, but who am I kidding?
• ”Tip of the iceberg: erectile dysfunction and COVID-19″ [Nature]. We did run this back in February when it appeared, but for the bros: “Current evidence illuminates endothelial dysfunction, direct testicular damage, and the psychological burden of COVID-19 that are of the pathways of ED. Although the proposed underlying mechanisms partly fail to answer the questions by which COVID-19 leads to ED, it is important to monitor men who recovered from COVID-19 regarding the sexual dysfunction sequelae of infection and address the long‐term consequences.” • Let me know how the “monitoring” works out. Nevertheless. You’d think Pfizer (ahem) could climb up the value chain and together a marketing campaign on this. Too soon?
• Maskstravaganza, as more PMCs deliberately create superspreading events:
Guess which one is a video games convention (#SGDQ2022) in Las Vegas, and which one is a microbiology conference (#ISME18) in Switzerland (during the same respiratory pandemic)? 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/MByP5OxBtY
— Mattia Rigotti (@MattiaRigotti) August 21, 2022
• More on #ISME18:
Hey #ISME18 peeps – if you’re sitting in the sessions coughing (for whatever reason), the LEAST you can do is put a mask on. I’m begging you.
— Kelli Mullane (@lab_witch_) August 19, 2022
• And this screencap:
The pinnacle of human intelligence /s pic.twitter.com/YqSsdA6OJ0
— Parmijohn | B.Eng (@_Parmijohn) August 21, 2022
• “Conference organiser” = hegemonic PMC, called out by an exceptional PMC:
What I said is out there in the public record via screencaps etc and ought to be. The anonymous conference organiser I mentioned deserves all the condemnation they received. However, deleting the thread hopefully reduces collateral damage on others. V sorry I didn’t do so earlier
— Chris Greening (@greeninglab) August 22, 2022
• More on
It’s happening across all academic fields in the West – fully back to unmasked, indoors in-person events. No care that #CovidIsNotOver. No regard to excluding #HighRiskCovid19 colleagues. Scholars behave basically like anti-vaxxers
— Mr. T, PhD (@CactusInBayern) August 21, 2022
Hey @defcon people, the mask policy is pretty damn clear, no slits, no exhale valves, or punctures…
Like it’s not that difficult. Breathe quality air in, and don’t exhale your potentially dangerous breathes into others, keep ‘em contained! pic.twitter.com/kelaQ9cooz
— Bert JW Regeer (@bertjwregeer) August 12, 2022
Hopefully those who would prefer not to wear Darth Vader-style respirators to next year’s DEFCON won’t have to, since the gross irresponsibility exhibited at #ISME18 won’t continue.
• ”With or without you?” [Pandemic]. “Countries with large populations have the potential to significantly distort how we see the severity of the pandemic around the world. Considering the pandemic performance of the US, China, India and Ethiopia, we assess how these population outliers affect average mortality rates by World Bank income group. As it turns out, the rankings of pandemic severity are completely upset. High-income countries, which have sone of the highest elderly shares, have not been affected the most during this pandemic; paradoxically, once we exclude the US, they are likely to have been affected the least.” • Another way of saying this is that the United States, despite its high income, has Third World-level performance that’s bringing down the curve for the other high income countries.
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:
But wait for the regional stories…
Cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the nominal case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~93,500. Today, it’s ~101,000 and 101,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 606,000 per day. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of November 1, 2021, and we are very far from that of July 1, 2021. And the real level is much worse.
Regional case count for four weeks:
Wild stuff. Who knew the Midwest would jump?
Florida Man enters data?
If this keeps up, California will level out to a “high plateau.”
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, August 20:
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.
NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), August 19:
I suppose that if case counts are indeed level, it’s likely there would be few rapid risers.
Previous Rapid Riser data:
NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), August 19:
Flat calm on the hospital front. If you’re CDC, and that’s all that matters to you — because Long Covid isn’t a thing, and everybody who is really sick can get to a hospital — you’re probably feeling good right now.
NOTE: Rapid Riser and Hospitalization data are updated Wednesdays and Fridays.
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), August 6:
Complete takeover by BA.5/BA.4. I wonder what’s coming next?
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), July 30 (Nowcast off):
BA.5/BA.4 moving along nicely.
Wastewater data (CDC), August 16:
For grins, August 15:
What I’m really worried about is an increase in grey dots (“no recent data”). because that would mean the effort is being shut down or defunded.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Lambert here: If in fact the drop in cases is real, as CDC seems to believe, we should start seeing deaths, which lag, drop around September 1.
Total: 1,065,569 –
1,064,780 = 789 (789 * 365 = 287,985; today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, thought they can talk themselves into anything. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.
Lambert here: Yes, I multiplied by 365 this time!
• Ron, put down the pom-poms, I’m begging you:
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) August 20, 2022
Klain completely erases infection, hence neurological damage, vascular damage, and Long Covid. And as for Paxlovid, “a bevy of new lab studies shows the coronavirus can mutate in ways that make it less susceptible to the drug… Researchers have found some of those mutations in variants already circulating in infected people, raising fresh concerns that physicians could soon lose one of their best therapies for fighting COVID-19.
There are no official statistics of note today.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 22 at 1:47 PM EDT.
Rapture Index: Closes down one on Wild Weather. “The three tropical zones have been generally quiet” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.). They’re missing Drought and Food Supply. Ya know, I scan the total list, and I’ve got to wonder if this is yet another number that’s being rigged.
Karen™? Is that you?
An American woman is screaming at an Aer Lingus gate agent “THIS IS THE WORST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE” and the gate agent said, “I certainly hope so, madam.”
— Kirsten Schofield (@ennuigo) August 21, 2022
I don’t know why anybody would assume that air travel would ever revert to its pre-Covid glory days. The entire system is one ginormous superspreading device, and at some point enough people are going to figure that out.
Surely this is irony? But I don’t think Matty goes in for irony much:
Confidence in small business is so insane — put your trust in a large, well-known national or global brand with a reputation to worry about, lots of media scrutiny, and highly professionalized management.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 21, 2022
“AL Coal Miners Must Pay $13 Million in Damages for Strike, Biden’s NLRB Rules” [Truthout]. “On August 3, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and the Associated Press reported that the subunit of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for Region 10 (much of the South) has ordered the union to pay $13.3 million to Warrior Met Coal. About 1,000 workers from two mines and two aboveground facilities southwest of Birmingham, Alabama, have been on strike against Warrior Met since April 2021, resisting brutal working conditions. Now the Biden NLRB is demanding the UMWA pay what amounts to $13,000 per striker into the company’s pocket. The government says this is reimbursement for security guards, security cameras, repairs, and production lost because of the strike, plus buses for carrying scabs across picket lines.” • So strikes are now illegal? I do note this is a subunit of the NLRB, so doubtless the UMW will appeal. But I have the feeling this will only culminate in direct action. Imagine if Starbucks takes the same position!
“A Coal Miner’s Political Transformation” (transcript) [New York Times]. “There’s a whole bunch of people over in that building that hate us. They just hate us because we won’t bow down, because we won’t say, yes, do whatever you want to us. We won’t do that. And they don’t understand that we will not subject ourselves to their mercy.”
Terrific thread on homelessness, worth reading in full:
That thread asking people how they would get out of homelessness if they only had $20 is literally people saying “I would simply just'” and then saying something that is literally impossible, unavailable, or has been made illegal by local city governments.
— Housing 4 All is Hot (@ahouse4all) August 20, 2022
The reality of enormous tent cities all over America wasn’t on my Bingo card, back in the days when America put a man on the moon, and so forth.
News of the Wired
“Shocker! Test Shows Physical Buttons Are Less Time-Consuming in Cars Than Touchscreens” [Car and Driver]. “Vi Bilägare tested a dozen vehicles—primarily new but also one 2005 Volvo—to see how long it took to perform a series of four tasks. It took 10 seconds in the old car and up to 45 in one of the new models. By timing the tasks as the vehicles were in motion, we can see how a simple thing like turning on the radio to a specific station can mean a driver’s eyes and focus are on the screen much more than they used to be. Future drivers may look back at the current trend of replacing swaths of simple, physical buttons with touchscreens and wonder why we let this happen.” • If we’re lucky, yes.
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 CC:
CC writes: “Bushes inside the erosion crater at Haleakala National Park on Maui.” Wow!
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!