2:00PM Water Cooler 6/13/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, there’s a lot going on, and I got wrapped round the axle on Covid, where there was a lot going on. I’m going to break my rule and beef up the Politics section a little. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Great Rufous Sparrow. Erongo, Namibia. I’m continuing on with sparrows because there are many species and their calls are different! 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

“Here’s what ‘insurrection,’ ‘coup’ and ‘sedition’ mean” [CNN]. “, or rebellion, is a crime under Title 18 of the US Code, punishable by a fine, a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, or both. Being found guilty of insurrection also makes someone ineligible to hold office in the United States…. Synonyms include ‘revolt’ or ‘uprising,’ according to Merriam-Webster.” Insurrection, subject to correction by those knowledgeable in the statutes, is on the scale of the South seceding; illegal parading hardly qualifies. It could be, of course, that being “ineligible to hold office” caught the eye of Democrats. “Similar to insurrection, the act of sedition is also a crime under the US Code, which characterizes it as two or more people who conspire to overthrow the US government, or “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution” of US law by force. It’s punishable by a fine and up to 20 years in prison.” Trying to halt the electoral college count would, in my reading, qualify; I’d speculate that’s why the Proud Boys were charged with this. “A ‘coup,’ shorthand for ‘coup d’état,’ is broadly characterized by Merriam-Webster as a ‘sudden decisive exercise of force in politics,’ but particularly the ‘violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.’” The broad characterization is, to my mind, too broad; surely any riot would qualify? For the tighter definition: I hate to keep quibbling on “violence,” but so far, only two rioters were charged with it. Furher, there was no coup. I await the chain of causality for “attempted coup.” Alternatively:

if only they could have found a picture of a child! (Garza at left has every reason to mourn; the point is the exploitation.)

“Trump advisers told him repeatedly election was lost, says January 6 committee” [Financial Times]. “In some of the most damning testimony about Trump’s state of mind following the election, Barr told the committee: ‘I thought, ‘boy, if he really believes this stuff he has become detached from reality’.’ • It’s amazing to me that Trump, who is to say the least volatile, is holding on to “election theft” like grim death. Why? (I view the entire political class as detached from reality, so Trump’s joined a big club.) It’s a tragedy on a world-historical scale that Trump’s’ idée fixe did not become how the “deep state” (in his locution) destroyed his Presidency. That would have been politically popular, have had the merit of approximating the truth, and might have affected Ukraine policy in a non-cray cray way. I wonder why Trump shrank from it.

Origin story for the “Big Lie”:

There are so many other “Big Lies” about it really takes chutzpah for the Democrats to, er, approprate it.

Biden Administration

“Brookings president resigns after being accused of secretly lobbying for Qatar” [Responsible Statecraft]. “Allen — the former commander of NATO and allied forces in Afghanistan — had allegedly obstructed the investigation into his lobbying activities, provided a ‘false version of events’ to federal agents, and used his Brookings email account to conduct secret lobbying work at the height of an economic embargo against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.” • Shocked, shocked. Neera Tanden sucked up cash from the UAE, and she’s now in the West Wing. So who took Allen down? Allen is apparently a Kaganite, and Gonzalo Lira speculates the Obama faction took him down as a warning shot to Biden on Ukraine policy. (And what other faction? The left [snicker]? The Clintonites?) Dunno. I note the involvement of the Saudis. And although DoD tends not to play these games, I wonder if they want to learn.


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PA: “‘Comes Across as a Cult Guy’: The Pennsylvania Candidate Freaking Out Both the Left and the Right” [Politico]. “A state senator little known until recently outside of his conservative, south-central Pennsylvania district (he was the fourth-place finisher in a 2018 House primary), Mastriano’s victory in the Republican primary for governor last month disgusted Democrats and panicked establishment-minded Republicans. To them, he represented a structural threat to democracy, objectionable primarily for promoting Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged. Many of Mastriano’s supporters admire him for that same reason. They too, remain devoted to Trump’s election falsehoods, and they cheered Mastriano’s protests of Covid restrictions in the state. But Mastriano’s appeal is not strictly — or even principally — secular. When he announced his candidacy, at an hourslong event in January, a man introduced as ‘Pastor Don’ blew a shofar and said ‘the presence of God is thick in this place.’ Mastriano’s wife, Rebecca, read from a psalm. Mastriano told his supporters they were part of a new generation of leaders ‘raised up’ by God. And when people at the patriotic, flag-dotted events he participated in on Memorial Day weekend stopped to talk about him, they fell into religious language quickly, too: ‘I’m a Christian, and I think we need more of that,’ one of them told me. ‘He represents the restoration of religious liberty,’ another said. ‘Prayer,’ a third person said, ‘can help him win.’”

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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Realignment and Legitimacy

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“Mild respiratory COVID can cause multi-lineage neural cell and myelin dysregulation” [Cell]. From the Summary: “COVID survivors frequently experience lingering neurological symptoms that resemble cancer therapy-related cognitive impairment, a syndrome for which white-matter microglial reactivity and consequent neural dysregulation is central…. These findings illustrate similar neuropathophysiology after cancer therapy and respiratory SARS-CoV-2 infection which may contribute to cognitive impairment following even mild COVID.” • Filing this here so you can think about brain damage every time you see one of our elites saying they had a “mild” case.


“School Masking Policies and Secondary SARS-CoV-2 Transmission” [Pediatrics]. n = 1,112,899 students and 157,069 staff. What This Paper Adds: “Within-school (secondary) transmission was modest (universal masking was associated with a 72% reduction in secondary transmission compared with optional masking.”

• Good idea:

I’m so old I remember when MeetUps sparked the Howard Dean campaign! And the link above might be useful to them. (If any readers find one of these Meetups, please report!

Here is another topic for the Meetups to share:

Again, people stepping up to do what the public health establishment will not do.

Alert reader Pat reports on a bus ride on the MTA in New York:

Events of bus ride: people largely if inadequately masked and I was tired enough not to be immediately engaged. Family told there was a mask requirement finds they lost a mask, as I am giving them a spare maskI have a gentleman who had his mask under his chin and was eating told them it wasn’t a requirement anymore. I chime in to say the rule has not been rescinded in NY and for them own safety they should regardless. Gentleman claims if it existed the bus driver would have masks to give them. I point out that the MTA ran out of courtesy masks during the lockdown, and there was never a requirement for them to supply them. He disagreed. Woman pipes up that Covid doesn’t exist. I correct that, pointing out that the state just dropped the alert from high to the Orange level. Nobody is getting it. Has me responding that I had it in the last month. Eating guy says masks don’t do anything. I point out that there are multiple studies showing that a well fitted N95 that besides being sure you don’t infect anyone it increases the time you can be in an area with the aerosols without exposure significantly. Woman who denies existence brings up keeping N95s for surgery, what they are for. Eating guy goes you can’t believe anything they tell you. I tell him the studies I am citing are largely from other countries at which point he grudgingly admits that “they” might be real. I explain the well fitted caveat to him. Another gentleman has had enough, loses it and starts screaming for the bus driver to reopen the back doors that had just shut after letting out a couple of passengers. That ends the mask discussion for a bit, but I do end up explaining to one member of the family that stress gets to people and that upset gentleman was not violent just loud and worried. Eating gentleman after a time asks me if I have a hard time breathing in my mask. I explain that it isn’t as easy as none but that this style mask keeps the mask from being directly on my mouth or nostrils and that helps and that my allergies also mean I switch between nose and mouth breathing without thinking about it so I don’t find it suffocating. He talks about how he has a hard time breathing in his ill fitted surgical mask and has to pull it beneath his nose. I no longer have a spare so I can’t really give him one to try, but suggest he get a more structured mask. Unfortunately I think the N95 would end under his nose. Or as with the family hanging from one ear. By the time everyone leaves, people on the bus who were properly masked to start still are, those who had to get one out or be told are in various masking for show modes. It was tiring, upsetting and unproductive although not frightening. But it was very much indicative that people do not trust the government they think called wolf which has now said never mind AND they want it to be over so are ignoring or actively rejecting information that says otherwise.

Obviously, this is a failure of scientific communication by the public health establishment on the scale of social murder. (I mean, does the US know how to do propaganda? Does the US know how to do marketing? Of course we do. None of it was done in this case, and so the field was left to “freedom” loons (sorry, I should be reaching out, but I’m out of patience with the ideology). I also wish to thank Pat for their efforts.

• Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, people are still building Corsi boxes:

• Endorsement:

Of course, 3M is happy to sell duct tape. At this point, is that so wrong?

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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 108,500. Today, it’s 107,700, and 108,500 * 6 = a Biden line at 646,200. 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.)

• “2,050 new cases, 7 deaths in Bay State” [Boston Herald]. “In more welcome news, the Covid-19 wastewater tracker — which has proved to be a strong leading indicator showing jumps and decreases before other data picks it up — has recently dipped significantly, showing levels similar to mid-April around the Boston area. Experts told the Herald this week that these are encouraging trends, if they hold up.” • Breakthrough to the mainstream!

MWRA wastewater data:

Both South and North down.

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.

From Biobot Analytics:

Note that BA.4 and BA.5 are increasing in the South (as of May 18). I checked CDC, they’re not update either (from May 21).

Here’s the Biobot data for Florida:

It seems that Florida’s case count should shortly go up, not least because in this Southern state there seems to be no BA.4/5 (yet).

More on Florida:

• “How can you track the COVID trend in Florida? You have options to monitor health risk” [Miami Herald]. “In the beginning months of the pandemic in 2020, the Florida Department of Health released daily figures on the state’s case and death counts. However, the department now only reports this data to the public once every two weeks, although it sends updates to the CDC on a near-daily basis.” • Gad. What kind of sense does that make? Anyhow, lots of tracking information here for Florida residents.

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

Status quo.

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:

Good job, CDC. Maybe changing the colors on the “Community Levels” page broke their site:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Very volatile.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,035,847 1,035,320. 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.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Consumer Inflation Expectations” [Trading Economics]. “US consumer inflation expectations for the year ahead rose to 6.6% in May of 2022 from 6.3% in April, matching a record hit in March. After declining sharply last month, the year-ahead expected change in the price of gas rose slightly to 5.5%.”

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The Bezzle: “Crypto Debacle at Celsius Rattles Market Already Shaken by Terra” [Bloomberg]. “A month after the implosion of the Terra stablecoin sent the crypto market reeling, another crisis is causing fresh angst across the entire digital-asset universe. Celsius Network Ltd., one of the biggest lenders in crypto and a key player in the world of decentralized finance, said late Sunday that it was pausing withdrawals, swaps and transfers following weeks of speculation over its ability to make good on the outsize returns it offered on certain of its products, including yields as high as 17%.” Oh. More: “.” • Wait. That reminds me of something…

The Bezzle: “Crypto Platforms Are Halting Withdrawals as Bitcoin Tanks Over 13%” [Gizmodo]. “The Celsius crypto network has halted all trading, including withdrawals, according to a press release from the company released overnight…. Another major cryptocurrency exchange platforms followed suit Monday. Binance halted withdrawals for Bitcoin as the cryptocurrency’s value tanked, claiming in a tweet the stoppage was ‘due to a stuck transaction causing a backlog.’ Oh. More: “Celsius, which claims to have 1.7 million users, allows people to trade major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin (down 13.2% over the past 24 hours) and ethereum (down 17%), all while promising incredibly high returns for people who were holding (HODLing, in the community parlance), with the service.” But wait! Theres more: “[Celsius] terms of use allow Celsius to halt all trading, as they’ve already done. They also explicitly say that if Celsius goes bankrupt, you might not get access to any of your money ever again, something that U.S. consumers at traditional banks don’t have to worry about thanks to the FDIC.” • Pesky regulators!

The Bezzle:

The Bezzle: “Tesla cars involved in 16 crashes with emergency vehicles, regulators say” [CBS]. “Documents posted Thursday by the agency raise some serious issues about Tesla’s Autopilot system. The agency found that it’s being used in areas where its capabilities are limited, and that many drivers aren’t taking action to avoid crashes despite warnings from the vehicle…. In the majority of the 16 crashes, the Teslas issued forward collision alerts to the drivers just before impact. Automatic emergency braking intervened to at least slow the cars in about half the cases. On average, Autopilot gave up control of the Teslas less than a second before the crash, NHTSA documents said.” • One second may not be enough to avoid the crash, but is it enough to avoid liability?

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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 Gallery

This is not a photo:

This isn’t the color of my, but oddly, my dreams have become much more vivid and complex since Covid began. Not sure why this is, and I wonder if it’s universal.

News of the Wired

I am not feeling wired today. Maybe tomorrow!

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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 TH:

TH writes: “So this person’s yard is nearly as random and busy as ours, but not quite. It might be the lights that place it in the ‘charming’ category for me, not to mention that they’re right across the street from the ocean! (Redondo Beach, California) Yep, sorry there’s a bit too much sky—it was a cell phone pic and it didn’t occur to me to edit it before uploading it to Flickr and deleting it from the phone.” I’m leaving the sky in because it’s so California.

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