2:00PM Water Cooler 8/2/2022 | naked capitalism

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 UPDATE Finished. I got absorbed and probably added too much…

Bird Song of the Day

Purple Martin, Georgia, United States. Recording made in 1955! Another species of songbird.

* * *

Politics

“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

Biden Administration

“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:

Oh, look. A cauldron.

* * *

Better than nothing. But late. And Facebook?!

Here is the link to the Facebook page.

2022

* * *

PA: Does Dr. Oz have a campaign staff? Do they not have media buyers in New Jersey?

PA: On the trail, though perhaps not very:

WI: “A Democrat who dropped out of the Wisconsin Senate race is giving the party a $600,000 surprise gift” [NBC]. “The Milwaukee Bucks executive who dropped out of the Wisconsin Senate race this week is in a giving mood. After he immediately threw his support behind fellow Democrat Mandela Barnes, the state’s lieutenant governor, Alex Lasry is now offering another gift to boost his former rival. Lasry said he will use $584,000 worth of previously purchased airtime to run attack ads against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.” • This doesn’t happen all the time?

WY: “WATCH: Liz Cheney’s unpopularity grows, called ‘an embarrassment’ by Wyoming voters” [The Gazette]. “‘Can I cuss? Hell no,’ said Wyoming resident Sharon Tuggle bluntly before noting Cheney’s work on the Jan. 6 committee. ‘She’s done us dirty.’ In 2020, former President Donald Trump won around 70% of the vote in Wyoming. He remains popular in the state. ‘Look at how [Cheney’s] done Trump,’ Tuggle said. ‘She’s supposed to be supporting him. She’s a Republican, for crying out loud.’” • I’m picturing a sort of Mike and Joe situation on MSNBC, except with Liz Cheney and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

2024

“Trump beats Biden, Harris in hypothetical 2024 match-up: poll” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump leads President Biden and Vice President Harris in hypothetical 2024 presidential match-ups, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill on Monday. The poll found that if the 2024 election were held today, 45 percent of respondents would vote for Trump in a race against Biden, who attracted the support of 41 percent of respondents, while 14 percent were unsure or didn’t know. In a hypothetical Trump-Harris match-up, Trump’s lead expands to 7 percentage points. Forty-seven percent said they would support Trump, compared to 40 percent for Harris and 13 percent who were unsure or didn’t know. Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey, noted how Biden would be a weaker candidate in a race against Trump today than he performed in 2020.” • Ah, Mark Penn, reviled by Clintonites, perhaps even justly. Of course, all this is before the effort to make Biden seem Churchillian. Pass the victory gin. Liberal Democrat: “But Trump is a crook!” And–

““I’ve Delivered”: New Disclosures Demolish President Biden’s Denials on Hunter Dealings” [The Hill]. “New disclosures are demolishing the continued denials of President Biden that he had no knowledge and nothing to do with his son’s business interests. The emails (reviewed by Fox and The Daily Mail) include exchanges with at least 14 of Hunter Biden’s business associates while Joe Biden was vice president…. There are emails of Ukrainian and other foreign clients thanking Hunter Biden for arranging meetings with his father. There are photos from dinners and meetings that tie President Biden to these figures, including a 2015 dinner with a group of Hunter Biden’s Russian and Kazakh clients. People apparently were told to avoid directly referring to President Biden. In one email, Tony Bobulinski, then a business partner of Hunter’s, was instructed by Biden associate James Gilliar not to speak of the former veep’s connection to any transactions: “Don’t mention Joe being involved, it’s only when u [sic] are face to face, I know u [sic] know that but they are paranoid.” Instead, the emails apparently refer to President Biden with code names such as “Celtic” or “the big guy.” In one, “the big guy” is discussed as possibly receiving a 10 percent cut on a deal with a Chinese energy firm; other emails reportedly refer to Hunter Biden paying portions of his father’s expenses and taxes.” • ”Say a prayer for the common foot soldier.” After all, what song among us has grown up to be their father’s bagman?

“Donald Trump’s Great Escape: How The Former President Solved His Debt Crisis” [Forbes]. “he day Donald Trump left the White House, his business was facing $900 million of debt coming due in the next four years. Working through those loans would have been a significant undertaking for any firm, but the Trump Organization was contending with additional challenges. Deutsche Bank, Trump’s longtime lender, was reportedly looking to end its relationship with the real estate mogul. Two other financial institutions, Signature Bank and Professional Bank, had spread the word that they were cutting ties in the wake of January 6, 2021. Meanwhile, the Manhattan district attorney was getting close to charging the Trump Organization with a series of financial crimes, including falsifying business records, conspiracy and fraud. Soon plenty of people were trumpeting the end of an era.” The walls were closing in! More: “In the last 15 months, the Trump Organization—under indictment, with its founder characterizing the charges as part of a “political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Demo­crats”—has managed to rework almost all $900 million of the debt it had coming due. Two of its most troublesome Deutsche Bank loans, totaling $295 million, are now off the books. The former president sold his money-losing hotel in Washington, D.C., to an investment shop connected to former Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez and retired boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, thanks to help from a firm tied to computer billionaire Michael Dell. Trump also refinanced $125 million of debt against a Miami golf resort and reworked a $100 million mortgage at Trump Tower. Trump’s business still has plenty of debt—an estimated $1.1 billion in all—but now most of it doesn’t come due until 2028 or later. Two loans that haven’t been refinanced—a $13 million mortgage against a property on Third Avenue in Manhattan and a $45 million loan against a tower in Chicago—mature in 2024. But neither of those should be too difficult to pay back. After all, Trump now has an estimated $375 million in cash on hand, more than three times the sum he had at any point during his presidency, thanks to the spate of dealmaking.” • You gotta respect the grift!

“The Memo: No, really — What if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez runs for president?” [The Hill]. “Ocasio-Cortez has conspicuously declined to commit to endorsing Biden for a second term. In a CNN interview last month, she told Dana Bash, ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.’ The New York congresswoman, who shot to fame in 2018 when she defeated then-Rep. Joseph Crowley in a Democratic primary, is already a fundraising juggernaut. She could easily raise the funds to run a competitive campaign. She also has an enormous social media following — more than 13 million followers on Twitter alone. Pollsters have begun testing her name among other far more seasoned figures and, while the levels of support are modest for now, she is plainly in the mix. An Echelon Insights poll this month, asking Democratic-leaning voters who they would support if Biden eschewed a second term, put her in sixth place — but in a tightly bunched group of candidates, only 2 percentage points behind third-placed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Vice President Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg led that poll…. Two other factors suggest an Ocasio-Cortez campaign shouldn’t be written off out of hand. First: Yes, she is old enough to run. The minimum age to be president is 35. Ocasio-Cortez will celebrate her 35th birthday roughly three weeks before Election Day 2024. The second is that she has long leveled a broad critique of the Democratic Party leadership in Washington — in summary, that it is too cozy with rich, powerful interests and not responsive enough to the needs of its own voters.” • A “broad critique” by Beltway standards, I think. Still, wouldn’t the Democrat gerontocracy’s intracranial splatterfest be fun?

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.

* * *

“Mainstream Democrats Picked Henry Cuellar. Look Where It Got Them” [Teen Vogue]. “Last week, Cuellar was called out for co-sponsoring a bill earlier in July which many see as a weakening of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, alongside two Republicans. The so-called ‘Worker Flexibility and Choice Act‘ amends the act, and establishes ‘worker flexibility agreements’ which serve to exempt gig workers from the federal minimum wage, preempting state- or city-level laws that enshrine a minimum wage. This could have disastrous consequences for American workers. As explained by Jacobin columnist Liza Featherstone, ‘The bill creates whole new ways for employers to get out of paying minimum wage and overtime, extending the gig economy’s stress and chaos to millions more workers.’” • It got them exactly where they wanted to be: Once they had two rotating villains: Manchin and Sinema. Now that Manchin is becoming a face instead of a heel, he needs to be replaced: Hence, Cuellar.

“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?

“How AIPAC Betrayed Its Former Support for Democracy” [Tikkun]. “I am long past my years of cooperating with AIPAC. Nevertheless, I defended it on at least one occasion. In early 2019, when Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted that support for Israel is ‘all about the Benjamins,’ I joined those who condemned her statement as antisemitic (she later apologized). With respect to AIPAC, the implicit target of her tweet, many things may have gone awry but not the fact that it had never endorsed or contributed to a campaign.” Tediously literal-minded! More: “This was always a point of pride with the organization. They were there to educate. The ‘PAC’ in the name stood for ‘Public Affairs Committee,’ not ‘Political Action Committee.’ There were no Benjamins involved. That all changed this year when AIPAC founded the United Democracy Project (UDP) to endorse candidates and channel dark money to support them.”

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.

“RNC links up with ‘Stop the Steal’ advocates to train poll workers” [Politico]. • What really frosts me about this kind of story is that is begins and ends with the aghastitude. Why or why don’t Democrats compete on this turf? What’s holding them up?

#COVID19

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:

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:

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”:

“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:


* * *

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, or, Aleister Crowley as Ur-Libertarian:

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

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….

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:

The South:

A slow upswing in the rest of the south, beneath the Florida and Texas gyrations.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

North Carolina and Georgia have no data today (hence the gaps in the chart).

The West:

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?

Positivity

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?

Transmission

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. For July 21, 2020:

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:

Improvements everywhere!

Previous Rapid Riser data:

NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 29:

More green. Good!

Variants

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

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.

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,055,576 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.

Stats Watch

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.”

Tech: “Court Rejects Google’s Attempt to Dismiss Rumble’s Antitrust Lawsuit, Ensuring Vast Discovery” [Glenn Greenwald]. “A federal district court in California on Friday denied Google’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that the Silicon Valley giant is violating federal antitrust laws by preventing fair competition against its YouTube video platform. The lawsuit against Google, which has owned YouTube since its 2006 purchase for $1.65 billion, was brought in early 2021 by Rumble, the free speech competitor to YouTube. Its central claim is that Google’s abuse of its monopolistic stranglehold on search engines to destroy all competitors to its various other platforms is illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which makes it unlawful to ‘monopolize, or attempt to monopolize…any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations.’ It is rare for antitrust suits against the four Big Tech corporate giants (Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon) to avoid early motions to dismiss. Friday’s decision against Google ensures that the suit now proceeds to the discovery stage.” • Yowza!

* * *

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.

The Conservatory

Maybe I should have put this under “Zeitgeist Watch”:

I learned about “Common People” from alert reader Petal back in 2019, IIRC. Catchy tune. Here’s a live version:

The Gallery

How it started (1):

How it’s going (1):

How it started (2):

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.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Why So Many Supercars Have Montana License Plates” [Bloomberg]. • Regulatory arbitrage, our most distinctive competence as a country after bloated weaponry.

Police State Watch

“Easy Money: How Counties Are Funneling Covid Relief Funds Into New Jails” [The Nation]. “Throughout the country, counties are dipping into funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to build and expand jails and prisons. At least 20 counties in 18 states are using, or want to use, Covid relief money this way. The problem is, their decision to do so violates the spirit, and likely the letter, of the rules governing how relief money can be used. These rules, finalized by the US Treasury earlier this year, ban jurisdictions from using Covid relief money to build or expand correctional facilities. Yet that hasn’t stopped local officials in a number of counties from pushing their projects through, spending their ARPA and CARES Act windfalls like winning lottery tickets for long-sought expansions.”

“Fear of Rampant Crime Is Derailing New York City’s Recovery” [Bloomberg]. “Perhaps nowhere has the perception of rampant crime overpowered the reality more than in New York City, where the murder rate has certainly increased in recent years but is nowhere near where it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Fears of violence have now surpassed Covid concerns when it comes to why workers say they won’t return to their Manhattan offices or ride on public transit in the financial capital of the world. Besides the impact on the residents of New York, there are far-reaching implications for the tourists, investors and other people who bring business and capital to the city’s economy. Part of the outsized perception can be traced to the city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, whose focus on crime helped propel the 22-year veteran of the New York City Police Department into the job. Once in office, he staked his administration on the idea that he’s uniquely suited to provide a quick fix to the complex problem of eradicating violence in the city. Crisscrossing the city to show up at crime scenes big and small, he became well-known for delivering sermon-like admonitions in apocalyptic terms. “We’re in a real scary place,” Adams said in a May police briefing where he likened the NYPD’s work to war deployment.”

Class Warfare

“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 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….

… 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.

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful 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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email