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HomeEconomics2:00PM Water Cooler 6/17/2022 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/17/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Chestnut sparrow. Arusha, Tanzania. Calls of a group. This is two weeks of (extremely neat) sparrows. I think next week, something else.

“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.”

* * *


“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

“Tensions escalate as DOJ renews request for Jan. 6 panel transcripts” [Politico]. “The Justice Department on Thursday revealed a deepening rift with the Jan. 6 House select committee, accusing the panel of a “failure” to share its 1,000 witness transcripts. Department officials say those documents would aid the prosecution of people who breached the Capitol, including leaders of the Proud Boys. The Justice Department officials said it was “critical” that the panel provide prosecutors “copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews.’” • Seems obvious. Here’s the letter:

“Jan. 6 panel sends letter asking Ginni Thomas to testify” [Associated Press]. “Thomas, a conservative activist, communicated with people in President Donald Trump’s orbit ahead of the attack and also on the day of the insurrection, when hundreds of Trump’s supporters violently stormed the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s victory…. In response, Thomas told the conservative news site Daily Caller on Thursday that she ‘can’t wait to clear up misconceptions,’ suggesting she would comply with a request to testify.”

First Amendment issues on Eastman’s Memo, Trump’s speech, etc.:

(Doucette is a former Republican, a lawyer, and very sound on cops. Worth a folllow.) Note the “imminent” test:

“Grassley has only himself to blame for skepticism about January 6 denials” [Bleeding Heartland]. “I don’t recall Grassley ever clarifying how he would have presided over the electoral college count, had Pence been absent. He had told reporters on January 5 that objecting to electoral votes was a ‘legal process,’ and he would be ‘listening to what all of my colleagues have to say during that debate’ before deciding how to vote. I have always given Grassley the benefit of the doubt when reporting on explosive evidence that has emerged during the January 6 investigation: John Eastman’s memo, a PowerPoint shown to some Republican senators on January 4, an a December 2020 email from attorney Kenneth Chesebro to Rudy Giuliani. I find the senator’s denials plausible, because Trump’s inner circle might not have fully trusted him. Grassley had acknowledged on December 14 (when the electoral college met) that Biden would be president. And in the end, he did vote to certify the electoral college count. But it’s no surprise Franken (and many others) are skeptical that Grassley was “never approached” by coup plotters who specifically mentioned him in some of their road maps. Why is it hard for many to believe the senator wasn’t in on Trump’s scheme? Here are a few reasons; this list could easily be twice as long…. So spare me the indignation from a campaign spokesperson, who asks why Franken is “spreading this conspiracy theory” and suggests he is ‘intentionally lying to voters.’”

Petty bourgieosie, as I showed long ago here:

Biden Administration

“Biden aides ‘tapped out’ as White House faces staff shake up” [The Hill]. “The White House has faced a slew of departures recently, with several top officials announcing at once that they are moving on after 18 months in the administration during a time when President Biden’s job approval rating continues to sink amid consistently poor marks politically…. One senior administration official acknowledged that many aides are ‘tapped out.’ It’s been a long few years,’ the official said. ‘The burnout is real. It might not be the ideal time to leave with everything going on, but it’s the right time.’ The official explained the early summer months are considered the best time to leave, before midterms season begins. ‘And then you’re really locked in,’ they added.” • Time to cash in!

“Republican walks out on U.S. gun legislation talks, Democrat remains hopeful” [Reuters]. “Disagreements remained over two main provisions: how to provide incentives to states to create ‘red flag’ laws, in which guns can be temporarily taken away from people who are deemed dangerous; and the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ which allows authorities to block abusive spouses from buying firearms but does not cover ‘intimate partners’ who are not married. Cornyn, whose home state of Texas does not have a red flag law and is seen as unlikely to enact one, wants the funding for that provision to cover other efforts for people with mental illness, such as ‘crisis intervention programs.’”


* * *

MI: “Samuels optimistic about challenge to Omar” [KARE]. ” Don Samuels told reporters Tuesday he believes a coalition of clergy, DFL party veterans and community advocates will make him a competitive contender in his battle to unseat incumbent 5th District Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. A day after the Omar Campaign released a poll showing the second term Democrat with a commanding lead over Samuels in the DFL primary field, the Samuels camp presented its own polling showing the gap is tighter than that…. Early voting for the Aug. 9 primary begins June 24. Omar has four DFL challengers, but Samuels is the most well-known of them. Typically, the Democratic primary outcome determines the winner in CD5, where Republicans have been shut out for 60 years.”


“Sanders says he would support Biden reelection bid” [The Hill]. “Asked if he would support the president in 2024, the Vermont senator told CNN it is ‘a little too early’ before adding, ‘I think Biden will probably run again, and if he runs again, I will support him.’

Sanders, who ran for the White House against Biden in 2020, also said he would not mount a primary challenge if Biden is running.”

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.

* * *

Republican Funhouse

“GOPers push ban on lawmakers paying family on campaigns” [New York Post]. “The Family Integrity to Reform Elections (FIRE) Act, to be introduced by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) on Monday, would bar any candidate running for federal office from compensating immediate family members for campaign services. ‘Maxine Waters [paid] $1.1 million to her daughter from campaign funds,’ Fallon told The Post in a statement. ‘Ilhan Omar, $2.9 million to her husband from campaign funds. James Clyburn, over $200,000 to multiple family members from his campaign.’” • Not such a bad idea.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Elephant In The Zoom” [The Intercept]. The deck: “Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” • I ran this yesterday, and the day before yesterday, but here The Trillbillies — who have formed strong views on NGOs from their career experience — review this article in their podcast. Entertaining and acerbic as usual.


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

* * *

“UCSF’s Wachter says his wife now likely has long COVID and her health is ‘not great’” [San Francisco Chronicle]. One of the earlier PMC superspreading events, which Wachter chivvied his wife to attend, earning a coveted Sociopath of the Day award. “Five weeks post-infection, Hafner is likely suffering from the symptoms of long COVID, including fatigue and periodic headaches, he said. Noting that she hasn’t yet reached the official long COVID threshold — symptoms persisting two months after infection — Wachter said, ‘Whatever the definition, it sucks — she’s an amazingly high energy person, & now she’s wiped out most afternoons.’ He also questioned whether the antiviral Paxlovid was effective in preventing persistent COVID symptoms despite its ability to reduce the viral load to prevent the most severe outcomes in people who are infected…. , he said.” • Some of us didn’t need to “recommit” to “cautious behaviors” because we weren’t swayed to Wachter’s bullshit in the first place.

“When Covid Came for Provincetown” [Wired]. “Whatever you remember, the actual story is this. The partyers in Provincetown didn’t spread the virus; they, and their allies, controlled it. On the fly, they created a model for how a community can organize against a disease threat. Even a year later, it is worth looking back at what they did—not just because Covid has not left us but also because other pandemics will come. Much of the US response to Covid has been fractured, hostile, or self-sabotaging. Provincetown was ‘a huge success story,’ says William Hanage, codirector of Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, who helped analyze the outbreak. “It should have been a message: We can avoid large outbreaks, if we want to.’” Activist Michael Donnelly created a case spreadsheet from SNS reports, and contacted CDC’s Demetre Daskalakis “Within 24 hours Daskalakis set up calls between Donnelly, the CDC, and the Massachusetts health department. By the end of the week, the agencies had created a task force, set up a phone number and an email for people to self-report, reached out to other states that visitors had gone home to, and gotten mobile testing units rolling toward Provincetown. ‘It’s the most accelerated response I’ve ever seen in public health, Daskalakis says. ‘And Michael pretty much started that outbreak investigation himself.’ [As a result of the AIDS crisis,] many Provincetown visitors and residents were primed, the way a vaccination primes the body to fight a later infection, to recognize that Delta was spreading among them and to be very public about it. People who realized they’d been exposed in the July Fourth week went further than simply admitting to Donnelly that they tested positive. They began doing contact tracing on themselves and looked for professionals to give the information to.” More: “For tracking the people who’d left the Cape, there was a bigger, better-funded effort—the Community Tracing Collaborative, a 4,000-person corps created by the state health department and the global nonprofit Partners in Health. Its size suggested the scope of the job…. This simultaneous tracing of people and gatherings was a newer approach in the US—the method was copied from Covid strategies in Japan—and it wasn’t easy. If you diagram the transmission of a disease that goes person-to-person, it looks like a family tree. In Provincetown, it looked like an overgrown forest. “There were so many overlapping interactions, across three different streets, in upwards of 20 different locations—so it was very difficult to pinpoint where someone was actually exposed,” says Perri Kasen, a management consultant who joined the Community Tracing Collaborative in 2020 and became one of the three lead investigators for the Provincetown outbreak. Among the hundreds of cases detected in the outbreak in the first half of July, contact tracers could identify only six people for whom it was reasonably certain that one had infected the other. But, as Kasen says, “you don’t necessarily need confirmatory evidence to act.’ On July 27, the CDC did act. In a bombshell media briefing, director Rochelle Walensky announced gloomily that vaccinated people should go back to wearing masks indoors, especially in schools and around the vulnerable.” • A must read.

“Disease Eradication” [Donald Hopkins, New England Journal of Medicine]. From 2013, still germane. “Eradication of a disease means worldwide interruption of transmission…. Several key principles are inherent in an eradication or elimination campaign: the need to intervene everywhere the disease occurs, no matter how remotely located or difficult to access occurrences of disease are or how minor the perceived problem is in an individual country or area; the importance of monitoring the target disease and the extent of interventions closely; the need for flexibility and urgency in response to ongoing monitoring and operational research; and the need for an intense focus on the goal of stopping transmission of the targeted disease, even when the costs per case rise sharply as the number of cases declines. Common difficulties faced by such campaigns include sporadic or widespread political insecurity in areas where the disease is endemic, inadequate or delayed funding, and the challenges of motivating officials, health workers, and affected populations.” • See above in Provincetown, but see generally the United States, especially the public health establishment and official Washington.

By now, the Corsi-Rosenthal box success story is a genre:

* * *

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.

* * *

I cannot find a new case count chart that integrates regional and national subtotals, so we are that much stupider. I thought the New York Times had the nicest data presentation, so I used it:

Case count for the United States:

More or less 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 DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 100,800. Today, it’s 106900, and 100,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 641400. 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.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

Down 1.4%. (I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to and check on the goons at CDC.)

Wastewater data from Biobot Analytics:

Variant data, regional (Biobot), June 1:

Hoo boy. Here is Biobot from May 25:

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), May 28:

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), May 28:

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

Better on the West Coas and Southwest, status quo in the South and Midwest, quiet in the Northeast.

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:

CDC, you’re screwing up my personal risk assessment, good job.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Very volatile.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,037,928 1,037,664. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

The excess deaths chart appears weekly, on Friday:

CDC, good job. Maybe next Friday.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial Production in the United States increased 5.8% year-on-year in May of 2022, following a 6.3% rise in April. The mining sector recorded the biggest increase (9%), followed by utilities (8.4%) and manufacturing (4.8%).”

Capacity: “United States Capacity Utilization” [Trading Economics]. “Capacity Utilization in the United States increased to 79 percent in May of 2022 from 78.9 percent in April, slightly below market forecasts of 79.2 percent.”

* * *

Employment Situation: “Long Covid Is Showing Up in the Employment Data” [Bloomberg]. “SSDI applications are (slowly) rising again, in their first sustained increase since 2009. [T]he Social Security Administration has said that only about 1% of recent claims mention Covid… [D]ig a little deeper into the monthly Current Population Survey from which these statistics are derived and it is apparent that something new is ailing millions of Americans, even though many are staying on the job despite it.” • Handy chart:

I wish I could read this for the first time in the press on the left, instead of Bloomberg. But here we are.

Manufacturing: “Boeing ‘Almost There’ on 787 Dreamliner Delivery Restart” [Bloomberg]. “Boeing Co. is laying plans to restart 787 Dreamliner handovers that have been largely halted since late 2020, notifying customers of their place in the delivery queue as it works with US regulators to complete the final paperwork. The planemaker is ‘almost there’ on returning the Dreamliner to service, said Stan Deal, head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division. The company has reviewed the carbon-composite frames for tiny structural imperfections with regulators and key suppliers. He didn’t offer specific details on timing. ‘There’s been steady progress,’ Deal said Thursday on the sidelines of a UK Aviation Club event in London. ‘There’s a lot of paperwork you have to turn in so we’ve been focused on that and on the restoration of the airplane.’” • It’s not “paperwork,” Stan. It’s government regulation designed to prevent your plans from falling out of the sky which — hear me out — they have a bad habit of doing.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 15 Extreme Fear (previous close: 13 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 28 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 17 at 1:32 PM EDT.

Under the Influence

“Did Kim Kardashian really trash Marilyn Monroe’s dress at the Met Gala? Here’s the story” [Miami Herald]. “On Thursday, Ripley’s released a statement saying to basically lay off the Hulu star, and that Kardashian treated the slinky relic well for the short time she wore it to enter the Met. (A replica was used for the festivities.) The museum says that the SKIMS founder ‘did not cause damage’ to the 1962 dress that was acquired from a Julien’s Auctions event in 2016 for $4.8 million. Apparently, the dress came to the Central Florida facility already in not ideal shape, with a number of ‘pulled and worn’ seams. ‘This is not surprising given how delicate the material is,’ reads a report Ripley’s received after the gown arrived in 2017. ‘There is puckering at the back by the hooks and eyes,” among other issues.’” • Maybe. Then again, Ripley’s is for profit, and that’s what they would say.

Photo Book

“How Vivian Maier, the Enigmatic Nanny Who Took 150,000 Photographs, Found Her Place in History” [Smithsonian]. “For decades, Vivian Maier wandered around New York and Chicago, surreptitiously taking tens of thousands of photographs of people and scenes she encountered on the street. But her photography prowess was unknown until 2007, two years before her death, when she fell behind on payments for a storage locker and the belongings inside were auctioned off. More recently, Maier has slowly started gaining recognition for her work—and for her mysterious life. Now, her eclectic street-scene photographs are getting their first large-scale show in the United Kingdom.” • For example:

Zeitgeist Watch

Indeed, why not:

Class Warfare

“Leaked Amazon memo warns the company is running out of people to hire” [Recode]. “The report warned that Amazon’s labor crisis was especially imminent in a few locales, with internal models showing that the company was expected to exhaust its entire available labor pool in the Phoenix, Arizona, metro area by the end of 2021, and in the Inland Empire region of California, roughly 60 miles east of Los Angeles, by the end of 2022. Amazon’s internal report calculated the available pool of workers based on characteristics like income levels and a household’s proximity to current or planned Amazon facilities; the pool does not include the entire US adult population…. The research provides a rare glimpse into the staffing challenges that Amazon is now facing behind its slick veil of one-click online shopping and same-day Prime delivery. And it pointedly reveals how much of Amazon’s business success and its longtime position as a darling of Wall Street investors is dependent on its workforce of more than 1 million people who pick, pack, and ship its customers’ orders nearly 24/7.” •

News of the Wired

“Why You Can’t Remember Being Born: A Look at ‘Infantile Amnesia’” [Scientific American]. “[M]ost people can’t remember events from the first few years of their lives – a phenomenon researchers have dubbed infantile amnesia. But why can’t we remember the things that happened to us when we were infants? Does memory start to work only at a certain age? One [guess] is that autobiographical memories require you to have some sense of self. … Another possible explanation for infantile amnesia is that because infants don’t have language until later in the second year of life, they can’t form narratives about their own lives that they can later recall…. Finally, the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain that’s largely responsible for memory, isn’t fully developed in the infancy period.”

“6 intriguing things to know about the stinkiest corpse flower in L.A. before it blooms” [Los Angeles Times]. “On the Huntington’s website, you can find a 24-hour livestream of the plant in all its glory. In addition to watching the flower bloom, you’ll be able to see the hilarious reactions of visitors experiencing the scent for the first time.”

* * *

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 SC:

SC writes: “It’s late Spring and evidently Ladybird beetle mating season has arrived. These are on Common Milkweed, which I am using as a sacrifice plant to feed the Monarchs and the Ladybug-attracting aphids. The Purple MW colony is smaller and more valuable and I’m destroying aphids I find on them, and moving Monarch larvae to the Common patch. At some point in future, when I have multiple strong Purple MW patches, I’ll remove the Common patch (or at least try to suppress it; perhaps removal is not a realistic short-term goal) and let the plant/aphid/ladybird dynamic run unmolested on the Purple MW.

There are more Ladybugs this year than last, and while there are aphids here and there on the Common MW. they seem to be under control and the plants do not seem to be visibly suffering from their presence. One small part of a permaculture is in place, and getting stronger. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but I derive a bit of comfort from it.

* * *

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