Wednesday, October 12, 2022
HomeEconomics2:00PM Water Cooler 10/12/2022 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 10/12/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Blue Nuthatch, Fraser’s Hill, Pahang, Malaysia. “Foraging or eating.” And loudly, too!

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“The logic of the insult and the logic of scientific classification represent the two extreme poles of what a classification may be in the social world.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“Why Biden’s SEC chief is enraging Wall Street” [Politico]. “The rules that Gensler is spearheading would revamp the stock market’s plumbing, partly in response to the 2021 meme stock saga in which Robinhood and other brokerages attracted scrutiny after they were overwhelmed by trading in shares of companies such as GameStop and AMC. Gensler, who has held leading regulatory roles in the Biden and Obama administrations, has questioned whether investors are operating in an environment that is ‘as fair and competitive as possible.’ He is expected to crack down on the complex web of payments and fees that exchanges, brokerages and trading firms share when processing investors’ stock trades. While the proposals have yet to be released, industry executives have already begun talking about suing the SEC over the plans. And a growing number of Hill Democrats are urging Gensler to proceed with caution, signaling a potentially treacherous political road ahead even among members of his own party — one that will become even more fraught if Republican critics gain a majority in Congress. ‘We have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview.” • Wow, shocking behavior from Democrats.


* * *

“Democrats shouldn’t focus only on abortion in the midterms. That’s a mistake” [Bernie Sanders, Guardian]. “But, as we enter the final weeks of the 2022 midterm elections, I am alarmed to hear the advice that many Democratic candidates are getting from establishment consultants and directors of well-funded Super Pacs that the closing argument of Democrats should focus only on abortion. Cut the 30-second abortion ads and coast to victory…. n poll after poll Republicans are more trusted than Democrats to handle the economy – the issue of most importance to people. I believe that if Democrats do not fight back on economic issues and present a strong pro-worker agenda, they could well be in the minority in both the House and the Senate next year…. None of what I am suggesting here is “radical”. It is, in fact, extremely popular. It is what the American people want. If we close this critical midterm campaign with a clear, unified vision to meet the needs of working families, to take on corporate greed, and protect a woman’s right to choose, we will begin to rebuild the trust between Democrats in Washington and the working families of this country. And we’ll win the election.”

“4 Weeks Out, Senate Control Hangs in the Balance in Tumultuous Midterms” [DNYUZ]. “Three states in particular — — that are seen as the likeliest to change party hands have emerged as the epicenter of the Senate fight with an increasing volume of acrimony and advertising. In many ways, the two parties have been talking almost entirely past each other both on the campaign trail and on the airwaves — disagreeing less over particular policies than debating entirely different lists of challenges and threats facing the nation. Republicans have pounded voters with messages about the lackluster economy, frightening crime, rising inflation and an unpopular President Biden. Democrats have countered by warning about the stripping away of abortion rights and the specter of Donald J. Trump’s allies returning to power. Both parties are tailoring their messages to reach suburban voters, especially women, who are seen as the most prized and persuadable bloc in a polarized electorate.”

“Senate races reach new heights of nastiness in final campaign stretch” [The Hill]. “The battle for the Senate majority is turning nasty, especially in the three battle ground states of , where candidates are facing a barrage of negative ads and social media attacks on their character and fitness for office. Democratic and Republican strategists as well as nonpartisan experts say the vitriol on the campaign trail has been remarkable, observing that while negative campaign tactics are nothing new, the 2022 battle for the Senate has taken it to a new level.” • All this when neither the response to a pandemic that killed a million people, or a proxy war with a nuclear power, are “centered” by “the national conversation.”

* * *

PA: Ouch!

PA: “NBC reporter sparks disability row after revealing Fetterman needed support in interview after stroke” [Independent]. And the deck: “Democrat is scheduled to debate rival Mehmet Oz on 25 October.” “A row has been sparked by NBC News after a reporter provided details about the support John Fetterman needed for a sit-down interview, as well as a comment suggesting the Democratic Senate candidate had trouble following their conversation without closed captioning. Mr Fetterman, the Democrat candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, has spent most of the summer recovering from a stroke and has only recently returned to in-person campaigning. While his campaign has made no secret of his ongoing trouble with communicating, NBC reporter Dasha Burns told viewers about the support Mr Fetterman needed for a new sit-down interview with Meet The Press, which was broadcast on Tuesday. ‘Because of that auditory processing, he still has a hard time understanding what people are saying,’ Ms Burns said, while explaining the use of closed caption technology for her interview. She added that ‘some of the conversations’ she had with the Democrat before his first sit-down interview post-stroke – which were without closed caption help – were a ‘challenge for a candidate’ and that ‘it wasn’t clear he understood what I was saying’ without the use of captions. Axios’s senior political correspondent Josh Kraushaar was among those to tweet about the NBC interview with Mr Fetterman and said: ‘NBC News’ Dasha Burns: ‘In small talk before my interview [with Fetterman], it wasn’t clear he understood what I was saying.’” • I’ve said that one important aspect of Fetterman’s brilliant social media campaign was to keep the press distracted; now they aren’t, and have pivoted into their familiar pull-the-wings-off-flies mode. Personally, I’d prefer a recovering stroke victim to a puppy-killing charlatan, but that’s just me. Commentary:

PA: Another view:

PA: And another:

That’s the key question. I hope Fetterman’s every-county strategy helps him, here. To the extent that voters see Fetterman as “one of us,” I think he should do OK, no matter what the weasels at the New York Times say.

PA: “Unpacking John Fetterman’s interview with NBC News” [Poynter Institute]. “Burns questioned Fetterman for not releasing his medical records. Fetterman said, “I feel like we have been very transparent in a lot of different ways. When our doctor has already given a letter saying that I’m able to serve and to be running. And then I think there’s — you can’t be any more transparent than standing up on a stage with 3,000 people and having a speech without a teleprompter and just being — and putting everything and yourself out there like that. I think that’s as transparent as everyone in Pennsylvania can see.’” • There’s no unpacking here at all; it’s just a compilation of quotes.

WI: “The Rise of Mandela Barnes” [The Nation]. “Like Fetterman, Barnes is a progressive who has broken the mold for Democrats running in the traditional battleground states of the Great Lakes region. Both candidates have made a point of fighting for votes in every county of their state, including those that backed Trump, and they are doing so with a firm embrace of working-class voters and the unions that represent them. There’s a logic to this approach. For Democrats to win in the Great Lakes battleground states, they need to run up their numbers in the big cities and college towns that are their partisan strongholds, keep their losses to a minimum in historically Republican rural areas, and renew their prospects in the midsize industrial cities and surrounding counties where Trump’s faux populism made inroads in 2016 and continues to attract support. ‘You need to make it clear to people in places like Kenosha and Racine and Oshkosh, who are worried about outsourcing and the loss of good union jobs, that the Republicans aren’t going to help them,’ says John Drew, former president of UAW Local 72 in Kenosha, where in 2010 Chrysler closed a sprawling engine plant that was once one of the state’s largest employers. ‘Mandela Barnes understands that.’ In Barnes’s case, Johnson has proved to be a perfect foil. While the Democratic challenger has emphasized his own working-class roots in his advocacy for the renewal of manufacturing, the wealthy incumbent has declared that he couldn’t care less about Wisconsin workers and their communities.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

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.

* * *

“My party left me”:

Extensive discussions of Gabbard in comments in yesterday’s Links and Water Cooler (search on “Gabbard”). I don’t have a lot to add, save that we can surely do better than “elitist cabal” as a focus for attention.

“Elvis Chan: Cyber Conduit Between FBI and Big Tech” [American Greatness]. “Democrats are once again colluding with Big Tech to censor ‘disinformation’ about the 2022 midterms. Of course, the definition of ‘disinformation’ is open to interpretation—content hostile to the regime, naturally—but the FBI’s point man on the topic recently told reporters the bureau is on the lookout for wrongthink. Elvis Chan, an assistant special agent in charge responsible for the cyber branch of the FBI’s San Francisco field office, met with reporters last week to explain the nature of potential hijinks in the November election. ‘People are trying to dispel the disinformation and misinformation that is going on; that there are things that are happening to the election. We don’t see any credible threats at this point,’ Chan told a San Francisco television reporter following an October 6 press briefing. ‘That’s not to say we aren’t monitoring them, we are.’ He should know about working with social media. According to a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt against numerous government agencies and officials for conspiring with media companies to silence free speech, Chan was one of two FBI agents who urged Facebook officials to censor content related to Hunter Biden’s laptop before the 2020 election. ‘Pursuant to the third-party subpoena, Meta [Facebook’s parent company] has identified—Elvis Chan as involved in the communications between the FBI and Meta that led to Facebook’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story,’ Schmitt wrote. (The other agent was Laura Dehmlow, a section chief for the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, another politically-motivated operation created by FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2017.) Both Chan and Dehmlow are defendants in the lawsuit.” • I hate to quote American Greatness on anything, but since there’s radio silence on this story everywhere else…. Here we are!

Republican Funhouse

“The Origins of the G.O.P. Tactic of Sending Migrants to Blue States” [New York Times]. “In the fall of 2018, President Donald J. Trump was pushing aides on an idea he wanted to carry out on the border — transporting undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities…. The idea never advanced in the Trump administration, in part because of legal concerns. But four years later, three Republican governors have brought it to visceral life, busing and flying thousands of migrants — not just criminals — from the border and dropping them off in Martha’s Vineyard, New York City and other Democratic-leaning areas…. The former president’s influence on the Republican Party can be measured not only in the electoral victories and losses of the candidates he endorses but also in the nativism that has come to define the party’s immigration politics. The Republican governors of Arizona, Florida and Texas turned an abandoned Trumpian notion into action, inspired by his hard-line immigration policies as well as his taste for a combative style of political theater.” • I must confess that I don’t share the liberal Democrat aghastitude at this. You want to be a sanctuary state, be a sanctuary state! What’s the issue? (Yes, using people as political props is bad, and also a universal practice.)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Belligerent” [The Baffler]. “[Angelo] Codevilla was an idiosyncratic figure: a working-class immigrant son of Fort Lee, New Jersey; a professor, vintner, and rancher; a political theorist of the “West Coast Straussian” school; a Hill intelligence staffer and ultra-hawkish foreign policy analyst; an early adversary of what his allies would eventually call the “deep state”; a translator of Machiavelli; a prominent critic from the right of the Bush administration’s War on Terror; a late-life champion of populist class revolt. Yet despite this idiosyncrasy, there is a case to be made that he was the emblematic intellectual of the twenty-first-century American right—not the most famous or original intellectual, but the one whose individual trajectory most closely signaled that of the broader movement…. Angelo Codevilla, whose work prefigures the eventual populist revolt against conservative orthodoxy, gives us the story in microcosm. After 9/11, when nearly all conservative intellectuals (and many liberal ones) were rallying around the Bush administration, Codevilla was an influential and persistent critic of the administration’s waging of the War on Terror. In the wake of the Great Recession, he helped distill the critique of big government and liberal elitism into a language of class revolt in his essay-turned-book The Ruling Class, popularizing the rhetoric that today is fed nightly to viewers of Tucker Carlson’s show and other right-populist media. In 2016, he fatalistically embraced Trump before many other right-wing elites did, warning in his Claremont Review essay “After the Republic” that the old American regime was dead, leaving Trump as the only choice for conservatives to defend themselves in its aftermath.” • I found this helpful, because I didn’t come up as a conservative, and it’s hard to find a serious treatment of conservative factions — and, dare I sau, thinkers — in my milieu. Are any readers familiar with Codevilla’s work?


• Announcement for White House summit on indoor air quality:

How come the world’s finest public health organization isn’t running this, anyhow?

• Here is a live thread of the White House Summit:

• Here is a series of takes on the White House Summit:

Both these threads are worth reading in full.

• And the ventilation:

* * *

“Monkeypox response looks to long term” [Roll Call]. “The nation’s monkeypox response is shifting from crisis mode to a more long-term approach as the Biden administration acknowledges that it will be impossible to eradicate the virus from the country anytime soon…. The agency expects cases will likely decline and plateau over the coming weeks and months, but cautions that because cases are not declining all over the country right now, predicting long-term trends is difficult.” • Another way of putting this that CDC regards its response to Covid as a success, as evidenced by the fact that they’re doing the same thing again. And, no doubt, again, and again, and again, and again….

* * *

• Funny thing, public health announcements work:

So when CDC systematically undermines all non-pharmaceutical interventions, people listen and it works.

• A second take:

And CDC is still using the “green map.” Any fool can see how dumb it is to incorporate a lagging indicator into a metric that putatively warns of future events. If the thermostat in my house worked like this, it would have a heat gun pointed right at it. And yet CDC persists.

• Tools, indeed:

* * *

• “There’s a spike in respiratory illness among children — and it’s not just COVID” [NPR]. “The United States is seeing a significant spike in respiratory illness among children. Sick kids are crowding emergency rooms in various parts of the country, and some pediatric hospitals say they are running out of beds. But this uptick in illness has largely been due to viruses other than the coronavirus, like RSV, enteroviruses and rhinovirus. While respiratory infections typically surge in the winter months, experts say that this year the season has started much sooner, and that numbers are unusually high.”

* * *

* * *


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.)

Lambert here: I have to say, I’m seeing more yellow and more blue, which continues to please. But is the pandemic “over”? Well….


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, October 8:


Readers, please click through on this, if you have a minute. Since Walgreens did the right thing, let’s give this project some stats.


Wastewater data (CDC), September 24:

Lambert here: Note the dates. This is some sort of backward revision. We are now 18 days behind on wastewater data. Good job with the leading indicator, CDC.

October 4:


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].

Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 24:

First appearance of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, confirming CDC data below.

Variant data, national (CDC), September 17 (Nowcast off):

• Another variant to watch out for:


Given the age of CDC (and Walgreen’s) data, the crossover in mid-October could already have occurred. Perhaps the Brain Trust would like to comment on BQ.1.1.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,088,471 – 1,087,976 = 495 (365 * 495 = 180,675, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though 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. NOTE I may need to configure this as well.

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.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Producer Prices Final Demand Less Foods and Energy YoY” [Trading Economics]. “The producer price index for final demand less foods and energy in the United States rose by 7.2 percent from a year earlier in September of 2022, the same as in the prior month and below market expectations of 7.3 percent gain. It was the lowest reading since last October.”

* * *

Banking: “Ex-HSBC Trader Claims Bank Has ‘Epic’ Front-Running Problem” [Bloomberg]. “A former HSBC Holdings Plc trader sued the bank, claiming he was fired for warning management about its ‘epic’ front-running problem and confronting a colleague about trading ahead of an order for Steve Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management. Stephen Callahan, who said he joined HSBC’s US rates trading desk as a director in 2021, claimed in a suit filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court that he witnessed ‘rampant front-running, including directives to junior traders to ‘always’ prioritize the bank’s proprietary account.’” • Epic!

The Bezzle: “Former Google ads boss launches ‘Web3’ search startup with backing from Coinbase, top VCs” [CNBC]. “Sridhar Ramaswamy, who led Google’s advertising business from 2013 to 2018….” • Let me just stop there. Ramaswamy clearly has superior crapification skills, and so I’m sure his new venture will do very well.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 20 Extreme Fear (previous close: 20 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 30 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 6 at 12:59 PM EDT.

The Gallery

I guess that’s are wicker protective headgear… But spooky!

Groves of Academe

Stochastic eugenics:

The Screening Room

The title of Angela Lansbury’s first movie is a little too on-the-nose:

Class Warfare

“‘Dubious at best’: Railroad workers’ rejection of new contracts revives strike fears” [Politico]. “Fears of a disruptive rail strike are roaring back to life, less than a month after President Joe Biden took a highly visible victory lap for averting a pre-election economic meltdown. — after the midterm elections — and negotiations are continuing between the freight railroad industry and a dozen unions. But one labor organization’s vote this week to reject a contract with the railroads threatens to undo the White House’s efforts to avert a strike — efforts that included a compromise the administration brokered Sept. 15.” • Unless there’s a wildcat strike, of course. Or sabotage.

The light bulb goes on:

Seems like Bloomberg realizes the leverage these workers have before the unions do….

“Hacked to Bits” [Eater]. “There have always been customers who asked for modifications to their orders. But contemporary hack culture — the kind where you modify your order from the get-go, not when you just take two different sandwiches and mash them together at home — oddly began proliferating because of workers. Across TikTok there are countless videos of baristas whipping up multicolored drinks with cutesy names; numerous Reddit threads chronicle tips and tricks from fast food employees. ‘I have a huge background in working in fast food and waiting tables. I waited at Denny’s, Applebee’s, Friendly’s and then fast-food places,” says JP Lambiase, co-founder of Hellthy Junk Food, a YouTube and TikTok brand that is publishing an e-book on food hacks. ‘When you work at a place you’re hacking there.’” Well, it would be nice to get paid for it. More: “But according to many workers, the proliferation of hacking culture has only made their lives harder, requiring them to know a second menu’s worth of drinks on top of the one they were actually trained on, taking up their time with more elaborate orders, and generally making things more complicated. ‘I would say about two-thirds of the drinks I would make would be a hack drink or a TikTok drink,’ says Jesse, who asked for his last name to be withheld. He has worked at Starbucks locations in Ohio and New York for just over a year, and says he’s seen the number of orders for these drinks increase while he’s been there, and that the drinks themselves have become more complicated over time. ‘I have begun to unironically dread seeing younger customers come into the store,’ he says.” • Anything that makes me wait in line while breathing other people’s air is bad. I hate these things. Just order your damn coffee and let the rest of us move along.

“Cash Is Never Neutral: A Conversation on the Politics of Money” [The Nation]. “Keynes was convinced that democratic opinion can be a powerful check on economic policies that were callous and insensitive to questions of social justice. In this role, he often stirred up public opinion in his newspaper columns and sought to direct it against the prevailing orthodoxy. But Keynes was simultaneously convinced that economic policy would have to be somehow shielded from popular opinion by at least one degree, and he questioned how deep the masses can really penetrate the finer points of economic theory. The great popular demystifier of money and economics was at the same time himself a great magician of public finance. Understanding Keynes requires one to appreciate that he was able to consciously hold on to positions that seemed to many of his friends to be in tension with one another.” • Very interesting, well worth a read, especiall as the central banksters strive to take cash away from us.

News of the Wired

“The computer errors from outer space” [BBC}. “When computers go wrong, we tend to assume it’s just some software hiccup, a bit of bad programming. But ionising radiation, including rays of protons blasted towards us by the sun, can also be the cause. These incidents, called single-event upsets, are rare and it can be impossible to be sure that cosmic rays were involved in a specific malfunction because they leave no trace behind them. And yet they have been singled out as the possible culprits behind numerous extraordinary cases of computer failure. From a vote-counting machine that added thousands of non-existent votes to a candidate’s tally, to a commercial airliner that suddenly dropped hundreds of feet mid-flight, injuring dozens of passengers.” • Oh, good.

* * *

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. Via, from dk:

dk writes: “Fruits of the forest: Blaeberry, Vaccinium myrtillus & Cowberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea”

* * *

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