2:00PM Water Cooler 10/11/2022 | naked capitalism

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

White-breasted Nuthatch (Interior West), Antelope Valley, Sierra, California, United States. Long and restful, in the legacy of Robert J. Lurtsema.

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Politics

“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

“White House unveils application form for Biden’s student debt relief” [Politico]. • Rolling out an application form is the most liberal Democrat thing EVAH.

2022

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“Both parties brace for October surprises” [The Hill]. “Strategists and political observers on both sides of the aisle are bracing for a dreaded October surprise in the final month before Election Day, wary of anything that could upend the political landscape and reshape the outcome of an already volatile midterm cycle…. There’s also some debate about just how meaningful October surprises still are. For one, the political environment is far more polarized and there are fewer swing voters who could be swayed by last-minute revelations about a candidate or major event. What’s more, Greenberg said, news tends to come and go much faster in 2022 than it did even 20 years ago. What happens in early October, for instance, may not be top of mind for voters a month later. ‘It’s a cliché to say that a week is a lifetime in politics, but there’s always time for one more turn of the wheel,’ he said. ‘Since 1980 when the term was coined, a month has come to seem like a longer span of time. So maybe it should be a late-October surprise.’” • I don’t think we’ve got enough time to supply Big Z with rockets that can hit Moscow, or train the crews. So a Churcilllian moment for Biden, and a “rally round the flag” moment domestically, are out. Unless we fire the rockets ourselves, of course. If we do, Tim Ryan — the next Machin, because the current Manchin is about used up — might win Ohio! (See below.)

OH: “4 takeaways from first Ohio Senate debate between Tim Ryan, J.D. Vance” [Columbus Dispatch]. “When asked how the U.S. should respond if Russian President Vladimir Putin uses nuclear weapons against Ukraine, Vance said ‘nobody knows’ what the best course of action would be. He went on to argue that foreign policy should put Americans first, and he believes the Biden administration hasn’t done enough to deescalate the conflict. Ryan called for a ‘swift and significant response’ if that occurs and argued Vance is weak on Russia. The congressman also criticized his opponent for saying he doesn’t ‘really care what happens to Ukraine.’ ‘I’ve been to Parma,’ said Ryan, referring to the Cleveland suburb with a large Ukrainian-American population. ‘I’ve been to Cleveland. I’ve met with the refugees. You know who I meet with? The women and the daughters and sons because the husbands are in Ukraine fighting [with the Azovs?]. That’s the kind of freedom we need to support, and J.D. Vance would let Putin roll right through Ukraine.’” • Why, the next Christia Freedland or Tony Blinken could be growing up in Parma right now!

2024

“Biden’s about to turn 80. Don’t expect a blowout birthday bash” [Politico]. “Aides both inside and outside the White House have taken steps to prepare for another campaign. They’ve suggested that a campaign kickoff would likely come in the first few months of 2023, which would be commensurate to when other presidents signaled their re-election plans. Those closest to the president say that family discussions about running, with first lady Jill Biden playing a leading role, could begin over the holidays with a final decision likely coming early in the new year. Some Democrats have quietly wondered if Biden is too old to run again but many close to the president suspect that he will — especially if Donald Trump does.”

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.

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“Los Angeles reels from racist recording” [Politico]. Best of all, they’re all Democrats. “The overt racism on the tape drew the loudest condemnations, as you would expect after hearing an elected official mock and caricature a small child as a ‘parece changuito‘ (like a monkey) who deserves a ‘beatdown’ and is used like an ‘accessory.’ But the recording also illuminated, in the starkest way, how control of political representation is wielded like a blunt instrument to reward allies, punish foes and preserve or expand power. The officials talk about how to distribute economic ‘assets’ to ‘Latino districts.’ They mused about drawing a colleague’s district to dilute the power of renters and thus undercut the incumbent — putting her district ‘in a blender.’ Herrera emphasizes the need to ‘massage to create districts that benefit you all.’ The conversation also veered into ethnic fractures, underscoring some ugly realities in a city whose overwhelmingly Democratic government encompasses a multitude of subgroups. Martinez and de León talk about how District Attorney George Gascon was ‘for the Blacks’ and about white council members ignoring Latinos or being willing to ‘motherfuck you in a heartbeat.’ Martinez warns Black people could ‘come after us’ in an act of political reprisal. Campaigns and governance can turn on coalition-building, but politics can also become a zero-sum game in disputes about representation and resources. Racism is not new in Los Angeles, whose proud diversity coexists with a history of discrimination and where the confluence of a booming Latino population and a diminishing Black population has fueled political tension.” • A big, beautiful tent, and above all, Democrats are totally committed to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity!

Obama Legacy

“Democrats won’t get as much Obama as they want in the midterms. But he has some other plans” [CNN]. “Democratic operatives say they’re eager to see Obama play an active role – even now, they say, his best role is driving up crucial Black voter turnout in places like Philadelphia and Detroit – even as they note his appeal is shifting. Among the disinterested voter blocs are a rising generation too young to remember his 2008 win, those who argue that his failure to deliver on soaring promises helped set up the crisis of faith and political despair that has followed and those who have gotten tired of seeing how little he’s engaged.” Ouch! More: “No matter how the midterms go, the former President will host what he’s calling a Democracy Forum two weeks after Election Day – the first event that he’s hoping to turn into an annual gathering, reflecting a recalibration of the Obama Foundation to focus on democracy in America and around the world. ‘We’ll explore a range of issues – from strengthening institutions and fighting disinformation, to promoting and expanded pluralism – that will shape democracies for generations to come,’ Obama writes in an announcement of the event going out to donors and others involved with the foundation, first obtained by CNN. ‘We’ll showcase democracy in action around the world, and approaches that are working. And we’ll discuss and debate ideas for how we can adapt our democracies and our institutions for a new age.’” • Oh. A foundation.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Voting systems reliable, despite conspiracies” [Associated Press]. “Conspiracy theories spread online and in forums across the country nevertheless have undermined public confidence in voting machines and election results, while leading some counties to consider ditching the equipment in favor of hand-marked and hand-counted ballots.” • Which would be a happy outcome, regardless of the process by which it was arrived at. Personally, I don’t think election 2020 was stolen, any more than election 2016 was (although in that case, the Clinton forces were overconfident, as Democrats were not in Iowa 2020). Incidentally, if you believe with Akerlof and Shiller that (to brutally summarize) “If fraud in a system is possible, it will already have occurred” (which it is, see here) than the CTers are right from the 30,000-foot level, if not at level of individual elections. The stakes are simply too great.

I should probably put his in “The Gallery,” but it seems like a good metaphor for the political situation:

#COVID19

Patient readers: Friday I reconfigured the Covid-19 section. Since CDC will now make case data available only weekly, that data will become entirely useless for early warning purposes, instead of only partially useless, so I eliminated that section entirely. I will retain CDC’s wastewater chart (still daily), and Walgreen’s positivity chart (still daily). For transmission, CDC also made Rapid Riser and Hospitalization weekly, so I have eliminated them, too. I will retain the CDC community transmission map (“the red map”), the CDC and Walgreens variant data, and the death rate (for as long as CDC supports them).

The net result is that the best early warning system for an oncoming surge will be wastewater, which has (a) spotty national coverage and (b) is routed through CDC with no check (except for the Biobot regional chart, which I gave up on because of its constant backward revisions). All this is a recipe for tragedy, especially when we consider that the only system that CDC explicitly built for early warning was the horrid and deceptive “community levels” metric (“the green map”), which by incorporating a lagging indicator (hospitalization), didn’t provide early warning at all.

I will continue to aggregate Tweets, as before; modulo censorship, the Twitter may end up being the best early warning system we have. Meanwhile, if some experts are correct, we should get whatever the UK is having in a month or so. But maybe not! If we still seem to be on a plateau after Thanksgiving travel, I will reconfigure again, back to more emphasis on the economy (because I have sorely neglected business news).

• Hat tip, CDC:

A less polite version of “many fewer infectious people would likely be out” is “many more people would still be alive.” Here is the study Topol mentions–

“COVID-19 Symptoms and Duration of Rapid Antigen Test Positivity at a Community Testing and Surveillance Site During Pre-Delta, Delta, and Omicron BA.1 Periods” [JAMA]. n = 63, 277. Conclusions and Relevance: “In this cross-sectional study, COVID-19 upper respiratory tract symptoms were more commonly reported during the Omicron BA.1 period than during the pre-Delta and Delta periods, with differences by vaccination status. Rapid antigen test positivity remained high 5 days after symptom onset, supporting guidelines requiring a negative test to inform the length of the isolation period.”

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• “Excess deaths, swarms of variants, neurological Long COVID: another normal week in COVIDland” [CO2 Radical]. This is a very good Australian weekly newsletter. “In Australia, the COVID-19 Mortality Working Group of the Actuaries Institute published its latest analysis of excess death rates (that’s deaths greater than predicted, based on data from past years) from January to June 2022. These are running at 13% (11,200), with the total excess deaths in June itself at 16% (2,400). About half of these are due directly to COVID and the rest are from other causes. Professor Brendan Crabb of the Burnet Institute estimates 20-25,000 excess deaths in Australia this year…. The Actuaries Institute believes COVID itself will be the third leading cause of death in 2022. Slow handclap to the new Australian government. 👏👏👏…. There’s been nothing in the print or broadcast media about this and if anyone has a satisfactory explanation as to why the Australian media has ignored these stunning excess death findings completely, I will be grateful to receive it.” • I follow a lot of Australian accounts, and they’re really ticked off, rightly; Australia was doing well until Scotty from Marketing and Gladys decided to infect the rest of the country for money.

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Lambert here: I have moved the Wasterwater section; it fails to load, or has not been updated, too often to be first. Hats off to CDC, the world’s best public health agency.

Transmission

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….

Positivity

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

-0.9%.

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

NOT UPDATED Wastewater data (CDC), October 4:

October 3:

An alert reader suggested taking a look at the MWRA data from the Boston area, and lo and behold:

Lambert here: Still stalled. So far, I don’t think we have a signal of winter’s onslaught.

This is a seven-day average, mind you, so the rise is no fluke. (MRWA is divided into north and south sewersheds. Both are rising.) Let us also remember that the Boston area is not only the home of many, many students, it’s also a PMC center, and we have already seen one ginormous superspreader event from the conference in Boston. Boston also has a major international airport, another cause of spread.

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].

Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 24:

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

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

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,087,976 – 1,087,880 = 96 (530 * 96 = 50,880, 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. But I have reconfigured enough for one day.

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

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Retail: “PC Shipments Plunge Nearly 20%, Steepest Drop in More Than 20 Years” [Wall Street Journal]. “Worldwide shipments in the third quarter dropped 19.5% from a year ago, marking the steepest decline in more than two decades, according to data from research firm Gartner Inc. Computer makers shipped 68 million PCs in the recent quarter, down from 84.5 million units the year prior…. The sector benefited during the pandemic from a boom in electronic sales as households and businesses bought PCs to adjust to working from home and remote schooling. But those big purchases are hard for consumers to replicate so soon, especially as inflation curbs spending amid other macroeconomic conditions.”

Shipping: “Choked-Up Yards and Trailer Shortages Box In America’s Truckers” [Wall Street Journal]. “The miles on the road and hours spent waiting to switch containers between trucks and trailers are how the supply-chain congestion that has rattled the American economy looks on the ground, where tens of thousands of shipments converge each day in a Chicago region that forms one of the country’s most vital, and most crowded, freight hubs. The goods arrive on trains more than a mile long stacked two-high with shipping containers, most of them brought in from Asia by container ships through West Coast ports that have been backed up by a flood of imports over the past two years. The surge in goods has been driven by the consumer buying binge that started early in the pandemic and left retailers such as Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. scrambling to get goods across the Pacific Ocean and into stores. That rush has dissipated as consumer shopping has shifted this year, with more spending going to travel and other services, and the shipping volumes have started receding at seaports. But the furniture, apparel, athletic equipment and other consumer goods rushed into the market are still in distribution pipelines as bottlenecks continue to ripple across the inland landscape. The backups at warehouses and freight yards in the densely packed Chicago region have broken the fragile balance between the flow of goods and the movement of the trucks, containers and trailers that undergird the freight economy.” • Another way of saying this is that the truckers and the railroad workers have “the economy” by the throat, if only they could exercise their power collectively.

Finance:

The Bezzle: “Celsius Says Execs Withdrew Millions Before Bankruptcy, Court Filings Show” [Bloomberg]. “Top executives at Celsius Network LLC withdrew millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies in the month before suspending customer withdrawals from the platform, according to bankruptcy court documents filed by lawyers for the crypto lender in New York late Wednesday.” • Huh.

The Bezzle:

Lol. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Manufacturing: “America’s manufacturing rebound is facing surprising headwinds from the U.S. dollar. The strengthening currency is making foreign-made goods cheaper to import… handing overseas producers an advantage in selling into the U.S. while American-made exports grow more expensive abroad” [Wall Street Journal]. “Sales in foreign currencies by U.S. manufacturers operating overseas factories also are worth less because of the unfavorable exchange rates caused by the strengthening dollar. The dollar’s surge against the euro, the Japanese yen, the British pound and other currencies adds a new wrinkle to the reshoring drive that has seen some U.S. companies look for domestic alternatives because of unreliable overseas supply chains and rising shipping costs. Still, the currency shift is helping some U.S. importers of manufacturing components. Wisconsin-based manufacturer Generac Holdings says it is finding better prices for parts that are helping “offset higher logistics costs we’re paying.” • Manufacturing still the handmaiden of financialization?

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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.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Oil Supply/Price. “Oil has risen above $90 per barrel” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

Health Care

“As Hospitals Close Children’s Units, Where Does That Leave Lachlan?” [New York Times]. There is, of course, a picture of Lachlan, who is adorbs. Despite that: “Hospitals around the country, from regional medical centers to smaller local facilities are closing down pediatric units. The reason is stark economics: Institutions make more money from adult patients. In April, Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Va., ended its pediatric inpatient services. In July, Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston followed suit. Shriners Children’s New England said it will close its inpatient unit by the end of the year. Pediatric units in Colorado Springs, Raleigh, N.C., and Doylestown, Pa., have closed as well. ‘They’re asking: Should we take care of kids we don’t make any money off of, or use the bed for an adult who needs a bunch of expensive tests?’ said Dr. Daniel Rauch, chief of pediatric hospital medicine for Tufts Medicine, who headed its general pediatric unit until it closed over the summer. ‘If you’re a hospital, that’s a no-brainer.’” • So tell me: Why are we giving hospitals any control over health care policy at all? Unless, of course, you’re a eugenicist who believes that only fit children should survive.

The Gallery

Quite a pairing:

Twitter comes through on the “Show Conversation” front!

Book Nook

“Woman on the Edge of Time” [Marge Piercy]. • Linking to this because I think everybody should read it (preferably by ordering it at a bookstore). Best *topian novel ever. Also a real pageturner. even in the explication parts! I read this in the 70s, when feminism was a serious thing instead of an aspect of the successor ideology, and I’ve never forgotten it.

“Woman on the Edge of Time Introduction” [Schmoop]. • I’m linking to this as a reveal that I enjoy Schmoop. Under the jaunty veneer of a very informal style, Schmoop does good close readings and offers lots of plotting tools. Also, I cried too when Jackrabbit died (or rather, when Luciente found out Jackrabbit is died. “Person is dead!” Yes, Pierce also has a rational take on the frigging pronouns problem). I can’t imagine how a writer does this. But they do.

Class Warfare

“Large rail union rejects deal, renewing strike possibility” [Associated Press]. “The U.S.’s third largest railroad union rejected a deal with employers Monday, renewing the possibility of a strike that could cripple the economy. B oth sides will return to the bargaining table before that happens. Over half of track maintenance workers represented by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division who voted opposed the five-year contract despite 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses. Union President Tony Cardwell said the railroads didn’t do enough to address the lack of paid time off — particularly sick time — and working conditions after the major railroads eliminated nearly one-third of their jobs over the past six years. ‘Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued,’ Cardwell said in a statement. ‘They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness.’ The group that represents the railroads in negotiations said they were disappointed the union rejected the agreement, but emphasized that no immediate threat of a strike exists because the union [that is, the Union’s management] agreed to keep working for now.” •

News of the Wired

“Spanish airline reserves 10 Airlander airships from Bedford-based firm” [BBC]. From June, still germane. “Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) said European-based Air Nostrum Group had reserved 10 Airlander airships for delivery from 2026…. The airships, which stay aloft using helium and electricity, have been commissioned to seat 100 people. According to HAV’s website, hybrid aircraft fly due to a combination of aerodynamic lift (like an aeroplane), lifting gases (like an airship) and vectored thrust (similar to a helicopter). Airlander generates up to 40% of its lift from aerodynamics by the passage of air over the hull and the remainder from buoyant lift from the helium.” • Pretty neat!

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From EMM:

EMM writes: “Hello again, this is a Holly Tree that is growing out of a cliff in Ireland. It’s growing pretty high up in an exposed place. A really great tree”

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