ECONOMY

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/20/2023 | naked capitalism

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Kind readers, thanks so much for all your help on my query yesteday. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Stone Partridge, PN du Niokolo-Koba–Campement du Lion, Tambacounda, Senegal. “Two types of calls can be heard, the r-weet..r weet in the beggining and tiuu tiuu in the end. Editing: High-pass filter, some amplification.”

* * *

Politics

“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

The Constitutional Order

For reference, here is Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States:

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Also for reference, “The Sweep and Force of Section Three” (PDF) [William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, University of Pennsylvania Law Review]. • This is the paper, from Federalist Society members, note well, that lit the fuse..

* * *

“Colorado Supreme Court declares Donald Trump is ineligible for the White House” [Associated Press]. “A divided Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday declared former President Donald Trump ineligible for the White House under the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause and removed him from the state’s presidential primary ballot, setting up a likely showdown in the nation’s highest court to decide whether the front-runner for the GOP nomination can remain in the race…. The court stayed its decision until Jan. 4, or until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case. Colorado officials say the issue must be settled by Jan. 5, the deadline for the state to print its presidential primary ballots…. Trump’s attorneys had promised to appeal any disqualification immediately to the nation’s highest court, which has the final say about constitutional matters…. Trump lost Colorado by 13 percentage points in 2020 and doesn’t need the state to win next year’s presidential election. But the danger for the former president is that more courts and election officials will follow Colorado’s lead and exclude Trump from must-win states.” • Here is the opinion–

“Supreme Court Case No. 23SA300 Appeal Pursuant to § 1-1-113(3), C.R.S. (2023) District Court, City and County of Denver, Case No. 23CV32577 Honorable Sarah B. Wallace, Judge” (PDF) [The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado]. • Footnote 2 raises an interesting point:

“Colorado Supreme Court” [BallotPedia]. “As of August 2021, all seven judges on the court were appointed by Democratic governors.” • The last appointment was in 2021.

“Colorado Supreme Court Rules Trump is Ineligible for the Presidency Under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment” [Reason]. “The 4-3 vote is not as close as it looks. Two of the three dissenting justices did so on the ground that Colorado state election law doesn’t give the state courts the authority to decide Section 3 issues. They did not endorse any of the federal constitutional arguments on Trump’s side. And these state statutory issues probably cannot be reviewed by the US Supreme Court, because state supreme courts are the final arbiters of the meaning of state law (with a few exceptions that do not apply here).”

* * *

Due process:

“Trump disqualified from Colorado’s 2024 primary ballot by state Supreme Court” [WaPo]. “The Colorado Supreme Court’s majority determined that the trial judge was allowed to consider Congress’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which contributed to the determination that Trump engaged in insurrection. ‘We conclude that the foregoing evidence, the great bulk of which was undisputed at trial, established that President Trump engaged in insurrection,’ the majority wrote.” • Insurrection is a crime (“18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection“). Trump has never been charged with it, let alone convicted of it; nor have any other Capitol rioters, not even the Proud Boys. By Occam’s razor, the simplest explantion for Trump not being charged is that the prosecutor felt they couldn’t make the case. So, instead, we launder a Democrat investigation into facticity through the court system. That’s due process? Commentary:

“Column: A seismic Colorado court decision just upended Trump’s campaign. Here’s what comes next” [Los Angeles Times]. “So what is the court’s conservative majority likely to do? It has several options if it wants to reverse the state decision. The least likely avenue is to overturn the factual findings of the Colorado trial court. That’s why the lower court’s finding, after a weeklong trial, that Trump engaged in insurrection was such a significant step toward Tuesday’s decision. .” • Big win, then, for the Democrats.

“Trump barred from appearing on Colorado presidential primary ballot, state Supreme Court rules” [New York Post]. “One of the three dissenting judges on the state Supreme Court wrote Tuesday that questions surrounding the case were too complex to be determined at the state level, and the government can’t bar someone from holding office without due process. ‘Even if we are convinced that a candidate committed horrible acts in the past — dare I say, engaged in insurrection — there must be procedural due process before we can declare that individual disqualified from holding public office,’ Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright wrote.” • That concept of “self-execution” is a real Pandora’s box, isn’t it?

“Enforcing the Insurrection Clause Against Trump Strengthens Our Democracy” [Constitutional Accountability Center]. “Enforcing the Disqualification Clause is not antidemocratic. Our Constitution does not leave presidential eligibility entirely to voters. For instance, candidates who fail to meet the age requirements (“thirty five”) or citizenship requirements (“natural born Citizen”) contained in Article II, Section 1, are ineligible for the presidency no matter how popular they might be with voters. No good argument exists for ignoring Section 1 of Article II to allow voters to decide, just as no good argument exists for ignoring Section Three of the 14th Amendment.” • No due process needed for age, so no due process needed for insurrection?

“Colorado Supreme Court bars Donald Trump from the state’s ballot in 2024, ruling he’s disqualified by Jan. 6 actions” [Denver Post]. “‘[This lawsuit] was never really about keeping Trump’s name off Colorado’s ballot, because he was never going to win our electoral votes,’ [Doug Spencer, a University of Colorado law professor with a focus on election law,] said, referring to Colorado voters’ decisive rejection of Trump in 2016 and 2020. ‘.’” • Oh. Interestingly:

So the Ivy League PMC were happy to use the Colorado courts for their interests as a national class, but the local PMC were not?

* * *

The “officer of the United States” controversy:

“Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling” [Mark A. Graber, The Conversation]. “The presidential oath’s wording is slightly different from that of other federal officers, but everyone in the federal government swears to uphold the Constitution before being allowed to take office.” • Two oaths, but one type of office? Seems a little blithe.

* * *

Insurrection and rebellion:

“Judge Luttig explains why Donald Trump is disqualified from the presidency” [MSNBC]. Luttig: “All that any of us are able to do is evaluate the positive, objective law — in this instance, the Constitution and Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Under the plain, clear terms of Section 3, the former president would be disqualified from holding the presidency again — specifically, for the reason that his plan and effort and attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and remain in power, notwithstanding that the American people had voted to confer the powers of the presidency on Joe Biden, constitutes a clear violation of the Executive Vesting Clause in the Constitution, which prescribes that a president will hold office for only a four-year term, unless and until he is re-elected to the presidency by the American people. The former president’s effort to overturn the election and remain in power is precisely what constitutes a rebellion against the Constitution of the United States.”

“Yielding to Temptation: Colorado’s Supreme Court Blocks Democracy to Bar Trump on the 2024 Ballot” [Jonathon Turley, The Messenger] “The result is an opinion that lacks any limiting principles. It places the nation on a slippery slope where red and blue states could now engage in tit-for-tat disqualifications. According to the Colorado Supreme Court, those decisions do not need to be based on the specific comments made by figures like Trump. Instead, it ruled, courts can now include any statements made before or after a speech to establish a ‘true threat.’” • From the decision, on “true threats”:

Hmm. Presumably the people doing the “self-executing” part will be figuring that out?

“Why Did Trump Supporters Storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6? Because of Trump, New Harvard Study Finds” [The Harvard Crimson]. “Shorenstein Center researchers found that 20.6 percent of the rioters, a plurality, were motivated to take part in the riot because they supported Trump. Another 20.6 percent of the rioters cited Trump’s fraudulent claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged as their primary reason for participating in the Jan. 6 riot. The third most common reason for attacking the Capitol: a desire to start a civil war or an armed revolution, according to the study. Almost 8 percent of defendants indicated it was their main motivation.” • Hmm.

* * *

Effects:

“Colorado’s ineligibility ruling threatens profound disruption in 2024” [Politico]. “The ruling will almost certainly wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court. And while the widespread expectation is it will be reversed or put on hold, the mere fact of it reaching the nation’s highest court threatens to produce dramatic fallout. The judges have been placed by Trump, once again, in the thick of a unique and highly fraught mix of politics and constitutional law — not only grappling with an issue that several of their Federalist Society brethren have put forth but forced to decide the fate of the ex-president who installed half of its current majority…. Roberts and the rest of the Court will be under enormous pressure — and intense scrutiny from both Trump and his political opponents. After the 2020 presidential election, the high court repeatedly swatted down a series of challenges from Trump and his allies despite the commanding six-justice conservative majority built on Trump’s watch.”

“Will the U.S.Supreme Court Keep Donald Trump Off the Ballot ? Some Initial Thoughts” [Election Law Blog]. “It is far from clear that the U.S. Supreme Court will reach the merits—there are many legal doctrines like ripeness and mootness that would give the Court a way to avoid deciding the issues in the case. But it is imperative for the political stability of the U.S. to get a definitive judicial resolution of these questions as soon as possible…. Once again the Supreme Court is being thrust into the center of a U.S. presidential election. But unlike in 2000 the general political instability in the United States makes the situation now much more precarious.” • Commentary:

“Turley deeply troubled by Colorado barring Trump from ballot: Could be ‘incredibly destabilizing’” [FOX]. Turley: “This is introducing the ability of states to effectively block the leading candidate for the presidency by barring them from ballots, and it will result in a tit-for-tat. And this is something that is quite familiar in other countries. This is the way things are in places like Iran, where they have ballot cleansing, where you have people in government tell you who’s just not appropriate for you to vote for.”

“”Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling” [Mark A. Graber, The Conversation]. “Section 3 then says people can be disqualified from holding office if they ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion.’ Legal authorities from the American Revolution to the post-Civil War Reconstruction understood an insurrection to have occurred when two or more people resisted a federal law by force or violence for a public, or civic, purpose. Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Insurrection, Burr’s Rebellion, John Brown’s Raid and other events were insurrections, even when the goal was not overturning the government. What these events had in common was that people were trying to prevent the enforcement of laws that were consequences of persuasion, coalition building and voting. Or they were trying to create new laws by force, violence and intimidation.” • Granting the premise, prosecution seems a bit selective. Surely, then, what we had previously classified as riots after the murder of George Floyd are insurrections? How about pro-Palestine protesters resisting arrest “by force”? Here again the lack of a stopping principle seems evident. NOTE I’m becoming persauded that the question of “what is an insurrection” is not one for the courts at all. If the voters vote the putative insurrectionist into office, isn’t that merely a successful popular rebellion? And one with remarkably little bloodshed?

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Vivek weighs in:


* * *

Lambert here: I’ve muttered for some time that the distinctive competence of the modern political party is control over the ballot: Who gets on it, how it’s counted. In this and allied cases, we see this principle in full flower. If the Colorado decision is upheld, we will have established the precedent that officials of one party may remove candidates from another party from the ballot, for reasons they deem good and sufficient, and without due process. That’s how Baude and Paulsen’s idea that Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment is “self-executing” is operationalized, which strikes me as extraordinarily naive, institutionally.

2024

Less than a year to go!

* * *

The Democrat existential dilemma: The PMC are too narrow a base for a permanent majority:


* * *

“‘Medicare for All’ bill becomes part of Dean Phillips’ presidential pitch” [Politico]. • Oh, how I wish…. Thing is, Medicare just isn’t that great anymore, and I suspect that’s why the single payer community should have stuck with “single payer,” and so what if it’s wonky. Too late for tears….

* * *

“”None of the above” option to appear on Colorado’s Democratic presidential primary ballots” [Colorado Sun]. “The Colorado Democratic Party added a “noncommitted delegate” choice to the March 5 ballot that gives voters the option of sending untethered representatives to the Democratic National Convention next year to select the party’s nominee. Instead of being bound to support a Democratic presidential primary candidate supported by Colorado voters, the delegates could back any candidate on the floor of the nominating convention. People voting in the Republican primary won’t have a similar choice.”

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* * *

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.

* * *

“John Fetterman Exits the Progressive Coalition” [Political Currents by Ross Barkan]. ” Fetterman is in the first year of a six-year term. He has time to repair relations with progressives or sever ties altogether. At this point, the latter is rapidly happening anyway. For the Pennsylvania activist class, Fetterman is increasingly persona non grata. Since he also needs to appeal to centrists and Israel-supporting Jews in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas, he might not care at all. If he does go down this path, though, he’ll have to find a new way to raise cash and wrangle volunteers. There are many young people who showed up to canvass for Fetterman 2022 that will not bother for Fetterman 2028. They’ll have long memories—and other heroes by then.” • Fetterman’s campaign was brilliant. The candidate, troubled. The elected, a sad story.

“Senator Warren Escalates Criticism of Crypto Industry Groups in New Letters” [Yahoo Finance]. “Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has intensified her criticism of the crypto industry in a series of letters sent to industry groups and the Coinbase exchange. In a letter to the Coin Center crypto advocacy group, Warren accused the industry of using a ‘not-so secret weapon’ by hiring former defense and law enforcement officials in an alleged attempt to undermine Congressional efforts to address the role of crypto in financing terrorist groups, including Hamas. ‘This abuse of the revolving door is appalling, revealing that the crypto industry is spending millions to give itself a veneer of legitimacy while fighting tooth and nail to stonewall common sense rules designed to restrict the use of crypto for terror financing – rules that could cut into crypto company profits,’ Warren wrote in the letter. Similar letters were also sent to the Blockchain Association and Coinbase, according to Politico. Warren’s criticism stems from her concerns about the potential use of crypto to finance terrorist organizations, particularly in light of Hamas’ attack on Israel in October.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

#COVID19

“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Covid is Airborne

Handwashing audits v. airborne aerosol audits:

Scientific Communication

“COVID-19 levels high ahead of holiday travel season” [Axios]. “Almost every state reporting such data is showing at least “high” levels compared to baseline trends, with many reporting “very high” levels, as defined by the CDC.” • Axios redesigned CDC’s “50 shades of grey” into a color scheme that actually suggests danger:

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

Automobile accidents as a proxy for society-wide loss of executive function?

Origins Debate

Lambert here: I don’t recall a comment on this yesterday, and it is in fact important.

“American scientists misled Pentagon on research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology” [U.S. Right to Know]. “U.S. Right to Know has obtained [how] an early draft of DEFUSE [A 2018 research proposal called DEFUSE called for synthesizing spike proteins with furin cleavage sites] with comments from “PD” and “BRS.” Emails show these commenters to be “Peter Daszak” and “Baric, Ralph S.”” The project was not approved, but the annotations on the draft look to this bystander to be exceptionally nasty:

The Wuhan Lab, in other words, will use the cheaper BSL-2 facility:

“BSL-2 experiments are more convenient and less expensive than BSL-3 experiments … However, BSL-2 provides a far lower level of biosafety than BSL-3 does. This lower safety level is especially dangerous for experiments involving viruses that can be transmitted by air,” [Justin Kinney, a quantitative biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and co-founder of Biosafety Now] said. “It is very concerning that Daszak and Baric appear to have considered it legitimate to move high-risk experiments from BSL-3 to BSL-2. It is also concerning that they appear to have considered doing so in secret, instead of disclosing this important change of experimental plans and biosafety precautions in their grant proposal.”

Not a good look, at the very least. And projects that aren’t approved can get recycled into projects that are.

Policy

“There Is Money in Prevention” [Britta Domke, Harvard Business manager]. Important. We ran a Google-translated version of this in Links on 12/15, but this one is official. The deck: “Companies have been ignoring the enormous long Covid risk for too long. Now they’re paying for it – literally. Implementing the Swiss cheese system could make them largely Covid-proof in no time. So what needs to be done?” • Swiss cheese model! Excellent!

Elite Maleficence

“Failure to protect: COVID infection control policy privileges poor-quality evidence” (preprint) [medRxiv]. Important. From the Conclusion: “Many of the concerns we and others have raised regarding the Loeb 2022 study are both major and obvious. The initial proposal to employ discontinuous use of N95 against a suspected aerosol hazard is a fatal flaw by itself, and is also present in two influenza studies often cited as evidence against efficacy of N95: one by Loeb in 2009 and one by Radonovich in 2019. (as opposed to being e.g. an attempt to construct a retroactive justification for prior failures to provide adequate PPE). , which relies significantly on the fatally flawed studies listed above, and via administrative manipulations such as altering the classification of SARS-CoV-2 as an RG3 pathogen. All PPE decisions should be fully transparent and standards-based, and those standards should not be weakened in the absence of a true interdisciplinary consensus including representatives of affected workers. Efforts to override those standards or subordinate them to EBM heuristics(199,200) should be permanently ended.” • A massive takedown of Loeb M, Bartholomew A, Hashmi M, Tarhuni W, Hassany M, Youngster I, et al. Medical Masks Versus N95 Respirators for Preventing COVID-19 Among Health Care Workers. Ann Intern Med. 2022 Dec;175(12):1629–38. Loeb and Conly are, apparently, running buddies.

“Project NextGen is ignoring new COVID-19 antivirals when we need them most” [The Hill]. “The $5 billion initiative being administered by Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)-led Project NextGen has failed to invest in the next generation of oral COVID-19 antivirals. Next-generation oral antivirals, some of which are already in development, are likely to be the most practical and productive investment to help protect our most at-risk individuals and bring us closer to moving beyond this pandemic. However, without government/private partnerships similar to what were implemented for vaccines and monoclonal antibody development, new next-generation oral antivirals currently in development may not reach the finish line. … Project NextGen’s funding priorities have consistently neglected oral antivirals and, instead, prioritized vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), as evidenced by each of its funding rounds for programs completed to date. While these tools have been useful in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic, they alone cannot be a successful long-term strategy. We’re stuck in a perpetual game of catch-up with updated vaccines that are often outdated before they’re even available due to new SARS-CoV-2 mutations. COVID-19 mAbs have been even less reliable, as the first round of authorizations were quickly revoked due to waning efficacy.”

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, December 18:

Lambert here: As a totally “gut feel” tapewatcher, I would expect this peak to meet or exceed the two previous Biden peaks; after all, we haven’t really begun the next bout of holiday travel, or the next rounds of celebrations. Plus students haven’t come from from school, and then returned. So a higher peak seems pretty much “baked in.” And that’s before we get to new variants, like JN.1. The real thing to watch is the slope of the curve. If it starts to go vertical, and if it keeps on doing so, then hold onto your hats. (Next week’s reading, however, is Christmas Day; there may well be a data-driven drop.) Stay safe out there! Only 14 superspreading days until Christmas!

Regional data:

Hard to see why the regional split (and it sure would be nice to have more granular data). Weather forcing Northerners indoors? Seems facile. There’s snow in the Rockies (green color, West), for example.

• Looks like wastewater is still a suitable proxy for cases:

Variants

NOT UPDATED From CDC, December 9:

Lambert here: JN.1, shown on the NowCast for the first time, coming up fast on the outside, while BA.2.86 fades.

From CDC, November25:

Lambert here: I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 16:

Lambert: Return to upward movement. Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator.

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections. And of course, we’re not even getting into the quality of the wastewater sites that we have as a proxy for Covid infection overall.

Hospitalization

NOT UPDATED Bellwether New York City, data as of December 18:

Lambert here: I don’t like that little upward spike (you’ve got to look closely at the most recent date). Let’s hope it doesn’t keep happening.

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 9:

Moving ahead briskly!

Lambert here: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?

Positivity

NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, December 18:

-0.3%. Down. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

From Cleveland Clinic, December 16:

Lambert here: Plateauing. I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good*, and we’re starved for data, so…. NOTE * Even if hospital infection control is trying to kill patients by eliminating universal masking with N95s.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, November 27:

Turning upward.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, November 27:

BA.2.86 blasting upward. This would be a great early warning system, if the warning were in fact early instead of weeks late, good job, CDC.

Deaths

NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 9:

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Economy: “The economic year ahead will not be binary” [Financial Times]. “But economic reality in 2024 is likely to be far less binary, and much more nuanced, than many market participants and policymakers believe. The first and most obvious is that the pandemic and the policy response to it has made it very difficult to predict where the US and global economy will be based on old models. Employment, wages and other key metrics are refusing to follow historic trends in many places. Second, decoupling and the rise of industrial policy have introduced a new dynamic into fiscal policy and trade relations — one that will continue to play out no matter who wins the US presidential election next year. And third, there is an ongoing interest rate arbitrage affecting business and consumers that still has years to run.” • For both one and two, the slogan I’ve been toying with applies: The only real market is the labor market.

Media: “ChatGPT Is Turning the Internet Into Plumbing” [The Atlantic]. “Earlier today, OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, announced a partnership with the media conglomerate Axel Springer that seems to get us closer to an answer. Under the arrangement, ChatGPT will gain the capacity to present its users with ‘summaries of selected global news content’ published by the news organizations in Axel Springer’s portfolio, which includes Politico and Business Insider. The details are not altogether clear, but the announcement indicates that when you query ChatGPT, the bot will be able to spin up responses based on Axel Springer stories, accompanied by links to the stories themselves. Likewise, material from Axel Springer publications will be used as training data for OpenAI, advancing the company’s products—which may have already consumed something like the entire internet.” • An autocoprophagic doom loop, when the summaries get fed back into the training sets, as they will.

The Bezzle: “Electric scooter company Bird files for bankruptcy” [TechCrunch]. • That’s a damn shame.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 79 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 20 at 1:02:56 PM ET.

Groves of Academe

“Swimming Pools and Granite Countertops: How College Dorms Got So Expensive” [Wall Street Journal]. “Many schools demolished older, cheaper residence halls, switching out double-occupancy rooms and shared hallway bathrooms for more private accommodations with communal amenities such as study lounges, fitness centers and swimming pools. The median increase for the most expensive housing offering at the 12 schools was 114%, adjusted for inflation. Many of these luxury dorms were built and run by private developers. The schools often receive a cut of the rent revenue, making the dorms a potential gold mine.”

News of the Wired

“Was an ancient bacterium awakened by an industrial accident?” [The Economist]. • This is fascinating, but I’m baffled how to excerpt it.

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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 IM:

IM writes: “I recall you are fond of stumps. Two images of the same one…choose which you like better!”

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the 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!

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