2:00PM Water Cooler 12/29/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I had an emergency talk with a friend while I wrote this, and so this post will be a little thin. After 2:00 I have some administrivia to do. I may be able to return after then and add orts and scraps. We’ll see!

And on another note: I shall not be sad to see the last of 2023; it was an absolute pest of a year, chock full of reminders that we do indeed live in the stupidest timeline. Given the givens, my hopes for 2024 are not high, but prediction is hard, especially about the future; the world is complicated and we don’t know a lot, we may get lucky, and in any case we will persist! And so, with that modified rapture, I will see you in the New Year, which I hope is a happy one for all of us. And stay safe out there!

Bird Song of the Day

White Stork, CHKO Poodří–PR Kotvice, Moravskoslezský kraj, Czech Republic. More percussion and winds!

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“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

“Maine secretary of state bars Donald Trump from state’s presidential primary ballot” [Portland Press Herald]. “‘I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,’ [Shenna Bellows] said. ‘I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.” • Here is Bellows’ bio; she came up through liberal Democrat NGOs, which of course has conservatives bellowing that she’s a communist. Here is the ruling.

“John Dean: ‘Trump’s in trouble’ after Maine ruling” [John Dean, The Hill]. “The Trump campaign pledged to appeal the Maine ruling, and the Supreme Court is expected to take up the Colorado case. Dean said he doesn’t think the Supreme Court would go against either decision, citing a plain reading of the amendment’s text. ‘I want to see those strict constructionists and originalists get around that language,’ he said. “How are they going to do it? I don’t know. It looks so applicable. I don’t know what they can do with it other than take [Trump] off the ballot.’”

“The Mess in Maine” [Matt Taibbi, Racket News]. “I’m no lawyer, but I doubt the 14th Amendment was designed to empower unelected state officials to unilaterally strike major party frontrunners from the presidential ballot. If it was, that’s a shock. I must have missed that in AP Insane Legal Loopholes class. Is there any way this ends well? It feels harder and harder to imagine.”


Less than a year to go!

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“FBI shocker: Agent told boss Biden laptop could be Russian disinformation, but team knew otherwise” [Just the News]. “The FBI agent who ran the bureau’s Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) during the 2020 election admitted in Congressional testimony that he advised his leadership that Hunter Biden’s laptop could be part of a Russian disinformation campaign, apparently unaware his team already knew that the FBI had obtained and corroborated the computer as “real,” according to interview transcripts reviewed by Just the News. Retired FBI Special Agent Bradley Benavides’ account to the House Judiciary Committee comes as congressional investigators gather mounting evidence that the government’s early efforts to identify and block alleged misinformation in politics have been so haphazard as to inject inaccurate, speculative, or incomplete information themselves into the public domain.” • “Haphazard” sounds like “mistakes were made” to me.

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IA: “Iowa doesn’t matter” [The Hill]. “Ted Cruz won Iowa in 2016. Rick Santorum won in 2012. Perhaps these finishes helped them clear the field, but ultimately each man fell short of the nomination. Huckabee won in 2008 — and John McCain, the eventual nominee, finished fourth. You have to go back to 2000 to find a GOP presidential nominee who won Iowa, with George W. Bush. In fact, you could make the argument that if you want to win the GOP nomination, you’d be better off losing Iowa, given recent results. Of course, that’s likely to change in 2024, and that’s another reason for Iowa’s inconsequentiality this cycle. Donald Trump, playing the role of both scorned incumbent and renegade challenger, has Iowa all but locked up. He’s up 33 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average, a position essentially unchanged over the past five months. A strong DeSantis second-place showing — maybe only losing by 20 — will feel like a pyrrhic victory…. Now, the smart money is on 2024 being a year of unprecedented political chaos. So perhaps Iowa will shock us all, both the prognosticators and junkies in the press and the general electorate. Maybe the polls are historically wrong!”

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:

d>. (“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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“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!

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“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.

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Elite Maleficence

I don’t know how Trump came to nominate Jerome Adams, or how Adams ended up as one of the few sane voices around:

I am of two minds on this. If we were investigating public health debacles the way we investigate aircraft crashes, we’d remove the penalizing element in favor of getting good information, to prevent the next crash. But that wasn’t the norm going in. It might be a good idea going forward, but personally I think the dock in the Hague Tribunal is the place for all these people. Or, to be nice, testimony at a “Peace and Reconcilation” commission. Not that this will never happen, because nobody from the PMC upward is ever accountable for anything (except the odd DEI dogpiling incident. But milllions of lost lives? Heaven forfend).

At least he said “minimal” instead of mild:

There’s a lot wrong with this utterly typical statement. First, “minimal symptoms” erases both asymptomatic transmission and the fact that neurological and vascular damage, plus Long Covid, can resuilt from even “mild” cases. Second, Sanders should not be normalizing “powering through” Covid by working; IIRC, excess effort — too lazy to find the link — is one way to end up with Long Covid. Further, Sanders should be modeling sick leave ffs.

“I Had COVID-19 and Tried to Change My Flight. JetBlue Gave Me the Last Answer I Expected” [The Messenger]. “I didn’t want to fly with COVID and pleaded with JetBlue to change my flight and suspend the fee for switching. I explained that I was visiting my partner’s family, one of whom is very sick. Even if JetBlue was fine with my Covid-positive status, I would have nowhere to stay when arriving in California. I asked the JetBlue agent to waive the fare difference so that I could fly to San Francisco on a different day. She said she could not do so. Then the JetBlue agent told me the last thing I expected: I could fly with the virus. She did suggest a precaution — a face covering. Her supervisor had the same answer: I could get on my original flight with Covid, but the airline wouldn’t waive the fare difference for a new flight two days later.” • Whatever “face covering” means. Why not just mask the whole plane?

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, December 23:

Lambert here: Still going up. 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.

Regional data:

Regional split continues.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, December 23:

Lambert here: JN.1 now dominates. That was fast.

From CDC, December 9:

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

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 23:

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.


Bellwether New York City, data as of December 27:

Lambert here: I don’t still don’t like the slope of that curve, and notice we’re approaching previous peak levels (granted, not 2020 or 2022, but respectable).

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 16:

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?


Lambert here: Notice that for both Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic, that although the percentage of positives is stable, the absolute numbers have greatly increased; Walgreen’s doubled. This speaks well of people; they’re getting tested before the holidays (and in face of a shit*tstorm barrage of propaganda and peer pressure to minimize, too).

NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, December 26:

-2.3%. 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.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, December 23:

Lambert here: Plateauing. I know this is just Ohio, but we’re starved for data, so….

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 4:

Turning down.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 4:

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


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 16:

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI, fell to 46.9 in December 2023 from 55.8 in November, well below market expectations of 51. The latest reading signaled that Chicago’s economy returned to contraction in December.”

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Manufacturing: “Missing piece on aircraft prompts Boeing to ask airlines to inspect all 737 Max jets” [CNN]. “Boeing has asked airlines to inspect all of their 737 Max jets for a potential loose bolt in the rudder system after an airline discovered a potential problem with a key part on two aircraft. An unnamed international airline found a bolt with a missing nut in a rudder-control linkage mechanism while conducting routine maintenance – and it found a similar bolt that wasn’t properly tightened in a yet-to-be delivered plane. An airplane’s rudder is used to control and stabilize the aircraft while in flight. Boeing said the plane with the missing bolt was fixed, but it wants to ensure all 1,370 737 Max planes in service worldwide are checked for similar problems…. The part in question is a critical safety item, for which the FAA requires double inspection. That means two sets of eyes must sign off that it is ready for flight…. The Max has faced numerous notices for additional inspections since it returned to service. Boeing says that’s a result of its increased focus on safety, but a missing nut on a crucial system cannot be explained away, noted CNN safety analyst David Soucie. ‘If the airplane left the factory with this missing part, it indicates the past three years of safety culture improvements and improved inspections on critical safety of flight systems at Boeing isn’t working,’ Soucie said.” • Yep.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 77 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 29 at 1:34:46 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

“University chancellor fired after porn videos surface” [The Hill]. “University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-La Crosse) Chancellor Joe Gow was allegedly fired for producing and appearing in pornographic videos with his wife after the school discovered the content. Gow told The Hill his free speech rights were being violated after videos with his wife, former UW-La Crosse professor Carmen Wilson, surfaced and the school told him he was no longer allowed to be chancellor. …. Gow said it was ‘quite a surprise’ when they told him he was fired since he had a conversation with HR previously about the videos, saying the meeting ‘went well and satisfied their concerns.’… He argues he should have had a hearing to explain himself before termination, telling the Associated Press that ‘when reasonable people understand what my wife and I are creating, it calms them down.’” • Hmm.

News of the Wired

“Every Major Pharmacy Chain Is Giving The Government Warrantless Access To Medical Records” [TechDirt]. “The private entities involved here probably have more reason than most to not try to piss the government off. Not only are they still struggling to recover from a widespread retail downturn ignited by a worldwide pandemic, but they’re also paying off large settlements to the government for playing things a bit too fast and loose when it came to handing out opioids to Americans. As Beth Mole reports for Ars Technica (and following on the heels of the news pharmacy chain Rite Aid is facing a five-year facial recognition tech ban), every major player in the retail pharmacy business has been handing over sensitive medical data to the government without ever demanding to see an actual warrant.” • That’s nice.

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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 CK:

CK writes: “Here is a shot of a December evening in Eugene Oregon. Wishing you all the best of the season to you and yours.” And to you CK, and to you, dear readers!

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