2:00PM Water Cooler 1/4/2024 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Great Cuckoo-Dove, Varirata National Park Central, Papua New Guinea. A bird calling. Elevation: 486 m.”

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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

“Evidence that the President is an “Officer of the United States” for Purposes of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment” [James Heilpern and Michael T. Worley, SSRN]. From the Abstract: “Part I reviews Blackman and Tillman’s article [at NC here] and the use of its arguments in the Colorado litigation. In Part II, we respond to these arguments as a textual matter, ultimately concluding that . In Part III and IV, we then turn to the meaning of the phrase at the time of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Part III, we discuss and confirm that historical records including the text, legislative history and ratification debates of the Fourteenth Amendment, the legislative history of the Fifteenth Amendment, and popular sources such as contemporary newspapers demonstrate that elected officials can be ‘officers of the United States.’ Part IV then discusses .” • If this is in fact dispositive, that knocks out one big argument on the anti-Section Three side.

“The Supreme Court is expected to determine whether Trump can keep running for president. Here’s why” [Associated Press]. • This is a reasonably fair-minded summary of the issues at play. Worth a read!

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“Could a Trump Win Put His Running Mate in Office?” [The New Yorker]. Wild stuff! “What if Trump wins the election and Congress declines to remove his disqualification [under Section Three for insurrection]? The possibility that Trump cannot hold office until Congress votes to let him is the centerpiece of the amicus brief, also filed on Wednesday, on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and its chair, Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana. Authored by Noel Francisco, Trump’s former Solicitor General, and other respected conservative lawyers of the Supreme Court bar, the brief states that, ‘even if the Colorado Supreme Court were correct that President Trump cannot take office on Inauguration Day,” he is still permitted to run ‘and also seek removal of any alleged disqualification [the ‘disability’ of Section Three] from Congress if necessary [which takes a two-thirds vote from each House].’ What happens in the meantime, according to the N.R.S.C., is specified in the Twentieth Amendment, which Trump’s petition acknowledges only in passing: ‘if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified.’… That implies that , possibly throughout the four-year term. … That Trump’s former Solicitor General, Senate Republicans, and prominent, highly credentialed, conservative lawyers are foregrounding a scenario wherein Trump’s running mate acts as the President on Day One invites, wittingly or not, a Republican insurgency that could assert Trump’s disqualification only after his running mate rides Trump’s popularity to electoral victory and effectively becomes President-in-waiting.” • So Trump responds by picking who as insurance? Surely not Haley or DeSantis. How about RFK Jr.? Kidding! I think….

“It’s not just Trump: Democrats are moving to bar Republicans from ballots nationwide” [Jonathan Turley, New York Post]. “As the decisions disqualifying former President Donald Trump from the 2024 election work their way through the courts, a new filing in Pennsylvania seeks the same ‘ballot cleansing’ by barring Republican Rep. Scott Perry…. Former congressional candidate Gene Stilp, who’s made headlines by burning MAGA flags with swastikas outside courthouses, filed the challenge…. But what’s chilling is how many support such efforts, including Democratic officeholders from Maine’s secretary of state to dozens of members of Congress. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) sought to bar 126 members of Congress under the same theory for challenging the election before Jan. 6, 2021. Similar legislation from Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) to disqualify members got 63 co-sponsors, all Democrats, including New York Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman and Ritchie Torres and ‘Squad’ members Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan…. The grounds were virtually identical to those of Stilp. He accuses Perry of supporting challenges to Biden’s election and opposing its certification. Of course, he ignores Democratic members who sought to block certification of Republican presidents under the very same law with no factual or legal basis.” • For example:

Capitol Seizure

“One attack, two interpretations: Biden and Trump both make the Jan. 6 riot a political rallying cry” [Associated Press]. “Biden’s campaign also announced an advertising push starting Saturday with a spot centering on the Capitol attack. In the ad, Biden says, ‘There’s something dangerous happening in America.’ ‘There’s an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of ,’ Biden says as images from the insurrection appear. ‘All of us are being asked right now, what will we do to maintain .’ His campaign is spending $500,000 to run the 60-second ad on national television news and on local evening news in TV markets in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as shorter versions on digital platforms.” • $500,000 is not very much. And I’ve gotta say, I’ve got a hard time reconciling the party of the Censorship Industrial Complex with democracy, let alone “ours.” Here’s the ad:

Here’s the final frame. I don’t think “DEMOCRACY” is in Gotham, but that fussy look is sure Obama 2008:

Dudes, that campaign was 2024 – 2008 = 16 years ago. That’s a long time.


Less than a year to go!

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“Trump lawyers seek to hold Jack Smith in contempt of court in 2020 election case” [Axios]. “Former President Trump’s legal team on Thursday filed a motion arguing that special counsel Jack Smith should be held in contempt of court for allegedly violating a stay order in the federal 2020 election case. Trump’s team is arguing that Smith and his team continued to submit court filings after Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered a pause to proceedings in the case.” • We haven’t heard from any legal beagles yet, so I’m on my own here. Here is the docket; here is Trump’s motion for a stay; here is Chutkan granting it. Trump: “President Donald J. Trump respectfully submits this motion for an order enforcing the automatic stay of all district court proceedings….” Chutkan: “the court hereby STAYS the deadlines and proceedings scheduled by its Pretrial Order, as amended.” What is a “proceeding”? Legal Information Institute: “A judicial proceeding is any proceeding over which a judge presides. The precise definition of judicial proceeding varies depending on the jurisdiction, and may include quasi-judicial proceedings.” What Trump is ticked off about is that Prosecutor Jack Smith is continuing to make filings. Is filing a document with the clerk of the court a “judicial proceeding”? IANAL, but I’m dubious. Perhaps a reader who actually knows what they’re talking about can weigh in!

“Trump shores up new wave of congressional support ahead of Iowa caucuses” [Washington Examiner]. “The former president boasts more than 100 endorsements and counting in the House and Senate because he “never stops working the phones,” according to senior Trump adviser Jason Miller…. The polls, in which Trump has expanded his lead and maintained the support of the majority of Republicans, are driving members to make their move, [GOP strategist John Feehery] said.”

“Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Will Be Investigated in the Trump Case. But by Whom?” [New York Times]. “Since the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies last summer on election interference charges in Georgia, a delicate question has gone unanswered: Would criminal charges also be coming for Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, a longtime Trump supporter and one of the most ambitious politicians in the Southern swing state? Mr. Jones was one of the 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for Mr. Trump in Georgia in an effort to overturn his 2020 defeat. Three of them are charged with felonies, including violating the state racketeering law. But in 2022, a judge blocked the Fulton County district attorney who led the investigation, Fani T. Willis, from developing a case against Mr. Jones, citing a conflict of interest because she had headlined a fund-raiser for his Democratic rival in the lieutenant governor’s race. It is now up to a state agency called the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia to find a special prosecutor to investigate Mr. Jones, who has denied any wrongdoing. The head of the agency, Peter J. Skandalakis, has for months said little about the selection process.” • Holy moley, Georgia politics. What a tangle!

“Trump Touts Yet ANOTHER Dead-End 2020 Election Fraud Report” [The Daily Beast]. “Trump wrote proudly that the report is “fully verified, most of the information was gotten from Government Sources, Tapes, and other Public Records, and compiled by the most highly qualified Election Experts in the Country.’” • Here’s a copy of the report, which at least is written in a sober style (I say “copy” because this one is undated and unsigned. No authors (!). I have to say, though, that the after reading about the bucket of snakes that is Georgia politics, I wish I had time to go through that section, if only to debunk it. So far as I can tell, this isn’t covered anywhere but the Daily Beast.

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“Joe unplugged: Biden fundraisers clash with US script, please donors” [Reuters]. “As president, Joe Biden has relied heavily on Teleprompters and pre-written scripts for his public speeches, a mostly disciplined approach that’s been in sharp contrast to his decades of free-wheeling, sometimes less-than-diplomatic remarks…. Biden’s open-mic disclosures are clashing with the White House system built to keep him on script. The comments sometimes baffle, rankle, or worry his aides, who are forced to explain or contradict them later. They often struggle to shift attention back to the administration’s message of the day, or explain why Biden’s comments are seemingly at odds with official U.S. policy. As Biden himself has acknowledged, his candor can sometimes cause problems. ‘No one ever doubts I mean what I say,’ Biden told donors last year. ‘The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.’” • But here’s an example:

Biden also told donors at the same fundraiser that he told Netanyahu his government needed “to change,” and he had said in the past that “I don’t agree with a damn thing you have to say.” As Biden warmed up to the topic, reporters were asked to leave the room by Biden’s aides, but declined to do so… The comments on Israel instantly became a top news story of the day, , who was pleading with Republicans in Congress to approve more funding to repel Russia’s invasion.

But wouldn’t that be exactly what Biden wanted?

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“Christie says Haley ‘knew exactly what she was doing’ in Civil War remarks” [The Hill]. “‘She’s smart and she knows better. And she didn’t say it because she’s a racist. Because she’s not … The reason she did it is just as bad, if not worse, and should make everybody concerned about her candidacy: She did it because she’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth,’ Christie said in the remarks provided by a spokesperson. Christie’s remarks continued: ‘If she is unwilling to stand up and say that slavery is what caused the Civil War because she’s afraid of offending constituents in some other part of the country, if she’s afraid to say that Donald Trump is unfit because she’s afraid of offending people who support Donald Trump, and because maybe she harbors in the back of her mind being vice president or being secretary of State and since she won’t deny it, we have to believe that she’s willing to do it … What’s going to happen when she has to stand up against forces in our own party who want to drag this country deeper and deeper into anger and division and exhaustion?’” • Christie’s not wrong!

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What about the ballot line in Utah?

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“The Battle for Normie Ridge” [John Halpin, The Liberal Patriot]. “The real contested battle for the presidency lies among a mixed group of less engaged Americans who fall into two basic categories of what are often called “normie voters”: people who dislike politics, don’t care much for either Biden or Trump, hold mainstream views, and just want stable and secure lives for their families without a lot of drama. Some of these voters are still deciding and others are considering whether to vote at all. One branch of normie Americans currently leans more Democratic, and is made up mostly of college-educated, white, suburban voters who don’t like extreme politics and candidates of any kind, who support abortion rights as a legal matter, and who generally place a premium on quality-of-life issues around crime, schools, and the economy. The other broad group of normie Americans leans more Republican and is made up of working-class voters without a 4-year degree (mostly white but increasingly black and Hispanic) who don’t like social lecturing and weird views from elites, who remain pinched from the lingering effects of inflation and stagnant wages, and who also worry about crime but are most concerned about immigration and the chaos at the southern border. The problem for Biden and Trump is that neither one of these normie voter groups alone will be enough to pull out an Electoral College victory in a handful of states.” • Somehow “stagnant wages” aren’t a “quality of life” issue. That’s our Democrats!

“Want to Understand 2024? Look at 1948.” [Nate Cohn, New York Times]. “There was a period of economic unrest that bears a striking resemblance to today: the aftermath of World War II, when Americans were near great prosperity yet found themselves frustrated by the economy and their president…. But in the era of modern economic data, Harry Truman was the only president besides Joe Biden to oversee an economy with inflation over 7 percent while unemployment stayed under 4 percent and G.D.P. growth kept climbing. Voters weren’t overjoyed then, either. Instead, they saw Mr. Truman as incompetent, feared another depression and doubted their economic future, even though they were at the dawn of postwar economic prosperity. The source of postwar inflation was fundamentally similar to post-pandemic inflation. The end of wartime rationing unleashed years of pent-up consumer demand …. The Cold War, civil rights, Israel and other domestic issues combined to put extraordinary political pressure on an increasingly fractured Democratic coalition… In the end, Mr. Truman won in perhaps the most celebrated comeback in American electoral history, including the iconic ‘Dewey Beats Truman’ headline and photograph.”

Republican Funhouse

“We Sat Down With the Conservative Mastermind Behind Claudine Gay’s Ouster” [Politico]. “But this really was a team effort that involved three primary points of leverage. First was the narrative leverage, and this was done primarily by me, Christopher Brunet and Aaron Sibarium. Second was the financial leverage, which was led by Bill Ackman and other Harvard donors. And finally, there was the political leverage which was really led by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s masterful performance with Claudine Gay at her hearings. When you put those three elements together — narrative, financial and political pressure — and you squeeze hard enough, you see the results that we got today, which was the resignation of America’s most powerful academic leader…. But I knew that in order to achieve my objective, we had to get the narrative into the left-wing media. But the left-wing uniformly ignored the story for 10 days and tried to bury it, so I engaged in a kind of a thoughtful and substantive campaign of shaming and bullying my colleagues on the left to take seriously the story of the most significant academic corruption scandal in Harvard’s history…. Once my position — which began on the right — became the dominant position across the center-left, I knew that it was just a matter of time before we were going to be successful…. I’ve run the same playbook on critical race theory, on gender ideology, on DEI bureaucracy. For the time being, given the structure of our institutions, this is a universal strategy that can be applied by the right to most issues.” And: “I worked on critical race theory for a very long time before it yielded fruit, but this Claudine Gay story has shown that we can drive major, paradigm-shifting victories over a compressed timeframe. I’d like to engage in more experimentation on how we can cycle up some of these campaigns very quickly.” • Very interesting and well worth a read. Of course, this confuses liberals and the left, and liberals have indeed, as Rufo points out, grown “complacent, lazy, entitled and ripe for disruption.”

“Another House Republican plans early exit from Congress” [Axios]. “Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) is planning an earlier-than-expected departure this month to become president of Youngstown State University…. Johnson is a member of the centrist Republican Governance Group, the pragmatist Main Street Caucus and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus…. Republicans will be down to just 219 seats to Democrats’ 213 once Johnson leaves.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

“How Greg Abbott Forced Democrats to Change” [Newsweek]. “Texas Governor Greg Abbott has reshaped the U.S. political landscape on immigration by busing migrants from Texas to Democratic-led sanctuary cities. Abbott, a Republican, in 2022 began busing migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, amid an influx of migrants arriving to the southern border. There were more than 2.4 million encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border during the 2023 fiscal year, up from roughly 1.7 million in 2021, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)….. Mona Kleinberg, assistant professor at Queens College of the City University of New York, told Newsweek that Abbott has put Democrats in a ‘lose-lose’ situation by convincing a ‘notoriously immigrant-friendly city that immigration is a burden.’” Hmm. Was is Abbott who did the convincing? More: “She warned that Abbott’s success does not bode well for Democrats in 2024, as immigration remains a hot-button issue. Biden must offer a ‘positive counter-narrative on immigration’ or risk backing Republicans’ stance, Kleinberg said.” Kamala’s in charge of that, so what’s the issue? More: “‘If they adopt an anti-immigrant stance like the Republicans, they will also alienate the voters who vote Democratic because Democrats have historically been more friendly—or shall we say—less hostile, toward immigrants than the Republicans. So it is a lose-lose situation unless Democrats can present policy solutions that include positive messaging on migration.’” • Being a “sanctuary city” is all very well, until somebody takes you up on the offer.

“Blue states open 2024 election year with migrant crisis escalating” [Politico]. “Texas has also sidestepped new rules for sending migrants to Chicago, which has seen more than 26,000 asylum seekers arrive since August 2022. At 1 a.m. on Sunday, a Boeing 777 from San Antonio dropped off 350 asylum seekers to the airport in Rockford, about 90 miles west of Chicago. Eight buses chartered by Abbott’s administration then dropped off the migrants to surrounding suburbs. The new arrivals took trains and other modes of transportation from there to make their way to the landing zone in downtown Chicago, according to the city. The move follows rules passed last month to fine bus companies that don’t follow the drop-off procedures for migrants. They include only delivering the new arrivals to the city’s landing zone on Mondays through Fridays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

“The FBI-Tainted Whitmer ‘Kidnap Plot’ You’ve Heard Next to Nothing About” [Julie Kelly, RealClearInvestigations]. “On Oct. 8, 2020, Whitmer announced the shocking arrests of several men accused of planning to kidnap and possibly assassinate her. The case produced alarming headlines just weeks before Election Day; Democrats, including Whitmer, used news of the plot to blame Trump for inciting violence. Joe Biden commended the FBI for thwarting the abduction plan and, in a written statement issued the same day, claimed that “there is a through line from President Trump’s dog whistles and tolerance of hate….” Biden continued that line of attack during campaign speeches in Michigan, a swing state that voted for Trump in 2016, and one Biden needed to capture to win the presidency…. [C]ourt documents have recast the episode as something more sinister. Instead of a heroic effort by the FBI to safeguard the country from domestic terrorists, it now appears to have been a broad conspiracy by law enforcement to entrap American citizens who held unpopular political views…. the operation sound like something out of a Hollywood script. It features secretive cash payouts; drug- and booze-fueled parties; a convicted wife-beating FBI investigator; a career felon revealed as a longtime FBI asset and later accused of acting as a ‘double agent’; and a dramatic takedown scene at the end. Public defenders representing the accused have identified at least 12 FBI informants and three undercover FBI agents managed by FBI officials in numerous field offices responsible for framing the men.” • Interesting play in the playbook? (I have a vague memory, and I can’t run it down, that FBI agents involved in this entrapment scheme were also active in January 6. Readers?)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Trump’s Final Battle Has Begun” [Frank Bruni, New York Times]. “‘I see our political process pulling away from where people are on the ground,’ said Danielle Allen, a professor of political philosophy, ethics and public policy at Harvard who is an advocate of better civics education and more constructive engagement in civic life. ‘The political process has become a kind of theatrical spectacle, and on the ground, since 2016, we’ve seen this incredible growth of grass-roots organizations working on all kinds of civic health. .’ She noted that in a growing number of states, there are serious movements to do away with party primaries, a political reform intended to counter partisanship and produce more moderate, consensus winners.” • Allen’s perspective is certainly unique, and welcome, if true. Can readers comment? (Are the “grass-roots organizations” really just liberal Democrat NGOs? Or is something going on that’s not making the news?)


“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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Covid is Airborne

A brilliant discussion from Naomi Wu:

I know that fecal aerosols are a problem, but maybe the Asian “squat toilet” has something going for it:


Anti-masking is an assault on the working class (1):

Anti-masking is an assault on the working class (2):

An assault that’s hopefully defeated:

Immune Dysregulation

“The Cough That Doesn’t End” [New York Magazine]. “I was at a long-awaited panel discussion at my friends’ private home, listening to Senator Kristen Gillibrand speak about paid leave and reproductive rights with women’s-health entrepreneurs Priyanka Jain and Alessandra Henderson, when I first heard it: the Cough. Henderson, the founder of a women’s-health company called Elektra Health, coughed discreetly from the makeshift stage. Then she coughed again. It was dry and quick and frequent. Every so often, she would turn her head, raise her hands, and, behind the swishy curtain of her chic blonde bob, cough. A woman stole over and slipped her a cough drop. Gillibrand had warmed up and was on a tear about TikTok. (Not a fan, by the way.) And still, discreetly but certainly not imperceptibly, coughing. Henderson did not otherwise seem sick. She was a power woman on a panel with a senator, in peak form, but what can I say? These days, you notice the cough. Who among us has not walked the streets of New York beset by the scourge of the season, the persistent hacking cough? Maybe you currently have one yourself, or the person in the subway seat next to you is coughing, or you’ve narrowly escaped catching a cold from your throat-clearing cubicle neighbor. Even if you’re been personally spared, you’ve likely noticed that the entire city is hacking away right now, or maybe in this endless COVID era, it’s all just harder to ignore.” • This is actually a good piece, in that it mentions Covid. (Perhaps the “respiratory virus season” frame allows this.) There’s even mention of air filters! Still, there are two missing pieces of information. First, immune dysregulation from Covid is not mentioned. Why are so many so sick? Second, there’s no mention that Covid transmits asymptomatically; it’s not only the coughing people you have to worry about!

Denial and Cope

Here is another wildly speculative explanation for what Jessica Wildfire calls “The Great Abdication” (Links, today). Like yesterday’s thinking, this comes from the Neurodivergent (ND) community, who have to do a lot of thinking about why Neurotypical (NT) people behave as they do. Again, sorry for the small size, but it’s the best I can do given my monitor:


It really is possible to avoid infection with layered protection. Here is how one mother protected her baby:


Loss of executive function in the aircraft collision in Japan?

The plane (JA722A) that pulled out onto the runway read back the Tower’s instructions to “hold short” correctly. Then they did the exact opposite, pulled out, and JL516, landing, crashed into them.

Origins Debate

“CIA accused of hiding records that analysts took ‘monetary incentives’ to bury COVID lab leak finding” [New York Post]. “An offshoot of the conservative Heritage Foundation is suing the Central Intelligence Agency, accusing it of withholding records detailing payoffs to analysts to bury findings that a lab leak was the most likely explanation for the COVID-19 pandemic. The think tank’s Oversight Project filed a federal lawsuit against the CIA Dec. 22, alleging the agency did not comply with its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about analysts who allegedly “received monetary incentives to change their position on the origins of the virus,” according to a copy of the complaint first reported Tuesday by the Daily Caller.” • Hmm.

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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.

• FFS:

Verily and CDC are also not updated. So here we are in the midst of a peak, and no data. What a public health debacle.

• CDC also has a this “national trends” chart from the National Wastewater Surveillance system, which is, as we have come to expect from CDC web designers, completely separate from its “wastewater surveillance” page. Anyhow, here’s from NWSS, even though it too ends on December 23:

Comparing NWSS to Biobot, the peaks and valleys are more or less the same, but lack Biobot’s regional bifurcation (which starts in December). The chart is also a little deceptive, in that “all results” could lead the naive to believe that the chart covers the entire pandemic, when in fact NWSS only goes back to January 2022. However, the grey bar to indicate data subject to backward revision is good, and Biobot should adopt it.


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 30:

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 January 3:

Lambert here: I 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 23:

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, January 2:

1.1%. Up. (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 30:

Lambert here: Percentage plateaued. Absolute numbers steadily increasing.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 11:

Turning down.

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

BA.2.86 back up, totally dominant. 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 23:

• “Long COVID Has Caused Thousands of US Deaths: New CDC Data” [Medscape]. “While COVID has now claimed more than 1 million lives in the United States alone, these aren’t the only fatalities caused at least in part by the virus… More than 5000 Americans have died from long COVID since the start of the pandemic, according to new estimates from the CDC… It’s also difficult to distinguish between how many deaths related to the virus ultimately occur as a result of long COVID rather than acute infections. That’s because it may depend on a variety of factors, including how consistently medical examiners follow the CDC guidelines, said Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, chief of research at the Veterans Affairs, St. Louis Health Care System and a senior clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. ‘Long COVID remains massively underdiagnosed, and death in people with long COVID is misattributed to other things,’ Al-Aly said.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the US hired 164K workers in December 2023, higher than a downwardly revised 101K in November and beating forecasts of 115K. Leisure and hospitality led the way, as the sector added 59K jobs, followed by education/health services (42K), construction (24K), financial activities (18K), and trade/transportation/utilities (15K). In contrast, job losses were seen in manufacturing (-13K), information services (-2K) and natural resources and mining (-2K). ”

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits sank by 18,000 to 202,000 in the last week of 2023, firmly below market expectations of 216,000 to mark the lowest claim count since October.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 77 Extreme Greed (previous close: 72 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 78 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 4 at 1:30:16 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

And when streaming fails?

So much for all our cultural inheritance….

News of the Wired

“‘Giant’ predator worms more than half a billion years old discovered in North Greenland” (press release) [University of Bristol]. “The new fossil animals have been named Timorebestia, meaning ‘terror beasts’ in Latin. Adorned with fins down the sides of their body, a distinct head with long antennae, massive jaw structures inside their mouth and growing to more than 30cm in length, these were some of the largest swimming animals in the Early Cambrian times…. ‘We have many more exciting findings to share in the coming years that will help show how the earliest animal ecosystems looked like and evolved,’ [Tae Yoon Park from the Korean Polar Research Institute, senior author and field expedition leader] concluded.”

“Fossil evidence of photosynthesis gets a billion years older” [Ars Technica]. “New fossils described by a team at the University of Liège push unambiguous evidence of photosynthesis back over a billion years to 1.7 billion years ago.” • Maybe some kind reader can translate the rest!

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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 TH:

TH writes: “This little fella with exceedingly long antennae is exploring an Alyogyne hakeifolia, (Red Centered Hibiscus) Naples Island, Long Beach, CA.”

• Kind readers, I still am not comfortable that I have enough plants in the queue. Snow-covered trees! Icy flowers! The fall harvest! Autumn leaves! Last year’s wildflowers! Also, of course, honorary plants like fungi and lichen! Algae!

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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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