2:00PM Water Cooler 1/19/2024 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Dark-eyed Junco (cismontanus), Belleau Woods Forest Preserve. “Distinct separation between hood and body coloring. Photos and audio recording of 1 individual, another was nearby partially obscured in brambles.” What an ensemble! Even the white noise…

* * *


“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

“Nearly 200 congressional Republicans urge SCOTUS to keep Trump on the ballot” [Politico]. “Nearly 200 congressional Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have joined a Supreme Court brief urging the court to side with former President Donald Trump on the question of if he is eligible to be on Colorado’s ballot in the 2024 election…. The brief from congressional Republicans does not weigh in on whether the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was an insurrection or not, even though that determination was at the heart of the Colorado court’s decision. Lawmakers spent much of the 37-page filing questioning whether Trump bore responsibility for the violence that day. ‘It is hard to imagine an actual insurrectionist quickly asking for peace and encouraging disbandment,’ the group writes, focusing on one of many actions Trump took that day to direct the crowd. McConnell’s signature is particularly notable because he has repeatedly stood by comments he made in the weeks after the Jan. 6 attack, squarely blaming Trump for stoking the violence.” • Republicans consolidating rapidly….

“Lawyers for Trump urge the Supreme Court ‘to put a swift and decisive end’ to ballot removal efforts” [Associated Press]. “Trump’s Supreme Court team is led by Texas-based lawyer Jonathan Mitchell, who devised aspects of the anti-abortion legislation that largely shut down abortions in Texas months before the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022.” Interesting; finally Trump has a competent, or at least a clever, lawyer? More: “And the court has said that it intends to hear an appeal that could upend hundreds of charges stemming from the Capitol riot, including against Trump.” • Hmm. If the Court overturns those “hundreds of charges” — the charge of interrupting an official proceeding comes from Sarbanes-Oxley, weirdly — that should dispose of the insurrection charge by the back door. What is an insurrection without insurrectionists?


Less than a year to go!

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“Hunter Biden agrees to private deposition with Republicans” [Associated Press]. After the stunt of refusing not to! “The House Oversight Committee announced Thursday that the two parties have agreed for Hunter Biden to sit for a deposition on Feb. 28. ‘The president’s son is a key witness in this investigation and he’s gonna be able to come in now and sit down and answer questions in a substantive, orderly manner,’ Rep. James Comer, chair of the Oversight Committee, told reporters. He added that Hunter Biden will be able to testify publicly sometime after his deposition.” And: “Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s attorney, wrote in a letter Friday that his client’s cooperation is dependent on the committee issuing a new subpoena, which they will now do given the updated deposition date. They had argued that the two subpoenas sent in last year were not legitimate because they were issued before the full House authorized the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.” • Well, fine. Nothing wrong with a fig leaf, I suppose.

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“Nikki Haley DID cheat on husband Michael – had affairs with her comms consultant and a MARRIED South Carolina lobbyist before she became governor, sworn affidavits and new witnesses claim” [Daily Mail]. “Presidential candidate Nikki Haley falsely denied cheating on her husband when she was accused of engaging in two extramarital affairs during her gubernatorial campaign, multiple sources who worked with her claim. New witnesses have come forward telling that Haley’s denials of two alleged 2008 affairs are false, and that the supposed trysts were brazen and widely known among South Carolina politicos. Will Folks, 49, and Larry Marchant, 61, both signed affidavits in 2010 alleging they had a sexual relationship with the then-South Carolina lawmaker, before she went on to become governor. While the contents of the affidavits were described by major news outlets at the time, this is the first time they have been published outside of Folks’ own document which he published on his blog…. But multiple GOP insiders told that they were intimately aware of Haley’s infidelity as a South Carolina lawmaker – including tales of steamy liaisons in the back of her Cadillac SUV, ‘canoodling’ in her lovers’ laps at bars, and nights spent together in a Columbia, South Carolina duplex…. Sources spoke to about Haley’s alleged affairs after noticing her rosy references to her relationship with her husband, a major in the National Guard who is currently deployed in Africa, on her presidential campaign trail.” And what the hell are we doing in Africa? Don’t we have enough on our plate? More: “A fourth source, a senior political official in South Carolina, claimed Folks confessed to him he had sex with Haley in her car in a restaurant parking lot. ‘In the South Carolina legislature, there are two types: the people who believe not enough gets done because there aren’t enough lawmakers and lobbyists sleeping together; and the people who are holier than thou and say that having an affair violates the Ten Commandments,’ the political official said.” • “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Anyhow, the Daily Mail posts copies of the affidavits. Hopefully Nikki does better on the Seventh Commandment than she did on slavery. And you’ve gotta wonder why this oppo didn’t come out well before this.

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“Trump Wants Revenge—And So Does His Base” [The Atlantic]. “Much like Trump himself, these voters are unable to accept what’s happened over the past several years. Trump, in so many ways, quickly made fools of them; his various inanities, failures, and possible crimes sent them scrambling for ever more bizarre rationalizations, defenses of the indefensible that separated them from family and friends. If in 2016 they suspected, rightly or wrongly, that many Americans looked down on them for any number of reasons, they now know with certainty that millions of people look down on them—not for who they are but for what they’ve supported so vocally.” • Clinton did all that with one word: “Deplorables.” It’s pieces like this that make me wonder if all the “hate” is on one side….

“Trump’s closing argument to New Hampshire voters pushes misinformation suggesting Democrats would ‘infiltrate’ GOP primary” [CBS]. I hate the pseudo-profundit of that “closing argument” trope. The “story arc,” as it were, of a political campaign is not that of a lawsuit. Anyhow: “Former President Donald Trump’s closing message to New Hampshire voters contains falsehoods about the upcoming primary election, including a baseless claim that Democrats are planning to ‘infiltrate’ the primary to support former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley…. By law, undeclared residents may vote in New Hampshire’s GOP primary, along with Republican voters. Registered voters may only vote in one party’s primary, and the deadline to switch party registration expired in early October. Of the state’s more than 873,000 registered voters, just 3,542 voters changed their registration from Democrat to undeclared before the state’s Oct. 6 deadline, and just 408 Democrats changed their registration to Republican.”

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“Do You Remember the Ecstasy of Electing Joe Biden?” [Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine]. No. Chait writes: “The only way to stop an authoritarian-minded candidate from winning is for a coalition of anti-authoritarian voters to unify behind another presidential candidate. That coalition very conspicuously failed to materialize in 2016 for a variety of reasons…. In 2020, the dynamic changed. The central issue on the public’s mind was Trump, and Biden managed to assemble a majority against him, ranging all the way from Bernie Sanders supporters to disillusioned Republicans in the Atlanta suburbs…. At the moment, the state of the anti-Trump coalition looks far more grim than it did in 2020 or even 2016. Biden has an anemic approval rating, far worse than Trump, Barack Obama, or any other incumbent at this stage.” • At which point Chait goes in for an extended round of hippie-punching. The word “coalition,” to me, recalls the FDR “coalition,” which — being based on the material interest of voters — lasted for forty or fifty years. In reality, what Chait’s calling a “coalition” is the Democrat’s solid base in the PMC — itself, just like MAGA or Bush the Younger’s Christianists, too small to govern on its own — cobbled together with whatever free-floating demographics seem appropriate for the given election (true since 2008, when Obama’s “coalition” putatively formed).

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“Dean Phillips drops DEI from campaign website” [Politico]. “Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips removed a reference to promoting “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” on his campaign website after one of his top financial backers, a leading DEI opponent, prodded Phillips publicly on the subject. That donor, the hedge fund investor Bill Ackman, has at different times called Phillips’s language about DEI a ‘mistake’ and said the candidate was ‘getting educated’ on the issue. Writing on X, he said several times that he expected Phillips would revise his campaign website’s reference to DEI. Earlier this week, the Minnesota representative’s campaign took out the term DEI from the platform section of its website and replaced it with ‘Equity & Restorative Justice.’ The language under the header remains the same, with Phillips’ campaign saying he believes, ‘We are a rapidly-diversifying country, and it is that diversity, which makes America great.’ But the decision to drop reference to DEI — an decades-old initiative in academia and government to promote fairer representation among groups which have faced historic discrimination — stands out for its timing. Phillips’s super PAC recently received a commitment for a $1 million donation from Ackman….” • Oh.

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IA: “Let’s Look at the Iowa Results With a Cold Eye” [Esquire]. “[L]ook at the results with, and you will pardon the expression, a cold eye. This is the first time that a candidate ever broke 50 percent of the caucus vote, and the former president* won by the largest margin in Iowa caucus history. In 2016, his campaign at this stage was the mere semblance of a campaign. (On the day of the 2016 New Hampshire primary, his headquarters in downtown Manchester was an empty storefront.) . This, I find unsettling.” • Let us recall that PA, the most delegate-rich swing state, can be won with field organizing. That’s what Fetterman — bless his heart — did (that and a brilliant media campaign).

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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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Covid is Airborne

“Ultraviolet light can kill almost all the viruses in a room. Why isn’t it everywhere?” [Vox]. “These advocates imagine a world in which far-UV lamps are set up in most large indoor spaces where people gather, emitting rays that kill airborne viruses and bacteria while leaving humans unharmed. If all goes according to plan, day cares will stop spreading around noroviruses and flus; hospital infections will plummet; elderly and immunocompromised people can gather openly, unmasked, without fearing they’ll catch something. In a world where the flu alone imposes an average of $11 billion in economic costs per year to the US and Covid has cost the United States on the order of $14 trillion, it’s a nearly utopian vision. The next Covid would be strangled in the crib, unable to reach the billions of people SARS-CoV-2 did because it’s deactivated at every turn. Unlike a vaccine, which needs to be formulated anew for every emerging pathogen and then proactively taken by everyone at risk, far-UV would be a passive defense against respiratory viruses of all sorts, existing ones as well as those to come. Pandemics would go from a regular threat to a thing of the past. That’s the plan, anyway. But there’s still a lot we do not know, not least about what shining these lights does to the air it touches and what that could do to humans who breathe that air. It’s a technology with incredible promise, but one where getting the details right could hardly be more crucial.” • I’m all for layered protection, and Far-UV could be one layer. That said, I like simple and rugged, which ventilation and masking are, and which Far-UV is not.


“7 of the Very Best KN95 Masks Authentic, high-quality KN95 masks as recommended by doctors and Strategist editors” [New York Magazine]. I confess that The Strategist is a guiltu pleasure of mine, so it’s good to see a mask review there. And: ” Like many thousands of other people, I prefer wearing KN95 masks: Their foldable beaklike shape and ear loops (as opposed to the hairdo-ruining head straps found on N95 masks) make them a more convenient and comfortable everyday choice for me.” • Sigh, but I guess that translates into a design challenge for the N95 manufacturers, a paradigm shift for them: 3M sees the N95 as a medical appliance for the workplace, not a fashion item for public spaces.


“‘I’m an oncologist – this is the nasal spray I use to prevent viruses attaching to me’” [Express]. UK. “But oncologist Dr Yussef Gaffar has another hack to fight off infections – using a nasal spray. Dr Gaffar uses BioSURE PRO nasal spray which includes a “silver bullet” ingredient, ethyl lauroyl arginate hydrochloride (ELAH).” • In a UK tabloid!!

Origins Debate

From over the transom:

Restriction enzymes are used to cut sequences at specific sites-they recognise a specific sequence and that tells them where to cut (like scissors cut). Restriction enzymes have funny names like BamH1, EcoRI, etc. Each one recognises a different sequence, so depending on where in your sequence you want to cut, you look up the restriction enzyme that’ll cut that specific spot. If you’re designing something, you stick in a sequence that’ll allow you to cut later at a specific spot, and use that particular restriction enzyme. It’s very, very specific. So, if this virus has a site that matches a very particular restriction enzyme target, and that specific target was listed in the EcoHealth Alliance grant or paperwork, meaning they had inserted it in the sequence during design, it’s essentially being caught red-handed. It’s like a one in a gazillion fingerprint that was inserted during the design for production purposes. Hard to explain, and I probably didn’t do it very well. What you end up with is a sequence map, and you can identify that site and sequence. Map usually even has the cut site marked.

I f-ing knew it from the beginning. I hate being right about this, but damn. Have run a lab for too long and knew right away.

To be fair, the EcoHealth grant was not approved; that does not mean another version did not get approved, and the EcoHealth grant application process was a veritable cesspit (Vanity Fair article, too lazy to find the link). But the bottom line is that documents generated by Ecohealth contemplated making cuts that would fashion a virus with distinctive features similar to SARS-CoV-2, as shown by the enzymes named and to be purchased. This story has not yet made it into the mainstream AFAIK, but yikes.

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, January 16:

Lambert here #3: Slight decrease in slope, due to the Northeast and the West (unless it’s a data issue). Personally, I wouldn’t call a peak, based entirely on the anecdotes I’m scrolling through, which are not encouraging, particularly with regard to the schools. Very unscientific, I agree! Let’s wait and see. Note that I don’t accept the PMC “homework” model, whose most famous exponent is Sociopath of the Day Bob Wachter, where you adjust your behavior according to multiple sources of (horrible, gappy, lagged) data about infection levels (ignoring “risk of ruin”). Just stick with your protocol day in and day out, my advice. K.I.S.S. However, tracking these trends, besides having intrinsic interest, is pragmatically useful for major decisions, like travel, cruises (surely not, readers), relocation, family events, communication with recalcitrant HCWs, etc.

Lambert #4: Looks like I was too pessimistic! (Of course, half the cases under the curve take place after the peak….)

Regional data:

Big decline in the Northeast!


From CDC, January 20:

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

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, January 13:

Lambert here: Consistent with Biobot data.

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.


NOT UPDATED Bellwether New York City, data as of January 17:

Lambert here: Decrease for the state, decrease then increase for New York City. (This has been updating daily for a long-time, suddenly it’s intermittent [snarl].

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. January 13:

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?


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, January 15:

-0.7%. (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, January 13:

Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, January 1:

Up, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, January 1:


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, January 6:

Stats Watch

There are no statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Economy: “Americans Are Suddenly Upbeat About Economy. Sentiment Just Logged Its Biggest Jump in Decades” [Wall Street Journal]. “Consumer sentiment leapt 13% in the first half of January from December, the University of Michigan said Friday. That came on the heels of a sharp rise in December, causing the index to surge a combined 29% from November, the biggest two-month increase since 1991. The pickup in sentiment was broad-based, spanning consumers of different age, income, education and geography. The recovery in sentiment ‘is likely to provide some positive momentum for the economy,’ said Joanne Hsu, the Michigan survey’s director. Persistently high inflation, the lingering shock from the pandemic’s destruction and fears that a recession was around the corner had put a damper on feelings about the economy in recent years, despite solid growth and consistent hiring. Now Americans are bucking up as inflation cools and the Federal Reserve signals that interest-rate increases are likely behind us. And with the solid labor market putting money in the bank accounts of freely spending consumers, recession fears for 2024 are fading. Despite the recent sentiment gains, the measure is still about 20% lower than before the pandemic took hold in 2020 and nearer to levels consistent with an economy just emerging from a downturn—not one that recorded surprisingly strong growth last year.” • Hmm. I keep reading about layoffs….

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 71 Greed (previous close: 66 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 71 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 19 at 12:45:47 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch


The Gallery

Lord of Misrule:

News of the Wired

“Don’t look back: the aftermath of a distressing event is more memorable than the lead-up, study suggests” (press release) [Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]. “A new study from psychologists at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology suggests that we remember the moments immediately following a distressing episode more sharply than the moments leading up to it. Clarifying the relationship between trauma and memory can improve how we evaluate eyewitness testimonies, inform therapies to treat PTSD, and help clinicians combat memory decline in brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. This study appears in the journal Cognition and Emotion….. This is unintuitive, the researchers say. ‘You might imagine that humans evolved to have a good memory for what led to negative things,’ Bogdan said. ‘If you got bit by a snake, what foolhardy thing were you doing beforehand?’ One explanation is that negative emotional spikes (for example, upon sustaining a snake bite) cause a rush of focus and alertness, telling our brains to take exhaustive notes about what happens next and squirrel them away for future use. But the prelude to trauma employs a much less diligent notetaker. This casts a dubious eye on scenarios like witness testimonies, where contextual details are paramount… Taking back control over traumatic memories, then, requires reattaching them to their context — their original place and time. The researchers hope to incorporate this strategy into cognitive therapies for people with PTSD.” • Hmm.

“The geometry of other people” [Aeon]. “Why do social relationships form distinct geometries in our minds? In the past few decades, research has shown that these metaphors are not merely idiosyncratic uses of language. Instead, they reveal something fundamentally spatial about how we experience our social lives. And this leads to a radical possibility: if we make sense of our friendships, acquaintances, colleagues, families and societies through spatial relationships, could architectural concepts – the intentional design of space – become tools for creating new metaphors for social and political thought?” • Like “upstairs, downstairs”?

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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 Angie Neer:

Angie Neer: “These tiny plants (at least I assume they’re plants) are growing inside the top end of a rotting-out fence post. The photo shows an area about 4 inches across. Shot Dec 12, 2023 in a park near Seattle.”

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