ECONOMY

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2024 | naked capitalism

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, for those taken aback by yesterday’s premature post, here is an explanation. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Pine Siskin, Brown, Indiana, United States. “Flock.”

* * *

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

“Trump’s Supreme Court Justices Must Kick Him Off the Ballot” [Politico]. “By affirming the Colorado decision, the Trump-appointed justices would make it clear that they are not merely rubber-stamps for the president who propelled them through the Senate — and that, despite prevailing public skepticism about the court, they are reaching out to their fellow justices in an on-going effort to decide hard cases on the basis of fundamental principles…. He has two choices if the Supreme Court prohibits his candidacy. On the one hand, he can call on his followers to boycott the polls, since they can no longer cast their ballots for their hero. On the other hand, he can make a deal with a particular Republican candidate and support their election as the second-best way to Make America Great Again. In either case, his position will have counterintuitive consequences. Although true believers will heed his call for a boycott, this will greatly increase the vote share of moderate Republicans showing up at the primaries — and help a mainstream GOP candidate gain the party’s nomination. In contrast, if Trump designates a proxy, his candidate may well gain the party’s nomination, but struggle to win the general election if they hold fast to the MAGA-line — since the Republicans must gain the support of centrist voters in swing states to win… Without Trump on the ballot, the president will be under intense pressure to leave the scene and open up the Democratic primary to younger candidates. To ensure this happens, the Supreme Court should take one final step to reset the campaign. The justices will be hearing the Colorado case on February 8th, but 15 states have currently scheduled their primaries for Super Tuesday, March 5th. By the end of that month, voters will have elected more than half of all delegates to the national conventions. They’ll have done so, however, with frontrunners who are no longer running. To allow new contenders from both parties to make their case to the voters, the justices should issue an injunction postponing Super Tuesday to early May — and provide potential candidates with a six-week opportunity to satisfy state ballot requirements. The Republican convention meets in the middle of July and Democrats will gather for their convention in August. That means the states will still have two months to hold their primaries in May and June, and the candidates will have plenty of time to campaign beforehand.” • I’ve been watching a lot of snooker, lately. Now I see why.

2024

Less than a year to go!

* * *

Trump (R): “Behind the Curtain: Trump’s exponential power surge” [Axios]. “Something shocking — and telling — has unfolded beyond Donald Trump‘s onstage, online and courtroom theatrics: He’s running a professional, well-managed, disciplined presidential campaign. His 2024 operation is more sophisticated — dare we say traditional — than the slapdash improvisation of his White House and two previous runs…. Trump has surrounded himself with pros, but he’s still Trump — an incendiary and chaotic messenger…. Our conversations with Trump officials, allies and alumni reveal the off-the-rails public Trump has a more conventional, buttoned-up operation built around him. His advisers see this as a template for governing if he were to win…. The Trump team has methodically wired obscure state Republican delegate rules to his advantage. Operatives have worked state by state over the past three years to be sure he benefited from mechanics such as winner-take-all rules…. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump built extensive ground operations that helped cement him as a formidable front-runner in both states almost a year before voting began.” And: “Maybe the biggest shocker: Trump took indictments on 91 felonies in four criminal cases — a death knell for any other candidate — and turned them into a net positive. Even many traditional Republicans see the prosecutions as piling on.” • That last point: “Incendiary and chaotic” though Trump may be, no other candidate — perhaps in history — could have achieved this.

Trump (R): “Donald Trump’s Huge Independents Problem [Newsweek]. “While Donald Trump easily won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, the results suggest that the former president may struggle to win over the potential key demographic of independent voters at the 2024 general election…. As expected, Haley overwhelmingly got the support of independent voters on Tuesday, with exit polls from CNN and ABC News showing the former South Carolina governor received 60 percent and 61 percent from this potentially key demographic respectively…. While Trump can easily rely on his strong MAGA and GOP base for support in the Republican primary, Tuesday’s results suggest that the former present could have difficulty winning votes from independents and moderates, a demographic who may be considered key in the general election in places like New Hampshire as well as several swing states.” • Again, to me the issue is whether Trump could govern, given so narrow a base. As readers know, I’m long volatility, so I’m not sure the horse-race calculations matter all that much, entertaining though they be.

* * *

Trump (R): “Editorial: Trump’s nomination is becoming a horrible inevitability. Why can’t the GOP do better?” [Los Angeles Times]. “Yet it seems that many Republican voters — and the craven politicians who want to stay on their good side — are inured to the arguments against a Trump nomination. They remain wedded to the former president despite his two impeachments, despite his complicity in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and despite his threat to exact ‘retribution’ on behalf of his supposedly ill-treated supporters. (Trump later said, not reassuringly, that ‘I’m not going to have time for retribution.’) This is alarming, even if one believes that Biden can successfully leverage concerns about Trump’s conduct and temperament to eke out a victory in November. Given the unpredictability of events, it is ominous that one of the two major parties would nominate such a manifestly unfit demagogue for the presidency. But that is where America finds itself.” • Ah, “Events, my dear boy, events.” Given an electorate poised on a knife edge, events are indeed likely to be the driver — anything to Biden slipping a cog (hopefully after he racks up enough delegates to be nominated, so the Democratic National Convention can exercise its plenary powers and pick a winner) to Trump suffering from an unfortunate accident (like his food taster taking the wrong day off; it’s hard to imagine who the Republicans would pick then). Interesting times!

Trump (R): “Trump leans into voter fraud playbook, preparing to cry foul if he loses expected Biden rematch” [Associated Press]. “For months, Trump has been alleging that he could be the victim of fraud in November…. His continued false claims about the 2020 election have resonated with Republican voters, a majority of whom believe Biden was not legitimately elected despite all evidence to the contrary. Trump lost dozens of court challenges, his own attorney general found no evidence of widespread fraud, and reviews, audits and recounts in the battleground states where he contested his loss all affirmed Biden’s victory…. Despite his overall 2016 victory, Trump blamed losses in various states and in the popular vote on fraud that was never proven. A committee he empaneled to search for voter fraud disbanded without finding any.”

* * *

Haley (R): “Wall Street Donors Keep Haley’s 2024 Run Afloat, Even If Voters Won’t” [Bloomberg]. “Nikki Haley is spurning calls to drop out of the Republican presidential primary after her New Hampshire loss, vowing to press on with her unlikely bid thanks to the backing of Wall Street titans….. Her stance magnified the central dilemma of her campaign: Haley lacks the requisite support from Republican voters, many of whom have shown no willingness to move on from Trump, but she retains the backing of wealthy donors and a group funded by industrialist Charles Koch, which provide enough funding to keep running. The question now is how much longer the money will continue to flow. Billionaires Stanley Druckenmiller, Henry Kravis, Ken Langone and Cliff Asness are scheduled to co-host a New York fundraiser for Haley on Jan. 30. As long as they write the checks, she can stay in the race. If Haley’s well-heeled supporters decide she does not have a path to victory, they could cut off funding and essentially end her candidacy. ‘I have not seen anyone drop out,’ Simone Levinson, a Haley donor, who is also a co-host for the fundraiser, said. ‘People don’t just look at numbers, they look at behavior,’ Levinson said, referring to Trump’s combative speech Tuesday night, in which he lambasted Haley. ‘People are now being reminded of this divisive hate-spewing rhetoric of the Donald. Is this really what you want representing our country, as opposed to Nikki?’”

Haley (R): “Poor Nikki, Poor Us” [Gail Collins, New York Times]. “If it’s Trump being sworn in again … oh God, nononono, we’re not gonna go there.” • Despite all the aghastitude, Trump is obviously the opponent the Democrats want.

* * *

Biden (D): “How the Biden White House Cornered Itself” [American Compass]. “In November 2023, American Compass partnered with YouGov to survey 1,000 Americans about their views on ten economic policies pursued by the Biden administration—five of which are ‘broadly supported’ (drug prices, infrastructure, semiconductors, competition, tariffs) and five of which are ‘polarizing’ (climate, immigration, student loans, safety-net expansion, unconditional child tax credit)…. [P]olarizing policies are the ones that frame a choice for voters and thus define a particular candidate or party. Second, a conflict-craving media invariably focuses on contested policy areas and thus elevates their political salience…. [O]n polarizing policies, Independents are in every case much closer to Republicans than to Democrats…. A parallel, and perhaps more politically costly, gap emerges in the views of working- and upper-class Americans on President Biden’s polarizing policies…. Whereas the average net positive rating on broadly supported policies is +51% for the upper class and +40% for the working class, on polarizing policies those figures fall to +30% for the upper class and +1% for the working class…. Or, put more starkly, President Biden has chosen to take the most high-profile and controversial stances on those issues where upper-class enthusiasm most substantially outpaces working-class enthusiasm…. This emphasis on issues that divide the upper and working classes, in favor of the upper class, appears at first glance like political malpractice, seeing as working-class Americans outnumber upper class Americans by roughly 3-to-1. But that issue may not be so obvious within the Democratic coalition, where the working-class segment is only about 50% larger. Unfortunately for Democratic strategists, that also means the ratio is about 5-to-1 among Independents and Republicans.” • And then there’s this handy chart:

Biden (D): “Biden wobbles under weight of multiple open fronts around the world” [Agence France Presse]. “[T]he US president is instead facing the harsh realities of running for re-election while bogged down in one stagnant war and navigating the volatility of another, as the conflict in Gaza threatens at any moment to ignite the entire Middle East…. And even worse for the 81-year-old Democrat: his likely Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, has zeroed in on this global instability as an excuse to attack Biden as weak…. Biden’s approval rating on foreign policy is underwater: 58 percent say they disapprove of his handling of international affairs, compared to 36 percent who approve, according to December-January poll average from the site RealClearPolitics… Complicating matters further is Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s war against Hamas, which has exposed him to intense criticism from his own supporters and others on the left…. That tension could come back to bite him in November in key election swing states like Michigan, where there is a large Arab and Muslim population, and among young voters — both groups that are more likely to take issue with Biden’s handling of the war.” And: “North Korea exhibits a tendency to ramp up provocations during US election years,” warned Victor Cha and Andy Lim at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.”

* * *

RFK, Jr. (D): “RFK Jr.’s PAC raises $5.8 million at birthday gala in West Hollywood” [Politico]. The first-time candidate polls between 7 and 18 percent in general election match-ups, according to RealClearPolitics. That support is more than enough to shake up the race, which is widely expected to be a Donald Trump-Joe Biden rematch.”

* * *

GA: “Black Voters Abandoning Joe Biden in Georgia: Poll” [Newsweek]. “Key to Biden’s potential endurance in the state is the Black vote. In 2020, he won 88 percent of this demographic, but last week, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed that 58.6 percent of Black Georgians said they would support Biden, while 20.4 percent said they would support Trump. Ten percent of Black Georgians said they do not plan to vote in 2024…. Biden’s favorability among Black voters in seven swing states slipped 7 percentage points from October to December 2023, to 61 percent, according to a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll. Trump’s favorability in the same period has remained steady at around 25 percent.”

PA: “Biden Widens Lead in Pennsylvania Over Trump: Poll” [The Messenger]. MOE: 3.7%. “President Joe Biden has opened up a 7-point lead over Donald Trump in a new survey of likely Pennsylvania voters. According to data from Susquehanna Polling & Research, approximately 47% of likely voters would support Biden and the Democrats in a head-to-head challenge with Donald Trump if the election was held today. The former president and Republicans meanwhile earned around 39% support.” • I wouldn’t set too much store in this. Recall how Fetterman won: “Every County, Every Vote.” The Trump campaign can clearly build a ground game to do the same, as in IA and NH.

#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

“What Is a Corsi-Rosenthal Box?” [WebMD]. “Four filters and a cardboard base make up the box, which is sealed by tape and topped by a fan. The fan pulls the air in through the sides of the box and through the filters, then blows it out into the room. At first, researchers weren’t sure why this box seemed to clean faster than a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. In a single pass of air, a HEPA filter can catch a lot more particles than a MERV 13 filter. Yet in tests, ‘the Corsi-Rosenthal box outperformed the HEPA filter on every sized particle,’ Rosenthal says. Experts have a theory about why. ‘You have such high flow from these fans, way more flow than you get out of a commercial HEPA filter,’ Rosenthal says. ‘The air goes through the filter more than once in the same period of time. It may only get 50% of the particles at first. But the second time through, it’s getting much more.’” And but: “Experts note that while indoor air cleaners can cut down on viruses that can spread through the air, they’re not enough to protect people from COVID-19. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing are still the best ways to reduce the spread of those viruses.” • Wrong on two counts: First, it’s not a question of “most effective.” It’s a question of building layers of effectivity. Just because a scarf is less effective than a parka is no reason not to wear both when you go out in the snow! Second, it’s better to think of the space you’re in (avoid the 3Cs: Crowded, closed, close-contact) than “social distance” per se, a relic of droplet dogman.

Vaccines

“Needle-free vaccine candidate promises improved, longer-term immunity against COVID-19” (press release) [National University of Singapore]. “Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) have discovered a new vaccine candidate that can be delivered through the nose (nasal) in the form of a spray that promises better and longer-lasting immunity against COVID-19 compared to the conventional COVID-19 vaccine administered through the skin (subcutaneous) via injections….. On top of longer-lasting immunity, the research team also discovered that COVID-19 vaccine administered through the nose could induce antibody responses that have a greater capacity to protect the body against different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This discovery provides key scientific evidence supporting the idea that nasal COVID-19 vaccines can contribute to greater protection and longer-lasting immunity…. The researchers have filed a patent for the vaccine composition created for nasal vaccines. This will pave the way for industrial partnerships to develop better vaccines against COVID-19 and other pathogens that target the upper respiratory tract.”

“A novel film spray containing curcumin inhibits SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus infection and enhances mucosal immunity” [Virology Journal]. From the Abstract: “Infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and influenza virus is still a major worldwide health concern. Plants are a good source of bioactive compounds to be used as preventive measures for both inhibiting the virus binding and enhancing mucosal innate immunity. Curcumin has been shown to possess antiviral activity and modulate innate immunity…. This study demonstrated that curcumin has versatile pharmacological properties including antiviral, immunomodulating, and anti-inflammatory activities. Formulation of the oro-nasal film spray containing curcumin showed potent antiviral activity against both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus infection, without cytotoxicity at therapeutic doses” • Interesting!

“Conversion of monoclonal IgG to dimeric and secretory IgA restores neutralizing ability and prevents infection of Omicron lineages” [PNAS]. “Considering the high risk of breakthrough infections in individuals with an insufficient mucosal immunoglobulin A (IgA) response, we have engineered various forms of monoclonal IgA antibodies for direct administration to the mucosal surface. The dimerization of IgA, potentially through increased avidity, significantly enhances the potency of broadly neutralizing antibodies tested. Importantly, converting IgG to dimeric and secretory forms of IgA restores neutralizing ability against Omicron variants. When administered intranasally, the dimeric IgA antibody DXP-604 provided both prophylactic and therapeutic protection against Omicron BA.5 in transgenic mice expressing human ACE2. Thus, the nasal spray delivery of dimeric or secretory IgA antibodies holds the potential to effectively block viral infection and enhance mucosal immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.” • Not really vaccination, as I read it, but a “morning before and after” nasal spray.

* * *

TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

LEGEND

1) for charts new today; all others are not updated.

2) For a full-size/full-resolution image, Command-click (MacOS) or right-click (Windows) on the chart thumbnail and “open image in new tab.”

NOTES

[1] Even after a decline, we’re still higher than any of the surges under Trump.

[2] Steep decline in the Northeast!

[3] “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.

[4] “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.

[5] Decrease for the city aligns with wastewater data.

[6] “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†”.

[7] -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.)

[8] Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

[9] Up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose by 25,000 to 214,000 on the week ending January 20th, rebounding significantly from the 16-month low touched in the prior week and overshooting market expectations of 200,000.”

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for manufactured durable goods in the United States were virtually unchanged in December 2023, after a 5.5 percent rise seen in November and missing market expectations of a 1.1 percent increase.”

National Activity: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to -0.15 in December 2023, from a downwardly revised 0.01 in the prior month, indicating activity contracted during the month.”

* * *

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 76 Extreme Greed (previous close: 76 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 25 at 1:36:59 PM ET.

Healthcare

“Impacts of lid closure during toilet flushing and of toilet bowl cleaning on viral contamination of surfaces in United States restrooms” [American Journal of Infection Control]. “These results demonstrate that closing the toilet lid prior to flushing does not mitigate the risk of contaminating bathroom surfaces and that disinfection of all restroom surfaces (ie, toilet rim, floors) may be necessary after flushing or after toilet brush used for the reduction of virus cross-contamination.” • Yikes!

Class Warfare

Plus ça change:

News of the Wired

“Brains Are Not Required When It Comes to Thinking and Solving Problems—Simple Cells Can Do It” [Scientific American]. “Regular cells—not just highly specialized brain cells such as neurons—have the ability to store information and act on it. Now Levin has shown that the cells do so by using subtle changes in electric fields as a type of memory. These revelations have put the biologist at the vanguard of a new field called basal cognition. Researchers in this burgeoning area have spotted hallmarks of intelligence—learning, memory, problem-solving—outside brains as well as within them. Until recently, most scientists held that true cognition arrived with the first brains half a billion years ago. Without intricate clusters of neurons, behavior was merely a kind of reflex. But Levin and several other researchers believe otherwise. He doesn’t deny that brains are awesome, paragons of computational speed and power. But he sees the differences between cell clumps and brains as ones of degree, not kind. In fact, Levin suspects that cognition probably evolved as cells started to collaborate to carry out the incredibly difficult task of building complex organisms and then got souped-up into brains to allow animals to move and think faster… In recent years interest in basal cognition has exploded as researchers have recognized example after example of surprisingly sophisticated intelligence at work across life’s kingdoms, no brain required. For artificial-intelligence scientists such as Bongard, basal cognition offers an escape from the trap of assuming that future intelligences must mimic the brain-centric human model. For medical specialists, there are tantalizing hints of ways to awaken cells’ innate powers of healing and regeneration.”

* * *

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, lichen, 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 JK:

JK writes: “Cottonwood trees and their fall colors near a spring in The Big Bend of west Texas.”

* * *

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