2:00PM Water Cooler 2/15/2024 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I have some household matters to attend to, so I’m afraid this Water Cooler doesn’t have the depth of coverage I would like. –lambert P.S. That Rasmussen poll under Class Warfare is important.

Bird Song of the Day

Purple Finch (Eastern), Hammond Hill State Forest, Tompkins, New York, United States. “Mimickry includes Cardinal, Robin, Goldfinch, Flicker, Towhee, Titmouse, Waxwing, Barn Swallow. Other Behaviors: Mimicry. Habitat: Deciduous Forest.” Wow!!!

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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

Lambert here: I added another “Constitutional Order” section: “Convention.” This keeps happening….

The Constitutional Order (Insurrection)

“Presidential primary ballots are headed to Colorado voters. Here’s what to know” [Colorado Sun]. “Ballots are on their way to voters for Colorado’s March 5 presidential primary, listing options from former Republican President Donald Trump on the GOP ballot…. It’s unknown when the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the Colorado lawsuit seeking to keep Trump off the ballot. If the court issues a ruling disqualifying Trump before the primary, it would mean votes for him wouldn’t be counted. If that happens, Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams said the GOP plans to award delegates via the caucus and assembly process. ‘That’s sort of our backup plan,’ he said, though he acknowledged it could be challenged. But if a disqualifying ruling comes after March 5, the votes would be counted. And Trump would be banned from the general election ballot in Colorado.”

The Constitutional Order (Convention)


Less than a year to go!

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“Democrats are sticking with Biden — no matter what the pundits say” [MSNBC]. “While they may not realize it, those suggesting that Biden should step down are asking Democrats to go into November with an unpopular, less-tested vice president, whose 2020 campaign didn’t even make it to a single caucus or primary…. Perhaps a diverse and complex political party can quickly unite behind a consensus candidate with no skeletons in their closet, no clear liabilities, and extraordinary charisma that would appeal not just to Democrats but also to independents and Never Trump Republicans. Suffice it to say, the chances of that happening are a lot less than 50 percent.”

Spook Country

“The Eyes Have It: U.S. Intelligence Allegedly Asked Foreign Countries to Surveil Trump Associates” [Jonathan Turley]. “There is a disturbing report published on Michael Shellenberger’s Public Substack detailing how the U.S. intelligence community called upon foreign governments to target associates of Donald Trump before the 2016 election. The request to the ‘Five Eyes’ agencies (the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) appears to have come from Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan…. The role of Brennan is intriguing. Brennan was the one who briefed President Barack Obama on Hillary Clinton’s alleged ‘plan’ to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia as ‘a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.’ … Brennan also signed the infamous letter warning that the Hunter Biden laptop had all of the markings of Russian intelligence, a letter that he later admitted was ‘political.’ … Once again, this is still the early reporting and we need to have more confirmation on these facts. However, Congress should be interested in whether the origins for the Russian investigation began with nudges from American intelligence in 2016 to the ‘Five Eyes.’”

“Sources Say U.S. Intelligence Agencies Tasked Foreign Partners With Spying On Trump’s 2016 Campaign” [The Federalist]. “Sources also claimed, according to Tuesday’s article, that “President Barack Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, had identified 26 Trump associates for the Five Eyes to target.” According to the journalists, a source confirmed the IC had “identified [those associates] as people to ‘bump,’ or make contact with or manipulate,” and claimed the individuals were “targets of our own IC and law enforcement — targets for collection and misinformation.” • Brennan’s name keeps coming up.

The Wizard of Kalorama™

“Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will” [New York Times]. From 2012, when the Obama Administration changed the name of the “kill list” to the “disposition matrix.” More: “Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.” • There was, IIRC, another hagiographical article that compared Brennan to a priest in even more fulsome terms. One of the signs in 2008-2009 of what Obama was to become — or always was — was that he nominated Brennan to a position requiring Senate confirmation, and Democrats, who had weaker stomachs then than they do today, recoiled at Brennan’s pro-torture record. So Obama withdrew his nomination and stashed him somewhere in The Blob, hence Brennan’s “cave-like” office in the White House. Brennan is not a nice person at all. I’d also be surprised if he was freelancing on the “Five Eyes” request — or that Obama didn’t know about it.

Democrats en Déshabillé

“The Bidens, Obamas and Clintons share Valentine’s Day messages” [The Hill]. “The Bidens, Obamas and Clintons are all spreading the love — sharing mushy messages of adoration for their spouses on Valentine’s Day.” I don’t think that’s fair. Treacle isn’t mushy. Here are the Obamas: “‘How did I get so lucky?’ Obama wrote in a message posted on X. ‘Happy Valentine’s Day to my best friend,’ the 44th president wrote to Michelle Obama, sharing a snapshot of him and the former first lady walking hand-in-hand on a beach. Michelle Obama returned the sentiment with her own warmhearted words for her husband, whom she married in 1992. ‘Every year with you gets better and better,’ Obama wrote, alongside a slideshow featuring photos of the pair set to the 1968 Young-Holt Unlimited tune ‘Soulful Strut.’”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Poor and Low-Income Voters Are a Sleeping Giant” [ScheerPost]. “The Poor People’s Campaign is organizing to push the concerns of poor and low-income people into the center of the 2024 political debate. Their goal is to mobilize 15 million ‘infrequent’ poor and low-income voters….. These and other organizers in more than 30 states are ready to put on their door-knocking shoes in the lead-up to this year’s election and beyond. ‘We are not an insurrection,’ Bishop Barber said. “But you better believe we are a resurrection — a resurrection of justice and love and righteousness.’”


“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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The end of the era of testing?

I’d say the ending of public health. (It bugs me that everybody who writes on this topic treats public opinion as spontaneous and organic, when it’s clearly been shaped by an enormous and effective propaganda campaign.)


“How Risky Are Repeat COVID Infections? What We Know So Far” [Scientific American]. “‘However you slice it, whatever long-term health effect you look at, the risk [from reinfection] is not zero,’ says Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. ‘The truth is that, yes, we’re sick and tired of the virus, we’re sick and tired of the pandemic—but it’s still here. It’s still hurting people.’” • JFC. I’m sick and tired of people saying they are sick and tired, especially epidemiologists. Maybe — hear me out — work the problem instead of bleating about how hopeless it is?

Elite Maleficence

“Opinion Biden’s new CDC director is the right person to lead the agency” [Leana Wen, WaPo]. From 2023, still germane. “One other significant attribute Cohen brings is her close ties to White House officials, most notably Biden’s chief of staff, Jeffrey Zients. Such connections might raise eyebrows of observers who believe the CDC should be an independent entity, divorced from political leadership. But these critics should look to covid-19 as an example of how public health officials need to consider more than just science when making complex policy decisions.” • Of course Wen espouses that pernicious idea of a balance between business-as-usual and public health, a balance to be set, at least in public, by the public health establishment, that somehow always seems to turn into 100% business and 0% public health (as we saw recently at the CDPH). It’s enough to turn me against the adminstrative state.

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TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts


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.”


[1] (Biobot) No backward revisions. The uptick is real (at least to Biobot).

[2] (Biobot) Biobot data suggests a rise in the Northeast. MRWA data does not suggest that, as of February 8:

Here, FWIW, is Verily national data as of February 14:

And regional data for HHS Region, the Northeast:

[3] (CDC Variants) “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] (ER) Does not support Biobot data. “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] (Hospitalization: NY) A little slowing of the decrease could be a flattening, consistent with Biobot data. Let’s wait and see.

[6] (Hospitalization: CDC) Still down “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] (Walgreens) 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] (Cleveland) Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

[9] (Travelers: Posivitity) Up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

[10] (Travelers: Variants) Swift rise of JN.1.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the US fell by 8,000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised value to 212,000 on the period ending February 9th, firmly below market estimates of 220,000. It was the lowest reading in nearly one month, adding to the latest jobs report that indicated historical tightness in the US labor market, thus maintaining the leeway for the Federal Reserve to remain hawkish.”

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial production in the US edged down 0.1 percent from the previous month in January 2024, missing market expectations of a 0.3 percent growth after recording no change in December. Manufacturing output, which accounts for 78% of total production, fell by 0.5 percent, compared with forecasts of a flat reading and mining output dropped by 2.3 percent due to winter weather. On the other hand, output from utilities soared by 6 percent as demand for heating surged following a move from unusually mild temperatures in December to unusually cold temperatures in January.”

Manufacturing: “United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NY Empire State Manufacturing Index climbed to -2.4 in February 2024 from -43.7 in January 2024 and compared to market forecasts of -15. Still, the reading remained contractionary, as new orders declined modestly (-6.3 vs -49.4) and unfilled orders continued to shrink (-9.6 vs -24.2).”

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US rose 16 points to 5.2 in February 2024, its first positive reading since August, better than market forecasts of -8. This is only the index’s fourth positive reading since May 2022.”

Retail: “U.S. Retail Sales” [Trading Economics]. “Retail sales in the US shrank 0.8% month-over-month in January 2024, reversing from a downwardly revised 0.4% rise in December, and worse than market forecasts of a 0.1% fall. It is the biggest decrease in retail sales since March last year, primarily driven by the aftermath of the holiday shopping season and cold weather.” • But presumably all those shipping containers arrived on the West Coast for a reason?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 76 Extreme Greed (previous close: 73 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 76 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 15 at 1:00:40 PM ET.


“Effect of exercise for depression: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials” [BMJ]. “Exercise is an effective treatment for depression, with walking or jogging, yoga, and strength training more effective than other exercises, particularly when intense. Yoga and strength training were well tolerated compared with other treatments. Exercise appeared equally effective for people with and without comorbidities and with different baseline levels of depression. To mitigate expectancy effects, future studies could aim to blind participants and staff. These forms of exercise could be considered alongside psychotherapy and antidepressants as core treatments for depression.” • Exercise as defined here involves a confounder: human contact. I’d be interested to hear what readers think of this. (One of my own recommendations, FWIW, has always been to get moving, no matter in what direction or how far. Depression wants to immobilize you, so the first step out of or away from it is mobility, IMNSHO.) Handy chart:

Class Warfare

The Republican pollster, Rasmussen, was commissioned to do a survey on class (presumably both to give Republicans talking points and a permission structure to talk about class in the first place). Here is the survey:

“Them vs. U.S.: The Two Americas* and How the Nation’s Elite Is Out of Touch with Average Americans” [The Committee to Unleash Prosperity Staff (!)]. NOTE * Hat tip, John Edwards (2004). From the Executive Summary:

The survey is a first-of-its-kind look at the views of the American Elite – defined as people having at least one post-graduate degree, earning at least $150,000 annually, and living in high-population density areas (more than 10,000 people per square mile in their zip code) – and compares them to what the average American thinks. The Elites represent 1% of the U.S. population but have an outsized voice on public policy in the United States, with their views seeming somehow to dominate the national conversation. This may be because it is the Elites themselves who determine what that conversation will be about on campus, in the legacy media, and corporate board rooms. Not surprisingly, these people talk about politics far more than most Americans. The data show that nearly a third of them (30%) talk about politics daily or almost every day. Just 9% of the voting public do. It is worth noting that members of the Elites who talk about politics daily have views that are even further removed from the opinions of the voting public. This is true even when the Elites self-identify as Republicans. They typically may be more conservative than Elite Democrats but they still have attitudes and opinions that are far removed from those of the typical American voter. The Elite class – regardless of party – is an exclusive club that sees and experiences America through a different lens than ordinary Americans.

These results confirm what people have long suspected: today, there are two Americas. One is wealthier, more highly educated, and attended the best schools. They put much more trust in big government “to do the right thing” and, by their own admission, benefit from more expansive government policies. They have also been hurt far less by the high inflation of the Biden presidency than those who live from paycheck to paycheck and are in the lower and middle classes.

This Grand Canyon-sized chasm between where every day Americans stand on the state of the country, expanding government power, draconian climate change solutions, and Joe Biden’s job performance may partly explain the Donald Trump phenomenon and his high approval ratings among working-class voters, who feel wholly connected with the rebellion against the arrogance of the ruling class Elites.

(If you want to see how a pro does class analysis, see “The Idea That the Republicans Can Become “The Party of The Working Class” Is Beyond Absurd.” The Bearded One’s starting point: “the identity of revenues and sources of revenue” (to simplify: wages? capital? salary? rent?). The CUPS staff and Rasmussen use income and credentials — a reasonable proxy to separate the working class from the PMC, but totally incapable of sorting for capital (and that’s not a bug, but a feature). Now, as far as cultural and political markers go, Rasmussen is useful. But never forget that its analysis is structurally flawed (and as this circulates out into the Republican FlexNet, watch for it. Of course, the Democrats don’t even have anything this good, being consumed by identity politics, designed to erase class even more thoroughly than Rasmussen did). Handy chart:

“America’s elites live in a world of their own” [Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe]. The deck: “The real ‘1 percent’ aren’t the superrich but those with influence, access, and a graduate degree.” • Classic Republican refocusing on those darn perfessors, and away from capital. Yes, the PMC are class enemies of the working class. But the Cossacks work for the Czar.

“‘Them vs. US’: Divide among elites and rest of country widening ahead of 2024 election: Rasmussen” [Just the News]. “The survey also found the most highly educated voters with advanced degrees are liberal-leaning and their policy positions are at odds with the rest of the electorate, which Rasmussen and conservative economist Steve Moore said during a briefing about the results on Friday…. Among the 1,000 elites surveyed, 73% of the elites were Democrats, and 14% were Republicans. The study also examined adults who attended either Ivy League colleges or ‘elite private schools, including Northwestern, Duke, Stanford, and the University of Chicago.’”

“Shocking survey reveals the reason elites are out of touch – and it isn’t why you think” [New York Post]. “What’s perhaps most troubling of all, however, is elites’ staggering surplus of self-confidence in government, a halfway decent proxy for themselves. Seventy percent of elites (double the number of average Americans) and 89% of super elites said they trust the government to do the right thing. ‘Out of touch’ barely describes this attitude. Arrogant is more accurate.”

“Obama’s Awful Elite Unveiled by Rasmussen” [The American Spectator]. Quite a deck: “A group of Americans must be marginalized if this country is going to survive.” More: “In other words, these are monsters who would plunge their fellow Americans into Third World tyranny and poverty and impose an unbearably low quality of life on the rest of us…. Of course, we’re stuck with a Republican Party that has yet to learn how to throw Democrat politicians up against a wall and force them to either repudiate this ‘elite 1 percent’ of Rasmussen’s definition or suffer the wrath of the rest of the country.”

News of the Wired

“How Deceptive Design Is Used To Compromise Your Privacy And How To Fight Back” [Conscious Digital]. “In 2022, we embarked on an unconventional experiment. We sent a data deletion request to each of the 600 data brokers listed on to observe their reactions. This experiment allowed us to uncover numerous deceptive patterns and formulate effective countermeasures – strategies to bypass these dark patterns. Often, our countermeasures persuaded the companies to honor our deletion requests. When they didn’t, we escalated the issue to a government regulator (a process can handle for you). Looking back, the effort was worthwhile. We’ve noticed a trend towards better compliance among data-centric businesses. We detailed our findings in a presentation at the 2022 Good Tech Fest for those interested in learning more.” • A link to the Guide.

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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, 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 TH:

TH writes: “Sadly, the stem is sharper than the little flowers—or former flowers, to be more precise.” It’s almost as if flowers are designed to catch the slightest breeze…. Flower photography is harder than it might seem!

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