2:00PM Water Cooler 1/04/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Welcome to 2021. Since Assange isn’t being rendered to the United States, perhaps we are beginning on a positive note? (Modulo press freedom issues in the judgement.)

Bird Song of the Day


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

Case count by United States region:

Reporting is back to normal.

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:

Reporting is back to normal here, too.

The test positivity, hospitalization, and case fatality graphs have moved or disappeared (plus all the other URLs changed), and I miss them. The change log doesn’t reflect this. I think this is a volunteer project, so I’m assuming I’m not getting it (but “Don’t make me think”) or that the charts are in a New Years’ shakedown phase. Another couple of days, and I’ll look for another site.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Election Legitimacy

“Raffensperger: Trump could face investigation over election call” [Politico]. “Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that it was unlikely his office would open an investigation into his weekend phone call with President Donald Trump, but suggested a criminal probe could still be launched by an Atlanta-area district attorney.” • Georgia Recording Law: “Georgia’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law for purposes of making audio recordings of conversations. Georgia makes it a crime to secretly record a phone call or in-person conversation “originat[ing] in any private place” unless one party to the conversation consents…. Therefore, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance.” • I wonder if they told Trump he was being recorded.

Democrats en deshabille

Putting the Vichy in viciousness:

UPDATE “#FraudSquad: Progressive Democrats Disappointed as ‘Squad’ Votes for Nancy Pelosi As House Speaker” [International Business Times]. • “The Squad” was originally a media concoction, based on the supposed identity of interests between women of color under 50 (“squad” being “a playful reference to youth social cliques”). The Squad has no institutional presence and never has had, nor any sort of platform (indeed, Pressley defeated someone to her left). So #FraudSquad attempts to hold accountable a supposed political entity that in fact does not exist, and does not, as such, vote. Squad members are accountable to their constituents only, not to hashtag activists who’ve got tags confused with things. (To the extent there’s an institution here, it’s the Progressive Caucus, and it will be interesting to see how Ilhan Omar does as whip. It would be hard to do worse.) Anyhow, this link gives a tweet-by-tweet account of the entire controversy as it has evolved so far.


GA: “The Hip-Hop Election” [The Big Picture]. “Hip-hop works. It dominates current music. Sure, you may get shot in the process, and that’s unfathomable to me, that a hundred and fifty years later we still live in the wild west, but there’s fame and riches and most of all…impact. This is where youngsters get their messages, from hip-hop…. Atlanta is the epicenter of hip-hop. Atlanta is not only the epicenter of hip-hop, it’s the epicenter of African-American culture in the United States. And since the people are Black, and in the south, they don’t get much attention, not what they deserve on a national level. Isn’t this what all the hoopla has been about this past year, the underrepresentation of Blacks? So, you never want to give people hope, not if you want to keep them down. Demoralization is real. But, if you see you count, all bets are off. And that’s the feeling permeating so many of Georgia’s residents now.”

GA: “One Day Out: Will Trump Torpedo Republican Chances in the Georgia Runoffs?” [Cook Political Report]. “Tomorrow, Republicans will see whether there are real electoral consequences to Trump’s continued rage and myopic focus on overturning the legal results of the election. We will finally learn if the civil war within the Republican Party, especially in Georgia, will have harmed the chances of incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the runoff. A tape that surfaced on Sunday of Trump threatening and trying to persuade Republican Secretary of State Brad Ruffensberger to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s electoral votes perfectly demonstrated those valid fears that Trump’s actions and rhetoric could help Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win — thus handing Democrats the Senate majority.” • Presumably, the only people the tape would affect are Republicans, who disproportionately vote in person on election day, and so could be affected by the tape. The question is whether the tape provides information about Trump that voters would consider new. I’m not so sure it does.

Transition to Biden

Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them Lanny Davis, The Hill]. “Biden can govern by reminding us of the four issues he campaigned on that can bridge the gap — not by ignoring the differences among people with deep feelings but by reminding them that they can act in their self-interest, in common with those with different political views. First, the pandemic: Biden must immediately nullify the false Trumpian choice of denying science and ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic vs. opening up the economy and putting people back to work….. Second, Biden can prove that the fight to address climate change and save our planet is also about creating tens of millions of new jobs in energy renewal industries… Third, Biden should propose a national “Marshall Plan” for infrastructure. He can use public-private sector partnerships to do so, such as a national infrastructure bank financed by private capital and public subsidies… Finally, and perhaps most important, Biden needs to stand for guaranteed, affordable national health care. Most polls show remarkable majority support for exactly what Biden proposed in his campaign: a step-by-step approach. On ObamaCare, provide a public option and then fix it. On Medicaid, expand it, as many Trump-leaning rural Americans need and want. On Medicare, expand it, as progressives want, with a goal of “Medicare for All,” similar to every Western democracy in the world except for the U.S. And all of this can be done without necessarily abolishing individual choice for Americans, if they wish to use their own doctors or continue with their private insurance plans.” • On three, enterprise zones? Really? On four, no it can’t.


“The Next Trump” [Washington Monthly]. “A grim question arises from the fact that the adulation of Trump persisted after Russia created false identities online to inflame America’s divisive politics: How much collaboration would an invading enemy enjoy? It seems a crazy thought, but some European countries learned hard lessons in World War II. An aspiring American autocrat might be smart enough to take notice.” • It seems possible that liberal Democrats are genuinely unable to imagine that their own RussiaGate business model, and Trump’s election fraud model, are identical in terms of their “baseless” natures, and their uncanny ability to turn voters into assets that can be bought and sold by a party apparatus. l

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Liberty University students call for shutdown of Falkirk Center for ‘tarnishing’ Christian witness” [Christian Post]. “A group of students and alumni at Liberty University are calling for a think tank at the evangelical Christian college focused on political activism to be shut down. More than 400 students have signed a petition calling on the Lynchburg, Virginia-based university to shut down the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, a think tank founded last year by then-Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. The petition, titled ‘Liberty United Against Falkirk,’ contends that the think tank has ‘waged war against decency, respect, and Christian charity, all while misrepresenting Liberty students and the Christian church.'” • Since I came up as a liberal Democrat, I tend to think of conservative Republicans, especially Christianists, as being monolithic and static. It’s not so.

Stats Watch

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 46 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 4 at 12:40pm. Happy New Year, Fear and Greed!

Rapture Index: Closes up one on earthquales. “Croatia is rocked by a powerful 6.4 earthquake” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)


“FarmVille Once Took Over Facebook. Now Everything Is FarmVille.” [New York Times]. “At its peak, the game had 32 million daily active users and nearly 85 million players over all. It helped transform Facebook from a place you went to check in on updates — mostly in text form — from friends and family into a time-eating destination itself…. The game encouraged people to draw in friends as resources to both themselves and the service they were using, Mr. Bogost said. It gamified attention and encouraged interaction loops in a way that is now being imitated by everything from Instagram to QAnon, he said.”

Book Nook

“Interview Transcript – Donald Knuth” (PDF) [Philip Keily]. People worthy of the title “Computer Scientist” are thin on the ground, but Knuth is surely one such. “My mother had a scheduling algorithm: look for something that you can to do and do it. Instead of planning, she just said look for something that needs to be done and do it. It worked for her for ninety years.”

Who knew:

The Conservatory

Iggy Pop and MC5:

Class Warfare

“The Black Ton: From Bridgerton to Love & Hip-Hop” [Tressie McMillan Cottom]. “Non-black people often struggle with the very idea of Black elites. Every couple of years, there is a memoir or a popular social science book that reintroduces the concept to the general public anew. And after every one, people forget the concept. There are a few reasons for that. The biggest one, perhaps, is that racial segregation means many people — white people, in particular — form their entire notion of Black life on popular culture and news programming. The stereotype of Black underclass urban life maps so perfectly onto racist beliefs about Black people, that few white people ever bother to grasp the concept of different Black social classes. That is why such people often struggle when they relocate to places like Chicago, Atlanta and parts of New York. Their first encounters with Black elitism confuses them. They have been preparing for ‘The Wire’ but its ‘A Different World’ that will get you. There is also a data problem, namely a very small N. The truly Black wealthy — I’m talking inherited can’t-snort-it-all-away-in-one-generation wealthy — is numerically very small. They also carry the burden of enslavement and dispossession in their own way. The Black elite, no matter how elite, do not look like the white elite. They do not have or control as much wealth. Their wealth vehicles — real estate, businesses, social ties — are not as resilient as the white wealthy (probably because they do not enjoy the same political favors). And, Black elite social networks and white elite social networks do not significantly overlap.”

“When the Boule Becomes a Bullet: Cloaked in Secrecy is a Lethal Society” [Ghion Journal]. I am not greatly in sympathy with the religous and/or demonic aspects of this post, despite the author’s evident suffering. But this: “The truth is this: the boule society have become a bullet upon the temples of the African-American communities….It’s like Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, where all are equal except those who walk in two Weitzman and Guccis are more equal. There is no need to be coy here, the people I’m referring to are those in “black” Greek fraternities and sororities—AKAs, Deltas, Betas Ques, Kappas, Sigmas, Alphas, Zetas and Iotas—who wear letters and throw up demonic signs and symbols paying homages to Luciferian societies. Most of them have zero idea what they are doing; they are blinded by ideologies and bonded by ignorance to respect that which disrespects them thoroughly. The vast majority are branded either outwardly or inwardly, they bow before Satan without understanding who they are pledging their lives to.”

News of the Wired

“Look Up Unknown Phone Numbers using Facebook Reset Password or WhatsApp” [ByteXD]. • Mark, good job!

Penn Station once again:

The original Penn Station, demolished in an act of civic vandalism, was for all Manhattan:

The new Penn Station was sold as restoring that glory. I didn’t realize that the point of the whole thing was a lounge for — you guessed it — the Acela class. Well done, all.

Working up to the inaugural:

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JN writes: “Lightly Glazed With Ice.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.