By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson
“Earthling: The man who foresaw the Ukraine crisis” [Nonzero]. “Back in 2008, when George W. Bush fatefully strong-armed European members of NATO into promising future membership for Ukraine and Georgia, [William Burns, current director of the CIA] was warning that the consequences would be dire—but not because of Putin’s distinctive psychology. In a memo to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Burns wrote, “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.” Burns added that it was “hard to overstate the strategic consequences” of offering Ukraine NATO membership, which, he predicted, would “create fertile soil for Russian meddling in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.” As Peter Beinart notes in his newsletter, Burns’s analysis is at odds with the claim (lately made in many Blob communiques, including Applebaum’s) that the Ukraine crisis is largely driven by Putin’s fear of encroaching democracy.” • So, possibly the CIA is not completely on board with the warmongering of Ukrainian irredentists at State? And speaking of irrendentists:
So far, zero of the media outlets that made a scandal out of Joe Rogan saying the n-word seem to care that @RichardEngel of @NBCNews aired propaganda for the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi Ukrainian militia, on @MSNBC. Zero. https://t.co/3WNXWBWNqQ
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) February 15, 2022
“Manchin would not back Supreme Court confirmation right before 2024 election” [Reuters]. “Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said on Monday he would not support a Senate vote to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick for a Supreme Court seat if a vacancy opened up right before the 2024 presidential election.” • I’m not sure there’s a death watch on any Supreme Court nominees… Perhaps some other method of removal is being contemplated?
Democrats en Déshabillé
I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:
The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.
Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.
“Manufacturing Descent w/ Justin Feldman (02/10/22)” (podcast) [Death Panel]. “Epidemiologist Justin Feldman joins us to talk through this week’s sudden pivot by Democrats to drop state mask mandates. We discuss where this policy change came from and how these decisions appear to have been influenced by the anti-mask “Urgency of Normal” group and the increasingly prominent advocacy of Leana Wen.” • The Urgency of Normal site. Out of nowhere, lots of traction.
“Dems’ Problems Bigger Than Redistricting” [Cook Political Report]. “While it is true that Democrats do seem to have escaped a tsunami in reapportionment and redistricting, their fundamental political troubles heading into the midterm elections have little to do with either reapportionment or redistricting…. If the new congressional maps result in a much smaller number of competitive congressional districts, does that reduce the variability of the outcome? That is, if more districts are much more blue or red in their tint, does it narrow the band of potential outcomes and minimize the number of losses that a party can have? Logically and theoretically, that should be the case—and it might. But my experience has been that in wave years, the number of losses for the disadvantaged party almost always ends up larger than if one simply takes a pencil to paper and counts up which seats may flip. This cascading effect has happened time and time again…. So what needs to happen to save Democrats’ skin? As Doug Sosnik, who was a senior political aide in the Clinton White House, told Politico’s ‘Playbook,’ the administration needs to control the coronavirus and inflation, return the supply chain to normal, dodge a global crisis, and hope Biden’s job approvals return to the ‘high 40s by summer.’ Meanwhile, the GOP needs to ‘nominate unelectable general-election candidates and run lousy campaigns,’ and ‘Trump and Republicans need to keep talking about the 2020 election.'”
Near Dupont Circle:
“The West Wing church.”
“You mean the National Cathedral?”
“Is that what it’s called?”
— Overheard District (@OverheardWDC) February 8, 2022
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“The left neutralizes the Dem establishment in Pa. Senate primary” [Politico]. “[F]or all his pedigree as a battleground state candidate, Lamb remains mired in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, trailing progressive frontrunner Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in both fundraising and the polls. Even more surprising: The party establishment hasn’t swooped in to help Lamb, despite the fact that Democratic leaders have aggressively recruited candidates with a profile like his to run for Senate in the past…. Despite receiving national attention for his 2018 congressional victory, Lamb is not widely known outside of western Pennsylvania. Fetterman, the only candidate in the Democratic field who has run and won statewide, is leading in public and private polls. Last year, Fetterman also raised nearly $12 million from a massive network of small-dollar donors, compared to $4 million for Lamb…. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has also stayed out of the contest so far, likely to the detriment of Lamb…. Lamb’s campaign believes that Fetterman has not yet been properly vetted in the crucible of a tough campaign, and is coasting on name ID. As one weakness, they point to the fact that Fetterman once pulled a shotgun on a person he thought might be involved in a shooting, but who turned out to be an unarmed Black jogger. Fetterman has said he did not know the race of the man.” • Oh, lovely.
“Is 2022 the Year of the Angry K-12 Parent?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “A survey of battleground state parents (AZ, CO, FL, GA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NC, PA, TX, WA, and WI), taken by the GOP firm Cygnal in partnership with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) found similar results. Just 38 percent of parents agreed that ‘even though some students will fall behind, we must keep schools closed and use virtual learning until COVID is under control.’ In comparison, a majority (54 percent) agreed that ‘if at all possible, schools should be open because too many students are falling behind.’ It’s important to note that these questions don’t specifically address masking. And the president has made it clear that he does not want to see schools shut down again. But, given actions taken by Democratic lawmakers this week, it seems clear that they too saw masking as a stand-in for other unpopular mitigation efforts like hybrid schooling and restrictions on after-school or extra-curricular activities. Kids wearing masks helps to remind voters that things are still not “back to normal,” something that Democrats and President Biden had insisted would occur under their watch. Even so, polls show that Democratic voters remain divided over the risk in having children participating in in-person school. In the NBC survey, Democrats, by a 51 percent to 43 percent margin were more concerned about the risk of COVID spreading in a school environment than they were about kids falling behind. Voters of color were also more divided with 42 percent concerned about the health risk of in-person school and 51 percent more worried about kids falling behind. Meanwhile, Republicans are united (87 percent) in believing that kids being out of school is riskier. The Cygnal/RSLC survey showed a similar partisan and racial divide. For example, among Latino parents, 59 percent wanted schools to use virtual learning until COVID was under control. In other words, the angry parents are more likely to be white.”
“DeSantis Holds Big Leads In Florida” [Political Wire]. “A new Mason-Dixon poll in Florida shows Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) leading Charlie Crist (D) in the gubernatorial race, 51% to 43%. DeSantis also leads Nikki Fried (D) in another possible match up, 53% to 42%. In the Democratic primary, Crist is the clear favorite over Fried, 44% to 27%, with 26% still undecided.”
“Adams’ unlikely alliance with the head of New York’s teachers union” [Politico]. “The mostly positive interactions between [Adams and Michael Mulgrew, who heads the United Federation of Teachers] show the waning power of teachers unions, which moved aggressively in states across the country to control how their members taught — and where they taught — as Covid-19 took hold in 2020. Two years of the pandemic have led to overwhelmingly agree that the push by the UFT and other unions to keep students home had a damaging effect on pupils’ long-term learning.” • Hmm.
“With North Korea talks stalled, some wonder: What if we tried something different?” [WaPo]. “The research was conducted by analysts from the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (which advocates for military restraint), and the South Korean think tank Sejong Institute, whose leadership is allied with [South Korean President Moon Jae-in]…. The finding reflects the view among some analysts that Trump’s summit diplomacy, while imperfect, was a new and “extraordinarily bold” approach that brought new momentum toward progress. For example, a recent NK News survey of 82 North Korea specialists from around the world found overwhelming agreement that Trump’s leader-to-leader approach with Kim ‘represents the best decision by Washington during the Kim Jong Un era.'” •
Our Famously Free Press
“Caitlin Johnstone: Just Run the News Media Out of Langley” [Consortium News]. “I think it would be a lot more efficient and straightforward if all English-language news media were just run directly out of C.I.A. headquarters by agency officials in Langley, Virginia. This way news reporters could eliminate the middleman and drop the undignified charade of presenting unproven assertions by western intelligence agencies as ‘scoops’ that they picked up from ‘sources’.
“Court Filing Started a Furor in Right-Wing Outlets, but Their Narrative Is Off Track” [Charlie Savage, New York Times]. I read this piece a couple of times; it seems dangerously close to special pleading to me (a shame, because I like Savage). For example: “[Mr. Durham’s filing] never claimed that Mr. Joffe’s company was being paid by the Clinton campaign.” Correct. The filing says that Joffe wanted to impress “VIPs” in ClintonWorld (i.e, he was hoping for a job in the Clinton administration). And: “Another paragraph in the court filing said that Mr. Joffe’s company, Neustar, had helped maintain internet-related servers for the White House, and that he and his associates ‘exploited this arrangement’ by mining certain records to gather derogatory information about Mr. Trump. Citing this filing, Fox News inaccurately declared that Mr. Durham had said he had evidence that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid a technology company to ‘infiltrate’ a White House server…. Most important, contrary to the reporting, the filing never said the White House data that came under scrutiny was from the Trump era.” Which I find confusing, since the apparently it was the Alfa Bank dry hole that triggered the scrutiny, and that’s Trump era.
“Special counsel Durham alleges Clinton campaign lawyer used data to raise suspicions about Trump” [CNN]. The lead: “Special counsel John Durham accused a lawyer for the Democrats of sharing with the CIA in 2017 internet data purported to show Russian-made phones being used in the vicinity of the White House complex, as part of a broader effort to raise the intelligence community’s suspicions of Donald Trump’s ties to Russia shortly after he took office.” And: “The data was compiled by a tech firm that had special access to the purportedly suspicious internet data through an ‘arrangement’ with the US government, and that firm was in touch with Sussmann, according to the filing. An executive at the tech company, Rodney Joffe, and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining domain name system traffic associated with the Executive Office of the President and other data “for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump,” Durham’s prosecutors wrote.” • Savage gives a lot of detail on the Russian-made phones (YotaPhones), as does other coverage. But surely the key point simple: Joffe’s private firm was sniffing data at the Executive Office of the President and IIRC Trump Tower.
Crowdstrike news: at least three Crowdstrike reports were submitted to FBI in its probe of alleged DNC hack. I FOIA'd them.
DOJ responded by acknowledging only one such report and redacting it entirely — saying it's classified material. Only page I got was an FBI cover sheet. pic.twitter.com/IkP4K0MwyM
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) February 14, 2022
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Republicans Discover the Horror of Gerrymandering” [The Atlantic]. “Democrats have fared better for a number of reasons. Victories in competitive 2018 gubernatorial races gave Democrats veto pens in some states, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Republicans control the legislature. Democrats also began laying the groundwork for the redistricting fight years in advance with the formation of groups like the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, launched by former Attorney General Eric Holder with the support of former President Barack Obama. In GOP-controlled states such as Texas and Georgia, Republicans have pursued a more defensive mapmaking strategy, seeking to consolidate their power rather than attempting a maximalist (but riskier) approach of knocking out Democratic seats. State courts have struck down more aggressive GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina and Ohio. A major factor, however, is that despite their anti-gerrymandering rhetoric, Democrats have been at least as ruthless as Republicans in the biggest states where they have unfettered power to draw new districts. In Illinois, Democrats approved a map that will likely wipe out two of the GOP’s five current congressional seats. Their haul could be twice as big in New York.”
Case count by United States regions:
I have again added a “Fauci Line” to congratulate Biden and his team — Klain, Zeints, Fauci, Walensky — for finally falling below their own second-highest peak. (Rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick; the slope of the downward curve is more or less the same as the upward curve. Previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecedented.) I wonder if there will be plateau when BA.2 takes hold. Since the Northeast has form, that is probably the region to watch for this behavior first.
The official narrative was “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?
NOT UPDATED MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:
Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet, which is even more encouraging, especially if you’re in “Waiting for BA.2” mode.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.
From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:
Continued improvement. (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.)
The previous release:
Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Sea of green! From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)
Death rate (Our World in Data):
943,411. A dip, fortunately. I sure hope we break a million before Biden’s State of the Union speech. There’s still time.
Good news here too.
Manufacturing: “United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The New York Empire State Manufacturing Index rose to 3.1 in February of 2022 from -0.7 in January, but below market expectations of 12.15. New orders and shipments held steady, and unfilled orders increased. Delivery times continued to lengthen. Labor market indicators pointed to a solid increase in employment and a longer average workweek. The prices paid index remained near its recent peak, and the prices received index reached a new record high. Plans for capital and technology spending remained strong.”
The Bezzle: “EE380 Talk” [David Rosenthal, DSHR’s Blog]. A brutal must-read. “Bitcoin is notorious for consuming as much electricity as the Netherlands, but there are around 10,000 other cryptocurrencies, most using similar infrastructure and thus also in aggregate consuming unsustainable amounts of electricity. Bitcoin alone generates as much e-waste as the Netherlands, cryptocurrencies suffer an epidemic of pump-and-dump schemes and wash trading, they enable a $5.2B/year ransomware industry, they have disrupted supply chains for GPUs, hard disks, SSDs and other chips, they have made it impossible for web services to offer free tiers, and they are responsible for a massive crime wave including fraud, theft, tax evasion, funding of rogue states such as North Korea, drug smuggling, and even as documented by Jameson Lopp’s list of physical attacks, armed robbery, kidnapping, torture and murder.” • Worth reading in full, as Rosenthal explains how all the parts of the Bitcoin “ecosystem” perversely fit together. Oh, and: “Libertarianism’s attraction is based on ignoring externalities, and cryptocurrencies are no exception.”
The Bezzle: “Shared custodianship”:
One of the most hilarious things about this is that most of Sanders’ work is out of copyright so anyone could mint an NFT of it at any time meaning these are all essentially utterly worthless. https://t.co/ATCECF04Qo
— Davenant 📸 (@MarcDavenant) February 14, 2022
The Bezzle: “Intel to Enter Bitcoin Mining Market With Energy-Efficient Hardware” [PC Magazine]. “Intel is entering the blockchain mining market with upcoming hardware capable of generating Bitcoin. Intel insists the effort won’t put a strain energy supplies or deprive consumers of chips. The goal is to create the most energy-efficient blockchain mining equipment on the planet, it says. In addition, the company is avoiding the term mining. Instead, Intel is using the phrase ‘blockchain accelerators.'”
The Bezzle: “Investors are paying millions for virtual land in the metaverse” [CNBC]. “It’s no secret the real estate market is skyrocketing, but the Covid pandemic is creating another little-known land rush. Indeed, some investors are paying millions for plots of land — not in New York or Beverly Hills. In fact, the plots do not physically exist here on Earth. Rather, the land is located online, in a set of virtual worlds that tech insiders have dubbed the metaverse. Prices for plots have soared as much as 500% in the last few months ever since Facebook announced it was going all-in on virtual reality…. [Virtual real estate developer Janine Yorio] tells CNBC her company sold 100 virtual private islands last year for $15,000 each. ‘Today, they’re selling for about $300,000 each, which is coincidentally the same as the average home price in America,’ she said.”
The Bezzle: “Super Bowl LVI will be ‘the single biggest sports betting event in history,’ FanDuel CEO says” [Yahoo Finance]. “‘This Super Bowl is going to be the single biggest sports betting event in history,’ [FanDuel CEO Amy Howe] said…. ‘So that just gives you a sense of the magnitude of what we’re coming into. … It just makes for a much more engaging experience right? It’s not just about the outcome of the game but you have skin in the game on who’s going to be the MVP and who’s going to score that first touchdown.'”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Fear (previous close: 33 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 37 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 15 at 1:21pm. Back to flirting with Neutral!
Police State Watch
T. Greg Doucette is an account worth following:
Cops committing gun crimes is common
Shooting a black police officer 14x while he was on duty, unarmed, on the ground, wearing a police vest, because he supposedly "looked like" a suspect:https://t.co/dw7QWOT5hu
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) February 15, 2022
(A Republican, if that matters.) Doucette has an enormous series of threads on police criminality, which is a real and continuing problem.
“Map: Where Are Starbucks Workers Unionizing?” [More Perfect Union]. “We’re tracking every Starbucks store where workers are forming unions.” • Good idea. Maps are hard to do, and hard to maintain permanently (as Mike Elk knows).
“In California, College Students Are Now Officially Considered an Environmental Menace” [Slate]. “Enrolling more students at one of America’s best public universities might be bad for the environment. That’s the conclusion of California Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman, who on Aug. 23 ordered the University of California–Berkeley to temporarily freeze the number of students it admits every year under the California Environmental Quality Act, putting crowded classrooms in the same category as heavy infrastructure like highways and airports. ‘Further increases in student enrollment above the current enrollment level at UC–Berkeley could result in an adverse change or alteration of the physical environment,’ the judge wrote. It’s the latest and most explicit example of California’s famously stringent environmental law being used for population control. Instead of governing the construction of dams or smokestacks, CEQA is frequently leveraged by anti-development groups in California to oppose apartment buildings, homeless shelters, and bus lanes, among other things. Now it’s being employed to micromanage university admissions.” • “Population control.”
On the Canadian truckers:
"They're not really working class"
A lot of them are. It's ok. Many working class people are wrong about many political things. You should organize them into your position.
— Jonah Furman (@JonahFurman) February 14, 2022
News of the Wired
This is perfectly normal code that is the foundation of pretty much all US healthcare.
— Anosognosiogenesis (@pookleblinky) February 15, 2022
Would it be so hard to train coders for these old languages?
Alert reader KE writes:
[I] bought a portable co2 meter. Does particles and temp and humidity too. So far most places have had very good to excellent ventilation even though I don’t go many places anymore! Attached photos are of a local Whole Foods. A big nearly empty barn of a place in the wilds of suburban Jersey. It was lower in produce (bottom) as that’s by the doors.
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. Today’s plant (CM):
CM writes: “Photo taken in Southern Ontario, October. If you look closely at the bottom and edges of the photo, you can see a near-perfect circle line of mushrooms, about thirty feet in diameter, with a dying black cherry tree in the exact centre. My guess is that it traces the perimeter of the underlying root structure of the tree. No idea why though!”
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