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
“The Biden Administration Turns Its Back on the Pandemic” [Gregg Gonsalves, The Nation]. “[Paul Farmer wrote] in April of last year: ‘Those whose lives are rarely touched by structural violence are uniquely prone to recommend resignation as a response to it.… Since the beginning of this pandemic, we’ve been mired in a sort of magical thinking about how it will end. Just because smallpox and bubonic plague no longer terrify us, this new pandemic too is sure to blow over and disappear without us exerting ourselves in new ways beyond the development of new vaccines.… But in settings in which all of us are at risk, as is sometimes true of contagion shared through the air we breathe, we must also contemplate —the attitude that preventing contagion simply isn’t worth it.’… As the CDC and the Biden White House rolled out its new pandemic strategy last week, in which preventing contagion, or even mitigating community spread, is now no longer a priority—in which ‘exerting ourselves’ beyond vaccination has become too much to ask of a weary American public—Paul [Farmers]’s words become prophetic. Our resignation in the face of Covid-19 was something he saw coming a mile away. And this latest structural violence was brought to us not by Donald Trump but by white liberals for whom the urgency of normalcy, resignation by another name, was paramount—at which moment the right and the left in America finally found common ground. The White House and CDC could do nothing but follow their lead.”
“Biden administration extends travel mask mandate through April 18” [Politico]. • I find the whole situation so exasperating that if the Biden Administration removes the mask requirement for crowded metal tubes in the sky, I’d like to see the anti-maskers get a taste of their own medicine from maskers; treat the anti-maskers like people who try to use cellphones.
“Pandemic aid bill pulled as House aims to wrap up omnibus” [Roll Call]. “After weeks of partisan haggling over the omnibus and the pandemic aid, Democrats and Republicans agreed to provide $15.6 billion in new money for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. But at the insistence of Republicans, the omnibus would have offset that spending by tapping unspent aid from previous pandemic relief laws. That included nearly $7.1 billion in undisrupted state fiscal relief funds…. A coronavirus relief law enacted last year provided $350 billion to state and local governments to make up for projected revenue shortfalls from the pandemic. Of those funds, $195.3 billion was set aside for state governments, with the remainder parceled out to municipalities, territories and tribes. But some states weren’t given their full allotment of aid after the law was enacted. The program called for placing a priority on states with unemployment rates that were at least 2 percentage points above their pre-pandemic levels. While those states received their full allotments, the remaining 30 states have yet to receive their second installments set to be delivered in the coming months, a year after the first tranche. As a result, the second tranche those 30 states are waiting on — and in many cases budgeting for – is sitting in the Treasury, available for Congress to try to claw back. The formula in the bill wouldn’t affect some big states like New York, California and Texas, while states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are among the more populous states with funding that could be taken back. Some Democrats, led by those from the Midwest, said their states would have been unfairly targeted if the money was clawed back.”
“Shot down: How Biden scuttled the deal to get MiGs to Ukraine” [Politico]. ““We do not support the transfer of the fighters to the Ukrainian air force at this time and have no desire to see them in our custody either,” [Pentagon spokeshole] John Kirby told reporters, conveying the main sentiment of a Wednesday phone call between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Polish counterpart. He added that the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community assessed the warplanes wouldn’t materially improve Ukraine’s chances, but instead would escalate the prospects of drawing NATO directly into the fight.” Which was, of course, the goal. More: “Biden, per three U.S. officials, agreed with the cautious Pentagon and intelligence view, in part over concerns that Russia would see America openly helping NATO send fighter jets into Ukraine as an escalation.” • Funny to see Ukraine and Poland trying to muscle the EU and the US, particularly Ukraine: “[T]he Ukrainian government heard the proposal and ran with it, producing infographics claiming they were about to receive 70 used Russian fighter jets from Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria. A Ukrainian government official told POLITICO that Ukrainian pilots had even traveled to Poland to wrap up the deal and bring the planes back over the border. Yet [the EU], much less the countries actually tasked with supplying these jets, had never agreed to this plan.” High on their own supply, like so many.
“Amazon’s Washington Strategy Wins Few New Friends in the Biden Era” [Wall Street Journal]. “Last March, for example, Amazon’s public-relations account on Twitter posted a series of aggressive tweets directed at the politicians Amazon’s D.C. team meets with. One tweet accused Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) of wanting to break Amazon up so that it would stop criticizing her. Another responded to a tweet from Rep. Mark Pocan (D., Wis.), who had criticized Amazon’s treatment of employees and referred to reports that its delivery drivers sometimes urinated in bottles because they couldn’t take time for breaks. The Amazon tweet dismissed his criticism: ‘You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?’ Amazon later apologized for this tweet, saying it was incorrect and calling it an “own-goal.’ Ms. Warren reiterated that she favors breaking up Amazon. Mr. Pocan’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment. The tweets departed from the tone of traditional corporate public-relations accounts. Unlike most tweets from Amazon’s news account, these tweets were crafted by executives including Mr. Bezos and Mr. Carney, said people at Amazon.” • When they tell you who they are….
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.
* * *
“Pregnant, Sick, Homeless and Afraid: Bronx Fire Survivors Say the City is Not Doing Enough” [Documented NY]. “In the days after the Bronx fire, once the smoke had dissipated and the magnitude of the tragedy became clear, it appeared that the City would act quickly to help the displaced victims. The City, along with non-profits such as BronxWorks, mobilized to support the former tenants of Twin Parks. The Mayor’s office was able to raise over $2.5 million for the former tenants. Celebrities such as Cardi B paid for the victims’ funerals…. But two months after the Bronx fire, the Mayor’s office has distributed just $265,500 to the families, alongside providing meals. For Rodriguez and many others, their allotment of $2,250 is not nearly enough to start rebuilding their lives. ‘The Mayor’s Fund has millions in undistributed money for Bronx fire families, yet we don’t know where that money is going,’ said Ariadna Phillips, the founder of South Bronx Mutual Aid. ‘The fund has no accountability and has zero transparency.'” • Eric Adams, get on this!
“House Democratic campaign arm shakes up midterm battlefield plan” [The Hill]. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) rolled out updates to its midterm battlefield plan on Thursday in a move meant to shake up the party’s House campaign arm’s strategy going into November. The committee said it’s adding 12 challengers to its ‘Red to Blue’ program, many of which are in districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the decennial redistricting process…. The program’s candidate additions include Rudy Salas in California’s 22nd congressional district, Jay Chen in California’s 45th congressional district, Brittany Pettersen in Colorado’s 7th congressional district, Christina Bohannan in Iowa’s first congressional district, Liz Mathis in Iowa’s second congressional district, Nikki Budzinski in Illinois’ 13th congressional district, Hillary Scholten in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, Gabe Vasquez in New Mexico’s second congressional district, Jackie Gordon in New York’s first congressional district, Max Rose in New York’s eleventh congressional district, Greg Landsman in Ohio’s first congressional district, and Emilia Sykes in Ohio’s 13th congressional district. President Biden won ten out of the 12 districts in 2020. The DCCC also added a number of districts to its “Frontline Program,” which is aimed at supporting candidates in highly competitive districts. Those additions include North Carolina’s sixth congressional district, Connecticut’s sixth congressional district, and Pennsylvania’s sixth congressional district.”
“Russian Aggression Derails Conservative Populism” [Bloomberg]. “It’s been a rough few months for national populists. They’re the faction of the American right that is challenging the tenets of the conservatism we have known since the 1950s. That conservative consensus included a strong preference for free markets, support for an assertive foreign policy willing to use military force abroad based on an expansive conception of U.S. interests, and moral traditionalism. The populists instead favor a much more restrained foreign policy and government activism to protect working-class families. It wants to retain the social conservatism, which it believes will be better served by a politics that is less attuned to corporate sensibilities than conservatives have historically been. The influence of national populists has been rising in recent years, helped along by — well, seemingly by everything: by a delayed reaction to the debacle of the Iraq war, by the financial crisis and the slow recovery from it, by the continued shift of working-class voters into the Republican Party, by business leaders’ turn toward an aggressive social liberalism. And, above all, by former President Donald Trump…. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has tended to split and marginalize the nat-pops. Their second-most-important spokesman, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, initially took a pro-Putin, or at least anti-anti-Putin, line. Very few Republican voters or officeholders followed it, and Carlson then had to change direction. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who has gone so far toward national populism as to advocate leaving the World Trade Organization, has taken the same basic view of the war as old-line Republicans and, for that matter, most Democrats: The U.S. should aid the Ukrainians while not directly entering the conflict. The most prominent Republican politician advocating a purely isolationist position on Ukraine is Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance.” • Well. at least they’re not floating paper airplanes in the Guggenheim in favor of a No-Fly Zone….
“Trump 2024: Will He Actually Run Again or Be the Nominee?” [Teen Vogue]. “For now, Trump is also maintaining strong fiscal support. At the start of 2022, his team announced that its various political committees had amassed $122 million in funding. In local, state, and federal elections, the candidate who spends more money on their campaign tends to win the election.” I think Ferguson should write for Teen Vogue and explain the industrial model. No, I’m not kidding! More: “So even though Trump has yet to officially announce his 2024 candidacy, entering with millions in cash would provide him with an advantage, covering major campaign expenses such as staff salaries, wide-reaching ads, and frequent travel to campaign in key areas…. From just January to October 2021, 33 voter suppression laws were enacted across 19 states. Voter suppression efforts can look like enforcing stricter ID checks, making it harder to vote early or by mail, and restricting those convicted of felonies from voting…. Then there’s the wave of election subversion bills. In 2021, lawmakers across the country introduced more than 180 bills that would shift election authority from the people to the legislators themselves. Says [Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies for the University of Virginia’s Miller Center], ‘You have these new policies coming to the forefront among Republicans whereby the legislature would be allowed to review the popular will and be able to overturn it.’ These bills have either passed or been introduced in eight of the 13 swing states, including several that Biden won in 2020. These laws, introduced and championed by Republican legislators, stand to bolster Trump if he is selected as the GOP nominee.'” • Category error, I think, on “review the popular will.” It’s the votes that are being reviewed. I don’t like legislators reviewing the vote, though I wish I did, especially after Trump acting like Biden v. Trump 2020 was like Bush v. Gore 2000; it wasn’t.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“The 2000 U.S. presidential election was a harbinger of things to come” [CNN]. • For those who didn’t live through election 2020, this is a useful summary of the horrid election that culminated in Bush v. Gore, where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia selected George W. Bush as President. If I seem at times a little strident in my abhorrence of digital voting, it stems from election 2020.
Case count by United States regions:
Fellow tapewatchers will note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” phase is done with, and the case count is now leveling out. At a level that, a year ago, was considered a crisis, but we’re “over” Covid now, so I suppose not. I have added a Fauci Line. Let’s zoom in, and look at the last 4 weeks:
Perhaps “leveling out” isn’t quite fair. If I were the Biden Administration, I’d be very happy with this.
NOTE I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it.
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?
Flattened out, continues encouraging (and independent from the CDC).
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:
Those notes in red at the bottom make me wonder about what else is wrong. (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.) And what’s with Idaho?
The previous release:
Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:
Continuing slow improvement, assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered.
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Not 100% 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.)
Just a reminder:
As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:
Hospital trick: patients admitted with covid in 10-12 days become post-covid & no longer counted as hospitalized covid patients. ICU is full of post-covid patients that are here for 30, 40, 50 & more days. Not counted in the official stats.
— Dr. Natalia 💉😷 (@SolNataMD) January 24, 2022
Death rate (Our World in Data):
987,615. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci line.
“United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased by 11 thousand to 227 thousand in the week ended March 5th, from a revised 216 thousand in the previous period and compared with market expectations of 217 thousand.”
Shipping: “Shipping Companies Ask Crew to Abandon Ships Stuck in Ukraine” [Bloomberg]. “More than 1,000 seafarers are estimated to be onboard ships stranded in Ukraine, some with cargo still onboard. The vessels — which include tankers, bulkers, cargo ships and a container vessel — aren’t able to leave because there aren’t harbor pilots to guide them out amid danger from missiles and underwater mines. ‘We understand some ships may have been laid up,’ said a spokeswomen for the International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations, without providing further details.”
The Bezzle: “A Wheat ETF Teaches the Meme Crowd a Lesson the Hard Way” [Bloomberg]. “This week we learned that the Teucrium Wheat ETF – ticker WEAT and the only U.S. ETF tracking wheat – was unable to handle the volume of cash that was flowing into the fund from investors looking to profit from a record rally in the price of the grain. WEAT is a special kind of ETF known as a commodity pool, and unlike normal ETFs it needs regulatory approval to create new shares beyond a certain threshold. But so much money flowed in that the threshold was exceeded, and creations were suspended, which led to the ETF’s share price diverging from the price of wheat. In other words, the ETF ended up trading at an unusually large 9% premium above the fund’s net asset value. So, anyone who bought the shares significantly overpaid for the underlying assets.” • Commmodities are a sporty game.
Tech: DuckDuckGo turns into Google:
In addition to down-ranking sites associated with disinformation, we also often place news modules and information boxes at the top of DuckDuckGo search results (where they are seen and clicked the most) to highlight quality information for rapidly unfolding topics.
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) March 10, 2022
Does anybody think it will stop with this?
Tech: “Russian sanctions drive renewed focus on Asia semiconductor reliance” [Axios]. “President Biden is hosting industry leaders and a pair of governors at the White House on Wednesday to call on Congress to pass legislation to turbocharge manufacturing in crucial industries and make America less susceptible to outside shocks, like the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…. Democrats still expect Congress to pass a $150 billion to $350 billion bill to turbocharge the domestic semiconductor industry, but they’re hesitant to provide a timeline.”
The price list at the gas station changes in real time, like a stock ticker 😬 pic.twitter.com/9tDO8eMmHS
— Gabriel Hébert-Mild™ ⓥ (@Gab_H_R) March 9, 2022
Wouldn’t it be great if all prices worked like this?
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 15 Extreme Fear (previous close: 16 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 22 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 10 at 1:20pm.
“… in search of monsters to destroy“:
— Flashbak.com (@aflashbak) March 10, 2022
Sounds like a terrific work of scholarship:
205 volumes, meticulously edited and published: come celebrate the completion of our full edition of Voltaire‘s works! Robert Darnton (Harvard) will talk on ‘Theatricality and Violence in Paris, 1788’. 17 March, 5pm, at the Sheldonian, Oxford. RSVP: https://t.co/UTFIqd6pAJ…
— Voltaire Foundation (@VoltaireOxford) March 10, 2022
But the title of the talk, and the date (1788) are interesting, too.
“‘They need to pay up’: Emails in college admissions trial show USC’s interest in wealthy applicants” [Los Angeles Times]. “USC officials discussed how much money some families stood to donate while deliberating whether to endorse their children as “VIP” applicants, according to emails filed recently in federal court. Lawyers for Jovan Vavic, who was fired as USC’s water polo coach in 2019 after being charged with misrepresenting applicants as talented athletic recruits in exchange for bribes, put forward the emails to support a request to call USC officials as witnesses in his trial, which began this week in Boston…. Vavic’s lawyers say USC effectively required coaches to raise funds for their programs. One of his attorneys, Stephen G. Larson, previously told The Times that the case brought against Vavic ‘ignores the reality that at USC, a parent’s ability and willingness to contribute to the university, including to athletics, influenced admissions decisions.’ Larson is seeking to call three current and former USC officials to testify about the school’s fundraising practices. The emails that he filed in court, he said, show that Alexandra Reisman, Scott Wandzilak and Joseph Aguirre discussed giving ‘preferential admissions treatment for children of prospective donors, including with Coach Vavic.'” • Great. Blow the lid off.
News of the Wired
“Time Crystals Made of Light Could Soon Escape the Lab” [Scientific American]. “Although a time crystal’s behavior repeats over time, it cannot be considered a mere ticking clock. Specifically, a clock requires external energy to keep going, but for a time crystal, the “ticking” is its most natural, stable state. This is the opposite of physicists’ idea of thermodynamic equilibrium, in which energy flows into a system only to inevitably dissipate: imagine a pot of water that is brought to a rolling boil and then returned to room temperature. In this sense, time crystals are rather like a pot of water that always boils in the exact same way and never cools down. By some definitions, they thus represent a new and unique state of matter that is distinguished by a steadfast persistence in staying out of equilibrium. As such inherent metronomes, time crystals may be a great future asset to precision timekeeping or quantum information processing.”
“Indignity Vol. 2, No. 20: The mysterious lingo of Philadelphia–Baltimore.” [Indignity]. “I, and a lot of other people, were shocked to read a tweet from @the_megalopolis saying they had just read that using a phrase like ‘I’m done my homework’ is a Philadelphia–Baltimore regionalism, rather than standard American English…. But useful though it may be, this construction remains mostly invisible, apart from the occasional linguistic discussion. The Yale Grammatical Diversity Project maintains an updated map of self-reported usage, which clusters in a line along the Northeast, with a gap around New York City before it reappears in northern New England.'” • According to the map, people use this construction in Maine. I’ve never heard it (and I’ve also lived in Philadelphia). Readers, have any of you heard this? “I’m done my homework”?l
Wait for it:
— depths of wikipedia (@depthsofwiki) March 10, 2022
Works if there was such a thing as Sumerian “light” beer. But why a dog?
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 (TH):
TH writes: “Deep Blue Senetii from Roger’s Gardens. This was my second day in a row visiting the nursery and I didn’t want to take my camera in this time, thinking I’d gotten any pictures worth getting the day before, so this was taken with my iPhone.”
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