By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Thank you for your patience, dear readers. This has not been the most productive week for me! Part of my difficulties, shared with Yves, is that so much bullshit simultaneously is hard to process! –lambert
Bird Song of the Day
“I hate it when the sounds of my breathing are captured in birdsong clips.” Not that obtrusive. Anyhow, I like some reality: Footsteps, breathing, dogs barking, trains whistles…. The birds live in the world, after all!
“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
“White House pushes past COVID-19 limits but threat of pandemic looms” [The Hill]. “The White House is simultaneously easing its own COVID-19 restrictions in an attempt to get it — and the American public — back to normal while grappling with the threat the pandemic still poses. The was on display this week when hundreds of maskless guests joined for in-person bill signings where President Biden mingled with lawmakers with no social distancing protocols in place. But the ongoing risks of a return to normal were underscored on Tuesday evening when second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for the virus. Biden had not been tested for COVID-19 since he tested negative Sunday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. Biden is not considered to be a close contact of Emhoff, who attended an event earlier Tuesday honoring AmeriCorps week at an urban garden and park in Washington, D.C.” • “Delicate,” or “delicate balance” is a bullshit tell in the Beltway media (I mean, more than usual). It signals that a battle between factions is not completely resolved, that whatever the status quo is within a given field could come unstuck. Policy has nothing to do with it.
“Fed nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin withdraws after fight over her climate change stance” [National Public Radio]. “President Biden’s nominee for a top regulatory post at the Federal Reserve has withdrawn after opposition from fossil fuel interests dashed her hopes of confirmation in the closely divided Senate. Sarah Bloom Raskin had drawn criticism from Senate Republicans for arguing that bank regulators should pay more attention to the financial risks posed by climate change. Her fate was sealed on Monday, when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he would oppose her, calling Raskin insufficiently committed to an “all-of-the-above energy policy.'” • I don’t know why we didn’t check with President Manchin first. (Obama, remember, was the originator of “all-of-the-above,” including fracking. I had thought that Bush-era Darth Vader figure Dick Cheney’s energy task force had put fracking on the agenda, but the “Cheney loophole” in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that did that.
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.
* * *
“Democrats to report $14 million fundraising haul in February” [NBC]. “The Democratic National Committee hauled in more than $14.4 million in February — the most in any February in DNC history — as Democratic donors are waking to the possibility of their party taking a beating in the midterms, according to two sources with knowledge of the committee’s fundraising. February’s total includes more than $7 million from large donors, which was nearly twice the internal high-dollar goal and what one of the sources called ‘.’ Many donors opened their wallets last month after not giving in 2021, according to one of the sources. Major dollars just slightly outpaced grassroots money, which averaged $25 online, according to the sources.” • So, it looks CDC removing masks from our public health arsenal worked out well for Democats, Rochelle, good job. And maybe Manchin did Biden a favor by strangling Build Back Better? More: “”We’re getting a lot of donors who didn’t give last year who are now giving,’ the source said. ‘It’s a lot of things. Voter suppression is an issue, people are distressed about that. They feel that if they lose the majority, working-class people will be severely injured. They’ll try to roll things back, you can’t really do anything, that will be it. .'” • Fingers on the pulse, totally.
“Half of Americans Doubt Biden Will Run in 2024, WSJ Poll Shows” [Wall Street Journal]. “A new Wall Street Journal poll found that 52% of Americans don’t think Mr. Biden will run for re-election in two years, while 29% do expect him to pursue a second term. Nineteen percent are undecided about his future. Among Democrats, 41% said they think Mr. Biden will run again, while 32% said they didn’t think he would. The poll found 26% of those Democrats unsure. Mr. Biden and the White House have said he intends to run for re-election. People close to the president have suggested he will make a final decision after November’s midterm elections…. If re-elected, Mr. Biden would be 82 years old when he is sworn in to a second term, nearly a decade older than former President Ronald Reagan when he started his second term in 1985 at the age of 73. Mr. Reagan, at age 69, was the oldest president to take office until 2017, when former President Donald Trump was sworn in at the age of 70, a record later eclipsed by Mr. Biden.” • They can still juice Biden up pretty good for a presser or a speech, but I dunno. At some point, he’s going to stumble, or more llikely get his feet tangled up on one of the gang of snarling weasels nipping at his ankles and fall down. (The press, I think, would conceal any actual physical disability, as they did with Reagan, but a scandal would be too juicy to resist, especially if one or some members of their press could boost the chances of their own replacement candidate.) I do think it’s insufficiently appreciated how this generation of Democrat leaders blighted the generations, plural, that should be their successors. You can’t beat somebody with nobody. Harris, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar are all nobodies. Newsom? Really?
If there’s any civil disorder between now and 2024 — and how not? — this will play very well, liberal aghastitude aside:
“If your iPhone can’t catch that picture with you being at a safe distance, then you need to upgrade your iPhone. Stop being on top of my police officers while they’re carrying out their jobs. That is not acceptable & it won’t be tolerated”: @NYCMayor re public recording cops pic.twitter.com/wwPpZP4lax
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) March 16, 2022
“The NYT Now Admits the Biden Laptop — Falsely Called “Russian Disinformation” — is Authentic” [Glenn Greenwald]. “One of the most successful disinformation campaigns in modern American electoral history occurred in the weeks prior to the 2020 presidential election. On October 14, 2020 — less than three weeks before Americans were set to vote — the nation’s oldest newspaper, The New York Post, began publishing a series of reports about the business dealings of the Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in countries in which Biden, as Vice President, wielded considerable influence (including Ukraine and China) and would again if elected president. The backlash against this reporting was immediate and intense, leading to suppression of the story by U.S. corporate media outlets and censorship of the story by leading Silicon Valley monopolies. The disinformation campaign against this reporting was led by the CIA’s all-but-official spokesperson Natasha Bertrand (then of Politico, now with CNN), whose article on October 19 appeared under this headline: “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, of former intel officials say.'” • I’m tellin’ ya, dozens! Greenwald justifiably does a happy dance: “The archive’s authenticity, as I documented in a video report from September, was clear from the start. Indeed, as I described in that report, I staked my career on its authenticity when I demanded that The Intercept publish my analysis of these revelations, and then resigned when its vehemently anti-Trump editors censored any discussion of those emails precisely because it was indisputable that the archive was authentic (The Intercept’s former New York Times reporter James Risen was given the green light by these same editors to spread and endorse the CIA’s lie, as he insisted that laptop should be ignored because “a group of former intelligence officials issued a letter saying that the Giuliani laptop story has the classic trademarks of Russian disinformation.”) I knew the archive was real because all the relevant journalistic metrics that one evaluates to verify large archives of this type — including the Snowden archive and the Brazil archive which I used to report a series of investigative exposés — left no doubt that it was genuine (that includes documented verification from third parties who were included in the email chains and who showed that the emails they had in their possession matched the ones in the archive word-for-word).” • Looks like Trump picked the wrong angle to work. Oh, and Greenwald invents the term “media employee,” presumably as a rectification of names for “reporter” and “journalist.” Woth reading in full.
“Now that Joe Biden’s president, the Times finally admits: Hunter’s laptop is real” [New York Post]. “Forgive the profanity, but you have got to be s–tting us. First, the New York Times decides more than a year later that Hunter Biden’s business woes are worthy of a story. Then, deep in the piece, in passing, it notes that Hunter’s laptop is legitimate.” • “They [family blogging] lie right to your face.” –Elmore Leonard, City Primeval.
“What We Know and Don’t About Hunter Biden and a Laptop” [The New York Times]. • Nobody can work the indefinite article like a media employee at the Times.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Central Ohio man among Americans volunteering to join Ukraine’s international legion” [The Columbus Dispatch]. “When Henry Hoeft found out on Feb. 26 that the Ukrainian government had formed a volunteer military unit for foreign fighters to join the war against Russia, the former infantryman in the U.S. Army applied right away. Hoeft, a 28-year-old Frazeysburg resident, is among the 16,000 foreigners who, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, have signed up for the newly established International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Despite safety risks and legal uncertainties, more than 3,000 U.S. citizens have reportedly applied, with hundreds already arriving in Ukraine. Submitting a passport copy and proof of military experience is all it takes for American citizens to join the newly established International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Hoeft turned in his materials to the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, D.C. and booked a flight to Poland the same day. Hoeft, who said he is half-Ukrainian on his father’s side, has previously identified himself as a member of the ‘Boogaloo Bois,’ which has been characterized as a far-right extremist group. Operating under the alias ‘Henry Locke,’ the man was among a team of Ohio Boogaloo members who were at a Black Lives Matter protest carrying AK-47s, AR-15s and extra magazines last year.” • C’mon, let’s be fair. A man never knows when he’ll need an extra magazine.
“Ukraine War Shifts the Agenda in Congress, Empowering the Center” [New York Times]. “The escalating crisis in Ukraine is upending policy and political thinking on both the left and the right on Capitol Hill, as an immediate threat to the global order and soaring energy prices empower the political center at the expense of the two parties’ flanks…. ‘It’s bringing Congress together in a way, frankly, I haven’t seen in my 12 years,’ Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware and a confidant of President Biden, said on Tuesday of the consensus to support Ukraine. ‘You’d have to go back to 9/11 to see such a unified commitment.’ That has meant a retreat by both parties from the policy proposals and political messages that most thrill their core supporters. On the left, Democrats are acquiescing to higher military spending and dropping a bid to pull back rapidly from fossil fuels. On the right, Trump-era isolationism and attacks on the trans-Atlantic alliance are being relegated to the fringe in Congress. Plans to make the president’s son Hunter Biden and Ukrainian corruption front and center in a Republican-controlled House now seem far-fetched.” • I guess the Times waited to assign the Hunter Biiden story until they thought it was safe. As far as policy and grand strategy, the last thing the country needs is a “unified commitment” on the order of 9/11.
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 down. 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.
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 MRWA is divided into two sections, North and South. Tuesday, South was rising, albeit slowly. Now the North is, too. The aggregate of the enormous Omicron spike conceals this.
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:
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:
bers aren’t jiggered.
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
A few orange spots. It’s curious how peripheral islands like Guam, the Northern Marianas, or the Virgin Islands keep having outbreaks. 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):
991,038. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.
Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US rose to 27.4 in March of 2022 from 16 in February and above market expectations of 15. It was the highest reading since last November. The survey’s indicators for general activity, shipments, and new orders all rose after declining last month. The employment index and both price indexes climbed higher and remain elevated. The survey’s future general activity, new orders, and shipments indexes moderated, but the surveyed firms remained generally optimistic about growth over the next six months.”
Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial Production in the United States increased 7.5% yoy in February of 2022, the biggest annual gain since June last year. Manufacturing jumped 7.4% and mining 17.3% while utilities output contracted 1.2%.”
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 15 thousand to 214 thousand in the week ended March 12th, the lowest in 10 weeks, from a revised 229 thousand in the previous period and compared with market expectations of 220 thousand.”
Manufacturing: “The right to repairable broadband befits a supposedly critical utility” [The Register]. ” A broadband network designed to favor uptime and repairability means that pretty much everyone should be able to fix almost anything that goes wrong – or can feel confident they can ask a more knowledgeable neighbor to have a look in.” But there’s a happy ending: “On day six of disconnection, a technician visited and reported that another repair person had replaced some equipment under the footpath in front of my home and then neglected to re-connect my line.”
Tech: “Coupling, drift, and the AI nobody noticed” [Jon Stokes]. “[T]his bot-vs.-bot thing isn’t just a black hat reality. It’s already here on the white hat side, where quite a few of the well-funded startups based on GPT-3 [a “shockingly good ‘language trainer’] are explicitly aimed at producing market copy and other types of content that performs. This means it performs on SEO and it performs in terms of virality (i.e., it can game social media curation algorithms). So what happens when these bots that are already talking to each other start training each other? What happens when they get good at manipulating each other — when they meld into a tightly coupled system, where each individual bot is just a sub-module in a larger, unified AI? The above is not a rhetorical question. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what it would look like or really even mean for humanity if we had sort of accidentally and without knowing it built a giant AI out of a loose federation of ML models that had started talking to each other and eventually found some kind of coupled, synchronous steady state. What would that system do to the unwitting humans that were embedded in it as actors? How might such an entity train us and manipulate us? How would we even know this was happening?” • Those are very good questions. Why don’t we just outlaw social media curation until we find out what’s going on? (The backlash against Twitter [family blogging] the chronological timeline must have been pretty insdent for them to back off. What is so hard about the concept that people want to hear from accounts they select, in reverse chronological order?)
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 23 Extreme Fear (previous close: 22 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 17 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 17 at 1:25pm.
“That Beauty Which Hath Terror In It: In Praise of Nature Writing” [Salvage]. “Somehow that flayed encounter with the raw matter of being [in The Maine Woods], and the ‘higher law’ to which it pointed in the multiracial creed of Transcendentalism, a non-parochial universalism, in which every atom of every being was touched with divinity, was political. As Laura Dassow Walls explains in her biography of Thoreau, ‘this insight proved absolutely transformative’. Slavery was ‘an abomination to be stopped at any cost’. The subjugation of women ‘must end’. Children ‘must never be punished as sinners nor trained as workers’. Three years after his failed expedition, Thoreau published On Civil Disobedience. Eight years later, in 1854, he wrote in a thundering rage upon learning that the escaped slave Anthony Burns had been returned to the slavers by the Boston authorities, and militant abolitionists arrested following an attempted liberation: ‘My thoughts are murder to the State, and involuntarily go plotting against her.’ In 1859, he delivered his Plea for Captain John Brown, in defiance of the overwhelming preponderance of white opinion: the ‘government menials’, he was particularly pleased to note when reflecting on Brown’s violent delivery of human beings from bondage, ‘were afraid of him’. In nature, Thoreau had found not an escape from entanglement with the social world, not an alternative to political radicalism, but the ‘confirmation of our hopes’. And: “Writing is a special form of dead labour which prolongs the life of perception, memory, experience, calculation and desire. It is, in the vocabulary of evolutionary biologists, ‘cumulative culture’, a force-multiplier. Civilization, from the dynastic states of Egypt and Mesopotamia, to the digitally written systems of late capitalism, is unimaginable without this social learning. Homo sapiens is an evolutionary ingenue. We have nothing on what Heathcote Williams described as the ‘fifty-million-year-old sagas of continuous whale mind’. Homo scribens, however, is the apex predator on the planet. The abstractive properties of writing allow the matter of the world to be transformed into ‘a carefully patrolled domain of phantom entities’, as David Wengrow puts it. Homo scribens is already complicit in the Anthropocene, the geological epoch of humanity in its capitalist phase. All social orders are written, from contract to constitution. The metabolic flow of a society depends on its being remembered and automated. No society, however, is as constituted by the violence of written abstractions as one dominated by the capitalist mode of production.” • As we see from “sanctions.”
“Ex top lawyer who bilked fintech company gets three years in prison” [Reuters]. “A former top lawyer for a California-based fintech company, who used its funds to pay for dog boarding and other personal expenses, has been sentenced to 37 months in prison, according to a new court filing. Brooke Solis was ordered by Judge James Donato in San Francisco federal court, to pay $500,000 in restitution to Good Money Inc., which was listed in the filing as victim of the wire fraud.” • Oh, man. “Good Money, Inc.”? Never eat at a place called Mom’s…..
News of the Wired
“How stronger hands lengthen your life” [Axios]. “The single most effective set of muscles you can work to extend your life is in your hands. This shocked us, too. But many health and fitness experts argue that since falling is the leading cause of injury-related death once we cross 65 years old, we should start strengthening our hands now. The threat is getting worse. Death by falling increased 30% from 2009 to 2018, according to CDC data. Stronger hands grip tighter to prevent falls — and brace stronger when you tumble. Grip strength is especially important for those older adults who use canes, walkers or handrails or need assistance getting out of chairs, says David Bellar, a kinesiologist at UNC Charlotte. It’s not just bracing yourself. Scientists have linked stronger hands to healthier hearts. One study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that higher grip strength was correlated to lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar and higher good cholesterol levels. The most effective way to improve your grip strength is a simple dead hang, which works like it sounds — hanging still from a bar with your feet off the ground. Start by holding as long as you can, then work your way up from there. Or try the farmer’s carry: Take a walk around your house or gym with two heavy objects in your hands. You can also work on your grip while sitting down with some easy exercises. Here are links to two tools to use at your desk to build stronger hands.”
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. Via ChiGal:
ChiGal writes: “Is it a sea horse or a medieval dragon insignia? not exactly flora or fauna but certainly of the natural world. The ice on the downspout melted and slid down the wire from the building, luckily not a power line!” Certainly has that when-the-heck-is-spring-coming feel to it!
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