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
“Biden used State of the Union speech to take ‘proud to be an American’ from GOP” [Kurt Bardella, USA Today]. “During President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, a chant led by congressional Democrats of “USA, USA, USA” broke out on the floor of the House of Representatives. Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, the moniker of patriotism has been tied to the Republican Party brand. When you see an American flag hanging on a porch, you think it’s a “Republican household.” When you see the flag flying on the back of a pickup, you assume it’s a Trump voter.’ For too long, Democrats have surrendered the notion of “proud to be an American” to the Republican Party, Biden took it back Tuesday night… The fact that Biden was able to outflank the GOP with such precision on wheelhouse issues like America first and the economy underscores how far gone the Republican Party is from its own orthodoxy. Biden’s speech was an effective blueprint that Democrats should immediately employ heading into the 2022 midterms.”
“5 takeaways from Biden’s State of the Union speech” [NBC]. “And in an apparent appeal to Manchin, who has called for prioritizing debt reduction, Biden said his proposals would “not only lower costs and give families a fair shot; it will lower the deficit.” He took aim at the Republican-led tax cuts enacted during the Trump administration, which Manchin has said he wants to roll back, saying it “ballooned the deficit with tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations.” • Let me know how that works out:
Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat responsible for blocking Biden's Build Back Better spending plan, spent the entire #SOTU speech seated with Republicans on their side of the chamber https://t.co/Dt7Xatt7Qd pic.twitter.com/3S7wygLjNS
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 2, 2022
The SOTU and Black Lives:
In his #SOTU, Biden pandered to the police state by saying he'd increase funding rather than defund the police.
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) March 2, 2022
Remember when liberal Democrats turned on a dime and said large gatherings like marches were OK* during Covid after George Floyd was murdered by cops? The very same party is now increasing funding for the police. This is a sign of the enormous institutional strength of the Democrat Party. NOTE * As it turned out, outdoor air, as in a march, is much, much safer than indoor air. But the science on that was by no means settled at the time.
Cop-loving liberal Democrats. You love to see it:
I just stood with every member of @HouseDemocrats as @POTUS talked about providing $350 million in police funding. EVERY. SINGLE. REPUBLICAN. STAYED. SEATED. They don’t back the blue. They betray the blue. #SOTU
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) March 2, 2022
“‘Ukraine is a country in Europe… Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine so basically that’s wrong’: Kamala explains Putin’s invasion in ‘layman’s terms’ and compares sanctions to parents punishing kids” [Daily Mail]. “[Harris] compared the strategy of deterrence to disciplining a bad child. ‘So you know if you’re a parent and you tell your children to do this the punishment is gonna be that right? And we hope that by doing that it will deter our children from doing the wrong thing, right? So that’s deterrence, so that’s where we started with the sanctions. And when Russia actually went in we are implementing the sanctions.'” • We’re doomed, aren’t we.
“Hunter Biden’s Ex-Partner Sentenced to Federal Prison for Fraud” [Jonathan Turley]. “Archer was convicted of defrauding the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in the handling of a $60 million bond offering. Hunter Biden was not implicated in those dealings…. One of the most extraordinary exchanges found in Hunter’s text messages reportedly dealt with Archer complaining that he was arrested by Biden “appointees.” According to press accounts, Hunter Biden responded by assuring him that he was covered and ‘family’: “Every great family is persecuted prosecuted in the US — you are part of a great family — not a side show not deserted by them even in your darkest moments. That’s the way Bidens are different and you are a Biden. It’s the price of power.” That exchange is highly concerning since Hunter knew that he was a potential target of a criminal investigation. He was talking to a potential witness who could be used against him and his family in any investigation of their alleged influence peddling and foreign dealings.”
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.
* * *
“Most Americans say the coronavirus is not yet under control and support restrictions to try to manage it, Post-ABC poll finds” [WaPo]. “Yet nearly 6 in 10 U.S. adults think it is more important to control the virus, with some restrictions in daily life, while 4 in 10 prefer no restrictions.” • So let ‘er rip!
The party of betrayal (1):
The question that needs to be asked is why in the past 40+ yrs Roe v Wade was never codified, then go from there. Same with voting rights. https://t.co/guHb9SW9H4
— AshleyStevens (@The_Acumen) March 1, 2022
Remember when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress under Obama? Good times.
The party of betrayal (2):
One of the most painful betrayals throughout this pandemic has been fellow liberal/progressive/leftist folks signaling through words and/or actions that they’re completely fine with leaving disabled folks in the dust instead of joining us in solidarity.
— Sarah Lerner (@SarahLerner) March 1, 2022
* * *
“What Went Down At Biden’s State Of The Union And Texas’s Primary Election” [FiveThirtyEight]. “Progressives have had a pretty good night in Texas. Casar, who is endorsed by the Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Our Revolution and Justice Dems, won his open primary in Texas’s 35th District. In Texas’s 30th District, Crockett, who is endorsed by Our Revolution, is leading in that open primary. And as noted throughout the night, Cisneros is leading in Texas’s 28th District in a close race against incumbent Cuellar that might go to a runoff. And in Texas’s 16th, incumbent Rep. Veronica Escobar, who is endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, beat back her lone challenger.”
“Trump calls the Russian invasion ‘a holocaust,’ urges Russia to stop fighting” [The Hill]. “‘Well, you have to work out a deal. They have to stop killing these people,’ Trump answered. ‘They’re killing all of these people, and they have to stop it, and they have to stop it now. But they don’t respect the United States and the United States is like, I don’t know, they’re not doing anything about it. This is a — this is a holocaust. This is a horrible thing that’s happening. You’re witnessing and you’re seeing it on television every night.”
“GETTR Had a Very Visible Presence at CPAC. Trump’s TRUTH Social? Not So Much.” [Mediaite]. “Former President Donald Trump was an inescapable presence at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held last week at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando, Florida. However, his newly-launched social media platform, TRUTH Social, was scarcer than a Bush family member at the MAGA-riffic confab…. Your friendly neighborhood Mediaite contributing editor wandered around the grounds of the Rosen Shingle Creek all four days of CPAC (my Apple Watch tracked all the miles I racked up every day), and found lots of representation for GETTR but not one single logo, promotional item, or event from TRUTH Social. GETTR was a high-level sponsor for CPAC this year, with their logo shown in the third tier (the “Partnering” Sponsors) in various signage and materials displayed around the conference (see photo below). Their logo was also on giant label overlays applied to one of the staircases in an atrium near the main ballroom, as shown in the image at the top of this article.”
“The Obama Line, Samantha Power, and U.S. Intervention in West Africa During the Ebola Epidemic” [MR Online]. “Obama cited the global response to the Ebola epidemic of 2014–16 as another sterling example of how the United States single-handedly “mobilized” the globe to combat the virus…. Former deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes hailed this U.S.-led ‘global response’ as well, while officials who worked for Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor who was tapped as a potential vice president for Biden in 2020, claimed they would follow her into hell after bearing witness to her bravura performance under pressure while handling the Ebola crisis. Peddling the Obama line proved very useful indeed, as a weapon to attack Trump’s gross mismanagement of COVID, to counter MAGA-style antiglobalization nationalism, and to further professional ambitions…. Yet, scholars have demonstrated that the U.S. response to Ebola was not the roaring success Power makes it out to be in her memoir. In fact, according to public health experts at John Hopkins, ‘the epidemic curve began decreasing before most global efforts were in place, limiting their impact on stopping the epidemic’s spread.’ Global health specialists also agree that no one precisely knows why Ebola petered out in late 2014, but it had little to do with U.S. involvement. There is simply no evidence to support Obama’s extraordinary claim that U.S. health workers and soldiers helped save ‘hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives’ in West Africa.” • So Ron Klain was “the Ebola Czar” in the same way that King Canute was “the Ocean Czar.” No wonder he left everything to Zeints and Walensky. What a farce.
Realignment and Legitimacy
Nazis are only bad if they’re not our Nazis:
— Ella Septima-Hamer (@jbrous41) February 28, 2022
Even a realist admits there are times when morality outweighs strategy; I think supporting Nazis is one such time.
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. A chart going back to January shows this clearly:
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:
Idaho back up again. Vermont? 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:
“Health update: Vermont’s COVID-19 outlook improves” [Vermont Public Radio]. “COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are declining in Vermont, and health officials say they expect the numbers to keep falling. , there are still questions about how to keep older Vermonters and those with compromised immune systems safe.” • Amazing how “the endemic phase” because conventional wisdom without, so far as I can tell, any scientific justification at all. Is it wishful thinking? Is it MBAs thinking their spreadsheets rule the world, instead of the other way round? It’s bizarre. Like so much else.
Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:
Continuing slow improvement.
“Old data? CDC apparently misjudged California’s COVID risks” [Cal Matters]. “Federal health officials who reported that nearly half of Californians live in ‘high-risk’ counties for COVID-19 were relying on old data, and only a small number of counties now fall into that category, according to local officials. At stake is whether counties considered high risk should keep indoor masking requirements under new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or follow the state’s lead in removing nearly all mask requirements. Kamlesh Kaur, a spokesperson for the Stanislaus County Department of Public Health, said the county was surprised to be designated high risk by the CDC. The most recent COVID-19 case rate for Stanislaus County is about 13 times lower than what the CDC reported on Friday, she said. The CDC’s estimates appear to be outdated by more than a month.” • The fax machine must have jammed.
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Sea of green once more, including the Northern Marianas. 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):
975,150. An uptick. But it looks like we won’t break a million for Biden’s SOTU. I was hoping for a ribbon cutting ceremony of some kind. Maybe the West Wing staff could have staged a photo op with funny hats and noisemakers. Walensky’s staff could have joined in by Zoom. Ah well, nevertheless.
“United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the United States hired 475 thousand workers in February of 2022, beating market expectations of a 388 thousand rise as the labor market recovery gathers steam. The service-providing sector added 417 thousand jobs, led by leisure & hospitality (170 thousand), trade, transportation & utilities (98 thousand), professional & business (72 thousand), and education & health (40 thousand). The goods-producing sector added 57 thousand jobs, boosted by rises in manufacturing (30 thousand) and construction (26 thousand).”
Shipping: “World’s largest container lines suspend shipping to Russia” [Reuters]. “The world’s three biggest container lines on Tuesday temporarily suspended cargo shipments to and from Russia in response to Western sanctions on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine, in a further blow to trade with the country…. Swiss-headquartered MSC, the world’s biggest container shipping company by capacity, said in a customer advisory that as of March 1 it had introduced ‘a temporary stoppage on all cargo bookings to/from Russia, covering all access areas including Baltics, Black Sea and Far East Russia.’ ‘MSC will continue to accept and screen bookings for delivery of essential goods such as food, medical equipment and humanitarian goods,’ it said. Denmark’s Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), which is the second biggest carrier after MSC, said separately it would temporarily halt all container shipping to and from Russia, also adding that the suspension covering all Russian ports, would not include foodstuffs, medical and humanitarian supplies.”
The Bezzle: “Defi and Shadow Banking 2.0” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “Allen argues that defi repeats the sins of the original shadow banking system, and then makes them worse. Defi, after all, is the latest iteration of fintech, and as Riley Quinn is at pains to remind us, “fintech” is a euphemism for ‘unregulated bank.’ As with the shadow banking system, the point of defi is to offer traditional financial instruments outside of the traditional regulatory framework. As with the shadow banking system, defi’s instruments are complex. As with the shadow banking system, defi enables leverage, compensates for it with rigidity, and is thus vulnerable to bank runs. Defi’s pitch is that you don’t have to trust a regulated bank to play fair (which is compelling, as regulated banks are awfully sleazy). But defi replaces regulated banks with something even riskier: “new intermediaries who are often unidentified and unregulated.'” • Worth reading carefully and in full. Mentions this paper–
The Bezzle: “DeFi: Shadow Banking 2.0?” (PDF) [Hilary J. Allen, William and Mary Law Review]. From the Abstract: ” there is still time to prevent DeFi from becoming Shadow Banking 2.0. This Essay argues for precautionary regulation of DeFi, designed to limit its growth and to cordon off whatever remains from the established financial system and real-world economy. While proponents of DeFi will contend that this will limit innovation, this Essay argues that DeFi innovation has limited benefits for society. DeFi doesn’t aspire to provide new financial products and services – it simply aspires to provide existing financial products and services in a decentralized way (meaning, without intermediaries). This Essay will demonstrate that the DeFi ecosystem is in fact full of intermediaries and explain why full disintermediation of financial services is an entirely unrealistic aspiration. This Essay will then proceed from that finding to argue that if DeFi cannot deliver on decentralization, regulators should feel emboldened to clamp down on DeFi in order to protect the stability of our financial system and broader economy.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 22 Extreme Fear (previous close: 18 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 27 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 2 at 1:38pm. Looks like Putin still has Mr. Market’s attention.
Our Famously Free Press
“The Pandemic Interpreter” [Sam Adler-Bell, New York Magazine]. “What Leonhardt didn’t seem to accept in any of our conversations is the idea that his work is an enormously consequential input into the equation of what is politically possible — not merely a disinterested assessment of our political horizons. ‘He’s contributing to a reality that’s based on political small-mindedness, a sort of austerity thinking,’ said Gonsalves of Yale, ‘an idea that there’s no such thing as doing better in America. It’s really corrosive.’ Yong, the Atlantic writer, put it this way, “I was writing as early as spring of 2020 that this is, in many ways, an opportunity to take stock of societal problems that have been allowed to go unaddressed for too long.” The pandemic was an X-ray of the dysfunction and rot in our social order. Things like the child tax credit, universal health care, investments in schools and hospitals, and alleviating poverty: These are all highly effective pandemic preparedness and mitigation policies. ‘And I think the risk has always been in pushing back toward that normal, we lose that chance to fashion a better normal,’ Yong said. After all, getting back to normal isn’t going to be sufficient to fight the next pandemic because ‘normal led to this.'”
The Agony Column
“Coronavirus Today: To mask or not to mask” [Los Angeles Times]. “My colleague Deborah Netburn introduced me to the concept of ‘mask fishing.’ It’s . If teenagers think this applies to them — that their mask is doing them a favor by covering up their braces and acne — they’re likely to keep wearing them. ‘A lot of our friends suffer from that,’ Netburn’s eighth-grade son told her. She dug a little deeper and discovered that the phenomenon had been documented in scientific literature. It’s not clear why our brains prefer the masked version of faces; one theory is that masks cause our brains to fill in a person’s unseen features with noses, mouths, chins and jaws that are more idealized than is usually the case.”
None of these people are masked, and they’re all smiling:
We’re on the way to the Capitol for @POTUS’ first State of the Union address. After a historic year of investments to help our nation build back better, I look forward to hearing his vision for the year ahead. I am forever grateful to be a part of the Biden-Harris administration. pic.twitter.com/yeYCxpupYO
— Secretary Deb Haaland (@SecDebHaaland) March 2, 2022
Giving credence to my theory that since smiling is a tool of deception, psychos disproportionately oppose masks.
Good for Canada:
Breaking: Monumental win by gig workers in Canada, entitling them to full and equal rights. pic.twitter.com/MuIywYF7in
— Luis Feliz Leon (@Lfelizleon) February 28, 2022
“On His Way to Theoretically Colonize Mars, Elon Musk Is Actually Colonizing South Texas” [Jacobin]. “Musk began looking for a site to base his space travel project in 2011, somewhere near the equator and a large body of water. Sites in Florida and Georgia were reported as potential options. But in 2012, it was reported that a parcel of land near Boca Chica Beach, some twenty miles east of Brownsville on the Gulf Coast, was a leading candidate for the facility. That was enough for the Texas Legislature to spring into action, passing a $15 million incentive package and a bill to allow the temporary closure of state beaches during rocket launches to try to lure Musk. Cameron County kicked in a ten-year property tax abatement…. From the beginning, it was clear that Musk thought little of the people and the culture he was joining. In 2018, Musk paid tribute to Brownsville’s rich history thusly: ‘We’ve got a lot of land with nobody around, and so if [a rocket] blows up, it’s cool.'” • Can’t Musk take all the squillionaires with him? That might make Brownsville’s sacrifice worth it.
Again, why just Russian billionaires?
Amid sluggish economic growth, a handful of Kremlin elites have made fantastic sums of money largely kept offshore. The U.S. is about to launch an international “hunt” to confiscate billions stored abroad aimed at hitting Putin’s closest allies pic.twitter.com/41mN0iq0lM
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 2, 2022
News of the Wired
More on CDC’s “Community Levels”:
If the CDC thinks we should make the "to-mask or not-to-mask" decision based on hospital capacity, I'm wondering if I should make my "to-seatbelt or not-to-seatbelt" decision based on ICU capacity. pic.twitter.com/rjs2NxFfVS
— Loretta Torrago (@Loretta_Torrago) February 26, 2022
“New Study Disavows Marshmallow Test’s Predictive Powers” [UCLA Andersen Review]. “For some 30 years, parents and scientists have turned to the marshmallow test to glean clues about kids’ futures. The experiment gained popularity after its creator, psychologist Walter Mischel, started publishing follow-up studies of the Stanford Bing Nursery School preschoolers he tested between 1967 and 1973. You can have this treat now, he famously told each 4 and 5-year-old, or have two when I get back to the room. The kids who couldn’t hold out long generally grew through their teens, 20s and 30s quicker to frustrate, weaker in academic and social skills, and with more drug use, mental health and weight issues — all that, according to well-publicized studies in the decades since…. But the latest Bing follow-up study, by a team of researchers that included Mischel, casts doubt that a preschooler’s response to a marshmallow test can predict anything at all about her future. Following the Bing children into their 40s, the new study finds that kids who quickly gave in to the marshmallow temptation are generally no more or less financially secure, educated or physically healthy than their more patient peers. The amount of time the child waited to eat the treat failed to forecast roughly a dozen adult outcomes the researchers tested, including net worth, social standing, high interest-rate debt, diet and exercise habits, smoking, procrastination tendencies and preventative dental care, according to the study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. ‘With the marshmallow waiting times, we found no statistically meaningful relationships with any of the outcomes that we studied,’ UCLA Anderson’s Daniel Benjamin, who brings expertise to the study that includes behavioral economics and statistical methodology, says in an interview.” • Hmm.
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: “I’m always surprised and how many flowers bloom in the winter. Here’s some Daffodils that live at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.”
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!