By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
This reminds me of trying to go to sleep in the country, and you realize the country isn’t quiet at 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
“Fossil coleoid cephalopod from the Mississippian Bear Gulch Lagerstätte sheds light on early vampyropod evolution” [Nature (PS)]. “We describe an exceptionally well-preserved vampyropod, Syllipsimopodi bideni gen. et sp. nov., from the Carboniferous (Mississippian) Bear Gulch Lagerstätte of Montana, USA. The specimen possesses a gladius and ten robust arms bearing biserial rows of suckers; it is the only known vampyropod to retain the ancestral ten-arm condition…. The species name is to celebrate the recently inaugurated (at the time of submission) 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden.” • The Elder Gods will be pleased.
“100,000 student borrowers eligible for debt cancellation: DOE” [The Hill]. • 100,000. Boy, that’s really something.
“Biden just put out an executive order on cryptocurrencies — here’s everything that’s in it” [CNBC]. “The Biden administration is calling on the Treasury to assess and develop policy recommendations on crypto. It also wants regulators to ‘ensure sufficient oversight and safeguard against any systemic financial risks posed by digital assets.’ … Part of the language in the White House announcement focuses on giving the U.S. a competitive edge over other countries when it comes to crypto development. This is especially significant now that China has effectively banned cryptocurrencies. Biden has tasked the Department of Commerce with ‘establishing a framework to drive U.S. competitiveness and leadership in, and leveraging of digital asset technologies.'”
“Americans Care About The Invasion Of Ukraine — But That Doesn’t Mean They Will Rally Around Biden” [FiveThirtyEight]. “According to multiple studies, one thing that can make Americans care more about foreign affairs is heavy media coverage of a given issue. And the media is heavily covering the war in Ukraine right now. According to closed-captioning data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive, from Feb. 22-28, the three major cable-news networks (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) mentioned Ukraine in an average of 2,478 15-second clips per day.1 On Feb. 24, the day after Russia started its invasion,2 Ukraine was mentioned in a whopping 3,095 clips. To put this in perspective, during January, the word “COVID” was mentioned in an average of only 482 clips per day.” • If the media tried to shape the news, instead of just reporting it, we’d be in real trouble.
* * *
…8,9,10: With nukes there is no resolution. Putin may use them in Ukraine if he can't prevail otherwise and we won't risk triggering an ICBM attack, etc. Statehood replaces that nightmare with universal real economic benefits. And it's wildly attractive to Russians.
— Warren B. Mosler #MMT (@wbmosler) March 9, 2022
Never happen, of course; but if a solution like this is what it would take…. We’re in worse trouble than I thought.
Because of course:
Numerous policitians bought energy plays BEFORE their run ups, and general discussions on banning Russian oil.
Many are on committees privy to private information, including Defense and Energy.
Many had not purchased energy plays before.
— unusual_whales (@unusual_whales) March 8, 2022
When hating the gays is OK:
— Howie Klein (@downwithtyranny) March 9, 2022
I will never, never understand how liberal Democrats can deploy this trope. It’s hardly, well, gender-affirming. Liberal Democrats are principle-fluid, I suppose, even with the “In This House….” signs on every lawn. Any stick to beat a dog!
Apparently, you are not to know about the 2014 coup in Ukraine:
— Richard Medhurst (@richimedhurst) March 9, 2022
Ukraine. Across its eastern border is Russia and to its west-Europe. For centuries, it has been at the center of a tug-of-war between powers seeking to control its rich lands and access to the Black Sea. 2014’s Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it? “Ukraine on Fire” by Igor Lopatonok provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which lead to the 2004 Orange Revolution, 2014 uprisings, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected Yanukovych. Covered by Western media as a people’s revolution, it was in fact a coup d’état scripted and staged by nationalist groups and the U.S. State Department. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reveals how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have emerged since the 80s replacing the CIA in promoting America’s geopolitical agenda abroad.
Seems legit. Why on earth would the platforms want to censor this?
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.
* * *
Take one for the team:
Larry Summers – who presided over the demolition and plundering of Russia's economy in the 1990's and pushed policies that led to the US financial crash – says Americans need to suffer higher gas & food prices and inflation "as the price of fighting tyranny" pic.twitter.com/Ougrhidil9
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) March 7, 2022
Lawrence Summers, currently advising the Biden campaign, at Jeffrey Epstein's residence in 2011, 3 years after Epstein was convicted of raping children. pic.twitter.com/KfkcColmFl
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) April 23, 2020
“Lawmakers agree on $100 million to help nurses, cops, firefighters, teachers buy homes” [Miami Herald]. “State lawmakers are looking to divert $100 million in affordable housing money to help like nurses, police officers and teachers pay closing costs and down payments on new homes. Under a plan agreed to by House and Senate budget negotiators, the money would come out of $209 million assigned to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, known as SHIP. That program goes to cities and counties to establish affordable housing policies, including funding low-income homeowners’ emergency repairs, down payments and closing cost assistance, as well as construction and acquisition of property for affordable housing. Under the Legislature’s plan, nearly half of that money would go to a new “hometown heroes” program established by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. Who would be considered a ‘hometown hero,’ and how the program would work, has not been decided. A proposed Senate bill this session would create a similar ‘hometown heroes’ program for police, firefighters, 911 operators, teachers, paramedics, healthcare workers and home-health aides. Under the bill, eligible participants would have to be first-time home buyers whose family income does not exceed 150% of the state or local median income, whichever is greater.” • “Hometown heroes” is excellent; I bet this would play well nationally, which is why I filed it here.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Søren Kierkegaard and Hubert Dreyfus on the Social Networks” [The Mirror and the Lamp]. “Back in 1997, UC Berkeley philosopher Hubert L. Dreyfus offered a diagnosis of the World Wide Web that, in retrospect, predicted with virtually 100 percent accuracy our socially networked democracy’s current predicament. Remarkably, he did this by applying to the Web as it was then an analysis of ‘the Press’ and ‘the Public’ worked out by Søren Kierkegaard in 1846. (See Kierkegaard’s The Present Age.)… Kierkegaard, Bert began, was skeptical of what political philosophers and theorists of democracy call the public sphere. The public ‘took an interest in everything but were not committed to anything. [Kierkegaard] attributed this growing cultivation of curiosity and the consequent failure to distinguish the important from the trivial to the Press. Its new massive distribution of desituated information, he held, was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing an anonymous, detached spectator.’ Bert was struck by how Kierkegaard’s worries about the Press applied to the Web, but more importantly he saw how the Web would exacerbate the most troubling features of the Press. ‘[T]he essential feature of this freedom to have an opinion on everything is that people do not take responsibility for their opinion. The Press speaks for the Public but no one stands behind the views the public holds.’…. Bert saw, with Kierkegaard’s help, that the Web would encourage the formation of advocacy organizations composed of amateurs at best and crackpots at worst…. The problems of the kind of ‘press’ and ‘public sphere’ created by social media, Bert suggested, are different from what people like Tocqueville feared, such as the tyranny of the majority. It isn’t only that dissenting views are drowned out or forced to conform to the majority – although of course that happens too. It’s that all views are equally legitimate and illegitimate, neither one nor the other, and are deemed worth talking about merely because someone is talking about them. I would add that Kierkegaard/Dreyfus’s analysis also shows the inadequcy of J.S. Mill’s view that the marketplace of ideas is self-correcting.” • Hmm.
“LGBTQ Activists Host Gender-Inclusive Sex-Ed Summer Camp for Elementary Schoolers” [National Review]. “LGBTQ activists in Indianapolis, Ind. are hosting a sexual-education summer camp for elementary schoolers. The four-day program is open to third-through-fifth-graders and costs $250 per child. A web page advertising the event states that enrolled children will participate in ‘affirming, non-binary, body-positive, social emotional learning through play’ with an ‘inclusive sexuality educator.’ After the event attracted negative social media attention Monday, the Eventbrite page was taken down.” • It’s the rare third-grader that will be able to pay the $250 freight for sex camp, so as far as I can tell, the project reinforces “parental rights,” if anything. “It’s a free country.” That said, the whole enterprise, and it is an enterprise, gives me the creeps. If a third-grader can make sense of Sappho, Oedipus Rex, Romeo and Juliet — or, heck, MacBeth — or Wuthering Heights, then they’re ready for sex camp. And the jargon makes me feel like my head is being pushed through a bucket of mush. That said, maybe I’m just an old codger and all the third-graders have cellphones, in which case they probably all have porn collections, which aren’t teaching them the best lessons about sex either. Musical interlude [NSFW] (lyrics):
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.
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?
Here is BA.2 from CDC is the regional proportions variant tracker, done with “specimens collected,” not the NowCast model, for whatever reason:
CDC Region 1: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont. Note these are relative proportions, not absolute numbers. The MWRA wastewater data tells you the absolute numbers are still small, at least compared to Biden’s ginormous Omicron wave.
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.)
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):
Sea of green still. 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):
985,914. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci line.
Employment Situation: “United States Job Openings” [Trading Economics]. “The number of job openings in the United States was 11.263 million in January of 2022, down slightly from a revised record 11.448 million in December. Still, figures came above market expectations of 10.9 million, suggesting worker shortages persist. Job openings decreased in several industries, with the largest declines in accommodation and food services (-288,000); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-132,000); and federal government (-60,000). Job openings increased in other services (+136,000) and in durable goods manufacturing (+85,000).”
The Bezzle: Would knowledgeable readers care to assess this speculation?
I have a feeling that the topic of under capitalized clearinghouses is going to be much more important in the weeks and months ahead. https://t.co/Md8jgkC5Nr
— Twain's Mustache (@TwainsMustache) March 9, 2022
The Bezzle: “The Newest Crypto Side-Hustle: ‘Discord Grinding’” [Decrypt]. “The crypto industry is in a hiring frenzy with companies dangling six- and seven-figure salaries to attract top blockchain talent. But the boom has also extended to the lower strata of the labor market, where people are engaging in a new form of social media engagement known as ‘Discord grinding’ for as little as $5 an hour. Discord grinding takes its name from the popular platform of the same name, which is beloved by students and gamers, but which has also become an essential tool for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations aka DAOs—loosely organized communities that come together to build or support crypto projects and often finance their activities with tokens. DAO communities on Discord are composed of volunteers and builders who are passionate about a given project—but in recent months, they have also become places for ‘grinders’ to make a quick buck by hyping something they may not know or care about. A recent investigation by Decrypt uncovered a thriving trade on the work-for-hire platform Fiverr, where people offer to work as Discord grinders. On Fiverr, would-be Discord grinders post messages like, ‘I will staff, mod and be your crypto, gaming or NFT discord moderator or manager,’ and ‘I will interactively chat on your discord server and NFT chat.'” • Ah, “passionate.” Such a bullshit tell.
The Bezzle: “Cryptoverse: The young HODLers keeping bitcoin on an even keel” [Reuters]. “Young retail investors betting on bitcoin as a long-term proposition rather than for quick gains are swelling the ranks of these true believers, whose name emerged years ago from a trader misspelling ‘hold’ on an online forum. This trend could help stabilise the notoriously volatile crypto market and potentially provide a long-term floor, according to some market watchers who point to the fact bitcoin is up about 5% versus before the Russian invasion. A study by multi-asset retail investment platform eToro, which says it has millions of users, found that those aged 18 to 34 were far more likely to invest in crypto than anyone else, with 66% of that age bracket owning bitcoin and other digital currencies. That’s up from 46% last July. Perhaps more tellingly, more than a third of those invested in crypto said they believed in its long-term value as ‘a transformative asset class.'” •
Concentration: “Vertically Challenged” [Cory Doctorow, Locus Magazine]. “If Facebook is Facebook because Mark Zuckerberg is a once-in-a-millennium genius who did what no other could, then our best hope is to somehow gentle the Zuck, bring him into public service, like a caged ET that government scientists either bribe or torment into working on behalf of the human race. That’s the constitutional monarchy model, the model where we continue to acknowledge the divine right of kings, but bind them to the material plane by draping the king in golden chains of office whose ends are held by an aristocracy that keeps the monarch from getting too frisky. But if Facebook is Facebook because Zuck got lucky, if he just combined cheap capital with regulatory tolerance for buying out the competition and building a legally impregnable walled garden around his users, then we don’t need Zuck or Facebook. There’s plenty more where he came from, and all we need to do is withdraw the privileges that regulatory forbearance granted him. That’s the republic model, where we get rid of the king and govern ourselves.” • Worth reading in full. I am skeptical that the Biden Administration won’t, at some future point, yank Lina Khan’s choke-chain and cut a deal with the platforms, but for now they’re letting her do good work.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 16 Extreme Fear (previous close: 12 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 24 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 9 at 1:28pm.
I didn’t have Chagall filed in the Surrealism bucket:
— Marc Chagall (@artistchagall) March 9, 2022
Our Famously Free Press
The Crimes of David Leonhardt:
Besides which, *maybe* the brain shrinkage only lasts for months, not years? Until long-term brain damage is proven with 100% certainty, I think the only safe course of action is to throw all caution to the wind and allow mass infection of the population. pic.twitter.com/FrmNXREOsZ
— Ryan Hisner (@LongDesertTrain) March 8, 2022
So if the brain shrinks 5% after each infection, and “living with Covid” means a life-time of infection, is 95% * 95% * 95% * 95% a cause for… panic? Probably not if you throw in a couple three more infections, but before that? If that’s happening, of course. It might not be.
“The Benefits of Gaming As a Couple—or Even With Your Kid” [Wired]. “For many couples, gaming together is the new quality time together. However, it doesn’t come without challenges. Finding time and accommodating different tastes is part of the process. When I game alone I prefer to cozy up with a handheld and tune out the world. On the other hand, I enjoy playing open-world games in the company of my other half. If you went on a big trip to a whole new location you would want company, right? Someone to take the photos, check on the supplies, and give you the courage to jump out of that top floor window, despite the braying hordes of enemies flanking you at every turn. My partner and I discuss plot points, consider strategy, and admire the often beautifully depicted in-game vistas. We chip in and help each other when gameplay gets tough and keep each other on track. So if we collaborate so well in games, can it improve our relationships? Recently, we started playing It Takes Two together—an adrenaline-fueled multiplatformer game that has a couple on the brink of divorce at the heart of the story. The couple are transformed into tiny clay dolls by a flamboyant magic book and they work together to become human again, while navigating their now gargantuan home.” • Interesting….
“Launching New York’s premier cannabis industry publication” [Syracuse.com (Bob)]. • I wonder if marijuana will displace grapes in Upstate New York.
News of the Wired
A thread on small gardens:
Since people are saying that you can’t grow significant amount of food in a very small space I might as will drag this back up https://t.co/xfNv75I5qf
— BUILD SOIL; Plant Chestnuts! (@BuildSoil) February 22, 2022
There’s still time to plan!
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 (Angie Neer):
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