By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Readers, thank you so much for making the 2022 Water Cooler mini-fundraiser a resounding success! Amazingly, on the final day you blew through the 350 target I set — which I thought was a stretch goal — with 447 contributions, with the big surge coming on the second day. Your contributions really take the edge off, and I am very, very grateful. –lambert P.S. This is not a pitch! We’re done now!
Bird Song of the Day
Again at reader Lena’s suggestion, this is California Quail week at Naked Capitalism. Can this possibly be what they sound like?!
“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
“Large parts of the Jan. 6 ‘gap’ have already been filled” [Philip Bump, WaPo]. • What fascinates me is that Trump recorded not one but two videos asking the Capitol rioters to stand down, the second of which “acknowledged that there would be a transfer of power to Joe Biden on Jan. 20.” So do the “gaps” matter all that much? I mean, recording those videos seems a strange strategy for seizing power in a coup. Why not ask the rioters to occupy the Capitol?
“Jan. 6 panel wonders: Is Trump criminal referral necessary?” [Politico]. “Should the Jan. 6 committee ask the Justice Department to pursue a criminal case against Donald Trump? It’s a question with political heft but no practical effect — and some panel members are increasingly skeptical. After all, as multiple lawmakers on the select committee noted in recent interviews, the Justice Department is aware of the volume of evidence pointing to violations of the law by Trump. That evidence got underscored emphatically last week, when a federal judge ruled the former president ‘more likely than not’ committed felonies to try to overturn the 2020 election.” • Passing the buck to Merrick Garland….
“Senate strikes $10B Covid deal” [Politico]. “Senate negotiators struck a deal on $10 billion in Covid aid on Monday, according to four people familiar with the agreement, setting the chamber on a potential course to clear the bill this week. The compromise would reprogram billions in unused money from other coronavirus bills to deliver funding for therapeutics, testing and vaccine distribution. However, it does not include global pandemic aid sought by Democrats and a handful of Republicans, the people said, which could become a sticking point when the package comes before the House.”
“Student loans: Democrats push to ease ‘unnecessary high bar’ for debt relief in bankruptcy” [Yahoo News]. “As prominent Democrats call on the president to extend the payment pause and cancel student loan debt, a group of lawmakers sent a separate request to two agencies for an update on how the federal government is working to make debt relief more for bankrupt student debtors. Unlike other forms of debt [thanks to Joe Biden], federal student loans are not easily erased when a debtor undergoes bankruptcy proceedings. Debtors need to prove that they would suffer from ‘undue hardship’ due to the loans, a standard that’s been very difficult to meet.”
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.
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I have been neglecting my Bourdieu lately, I would like to think because it’s hard to type in. But perhaps there are other reasons, as we shall see. In any case, I am now up to page 67 of Forms of Capital:
I propose to start today with a brief preamble on the meaning of “understanding” for sociology [first by] quoting a statement by Wittgenstein….”
What makes a subject difficult to understand — if it is significant, important — is not that some special instruction about abstruse things is necessary to understand it. Rather it is the contract between the understanding of the subject and what most people want to see. Becaise of this the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not the difficulty of the intellect but of the will.
This very clear text expresses extremely well what I often say about sociology: practicing sociology would not be so difficult if the will to understand were not so fraught:
(Keynes seems to have described something akin to this phenomena as well: “The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.”) Here is an example of “the social object” in action, if I understand Bordieu’s concepts correctly (which I might not):
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 4, 2022
How did such a disaster for democracy in America come to happen? And on a mass scale? Examples could be multiplied (WMFs; Ukraine). I can’t give an account of this. (“Sheeple” is essentialist, not social.) Is my problem lack of will?
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“Cuomo Sues Ethics Panel to Block It From Seizing Book Profits” [New York Times]. “The suit is the latest example of the visible and aggressive stance that Mr. Cuomo, who resigned as governor in August, has adopted since his return to public life in recent months. Mr. Cuomo’s resignation came after a report by the attorney general, Letitia James, found he had sexually harassed multiple women, including some who worked for him. Mr. Cuomo has denied any harassment. After several months in seclusion, Mr. Cuomo has re-emerged lately. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads to promote his accomplishments as governor, spoken at two churches and started to shift from talking about his personal issues to broader political themes. Where he once expressed contrition and said he had been ‘too familiar with people,’ he now blames ‘cancel culture’ for forcing his resignation.” • Since Cuomo wasn’t even slapped on the wrist for slaughtering thousands of elders in nursing homes, we have to assume that’s OK with the political class. Encouraged, even.
“DCCC Celebrates Gains In Diverse Hiring And Contracting” [HuffPo]. “Using a system of self-identification, the DCCC found that 43% of its staff members are people of color, 53% are women, 25% are members of the LGBTQ community, 1% identify as a gender other than man or woman, and 13% are people with a disability. Among what the DCCC considers senior staff, 47% of people identify as people of color, and 26% identify as members of the LGBTQ community. In addition, the DCCC’s spending on firms owned or run by people of color has increased dramatically. The DCCC says it spent $695,000 on contracts with vendors owned by people of color during the 2014 election cycle, the first election cycle when it tracked such data.” • A diverse staff certainly worked wonders for the Sanders campaign in 2020. Although, to be fair, I’d far rather have the next Manchin represent [insert favored identity here] and not [insert disfavored identity here]. I mean, look at the dividends diversity paid with Sinema! ($695,000 is pocket change. So far as I know, the billion-dollar budgets are still controlled by the same six consulting firms that brought us 2016, diverse or no.)
“Hillary Clinton: Hand wringing is part of the Democratic DNA” [The Hill]. “NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ host Chuck Todd asked Clinton if she saw any similarities between the state of the Democratic Party now and how it was in early 90’s, noting that the party was grappling with what Democrats stood for ahead of the midterm elections in which they risk losing control over the House and Senate. Clinton answered that ‘hand wringing is part of the Democratic DNA. That seems to be in style whether we’re in or out of power.’ ‘We’re in power and there still is hand wringing going on. From my perspective, President Biden is doing a very good job,’ she added.” • The kiss of death? Probably not….
“Why Biden’s jobs boom isn’t translating” [Politico]. “There is a remarkable disconnect among the American public involving the reality of the jobs market and the perception of it. A little-noticed survey by Navigator Research last month showed that 37 percent of the public thought that more jobs had been lost (yes, lost) over the last year while just 28 percent thought that they had been gained. That was particularly pronounced among Republicans, 47 percent of whom believed jobs had been lost over the last 12 months. Needless to say, that’s wildly inaccurate: The unemployment rate was 6.4 percent when JOE BIDEN took office. That these basic facts aren’t translating to the public says a lot about how news is disseminated and consumed. It’s also an illustration about how difficult it’s been for the White House to communicate its successes in light of the setbacks that have come along too…. An official with the National Republican Congressional Committee told me this week that of the 30 unique digital ad campaigns that the group has run this cycle, ‘probably 28 of them’ dealt with cost increases for goods and services; an astounding 93 percent. ‘Nothing I’ve seen in my decade of working in politics has been as salient as the inflation message with voters,’ said Michael McAdams, the NRCC’s communications director. ‘When Republicans are talking about people encountering rising prices every minute of every day versus Democrats talking about bridges that might be built in three years, it’s like an NFL team going against a peewee football team.'”
“Conor Lamb, Malcolm Kenyatta split on fracking, electability at U.S. Senate Democratic debate without John Fetterman” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]. “Mr. Fetterman’s campaign said he will participate in debates on April 21 and April 25 and one in early May.” • Hmm. Kenyatta looks like a spoiler to me. Readers?
“Pete Buttigieg Is Living His Best Life” [New York Magazine]. “In a year of woe and confusion for Biden — the war in Ukraine seems to be boosting a president who has been bogged down with Donald Trump–like approval ratings for many months — it has been Buttigieg who is out front and unruffled, the public face of a trillion-dollar infrastructure package that might be the president’s defining domestic-legacy item. At a time when other members of the Cabinet are struggling to escape the administration’s travails, Buttigieg has proved himself to be both a dogged defender of the president and an irrepressibly buoyant figure with a following all his own, as likely to appear in People magazine with his husband, Chasten, and the twins as on Meet the Press. Right time, right place for Buttigieg, who will always be known, to a certain crowd, as Mayor Pete.” • We’re already seeing beat sweeteners for Buttigieg. I fear for the Republic.
Realignment and Legitimacy
We're sorry to hear such sad news of the passing of a loving craftivist.
🧶♥️🧶RIP Lori Jackson🧶♥️🧶
So many will wear your art proudly and continue the #UniversalHealthcare fight! https://t.co/pObOtqFGZa
— Whole Washington 🍎 (@WholeWashington) April 2, 2022
If you missed it, here last week’s post on my queasiiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have. More bad data:
— Joe Friday (@justthefacts85) April 2, 2022
With a pathogen that multiplies geometrically, yes, slow data is bad data.
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– such as it is — 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. Perhaps this says more about my temperament than it does about the data, but occasionally I watch Japanese tsusami videos. The first signs, at least in the videos I’ve watched, are not roaring sounds or giant waves, but strange ripples in the water, boats rocking when they should not, and so on. And so, for those inclined to pick up on creepy little signals, we seem to be getting rather a lot of them, even leaving Europe out of the equation.
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 MRWA is divided into two sections, North and South. Both are distinctly up. This chart aggregates them. The aggregate of the enormous Omicron spike conceals change, but change there is.
This little blip is especially uncomfortable, since it corresponds to Massachusetts’ sudden emergence onto both the Rapid Riser and the Hospitalization maps. (Note that Rhode Island, adjacent to the Southern MRWA catchment, and a college state to book, has just seen its hospitalization go vertical. Maybe I can devote a little time this week to seeing how Biobot’s county maps (incomplete though they are) match up to Rapid Riser counties.
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:
Every so often I think of doing away with this chart, and then there’s another flare-up. I remember using the metaphor of flying coals in a forest fire — many land, but sputter out; a few catch, and the first spreads. What I notice about this round of flare-up is that the “coals” are the size of multiple counties, not, as previously, single ones. FWIW! (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. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:
Continuing slow improvement as the map shifts from mostly red to mostly yellow (assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered).
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Again, I don’t like the sudden effloresence of yellow and orange. I don’t care that the baseline is low. 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):
1,007,320. We did it. Break out the Victory Gin. An unfortunate upward blip. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.
Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “Factory orders in the US declined by 0.5% month-over-month to $542 billion in February of 2022, the first decline since April last year as supply constraints and shortages of materials continue to weigh while consumer demand has been shifting from goods to services. Figures came in line with market forecasts.”
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The Bezzle: “After a $625 million hack, the party must go on” [CNN]. Why? More: “There was the branded swag, the free drinks and the mingling. But something was amiss at the Axie Infinity meet-up at Pattern Bar in Downtown LA. Earlier in the day, Axie Infinity, the play-to-earn crypto game in which players collect digital pets known as “Axies,” had announced that the Ronin Network, the crypto network that helps power the game, was the victim of a hack of $625 million — a monumental amount, even in the era of mega crypto heists. The Ronin Network was developed by Axie Infinity publisher Sky Mavis. Even worse, March 29, the day of the hack’s announcement, was supposed to be a banner day for the popular crypto company. When asked if they were concerned about their investments, many of the the assembled Axie crowd were zen about their holdings. ‘I’m an optimist,’ said Chris, who declined to give his last name, with a shrug. ‘I think they’re going to recover,’ said Vince Zolezzi, who told me that a quarter of his portfolio is in the Ronin network. ;I think they’re going to find a way to get it back or if there’s insurance on it. I’m not personally worried about it. It’s going to be ok. … I have faith. They’ve gotten where they have for a reason.'” • They have, but it’s not the reason you think.
The Bezzle: “The great NFT sell-off: has the digital collectibles craze hit its peak?” [Financial Times]. From March, still germane. “Digital items known as non-fungible tokens burst into mainstream culture last year, as several animal collections including Bored Ape Yacht Club, Cool Cats and Pudgy Penguins spiked in price, aided by celebrity endorsements and social media hype. By the end of 2021, nearly $41bn had been spent on NFTs — making the market almost as valuable as the global art market. But almost as rapidly, large portions of the market have begun to deteriorate, leaving novice investors with big losses and raising questions about the long term outlook for NFTs. The average selling price of an NFT has dropped more than 48 per cent since a November peak to around $2,500 over the past two weeks, according to data from the website NonFungible. Daily trading volumes on OpenSea, the biggest marketplace for NFTs, have plummeted 80 per cent to roughly $50mn in March, just a month after they reached a record peak of $248mn in February.” • That’s a damn shame.
Tech: “Elon Musk buys 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the largest shareholder” [CNN]. “‘Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,’ Musk tweeted last month. ‘What should be done?’ Any time an investor buys 5% or more of a company’s shares, they must disclose the purchase in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although a stake of less than 10% in a company is considered ‘passive’ in the eyes of Wall Street, it could signal an effort by Musk to take a more active role in how Twitter is run. That is one of the factors prompting other investors to buy shares and drive up the price early Monday. ‘I think he intends to go active and force change at Twitter,’ said Dan Ives, tech analyst as Wedbush Securities. ‘This is a shot across the bow at Twitter’s board and management team to start discussions.'”
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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 51 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 4 at 1:19pm.
Rapture Index: Closes down one on Oil Supply/Price. “Oil prices are down.” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)
If only we had Presidents like Nixon these days:
Berra said, "You'll break that bat. Turn it around so you can see the letters."
Aaron replied, "Didn't come here to read." https://t.co/pjUkhkWrty
— Richard M. Nixon (@dick_nixon) April 3, 2022
“The Most Underrated and Spontaneous of the Police, According to Stewart Copeland” [New York Magazine]. Copeland: “The hi-hat is the upper level of the rhythm. There’s two layers of rhythm: One is the 16th-notes, or the fast notes, which you’ll normally hear on the cymbals or hi-hat. The other half of the rhythm is the backbeat and kick relationship, or the downbeat and the backbeat. The snare and the kick drum interact to create the meat of the rhythm. But the upper level, the hi-hat and the cymbals doing those 16th-notes — the faster patterns — are the connective tissue for the meat and potatoes of kick snare. It’s the interaction of those elements that make a rhythm what it is. The hi-hat contributes to the upper level. It’s a particularly useful instrument because it’s two cymbals pressed together, and how tightly they’re pressed together is controlled by your left foot. If you release your foot a little bit, it opens it up completely. So your left foot is controlling the texture of that upper-level rhythm with a high degree of expression. There’s a whole kind of vocabulary that you can put into that upper level of the rhythms.” • Not a big Police fan, but still an interesting interview. Hi-hat fans rejoice!
I would not have thought this was Monet, and I don’t think this is Leicester Square:
— Claude Monet (@artistmonet) April 1, 2022
I’m so old I remember “bending the curve”:
First: “COVID is a collective responsibility. Bend the curve. We’re all in this together!
Then: “Okay actually that’s a drag, so time to move on. COVID is over! Everybody clap!”
Now: “COVID – steps YOU can take to protect YOUR family. It’s YOUR responsibility now! Good luck!” pic.twitter.com/WSPRkJxXrv
— Will Stancil (@whstancil) April 3, 2022
In retrospect, “bend the curve” was indeed framed as a collective responsbility, but the benefits went to hospitals. (Not to trash all the medical workers, nurses, doctors, and everyone else. They’re trapped in a vile system like everyone else.) As soon as the hospitals were in the clear — that is to say, the PMC in those institutions were in the clear — collective responsibility was out the window, along with non-pharmaceutical interventions generally.
“Meet Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer, the DIY Duo Behind the Amazon Labor Union’s Guerrilla Bid to Make History” [The City]. Written before the Union victory: “Tall and slender, with a short cropped beard, Smalls is eerily calm about the union vote that runs through Wednesday at the JFK8 fulfillment center. ‘I’ve been dealing with this machine for so many years, almost seven years now,’ he said. ‘If you’re stressed out and on edge, you’re gonna make the wrong decisions. So you just gotta keep the cool, calm and collected route,’ he said in an interview earlier this month. Smalls, who lives in Newark, cuts an unlikely figure for a union boss. His black ALU stamped face mask slipped as he talked with THE CITY earlier this month, revealing a set of gold grills. He’s got tattoos on his neck — ‘Daniel,’ his middle name, is on one side, and a music scale with some notes on the other. He’s lost count of how many tattoos he has, but it’s “quite a few, my kids’ names and stuff now. It’s a lot different now. Now I have a reason to get them.’ … When he first emerged as a leader of the 2020 COVID safety protests, Amazon management attempted to use his street-casual demeanor as a way to discredit him. In a leaked memo of a meeting, Amazon executives, including CEO Jeff Bezos, said Smalls was ‘not smart, or articulate,’ and sought to create a media narrative around Smalls to make him ‘the face of the entire union/organizing movement.’ The memo sparked something in Smalls, who in reality is soft spoken and meticulous about his words. ‘Ironically, he said to make me the face of the whole unionizing effort, so I said, ‘OK, that’s a good idea.’: • Ha! Seven years! Commentary:
"The union spent $120,000 overall, raised through GoFundMe, according to Mr. Smalls “We started this with nothing, with two tables, two chairs and a tent,” Amazon spent more than $4.3 million just on anti-union consultants nationwide last year…
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) April 3, 2022
$120,000? That wouldn’t cover the typical NGO’s coffee budget….
News of the Wired
I gotta get more wired…
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SK: “Here’s the first flowers of ornamental quince, SF Bay Area.”
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