By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Patient readers, an initial rethink of the Covid section took much more time than I thought, so I will again break my rule and do some updates in the Politics section. –lambert
Bird Song of the Day
Grassland Sparrow. Distrito Federal, Brazil. Very atmospheric. And if you are sparrow fans, please leave suggestions in comments!
“Sparrow ID Guides from Macaulay Library and Bird Academy” [The Cornell Lab of Ornithology]. Free downloads. “Sparrows are a challenge to birders of all skill levels because they’re often skulky and hard to see. At first they seem like dull brown birds, but when you get a good look, they show beautiful and intricate patterns on their feathers. Because many species are hard to see, they are sought after by avid listers and those who appreciate the beauty of birds. Whether you’re at home or out in the field, these helpful four-sheet sparrow reference guides have full-color photos of eastern, central, western and widespread sparrows.”
“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
“Jan. 6 committee will not make any criminal referrals, chairman says” [NBC (ChrisRUEcon)]. Others, however, disagree. “The chair of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot said Monday night that the panel will not make any criminal referrals, even though its leaders have previously hinted at the possibility of doing so. ‘Our job is to look at the facts and circumstances around January 6 — what caused it — and make recommendations after that,’ Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters as he left the House chamber after the second day of public hearings by the panel. When pressed on the matter and whether the committee had ruled out the possibility of referring criminal charges, particularly for former President Donald Trump, Thompson replied: ‘We don’t have authority.'” Thanks, Nancy! “But the committee’s vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., suggested later on Monday that a decision was not yet final. ‘The committee has not issued a conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals. We will announce a decision on that at an appropriate time,’ she said in a statement on Twitter. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., tweeted in a separate statement, that the committee ‘has yet to vote,’ on recommending criminal referrals.” • If the committee puts together a theory of case in which Trump broke the law, then — “rule of law!!!!”, “our democracy!!!!” — of course there should be a criminal referral, wtf. Anything else would give the unfortunate impression that all the Democrats were doing was re-impeaching Trump over the same set of events, just two years later.
“Pelosi’s Court: How the Jan. 6 Committee Undermined its Own Legitimacy” [Jonathan Turley, The Hill]. “There is considerable evidence that Trump’s people planned for a certification challenge, but that was always anticipated….. Indeed, if opposing views were allowed [come on], then Republicans likely would call for the testimony of committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who voted to challenge the certification of the 2004 results of President George W. Bush’s reelection; committee member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) sought to challenge Trump’s certification in 2016. Both did so under the very law that Trump’s congressional supporters used in 2020. And Pelosi and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) praised the challenge organized by then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2004. The difference, of course, is that while there were violent protests in 2016 in Washington, there was not a riot that breached the Capitol.”
“White House Plans Saudi Arabia Trip But Says It’s Not About Oil” [Bloomberg]. • Not The Onion. After the headline writer wrote that, they probably had to leave for the day.
* * *
UPDATE “Young Voters, Who Helped Biden to Victory, Are a Big Weak Spot in the Democratic Coalition” [Morning Consult]. “America’s youngest voters accounted for the biggest turnout increase of any age group between the past two presidential elections, helping deliver full control of Washington to President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats. But with just under five months until the midterm elections, it’s this group of voters who present a major challenge for the Democratic Party’s fraught efforts to hold onto Congress this year: Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking shows Biden’s decline is especially grim among 18- to 34-year-olds. The Democrats among them are less likely than their older peers to see him as prioritizing the country’s biggest problems or holding true to his campaign promises, threatening to stunt base enthusiasm ahead of the consequential campaign season.” • If I were 18, that $600 Biden owes me would have made a real difference.
UPDATE ME: “Maine Prosecutor Election Unfolds Under the Shadow of State’s War on Drugs” [Bolts]. “The boundaries of prosecutorial reform have shifted recently as some DAs have drawn a starker line against low-level drugs prosecutions. In Maine, many advocates are no longer satisfied with making the criminal legal system less severe. They want prosecutors to entirely butt out of substance use, and have pushed the state to shift resources toward social services and treatment programs that operate outside of the criminal legal system….. Maine seemed to be on its way to an overhaul last June when the House passed LD 967, a bill that would have made drug possession a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. But the bill was eventually downed by the opposition of the Maine Prosecutors’ Association and the likely veto of Democratic Governor Janet Mills, a former prosecutor.”
UPDATE OR: “After Bitter Loss, Ousted Centrist Democrat Goes After Party That Backed Him” [HuffPo]. “Schrader also revealed in the interview that there is a “significant chance” he will endorse independent centrist Betsy Johnson’s gubernatorial campaign, rather than backing Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, the former speaker of the state’s House of Representatives.” • It’s certainly odd how party loyalty only seems to run one way.
PA: “John Fetterman’s new campaign manager is Philly-based Biden alum Brendan McPhillips” [Philadelphia Inquirer (Michael Ismoe)]. “Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has hired a Philadelphia-based veteran of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign to lead his U.S. Senate run in the general election. Brendan McPhillips, a Democratic strategist who ran Biden’s campaign in Pennsylvania, will become Fetterman’s campaign manager, the campaign said Monday. McPhillips ran Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic presidential campaign in Iowa and has known Fetterman since 2015.” • First reaction: Yech! After consideration, here’s McPhillips’s bio:
McPhillips began a career in politics immediately after graduating college. His experience working on national campaigns includes Pennsylvania political director for the 2016 Clinton campaign and regional field director for the 2012 Obama campaign. McPhillips has also worked on gubernatorial and Congressional campaigns, including Andrew Gillum’s (D) 2018 primary campaign in Florida, John Fetterman’s (D) 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, and Kevin Strouse’s (D) U.S. House campaign.
Same reaction. That said, Fetterman won the primary (and his all-important brand) by visiting every Pennsylvania county, no matter how red. That was the cornerstone of his appeal. All he really had to do was keep pointing out that Oz was really from New Jersey. So why tamper with success? One reason is that hiring McPhillips makes it slighltly less likely that the Democrats will knife him. I’d speculate, however, that his stroke debilitated him more than we know (and there are the dreaded lifestyle changes, too).. Fetterman’s primary ground war must have been physically gruelling: Lots of travel, lots of bad food… and lots of danger of Covid. Fetterman’s got the cash for a less gruelling air war, and it takes a pro to organize such a thing. We’ll see if I’m right when Fetterman gets back on the trail, however gingerly.
“Liz Cheney for President?” [Robert Reich]. “In her courage and integrity, Cheney — although conservative — reminds me of Senator Paul Wellstone, one of the most progressive politicians I’ve ever known. They also have in common a love of democracy.” • AAAAAUGGHGH!!!! Help me!!!!!!! My eyes!!!!!!!!!
UPDATE “Biden’s age would be ‘major issue’ if he runs again, Axelrod says” [The Hill]. “Former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod warned that President Biden’s age could be a ‘major issue’ in the 2024 presidential election. ‘The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue,’ Axelrod told The New York Times of 79-year-old Biden. ‘ and , and this has fed a narrative about competence that isn’t rooted in reality,’ he added.” • Ouch. Obama’s faction throws Biden under the bus?
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.
* * *
UPDATE “A new Latino media group is buying up — and shaking up — Spanish-language radio” [WLRN (Miami)]. “Univision is selling many of its Spanish-language radio stations — including Miami’s ultraconservative Radio Mambí — to a group led by Democrats. Creating a beachhead in a broadcast market often dominated by conservative or right-wing programming, a new and Latino-owned, bipartisan but Democrat-led media group will announce Friday it’s purchasing 18 major Spanish-language radio stations owned by the TelevisaUnivision network — including Miami’s Radio Mambí… WLRN has learned that the Latino Media Network, or LMN — headed by Stephanie Valencia, a Latino outreach director for former President Barack Obama, and Democratic activist Jess Morales Rocketto — has signed a ‘definitive agreement’ to buy the stations for $60 million. The media startup has launched after raising an initial $80 million. The AM and FM stations are located in 10 of the country’s largest Latino markets, including Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Houston and Las Vegas. LMN says it has secured financing from “leading Latino investors” as well as Lakestar Finance, an investment group associated with businessman-philanthropist George Soros…. The sales must still meet Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval before LMN can fully operate the stations. That process could last well into 2023.” • Well, this is the Democrat answer to losing the Latin vote: A platform for better messaging. Now, I’m not gonna shed tears if any irredentist Cuban radio stations disappear from the airwaves. But can’t Soros stick to screwing up Eastern Europe?
UPDATE Obama Legacy
“My Remarks at the 2022 Copenhagen Democracy Summit” [Barack Obama]. Obama starting to fit in very well with the globalists, one sees, with his foundation and all (“young leaders”). Here’s the opening paragraph:
Thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you, Sahra-Josephine, for that introduction, and the work that you are doing. And I want to thank my old friend, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, for hosting me and our Obama Foundation leaders here today. It is wonderful to see all of you and I’m confident that there have been discussions that have been taking place since this conference began.
(Reminds me of something….)
I should really put on my yellow waders for this one, but this paragraph caught my eye;
I believe a genuine democracy must be rooted in the core principle that all persons, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical capacity, economic status — all persons have an inviolable dignity and worth, and that and deserve equal treatment in the eyes of the law. That to me is a core principle of democracy.
Funny, I could have sworn democracy was about “the people” (not “persons”) governing themselves. “Of the people, by the people, for the people,” as the old saw has it.
Realignment and Legitimacy
UPDATE “We Failed to Protect Abortion Rights. We Need a Labor-Based Strategy” [Jacobin]. “The US right has challenged [Roe v. Wade] for years in the streets and in the courts, state by state. The story of the end of Roe is the story of the most organized, militant, and successful conservative social movement of the past fifty years. In the end, the Democratic Party didn’t stop them. Neither did the reproductive rights and the social justice nonprofits that so many depend on for health care and legal support. Am I angry with the Right? Oh, yes…. But this outcome was entirely expected. As a result, I am now angrier with the abortion rights movement — from leftists to liberal Democrats. Now that Roe is almost dead, I’d like to be clear about why. Seventy percent of the US population supports abortion rights. The fact that we have lost these rights to a minority coalition should prompt self-criticism. It is our responsibility to put together a majority coalition that can safeguard basic reproductive rights. It is our responsibility to frame the issue in a way that challenges culture war narratives with a universalist program that advocates for those rights. We didn’t.”
UPDATE “Elephant In The Zoom” [The Intercept]. The deck: “Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” This article is a horror story about the internal workings of NGOs, and well worth a read, especially if you like horror stories. But I think the article sums up the issue with NGOs in one sentence: “The reliance of so many organizations on foundation funding rather than member donations is central to the upheavals the groups have seen in recent years, one group leader said, because the groups aren’t accountable to the public for failing to accomplish anything, as long as the foundation flows continue.” As I’ve often said: Euthanize the NGOs.
UPDATE “The scandal embroiling Washington’s most venerable think tank, explained” [Vox]. “The scandal surrounding Allen’s resignation reveals how foreign and corporate interests have a bigger role in policy-idea production than we tend to realize, and how relatively little scrutiny the capital’s think tanks receive despite their outsize influence in policymaking.” And: “One central question is whether this scandal will prompt any broader reckoning with the way policy ideas are generated in the nation’s capital. • BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!
Lambert here: I am but a humble tape-watcher, and I’m perplexed about the current state of play. Case data is showing the fiddling-and-diddling behavior characteristic of a peak; on the other hand, the South (home of Abbot and DeSantis) is rising. Further, nothing I hear in anecdotal case data tells me there’s any relief. Hospitalization data (trailing) is easing (and so the hospital-centric public health establishment probably thinks Covid is done). Positivity data (leading) has been fiddling and diddling as it too does at peaks (latest, down). Then again, waste-water data (leading) is up everywhere but the Northeast. The wild card is variants BA.4/5 (and I thought we were supposed to be giving names to these things). All the variant sources I have say BA.4/5 are up, but they differ as to how much and where, and the data is two weeks behind (hat tip, CDC; who could have known we’d need to track variant data?). I am reminded of the “stairstep” (see the Case count chart below: I muttered about this at the time) that marked the Delta/Omicron transition, just before Omicron’s amazing take-off. Perhaps a BA.4/5 transition will exhibit the same behavior. OTOH, I could be projecting patterns into clouds. The future lies ahead!
• ”UK at start of new Covid wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5, new data suggests” [MSN]. “If you thought Covid-19 was dead and gone, think again. Early signs indicate that the UK may be at the start of a new wave of Covid infections driven by BA.4 and BA.5… According to preliminary data by Kei Sato at the University of Tokyo and colleagues, BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 may have evolved to re-favour infection of lung cells, rather than upper respiratory tract tissue – making them more similar to earlier variants, such as Alpha or Delta. The propensity of earlier Omicron variants to prefer infecting non-lung tissue may be one reason why infections tend to be milder in most people.” The article concludes: “With luck, BA.4 and BA.5 will present just a minor blip in the UK’s transition out of the Covid crisis. But their emergence is a reminder that smooth sailing is by no means guaranteed.” • ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Facemasks are no longer required in our hospitals, with a few exceptions (see the link below).
They will still be available for those who would prefer to wear one.
— Cambridge University Hospitals NHS (@CUH_NHS) June 13, 2022
• Brain damage considered not severe by CDC:
CDC straight-out says "there are no reports of severe disease" after Paxlovid rebound.
— Michael Lin, MD PhD 🧬 (@michaelzlin) June 14, 2022
• “Xavier Becerra isolating in Sacramento after testing positive for COVID-19 during LA summit” [Sacramentoo Bee]. “U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive Monday for COVID-19 in Sacramento, the secretary’s second infection in a month…. ‘He is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and is experiencing symptoms,’ [Health and Human Services spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim] wrote. ‘He will continue to perform his duties as HHS Secretary, working in isolation.'” • First I’ve heard from Becerra in months; I was wondering if he was OK. Apparently not. Oh, and we know what “mild” means. Then there’s this:
Becerra was just in LA for the Summit of the Americas. Canadian PM @JustinTrudeau also just tested positive for COVID-19 after coming home fro the summit
— Ariel Cohen (@ArielCohen37) June 13, 2022
Makes you wonder if the Summit of the Americas was one of those superspreader events PMCs like so much. Superspreader events like these–
• “The irony — and ignominy — of medical conferences as superspreader events” [STAT]. “During the second week in May, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM), a large medical organization, held its annual meeting in person in New Orleans… Organizers of the conference reported expecting more than 3,000 attendees, one of the largest events the society had ever hosted, and social media images from conference events showed large, closely packed indoor crowds in close contact and without masks on…. With cases and hospitalizations rising in many parts of the country, including New Orleans, and a community vaccination rate of around 50% for the host city, attending a large, multi-day, indoor meeting with after-hours socializing in the community posed numerous safety risks. In fact, a computing conference held in New Orleans the prior week was under scrutiny as a high transmission event. Yet the SAEM’s Covid policy was not modified to reflect contemporaneous public health data. Nor did the organizers implement a vaccine verification system, require boosters, or incorporate a Covid-19 testing strategy. . The three of us did not attend the conference in person, and are grateful for making that decision. The week after the conference, news of Covid-19 cases began circulating among our colleagues. Some shared stories of becoming ill, others described how they were pulled in to cover the shifts of others who were struck by Covid. To come up with a back-of-the-envelope estimate, we reached out informally to 15 emergency medicine programs across the country to see how many of their attending physicians, fellows, residents, and research staff attended the conference and how many cases were thought to have resulted from the conference. . While there are many caveats to the data (it’s a nonrandom, convenience sample, the data are self-reported estimates), they suggest that .” • Don’t worry. All the cases are mild. (STAT has to do a “back of the envelope” calcuation because the United States is not a serious country, and there’s no such thing as contact tracing.)
If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness 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.
Case count by United States regions:
Level, more or less. Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 107,700. Today, it’s 100,800, and 100,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 604,800. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes had a basis in reality. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises.
Here are cases for the last four weeks:
And in the South:
(US Census region: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.)
(Miami-Dade County, population 2.706 million; Palm Beach County, population 1.482 million.)
Down 1.9%. This tracker fiddles and diddles at peaks, but also not at peaks. (I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to and check on the goons at CDC.)
NOT UPDATED MWRA wastewater data:
Both South and North down. NOTE: I think I’m going to kill this one off (for now). With variants, I have too many charts.
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.
Cases lag wastewater data.
Wastewater data from Biobot Analytics:
Variant data, regional (Biobot), May 25:
Variant data, national (Walgreens), May 28:
Variant data, national (CDC), May 28. Without their stupid model:
You will note that the variant data differs by source. Moreover, the data is two weeks old. Not good!
From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:
Status quo; South a little improved.
The previous release:
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. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Use the community transmission immediately below.
West Coast, and Midwest are all red. Seeing some orange (“substantial”) on the East Coast. Great Plains speckled with yellow and blue. Go Vermont!
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Death rate (Our World in Data):
1,035,847. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.
Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data. NOTE I think I’m going to kill this one off. With variants, I have too many charts.
Weird labor market datapoint of the week: ADP says employers are getting wordier in their job descriptions, possibly to convey to recruits how excellent it is to work there. pic.twitter.com/Y5FwMcLbJv
— Lydia DePillis (@lydiadepillis) June 13, 2022
Inflation: “United States Producer Price Inflation MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Producer prices in the US increased 0.8% mom in May of 2022, following a 0.4% rise in April and matching forecasts. Prices of goods went up 1.4% with the biggest jump reported for gasoline (8.4%) followed by jet fuel, residential natural gas, steel mill products, diesel fuel, and processed young chickens.”
Zeitgeist Watch: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States edged down to 93.1 in May of 2022, the lowest since April of 2020, and compared to 93.2 in April. The share of owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months hit a record low.”
Zeitgeist Watch: “United States IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index in the US fell to 38.1 in June of 2022 from 41.2 in the previous month, the lowest since August 2011…. Meanwhile, household financial stress hit the highest level since April 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, as gas prices hit new records fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the inflation rate hit a new 40-year-high 8.6%.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 18 Extreme Fear (previous close: 28 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 29 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 13 at 1:20 PM EDT.
Rapture Index: Closes up one on Interest Rates. “Rates are being pushed up by higher inflation” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)
Groves of Academe
“Professors Need the Power to Fire Diversity Bureaucrats” [The Atlantic]. • Why stop there?
Quite the rhythm section these guys have (hat tip wukchumni):
“‘She was the real pioneer.’ Marisol and Andy Warhol share the pop art limelight at PAMM” [Miami Herald]. “She was a sculptor, soft spoken and glamorous. Her work was featured in New York City’s best galleries. Magazines called her mysterious. Andy Warhol called her a friend. And though she played a key role the pop art movement of the ‘60s, her contributions were largely forgotten. Her name was Marisol, and she’s getting her due at the Pérez Art Museum Miami…. The goal of the show is to ‘place Marisol back into the pop art origin story of New York,; said Maritza Lacayo, assistant curator at PAMM.” • Example:
Police State Watch
“Texas Police Want Uvalde Bodycam Footage Suppressed Because It Could Expose Law Enforcement ‘Weakness’” [Vice]. • Why, it’s almost as if they have something to hide. Are we sure the gunman shot all the children?
News of the Wired
Location in Google; I don’t think this is human-made:
Ḥa'il Province, Saudi Arabia (28.4°N 41.6°E), 26 May 2022 pic.twitter.com/xJetOOPHBb
— Sentinel 2 Bot (@Sentinel2Bot) June 14, 2022
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