By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Patient readers, I’m going to go through and beef this up a little. Covid coverage plus 1/6 plus is clogging my filters, and so I’m chugging along a bit more slowly than usual. –lambert UPDATE All done!
Bird Song of the Day
River Warbler, Slovakia.
“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
“Judge delays Proud Boys’ Capitol attack trial because of Jan. 6 hearings” [NBC]. “U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said at a hearing Wednesday that he would “reluctantly” move the trial back after several defendants sought the delay because of the publicity surrounding the Jan. 6 committee’s work. The Justice Department agreed with the delay request and indicated in a filing that the trial set for August should be delayed until December.” • Recall that Robert O. Paxton points to “a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants” as one of the symptoms of fascism’s metastasis. The only factor remotely comparable during the Capitol Seizure is the Proud Boys (even if their leader was also a “prolific” FBI informant, paging the Czar’s Okhrana). And so we’re postponing their trial, thanks to the Democrats, good job.
UPDATE “I-Team sources: FBI seizes Nevada GOP chairman’s phone as part of fake elector investigation” [8 News]. “FBI agents served a search warrant Wednesday on Nevada’s top GOP official, sources told the 8 News Now I-Team’s George Knapp. Agents seized the cell phone of state Republican chairman Michael McDonald, reportedly as part of an investigation into the fake elector scheme initiated at the end of the 2020 presidential election.”
UPDATE “Biden’s blues: is the US president out of political capital?” [Financial Times]. “‘The rest of the world is looking to us,’ Biden continued. ‘There really is [a question of] ‘What happens if the US goes back to a Trumpian government?’ It is a gigantic, gigantic setback.’ The warning was intended to mobilise donor support for Democrats up and down the ballot ahead of the midterms, when significant defeats are expected, including the probable loss of control of the House of Representatives and a possible move to minority status in the Senate. But it also reflected a more disturbing reality for the 79-year-old president: in the space of just 17 months, he has already burnt a lot of the political capital he had when he walked into the Oval Office in January last year…. [Biden] is now caught between his critics on the left, who believe he has failed to deliver on a promise of transformational economic and social change, and moderates within the party, who insist he has paid too much deference to progressives on both policy goals and personnel choices. Meanwhile, his key economic achievement of delivering a rapid recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic with a quick return to very low unemployment has been eclipsed by rising inflation. Consumer prices rose in May at an annual rate of 8.6 per cent, a 40-year high.”
UPDATE “State, USAID refuse to cooperate on Afghanistan audits, watchdog says” [Politico]. “State Department and USAID officials are refusing to provide information to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction needed for multiple audits related to the fall of the Afghan government and the ensuing months of Taliban rule, the watchdog wrote in a June 22 letter to the secretary of State and USAID administrator. State and USAID have in some cases ignored SIGAR’s communications, declined to make officials available for interviews, and refused to permit the watchdog to travel internationally to conduct on-the-ground research, director John Sopko wrote in the letter, which POLITICO obtained.”
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“Blue and Red Do Have Something in Common. They’ve Both Been Ripped Off, Repeatedly” [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “This is a constant in financial predation stories that’s virtually always ignored in the popular press, which insists on portraying blue and red America as separate worlds, whose citizens have nothing in common. That’s not just a lie, it’s really the core lie at the heart of our partisan political system. It’s why the notion of “economic anxiety” as even a partial factor behind Trump’s rise was so violently suppressed by press wizards in 2016, and why such extraordinary effort was put behind a propaganda campaign to wipe out the ‘Russian asset’ Sanders. Even Biden was scolded on MSNBC by Stephanie Ruhle when he tried once to suggest a ‘Scranton vs. Park Avenue’ campaign theme. ‘Why is he going with this divide-and-conquer approach?’ Ruhle cried. ‘What about a message for all Americans?” Unity, and ‘all Americans,’ suddenly assumes enormous importance among professional division merchants once anyone starts talking not about red and blue, Trumpers and Dems, but few-versus-many. . Sooner or later, the public will figure it out, and come running toward Washington all at once, pitchforks drawn. All the Bidens of the world can hope for is that that day comes later. As the “Putin price hikes” idiocy shows, they’re running out of ways to stall the inevitable.” • There’s a lot in this post about the Fed and the 2008 crash, which I don’t feel confident enough to vet. Perhaps readers will take a look.
“The Surprise Issue Driving GOP Campaigns” [National Review]. “The pre-2016 notion that Republicans could not win the Hispanic vote while espousing a hard-line immigration stance was proven wrong in 2020, when Donald Trump significantly increased his share of the Hispanic vote in Florida and Texas despite losing the election…. All of these developments are a clear signal that a Republican Party that staunchly opposes illegal immigration is a party that can still attract the Hispanic vote, and more.”
The Lincoln Project weighs in:
19% of Republicans believe Trump committed a ‘crime’.
Trumps endorsement is no longer determinative in GOP primaries.
DeSantis is starting to outperform Trump in state polls.
Indictments are coming.
Presumably, so is a sustained communications drill to keep the focus on J6
— Mike Madrid (@madrid_mike) June 22, 2022
PA: “Oz drops Trump branding in general election shift” [Axios]. “Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, is quietly shifting his campaign messaging away from former President Trump as he transitions into what’s likely to be one of the most hotly contested Senate elections of the midterms. Oz’s transition for the general election highlights the tightrope many Trump-endorsed candidates have attempted to walk — embrace the former president where it counts, while keeping him at arm’s length in situations where his brand is toxic. That was the strategy employed by Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, during his successful campaign last year.” • Possibly Fetterman will be more adept than McAuliffe?
PA: “PA Senate race: Fetterman’s lead shrinks in latest AARP poll” [The Hill]. “Democratic Pennsylvania candidate John Fetterman leads his Republican counterpart Mehmet Oz in the race for the soon-to-be-open United States Senate seat by six points in a recently published AARP Poll. With six percent of likely voters still undecided, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Fetterman received 50% of support and Oz received 44%. The six-point lead reveals an even tighter race between the two in comparison to a recently published USA Today poll, which had Fetterman leading by nine points…. Fetterman’s wife Gisele, who has been campaigning on her husband’s behalf, says he may not return to in-person campaigning until July….. The margin of errors were 4.4 points for the representative sample, 3.3 points for the total sample of 828 older voters and 4.7 points for the total sample of Black older voters.” • Handy charts:
Not only does the AARP shell out the cash to get two of the top pollsters in the country to collab (Fabrizio was Trump's main pollster, Impact was Biden's) but they do hefty oversamples too, so their crosstabs are extra robust: https://t.co/UIiDPiyt4j pic.twitter.com/DwZFUVhYbX
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) June 22, 2022
WI: “Battleground Wisconsin is full of tight races, new poll shows” [NBC]. Confirming Wisconsin’s status as American’s marquee battleground state, a new Marquette Law School poll finds highly competitive contests across the board in the state in 2022 — from primaries for governor and U.S. Senate, to November’s general-election races.”
UPDATE “Eric Adams Admits Owning the Brooklyn Real Estate He Claimed to Have Sold” [The City]. “As a candidate last year, Mayor Eric Adams denied that he co-owned a Brooklyn co-op with a close friend — claiming that he’d gifted his shares to her more than a decade ago. He did not disclose the existence of the one-bedroom apartment on Prospect Place, or his 50% share in it, in financial disclosure forms filed as Brooklyn Borough President from at least 2016 through 2020. But last fall, the day before the general election, Adams changed his story completely — amending his disclosure forms for all those years to admit he continued to hold half the shares in the co-op he owned with a ‘good friend,’ Sylvia Cowan, a review of records by THE CITY shows. He did not publicly disclose the change at the time. The change in Adams’ narrative emerged Wednesday as the city Conflicts of Interest Board released financial disclosure forms for city elected officials covering the year 2021.” • Whoops. But where else are liberal Democrats gonna find a Black cop with million-watt smile?
UPDATE “Do Americans have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump?” [FiveThirtyEight]. • 2020: 60/40 Favorable/Unfavorable. Today: 54/42.
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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UPDATE “Andrew Gillum, Former Florida Gubernatorial Candidate, Is Indicted on Fraud Charges” [Wall Street Journal]. “The 21-count indictment unsealed Wednesday doesn’t involve the 2020 incident or any drug allegations, but instead relates to Mr. Gillum’s financial dealings with a political consultant, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, 53, mostly before the 2018 vote. The two illegally solicited and obtained funds from various people and entities ‘through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose,’ according to a news release by the Justice Department…. The indictment describes a scheme in which the two defendants secured contributions from donors that were supposedly for purposes such as Mr. Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign. The defendants used third parties to divert a portion of the funds to a company owned by Ms. Lettman-Hicks, according to the indictment. She then fraudulently provided the funds, which were disguised as payroll payments, to Mr. Gillum for his personal use, the indictment said.” • Fetterman’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, worked on the 2018 campaign.
“A top progressive firm signed Rick Caruso as a client. Its staff revolted.” [Politico]. “One of the country’s leading progressive digital firms has been embroiled for months in internal staff turmoil over the work it’s done on behalf of Los Angeles mayoral contender Rick Caruso. At least two employees at the firm, Aisle 518 Strategies, have left, in part because of its association with the billionaire real estate developer who has bankrolled Republicans and backed anti-abortion politicians before deciding to run as a Democrat in the mayoral primary this year. Those former employees, who spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity, said only a handful of those currently on the firm’s roughly 20-person staff are willing to work on the Caruso campaign account. ‘, and for the CEO to take on a client that very much clearly goes against that goal is kind of like a slap in the face to all of the work that we do and to all of our other clients,’ said one of the employees who left.'” • The employees are working for a firm, but what they want, but don’t know they want, is to be working for a principled, disciplined party.
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CA: “Nancy Pelosi’s Napa: Wealthy Friends and a Husband’s Porsche Crash” [New York Times]. “The police who responded [to Paul Pelosi’s crash] arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and suspicion of driving with a .08 blood alcohol content or higher. He is due back in court on Aug. 3. If criminal charges are filed, he will be arraigned then. (The driver of the Jeep was not arrested.) It may not have been only alcohol that hindered Mr. Pelosi’s driving. Two people who have spoken with the Pelosis since the crash said that Mr. Pelosi had had cataract surgery in the days preceding the dinner. (Doctors are somewhat divided about when it is acceptable to drive, with estimates that range from 24 hours to two weeks.)… Mr. Pelosi has, however, had a history of car accidents over the course of his life. At 16, in 1957, he was behind the wheel of a sports car that crashed. His brother David, who was a passenger, was killed. (A jury ultimately exonerated Mr. Pelosi of misdemeanor manslaughter charges, according to news accounts at the time.) In the late 1970s Ms. Pelosi became the Northern California chair of the Democratic Party. On her way to a barbecue for a local politician, a car that she was in with Mr. Pelosi and a number of their children flipped on its side. No one was hurt, and Ms. Pelosi hitched a ride to go meet donors.” •
CA: “California’s top military brass rocked by homophobia, antisemitism, indecent exposure scandals” [Los Angeles Times]. “A top general in the California National Guard violated government rules by having subordinates ferry his mother on a shopping trip, perform other personal errands for him and complete a part of his cybersecurity training. A second general allegedly made antisemitic and homophobic remarks, including that Jews are unrepentant sinners and that gay marriage is a reason terrorists attack the United States. And a colonel who serves as a Guard finance officer and had been recommended for promotion to general has been charged with exposing himself to three women in a restaurant. Those are among the latest embarrassing episodes to tarnish the Guard, a branch of the California Military Department that has been beset in recent years by allegations of cover-ups and retaliation against whistleblowers, a Times investigation based on Guard documents and interviews has found. Current and former Guard members say there is a widespread perception in the organization that high-ranking officers who engage in misconduct are protected from significant discipline. One of the generals found by an internal inquiry to have committed acts of wrongdoing was issued a letter of admonishment, and the other received a letter of reprimand, according to the Guard.” • Not good prep for a Civil War, eh?
“The GOP’s War on Economic Populists” [Compact]. “Last week, something strange happened in Mississippi. An upstart candidate came in first in a Republican primary while proposing major increases in social spending. Michael Cassidy, a former Navy pilot, beat the incumbent Michael Guest in the state’s Third District while proposing Medicare for All, a $20,000 bonus to newlyweds (repayable in case of divorce), a $250 monthly stipend for children under 10 (rising to $500 monthly for children between 10 and 17), and a maternal-leave program with five years of benefits. Yet more recently, Cassidy has scaled back his proposals—a testament to the difficulties even the most daring would-be populists face when it comes to challenging the GOP’s economic orthodoxies. Cassidy presented his original policy mix as part of an “American Dream” plan designed to make it easier for Americans to marry, have kids, and buy a home. His other ideas included a ban against corporations, hedge funds, and foreign entities owning private residences and farmland, plus “targeted tariffs” and “deporting all illegals.” As that last proposal makes clear, Cassidy is no man of the left. He hammered the incumbent for voting for an early iteration of the Jan. 6 committee and for voting for spending bills that included abortion funding.”
“Report Shows Trump Administration Embraced Herd Immunity via Mass Infection” [MedPage Today]. “Evidence has emerged that the Trump administration embraced a ‘dangerous and discredited herd immunity via mass infection strategy’ prior to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, according to a new report from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Far-reaching support for the strategy likely contributed to many preventable deaths in the fall and winter of 2020 through 2021, the subcommittee said upon the release of the report, which is the first installment in what is expected to be a series on the Trump administration’s political interference with the federal public health response to the pandemic. (D-S.C.), chair of the subcommittee, said in a statement that an investigation ‘revealed extensive evidence of the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the nation’s public health response to the coronavirus crisis in an attempt to benefit the former president politically.'” • Clyburn? Really? (I hold no brief for the Trump Administration’s response. But they had plenty of help sh*tting the bed from the public health establishment, and in any case Biden adopted “Let ‘er rip” anyhow. (It’s also not clear to me how advocacy of herd immunity and Operation Warp Speed are compatible. Intellectual consistency never has bothered Trump much, but that inconsitency is pretty big.)
Realignment and Legitimacy
Our political system as it now exists is institutionally resistant to the level of fundamental economic reform that would balance the playing field and give the working people of this country an equal opportunity for life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.
We have to fix that.
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) June 23, 2022
“Liberal groups devote millions to blocking GOP election deniers” [WaPo]. “He was pitching some of the nation’s wealthiest people on a doomsday idea that has become a growing obsession among the liberal donor community. Another slide, titled “How MAGA midterms can install Trump,” laid out a step-by-step hypothetical scenario: Republicans win statewide offices in key battleground states in 2022 and then change state laws in 2023 to give legislatures control over presidential electors. After the next presidential election, they declare votes from urban centers “tainted” and overrule the popular vote by sending their own slate of electors to Washington. The goal of the presentation — described by someone familiar with the group who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations — was to raise tens of millions of dollars for groups that the PowerPoint described as being able to increase Democratic turnout, persuade swing voters to vote Democratic and “dissuade” Republican voters from going to the polls. Pouring liberal money into the midterms to elect Democrats is hardly novel. What’s different about this new strategy is that a large portion of the 2022 efforts are actually aimed at 2024 — attempting to block Republican 2020 election deniers from gaining power and potentially upending valid results in a presidential election year. The approach — born in the wake of President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election — has diverted some of the focus away from federal House and Senate races and toward battleground state governor and secretary of state races, election administrator contests and even ballot measures aimed at protecting ballot access and tabulation.” • When squillionaires dump a few billions into the NGO funnel, it’s really not clear to me what comes out the other end. (Of course, if we were serious about election integrity, then hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, would be top of mind.)
UPDATE “How ‘vice-signalling’ swallowed electoral politics” [Financial Times]. “We wouldn’t usually associate draconian measures on crime and punishment, or, indeed, a literal wall standing between two nations, as signs of virtue. These are examples of what you might instead call ‘vice signalling’: ostentatious displays of authoritarianism designed to reassure voters that you are ‘tough’ on crime or immigration…. Signalling matters in politics because most people vote on what political scientists call “valence” — your perceived competence on various issues. Now, there is no easy way to signal that you are competent at fighting crime or policing your nation’s borders, because most voters at any given time are not in direct contact with law enforcement or immigration agencies. But showy, conversation-starting pledges are a good way of signalling your commitment…. The real problem with vice signalling is that it risks sending what is, in a democracy, the most dangerous signal of all: that politicians do not really care about their electorate’s concerns, other than as a device to win and to hold on to their own power.”
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. However, 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. Then again, waste-water data (leading) is slightly downThe 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.
• “Fertility tracker and AI used to identify Covid days before symptoms appeared” [Independent]. “A wrist-worn health tracker typically used for monitoring fertility could be used to diagnosis a Covid-19 infection days before symptoms appear, new research suggests. Combined with artificial intelligence (AI), the tracker picks up on changes in skin temperature, heart and breathing rates, blood flow, as well as sleep quantity and quality to determine whether an individual has been infected with coronavirus. According to the study, which followed 1,163 people under the age of 51 from the start of the pandemic, 68 per cent of Covid cases were successfully diagnosed two days before the onset of symptoms. It’s hoped that a quicker diagnosis of Covid-19 could facilitate early isolation and help to limit the spread of the virus…. The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, found there were significant changes in the body during the incubation period for the infection, the period before symptoms appeared, when symptoms appeared and during recovery, compared to non-infection. Overall, the tracker and computer algorithm identified 68 per cent of Covid-19 positive people two days before their symptoms appeared.” • The AVA tracker costs $279. I can see where this is headed. We’d rather spend ~$300 to buy a gadget that tells us when to get treated, rather than spend zero dollars on a proven non-pharmaceutical intervention worn by billions that causes some minor inconvenience (and has now become a marker in the culture wars). I think I need to become more realistic [bangs head on desk].
• “How common is long COVID? Why studies give different answers” [Nature]. “So far, there is no agreement on how to define and diagnose long COVID. The World Health Organization’s attempt at a consensus, published in 2021, has not proved popular with patient advocates or researchers, and studies continue to use a range of criteria to define the condition. Estimates of its prevalence can range from 5–50%. A study of such a complex condition needs to be sufficiently large to reflect the range of symptoms and the possible impact of characteristics such as age and the severity of the acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is where analyses like Al-Aly’s [study at the Veterans Administration] offer a host of advantages: data from large health-care networks can provide enormous sample sizes. Al-Aly’s study of long COVID after a ‘breakthrough’ infection — one that follows vaccination — included records from more than 13 million people. Although 90% of those people were men, that still left 1.3 million women in the analysis, Al-Aly notes, more than many other studies can muster.”
• My character is already built, thank you:
Just struck me "infection builds your immune system" sounds an awful lot like "doing distasteful things builds character".
I wonder if we have a psychological predilection to "make bad thing worthwhile so it doesn't feel so bad"
Hmm, almost certainly.
— Jonathan Mesiano-Crookston 🌬️🔅#COVIDisAirborne (@jmcrookston) June 22, 2022
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.
I cannot find a case count chart that integrates regional and national subtotals, so we are that much stupider. I thought the New York Times had the nicest data presentationL
Case count for the United States:
The totals are or less level, but under the hood the BA.4/5 are making up a greater and greater proportion of cases. 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 DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was ~ 100,500. Today, it’s 97,000, and 97,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 582,000. 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.
0.8%. (I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to and check on the goons at CDC.)
NOT UPDATED Wastewater data, regional (Biobot Analytics), June 15:
Wastewater data (CDC), June 4 – June 18:
This chart works a bit like rapid riser counties: “This metric shows whether SARS-CoV-2 levels at a site are currently higher or lower than past historical levels at the same site. 0% means levels are the lowest they have been at the site; 100% means levels are the highest they have been at the site.” So, there’s a bunch of red dots on the West Coast. That’s 100%, so that means “levels are the highest they’ve ever been.” Not broken down by variant, CDC, good job.
NOT UPDATED Variant data, regional (Biobot), June 1:
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), June 15:
In 18 days, BA.4/5 has gone from 18 days, 9.66 to 28.47 (and this is not according to some sorta model, like CDC’s NowCast, which gives 35%). Nice doubling behavior, implying BA.4/5 should be happily dominant just in time for the travel weekend of July 4, good job everyone.
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), June 4:
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is.
From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:
Looks like Colorado and Arizona are worse, and the rest of the country is better (or, in the case of the Northeast, actually good).
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. More and more orange (“substantial”) on the East Coast, with some yellow breaking out. Great Plains speckled with yellow and blue.
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Death rate (Our World in Data):
1,038,900. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits decreased by 2K to 229K in the week that ended June 18th, below market forecasts of 227K, pointing again to a tight labor market.”
Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production Index fell further to -1 in June of 2022 from 19 in the prior month, reaching the lowest level since May of 2020. The slower pace of factory growth was driven by reduced activity at durable goods plants in June, especially electrical equipment, transportation equipment, and furniture-related product manufacturing. Indexes for production, shipments, new orders, and order backlog declined, while inventory indexes increased slightly.”
Finance: “Revlon bankruptcy complicated by Citi’s $900mn error” [Financial Times]. “As Revlon prepares to negotiate its restructuring after filing for bankruptcy last week, the American cosmetics group still does not know the identity of all its key creditors, a consequence of a bizarre banking mistake. In August 2020, Citigroup mistakenly used its own money to repay a $900mn term loan it administered on behalf of Revlon that was held by multiple asset management groups. Holders of $400mn of the loan quickly returned the erroneous payment. However, funds that owned $500mn of the loan, many furious with Revlon over a previous debt restructuring, kept the cash. In 2021, a federal judge in New York said those who held on to the repayment were legally entitled to do so. Citi appealed against the decision. With the higher court yet to render a final ruling, Revlon faces the possibility that the repaid lenders will be forced to give back the proceeds and become Revlon creditors again. Citi said in securities filings, however, that if the original decision is upheld it will assume the $500mn claim against Revlon, pitting the Wall Street titan against a loyal client.” • Fun stuff!
Retail: “The retail industry is facing a potential wave of bankruptcies – here’s why” [CNBC]. “There could be an increase in distressed retailers beginning later this year, experts say, as ballooning prices dent demand for certain goods, stores contend with bloated inventory levels and a potential recession looms…. An analysis by Fitch Ratings shows that the consumer and retail companies most in danger of default include mattress maker Serta Simmons, cosmetics line Anastasia Beverly Hills, skin-care marketing company Rodan & Fields, Billabong owner Boardriders, men’s suit chain Men’s Wearhouse, supplements marketing company Isagenix International and sportswear manufacturer Outerstuff…. Still, advisors who have worked on retail bankruptcies in recent years believe, for the most part, that any looming distress in the industry shouldn’t be as intense as the massive shakeout in 2020. Instead, bankruptcies could be more spread out, they said.”
Energy: A list of closed refineries follows:
FACTS: Which U.S. refineries have shut since the global pandemic, and why?
Since the onset of the global pandemic, the US has lost nearly 1 million barrels per day of oil refining capacity, with more set to be shuttered in the next few years.
These are the plants:
— Laura Sanicola (@LauraSanicola) June 17, 2022
Great point and also another reason that regulators are chill about the crypto meltdown. Like, there’s basically no “real economy” implications or businesses that are going to be deprived of credit. Just a snake eating its own tail.
— Sean Tuffy (@SMTuffy) June 22, 2022
The Bezzle: “A Billion-Dollar Crypto Gaming Startup Promised Riches and Delivered Disaster” [Bloomberg]. From last week, still germane: “Axie’s creator, a startup called Sky Mavis Inc., heralded all this as a new kind of economic phenomenon: the ‘play-to-earn’ video game. ‘We believe in a world future where work and play become one,’ it said in a mission statement on its website. ‘We believe in empowering our players and giving them economic opportunities. Welcome to our revolution.’ By last October the company, founded in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, four years ago by a group of Asian, European, and American entrepreneurs, had raised more than $160 million from investors including the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and the crypto-focused firm Paradigm, at a peak valuation of about $3 billion…. In a livestreamed discussion about play-to-earn gaming and crypto on March 2, former Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang called web3 ‘an extraordinary opportunity to improve the human condition’ and ‘the biggest weapon against poverty that we have.’…. By the time Yang made his proclamations the Axie economy was deep in crisis. It had lost about 40% of its daily users, and SLP, which had traded as high as 40¢, was at 1.8¢, while AXS, which had once been worth $165, was at $56. To make matters worse, on March 23 hackers robbed Sky Mavis of what at the time was roughly $620 million in cryptocurrencies. Then in May the bottom fell out of the entire crypto market. AXS dropped below $20, and SLP settled in at just over half a penny. Instead of illustrating web3’s utopian potential, Axie looked like validation for crypto skeptics who believe web3 is a vision that investors and early adopters sell people to get them to pour money into sketchy financial instruments while hackers prey on everyone involved.” • Well, I guess we can short anything Yang recommended. So there’s that.
Tech: “Facebook Finally Agrees to Eliminate Tool That Enabled Discriminatory Advertising” [ProPublica]. “Six years after ProPublica revealed that Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude Black users and others, the company agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department to overhaul its ad algorithm system.” • Quick work!
Labor Market: “More Companies Start to Rescind Job Offers” [Wall Street Journal]. “Businesses in several different industries are rescinding job offers they made just a few months ago, in a sign the tightest labor market in decades may be showing cracks. Companies including Twitter Inc. , real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. , and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. have rescinded offers in recent weeks. Employers in other pockets of the economy are pulling away offers too, including some in insurance, retail marketing, consulting and recruiting services. At the same time, many companies have signaled a more cautious hiring approach. Netflix Inc. , Peloton Interactive Inc. , Carvana Co. and others announced layoffs. Technology giants such as Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and Uber Technologies warned they will dial back hiring plans. ”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 22 Extreme Fear (previous close: 21 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 13 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 23 at 1:01 PM EDT.
This is violence:
holding myself accountable pic.twitter.com/gEZy9hGM6n
— abby govindan (@abbygov) June 21, 2022
I don’t think this is parody.
“Sex Work is (Gig) Work” [The Baffler]. “the former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne made an OnlyFans account in August 2020, drawing so many of her twenty-five million Instagram followers that she earned $1 million in the first twenty-four hours. Like Dunn, Thorne invoked feminist defenses of sex work, tweeting that she joined the website in an attempt to ‘remove the stigma behind sex, sex work, and the negativity that surrounds the word SEX itself.’ Clearly, ‘sex work is work’ is increasingly applied by and in defense of a new group of explicit content providers quite removed from the original, disenfranchised figures whom the adage was designed to protect. And yet, recent events indicate that everyone’s position remains precarious. On August 19, 2021, OnlyFans announced that from October of that year, it would no longer host sexually explicit content. The announcement came, coincidentally, just nine days after the Republican congresswoman Ann Wagner penned a bipartisan letter, signed by over one hundred members of Congress, to the attorney general demanding that OnlyFans be investigated for allegedly facilitating child sex trafficking, the distribution of child pornography, and god knows what else. Officially, OnlyFans cited the worries of pearl-clutching banks like BNY Mellon and JPMorgan Chase, likewise distressed over unfounded allegations of widespread criminal activity on the platform, as the reason for the policy change. Although the platform reversed its decision less than a week later amid criticism from producers and consumers of content alike, the tumult revealed exactly where the balance of power lies. The technological luster—including the gift of heightened autonomy—of platforms like OnlyFans has transformed online sex work, enabling a small percentage of porn performers to become rich. But, in turn, the platforms have exacerbated, or at least publicized, longstanding inequalities within the landscape of sex work. Accordingly, ‘sex worker’ has become an incoherent class position, with a politics ill-suited to protect workers from the increasing hostility of executives and lawmakers.”
“The sex industry isn’t technophilic” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “The sex industry has pioneered every new communications tool since the printing press: in my own lifetime, I’ve watched it take the lead in VCRs, desktop publishing, BBSes, digital text, digital images, digital videos, live streaming services, cryptocurrency, and VR. It would be easy to conclude that being interested in sex is somehow correlated with being fascinated by technology. But that’s wrong. While there are lots of sex workers and sex industry participants who have an innate fascination with technology, there’s no reason to think that being into sex is a predictor of being into tech. And yet, sex workers are the vanguard of every technological revolution. What gives? Well, think about the other groups that make up that vanguard – who else is an habitual early adopter? At least four other groups also take the lead on new tech: political radicals, kids, drug users, and terrorists. There’s some overlap among members of these groups, but their most salient shared trait isn’t personnel, it’s exclusion…. Using a new technology comes at a cost. If it’s 1979 and you’re Walt Disney Pictures, you’ve got no reason to explore the VCR. The existing system works great for you – and it works great for your audience. You can always find a movie theater willing to show your movies, your audience is happy to be seen entering that cinema, and the bank gladly accepts ticket revenues as deposits. But if you’re into smutty movies, none of that is true. Just mailing your 8mm films across state lines is risky – maybe it gets seized and incinerated, maybe a postal inspector shows up at your door with a search warrant. Most theaters won’t show your movies, and most people don’t want to be seen in the ones that will. Given all those structural barriers, it makes sense that the technophiles who also happen to be involved in the sex trade will get a hearing from their colleagues – unlike the traditional media execs whose endorsement of the VCR made them persona non grata within their companies. That is, .”
News of the Wired
“Hegel’s Philosophy of History” (podcast) [In Our Time, BBC]. “Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 – 1831) on history. Hegel, one of the most influential of the modern philosophers, described history as the progress in the consciousness of freedom, asking whether we enjoy more freedom now than those who came before us. To explore this, he looked into the past to identify periods when freedom was moving from the one to the few to the all, arguing that once we understand the true nature of freedom we reach an endpoint in understanding. That end of history, as it’s known, describes an understanding of freedom so far progressed, so profound, that it cannot be extended or deepened even if it can be lost.” • Let me know how that works out.
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SV writes: “Whose galls these are…”
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