By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
Pacific/Winter Wren, Alberta, Canada. Too short, but by far the most tuneful.
“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
“Secret Service Deleted Jan. 6 Text Messages After Oversight Officials Requested Them” [The Intercept]. “The Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, according to a letter given to the January 6 committee and reviewed by The Intercept….. A top Secret Service official allegedly involved in the attempt to spirit away Pence on January 6 remains in a leadership position at the agency. Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent whom Trump made the unprecedented decision to appoint as his deputy White House chief of staff, reportedly informed Pence’s national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, on January 6 that agents would relocate the vice president to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. ‘You can’t do that, Tony,’ Kellogg reportedly told Ornato. “Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it.’ (Ornato has denied the account.) Today Ornato serves as the assistant director of the Secret Service’s Office of Training.” • Oh. Commentary:
Probably a good sign that the Secret Service hired the spokesman for the Chicago police during the disappearances at Homan Square, the murder of Laquan McDonald & general public outrage with police lawlessness. Surely something an agency dedicated to integrity would do. pic.twitter.com/DLJQVeaYHh
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) July 15, 2022
“POLITICO Playbook: Manchin delivers ‘crushing blow’ to Dem agenda” [Politico]. “Late Thursday night, Sen. Joe Manchin effectively killed any chance of major climate-related provisions making their way into Democrats’ reconciliation package. The West Virginian told party leaders that ‘he would not support an economic package that contains new spending on climate change or includes new tax increases targeting wealthy Americans or corporations,’ WaPo’s Tony Romm and Jeff Stein were first to report, ‘marking a massive setback for party lawmakers who had hoped to advance a central element of their agenda before the midterm elections this fall.’ What else he said: ‘Manchin told Democratic leaders he was open to changing federal laws that might lower prescription drugs costs for seniors… And the West Virginia moderate expressed support … for extended subsidies that will help keep health insurance costs down for millions of Americans for the next two years…'” • Manchin used to be fine with taxing the rich:
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) July 15, 2022
Ah, well. Nevertheless….
* * *
Cancel out Manchin and Sinema. Support these three Dems in 2022:
John Fetterman, DONATE: https://t.co/Bcdcq1vphe
Tim Ryan, DONATE: https://t.co/971YdZxILW
— Jeffrey Levin 🇺🇦 (@jilevin) July 14, 2022
Does anybody really believe that Tim Ryan won’t be the next revolving villain, even if President Manchin decides to retire and fondle his coal?
FL: “GOP voter edge in Florida keeps growing” [Politico]. “Voter registration numbers overall continue to show that Democrats are getting left far behind. It’s just another data point on why Republicans are supremely confident they will dominate the 2022 elections in a state where President Joe Biden is struggling and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval numbers remain above water. It was just last fall that Republicans for the first time surged past Democrats in the number of active voters in the state. A ‘milestone moment’ is how one GOP official described it, a byproduct of a sustained effort that had been pushed strongly by DeSantis. The official Division of Elections records show that Republicans hold a nearly 176,000 voter edge over Democrats. That was the number at the end of May. But unofficially it’s now more than 180,000 and it’s expected that Republicans will take their voter registration advantage north of 200,000 this month. Democrats in the past have tried to suggest routine voter list maintenance and switching active to inactive voters is responsible for Republican gains. But the swelling rolls just point to a state that is trending to the GOP, helped in part by people relocating to Florida from other parts of the country. Democrats maintain leads in Florida’s urban counties but they are now trailing independents (voters officially known as “no party affiliation”) in nearly a dozen counties with GOP majorities. DeSantis’ prediction that Florida will no longer be a battleground state after this year’s election is moving closer into view.” • A “sustained effort” to register voters. Since when have Democrats ever been capable of that? (And I’m not talking about some squillionaire throwing some bucks at some NGO to register an identity vertical at election time.)
PA: “Family company of Dr. Oz had largest fine in ICE history” [New York Post]. “A tree-trimming company partly owned by Dr. Oz and his wife Lisa’s family was fined $95 million by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency over a scheme to knowingly employ illegal immigrants. The fine against Asplundh Tree Experts Co. was the largest ever levied in ICE history according to a 2017 agency press release.”• Oops. From February, still germane.
Hey @DrOz 👋
JERSEY loves you + will not forget you!!! 🥰 pic.twitter.com/YmaXfMpzUK
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 14, 2022
Fetterman is owning Oz on the Twitter, for sure. (See People, “Inside the New Jersey Mansion Dr. Oz and His Wife Lisa Built from Scratch 20 Years Ago.”)
PA: “More than 1 million voters have switched to the GOP over the last year, data show” [Inquirer]. “More than 1 million voters across 43 states have switched to the Republican Party over the last year, according to voter registration data analyzed by The Associated Press. The previously unreported number reflects a phenomenon that is playing out in virtually every region of the country — Democratic and Republican states along with cities and small towns — in the period since President Joe Biden replaced former President Donald Trump. But nowhere is the shift more pronounced — and dangerous for Democrats — than in the suburbs, where well-educated swing voters who turned against Trump’s Republican Party in recent years appear to be swinging back. Over the last year, far more people are switching to the GOP across suburban counties from Denver to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Republicans also gained ground in counties around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Des Moines, Iowa.” • Hmm.
“Shadow 2024 race: Newsom vs. DeSantis” [Politico]. • This handy chart shows the oligarchy you’d be voting in with Newsom:
I don’t know if there’s an equivalent for DeSantis. Is he too backed by interlocking multigenerational old money?
“The Texas Republican Party platform is official. What it says and what we learned” [Star-Telegram]. “In addition to calling homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” the platform opposes same sex marriage. . Delegates voted to replace the property tax system, support school choice and reject “critical race theory” and gun free zones. The platform calls for medical freedom and the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Delegates also rejected “critical race theory” and supported a law “more comprehensive” than the one in Florida that prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity…. ‘This is kind of the gloves off moment for the Republican Party,’ said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political science professor.” The gloves weren’t off already? More: “The platform is also used as a way to push lawmakers further in delegates’ desired direction in a state where a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office since 1994. ‘There will always be Republicans who see … the kind of policies the base wants as being way too far,’ Rottinghaus said. ‘The base, the activists know that they need to set the bar higher so that they can use that as a way to pressure those leaders to steadily move in that direction.'” • What a concept!
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.
* * *
“‘A real chilling effect’: A Lefty Scholar is Dumping CAP — For AEI” [Politico]. Ruy Teixeira: “‘My perspective is, the single most important thing to focus on in the social system is the economic system,’ he tells me. ‘It’s class.’ We’re sitting in AEI’s elegantly furnished library. Down the hall, there’s a boisterous event celebrating the conservative intellectual Harvey Mansfield. William Kristol, clad in a suit, has just left the room. Teixeira’s untucked shirt and sneakers aren’t the only thing that seems out of place. ‘I’m just a social democrat, man. Trying to make the world a better place.’ How Teixeira came to be talking about the essentiality of class politics while sitting a few feet from a stack of books by Lynne Cheney says a great deal about the state of the American left, where the 70-year-old researcher felt alienated — and about the American right, where a once-dominant think tank that fell afoul of Trump die-hards has brought him aboard. To hear Teixeira tell it, CAP, and the rest of Washington’s institution-based left, stopped being a place where he could do the work he wanted. The reason, he says, is that the relentless focus on race, gender, and identity in historically liberal foundations and think tanks has made it hard to do work that looks at society through other prisms. It also makes people nervous about projects that could be accused of giving short shrift to anti-racism efforts. ‘I would say that anybody who has a fundamentally class-oriented perspective, who thinks that’s a more important lens and doesn’t assume that any disparity is automatically a lens of racism or sexism or what have you … I think that perspective is not congenial in most left institutions,’ he says.” • I know this is a lonely battle, but there’s no such thing as a left that doens’t put class first. That Teixeira thinks, apparently, that he was doing that all along…. well, irony abounds. Commentary:
— Marshall Steinbaum 🔥 (@Econ_Marshall) July 15, 2022
Why did the NGO borg pivot to niche identities? Because the cause of substantive black equality is so much harder than declaring the gender binary defunct through acts of bureaucratic stipulation and language change
— Wesley Yang (@wesyang) July 15, 2022
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Pushed To The Brink” [Jesse & Tyrel Ventura, Die First Then Quit]. “From the Police, to the Supreme Court, to Congress, across the board U.S. citizens are losing faith in our vital institutions in record numbers. Notably, the biggest drops in citizen confidence from last year to this year were found in the institutions of the Presidency and the U.S. Supreme Court. They both fell 15 and 11 percent, respectively. This doesn’t come as a surprise given how feckless the Biden Administration has been when faced with the major political, economical, and social challenges we’ve seen over the last year. Rising inflation, Roe v. Wade, Climate Change… just vote harder…. This nose dive cuts across all party lines as well…. How much farther can we fall or maybe the better question is what happens to a populace that loses all faith in its institutions? The answer to that maybe found in a recent polling data collected by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, which discovered that a majority of American’s believe their government is corrupt and rigged against them. Pigging backing on that, the data also revealed that ‘more than one in four Americans are so alienated from their government that they believe it may ‘soon be necessary to take up arms’ against it.’ One in four Americans. That’s a truly frightening statistic. That should make anyone’s blood run cold after reading it. Violent revolution is not the answer. Any student of history will tell you that a political revolution based on violence hardly ever brings actual freedom to a country.” • 1789? 1776?
“Why Crime Is Scarier Now” [Peggy Noonan]. On cops: “We respect the blue here but I am increasingly disturbed by what I see of policing in America. Since the most recent mass shootings I am thinking of how much it has changed in my lifetime. Cops used to be guys in a blue cotton uniform with a holster and gun. Now they’re like bulked-up 1990s cartoon superheroes—militarized, mechanized, armored up, heavy helmets and vests, all the gear and equipment, the long guns and trucks like tanks. They swarm in like an army—so many of them!—and there’s something muscle-bound about it, heavy on form and rules and by the book. But who wrote this book? The cops of the ’70s—they shot the bad guy. Cops now bark into communications systems and coordinate and tell civilians to leave the area. And none of it seems more effective than in the past but less. A report from Texas State University on the missed opportunities at Uvalde notes that a policeman had a bead on the shooter early on and from far away, asked his supervisor for permission to take the shot and didn’t get a response. And so the murderer got into the classroom with the kids. The report also said the cops should have gone in through the windows. You read and you think: Guys, this isn’t working. You have got to rethink how you operate…. They’re sure good at word-saving. They’re immediate with their eloquence—Our hearts are broken; these were our mothers and daughters—but their excellence and effectiveness are less apparent. I don’t think people trust them as much as they used to, and this is separate and distinct from the damaging racial charges of recent years…. It isn’t good. And if I’m seeing it, others are.” • When you’ve lost Peggy Noonan….
“America’s crisis-industrial complex” [The New Statesman]. The headline is deceptive; this is really about the possibility of civil war in the United States. “We might characterise the last two and half decades in the world’s most affluent states – and the US in particular – as a period of crisis compression and rising fatalism. The onset of the millennium did not bring about the apocalypse foretold by Y2K fantasists, but yielded instead to slow rolling catastrophe with endemic features. We are people stalked by periodic financial collapse, destructive weather events, immanent civic violence and airborne death. Region-wasting hurricanes, tsunamis and wildfires are the backdrop to daily life on our warming planet. Riotous mass protests against governing authority expose the illegitimate face of ostensibly democratic forms of rule. Americans who learned to bowl alone, faced rising mid-life mortality, self-medicated with opioids, got locked up and gunned down in the old de-industrialised urban core, struggled to make rent, stockpiled guns, trolled for the next Columbine, Sandy Hook or Uvalde in the suburbs and hinterlands, in turn conjured Trump as a kind of perverse mirror. The promise to ‘Make America Great Again’, unlike Obama’s enjoining ‘Hope and Change’, or even Bush’s dream of ‘A New American Century’, represented a conscious involution – a not entirely inadvertent mockery of the pretensions of those prior idealistic schemes, confirmation that the liberal patrimony has been spent. It is the darkness of this vision that has given rise to a cottage industry of criers warning of impending civil war.”
“The Time for Leftist Extralegal Action Has Finally Come” [Freddie deBoer]. “[W]ith the death of Roe, the time has finally come when people on the left can and will really do something, in that they will work outside of the law to provide abortion services to women who live in places where that service is illegal. I imagine this will mostly involve getting women into pro-choice states to get the procedure, which may not necessarily be criminal – although you can certainly imagine anti-abortion states drawing up draconian laws to punish women who leave the state to secure an abortion. Sometimes, I think there will be clandestine abortions performed in states where both mothers and providers risk arrest…. Either way, helping women terminate unwanted pregnancies that the state would compel them to bring to term represents real, effective direct action. It will be an Underground Railroad for abortion….. Key to understanding this moment is to recognize that providing abortion services in contravention of the law is not politics. It’s not an action designed to change minds. There’s no future election or coalition-building that it’s attempting to influence. Success is not dependent on being popular; success is simply the termination of unwanted pregnancies. It’s direct action in the purest form. It’s not civil disobedience in the sense of breaking the law to show the injustice of the law, not ‘bearing witness,’ not a demonstration of rage or of strength, not an appeal to the voters. The procedures themselves are the goal and the point.” • It is, in other words, not performative.
“Sen. Josh Hawley predicts the overturning of Roe v. Wade will cause a ‘major sorting out across the country’ and allow the GOP to ‘extend their strength in the Electoral College'” [Business Insider]. From late June, still germane: “‘I really do think that this is going to be a watershed moment in American politics,’ [Hawley] said on a call with reporters on Friday. ‘The first decision — the 1973 Roe decision — fundamentally reshaped American politics, it ushered in the rise of the Christian conservative movement, it led to the forming of what became the Reagan coalition in 1980.'” • This sounds like a myth of origin. I am not at all conversant with movement conservatism in the 1970s and 1980s. Readers, is this myth true?
Maskstravaganza: “Masks matter for more than mandates” [Virology Down Under]. This article makes the necessity for layered protection (“Swiss Cheese Model”) crystal clear. Given that “the dose makes the poison,” any measure that decreases virus particles inhaled is good, so combine them. “The amount of virus that is required to create a detectable infection that leads to disease is the minimum infectious dose. Nonhuman primate studies have reported between 10s of SARS-CoV-2 viral particles required for the body to recognise infection (mount an immune response) to 100s of viral particles for the body to develop a fever in response to an infection after being inhaled. A virus gaining a successful foothold and going on to replicate and cause disease is related to the size of the dose. Dose can be affected by the length of exposure to an infected source, the proximity to that source and how much virus the source is emitting…. Vaccination also has a role in reducing viral loads for some weeks after vaccination.[18,20,29] We know that when a breakthrough infection does occur – that is, infection of a vaccinated person – the amount of virus present in the newly infected but vaccinated person doesn’t really differ from the amount in an unvaccinated infected person.[18,19] Breakthrough infections are likely to lead to infectious infections. So, as others have said, we need more than a vaccine-only strategy to reduce the likelihood of transmitting an infectious dose of SARS-CoV-2 (or influenza virus, or respiratory syncytial virus, or a rhinovirus…)” • Well worth reading in full. This comment was interesting: “Perfect mask wearing has given me grim amusement to being as effective as those pushing abstinence. If done properly, it’ll work. Unfortunately, the mind is weak.” However, as the AIDS crisis teaches us, the proper comparison is not abstinence, but condoms which, though imperfect, still offer protection. So the commenter’s jouissance of “grim amusement” is misplaced.
Maskstravaganza: “Association between School Mask Mandates and SARS-CoV-2 Student Infections: Evidence from a Natural Experiment of Neighboring K-12 Districts in North Dakota” (preprint) [Research Square]. “Our study took advantage of a unique natural experiment of two adjacent K-12 school districts in Fargo, North Dakota, one which had a mask mandate and one which did not in the fall of the 2021-2022 academic year. In the winter, both districts adopted a masks-optional policy allowing for a partial crossover study design. We observed no significant difference between student case rates while the districts had differing masking policies (IRR 0.99; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.07) nor while they had the same mask policies (IRR 1.04; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.16). The IRRs across the two periods were also not significantly different (p = 0.40). Our findings contribute to a growing body of literature which suggests school-based mask mandates have limited to no impact on the case rates of COVID-19 among K-12 students.” • Hmm.
“Pandemic Nihilism” (07/14/22) (podcast) [Death Panel]. “We discuss a new refrain that pushing for a return of pandemic mitigations is ‘moralizing even as the BA.5 wave takes hold.” • Excellent podcast, always worth a listen.
“The impact of Long COVID on the UK workforce” [Applied Economics Letters]. “COVID-19 is more likely to lead to Long COVID among persons of working age. We outline the first estimates of the impact of Long Covid on employment in the UK. Using estimates of cumulative prevalence of Long COVID, activity-limiting Long COVID in the working-age population and of economic inactivity and job loss resulting from Long COVID, we provide evidence of the profound impact of Long COVID on national labour supply. Since the start of the pandemic, cumulatively 2.9 million people of working age (7% of the total) in the UK have had, or still have, Long COVID. This figure will continue to rise due to very high infection rates in the Omicron wave. Since the beginning of the pandemic, economic inactivity due to long-term sickness has risen by 120,900 among the working-age population, fuelling the UK’s current labour shortage. An estimated 80,000 people have left employment due to Long COVID.”
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.
Lambert here: The CDC site was down today, so the only CDC data that’s updated came in good ol’ reliable PDF form from healthdata.gov.
How am I supposed to perform my personal risk assessment properly when the putatively most authoritative source of data is down?
And speaking of the CDC:
The @CDCgov (which I love) is blatantly misleading the public—CDC tells hospitals about aerosol risks of #monkeypox and need for N95 masks. Yet @CDCDirector deliberately downplays aerosols & masks in messages to the lay public. Shameful.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) June 27, 2022
Eric Feigl-Ding is a far nicer and more tolerant person that I am. I don’t “love the CDC” at all.
Case count for the United States:
It’s starting to feel like the train is rolling. Let’s see what next week brings. There was a weird, plateau-like “fiddling and diddling” stage before the Omicron explosion, too. This conjuncture feels the same. Under the hood the BA.4/BA.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. The previous count was ~137,000. Today, it’s ~125,200 and 125,200 * 6 = a Biden line at 751,200 per day. That’s rather a lot of cases per day, when you think about it. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes we’ve seen have 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.
Regional case count for four weeks:
Now the South and West.
Florida and Texas, now neck and neck.
Looks like Washington decided not to join the party after all, which accounts for most of the national decline. So, bad data as I speculated.
3.0%, back to single digits. (I wonder if there’s a Keynesian Beauty Contest effect, here; that is, if people encounter a sympotomatic person, whether in their social circle or in normal activity, they are more likely to get a test, because they believe, correctly, that it’s more likely they will be infected.) What we are seeing here is the steepest and largest acceleration of positivity on Walgreen’s chart.
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.
Status quo, i.e. it’s a not-over pandemic.
Lambert here: After the move from the CDC to the laughingly named ‘https://healthdata.gov,” this notice appeared: “Effective June 22, 2022, the Community Profile Report will only be updated twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.” So now the administration has belatedly come to the realization that we’re in a BA.5 surge, and yet essential data for making our personal risk assessment is only available twice a week. What’s the over/under on whether they actually deliver tomorrow?
Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), July 7:
Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama, Illinois all better. California better, oddlly. I don’t like those little pink speckles in New York, because the Northeast has been quiet for some time (note slight rise in case data). What’s that all about
Previous Rapid Riser data:
Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 7:
Very volatile. Haven’t seen so little green (good) in quite some time.
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), June 30:
WEBSITE DOWN Variant data, national (CDC), June 25:
BA.5 moving along nicely.
• “Why the Omicron offshoot BA.5 is a big deal” [CNN]. “After the Omicron tidal wave washed over the United States in January and the smaller rise in cases in the spring caused by the BA.2 subvariant, it might have seemed like the coronavirus could be ignored for a while. After all, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in December that nearly all Americans had been vaccinated or have antibodies from a past infection. Surely all that immunity bought some breathing room. But suddenly, many people who had recovered from Covid-19 as recently as March or April found themselves exhausted, coughing and staring at two red lines on a rapid test. How could this be happening again — and so soon? The culprit this time is yet another Omicron offshoot, BA.5. It has three key mutations in its spike protein that make it both better at infecting our cells and more adept at slipping past our immune defenses.
In just over two months, BA.5 outcompeted its predecessors to become the dominant cause of Covid-19 in the United States.” • Hard to believe that CDC could be outmaneuvered, but here we are.
WEBSITE DOWN Wastewater data (CDC), Jun 25, 2022 – Jul 09, 2022:
Lots of orange, more red. Not good. 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.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
1,047,794. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a nice, simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.
Manufacturing: “United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The New York Empire State Manufacturing Index rose to 11.1 in July of 2022 from -1.2 in June, the highest in three months and beating market expectations of -2. New orders increased marginally, and shipments expanded significantly. Unfilled orders edged lower for a second consecutive month. Delivery times lengthened at the slowest pace in months, and inventories picked up. Labor market indicators pointed to a solid increase in employment and a slightly longer average workweek. While still elevated, both the prices paid and prices received indexes moved significantly lower, pointing to a deceleration in price increases. Firms turned pessimistic about the six-month outlook, a rare occurrence in the survey’s history.”
The Bezzle: “Moneylike” [Cory Doctorow, Cory Doctorow]. Doctorow embraces MMT (though not Hudson on the origin of money). “For example, it explains why Web3 — notionally a project to remake the web without Big Tech chokepoints — is so closely associated with cryptocurrency. It’s not just the ideological notion that if we paid for things, companies would abandon surveillance and sensationalism (a dubious proposition!), it’s the idea that the internet could be remade as something that can only be used by people who have cryptocurrency tokens. The internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, as the pandemic and the lockdown proved. Without the internet, you are cut off from family life, healthcare, employment, leisure, access to government services, political discourse, civic life, and romance. Those are all things you need, not just things you want. If you need cryptocurrency to access these services on a replacement, transactional internet built on the blockchain, then you will do work and sell goods in exchange for cryptocurrency tokens. They will become the new hut-tax, and the fact that everyone who wants the things the internet provides has to trade work or goods for cryptos will make cryptos very moneylike.”
Airbnb is more expensive than hotels
Uber is more expensive than taxis
Ethereum transactions are more expensive than credit card processing fees
The new economy is rekt
— litquidity (@litcapital) July 11, 2022
“Rekt”? Wasn’t that always the endgame?
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 27 Fear (previous close: 23 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 29 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 15 at 2:17 PM EDT.
“The hidden costs of the middleman economy” [Strategy+Business]. “The costs of middlemen are multiplying, and appearing in places where we might not expect, including higher fees paid to realtors for house sales. But for [author Kathryn] Judge, costs go beyond mere economic hazards and represent an artificial intermediary that diminishes the integrity of direct exchange. In more forceful passages, she charges the most dominant intermediaries with contributing to loneliness, isolation, and lack of ‘human flourishing’ around the world. … Ultimately, the reader is challenged to consider the human values that direct purchasing can provide. Judge offers numerous examples of ways that consumers can buy directly from local institutions and boutique ventures (consider your local bookseller!). She believes that direct exchange fosters connection and community while promoting a more just, resilient, and accountable economic system, and she shares tangible steps toward realizing this vision. Direct is a charming reminder of the hidden costs that are often bundled into small gains, and the human benefits made possible when buying locally.” I’m not sure what The Bearded Onewhoul have to say about “the integrity of direct exchange.” I grant one can have markets without capitalism, but is this really nostalgia for social relations under industrial, as opposed to financial, capitalism?
News of the Wired
“Auditors Cheating on Ethics Exams – Who’s Surprised?” [The Dig]. “Drawing on a career filled with scrutiny of financial and professional break-down and misfeasance, I teach a course in business and law schools that explores the reasons for bad decisions and behaviors. There is a core theme in the shortcomings of the supposed ‘smart guys’ — whether during the credit crisis of 2007-2008, the halting and inconsistent reactions to the COVID pandemic, the recurrent scandals from Enron to Wirecard, or the persistent outbreaks — that, every time, trigger the familiar cry, ‘Where were the auditors?’ Namely, as fallible humans, all of us are prone to the quick and instinctive decisions that activated ‘fight or flight’ for our primitive ancestors whose DNA we inherit. It was good enough to safeguard a prehistoric tribe, but ill-suited to the complexities of modern life where, through bias and error, we are led to undesirable judgments and decisions….. The accounting profession has contributed to a public expectation of auditor performance that exceeds its failure-avoidance capabilities, eliding the inevitable break-downs that inhere in any complex system of human design and operation. As context for this latest outbreak of test-cheating, the entire model for financial information assurance, designed in the Victorian era and largely unevolved since, has yet to recognize and apply a half-century of insightful scholarship into the complexities of human behavior…. This counsels neither cynicism nor despair. Instead it’s a challenge that calls for strategies that are better informed and designed.” • Hmm. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From RH:
RH writes: “Blackberry blossoms.”
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!