By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
Varied Triller, Queensland, Australia. Indeed!
“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
“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“The Distinct Shame of Senate Republicans” [The Bulwark]. “[H]ow much of this did Senate Republicans know when they voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment on February 13, 2021? Probably most of it. Maybe even all of it…. The idea that the tiny network of the nation’s top Republicans were not circulating the ghastly details of Trump’s actions beginning on Election Day defies credulity. et let’s pretend that, somehow, Republican senators had truly been innocent—like children they had genuinely not known anything about Trump’s intentions and actions before January 6. Well, they surely learned about them on January 6. We know this because during the 187 minute span that afternoon, Trump called Republican senators. We know that he spoke with Tommy Tuberville and Josh Hawley. Who else did Trump call? And are we supposed to believe that neither of these men conveyed what they learned about Trump’s state of mind to their colleagues? Again with the credulity. And then there’s Mitch McConnell. The Republican leader’s wife, Elaine Chao, resigned from the administration because of the insurrection. Is there a separation of church-and-state in the McConnell household?”
“Joe and Jill’s long summer” [CNN]. “[Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to Laura Bush] notes first ladies are the best barometers for how a President is actually feeling.” • I read this thing twice, and I can’t find any barometer readings at all.
“The Inflation Reduction Act is Not Designed to Reduce Inflation” [Benjamin Studebaker]. “If you actually look at this thing, this legislation only raises $739 billion over the next decade. This means that on average, each year, it only raises around $73.9 billion. This is not as much money as you might think. The US spends around $782 billion on defense each year. Last year alone, the federal government spent $6.8 trillion. We’re looking at less than 10% of the defense budget, 1% of the federal budget, and about 0.3% of GDP. How is the federal government meant to combat inflation with a new tax that is smaller than a third of a percentage point of the economy? The purpose of the bill is to be seen to be doing something. The Biden administration needs something to run on in the midterms…. [T]he United States suffers from a chronic lack of state capacity. It struggles to pass all but the most paltry legislation. It cannot get out in front of its problems and it cannot even solve crises as they arise. So, it papers over its dysfunction by measuring spending in decades rather than in years, by sticking that extra zero on the end of every number. Seven hundred billion sounds much better than seventy billion. It almost sounds like somebody’s doing something. But it’s the sound of silence.” • True even for warfighting (except domestically, of course). Oh, but $73.9 billion will fund a lot of NGOs to do studies. So there’s that.
“The Sinema-Manchin split that shaped Dems’ deal” [Poliitico]. “It’s probably the last big party-line bill Democrats will be able to deliver for years, with the House expected to flip to Republicans in the November elections.” • So awesome. Going out in a fizzle of glory.
* * *
IL: “The Inflation Reduction Act is Not Designed to Reduce Inflation” [Benjamin Studebaker]. “In my home congressional district, the Republicans are pumping in a vast amount of money to challenge Frank Mrvan. Mrvan’s district has been blue since the 1930s. The district includes many of the poorest suburbs of Chicago, including Gary, East Chicago, and Lake Station. Many of these suburbs are majority African-American. Nevertheless, the Republicans think they can win this year. Why? These municipalities are so poor that there is little functioning public transit. To get around, people in these towns have to drive. They can’t afford new electric cars. They have to buy gas, and they have to buy it often. So, the GOP has nominated Jennifer-Ruth Green, a black female air force veteran. Americans for Prosperity is helping her travel from gas station to gas station, subsidizing the cost of gas back down to $2.38–the price when Joe Biden took office. What would she do if elected? She’d cut taxes on the rich and throw money at private oil companies to drill virgin wilderness. But if you’re broke and Green’s helped you save $20 on gas, you might not care. Maybe if she wins, she’ll run next again in two years, and you’ll save another $20. Why would you expect anything more? It’s not as if the Democrats will give it to you.” •
OH: “Tim Ryan turned his race into a surprise Senate battleground. Now comes the hard part” [Politico]. “Tim Ryan may be running ahead of J.D. Vance in Ohio. But the cavalry is coming to Vance’s rescue. Whether Ryan can survive the coming ad onslaught and keep Ohio’s Senate race surprisingly competitive is an open question. The Democratic congressman is making an appeal to Republicans and independents in hopes he can win in a state that has shifted right in recent years, falling off the center of the battleground map it occupied for so many decades. Vance, the Republican nominee, rose to prominence as the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and was supported in the primary by former President Donald Trump and tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Independent polling in the race has been scarce so far. But Ryan has staked out a narrow 3-point edge in an internal poll for his campaign obtained exclusively by POLITICO, taking 48 percent support to Vance’s 45 percent, with 7 percent undecided.” • No reason to think Vance is a strong candidate; politics really isn’t easy. But on the bright side, if and when Ryan is elected, he can join Manchin and Sinema as a rotating villain. So all is not lost.
WY: “Liz Cheney Is Ready to Lose. But She’s Not Ready to Quit” [New York Times]. Cheney: “I would much rather serve with Mikie Sherrill and Chrissy Houlahan and Elissa Slotkin than Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, even though on substance certainly I have big disagreements with the Democratic women I just mentioned.” Sherrill, Houlahan, and Slotkin. Houlahan and Slotkin are CIA Democrats. So that’s clarifying, not least about where Cheney’s funding will come from if and when she loses her race.
“Youngkin’s Donors” [Virginia Public Access Project].
See Matt Taibbi here for his coverage of school district issues in Loudon County (and also Fairfax, deep purple at bottom right). If Youngkin can bottle whatever he sold those voters in his gubernatorial race and sell it nationally, 2024 could be interesting. (No kneejerk reactions on Loudon, please, Read Taibbi first.)
A tale of two recoveries:
We have now fully recovered *all* the jobs that were lost early in the pandemic pic.twitter.com/IPz9gyWZIZ
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) August 5, 2022
Say what you will about Trump (or the jobs market), Trump certainly did better, and under more challenging circumstances, than Obama did.* And you could argue that Obama’s ridiculously protracted “recovery” was one factor in bringing the Trump phenomenon about. Not that Rampell mentions this.
Democrats en Déshabillé
I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:
The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.
Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.
* * *
Remember the senators are doing this to themselves. These are dumb rules they made up and can easily just get rid of.
— Jon Walker (@JonWalkerDC) August 7, 2022
Well, why not?
Opinion | We must learn to live with polio
by Leanna Wen
— New York Times Pitchbot (@DougJBalloon) August 6, 2022
Speaking of polio:
Taking critical psychic damage from the lede of this 1979 WaPo op ed, and the reality that we are living in a previous generation's dystopia pic.twitter.com/UmRXs5I2s3
— Erik Baker (@erikmbaker) August 4, 2022
Leana Wen gunning for another award:
No one's arguing that at all. The argument is that universal use is far more effective. Applying source control to an infector is very powerful! But since we don't know who the infector is, best to just get everyone to wear an N95 or better.
— Adrian Malong (@apmalong) August 6, 2022
Am one of those women. Husband now supporting eldest kids not masking because it spoils their fun. I am the bad guy for asking them to mask up when they go indoors. Got CEV family members to keep safe but they don’t care. Youngest & I living separately.
— Debs Frazer (@DebsFrazer) August 8, 2022
I see this, too. The famous clarifying question asked by Ann Landers: “Are you better off with him or without him?”
“Larry Brilliant Says Covid Rapid Antigen Tests Are Bad for Public Health” [Wired]. I think Brilliant is right on RAT tests; they’re one reason we don’t know our case counts. However, three other passages caught my eye. (1) “In part, this is because when Trump was president, he attacked the CDC. There was so much political interference that there was an exodus of the CDC’s top people and a loss of its institutional memory.” The central CDC debacle was the test kits. That had nothing to do with either Trump or test kits. The second was masking, which is down to Fauci, if anything. And the third was fighting aerosols tooth and nail, which again had nothing to do with Trump. (2) “Over time, as the human population becomes more and more immune through a combination of vaccines and prior infection, repeated infection, then the coronavirus will sort of settle for being transmissible and it won’t be dangerous.” This is the theory that viruss evolve to be less virulent. It ain’t necessarily so: “There are plenty of ancient diseases, such as tuberculosis and gonorrhoea, that are probably just as virulent today as they ever were.” (3) ” Do you know about the Rockefeller Foundation retreat in Bellagio, Italy, where people go to plan conferences? I think that all the variants of Covid got together there with a list of all the people who spoke bad about them and decided: ‘Enough of this shit. Let’s go after those people.'” So, faced with one of those superspreading events the PMC just loves to construct for itself, Brilliant blames the virus, not the behavior of his class. Typical. • There’s some good stuff in this interview, but boy, bring a dose of salts.
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 for the United States:
This looks hopeful, but in fact the drop is down to Florida.
Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but this the first time in a long time I’ve seen a lot of indicators improve simultaneously (and federalism + private data work against manipulating everything). Good news. But also modified rapture. Let’s focus on the case data, specifically at points A) and B) on the chart above, and at the “fiddling and diddling” (as I call it) delineated by the red boxes. At A), I remember having the sensation of Omicron going around the house, banging on doors, trying to get in. It did, then “up like a rocket, down like a stick”. At B), we have a pattern I’ve called “sawtooth,” not flat like A), but flat enough. Of course, we can’t see the real curves because our data is so bad (see discussion of the “Biden Line”). But if we make the assumption that the curves for actual cases are the same as for reported cases, the sawtooth pattern has been very persistent (note that deaths, which lag cases, have the same pattern). Now, if I were the sort of policy maker who believed in herd immunity and the Great Barrington Declaration and “everyone’s going to get it,” I might be rubbing my hands and congratulating myself right now, on having achieved a consistent and politically acceptable level of suffering and death that can continue indefinitely; I might even think that BA.5 had been very good to me. (The great lesson of the Covid pandemic would be that elites can slaughter a million people without civil resistance. They can even get people to slaughter themselves in the name of “freedom,” etc. Good to know!) We will see in the coming days and weeks.
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 ~ 115,000. Today, it’s ~111,650 and 111,650 * 6 = a Biden line at 669,900. per day. That’s rather a lot of cases per day, when you think about it. (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. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes we’ve seen have a basis in reality. I’m not seeing the volume of anecdotes I did on the Twitter. What are readers experiencing?
Regional case count for four weeks:
C’mon, Florida. (Desantis must be ticked off that I ran that Marx Brothers clip the other day. Not that Marx, Ron. Down, boy.) It has not escaped my notice that big states are driving the national case count, and that DeSantis (Florida) and Newsom (California) are both Presidential timber, and Abbbot might consider himself so. However, we have other indicators than cases.
As a check on the California case data, here is San Diego wastewater:
I don’t know why the chart’s red line, case data, stops at July 11, though. Nevertheless, wastewater, generally a leading indicator, is going up, and not down. (I don’t know if San Diego is represenative, of course.)
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, August 5:
0.0%. (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.) Starting to look like positivity has peaked, at least for Walgreen’s test population.
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.
Some blue in flyover.
NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), August 3:
Improvements everywhere (except New Hampshire. Tourism?).
Previous Rapid Riser data:
NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), August 3:
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), July 21:
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), July 16 (Nowcast off):
BA.5 moving along nicely. NOTE CDC restored the previous layout it had been using, so I used it. But the data remains the same.
Wastewater data (CDC), August 2:
Red dots improved. I added grey for today. Grey, not on the legend at bottom right, is “No recent data.” How is there no recent data for New York City, a major international hub and already the epicenter of at least one wave?
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,058,738 –
1,057,811 = 927 (365 * 927 = 338,355; the new normal). Quite a pop. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a 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.
NOTE Readers, I introduced a new piece of arithmetic: The level of death that the CDC and the political class generally would like us to become accustomed to. Sorry for the arithmetical error yesterday, spotted by alert reader ChrisRUEcon.
There are no official statistics of note today.
Tech: Too, too meta:
— John Lounsbury (@jlounsbury59) August 7, 2022
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 29 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 8 at 1:07 PM EDT.
Rapture Index: Closes down one on Unemployment. “Despite signs of recession, jobs are plentiful” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) I’ve been waiting for the Rapture Index to hit the all time high again. But it just can’t cross the important psychological barrier of 190. Instead, it falls back.
Naked Capitalism Cooking Community™
— Tommy Pilon (@PilonTommy) August 6, 2022
Speaking of epigenetics:
— detty (@0ddette) August 7, 2022
When I grew up in the Midwest, the town would fog every street from a DDT truck during mosquito season, great white clouds of the stuff. It’s a miracle I’m still alive and retained the usual number of fingers and toes!
“North Carolina sheriff stocking schools with AR-15 rifles in wake of Uvalde shooting” [NBC News]. “When schools in one North Carolina county reopen later this month, new security measures will include stocking AR-15 rifles for school resource officers to use in the event of an active shooter. Spurred by the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead in May, school officials and Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood have placed one of the semiautomatic rifles in each of the county’s six schools. Each of the guns will be locked inside a safe, Harwood said.” • We don’t seem to know how to do anything but double down.
News of the Wired
You’ll like this, if this is the sort of thing you like:
TH writes: “This is another lovely plant one finds at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, CA. I’m afraid I don’t know what it is.”
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!