By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
Black Solitaire, Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Lots of jungle noises, with an aria at the end.
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“The logic of the insult and the logic of scientific classification represent the two extreme poles of what a classification may be in the social world.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“How Influential Senate Democrats Shut Down a Bid to Call Witnesses Against Trump” [Politico]. The caption under the photo at the top tells the tale: “Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), as President Biden’s closest ally in the Senate, voiced out against bringing out witnesses to testify, worrying about the trial dragging out and hurting the new president.” • IOW, the headline is deceptive, as a close reading of the story shows. Coons was Biden’s straw.
“White House says no change in nuclear posture after Biden ‘armageddon’ remark” [The Hill]. • So that’s alright, then.
“Biden Takes Welcome, but Very Limited Steps Towards Marijuana Legalization” [Reason]. “Yesterday, the White House announced two incremental steps towards loosening federal marijuana prohibition. President will pardon ‘all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.’ In addition, he has directed the Attorney General and the Department of Health and Human Services to study whether marijuana should be removed from the list of Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). If marijuana is removed from Schedule I (a decision which the CSA leaves to the executive), penalties for possession and distribution would be reduced. These are welcome steps. But, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum explains, they are very limited. According to the White House’s own data, . Some 6500 people have been convicted under federal marijuana possession charges over the last 30 years, plus a few thousand more in the District of Columbia (to which the president’s pardon power also extends). But nearly all of these people have either already been released, or are currently serving time on other charges, as well.” • Plus Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.
* * *
“The most important voting bloc is still undecided” [Politico]. “There are 34 days to go until Election Day 2022, and the largest bloc of voters — and the largest bloc of swing voters — is undecided. Only 17 percent of women over 50 have decided whom they plan on voting for in this year’s midterm elections, according to a recent survey by AARP. This group can make or break elections: While women over 50 make up a quarter of the voting-age population, they made up 30 percent of those who showed up to vote in 2020. And 82 percent of these voters say they are very motivated to vote in November.” • Hmm.
“Democrats’ strategy to boost MAGA Republicans is vindicated” [MSNBC]. “Take, for example, Rep. Peter Meijer, who voted for the legislation and in January 2021 voted to impeach Trump. Earlier this year Democrats helped defeat him in a primary against MAGA (and Trump endorsed) Republican John Gibbs. So far, in baldly political terms, the Democrats’ strategic analysis that Gibbs would be easier to defeat appears to be correct. After the primary, the Cook Political Report shifted its rating of the race from ‘toss up’ to ‘lean Democratic.'” • This is the only national race MSNBC has got. Some vindication! An alternative theory, I suppose, is that Democrats are figuring which MAGA types they can do business with.. I mean, they’re certainly doing that with the Azovs. And others:
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) October 7, 2022
“Don’t worry. We can control them.”
GA: “Herschel Walker’s Abortion Story Has Become Incoherent” [New York Magazine]. “Five weeks out from Election Day, Herschel Walker and his campaign are learning the very basics of crisis communications, including rudimentary lessons like ‘when the pro-life Senate candidate in Georgia paid for a girlfriend’s abortion and his staffers know about the matter, it’s probably a good idea to have a game plan ready for when the story comes out.’ But since the Daily Beast reported that the former football star paid $700 for a girlfriend to terminate a pregnancy in 2009 — and sent a get-well card with his signature on it — the campaign has been scrambling to respond.”
PA: “Fetterman breaks fundraising record in latest quarter” [The Hill]. “Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman pulled in $22 million for his Senate bid over the last three months, doubling what he raised in the previous fundraising period. The haul — which came from 330,000 different donors, according to Fetterman’s campaign — marks the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee’s best fundraising quarter to date and brings his total cash haul to more than $48 million. Fetterman’s campaign said that the $22 million total is the most raised in a single quarter by a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania…. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, shifted the race into its toss-up column this week after previously rating it as ‘Lean Democrat.’ Despite early stumbles by Oz, the Trump-backed celebrity physician has refocused his campaign in recent weeks, relentlessly casting Fetterman as a far-left radical and raising questions about his health and fitness to serve in public office. The two men are set to meet on the debate stage on Oct. 25.” • That debate will be for all the marbles, unless Fetterman runs a brutally effective air war almost immediately. And Fetterman’s debate performance has not been good.
“On Trump’s last day in office, why were sensitive documents allegedly in such disarray?” [NBC]. “At the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, his team returned a large batch of classified FBI documents and other government records to the Justice Department in such disarray that a year later — in a letter to lawmakers — the department said it still couldn’t tell which of the documents were the classified ones. The documents came from the FBI’s controversial probe in 2016 looking at alleged links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump tried to make the documents public the night before he left office, issuing a ‘declassification’ memo and secretly meeting with conservative writer John Solomon, who was allowed to review the documents, Solomon told ABC News this past week. But for reasons that are still not clear – and to the great frustration of Trump and his political allies – none of the documents were ever officially released, and the Justice Department said Thursday it’s still working to determine which documents can be disclosed.” • Supports my theory…
Democrats en Déshabillé
Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert
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.
* * *
“Democrats’ swing-state local news ploy” [Axios]. “Writers for a D.C.-based media operation run by prominent Democratic operatives are behind a sprawling network of ostensible local media outlets churning out Democrat-aligned news content in midterm battleground states, Axios has learned. Behind the patina of independent local news, these sites are pumping out content designed to put a sheen of original reporting on partisan messaging. It’s an increasingly common tactic among political outfits looking to give their team a steady stream of positive content they can then use to boost their own electoral communications. A network of at least 51 locally branded news sites has popped up since last year under names like the Milwaukee Metro Times, the Mecklenburg Herald and the Tri-City Record. The sites are focused on key swing states with elections in 2021 and 2022: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Each follows a similar template: aggregated local news content and short write-ups about local sports teams and attractions — interspersed with heavily slanted political news aimed at boosting Democratic midterm candidates and attacking Republican opponents.” • Maggots infesting the corpse of the news business.
“Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken roadshow recruits ‘Army of God” [Associated Press]. “BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — By the time the red, white and blue-colored microphone had been switched off, the crowd of 3,000 had listened to hours of invective and grievance. ‘We’re under warfare,’ one speaker told them. Another said she would ‘take a bullet for my nation,’ while a third insisted, ‘They hate you because they hate Jesus.’ Attendees were told now is the time to ‘put on the whole armor of God.’ Then retired three-star Army general Michael Flynn, the tour’s biggest draw, invited people to be baptized. Scores of people walked out of the speakers’ tent to three large metal tubs filled with water. While praise music played in the background, one conference-goer after another stepped in. Pastors then lowered them under the surface, welcoming them into their movement in the name of Jesus Christ. One woman wore a T-shirt that read ‘Army of God.’ Flynn warned the crowd that they were in the midst of a ‘spiritual war’ and a ‘political war’ and urged people to get involved. ReAwaken America was launched by Flynn, a former White House national security adviser, and Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark a few months after the Jan. 6 insurrection [sic] at the U.S. Capitol failed to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Attendees and speakers still insist — against all evidence and dozens of court rulings — that Donald Trump rightfully won…. In the version of America laid out at the ReAwaken tour, Christianity should be at the center of American life and institutions. Instead, it’s under attack, and attendees need to fight to restore the nation’s Christian roots. It’s a message repeated over and over at ReAwaken — one that upends the constitutional ideal of a pluralist democracy. But it’s a message that is taking hold.” • Frankly, I don’t trust the national press, even the staid AP, to get this right. because I don’t think they undertstand the population, When the Trillbillies, who do, get around to this, I’ll listen to them. Meanwhile, we had the same fervor with Bush. It turned out the Christianist factions that supported him didn’t have the skills to govern; as it turns out, Liberty University isn’t Harvard.
Realignment and Legitimacy
A lot of strategist’s kids are gonna have to go to state schools:
This is neat: data from a giant metadata study of the persuasive effects of campaign ads (kindly shared by an author).
— Will Stancil (@whstancil) October 7, 2022
Patient readers: Today I’ve reconfigured the Covid-19 section. Since CDC will now make case data available only weekly, that data will become entirely useless for early warning purposes, instead of only partially useless, so I will eliminate that section entirely. I will retain CDC’s wastewater chart (still daily), and Walgreen’s positivity chart (still daily). For transmission, CDC also made Rapid Riser and Hospitalization weekly, so I have eliminated them, too. I will retain the CDC community transmission map (“the red map”), the CDC and Walgreens variant data, and the death rate (for as long as CDC supports them).
The net result is that the best early warning system for an oncoming surge will be wastewater, which has (a) spotty national coverage and (b) is routed through CDC with no check. That’s really a recipe for tragedy, especially when we consider that the only system that CDC explicitly built for early warning was the horrid “community levels” (“the green map”).
I will continue to aggregate Tweets, as before; modulo censorship, the Twitter may end up being the best early warning system we have. Meanwhile, if some experts are correct, we should get whatever the UK is having in a month or so. But maybe not! If we still seem to be on a plateau after Thanksgiving travel, I will reconfigure again, back to more emphasis on the economy (because I have sorely neglected business news).
• Maskstravaganza: “I Won’t Be Tossing My Mask Any Time Soon” [MedPage Today]. “I have lost count of the number of personal exposures to contagious, pre-symptomatic patients I have withstood without becoming infected, thanks to simple surgical masks. The negative aspects of masks as a barrier are simultaneously apparent in my work and in my life. As physicians, we are struggling to appear empathic and kind with only the top halves of our faces while breaking bad news. … We are all eager to ditch the masks, but I won’t be tossing my mask away completely any time soon. I am not comfortable making the same decisions for my patients that I would make for myself. They don’t have a choice about being ill enough to require hospital admission, dialysis, or infusion therapy — and they are at our mercy for care. Just as we dutifully perform ‘time outs’ before procedures, and use maximal barrier precautions when placing central lines, I would encourage us to continue masking when caring for patients, at least for the time being. I will be, and will continue to work on, smiling with my eyes.” • This article accepts the validity of CDC’s “community levels” metric; an editor should have caught that.
• ”Southwest CEO tests positive for COVID-19 after Senate hearing – airline” [Reuters]. “[CEO Gary] Kelly did not wear a mask during the hearing and questioned the health benefit of masks on airplanes. ‘I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much if anything in the air cabin environment — it’s very safe, very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,’ Kelly said. Late Friday, Southwest released an email Kelly sent to employees that sought to clarify his comments, saying the airline supports the current federal mask mandate at airports and on airplanes: ‘There is no effort underway to change it before it expires … The majority of our Employees and Customers have felt it has been an important layer of protection, and I certainly agree with that.'” • That’s a damn shame. Always entertaining to see karma operate in near-real time. Kelly is, of course, full of it:
This picture was taken yesterday mid-flight from DFW to San Diego. This was the lowest CO2 reading of the flight. It is the worst of any I have measured. About 15 people wearing masks – including the person next to me. (I think he is buying an Aranet4.) pic.twitter.com/0ONG7GcqU8
— Jim Rosenthal (@JimRosenthal4) October 6, 2022
• ”Yes, airline ventilation policies vary from carrier to carrier” [WUSA9]. “Is the air ventilation system turned on when airline passengers are boarding and disembarking? There are no federal rules and it varies from carrier to carrier.” • You’d think the online airline ticket sites would be adding this information.
Case count for the United States:
The last case count chart. I have added a black “Fauci Line.” If we’re lucky, that’s the new normal. Just like the Great Financial Crash: They got away with it, didn’t they? Only Biden can adopt eugenics.
• “So long, Omicron: White House eyes next phase of pandemic” [Politico]. From Feburary, still germane: “Emboldened by falling case counts, the Biden administration is plotting a new phase of the pandemic response aimed at containing the coronavirus and conditioning Americans to live with it.”
• “Q&A: Is the pandemic over?” [KPBS]. After Biden declared: “the pandemic is over.” “Is the pandemic over? [Eric] Topol: Unfortunately, it isn’t. We’re going to see more of what we have been seeing. There’s some very troublesome variants out there that have more immune evasion than the BA.5 that we had to contend with through the summer. We’re already seeing a significant uptick in the European Union. And you mentioned that things are coming down in the U.S. overall and certainly in San Diego, but unfortunately, we’re already seeing an upswing in cases in the Northeast, and as you know, we don’t track cases that well. So there’s a lot of disturbing things out there that tell us, I think, pretty well that while the weeks ahead look okay, we’re in for some more trouble in the next couple, few months.” • Well worth reading in full.
Wastewater data (CDC), October 3:
For grins, October 2:
An alert reader suggested taking a look at the MWRA data from the Boston area, and lo and behold:
Lambert here: This seems to have stalled.
This is a seven-day average, mind you, so the rise is no fluke. (MRWA is divided into north and south sewersheds. Both are rising.) Let us also remember that the Boston area is not only the home of many, many students, it’s also a PMC center, and we have already seen one ginormous superspreader event from the conference in Boston. Boston also has a major international airport, another cause of spread.
UPDATED From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, October 5:
Readers, please click through on this, if you have a minute. Since Walgreens did the right thing, let’s give this project some stats.
Lambert here: I have to say, I’m seeing more yellow and more blue, which continues to please. But is the pandemic “over”? Well….
NOTE: The case data driving this map has always been weekly, so it is not affected by CDC’s decision.
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].
Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 24:
Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its appearance in CDC data below.
UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), September 10 (Nowcast off):
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,087,350 –
1,086,685 = 665 (665 * 365 = 242,725, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line. NOTE I may need to configure this as well. But I have reconfigured enough for one day.
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.
Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent in September 2022, matching July’s 29-month low and remaining below market expectations of 3.7 percent, in another sign overall labor market conditions in the world’s largest economy remain tight.” • I guess Powell’s gotta tighten the thumbscrews some more….
Inventories: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Economics]. “Wholesale inventories in the US advanced by 1.3 percent from a month earlier to $912.6 billion in August of 2022, matching an initial estimate and after a 0.6 percent increase in the previous month. It was the 25th consecutive month of growth in inventories.”
The Bezzle: “Twitter, Elon Musk Trial Postponed as Deal Talks Stall” [Wall Street Journal]. “The surprise ruling, granting a request by Mr. Musk, effectively ends negotiations for a settlement that would allow the parties to quickly close the deal. Mr. Musk now has until Oct. 28 to do so. Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick said if the deal doesn’t close by that date, the parties should contact her to schedule a November trial. She had previously denied attempts by Mr. Musk to delay the trial and had fast-tracked it at Twitter’s request.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 32 Fear (previous close: 30 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 14 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 6 at 12:59 PM EDT.
Given Mucha’s record (he invented the concept of the Platinum Coin) I think this is a real proposal, not a modest one:
From my reading of 1961 Narcotics Treaty, federal legalization of nonprescription cannabis would require retailer to be a “State enterprise”. Even more than postal banking, drug dealing an obvious @USPS business opportunity, delivery infrastructure already in place. cc @dandolfa pic.twitter.com/tfkJm0Mk0P
— Carlos Mucha (@mucha_carlos) June 16, 2019
Humanity’s Best Friend
“What Do Dogs Know About Us?” [The Atlantic]. “It feels as if she has come to a different level of awareness of us. She is seeing us; she is minding us. With this she has developed a knowing look. Picking up a peanut-butter-jar lid from the floor, she gently mouths it and carries it over to a dog bed, the prey captured and brought back to her den. And then she looks directly at me as she begins to gnaw it. Outside she picks up a perfect maple leaf by the stem and lightly pads away inside with it, glancing backward until she is out of our view. Another day she hurries into my son’s room, then saunters out carrying his sock, lazily mouthing it, looking right at me. There is a real understanding going on there, between my seeing her and her seeing me see her (and now my seeing her see me see her).” • This whole article reminded me of why I prefer cats. Sorry, dog people!
Our Famously Free Press
Once you become an opinion-haver, you can have opinions on whatever you like:
I have spent much of the day with nuclear weapons and Putin experts and 2 of them join me on @inthebubblepod tomorrow to discuss what the nuclear weapons threat really means and how to respond.
Episode drops at 3 am Eastern. While Tucker Carlson folds; the US stays strong.
— Andy Slavitt 💙💛 (@ASlavitt) October 7, 2022
Odd to see the nimble Slavitt cash in his health care expertise to become an expert on war. Maybe he’s angling for the Times Op-Ed page, which could use a man of his talents.
“Peloton’s CEO doesn’t understand why people aren’t happier he laid off 500 people” [The Verge]. Following a WSJ story. “In a memo obtained by The Verge, [CEO Barry] McCarthy wrote: ‘We were expecting a story about redemption and the successful turnaround of Peloton, which is why we invested time on background briefing them on the state of our turnaround. The headline should have been that recent strong execution and today’s restructuring have positioned us to meet our fiscal year-end goal of break-even cash flow, with a renewed focus on accelerating our growth, which is why I’ve never felt more optimistic about our future. Would I say this if it weren’t true? .” • Oh, right.
A long thread on wholesale restaurant food distributor Sysco from Moe Tkacik:
Maybe you've heard Sysco @Teamsters are on strike in 3 cities. But unless you work in a commercial kitchen, you probably don't know what Sysco even is, or why so many chefs & small restaurants are *rooting* for the strikers. pic.twitter.com/z8ZJ9AzOZf
— moe tkacik (@moetkacik) October 6, 2022
News of the Wired
“Why Dates and Times Seem to Lose Their Meaning” [Wall Street Journal]. “The dates on the calendar and the time on a clock are some of the most ubiquitous and easily understood numbers in our lives. And yet over the past two years, many Americans have felt time blur: They lose track of the day or hour, think more (or less) time has elapsed than actually has, and can’t place exactly when a traumatic event actually happened. It isn’t their imagination. Psychology has a term for it: ‘temporal disintegration’—when the present seems disconnected from the continuity of time—and it plays an important role in how we perceive and respond to trauma…. It’s normal to be focused on the present to the exclusion of the past and future. But if you frequently don’t know what day of the week it is or can’t recall if something important in your life happened a day, a month or a year ago, or feel like the past and future have disappeared, then a more serious time warp might be at work.” • Handy chart:
I’m not sure living in the present is such a bad thing. I think there is something going on here, but the article reads like “urgency of normal” propaganda, to me.
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 TH:
TH writes: “I believe this one is called French Lavender. I spotted it in our wanderings on Naples Island in Long Beach (CA), and mostly took the picture to see what kind of Lavender Apple thinks it is (my iPhone 11 seems to have an app I didn’t ask for that identifies plants . . . sometimes).”
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