By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Wood Thrush, Lander, MD. C&O canal at Lander, Frederick, Maryland, United States. “Bird singing away from the parabola.” Seems to be a duet?
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“Two Americas Index: Hands off Social Security and Medicare” [Axios]. “Nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they oppose reducing spending on Social Security or Medicare, according to new polling from our Axios-Ipsos Two Americas Index. The overwhelming consensus (96% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans) explains why any talk of cutting these programs has become a political lightning rod, even as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize potential concerns regarding long-term solvency.” • Solvency, feh.
Trump not arrested! As of this writing…
“How an Old Affidavit Could Undercut Trump’s Future Defense in the Stormy Daniels Case” [DNYUZ]. “Among the challenges, some of these defenders say, is proving Trump’s intent—a surreal dilemma that has flummoxed legal analysts for years. ‘Bragg would have to prove that Trump not only understood the complex and convoluted campaign laws that few people comprehend, but that he intended to violate them,’ Fox News commentator Greg Jarrett wrote on Monday. But when it comes to charging Trump, that perennial fear might actually be the least of Bragg’s concerns. That’s because, back in 2000, Trump submitted a sworn affidavit to the Federal Election Commission demonstrating a complex understanding of some of the same campaign finance laws that now appear central to Bragg’s case. ‘I neither reimbursed, nor caused any other person to reimburse, any employee of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. or its subsidiaries for his or her contribution to Gormley for Senate,’ Trump[‘s attorneys] wrote at the time. The affidavit, submitted as part of an FEC investigation into a Trump-hosted fundraising event for a Senate candidate, also contained sworn statements that Trump had acted ‘solely in my individual capacity’—not as a corporate official—and ‘took no action, of any nature, kind or description, to compel or pressure any employee’ to make a donation. That case was fairly complex for a layperson, and it forced Trump[‘s attorneys] to develop and express a sophisticated understanding of specific federal campaign finance laws. By the end of the ordeal, Trump would have been [hmm] intimately familiar with why corporations and third parties (‘straw donors’) could not make contributions—including in-kind contributions—to candidates for federal office.” • Despite my bracketed comments, hmm. Most of the coverage focuses on “hush money.” But in order to “make a Federal case out of it,” Bragg needs to find a violation of a Federal law (hopefully a felony). This he may be able to do, if he can show that Trump knowingly violated Federal campaign finance law. Perhaps Bragg — and remember, the New York Democrat Party establishment has a lot to prove, not just in court — can make that showing. I’m dubious. I’m also very dubious that anybody would or should go to jail over such a violation, beneficial though that would be for Trump, electorally.
“Make No Mistake, the Investigation of Donald Trump and the Stormy Daniels Scheme Is Serious” [Lawrence Tribe, New York Times]. “[Is] the Manhattan criminal case is an example of selective prosecution — in other words, going after a political enemy for a crime that no one else would be charged with? Not by a long shot. To begin with, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was instrumental in the scheme, has already pleaded guilty to a federal crime emanating from this conduct and served time for it and other crimes. Federal prosecutors told the court that Mr. Cohen ‘acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump (identified as ‘Individual 1’). It would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator has been prosecuted. Mr. Bragg, however, has had to pick up the slack, since federal prosecutors have not pursued such charges, for reasons that were clear under the corrupt influence of William Barr. As a state prosecutor, Mr. Bragg cannot bring the same federal campaign finance charge to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty.” So “anethema” applies across jurisdictions? More: “As a state prosecutor, Mr. Bragg cannot bring the same federal campaign finance charge to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty. He has various options nonetheless. New York district attorney offices have often charged a crime of filing a false business record, both as a felony and as a misdemeanor. The crime is a clear felony if it is done with intent to aid or cover up another crime and otherwise is a misdemeanor.” But: “While the analogy to Mr. Trump is imperfect, since paying hush money is not itself illegal, in his case the false ‘legal fee’ records appear to have furthered and covered up New York state tax fraud (the false Cohen tax filings) and the failure to report Trump campaign contributions.” • That’s it? That’s really it? It’s funny how each of Tribe’s arguments comes out strong… and then Tribe undercuts himself.
“Manhattan DA issues scathing response to GOP letter on possible Trump indictment: ‘We will not be intimidated'” [FOX]. “‘We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law,’ a spokesperson for Bragg’s office told Fox News Digital. ‘In every prosecution, we follow the law without fear or favor to uncover the truth. Our skilled, honest and [Oxford comma-less] dedicated lawyers remain hard at work,’ the spokesperson added. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and the other top Republicans on the Administration and Oversight committees on Monday sent a letter to Bragg demanding that he turn over documents related to his Trump investigation and testify before Congress after reports said Trump could face an indictment this week.”
“Trump in panic mode as he braces for likely charges in Stormy Daniels case” [Guardian]. The walls are closing in! “Trump’s post was nothing more than guesswork about when Alvin Bragg might bring charges, sources close to Trump said, after he saw media reporting that the district attorney’s office had contacted the US Secret Service about security in the event of an indictment…. But the frenzied posts from Trump reflected his deep panic and anxiety over the imminence and likelihood of criminal charges, the sources said, not least because he is powerless to stop the district attorney’s office from moving forward with a case that will take the US into new legal territory as Trump revs up his 2024 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination…. Trump has expressed interest in appearing in person at the Manhattan criminal court, where he believes he can turn proceedings into a spectacle before a gaggle of reporters, sources said, and raised the prospect on Saturday afternoon as he travelled to Oklahoma for an NCAA wrestling championship.” • That doesn’t sound very panicked to me.
“Trump Sweats an Arrest. We Should Sweat a Second Term.” [Timothy L. O’Brien, Bloomberg]. “He clearly fears being handcuffed, fingerprinted and perp-walked before TV cameras and the media, as anyone would. It’s a criminal case, so the threat of winding up behind bars looms.” • I don’t think that’s clear at all. Filed under “Opinion.”
* * *
“DeSantis says Florida is ‘blueprint for America’s revival'” [WWJ]. “”The Florida Blueprint is a simple formula: be willing to lead, have the courage of your convictions, deliver for your constituents, and reap the political rewards. This is a blueprint for America’s revival. We’ve shown it can be done,” DeSantis wrote in his book…. “The battles we have fought in Florida — from defeating the biomedical security state to stifling woke corporations to fighting indoctrination in schools — strike at the heart of what it means to be a Floridian and an American,” DeSantis wrote…. DeSantis even took time to take a shot at Trump, who maintains he will be arrested this week, during a news conference in Panama City, Florida. ;I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,’ DeSantis said. ‘I just, I can’t speak to that.’ Too short? More: “Continuing his remarks, DeSantis again highlighted his focus on his current position, saying, ‘I’ve got real issues to deal with here in the state of Florida.'”
* * *
“Biden zeroing in on candidates to be his 2024 campaign manager” [The Hill]. “Jenn Ridder, who served as national states director for Biden’s 2020 bid, is said to be a leading contender for the campaign manager job, sources tell The Hill. Sam Cornale, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has also been discussed as a leading candidate, the sources say, adding that it’s an ongoing, exhaustive process and there are other candidates in the mix for that position and other top roles. One source familiar with the selection process said both Ridder and Cornale are among candidates being considered for senior staff. Other candidates for senior staff include: Emma Brown who served as Sen. Mark Kelly’s campaign manager last year, Addisu Demissie who ran Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign, Quentin Fulks who was Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign manager, and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a White House senior adviser who was deputy campaign manager for Biden’s 2020 campaign. The president’s team is hoping to get their senior positions filled by April, when they’re expecting to officially launch the campaign.” • How about Michelle Obama?
* * *
“The President We Need for a Post-Ukraine-War World” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. • “Leader.” A toad hops out of Frum’s mouth, and not for the first time. Also, “leader” sounds better in the original German.
* * *
2020 Post Mortem
There’s the Night of the Long Knives, right there:
This Pence profile quotes a "conservative strategist" saying, "Pence is in a position similar to Biden in the spring of 2019. Biden was not at the top of the polls [but] he was a known entity"https://t.co/J1ssHXTMxP
Nope. Biden led in spring 2019 & most of the rest of the way pic.twitter.com/ynPu1AkCDN
— Bill Scher (@billscher) March 19, 2023
And all the Democrat Party authoritarian followers fall in line behind the, er, Leader.
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.
“‘The Democratic Party in New York Is a Disaster'” [Ross Barkan, New York Times]. “These days, New York is known as the deep-blue state where Democrats lost four seats on the way to losing the House of Representatives and effectively halting President Biden’s domestic agenda for the next two years…. These disappointments have cast into sharp relief both the divisions within the party and the peculiar void of the state’s Democratic organization itself. Few New Yorkers cared, until late 2022, that the statewide Democratic apparatus operated, for the most part, as a hollowed-out appendage of the governor, a second campaign account that did little, if any, work in terms of messaging and turnout. New Hampshire, a state with roughly half the population of Queens, has a Democratic Party with 16 full-time paid staff members. New York’s has four, according to the state chairman, Jay Jacobs. One helps maintain social media accounts that update only sparingly. Most state committee members have no idea where the party keeps its headquarters, or if it even has one. (It does, at 50 Broadway in Manhattan.) National parties function as enormous umbrella organizations, determining the presidential primary calendar and the process for allocating delegates at the national conventions. The drudgery of running elections is left to the local and state parties, as well as individual campaigns and independent political action committees…. Jacobs described the party as a “housekeeping organization” and a “coordinating entity” that works among labor unions, campaigns and other interest groups. He cited the maintenance of a voter file that campaigns use to target the electorate as among its most important work, as well as establishing campaign offices at election time. Fund-raising, too, is a big part of the work, and it’s there where Jacobs has been especially useful.” • Lots of interesting nuts and bolts about party structure.
PLEASE SHARE. We're here at the AOC military recruitment fair. Security isn't letting in parents who have registered. They want to talk to their kids alone. pic.twitter.com/9IMgvzDwEW
— gaijingirl2004 Bronx Leftist/Green. 🦺 🇵🇸✡️ (@gaijingirl2004) March 20, 2023
Gag me with a spoon.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Revisiting America’s War of Choice in Iraq” [Richard Haas, Project Syndicate]. Haass is President of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Still, common critiques of the war get it wrong when they conclude that the US government cannot ever be trusted to tell the truth. Yes, the US government maintained that Iraq possessed WMDs, and my boss at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, made that case before the United Nations. It turned out not to be true. But governments can and do get things wrong without lying.” • That may well be true, but it’s not true in this case. My first summer of blogging — I keep retelling this story, I apologize, but for those who came in late — was devoted to playing whack-a-mole as the Bush administration, aided by a complaisant press, emitted one WMD story after another, only to have them debunked, at least in the then blogosphere, within days, often within hours. The yellowcake uranium! The aluminum tubes! The mobile weapons labs! And imagine my surprise when [genuflects] Colin Powell held up an already debunked vial of white powder at the UN as proof of WMDs, to justify the war [slaps forehead]. Of course, we later discovered that the reason we felt we were playing whack-a-mole is that we were; the leaks and stories were concocted by a thing called the White House Iraq Group, full of luminaries like Condi Rice, (Over 50 such stories were planted, according a now-forgotten exposé of this operation, Truth from These Podia; PDF.) They were all lying then, and Haas is lying now.
All the pro-Iraq War liberal Democrats did very well for themselves, during the war and after. Here is a roll of dishonor:
For those too young to have lived through what happened twenty years ago, a thread of self-styled left/liberal types endorsing the invasion of Iraq pic.twitter.com/GZIq6MpTQV
— Nicholas Guyatt (@NicholasGuyatt) March 20, 2023
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Donald Trump says Nancy Pelosi should have impeached George W. Bush for lying about weapons of mass destruction and starting the Iraq War.
"He lied,he got us into the war with lies… Bush got us into this horrible war by saying they have WMD's" pic.twitter.com/VWSCdKck27
— Richard (@ricwe123) March 21, 2023
Trump is absolutely right. Pelosi should have impeached Bush when the Democrats took back the House in 2006. If she had, no Trump.
* * *
“The Real-Life Consequences of Silicon Valley’s AI Obsession” [Bloomberg]. More cudde puddles?
In Silicon Valley, the overlap between rationalists, EAs, and AI safety researchers forms a deeply influential subculture. While its borders are blurry, its hundreds or thousands of members are united by a belief that they need to work their butts off, or at least invest lots of money, to stop AI from going Terminator on us. The movement’s leaders have received support from some of the richest and most powerful people in tech, including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. And its ideas have attracted the usual Valley mix of true believers and brazen opportunists. Until recently, its most generous supporter was Bankman-Fried, who invested close to $600 million in related causes before dismissing effective altruism as a dodge once his business fell apart.
Bankman-Fried’s collapse has cast a harsh light on the community’s flaws, but he’s far from the only alleged bad actor. The combination of insularity and shared purpose that makes the subculture so attractive to smart outsiders also makes it a hunting ground for con artists, sexual predators and megalomaniacs. Filtering the legitimate desire to make AI better and safer through the familiar lens of Valley messiah complexes risks tainting the whole project by association.
The underlying ideology valorizes extremes: seeking rational truth above all else, donating the most money and doing the utmost good for the most important reason. This way of thinking can lend an attractive clarity, but it can also provide cover for destructive or despicable behavior. Eight women in these spaces allege pervasive sexual misconduct, including abuse and harassment, that they say has frequently been downplayed. Even among people with pure intentions, adherents say, EA and rationalist ideologies can amplify the suffering of people prone to doomsday thinking—leading, for a few, to psychotic breaks.
These fissures have global consequences. The community’s connections and resources give its members outsize influence on the development of AI, the No. 1 object of fascination for today’s tech industry and an incredibly powerful tool worth untold billions. The believers are trying to make AI a force for good, but disillusioned members say their community of kindred spirits is being exploited and abused by people who don’t seem to know how to be humane.
“Insularity and shared purpose” means “bubble” but using seventy five-cent words. So does “Valley messiah complexes.” So does “the No. 1 object of fascination.” Didn’t a bunch of these people just foment a bank run?
“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison
• Readers, thanks for the push. We are now up to 47/50 states (94%). I have helpfully added “______” to the states still missing data. We should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Could those of you in states not listed help out by either with dashboard/wastewater links, or ruling your state out definitively? Thank you!
Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (______); NE (______); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (______); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (
wastewater); WY ( wastewater).
Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).
Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (1), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (6), JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3). (Readers, if you leave your link in comments, I credit you by your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle. I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy for readers to scan.)
• More like this, please! Total:
1 6 11 18 20 22 26 27 28 38 39 43 47/50 (94% of US states).
Look for the Helpers
Small victories are still victories. More like this, please:
Sharing a small victory. Important recurring 2+ hr meeting now must be in person. I arrived in my fit tested N95. Nearly everyone was unmasked. CO2 went as high as 1800. Emailed organizers after the meeting to express my concerns about the poor ventilation. Nicely stated that 1/
— Noha Aboelata, MD (@NohaAboelataMD) March 21, 2023
* * *
“Introducing: The Covid Underground” [Covid Underground]. The deck: “Welcome to The Covid Underground, a newsletter for the Covid-free movement and all of those who continue to avoid infection.” More: “True health is the ability to change. About 10-30% of the U.S. population has changed their lives in the light of the freeing revelations of 2020, and we keep changing. We are dynamically, creatively faithful to what was— briefly— plain to all: normal is a dangerous illusion.” • Worth a read.
“Covid Meetups” [COVID MEETUPS (JM)]. “A free service to find individuals, families and local businesses/services who take COVID precautions in your area.” • I played around with it some. It seems to be Facebook-driven, sadly, but you can use the Directory without logging in. I get rational hits from the U.S., but not from London, UK, FWIW.
Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:
Thought I'd add this here in case anyone is interested. Places to find people who "Still Covid" in your area & online: https://t.co/T4ND4XbrpF & https://t.co/sP5wq4fAw5 You can also search on FB "Still Coviding ____" & see if there's a specific group on your area.
— Adriel Rose (@adriel_rose) March 1, 2023
Covid Is Airborne
How the First World does it:
However, in Tokyo last week, all taxis have CO2 monitors and hepa filters installed. They understand the importance of clean air and public health measures. pic.twitter.com/1ofNx24HMu
— Mark Morrissey (@MB_Morriss) March 19, 2023
As long as masks look like medical devices, they will never be a cultural norm:
Black with no logo is the only acceptable mask for much of the public, and yet @3M, Drager, etc can’t get their shit together and just make a 200ff mask that bypasses outdated industry habits. Every day they don’t make a textless black mask, more people are getting long covid. https://t.co/TRig8PaczW
— Fit Test the Planet (@FitTestMyPlanet) January 6, 2023
Another Aura fan:
I use rub-on transfer stickers to make the 3M aura cuter 💅 pic.twitter.com/RUXU9uoSR2
— ottolini (@ottolinid) March 21, 2023
People have the urge to decorate their Corsi-Rosenthal boxes too. This tendency should be encouraged.
Australian hospital reverses anti-mask directive within hours. Of course, in the US, they would have dug in their heels:
2/ Today, 13.49 Email 2: "Shit, actually, sorry there's quite a lot of COVID about. Masks stay ON for visitors!" pic.twitter.com/o8N9KmiOIV
— Dr David Berger, aBsuRdiSTe cROnickLeR (@YouAreLobbyLud) March 21, 2023
This is a miniature example of what CDC is trying to do — assuming good faith, difficult to do at this point — with “Community Levels.” They want to turn the mask knob up when spread is high, then turn it back down when its low. Leaving aside the issue of lags when a virus is in doubling behavior mode, this is just wildly inefficient and, worse, discredits the idea of public health by making it too difficult for people to adhere to. Imagine if we handled cigarettes or seatbelts this way. Mask-wearing needs to become a social norm, as it is, sensibly and to good effect, in Asia. As I say above, one step toward that goal is to reclassify masks as fashion-forward outwear, not as medical devices (not “normal” by definition).
“A first-in-human clinical study of an intranasal spray of a cocktail containing two synergetic antibodies neutralizes Omicron BA.4/5” [medRxiv]. Hamsters. ” Here, we developed an intranasal spray containing two synergetic human NAbs that could broadly neutralize the emerging Omicron variants in vitro. A unique synergetic neutralizing mechanism was identified that the two NAbs bound to exclusive epitopes on the RBD and structurally compensate each other in blocking the Spike-ACE2 interaction. Importantly, when given at low dosages for three consecutive days through the intranasal mucosal route, this cocktail showed significant improvement in the emergency preventive and therapeutic effects in hamsters challenged with authentic Omicron BA.1.” • Seems to duplicate, and therefore validate, the general approach of Thailand’s nasal spray with human antibodies, CoviTRAPP, already on the market, though not, naturally, in injection-centric First World countries..
“Public health ethics: critiques of the ‘new normal” [Monash Bioethics Review]. “The ethical justification of public health intervention requires more than just the expectation that an intervention will produce a (net) improvement public health (over and above the harms of the intervention). In addition to health, two other (sets of) values are key to the justification of public health policy: fairness, e.g., regarding the distribution of benefits and harms of an intervention in a population, and freedom, e.g., to move and interact with others without unjustified externally-imposed restrictions (Selgelid 2009).” • Sounds good, until you realize that “freedom” is how a libertarian says “[family blog] you.”
Evolution vs. man-made:
“Why ‘lab leak’ proponents are unconvinced by raccoon dog evidence for coronavirus origins” [Yahoo News]. “For supporters of the market [as opposed to lab] origin theory, however, the research described in the Atlantic is the most persuasive to date of a zoonotic, or animal, model to describe how the coronavirus entered the human population. Nearly 7 million people have died from COVID-19 since late 2019, when the first cases were reported. According to the researchers, swabs taken at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan—long suspected as the pandemic’s epicenter— show evidence of genetic material from raccoon dogs (animals that look like raccoons but are actually genetically closer to foxes) mixed with markers of SARS-CoV-2, as the coronavirus was initially known. ‘Now we have definite proof that animals were there that could carry coronaviruses at the time of the outbreak,’ said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit that supported controversial virus research in Wuhan before the 2019 outbreak.” • Just eesh. Nobody should be quoting Daszak, not because of his Wuhan Lab conflict per se, but because his EcoHealth NGO was an absolute cesspit dysfunction long before Wuhan. Also, “lab origin” vs. “market origin” is wretched framing; it’s not geography that’s at issue; the question is whether evolution, acting through natural selection, could have produced SARS-CoV-2 in the wild, or whether SARS-CoV-2’s aesthetic qualities (functionality; beauty) mean the virus could only have been engineered by a human (the watchmaker hypothesis. Note that there is also a[n], er, variant of evolutionary origin, namely that “wild” SARS-CoV-2 somehow got loose in the market — and nowhere else? — due to bad handling in the lab). We also note, as the article does not and should, that the racoon dog “story” was released to the Atlantic first, before being published anywhere else, not even as a preprint (which indicates that the scientists behind it, whether their science be sound or not, are now behaving like a faction engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy, a regression not unknown in academia generally).
“Lab Leak or Not? How Politics Shaped the Battle Over Covid’s Origin” [New York Times]. “Some Republicans grew fixated on idea of a lab leak after former President Donald J. Trump raised it in the early months of the pandemic despite scant evidence supporting it. That turned the theory toxic for many Democrats, who viewed it as an effort by Mr. Trump to distract from his administration’s failings in containing the spread of the virus. The intense political debate, now in its fourth year, has at times turned scientists into lobbyists, competing for policymakers’ time and favor. Dr. Relman is just one of several researchers and like-minded thinkers who has successfully worked the corridors of power in Washington to force journalists, policymakers and skeptical Democrats to take the lab leak idea seriously. But the political momentum has not always aligned with the evidence. Even as the idea of an accidental lab leak has now gained standing in Washington, findings reported last week bolstered the market theory. Mining a trove of genetic data taken from swabs at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan in early 2020, virus experts said they found samples containing genetic material from both the coronavirus and illegally traded raccoon dogs. The finding, while hardly conclusive, pointed to an infected animal. The new data from the market suggests that China is holding onto clues that could reshape the debate. But for now, at least, the idea of a lab leak seems to have prevailed in the court of public opinion: Two recent polls show that roughly two-thirds of Americans believe that Covid probably started in a lab.”
“Genetic evidence of susceptible wildlife in SARS-CoV-2 positive samples at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, Wuhan: Analysis and interpretation of data released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control” [Zenodo]. FINALLY, here is the paper. There is a long introduction, which will doubtless be controversial, about how they got the data on which the paper is based. From the Abstract: “Using metagenomic sequencing data publicly available on GISAID, we provide evidence for the co-occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 and the genetic material of susceptible wildlife in environmental samples from the Huanan market during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This finding corroborates reports of putative intermediate animal hosts for SARS-CoV-2 being sold live in the market in late 2019 and adds to the body of evidence identifying the Huanan market as the spillover location of SARS-CoV-2 and the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.” • I see how the report “adds to the body of evidence,” but I don’t see how one can “corroborate” anything “putative.” Anyhow, worth a read to keep abreast of the controversy.
Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!
BioBot wastewater data from March 20:
Lambert: Note that if we look at “the area under the curve,” more people have died after Biden declared that “Covid is over” than before.
For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.
Covid Emergency Room Visits
NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 11:
NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now.
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 21:
-1.9%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,151,778 –
1,151,642 = 136 (136 * 365 = 49,640 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).
NOT UPDATED (but updating). Excess deaths (The Economist), published March 7:
Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. Again, we see a high plateau. I”m not sure how often this updates, and if it doesn’t, I’ll remove it. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it.
There are no official statistics of interest today.
The Bank Was Old And Vulnerable And Would Have Died Soon Anyway pic.twitter.com/gkgvq3xpFm
— @TheVertlartnic (@TheVertlartnic) March 21, 2023
This account is still up. That makes me happy.
The stock market hasn't gone down during this banking crisis. If financial conditions have tightened so dramatically and we are heading into a recession, why aren't stocks signaling that?
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 21, 2023
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Fear (previous close: 29 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 19 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 21 at 1:36 PM ET.
“A24 Acquires Talking Heads 1984 Concert Film ‘Stop Making Sense’, Will Restore In 4K For Theatrical Release” [Deadline]. “Stop Making Sense stars core band members Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison along with P-Funk Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, Steve Scales, Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt. The live performance was shot over three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre in December 1983 and features such memorable Talking Heads songs as ‘Burning Down the House,’ ‘Life During Wartime,’ ‘Take Me to the River,’ ‘Psycho Killer’ and ‘Once in a Lifetime.’ The band, whose style was a blend of art-punk-funk rock, was propelled by legendary producer Brian Eno.” • Great band, great concert, great movie, and especially great on the big screen:
Some good calls in the lyrics. “Anybody have any questions?”
“…Burn People Tomorrow” [Mister Slang]. “This is a (somewhat broadbrush) taxonomy of slang’s leading obsessions according to my own researches (the numbers indicate relevant headwords, all counts gradually increase with additional research): Crime and Criminals 5012; Drink, Drinks, Drinking and Drunks 4589; Drugs 3976; Money 3342; Women (almost invariably considered negatively or at best sexually) 2968; Fools and Foolish 2403; Men (of various descriptions, not invariably, but often self-aggrandizing) 2183; Commercial Sex & Sellers 2007; Sexual Intercourse 1818; Terms of Racial or National abuse (including ‘white’): 1783; Homosexuals (male and female)/-ity 1700; Penis: 1441; Policeman / Policing 1246; Vagina 1180; Beat or Hit 1079; Varieties of Vocalizing 958; Masturbate/-ion 945; Mad 926; Die, Death, Dead 831; Anus or Buttocks 728; Defecate/-ion & Urinate/-ion 557; Kill or Murder 521; Promiscuous / Promiscuity 448; Unattractive 392; Oral Sex 334; Fat 282; Anal Sex 267; STDs 255; Swearing and Oaths 253; Vomiting 227. As I have suggested on many occasions: humanity at its most human. The lexis of the unfettered id rather than the self-restrained superego.” • I’m not sure this post really has a thesis, but if this is the resource you need, here it is.
“New Data Shows FTC Received 2.8 Million Fraud Reports from Consumers in 2021” [FTC (LawnDart)]. “Reported fraud losses increase more than 70 percent over 2020 to more than $5.8 billion. The FTC received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers last year, with the most commonly reported category once again being imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams.” • Imposters! How Wodehousian (though, actually, not). No doubt the breakdown gives the increase in the number of people defrauded, rather than the total dollar amount, which I would assume is a better indicator of a decline in social cohesion.
“‘The most chilling metric of all’: Mike Rowe warns that 7 million American men are ‘done’ looking for work and have ‘punched out’ — why that’s a serious problem” [MoneyWise]. “While the U.S. labor market remains incredibly tight — with the economy adding another 517,000 jobs in December — around 7 million “prime age” men between the ages of 25 and 54 are reportedly sitting it out…. ‘They are affirmatively not looking for work. They’ve punched out. They’re done,’ TV host Mike Rowe said on The Brian Kilmeade Show, citing research from economist Nick Eberstadt… ‘The U.S. labor shortage will probably have to be solved by some combination of immigration, automation and recession,’ writes Eberstadt in an op-ed for The Washington Post, but adds this is ‘far from likely to reduce popular angst and discontent.’ ‘So what’s really happening in the country now that scares me right to my core fundamentally is that we’ve never had so much unrealized opportunity and so little enthusiasm for it.'” • What on earth does “unrealized opportunity” mean? And is there such a thing as a “realized unopportunity”? That seems more likely. Commentary:
Of course the real solution to labor market dysfunction is to empower workers & take discretion over hiring & production away from the boss, as the events of the last weeks show they’re incapable of operating effectively.
— Marshall Steinbaum 🔥 (@Econ_Marshall) March 20, 2023
Holy moley, look at the whiteboard:
Nursing homes represented up to 80% of total state COVID deaths in 2020. Yet, many nursing homes not only have unacceptably low booster and treatment coverage to weather COVID but also are not the focus of future pandemic planning conversations. 3/https://t.co/dIDnhS24J3
— Anne Sosin (@asosin) March 20, 2023
News of the Wired
“DPReview.com to close” [DPPreview]. A comment: “Amazon will carry a huge black mark for this as long as we all live. DPReview is hands down the most important reference site for photographic product information on the planet and it’s hard to imagine how it can be replaced by the efforts scattered across many other sites. Indeed it’s reminiscent of what it would be like to lose Wikipedia. Intolerable corporate malfeasance. Information vandalism!” • It is.
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 AM:
AM writes: “A wintry scene in Somesville, on Mount Desert Island, ME, with frosted white pines and spruce trees in the morning.”
This is Re Silc’s driveway:
Winter’s not over, folks!
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the 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:
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