By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
American Robin, Libertytown; Audrey Carroll Wildlife Sanctuary, Frederick, Maryland. “Evening song with calls.”
“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
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“US ending extra help for groceries that started during Covid pandemic” [Syracuse.com]. “Nearly 30 million Americans who got extra government help with grocery bills during the pandemic will soon see that aid shrink — and there’s a big push to make sure they’re not surprised…. For the average recipient, the change will mean about $90 less per month, though for many, it could be much more, an analysis shows. Benefits will return to usual levels, which are based largely on a household’s income, size and certain expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.” • $90 a month is a lot of money.
“Manchin to oppose Biden’s nominee to head IRS” [Politico]. “‘While Daniel Werfel is supremely qualified to serve as the IRS Commissioner, I have zero faith he will be given the autonomy to perform the job in accordance with the law and for that reason, I cannot support his nomination,’ Manchin said in a statement. The West Virginia Democrat has been battling the Treasury Department over what he considers misguided interpretations of legislation Democrats pushed into law last summer expanding tax credits for electric vehicles and a slew of other green energy programs. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) largely wrote that legislation. Manchin’s move also comes as he faces the prospect of a tough reelection race next year in his Republican-leaning state. He has not said whether he’ll run for another term. Manchin’s opposition is unlikely endanger Werfel’s nomination, which appears assured. Werfel won bipartisan support on the chamber’s Finance Committee, with three Republicans there backing him. The Senate is expected to vote on Werfel’s confirmation Wednesday evening.” • Non-story, then?
“Biden bucks liberals and tells Democrats to get tough on crime” [NBC]. • So the first thing Biden campaign suffogate and New York mayor Eric Adams does is try to criminalize mask-wearers. Well, if it plays in the suburbs….
A thread worth reading from Policy Tensor. Asking cui bono from Biden’s two-front warmongering, the answer seems to be Democrat political apparatchiks — at least in their own minds:
It will be interesting to see how this turns out, because that bastard Trump keeps asking for my vote (and at least by electing him, we put off a proxy war with Russia by four years. That’s not neglible!)
“The Case for a Primary Challenge to Joe Biden” [The Atlantic]. “There has to be one good Challenger X out there from the party’s supposed “deep bench,” right? Someone who is compelling, formidable, and younger than, say, 65. Someone who is not Marianne Williamson. Someone who would be unfailingly gracious to Biden and reverential of his career—even while trying to end it.” • “Reverential” for what? Clarence Thomas? Plus, Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.
“White House mocks Marianne Williamson’s run for president with ‘crystal ball’ joke: ‘If I could feel her aura'” [FOX]. “White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took a swing at Democratic presidential candidate and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson on Monday, mocking her recently announced campaign. ‘Is the president annoyed, frustrated with Marianne Williamson for jumping in the race ahead of him? Did he want a clear field to run against the Republican nominee in 2024?’ one reporter asked Jean-Pierre during the daily White House press briefing Monday. ‘I’m not tracking that. I mean, if I had a – what is it called? A little globe here – a crystal ball, then I could tell you. A magic eight-ball or whatever. If I could feel her aura,’ Jean-Pierre said while laughing, prompting others in the room to laugh.’ I just don’t have anything to share on that,’ she added.” • I would really, really like it if Williamson started outpolling oh, Elizabeth Warren, for example. Or Newsome.
“Green Light” [Politics Extra]. “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could follow the lead of his father and two of his uncles and run for president. He says his wife, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ star Cheryl Hines, ‘has green-lighted it.'”
“DeSantis’ state of state speech mirrors many of the themes of other GOP governors” [Miami Herald]. “In tone and substance, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ state of the state speech on Tuesday was very much like the other 19 Republican governors who have already delivered the 2023 assessment of their state’s status and their legislative plans to move forward. He talked about expanding vouchers for parents to send children to private schools [see under Class Warfare], expanding tax breaks to ‘reduce the pain of inflation.’ He touted his push ‘to join 25 other states’ and allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit, and he vowed to make permanent the state ban on coronavirus vaccine mandates and masks. But in many ways his 30-minute address focused more on looking back at his first four years in office than looking ahead at what should come next. And he stopped short of focusing on many bread and butter issues embraced by Republican governors in other states, according to an analysis of their speeches by the Miami Herald, from the list of state of the state speeches compiled by the National Association of State Budget Officers.”
Trunp rolling along among voters:
This is, all things considered, a pretty great poll for Trump. Well above 50 in an early state. Sununu at 7 percent in his home state. pic.twitter.com/JeqoRt3x4o
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) March 8, 2023
“‘I hate him passionately’: Tucker Carlson was fed up with Trump after the 2020 election” [NBC]. “‘We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,’ [Carlson] wrote in another text message, referring to the ‘last four years.’ ‘But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.’ The revelation is in hundreds of pages of testimony, private text messages and emails from top Fox News journalists and executives that were made public Tuesday, adding to the trove of documents that show a network in crisis after it alienated core viewers by reporting accurately on the results of the 2020 presidential election. A judge unsealed the documents, along with parts of some employee depositions, as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The messages are blunt and, at times, profane, as hosts and top executives panicked about how to boost their ratings as Trump refused to acknowledge his defeat.” • There seems to be a good deal of dunking on this by liberals, but nobody seems to be asking what Carlson would consider an “upside.” I can think of three: Trump preserved American sovereignty by pulling us out of TPP as soon as he took office, Trump did not go to war with Russia, and the CARES Act — passed, admittedly, by both parties, under Trump– was a far superior reponse to a crash than was Obamas (for example, poverty dropped significantly). If you are a liberal Democrat who supports vaxing or vax mandates, then you owe everything to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. Carlson’s remark is ludicrous on its face, considered as a matter of fact. I’m not sure I’m sufficiently versed in Republican arcana to say what it means for that party.
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.
* * *
“Thomas Ferguson, Paul D. Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, “Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games: Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election.” (PDF) [Institute for New Economic Thinking]. We have linked to this paper again, but it’s always worth reading again. “What happened in the final weeks of the campaign was extraordinary. Firstly, a giant wave of dark money poured into Trump’s own campaign – one that towered over anything in 2016 or even Mitt Romney’s munificently financed 2012 effort – to say nothing of any Russian Facebook experiments. The gushing torrent, along with all the other funds from identifiable donors that flowed in in the campaign’s final stages should refocus debates about that period…. Maybe all that happened is that money talked, not least in the famous last ad invoking Soros, Blankfein, and Yellin apparently focused on the battleground states. Bolstering suspicions that a wave of last minute money might actually be the most basic explanation for the Clinton collapse is a fact that virtually no analysts have reflected upon: Her late October fall in the polls was not unique. Democratic chances of taking theSenate unraveled virtually in lock step.This was no accident, and here one can trace a bright green thread. Earlier in October, when Trump’s case still appeared hopeless, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his entourage started pitching many famous businessmen and women. Hillary Clinton in the White House, ran their argument, would be awful, but losing control of the Senate would be Armageddon. McConnell, like most politicians, had a history of crying wolf, but by mid-October, polls and betting odds alike suggested that chances of the Republicans losing control of the Senate were excellent (Troyan and Schouten, 2016, Blumenthal, 2017, Isenstadt, 2016). Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, once famously quoted an old adage that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In 2016, the tough, or at least the super-affluent, certainly got going. Our data show that yet another gigantic wave of money flowed in from alarmed business interests, including the Kochs and their allies, who were not actively supporting Trump. Officially the money was for Senate races, but our observation is that late-stage campaigning for down-ballot offices often spills over on to candidates for the party at large. It is much easier to cooperate with state and national party organizations and push the whole ticket, whatever poses individual Republican Senate candidates were striking. Statistically sorting out the joint impact of these two ocean swells is not possible given existing data, but one fact is very telling. For the first time in the entire history of the United States, the partisan outcome of Senate races coincided perfectly with the results of every state’s presidential balloting (Enten, 2016).The dual unravelling of the Democrats is apparent in polls and Iowa market contract prices.”
“Trans Activism’s Long March through Our Institutions” [National Review]. “A movement that focuses on the levers of power rather than building grassroots support is one in which a few wealthy people can have considerable sway. They have shaped the global agenda by funding briefing documents, campaign groups, research, and legal actions; endowing university chairs; and influencing health-care protocols. One is an American transwoman billionaire, Jennifer (James) Pritzker, a retired soldier and one of the heirs to a vast family fortune. Pritzker’s personal foundation, Tawani, makes grants to universities, the ACLU, GLAAD, the HRC, and smaller activist groups. To cite a couple of examples, in 2016 it gave the University of Victoria $2 million to endow a chair of transgender studies, and throughout the ‘bathroom wars’ it supported Equality Illinois Education Project, which is linked to a group campaigning for gender self-ID in the state. Two other billionaires, neither transgender, also spend lavishly on transactivism. One is Jon Stryker, another heir to a fortune… The third billionaire funder of transactivism is George Soros, via his Open Society Foundations (OSF), a network of independently managed philanthropic institutions. OSF has made large donations to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Watch (including $100 million in 2010, its biggest donation ever), and the HRC, all of which campaign for gender self-identification.
“The Reality Beyond the Fringe” [Ross Barkan]. “As a native New Yorker, I can’t claim to know the Great Plains, but I’ve spent a great deal of time in the rural Midwest because I have family there. I’ve driven I-80, shopped at Meijer, and swam in broiling summer lakes. I’ve hung out for months in counties that handed Trump healthy majorities in two national elections. What much of the media often misses, even now, is that most people simply do not care about politics. Voter turnout increased in the Trump years, thanks to the intense polarization of the electorate, and it may stay high for a while yet, but this does not mean the bulk of Americans are wandering around contemplating localism or Viktor Orbán or the Cathedral or imminent civil war. They’re getting up for work, raising kids, and maybe thinking about the start of baseball season, since it’s March. They’re not schooled in the lingua franca of woke or anti-woke. They’re not on Twitter and probably haven’t heard of Signal. They’re certain America will exist in 10, 20, or 30 years, and they’re probably right.” • A useful antidote to Acela Corridor musings about civil war, whether conservative or liberal.
“The Deep Archeology of Fox News” [Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo]. “One of the things that is clear from the very start of the conservative movement was a basic failure to quite understand the thing they rallied themselves against, the history that in Bill Buckley’s famous phrase he was standing athwart and yelling “Stop!” None of the organizations that the right took issue with — the think tanks, the news publications, the movie studios, the nonprofits, the book publishers — were ideological, let alone partisan, organizations. When the founders of modern conservatism looked at CBS News they saw the shock troops of liberalism and the Democratic Party. Same with Brookings and the Washington Post and all the rest. And when they went to build their own versions of these institutions they patterned them off their own cartoonish understandings of how these operations functioned. . So how do we get from this elemental misunderstanding to the raw and casual lying of the Fox of today? Well, that’s the thing: we don’t. Both were there from the very start. It’s all but impossible to disentangle the culture clash, the inability and refusal to really grasp what these institutions were, and the more open culture of propaganda, lying and mendacity. They’re fused together so tightly that getting your head around the relationship between them is more a matter of meditative absorption than anything that can be processed or explained discursively. • Marshall may actually believe this. But Iraq WMDs, RussiaGate… What are they but “raw and casual lying”? And then there is the lying by omission; thirty days of non-coverage of Hersh’s Nordstream 2 story, to pick a recent example, one of many,
PA: “John Fetterman sponsored a bill from the hospital. Here’s what he can and can’t do in the Senate during treatment” [Inquirer]. “Despite remaining hospitalized while undergoing treatment for depression, Fetterman cosponsored a plan with Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), J.D. Vance (R., Ohio), and others to try to avert future crises like the one unfolding after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio…. [O]ne of two top aides — chief-of-staff Adam Jentleson or senior adviser Bobby Maggio — visits Fetterman at the hospital most mornings and briefs him for around an hour. They bring updates from Capitol Hill and ask for input on thorny questions, Jentelson said in an interview…. When it came to the rail safety bill, for example, Jentleson said . The issue not only affects a large swath of the senator’s constituents, it resonates with his pledge to stand up for ‘forgotten communities.'” • What a concept. Not every liberal Democrat does that.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“CDC issues measles alert after confirmed case at Asbury revival in Kentucky” [FOX]. • Unsurprisingly.
• Readers, thanks for the push. We are now up to 38/50 states (76%). Could those of you in states not listed help out by either with dashboard/wastewater links, or ruling your state out definitively? Thank you! (I think I have caught up with everybody I missed.)
Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard), Marin; CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); 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, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, Joe, John, JM (6), JW, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (4), 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 38/50 (76% of US states). We should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Thank you!
Look for the Helpers
“Three years in: 7 things we’ve learned about COVID” [CU Boulder Today]. Filing this here because CU’s Prof. Jose-Luis Jimenez did so much to advance our understanding that #COVIDisAirborne, even though he’s from a state school [snort]. And some of the seven things in this round-up are new: “Recent CU Boulder research has found that airborne particles carrying coronavirus can remain infectious for twice as long in drier air, in part because the saliva emitted with them serves as a protective barrier around the virus, especially at low humidity levels. … Humidifying indoor spaces is expensive and inefficient, however, said Hernandez. Instead, adding high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air filters, opening windows and improving ventilation are all easy and affordable measures anyone can implement.” And: “When people simply take a moment to reflect on the consequences of their behavior, they tend to choose options that impose fewer risks on other people, according to research from Leaf Van Boven, professor of psychology and neuroscience. The international study of 13,000 people, published in November in PNAS Nexus, was conducted at the height of the pandemic. Van Boven and his colleagues presented the global participants with hypothetical scenarios related to joining social gatherings during the pandemic, for which they had to decide to attend, cancel, or reduce capacity. But before they did so, some participants were instructed to pause and practice a technique called “structured reflection.” Those in the structured reflection group were significantly more likely to err on the side of minimizing public health risks. As COVID-19 restrictions lift, such personal responsibility will grow increasingly important.” And: “Published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the work found that after [germicidal ultraviolet light (GUV)], disinfection, the amount of harmful secondary chemicals in indoor air have an impact, but are not so detrimental as to recommend against the use of GUV. This suggests that GUV can be used to fight COVID, as well as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), in environments at high risk of virus transmission, such as emergency waiting rooms, restaurants and gyms.” And: “Feeding our gut microbes with healthy foods, spices and antioxidants, as well as addressing our stress and balancing physical activity with adequate recovery are some actions we can take to give ourselves a chance at less severe outcomes and full recovery following infection, said Barbara Demmig-Adams, professor of distinction and director of the EBIO Honors Program within the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Demmig-Adams is co-author on a study published last year in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, detailing how the human body is predisposed to chronic, low-level inflammation—which puts us at a biological disadvantage when fighting off the virus that causes COVID-19. Due to our bodies’ inflammatory responses, she notes that we should be just as careful about overexerting our bodies as not moving them enough. If you are actively sick or recently recovered, it may be wise to schedule in more rest and recovery time than anticipated.” • OK, OK, it’s from a university’s PR department. But the click-throughs are not unimpressive.
* * *
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 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.
Covid Is Airborne
“Indoor air is full of flu and COVID viruses. Will countries clean it up?” [Nature]. “In March 2022, the US government launched a Clean Air in Buildings Challenge to spur building owners and operators to improve their ventilation and indoor air quality. In October last year, the state of California passed a law requiring all school buildings to provide clean indoor air. And in December, the White House announced that all federal buildings — some 1,500 in total — would meet minimum air-safety requirements. Also in December, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) — a construction-industry body whose recommendations are adopted into law through local building codes in the United States and elsewhere — announced that it would be developing standards that take infection risk into account by June 2023…. Specialists in indoor air quality are buoyed by the prospect that the pandemic could bring lasting improvements to the air we breathe indoors. … ‘There’s never been, in history, so much action about indoor air quality,’ says Lidia Morawska, an aerosol scientist at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia…. Researchers say it will take time to lower the infection risks inside buildings. ‘We are looking at 30 years,’ says Morawska. ‘But we are talking about the future of our society.'” • 30 years? Don’t throw out your masks just yet, then….
How Democrat Eric Adams reframed mask-wearers as criminals, good job:
This reframing leaves maskers, many of which are at even higher risk of serious outcomes from covid, with an impossible choice. Mask and risk harassment/violence, unmask and ensure exposure to dangerous pathogens or retreat and be maximally excluded from society.
— Blake Murdoch (@BlakeMMurdoch) March 7, 2023
Since nobody slapped him around, Democrats support Adams in his views (unsurprisingly, seeing as how iconic liberal Democrat venues like the New Yorker and the New York Times — you know, the “In This House” crowd — opened the door to blaming and shaming people who want only to protect others and themselves from a lethal airborne pathogen). See how to resist here. Adams doesn’t get to rewrite human rights legislation just by emitting nonsense verbiage on radio and television.
Boggles the mind that medical offices are such offenders:
At the doctor. Receptionist asked if I'd had contact in the last 10 days with anyone who had COVID. It took all my self-control to not say "COVID's running unchecked and no one wears masks so probably, yes."
— Lauren (@LifeLivedWildly) March 6, 2023
“Efficacy of Cetylpyridinium Chloride mouthwash against SARS-CoV-2: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials” [Molecular Oral Microbiology]. Meta-study of RCTs. “Randomized controlled trials comparing cetylpyridinium chloride mouthwash with placebo and other mouthwash ingredients in SARS-CoV-2 positive individuals were identified and evaluated… Mouthwashes containing cetylpyridinium chloride are effective against salivary viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in vivo. There is also the possibility that the use of mouthwash containing cetylpyridinium chloride in SARS-CoV-2 positive subjects could reduce transmissibility and severity of COVID-19.” • Crest and Colgate. Check the label!
“Long-term gastrointestinal outcomes of COVID-19” [Nature]. VA data. “We show that beyond the first 30 days of infection, people with COVID-19 exhibited increased risks and 1-year burdens of incident gastrointestinal disorders spanning several disease categories including motility disorders, acid related disorders (dyspepsia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease), functional intestinal disorders, acute pancreatitis, hepatic and biliary disease. The risks were evident in people who were not hospitalized during the acute phase of COVID-19 and increased in a graded fashion across the severity spectrum of the acute phase of COVID-19 (non-hospitalized, hospitalized, and admitted to intensive care). The risks were consistent in comparisons including the COVID-19 vs the contemporary control group and COVID-19 vs the historical control group as the referent category. Altogether, our results show that people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are at increased risk of gastrointestinal disorders in the post-acute phase of COVID-19. Post-covid care should involve attention to gastrointestinal health and disease.” • More support for the idea that having been infected with Covid is itself a disability and has the legal status as such.
Maybe if infectious disease had been a more interesting field, hospital infection control departments wouldn’t be filled with anti-mask reactionaries:
Quotes that trace a shift.
“the unconditional surrender of microbes”. Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Children born in the next decade would no longer face the ancient scourge of pestilence”. JFK
“The future of infectious diseases will be very dull.” Macfarlane Burnet & David White. /1
— Henry Madison 🦠x0 (@RageSheen) March 6, 2023
Eisenhower and JFK didn’t decide to “live with” polio, did they? But here we are:
…them, and that’s true. But not by letting them just infect us repeatedly, without changing any of the conditions in which we and they live. That’s a recipe for sick and dying populations, and the reversal of life expectancy gains. /12 pic.twitter.com/FgtlFhnrOL
— Henry Madison 🦠x0 (@RageSheen) March 6, 2023
Suckers, liars, get me a shovel:
Why was there widespread questioning of infection-acquired immunity by government officials and some prominent scientists? How did their fear of preventable death hinder our efforts to pretend everything is back to normal?
— Neoliberal John Snow (@NeoliberalSnow) March 7, 2023
Or a pump handle, as the case may be.
“Northampton to use pandemic relief dollars for ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ manhole covers” [Boston.com]. “A series of manhole covers in Northampton are about to get a fresh coat of super-powered paint thanks to thousands of dollars in pandemic relief funds. This week, the city announced how it plans to spend $4 million it received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). A total of $20,000 will be used to create four custom manhole covers with art depicting the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ This public art display is intended to be a tribute to the famous ‘heroes in a half shell,’ which were created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman while they lived in Northampton in the early 80’s.” • Northampton. Throw a manhole cover, hit a liberal.
This account from the UK is pretty dark, so:
I spent an hour people watching outside a shopping centre today.
Half the people I saw looked ill.
— tern (@1goodtern) March 6, 2023
Readers, what do you see?
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 6:
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 call centers and testing sites close in further sign US is moving past the pandemic” [ABC]. The deck: “Several COVID data trackers have also recently shut down.” More; “Hospitalizations and deaths, both of which are traditionally lagging indicators, have also been trending downward. Over the same period, weekly deaths have fallen from 4,448 to 2,407, according to CDC data.” • 2,407 * 52 = 125,164, not worth tracking, so the eugenicists have added another tranche of normalized lethality on top of deaths of despair, etc. Mission accomplished, and only good ol’ Scranton Joe could have done it. I wonder where the next tranche will come from?
Covid Emergency Room Visits
From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 4:
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 8:
-2.8%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,147,217 –
1,146,740 = 477 (477 * 365 = 174,105 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).
Retail: “As Customer Problems Hit a Record High, More People Seek ‘Revenge'” [Wall Street Journal] Crapification + enshittification. “Americans are encountering more problems with companies’ products and services than ever before, and a higher proportion of them are actively seeking “revenge” for their troubles, a new study has found….. The percentage of consumers who have taken action to settle a score against a company through measures such as pestering or public shaming in person or online, has tripled to 9% from 3% in 2020, according to the study. That reversed a downward trend with regards to revenge-seeking behavior: The average percentage of customers seeking revenge between 2003 and 2017 was 17%…. The latest wave of research found 79% of customers complained about their most serious problem to the company at fault, an increase from 72% in 2020. And 43% said they raised their voice to a customer service representative to show displeasure about their most serious problem, up from 35% in 2017, the most recent previous time the question was asked on the survey.”
You live in a society whose every production industry is based around a government-subsidized chemical feedstock.
Corn is not a _food_.
Corn is a _platform_.
— SwiftInSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) December 18, 2018
“Corn is a platform.”
The Bezzle: “Commentary: Cory Doctorow: End to End” [Cory Doctorow, Locus]. “Here’s something I think we should all agree upon: when a willing speaker wants to say something to a willing listener, our technology should be designed to make a best effort to deliver the speaker’s message to the person who asked to get it. I hope this is self-evidently true. When you dial a phone number, the phone company’s job is to connect you to that number, not to someone else. When you call Tony’s Pizza, you expect to be connected to Tony’s Pizza – not to Domino’s, not even if Domino’s is willing to pay for the privilege. When you use your TV remote to tune into CNN, you don’t want your cable operator to show you Fox instead – not even if Fox will pay them to do so. If you follow someone on social media, then the things that person says should show up in your timeline. That is not a radical proposition, but it is also not the case today. Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and other dominant social media platforms treat the list of people we follow as suggestions, not commands. When you identify a list of people you want to hear from, the platform uses that as training data for suggestions that only incidentally contain the messages that the people you subscribed to. There are various reasons for this, but they all boil down to the platform shifting value away from its users to its shareholders. Obviously that is the case with ads: the volume of ‘‘sponsored posts” that enshittify your feed is titrated to be just below the threshold where the service becomes useless to you. But there’s another group of people who can pay to reach you – the people you’ve chosen to follow. When you subscribe to a performer, or a news outlet, or a political group, they have to pay to ensure that the things they publish show up for you. The platforms have cute names for this danegeld (‘‘boosting,” etc), but it boils down to the phone company telling Tony’s Pizza, ‘‘If you don’t pay us extra, then every time someone calls Tony’s, we’re going to connect them to Domino’s.” Thus the enshittification of your feed is only partially about showing you ads: it’s also about making the people you want to hear from pay to reach you. This shouldn’t be allowed. The services should make their best effort to deliver messages from willing senders to willing receivers. This principle can be generalized to other kinds of online services. When you search for a product on Amazon, the first result should be the product you searched for, not an Amazon own-brand clone of that product, or the product of a rival that paid for the privilege of being at the top of the results.”
Tech: “How a single engineer brought down Twitter on Monday” [Platformer]. Happened right while I was doing Water Cooler. Embed died, links died. Twitter was backup after an hour or so, however. “On Monday morning, Twitter users logged on to find a thicket of connected issues. Clicking on links would no longer open them; instead, users would see a mysterious error message reporting that “your current API plan does not include access to this endpoint.” Images stopped loading as well. Other users reported that they could not access TweetDeck, the Twitter-owned client for professional users…. The change in question was part of a project to shut down free access to the Twitter API, Platformer can now confirm. On February 1, the company announced it will no longer support free access to its API, which effectively ended the existence of third-party clients and dramatically limited outside researchers’ ability to study the network. The company has been building a new, paid API for developers to work with. But in a sign of just how deep Elon Musk’s cuts to the company have been, only one site reliability engineer has been staffed on the project, we’re told. On Monday, the engineer made a ‘bad configuration change’ that ‘basically broke the Twitter API,’ according to a current employee.” Oops. More: “The change had cascading consequences inside the company, bringing down much of Twitter’s internal tools along with the public-facing APIs. On Slack, engineers responded with variations of ‘crap’ and ‘Twitter is down – the entire thing’ as they scrambled to fix the problem. Elon Musk was furious, we’re told. ‘A small API change had massive ramifications,’ Musk tweeted later in the day, after Twitter investor Marc Andreessen posted a screenshot showing that the company’s API failures were trending on the site. ‘The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.'” • Stick with COBOL, my advice. Some of that steam-powered stuff has been running for decades.
Manufacturing: “90,000 Miles On My Tesla Model 3 — Maintenance Costs Higher Than Expected” [CleanTechnica]. “In just over 90,000 miles, the total cost of the tires and out-of-warranty repairs for my Model 3 have been $5,441.42. See itemized costs below. This is much more than I expected. I have had the maintenance issues detailed in the following paragraphs. Conveniently, I was able to obtain the dates, mileage, and exact cost of my Tesla repairs from the Tesla app on my phone. Not conveniently, it appears to go back only 2 years.” • Hmm. Interesting point on the heavy battery causing increased tire wear.
Healthcare: “Gender Reassignment Surgery Market by Type, End-user and Geography – Forecast and Analysis 2023-2027” [Technavio]. “The gender reassignment surgery market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 10.73% between 2022 and 2027. The size of the market is forecast to increase by USD 321.48 million. The growth of the market depends on serval factors, including the increase in the number of people opting for sex change surgeries globally, favourable government policies, and increasing insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgical procedures….. The number of gender reassignment procedures conducted in the US each year is estimated to be between 100 and 500. The number of such surgeries performed worldwide is estimated to be 2 to 5 times greater than that in the US…. Sex change surgery is irreversible.”
The Economy: “Explainer: U.S. yield curve reaches deepest inversion since 1981: What is it telling us?” [Reuters]. “An inverted yield curve occurs when yields on shorter-dated Treasuries rise above those for longer-term ones. It suggests that while investors expect interest rates to rise in the near term, they believe that higher borrowing costs will eventually hurt the economy, forcing the Fed to later ease monetary policy…. The phenomenon is closely watched by investors as it has preceded past recessions…. When short-term rates increase, U.S. banks raise benchmark rates for a wide range of consumer and commercial loans, including small business loans and credit cards, making borrowing more costly for consumers. Mortgage rates also rise. When the yield curve steepens, banks can borrow at lower rates and lend at higher rates. When the curve is flatter their margins are squeezed, which may deter lending.”
The Economy: “Fed Chair Powell Warns of More Aggressive Rate Hikes to Address Inflation” (video) [C-SPAN]. Transcribed:
Interesting passage from Powell's testimony today: pic.twitter.com/SuKSba2oJW
— Jim Bianco biancoresearch.eth (@biancoresearch) March 8, 2023
Not constrained in our policy by the budgetary situation of the United States. Reminds me of something….
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 46 Neutral (previous close: 47 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 48 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 8 at 12:58 PM ET.
The Screening Room
“The Last of Us” (HBO) [IMDB] “After a global pandemic destroys civilization, a hardened survivor takes charge of a 14-year-old girl who may be humanity’s last hope.” The 14-year-old girl is played by Bella Ramsey, who played Lyanna Mormont in Season 6 of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones.'” Rotten Tomatoes: “The Last of Us is bingeworthy TV that ranks among the all-time greatest video game adaptations.” • I binged on a few episodes with a friend. It’s very good, and very a propos. The fungus (coryceps) spreads very rapidly and turns humans into zombies, so there’s that for the “Covid cautious.” There are also quarantine zones controlled by a fascist state for the anti-maskers and GBD types, plus an actual armed resistances trying both to overthrow the fascists and return the world to humans for the left, if any. So there’s something for everybody!
Big Atget fan here:
— MoMA: Photographs (Bot) (@moma_photos) March 7, 2023
But… that [family blog] triangle running from bottom left to mid-right — the floor, the sidewalk, the pavement — that always appears when you shoot something human-made at an angle, especially in street photography…. Am I the only one bugged by this?
Our Famously Free Press
Somebody had to say it:
No other way to say it now: my former colleagues in mainstream media are spineless, corrupt, amoral fuckwits. https://t.co/tsMjrzLZkv
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 7, 2023
Occasioned by this:
Perfectly normal for federal investigative body to demand the names of reporters interacting w/ a company. https://t.co/0m3KVEkMJR The entire world would be panicking if the President was a Republican, but this is a Democratic administration, so the NY Times will ignore this pic.twitter.com/04XdXjhbtB
— Paul D. Thacker (@thackerpd) March 7, 2023
Imperial Collapse Watch
The Comanche empire:
— BorderTroop3r (@BorderTroop3r) March 8, 2023
If empire it was. I really mention this only because the feral hog hunter in Neal Stephenson’s newest, Termination Shock, is (part-?) Comanche.
“Full Suffrage for Women Was Won First by Socialists” [Labor Politics]. “There are a lot of different ways to discredit working-class politics. As the continued promotion of the ‘Bernie Bro’ myth illustrates, one of the most popular today is to claim that socialists ignore women’s oppression. Elaborate versions of this argument fill the news-media, Twitter, and academia. By focusing only on economic issues and class, we are told, the socialist movement has always marginalized women and their specific demands for equality. Like all good liberal myths, these arguments rely on bad history. Working-class feminism has a long and rich legacy. For over a century working women fought for their own liberation through the socialist movement. Few cases better illustrate this point (or have been more buried by history) than that of turn-of-the-century Finland. In 1906, through a mass general strike and working-class insurgency against the Russian Empire, it became the first nation in the world to grant full universal suffrage — i.e. the right to vote and run for office. Socialists were at the forefront.”
“Tax Avoidance Continues to Fuel School Privatization Efforts” [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]. “Lawmakers in several states are discussing enacting or expanding school voucher tax credits, which reimburse individuals and businesses for ‘donations’ they make to organizations that give out vouchers for free or reduced tuition at private K-12 schools. In effect, these credits allow contributing families to opt out of paying for public education and other public services. New data—published here for the first time—reveal that wealthy families are overwhelmingly the ones using these credits to opt out of paying tax to public coffers. In all three states providing data, most of the credits are being claimed by families with incomes over $200,000. Wealthy families’ interest in these programs is being driven partly by a pair of tax shelters that can make ‘donating’ profitable. These shelters hinge on stacking state and federal tax cuts and are being advertised in the states as a way to get a ‘double tax benefit’ and ‘make money’ in the process. This kind of language is a far cry from most nonprofit fundraising pitches and gives some sense of the supersized nature of the tax benefits being offered for private and religious K-12 schooling. Voucher tax credits are without merit and should be repealed. Short of that, states can end their use as profitable tax shelters with straightforward reforms. A national solution to this problem, however, will require action by the IRS.” • Wowsers. It’s almost like school vouchers are scam that benefits the rich.
“What is a Symbol?” [JSTOR Daily]. A symbol is what symbol manipulating entities and agents accumulate as part of their symbolic capital. Why do you ask? “One of the first things to know about symbols is that the words symbol and icon are not interchangeable. Whereas icons are simplified representations of items in the world that often have a one-to-one translation of a particular word, symbols represent an idea or abstract concept. Take the following two posters promoting boating safety in the U.S. The first uses icons in place of a specific word—an image of a fish stands in for the word “fish”. In the second poster, Uncle Sam is being used as a symbol to communicate a sense of responsibility and duty to associate boating safety with these ideas…. One of the first things to know about symbols is that the words symbol and icon are not interchangeable. Whereas icons are simplified representations of items in the world that often have a one-to-one translation of a particular word, symbols represent an idea or abstract concept. Take the following two posters promoting boating safety in the U.S. The first uses icons in place of a specific word—an image of a fish stands in for the word “fish”. In the second poster, Uncle Sam is being used as a symbol to communicate a sense of responsibility and duty to associate boating safety with these ideas.”
“ChatGPT Could Be an Effective and Affordable Tutor” [The74]. • Of course, the rich will pay for human tutors. But who will have tutored the tutors?
News of the Wired
“Emma Willard’s Maps of Time” [The Public Domain Review]. “The current proliferation of visual information mirrors a similar moment in the early nineteenth century, when the advent of new printing techniques coincided with the rapid expansion of education. Schoolrooms from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi frontier made room for the children of farmers as well as merchants, girls as well as boys. Together, these shifts created a robust and highly competitive market for school materials, including illustrated textbooks, school atlases, and even the new genre of wall maps. No individual exploited this publishing opportunity more than Emma Willard, one of the century’s most influential educators. From the 1820s through the Civil War, Willard’s history and geography textbooks exposed an entire generation of students to her deeply patriotic narratives, all of which were studded with innovative and creative pictures of information that sought to translate big data into manageable visual forms.” • For example:
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 BB:
BB writers: “Container grown blueberry plant, dormant for fall/winter. Hope it survives it’s first brutal winter with the wind and cold in South Dakota. Located it near the house to hopefully protect it. We’ll see in the spring.”
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