By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Falcated Wren-Babbler, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park Trail, Palawan, Philippines
Look for the Helpers
“Armed with nets, Sharpies and glitter pens, silverspot researchers spend the summer tracking threatened butterfly” [YachatsNews (AC)]. “The Oregon silverspot once inhabited coastal meadows from southern Washington to northern California. It was placed on the federal threatened species list in 1980 but its numbers and range continue to decline. Today the butterfly holds on in just five places in Oregon and one near Lake Earl in Del Norte County, California. Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service have been leading recovery efforts through habitat restoration and reintroduction thanks to silverspot caterpillar breeding programs at the Oregon Zoo in Portland and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.” The volunteers are marking their wings with Sharpies (which don’t dislodge any scales) so they can be visually tracked. More: “At the epicenter of Oregon silverspot survival is a single host plant – the early blue violet. The small plant is the only flower on which the butterfly larvae can successfully feed and develop.” So the volunteers put mesh tents over blue violets with zoo-raised caterpillar eggs on them. More: “Oregon silverspot live out their life cycle in unique wind-blown salt-spray coastal meadows and contribute to pollinating a host of wildflowers from the sea to nearby forests. Butterflies emerge in late June and into July. They mate and lay 200 or so eggs the size of sesame seeds near blue violets in August. ‘The butterflies can live four to six weeks, which is a really long time for a butterfly,’ [Izzy Bur, one of several field researchers,] said.” • Perhaps alien visitors think our lifespan is “a really long time” “for a human”?
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
The Constitutional Order
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. –William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare says the two households are “alike” in dignity, but he doesn’t say how much dignity they actually have. If Verona’s households are like our parties, the answer is “not much.”
* * *
“The Sweep and Force of Section Three” [William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, University of Pennsylvania Law Review]. I highly recommend this piece (and the ensuing discussion at NC, starting here). As a former English major and a fan of close reading, I’m not averse to “originalism,” of which Baude and Paulsen provide a magisterial example, in the sense that understanding the law as a text must begin with understanding the plain, public meaning of the words used when the text was written. That’s how I read Shakespeare, or Joyce, so why not the Constitution? Just as long as understanding doesn’t end there! In any case, I’m working through it. One thing I notice is that there do seem to have been rather a lot of rebellions and insurrections, not just the Civil War. To me, this is parallel to one lesson I drew from Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast (episode 1): There are rather a lot of revolutions, too. Alert reader Pensions Guy summarizes Baude and Paulsen as follows:]
The authors go through an exhaustive textual and originalism analysis of Section Three, and their Federalist Society leanings do not deter them from reaching their conclusion that officials in every State who are charged with determining candidate qualifications should conclude that Donald Trump is disqualified from being on ballots because of the oath he took on Inauguration Day 2017 and subsequently violated through his role in the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021.
Taking “insurrection” as read (I need to do more reading), more on my continuing coverage of Section Three.
* * *
Lambert here: The media frenzy on Baude and Paulsen seems to have died down. I have said, for some time, that the distinctive competence of the modern political party is the ballot: What the ballot line is, how the ballots are cast and counted, even which ballot line wins. However, hitherto, parties have only controlled the ballot line for their own candidates. When Baude and Paulsen propose that state-level election officials “disqualify” candidates of the opposing party, that seems to me quite a radical proposal. Parties have no Constitutional status, but if we in the United States have an “unwritten Constitution”, then Baude and Paulsen propose a change in the Constitutional order, and I don’t care what the verbiage is. Further, the change in the Constitutional order emanates from the hive-mind of an NGO composed of conservative lawyers (PMC), and if put through, will be put through by a liberal dogpile in the press (PMC). That, too, is a change in Constitutional order, rather like Napoleon crowning himself — that, too, was “self-executing” — an analogy I am sure Bourdieu would love:
“Law Professors, Legal Punditry, Donald Trump, and What’s an Academic to Do?” [Dorf on Law]. “In lay terms, both the removal statute and the doctrine of supremacy clause immunity require the defendant to have engaged in official conduct and, for removal, have a colorable federal defense defined quite loosely. Both issues will likely come down to whether Trump was engaged in official conduct ensuring the fairness of federal elections or whether he was a candidate trying to steal an election (or perhaps both). Were I writing a law review article on the subject, I would say these are issues of first impression, they impact our country tremendously, and my read of the law and facts is that Trump should lose but, of course, lower court judges and eventually SCOTUS may well come to a different conclusion. I expressed those thoughts publicly, which got me in trouble with some on the left who wanted no part of any uncertainty. The party line is Trump must and will lose these motions and why provide the other side with even the slightest ammunition to make their case stronger. This pushback gave me significant pause….. I could have said last week something like, ‘well Trump should easily lose on both issues because the law and facts are against him and here’s why.’ I agree with that sentence but it is not even close to the entire truth. For one thing, predicting what appellate judges and SCOTUS will do in legally easy cases with a liberal/progressive political valence is fraught with danger, given the 6-3 conservative court (not to mention that half of the active judges on the 11th Circuit were nominated by Donald Trump). Second, it is crucial that Trump be treated the same way we would want future Presidents to be treated, and the line between candidate and federal officer may well be blurrier than many people think. And, third, the reality is that these are all issues of first impression with enormous implications for our country and maybe we should just slow down and take some time before pronouncing that Trump should definitely lose on both removal and immunity. But the media wait for no one. …. But here’s the rub. My ability to get others to recognize both my academic work and my punditry (there’s nothing else to call a five-minute segment on CNN or a 1500-word essay in SLATE) absolutely depends today on full participation in non-legal media of all kinds. That reality may not be true for folks teaching at elite schools, who by virtue of their Ivy League credentials may be able to garner exposure in other ways (such as hobnobbing with other elites). But for those of us without those credentials teaching at less elite schools, the path to career success these days is through social media much more than through 30,000-word law review articles and even books (but of course one also must produce such traditional scholarship).” • Hegemony in action. Dorf doesn’t want to “end up like Bill Black.”
Our Famously Free Press
“Tucker Carlson’s Trump Interview Showcases Potential of Tie-Up With Elon Musk’s X” [Wall Street Journal]. “Tucker Carlson’s interview with Donald Trump is shaping up as a well-timed branding exercise for the new company the former Fox News host is launching. Carlson taped an interview with Trump several days ago and plans to stream it on X, formerly known as Twitter, without ads, people familiar with the situation said. Its release is expected to coincide with Wednesday’s first Republican presidential debate on Fox News…. Carlson and former White House adviser Neil Patel are working on starting a new, subscription-driven media company, in partnership with Carlson’s former executive producer at Fox, Justin Wells, The Wall Street Journal reported last month. They are in the process of raising money and have talked to X about using the platform as its backbone. The Trump interview gives Carlson a high-profile opportunity to show Elon Musk’s team the potential for a deeper partnership.”
Time for the Countdown Clock!
* * *
The only transcript I can find is the autogenerated YouTube one, which is ridiculous. (Kudos to YouTube for finally making the timestamps clickable, but why the heck can’t I search within the transcript and copy it?) Anyhow, this exchange was interesting. I cleaned it up a bit (all errors mine):
7:15 [CARLSON:] I’m looking at the trajectory since 2015, when you got into politics for real and then won. It started with protests against you, massive protests, organized protest by the left and then it moved to impeachment twice, and now indictment. The next stage is violence. Why wouldn’t they try to kill you? Honestly.
[TRUMP:] are savage animals. are people that are sick, really sick. You have great people in the Democrat Party. You have great people that are Democrats. Most of the people in our country are fantastic, and I’m representing everybody, not just Republicans or conservatives, I represent everybody. I’m the president of everybody. But I’ve seen what they do, I’ve seen the lengths that they go to. When they make up the Russia Russia Russia, when that’s exposed they go down and Barr should have gone after them…..”
Two interesting things. First, Trump speaks without heat (very much unlike the screaming headlines). Second, the lack of agency is pervasive. Who, exactly, is “they”? Clearly not all Democrats, as Trump says explicitly, nor all the American people. So, who? Oh, and three: Trump doesn’t answer Carlson’s question (which is a good one). Readers, am I wrong? Does Trump answer this question, and I missed it in the transcript? If so, hmm. (Trump also has an well-observed analysis of Biden’s physique; Trump’s time in the world of professional wrestling served him well! Again, delivered without heat; stuff everybody has seen.)
Lambert here: Alert readers, if a transcript does appear, please put a link to it in comments.
“Trump taps veteran Atlanta defense attorney to lead fight against racketeering charges” [Politico]. “Donald Trump has tapped a new lead defense attorney as he prepares to turn himself in to state authorities in Georgia, where he faces allegations of orchestrating a sprawling racketeering conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election. Steve Sadow, a veteran Atlanta-based defense attorney, filed an appearance on Trump’s behalf Thursday morning in Fulton County Superior Court, supplanting Drew Findling as Trump’s lead attorney in the case. Sadow has been publicly critical of the way racketeering charges have been leveled by Georgia prosecutors, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2021 — as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began her Trump-related probe — that the statute has been ‘overused.’ Sadow has represented other high-profile clients in recent years, including a star University of Georgia linebacker who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two women, and Sergio Kitchens, a rapper known as ‘Gunna,’ who pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge last year. Sadow’s high-profile clients have also included figures like Howard Stern, Usher and Rick Ross.” • Hmm. Trump seems to be hiring a better class of lawyers, these days. Suggests to me that the cases are not as strong as liberal Democrat rapture would imply (given Trump’s nature and reputation as a client).
* * *
“Body Language Told Me Everything I Needed to Know About the GOP Debate” [Politico]. “I’ve been studying nonverbal communication for over 50 years, 25 of them as an FBI agent specializing in decoding human behavior. I learned that humans are fairly good at lying — but they’re lousy at concealing their true emotions, especially when stressed. … As the eight Republican candidates — Trump, the frontrunner, was conspicuously absent — traded rhetorical blows, I watched with the sound off to focus solely on their body language: the handshakes, the gestures, the revealing facial expressions. Then I turned the sound on to assess how their tone of voice and words matched or conflicted with their nonverbal language.” “DeSantis has been criticized — even by his own party! — for being socially inept. But I did not see that. I saw a very serious candidate who is concerned about the issues; it’s clear from the tension in his face. His glabella (the space between your eyebrows) furrowed, which along with his emphatic hand gestures expressed his concern. DeSantis’ body language may not have communicated likeability, an important factor for undecided voters looking for a candidate they can trust, but he did show viewers that he considers the issues raised in the debate to be of the utmost importance.” “[Ramaswamy’s] gestures were the broadest and the most emphatic of the pack. When you make broad gestures, you lend more power to your words than someone gesturing lightly or not at all. Ramaswamy also made repeated use of what’s called a precision grip — with his index finger and thumb making an OK sign — which people use to show that they have command of a topic. His beaming smile garnered attention and defanged his detractors.” “But what really stood out was his willingness to engage others directly. One of the most dynamic moments of the debate was when Pence took on Ramaswamy over the state of the culture war and American exceptionalism, causing Ramaswamy to jerk his head back in disbelief. Pence’s tightly compressed lips had one unequivocal message: You are wrong.” • Interesting, but is it woo woo?
“In Trump’s absence, Ramaswamy drives the GOP debate” [Axios]. “The jabs at Ramaswamy, and the sharp elbows he threw in return, so dominated the debate that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who’s running a distant second to absent frontrunner Donald Trump — avoided the ‘dog-pile on Ron‘ scenario his campaign had predicted…. While Trump counter-programmed the debate with an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Ramaswamy essentially bear-hugged the former president. Trump wasn’t there, but some of his aides were. They praised Ramaswamy’s performance.” • Too bad “Slick Vivek” is a dangerous lunatic:
The climate change agenda is a hoax. https://t.co/ZMMwAVnKfc
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) August 24, 2023
Not that Biden’s policies are anything like adequate to the scope of the problem.
“Vivek Ramaswamy makes an impression at one New Hampshire debate watch party” [WaPo]. “By the end of the night, [Zach] Hayes was pronouncing the political newcomer’s name correctly and praising him as the winner of the Wednesday night debate. ‘I agree with a lot of what he says. I’m excited to see how he progresses,’ said Hayes, 39, a software engineer. Hayes joined more than 60 Republican voters here in the first-in-the-nation primary state for the network of donors and activist groups led by the conservative billionaire Charles Koch [oh]. The group is explicitly opposing the candidacy of former president Donald Trump but says it has not yet endorsed a candidate. After a night of sipping beers and eating fried mozzarella sticks at Murphy’s Taproom, a pub in downtown, it became clear that many voters who attended the event felt the same as Hayes: Ramaswamy captured their attention, making an early and strong impression against more experienced political figures, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who many thought would have garnered more of a spotlight during the two-hour debate.” • The guests carefully selected, I assume.
“Trump absent but still dominates as GOP presidential rivals clash at first debate” [Kansas Reflector]. “The second topic of the night, perhaps a surprise to Republican primary voters, was about climate change. A Catholic University of America student asked how the candidates would soothe young voters concerned about climate change….. Majorities of voters in both parties now say human activity is causing a warming climate, but still differ on whether those rising temperatures are primary factors in dangerous weather events — such as wildfires, floods, drought and severe storms — according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published Wednesday.” • What any climate denialist candidate risks, in the 439 days until the election, is one or more weather events that drive home the reality of climate change to even the hardest to persuade. (Biden, though he blew it in Maui — “molasses-brained West Wing” is a phrase I haven’t used in awhile — has, as President, a campaign opportunity in such a weather event, if he can demonstrate competence in disaster relief and drive home the lesson that climate is real; like Katrina in reverse. Then again, the opportunity to do this in Maui is so obvious that one wonders how the staff missed it; perhaps they are entirely consumed with keeping The Big Guy ambulatory.
“Why Biden is smiling today” [Steve Israel [ick], The Hill]. Israel seems to think Ukraine is a winning political issue for Biden (and it looks like the DNC does too). However: “Speaking of the king, I never thought I’d say this, but I missed Trump. It was like going to a Broadway show and learning that the star isn’t performing, and there’s not even an understudy — just a bunch of people auditioning for the part.”
“It’s Trump’s party: Winners, losers and the absent front-runner at the first GOP debate” [USA Today]. “But the easy ride he got in the GOP’s first primary debate Wednesday night − without even bothering to show up on the Milwaukee stage − underscored the reality that the only person likely to cost Trump the nomination is Trump, as the repercussion of some health or legal or other catastrophe. At least at the moment, that sort of political lightning looms as a bigger risk to him than the prospect that one of the rivals on stage is going to be able to consolidate enough support to be a threat…. Nearly an hour passed before a question was posed about what Baier called ‘the elephant not in the room’−that is, the fact that Trump now faces 91 criminal charges that include obstructing justice, mishandling some of the nation’s most sensitive documents and trying to overturn the 2020 election.”
* * *
“I Lived Like Mike Pence for a Week” [Slate]. “Men are never to spend any time with a woman without a chaperoning presence. That’s a core tenet of the Modesto Manifesto, as defined by the late mega-preacher and notorious fundamentalist crusader Billy Graham. The idea is that by putting yourself under constant, panoptic surveillance, you shall never succumb to temptations of the flesh… Billy Graham established this statute in 1948, with input from a variety of his other neo-evangelist comrades, and lived by it until his death in 2018. More recently, a version of the creed was popularized by former Vice President and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence…” And: “I say all of this because Slate asked me—a 32-year-old media professional with a liberal arts degree, a long-term cohabiting girlfriend, an apartment in Brooklyn, and, let’s say, a 65-to-35 split between female friends and male friends—to live like Mike Pence for a week.” • So this article is absolutely what one would expect, but it’s interesting to have the background on Billy Graham.
* * *
“Why the House Has No Alternative to an Impeachment Inquiry into President Biden” [Jonathan Turley, The Messenger]. Just asking questions:
Weiss cut a deal with Hunter’s legal team that was widely derided…. House Republicans had previously demanded that Weiss and his team answer questions about the investigation and the plea bargain. And an appearance before a House committee was planned when Garland suddenly preempted that by doing what many of us have demanded for years: He appointed a special counsel. To the amazement of many, though, he appointed the one prosecutor who should have been categorically excluded — David Weiss. Section 600.3 of the DOJ’s code on special counsels requires an appointment from outside the Justice Department, for obvious reasons. While another prior special counsel, John Durham, also came from within the Justice Department, Durham was retiring from the department at the time of his appointment. Not only did Garland have to ignore his own regulations to appoint Weiss but he also had to ignore the main qualification: The appointed outside counsel should be someone with ‘a reputation for integrity and impartial decision-making.’ Weiss could well have a legitimate defense to Republican complaints that he ran a fixed investigation into Hunter or accusations that he made false statements to his own team. However, he clearly remains under suspicion by many people. That is reflected in an ABC News/Ipsos poll in which almost half of Americans lack trust that the DOJ will conduct the Hunter Biden investigation in a ‘fair and nonpartisan manner.’ In addition to this controversial appointment, Garland again refused to expressly extend the special counsel’s mandate to include influence-peddling allegations involving President Biden.” • An impeachment inquiry is not an inquiry. Nevertheless. In my view, the House Republicans have conducted this investigation in a serious manner (very much unlike the Benghazi hairball). We’ll see if they can pull Turley’s recommendation off.
* * *
“RFK Jr draws quite a crowd – what does it mean for 2024?” [Guardian]. “Wearing a Robert Kennedy Jr campaign T-shirt, Kevin O’Keeffe found there was standing room only as the candidate, introduced as “”Bobby Kennedy””, walked on a sunbaked stage decked with hay bales to whoops and applause. ‘He supports freedom of speech, and he’s questioned the efficacy of the vaccine, which is legitimate at this point,’ said O’Keeffe, 52, who works for a telecommunications company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. ‘I like his views on foreign policy and keeping us out of the war. He cares about his fellow Americans in a way that a lot of the politicians nowadays I don’t think really do.’ He was far from alone in rooting for Kennedy at the Iowa state fair in Des Moines last weekend. The longshot challenger to Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024 drew one of the biggest and most energetic crowds, outnumbering conventional politicians on the Republican side. The shouts of ‘We love you, Robert!’ and ‘Thank you, Robert!’, and subsequent mobbing of Kennedy for handshakes and selfies, hinted at the stirrings of a movement…. Kennedy rose to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic because of his strident and widely condemned opposition to vaccines. He has styled himself as a hammer of the elites – quite a feat for a scion of one of America’s most storied political dynasties. He has scrambled old political allegiances, striking an anti-establishment nerve on the far left and far right over the Ukraine war and other issues.” • First candidate created by the implosion of the public health establishment (or, tin-foil hat time, the turn of public health to eugenics).
“Virginia GOP Official Displays 16 Foot Penis Sign at Youth Baseball Game to Protest Woke” [MTN]. • Something wrong with Pride?
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.
* * *
Realignment and Legitimacy
“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
Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).
Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!
Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); 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 (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern 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: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).
Stay safe out there!
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“Mask mandates reemerge amid upturn in COVID-19 cases” [The Hill]. “The recent upturn in COVID-19 cases in some regions has spurred a handful of entities around the country to reinstate mask mandates, reigniting the debate over what place masking requirements have in an era of living with the coronavirus.” Lionsgate, Kaiser, various hospitals and universities. “According to Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the necessity of mask mandates will come down to a case-by-case basis, adding that publicly available data [lol, dude, come on, what data?] should inform these decisions. ‘I think the new approach [oh, it’s new!] is we [who] want to make that information available to the public [lol] and give people some warning [albeit some weeks late] that there may be some [unknown amount of] increases in disease activity [or, in the vulgate, suffering and death],”” Plescia said. “”And then people decide for themselves sort of how they want to react and what kind of precautions they want to take.'” • In other words, let ‘er rip. How did the public health establishment get populated by monsters?
Yet another metaphor:
Inspired from HICPAC: I conducted an RCT of raincoats – I wore them 3 hrs a day, and overall they didn't really stop me getting wet (it rained all day). Clearly raincoats are not superior to no raincoats.
My recommendation: Don't wear raincoats – they don't work.
— Dr. Deepti Gurdasani (@dgurdasani1) August 23, 2023
“COVID-19: examining the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions” [The Royal Society]. Extremely important:
Scientists and policymakers knew very little about SARS-CoV-2 when the pandemic began. It was not clear what an optimal strategy for NPI implementation looked like, including how outcomes vary for people of different ages, ethnicities, health status and socioeconomic groups. The widespread roll out of NPIs was also economically costly and led to major social disruption with wider impacts on health and wellbeing.
Now is an opportune time learn from NPI implementation during the pandemic and highlight evidence gaps to ensure we are prepared for potential future outbreaks of infectious disease.
There is clear evidence from studies conducted during the pandemic that stringent implementation of packages of NPIs was effective in some countries in reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
There is also evidence for the effectiveness of individual NPIs, but most NPIs were implemented in packages. Disentangling the effects of one NPI when other NPIs were implemented at the same time presents a significant challenge.
That is, an RCT is not an appropriate way to evaluate a “Swiss Cheese Strategy” of multi-layer protection, since each layer confounds the others. More:
Evidence suggests that NPIs were, in general, more effective when case numbers and the associated transmission intensity of SARS-CoV-2 were lower. NPIs became less effective as more transmissible variants of the virus emerged (eg Delta, Omicron) which were better adapted to spreading between people and evading immune responses.
So do NPIs hard and early, as many (including our own GM) advised.
Stringency of application of individual NPIs and groups of NPIs influenced rates of transmission, eg respirator masks were more effective than surgical masks and two weeks of quarantine were more effective than shorter periods.
One of the most important lessons from this pandemic is that the effective application of NPIs ‘buys time’ to allow the development and manufacturing of drugs and vaccines. There is every reason to think that implementing packages of NPIs will be important in future pandemics.
But NPIs like ventilation take years to implement. So if NPIs buy time for vaccines, vaccines also buy time for NPIs (time that the Biden administration, to its eternal discredit, squandered). NPIs that involved changing cultural norms (masking; social distancing) also take years, so vaccines buy time for them, too.
“NNU delivers petition urging CDC to strengthen proposed infection control guidance; CDC cuts off public comments at advisory committee meeting” [National Nurses United]. The NNU doesn’t [family blog] around:
HICPAC, the CDC’s advisory committee on health care infection control, met yesterday and failed to address any of the concerns that have been raised about the proposed draft updates presented at their June meeting. (See NNU’s letter to the CDC on the union’s concerns.) HICPAC had been set to vote on the guidance yesterday but delayed the vote until November.
Good. More time. And:
Many members of the public registered to provide comment at yesterday’s meeting. Those who spoke expressed concerns and outrage about the process and potential ramifications for patients and communities. Despite recognizing that more had registered to speak, the CDC cut off public comment after hearing from only 14 people. This comes on the heels of significant criticism of the lack of transparency in CDC/HICPAC’s process and the committee’s failure to engage a wide range of experts with important expertise, including direct care health care workers, unions, aerosol scientists, respirator and ventilation experts, and occupational health experts.
“”It’s unconscionable that the CDC cut off public comment at yesterday’s HICPAC meeting, when we have been calling for increased public engagement in their process,”” said Triunfo-Cortez, RN. “”HICPAC Work Group meetings have been conducted behind closed doors and no frontline nurses or health care workers serve on this committee. When we tried to get information about these meetings via the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), our request was denied. We submitted a FOIA request to the CDC and received 279 pages of redacted documents.””
Ooooh. Documents to look at. And:
‘The CDC appears to be mustering its scientific and political might to discredit, not embrace, aerosol science and to give facilities a pass to justify their lack of implementation of needed protections. Currently, a worker is safer and has better gear in an Appalachian welding shop than working in the local hospital,’ said Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, board chairman of HealthWatch USA.
Stopping HICPAC in its tracks cannot have been easy. I don’t imagine that the hospitals that control HICPAC will take kindly to this. (I am a little surprised, however, that NNU does not mention DHQP, which plays an important role by supplying HICPAC with the putative science-like justification for doing what they want to do anyhow. If HICPAC is not especially acountbale, DHQP is not accountable at all.)
* * *
Droplet dogma has risen from the grave:
COVID-19 cases have been increasing in NYC. Consider wearing a mask, especially in crowded indoor settings and particularly if you are over 65 or have a medical condition that puts you at risk for severe COVID-19, or are around others who are: https://t.co/sDk7zqX22B pic.twitter.com/X5sJnKNBue
— nychealthy (@nycHealthy) August 23, 2023
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NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, August 22:
Lambert here: Happy memories of tape-watching days! Closing in on a Trump-era surge level; Biden’s, of course, are higher. It will be interesting to see what happens when schools open up. I would like to congratulate the Biden administration and the public health establishment, the CDC especially, for this enormous and unprecedented achievement. And a tip of the ol’ Water Cooler hat to the Great Barrington goons, whose policies have been followed so assiduously! A curious fact: All of Biden’s peaks are higher than Trump’s peaks. Shows you what public health can do when it’s firing on all eight cylinders! Musical interlude. NOTE I’m not happy that Biobot can’t update this data more frequently.
Backward revisions. The national flattening is due to the Midwest downward swoop. I’d wait for the backward revisions on that. Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.
Regional variant data, August 19:
EG.5 (the orange pie slice) still seems evenly distributed. Sadly, the Midwest data is not available, so we can’t infer anything about the Midwest surge and any variant(s), one way or the other.
NOT UPDATED From CDC, August 19:
From CDC, August 5:
Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).
CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.
Covid Emergency Room Visits
NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, August 19:
Lambert here: Steady increase. (The black line is “combined”, but it is easy to see that Covid, the red line, is driving everything.)
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. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.
I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive. Nevertheless, here’s bellwether New York City, data as of August 24:
Still getting worse. But how much worse?
NOT UPDATED Walgreens, August 21:
So, Walgreens is back in the game (and how the heck did that debacle happen? We breathlessly await the news coverage). The percentage of positives is the highest ever, though absolute numbers are still small relative to past surges.
NOT UPDATED From CDC, July 31:
Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data.
NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, August 9:
Lambert here: The WHO data is worthless, so I replaced it with the Iowa Covid Data Tracker. Their method: “These data have been sourced, via the API from the CDC: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Conditions-Contributing-to-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Stat/hk9y-quqm. This visualization updates on Wednesday evenings. Data are provisional and are adjusted weekly by the CDC.” I can’t seem to get a pop-up that shows a total of the three causes (top right). Readers?
Total: 1,173,081 –
1,172,960= 121 (121 * 365 = 44,165 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).
• “MEMORY HOLE: The Original COVID-19 Lie” [Matt Orfalea, The Orf Report (Censored News) (via Taibbi)]. Trying to disentangle this: “WHO initially estimated Covid’d death rate at 3.4%. But: “The WHO’s death rate was severely inflated because most COVID-19 cases are mild with no symptoms and are therefore never reported” (granting the tendentious “mild” and assuming that testing isn’t done). And now: “In the New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and Redfield concluded the number could be ‘considerably less than 1%’.” Trump then repeats the 1% figure, and the Democrats engineer an enormous dogpile, reinforcing WHO’s authority on the higher number, which Ofalea documents at length. Concluding: “It was during this fear-mongering of both the virus and independent thought that destructive lockdown policies were adopted across the United States. Later, on March 23, 2020, with lockdowns already in effect, after nearly every show on CNN attacked Trump for questioning the WHO’s 3.4% death rate, CNN’s own expert, Dr. John Ioannidis, expressed the same skepticism as Trump, live on CNN.” • Lots of problems with this overly tight yarn diagram. First, neither WHO (wrong on airborne) nor Fauci (noble lies on masks, moving goalposts on putative herd immunity, conflicted) are trustworthy to the slightest degree, and I’d want to kick the tires on anything Ioannidis wrote, too (I’m not a fan of paper mills). Second, if Orfalea is urging that policy was engineered by the those who induced the dogpiling, then let him prove it, which you can’t do from a media critique. Orfalea is trying to reverse engineer a truth out of bullshit, and that can’t be done. Third, “fear-mongering” is extremely tendentious, to say the least. Nothing wrong with a little rational apprehension about mass infection with a Level 3 biohazard! Fourth, the preening implicit in “independent thought” is as bad as anything I’ve ever heard from a liberal; it’s one of the more offensive poses that conservatives strike, and very often, too. Fifth, “destructive lockdown policies” is meaningless and kneejerk-inducing. For one thing, lockdown in the United States was pissant, weak, unserious. For another, the whole piece is an implicit attack on non-pharmaceutical interventions generally. That’s worse than the lethal idiocy on masking Taibbi published from Hopkins the other day, being more skillfully crafted, invoking demon figures, kneejerk phrases, etc. “Independent thinking” my Sweet Aunt Fanny. Taibbi, IMNSHO, is in real “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas” mode here.
The Economist, August 24:
Lambert here: Back to almost daily. Odd when it is, odd when it stops. Based on a machine-learning model. (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. )
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised value to 230,000 on the week ending August 19th, below market expectations of 240,000…. The results consolidated evidence that the US labor market remains at historically tight levels, adding leeway for the Federal Reserve to extend its hawkish momentum to curb inflation.” • “Curb inflation” = “screw workers.” It’s right out front now.
Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production index jumped to 12 in August of 2023 from -20 in the previous month, rebounding to its first positive reading since September of 2022 and tracking the rise in other US regional activity indices. The result challenged previous months’ data that suggested that manufacturers were under increasing pressure from the higher interest rates, reflecting a new wave of resilience.” • What does “resilience” even mean, and since when does it come in waves? That’s new.
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Retail: “Dollar Tree said theft is such a problem it will start locking up items or stop selling them altogether” [CNN]. “Dollar Tree had a miserable quarter, and company management is chalking it up to a mix of factors: changing consumer demands on top of higher prices for fuel and electricity … and theft…. Dollar Tree CEO Richard Dreiling and CFO Jeffrey Davis blamed a surprisingly large drop in gross profit margin — tumbling to 29.8% last quarter from 32.7% a year earlier — on ‘shrink,’ the industry term for inventory losses due to theft, damages and other causes. Davis said the company has taken steps to fix the problem, but the shrink issue is getting worse — and ‘definitely advanced a little further than what we had anticipated.’ In response, Dreiling said Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, which the company also owns, will take more drastic measures in the coming months. ‘We are now taking a very defensive approach to shrink,’ Dreiling told analysts Thursday. ‘We have several new shrink formats that we’ll introduce in the back half of the year, and it goes everything from moving certain SKUs to behind the check stand. It has to do with some cases being locked up. And even to the point where we have some stores that can’t keep a certain SKU on the shelf just discontinuing the item. So we have a lot of things in the works.'” • Something’s not right….
— Loish (@loishh) August 17, 2023
The Bezzle: “Crypto has ‘amplified financial risks’ in emerging markets, central banks warn” [Financial Times]. “[C]rypto assets have so far not reduced but rather amplified the financial risks in less developed economies. Therefore, they should be assessed from a risk and regulatory perspective like all other assets,”” [the Bank of International Settlements] said in a 50-page report. Watchdogs including the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements have been charting the evolving financial stability risks from the cryptocurrency market as it ballooned from a nascent industry to one whose value peaked at $2.9tn in November 2021. Some were comforted by the limited blowback for the wider financial system as crypto’s value plummeted by 75 per cent within just over a year of its all-time high, but regulators including the European Central Bank have continued to warn of future risks, while global securities watchdog Iosco is pushing national authorities to be faster and bolder in their approach.”
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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 43 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 24 at 1:13 PM ET. C’mon, Mr. Market! One way or the other!
“A single weekly bout of exercise may reduce cardiovascular mortality: how little pain for cardiac gain? ‘The HUNT study, Norway'” [European Journal of Preventive Cardiology]. N = 27,143 men and 28,929 women over sixteen years. From the Abstract: “The observation that exercise training reduces cardiovascular mortality is robust and consistent, but the amount and intensity of exercise that is required for risk reduction is not yet resolved…. A single weekly bout of exercise of high intensity reduced the risk of cardiovascular death… The risk reduction related to exercise increased with increasing age in men, but not in women…. These results challenge the current recommendation that expenditure of at least 1000 kcal per week is required to achieve exercise-induced protection against premature cardiovascular mortality.” • Fortunately for couch potatoes like me, low intensity has benefits too! So take that walk….
News of the Wired
“New ancient ape from Türkiye challenges the story of human origins” [Phys.org]. “A new fossil ape from an 8.7-million-year-old site in Türkiye is challenging long-accepted ideas of human origins and adding weight to the theory that the ancestors of African apes and humans evolved in Europe before migrating to Africa between nine and seven million years ago…. ‘The founding of the modern African open country fauna from the eastern Mediterranean has long been known and now we can add to the list of entrants the ancestors of the African apes and humans,’ said [Professor Ayla Sevim Erol at Ankara University].” All my apes are gone. To Africa!
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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 laughingsong:
laughingsong writes: “We throw out mixes of native wildflowers every year. After about three extremely sparse years where very few came up, this year has gone bonkers. It’s giving us a huge amount of joy to sit out in the evenings and watch birds and pollinators enjoy our tiny meadow!” Highly recommended! BHoth the sitting, and the watching!
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