By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Eastern Whip-poor-will, 10 Miles South Of Meadow Portage, Manitoba, Canada. From 1960, so extremely old-school. “Recordist’s Notes: evening. Also: cattle, Wilson’s snipe, another whip-poor-will, horned owl. Four-hundred and seventeen examples of the ‘Whip-poor-will’ Call of BNA* or, more appropriately, the song of C. v. vociferus.” NOTE * BNA = “Birds of North America.”
Patient readers, I left out the embed code. Sorry! Here, then, is 7:30 of whip-poor-will, cattle, snipes, etc.
“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.
* * *
“Liberal groups seek to use the Constitution’s insurrection clause to block Trump from 2024 ballots” [Associated Press]. “Two liberal nonprofits pledge court challenges should states’ election officers place Trump on the ballot despite those objections. The effort is likely to trigger a chain of lawsuits and appeals across several states that ultimately would lead to the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly in the midst of the 2024 primary season. The matter adds even more potential legal chaos to a nomination process already roiled by the front-runner facing four criminal trials…. ‘There’s a very real prospect these cases will be active during the primaries,’ said Gerard Magliocca, a law professor at Indiana University, warning that there could be different outcomes in different states before the Supreme Court makes a final decision. ‘Imagine you have an opinion that says he’s not eligible and then there’s another primary where he’s on the ballot.’ Though most litigation is unlikely to begin until October, when states begin to set their ballots for the upcoming primary.” And: “In 2021, the nonprofit Free Speech For People sent letters to the top election official in all 50 states requesting Trump’s removal if he were to run again for the presidency. The group’s legal director, Ron Fein, noted that after years of silence, officials are beginning to discuss the matter.” So Democrats have been working this for awhile; in fact, since the events of January 6, ariot immediately framed by them as “insurrection.” More: “It’s critical that the high court settle the issue before the general election, said Edward Foley, a law professor at The Ohio State University. His fear is that if Trump’s qualifications are not resolved and he wins, Democrats could try to block his ascension to the White House on Jan. 6, 2025, triggering another democratic crisis.” • Many examples of election officials considering this issue.
“Donald Trump ineligible for presidency because of role in insurrection, new lawsuit claims” [Chicago Tribune]. “The lawsuit, citing Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, wants the federal courts to enforce the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, added after the Civil War to prevent people who engaged in rebellion against the United States from holding office again…. ‘Realistically, it’s not a Hail Mary, but it’s just tossing the ball up and hoping it lands in the right place,’ said Charles Zelden, a professor of history and legal studies who specializes in politics and voting at Nova Southeastern University. ‘It’s hopefulness that we can make the problem that is Trump simply go away. And I’m sorry, Trump is too big a problem to simply go away. He’s too much of a challenge to the system.’ ‘It’s kind of one of those ideas that only a law professor could love,’ Zelden said.” • Here is the case:
— Christopher Hopkins (@cbhopkins) August 25, 2023
Time for the Countdown Clock!
* * *
“Trump Decries ‘Violent’ Fulton County Jail: ‘It’s Worse Than You Could Even Imagine'” [The Messenger]. “In a fundraising email to supporters over the weekend, Trump described his time being booked in Fulton County, Georgia on Thursday. … ‘It’s violent. The building is falling apart. Inmates have dug their fingers into the crumbling walls and ripped out chunks to fashion over 1,000 shanks,’ Trump wrote. ‘It’s worse than you could even imagine. Just this year alone, 7 inmates have died in that jail.’… The former president said the “third world state” of the jail further motivated him to run in 2024.” • See Atlanta Magazine’s “The real behind the wall: A look inside the infamous, deadly Fulton County Jail” for lots of ugly detail: “Last year alone, the facility endured 11 fires, 534 fights, 114 stabbings, and at least two murders.” “Third World” is exactly corrent. (Scanning the list of Atlanta prisons — there are twelve — all the jails besides Fulton County are city jails; but he’s not being charged by the city.)
“Trump: They Want To Restart Covid Hysteria Ahead Of 2024 Election, “We Will Not Comply'” (transcript) [RealClearPolitics]. From a video by Trump on Truth Social, quoted in full:
DONALD TRUMP: The left-wing lunatics are trying to bring back Covid lockdowns and mandates with all of their sudden fearmongering about the new variants that are coming.
Gee, whiz, you know what else is coming? An election.
hey want to restart the Covid hysteria so they can justify more lockdowns, more censorship, more illegal dropboxes, more mail-in ballots, and trillions of dollars in payoffs to their political allies heading into the 2024 election. Does that sound familiar?
These are bad people we’re dealing with.
But to every Covid tyrant who wants to take away our freedom, hear these words: We will not comply.
So don’t even think about it, we will not shut down our schools, we will not accept your lockdowns, we will not abide by your mask mandates, and we will not tolerate your vaccine mandates.
They rigged the 2020 election and now they’re trying to do the same thing all over again by rigging the most important election in the history of our country, the 2024 election. Even if it means trying to bring back Covid.
But they will fail because we will not let it happen. When I’m back in the White House I will use every available authority to cut federal funding to any school, college, airline, or public transportation system that imposes a mask mandate or a vaccine mandate. Thank you very much.
The destruction of public health, and especially non-pharmaceutical interventions, in favor of libertarian sociopathy is one of the more appalling trends in American political life. What’s just as appalling, perhaps moreso, is that if you strip away Trump’s red meat rhetoric (“we will not comply”) Trump has described Biden’s policy of mass infection without mitigation to a T. The PMC hated masks, and got rid of them. And the lockdowns the PMC orchestrated, by world standards, were the most pissant and half-assed lockdowns imaginable; the conservative frothing and stamping about the age-old and proven public health measure of quarantine reminds me of an elephant’s panicked bellowing at the sight of a mouse. Meanwhile, the “left wing lunatics” are themselves trying to do away with N95s in favor of “Baggy Blues,” and lower infection controls generally, in hospitals ffs, as we have seen in our HICPAC coverage, and the effort is led by hospital infection control apparatchiks from Mass General, the Bluest city in a Blue state. So they’re coming up with a kindler, gentler version of the eugenicist policies that Trump, sadly, also supports [pounds head on desk].
* * *
“Why Biden is now routinely taking the short stairs up to Air Force One” [NPR]. “It’s one of the iconic images of the American presidency: the commander in chief, standing and waving to the cameras from the top of the stairs leading into Air Force One. But recently, President Biden has been avoiding climbing up the sometimes-wobbly 18-foot staircase that is trucked over to the plane’s upper door. More often than not, he is using a much shorter and sturdier set of stairs that fold out from the belly of the plane. Biden, 80, has stumbled on the tall stairs more than once. The short stairs have the distinct advantage of moving most of Biden’s ascent into Air Force One out of public view. But for those who have noticed the shift, it also draws attention to one of Biden’s greatest political liabilities as he seeks reelection: his age. Biden had been using the short stairs now and then since taking office, but an NPR review of two databases of news photographs show that there’s been a dramatic change since June. That’s when Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell on stage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation.”
“Biden’s Secret Emails: President robinware456” [Wall Street Journal]. “The Southeastern Legal Foundation on Monday sued the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding access to some 5,100 email messages in which then-Vice President Biden used a pseudonym for government business. NARA has admitted having Joe Biden’s emails from email@example.com, JRBWare@gmail.com, and Robert.L.Peters@pci.gov…. Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson first demanded access to Joe Biden’s pseudonym emails in mid-2021, after Hunter Biden’s famous laptop showed the veep’s office used private or alias accounts to send government information to Hunter. One email alerted Hunter to a call the Vice President made to then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko—at the same time Hunter was on the board of Ukrainian gas giant Burisma. Another laptop entry shows Hunter using his business email in 2014 to write to his father’s ‘robinware’ account, asking the veep to call him before making a specific government staffing decision. Joe replied: ‘Re Johnny call me right away Dad.’ Why use email addresses designed to skirt searches of government records? Without the public exposure of Hunter’s laptop by the New York Post, nobody would know an extra set of vice presidential communications existed under obscure addresses. The clandestine emails fit a pattern that GOP investigators are piecing together of a behind-the-scenes effort by Hunter to sell his father’s power in Washington—in which Joe played along. Mr. Comer on Wednesday also requested that NARA provide all documents, communications and manifests related to Vice President Biden’s use of Air Force Two and Marine Two, following a Fox News report that Hunter traveled to at least 15 foreign countries with his father on official trips. Government employees are discouraged from using private email to conduct government business, and when they do they are required to forward all relevant documents to federal record-keepers. There’s no reason for the White House to refuse disclosing these official, vice-presidential records—unless it has something it wants to hide.” • Idea: Have Biden’s lawyers go over all Biden’s emails and remove whatever they like. Then turn them over. That’s what Hillary Clinton did, after all.
“White House warns GOP Biden impeachment will backfire” [The Hill]. • So why don’t the Republicans organize to have Biden “disqualified” from the ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment? (I have to say I’m dubious about impeachment, even though the House Operations committee has acquitted itself well, unlike the Benghazi hairball.)
* * *
“‘Desperate’ Democrats are urging Michelle Obama to run for president: Report” [WION]. “RadarOnline[dot]com has reported that secret back-channel talks have started within the Democratic Party to convince former first lady Michelle Obama to run for president. The news report has said that numbers suggest Michelle Obama would have greater approval ratings (48 per cent) than Biden (36 per cent) if she declared right now that she would be running for president. ‘If Michelle announced, the election would go immediately from a hotly contested footrace to a landslide,’ a Democrat source reportedly said… . ‘Barack recognizes the gravity of the situation with Joe’s disappointing poll numbers,’ said a source as quoted by RadarOnline. ‘He had hoped that the president would have rallied and come into his own at this point, but that clearly hasn’t happened.’ ‘With 2024 growing closer and closer, he had to act since he apparently fears Joe is getting too old and frail to win.’ ‘While Barack has already endorsed Biden, he’s reneged in private and will publicly throw Joe overboard in a heartbeat if he thinks that the election is on the line,”” said another source as quoted by RadarOnline.” • “… at his Washington DC office.” Ah yes, the shadow government gives consideration to another President from Chicago, city of broad shoulders, and all that.
* * *
“Section Guy Runs For President” [Josh Barro, Very Serious]. “When Vivek Ramaswamy and I were undergraduates at Harvard,1 students would sometimes talk about the scourge of ‘section guy.’ ‘Section guy’ wasn’t a specific person, but an archetype — that guy in your discussion section who adores the sound of his own voice, who thinks he’s the smartest person on the planet with the most interesting and valuable interpretations of the course material, and who will not ever, ever, ever shut up. ‘Be nice to that overeager Gov 20 section guy, for like many on Congress’ current roster, he may someday take the well-traveled road from Harvard to the Hill,’ The Harvard Crimson warned in 2010, just a few years after we both graduated. Well, now section guy is running for president… I think the main difference is that Trump has charisma that Vivek lacks — Trump is a showman, he seems like he’s fun at parties, and when he lies to you it can even sometimes feel like you’re in on the joke. Vivek, meanwhile, has Ted Cruz’s overcaffeinated-ex-college-debater affect, and seems like someone you’d desperately find an excuse to sneak away from at a cocktail party. And that is why I simply cannot buy Vivek as a successful mini-Trump. Yes, unlike other Republican candidates, he’s figured out what it even means to copy Trump — appealing to the Trump base is not about getting as far to the right as possible, as Ron DeSantis appears to believe. As Vivek knows, it’s about giving voice to all their grievances without any regard for how your resulting statements relate to truth, ideology, or the practicalities of American government. He is the first candidate to become full of sh*t in the same manner as the former president, and I give him credit for that. But I have always thought the other essential element of the Trump mystique was likability. Trump’s fans don’t just agree with him — they think he is cool and badass. And just as Ron DeSantis is too awkward to succeed him, Vivek is too annoying to do so. Section guy can never win a presidential nomination.”
“Vivek Ramaswamy, Political Performance Artist” [Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal]. Weird to see the man George Bush nicknamed “Turdblossom” mutate into a stuffy, huffy Colonel Blimp. Anyhow, this: ” During a New Hampshire Q&A in June, a voter claimed the Federal Reserve ‘is illegally taking money out the back door, not through the proper channels, or adding zeroes to bank accounts to the media or maybe your political opponents.’ He asked Mr. Ramaswamy, ‘How are you going to stop that illegal under-the-table spending of money from the Federal Reserve?’ With a sign behind him emblazoned with the word ‘Truth,’ Mr. Ramaswamy indulged the crank rather than set him straight. ‘You’re correct to point out what very few people are aware of. Absolutely, that happens.'” • Big if true!
“Why Is Nobody Doing Anything About Mitch McConnell?” [Politico]. “For the second time in about a month, the heavy gears and winches that drive Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s brain seized up in front of news cameras. While taking questions from reporters on Wednesday in Covington, Ky., and asked about running for reelection in 2026, the top Republican powered down for 30 seconds as if an unseen hand had removed the lithium ion battery from his chassis. Attempts by an aide to reboot him seemed to succeed as he muttered, “”OK,”” and gave brief answers before retiring from the scene… If McConnell were a bus driver or broadcaster or teacher engaged in any other occupation that, like serving as a legislative leader, demands real-time responses, he would have been benched pending a medical examination. Instead, Mitch’s verbal stoppage has been met with paralysis by the political order, which seems incapacitated by his condition. … Things aren’t fine in the U.S. Senate. Nobody should be considered irreplaceable, even if it causes a political mess. And the preferred means of departing the Senate shouldn’t be feet first. To insist otherwise is yet another symptom of lightheadedness.” • Or post-Covid neurological damage?
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.
* * *
If this is true — and there’s no reason to think that it is — then the Democrats are in terrible trouble:
(First yellow highlight theirs; second, mine.) I have, to my knowledge, never answered a single one of their horrid surveys.
“One win, 17,000 defeats – life as a Washington General” [BBC]. Long-time political bloggers will recall the trope that the Republicans are the Harlem Globetrotters, and the Democrats the Washington Generals (though I’m not sure that’s true any more). Here is the origin of the trope: “Over more than 50 years since, the Globetrotters have been ruthless in meting out their revenge. To the unmistakable melody of Sweet Georgia Brown, they’ve showboated their way to victory at the expense of hapless Generals who’ve never again beaten their illustrious opponents. In contrast to the universal adulation enjoyed by the Globetrotters, those wearing the Generals’ infamously unsuccessful green jerseys are booed, ridiculed, and dunked on during defeat, after defeat, after defeat. They are the rarest of sporting commodities: the underdogs you’re not supposed to root for. So why would anyone want to play for the Washington Generals?”
Realignment and Legitimacy
“American megachurches are thriving by poaching flocks” [The Economist]. “Welcome to Life.Church, one of America’s largest megachurches, headquartered near Oklahoma City. Really it is a chain of churches, with 44 sites across 12 states. Every weekend around 80,000 people attend one of 170 services in person. Most watch a pre-recorded sermon by a senior pastor, Craig Groeschel; a junior pastor acts as an in-person mc and a worship band plays live. The whole thing blends seamlessly, and it is streamed online, too.” And the nice thing is that the “senior pastor” is kept well away from potential superspreading events! “Churches have closed as the proportion of Americans who call themselves Christian has fallen from 76% in 2010 to 64% in 2020. But most of America’s 1,750 megachurches—all Protestant and mostly evangelical churches with at least 2,000 worshippers—are thriving. Between 2015 and 2020 their congregations grew by a third on average, turning younger and more multi-racial, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, a think-tank in Connecticut… Concentration among churches accelerated as costs rose in the 1970s, notes Mark Chaves of Duke University. Smaller ones lost members… With more money and more hands, megachurches can innovate. Though they account for just 0.5% of all churches and 7% of churchgoers, their influence is felt in the music played elsewhere and the popularity of their ted-talk-style sermons, says Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute. Nearly all the top contemporary worship songs between 2010 and 2020 came from just four megachurches.” • Holy Lord, one for Stoller: “The truth is that the body of Christ is consolidating.”
“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!
Covid is Airborne
“We Need a Revolution in Clean Indoor Air” [The Tyee]. “Thousands of engineers and physicists who understand air chemistry now support better indoor air filtration and ventilation as our way out of relentless viral waves and chronic hospitalizations. One environmental engineer, Richard Corsi, who has spent his life trying to improve indoor air quality, even designed a $60 box fan that draws circulating air through filters as a pandemic fighter. Thousands of citizens have built them. And yes they work.” They do. More: “Unfortunately, the prescription to cleaner air has been overshadowed by too much faith in drugs and the rapid development of vaccines (a historical first) as the true way out of the pandemic. There is no doubt that vaccines, particularly boosters, have dramatically lowered the death toll, but they have not stopped viral transmission, viral evolution, waning immunity or vaccine hesitancy. But when it comes to pandemics, history shows that they largely perform as a backup squad. Dramatically lowering transmissions remains a key goal because of the certainty that some who contract and survive the virus will have debilitating long COVID, and allowing the virus to circulate freely speeds its mutation. Beyond cholera, more historical examples aren’t hard to find.” And: “. Examples given are yellow fever, typhus, and the Black Plague. Speculative, but interesting: “The Black Death started reshaping Europe in the 1300s and showed up every decade or so after over the next 300 years. So why did deadly outbreaks caused by a bacterium carried by fleas, lice and black rats roll on for three centuries? Historians are still debating the plague’s demise but engineering may have made a key contribution. Quarantines and isolation probably played an important role as well as changes in climate, clothing and human nutrition. But society also changed the nature of home construction. A 14th century dwelling was typically covered by a thatched roof which provided ideal living conditions for black rats and fleas. Eventually, after a wave of monstrous fires visited many European cities in the 17th century, homes of that sort were replaced by brick structures and slate roofs. At the same time an invasion of brown rats, which prefer sewer living, displaced Europe’s black rats. So probably brought an end to the Black Death by eradicating its most fertile conditions.” • Vax-only has been such a debacle (unless you believe, as I would speculate a large proportion of capital does, that society is a teardown and there’s no point investing in it. Rents from vax > health from engineering). Anyhow, the article is well worth a read. The Tyee cites to this article–
“Public Health is a Job for Engineers” (abstract) [Mechanical Engineering]. The deck: “Physicians Can Cure Diseases, but Mechanical Engineers Build Defenses To Ward Off Pathogens Defore They Infect.” The Abstract: “Instead of waiting to fight diseases inside the human body, engineering can establish lines of defense further out by either intercepting and neutralizing the pathogens before they reach humans or diluting them so much that they can’t build up an infective load. .” • This is the journal of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the article is paywalled. Could some kind soul in the readership send me a PDF? Thank you!
“CDC Assesses Risk From BA.2.86, Highly Mutated COVID-19 Variant” [JAMA]. “The agency’s assessment noted that compared with other recent circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, the new variant may be more capable of causing breakthrough infections in people who were previously infected or vaccinated. So far, it has not been found to cause more severe illness. But the limited number of cases means it’s too soon to know whether it causes more severe COVID-19 or is more transmissible than other variants, the CDC said. ‘Detection across multiple continents suggests some degree of transmissibility,’ the agency said. ‘This is notable since scientists have not detected transmission of most other highly diverged lineages, which can arise in immunocompromised persons with prolonged infections.'” • Here is a map showing BA.2.86 spread (remember, the absolute numbers are low):
Here's an animated map showing the spread of the new BA.2.86 "Pirola" variant.
23 samples have been reported so far, over 4 continents.
Locations are approximate – typically country and state/province.
— Mike Honey (@Mike_Honey_) August 30, 2023
Sure looks like air travel to me!
This tweet is a classic example of why “racing” is a tell. The story is always about the race, and never about the causes of the race:
Health authorities say they are now racing to study BA.2.86, a new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, after the highly mutated variant was spotted spreading in multiple countries around the world and at least four different U.S. states. https://t.co/Rvy4YD91PG
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 31, 2023
So now, with no testing and tracing — not even at airports — we “race” to figure out what’s going on. (I hate that “what to know” formulation, too; I don’t know if it’s new, or I only just noticed it. I’ll decide what I need to know, thank you very much.)
“Dear Public Officials: Stop falling for the myth of an irrational incompetent panicked public” [Chloe Humbert] “Officials often fail to warn the public properly, and actually impede citizens from actually responding in an emergency when the officials become more concerned with controlling people’s potential reactions than actually helping people and providing clear communication. Some people in charge have ridiculously patronizing and wrong ideas about how other people will react in an emergency. They believe in pseudoscience and outdated paranoid notions of ‘mobs’ panicking on a hair-trigger, seemingly based on ridiculous tropes in monster movies they watched as kids, but that are fiction and unrepresentative of reality. It’s time for people in charge to educate themselves about the true problem: Elite Panic! This is the phenomenon described by James B. Meigs in an article from May 2020: ‘When authorities believe their own citizens will become dangerous, they begin to focus on controlling the public, rather than on addressing the disaster itself.’ Or as described in the 2002 documentary Toxic Sludge is Good for You, the corporate culture is such that PR firms promote crisis management where the ‘first move is not to deal with the actual problem, but to manage the negative perception caused by that problem.’ Lee Clarke points out in the article ‘panic: myth or reality?’ that blaming panic is a way of blaming the victim when things go wrong because of structural or management failures, and that people recognize this and learn to mistrust those who deflect this way. The article ends with the statement: ‘Our leaders would do well to see us as partners in recovery rather than as a “”constituency”” to be handled.'” • Lots of linky goodness here, and at the accompanying podcast page.
From BioBot wastewater data, August 31:
Lambert here: Happy memories of tape-watching days! Resuming our upward climb, at a slower pace.
Regional data. As we can see, the national flattening was due to the Midwest downward swoop:
Yesterday’s Water Cooler was full of charts that showed why I was dubious about the Midwest downward swoop, which now seems to be reversing itself, I don’t know whether due to the data, backward revisions, or what.
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 26:
Lambert here: I changed this ER chart to a Covid-only chart broken down by age. Note the highlighting.
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.
Bellwether New York City, data as of August 31:
Still getting worse. But how much worse? I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.
NOT UPDATED Here is CDC’s map…. “In Past Week,” because there’s no [family blogging date]:
Orange = “substantial increase” (more than 20%). The cadence: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates Mondays and Thursdays by 8 p.m. ET.” So apparently, on Friday, I have to compare the map here with the one on the CDC site to see if the update has, in fact, been performed. Why are they making me think?
NOT UPDATED Walgreens, August 28:
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 Cleveland Clinic, August 26:
Lambert here: I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good, and we’re starved for data, so….
NOT UPDATED From CDC, August 7:
Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data, confirming the current surge, only two weeks late. Sure would be useful to know if there were any BA.2.86 in those samples, though!
NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, August 23:
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: 1,173,593 – 1,173,448 – 1,173,422 –
1,173,081 = 145. 145 * 365 = 52,925 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).
The Economist, August 31:
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 Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based employers announced that 75,151 jobs were cut in August of 2023, the most in three months, and rebounding 217% from the 11-month low of 23,697 cuts in the previous month, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The result pointed to another period of softening in the US labor market, suggesting that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes are being transmitted at a greater extent in the middle of the third quarter.” • But see below–
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits edged down by 4,000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised value to 228,000 on the week ending August 26th, defying market expectations of 235,000 and underlying the still tight US labour market.” • But see above!
Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI, rose to 48.7 in August of 2023 from 42.8 in July, and well above market forecasts of 44.1. The reading marked the 12th consecutive month of contraction in business activity in the Chicago region but the smallest in the current sequence that began in September 2022.”
The Bezzle: “Crypto Scores Landmark US Legal Win With Grayscale ETF Ruling” [Bloomberg]. “Grayscale Investments LLC won a key legal fight in its push to launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, bringing the crypto industry to the precipice of tapping billions of dollars from everyday investors. The firm’s court victory over the US Securities and Exchange Commission in a three-judge appeals panel in Washington represents a watershed moment for the largest cryptocurrency. Advocates say an ETF based on spot Bitcoin prices would result in a gush of retail cash. The SEC, which has thus far only allowed crypto ETFs based on futures because it says they are safer, is reviewing the decision. The agency could still fight the ruling, either by asking a full slate of judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, or the US Supreme Court to review the decision. Meanwhile, the decision injects significant momentum into Grayscale’s yearslong push. It’s also a stinging rebuke of Chair Gary Gensler’s bid to clamp down on the industry. Investors welcomed the news. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust rallied as much as 21% and Bitcoin surged by as much as 8.3%. Grayscale has said converting to an ETF would help it unlock billions of dollars in value for investors in its $16.2 billion trust by making it easier to create and redeem shares. The trust’s closed-end structure doesn’t allow for investors to redeem shares when prices fall, causing it to trade at steep discounts to its underlying Bitcoin. As an ETF, it could create and redeem shares to keep up with changing demand. Tuesday’s ruling is the second recent high-profile court defeat for the SEC over its stance on crypto. The agency is fighting a federal judge’s ruling that offerings of Ripple Labs’ XRP token were not securities when sold to the general public. Grayscale’s win may have the most sweeping impact yet. Some of the biggest and most established names in finance have recently filed applications with the SEC to launch Bitcoin ETFs.” • Uh oh.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 50 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 30 at 2:02 PM ET. C’mon, Mr. Market! One way or the other!
Police State Watch
“Why Cash Seizures Backfire on Oklahoma Police” [RealClearPolicy]. “Police recruits join the force to help others and fight crime. Research confirms it. But priorities changed when sheriff’s deputies detained Eh Wah in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, and found more than $53,000 in his car. Law enforcement training kicked in, and the purpose of the traffic stop switched from public safety to raising revenue. The deputies seized the cash and spent the next six hours interrogating Eh Wah, looking for any excuse to justify civil forfeiture, a process that allows the government to take and keep cash, cars and other assets without a criminal conviction…. What happened to Eh Wah undercuts this narrative. He was not a drug lord or even a low-level dealer. He was a volunteer manager for a Christian rock band, raising money for Thai orphans and Burmese refugees. Some of the cash belonged to Eh Wah and the band members, following a monthslong tour across several states. The rest came from concert donations and belonged to the orphans and refugees. Carrying cash is legal. The money in the car was legitimate. And none of it related to a broken taillight — the reason for the 2016 traffic stop on U.S. Route 69. Eh Wah, who neither smokes nor drinks, had nothing illegal in his vehicle. Other than driving with a burned out bulb, he did nothing wrong. The deputies pounced anyway, putting civil forfeiture in motion.” • Like Medicaid estate recovery, civil asset forfeiture is a cash-grabbing abomination that has gone unchecked for years.
“Studio CEOs Set To Meet Today Amid Internal Tensions; No End In Sight To Strikes” [Deadline]. “Amid growing speculation of internal divisions within the C-suites and a lack of any apparent path forward to end the writers and actors strikes, the chiefs of Hollywood’s biggest studios are set to gather today…. ‘Almost everyone is looking for someone to blame,’ another insider says of the backbiting among the core CEOs. ‘They’re paralyzed, even as the clock is ticking, and it’s Ted’s fault, Iger’s fault, even Tony Vinciquerra’s fault, depending on who you ask,’ the source added, name-checking the Netflix co-CEO, the Disney CEO and the Sony Pictures chair and CEO. ‘It’s not helping the situation, or anyone.'”
News of the Wired
“What Can Historical Clothing Reveal That Other Sources Cannot?” [History Today]. “In late 2022, two pairs of extremely old jeans sold for record-breaking prices. A wax-covered and patched pair of Levi’s, dating from the 1880s and discovered in an old mineshaft, were sold in New Mexico for $76,000 in October. Two months later, that fee would be smashed by an even older pair of trousers. Pulled from a sunken trunk of an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, these jeans were auctioned for $114,000. Those work trousers were on an ill-fated voyage from San Francisco and are an early precursor to modern-day blue jeans…. The heavy-duty work trousers sold in December 2022 were salvaged from the wreck of the SS Central America, which sank with the loss of 425 lives and from which tens of millions of dollars of gold have been recovered. These miner’s work trousers are inextricably linked to the mid-19th-century Californian Gold Rush. The other patched-up and cut-off pair from the 1880s have been worn threadbare by hard labour, with the wax splatters giving a clue to their owner toiling by candlelight. These trousers are clearly labelled Levi Strauss, along with an imprint that claims: ‘Made by White Labour’ – a bigoted boast to appeal to consumers after Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Both pairs bore witness to important moments in American history.”
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 CC:
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