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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
American Robin, Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary, Frederick, Maryland, United States. “Evening song with calls.”
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
Time for the Countdown Clock!
* * *
“President Biden should not run again in 2024” [David Ignatius, WaPo]. The spook houseboy at WaPo speaks: “But I don’t think Biden and Vice President Harris should run for reelection…. Biden would carry two big liabilities into a 2024 campaign. He would be 82 when he began a second term. … [And] because of their concerns about Biden’s age, voters would sensibly focus on his presumptive running mate, Harris…. Politicians who know Biden well say that if he were convinced that Trump were truly vanquished, he would feel he had accomplished his political mission. He will run again if he believes in his gut that Trump will be the GOP nominee and that he has the best chance to defeat Trump and save the country from the nightmare of a revenge presidency.” Not clear how that will happen, however….. Time is running out. In a month or so, this decision will be cast in stone. It will be too late for other Democrats, including Harris, to test themselves in primaries and see whether they have the stuff of presidential leadership. Right now, there’s no clear alternative to Biden — no screamingly obvious replacement waiting in the wings. That might be the decider for Biden, that there’s seemingly nobody else. But maybe he will trust in democracy to discover new leadership, ‘in the arena.'” • Ignatius is correct that the Democrat bench is weak. Though presumably the spooks have somebody (“new leadership”) in mind (and also have more tape of Biden than you can possibly imagine); to them, “trust in [‘our’] democracy” would doubtless mean the ascendance of that somebody. However, Ignatius is not correct when he writes “Time is running out”; or rather, is correct if you think the primaries are anything other than “norms.” From “If You Want to Know What the Democratic Party Is, Just Ask Their Lawyer” (2017). That lawyer: “[W]here you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.” If the Democrats want to nominate Michelle Obama based on applause-meter results from a seven-day “Meet the Candidates” TV special, they can do that; and you can bet the Blue MAGA and the press would applaud everything vociferously, not just the outcome but the process (“It was an emergency.” I tried to make sense of the bylaws of the Democratic Party; they were an incredibly tangled mess, mostly having to do with hiding the money, but also with diffusing responsibility.) It does make you wonder whether some kind soul, inspired by Ignatius’s evident sincerity, will take matters into their own hands and doctor the “juice” that somebody (Jill Biden?) carries around with them for Joe. “A real slow hot shot,” as William Gibson put it.
“Democrats need to realize that there is no alternative to Biden – and buck up” [Sidney Blumenthal, Guardian]. “But it is the Democrats who pull Biden underwater. They see his physical faults and shudder at his political fall. He is 80, his hair thinned, his gait slower and more careful. He is not eloquent. The slight hesitation of the stutter he overcame as a child seems occasionally to return. He is not Mick Jagger strutting at 80. The intensity of concern among Democrats about Biden is in direct proportion to their panic about Trump. They see in his fragility their own predicament. He is the screen on which they project their anxiety, insecurity and fear. They suffer from a crisis of bad nerves. The Democrats’ withholding creates a self-fulfilling prophesy. Spooked by the shadow of Trump, they react with disapproval of Biden, whose numbers are stagnant, flashing the sign that makes them more frightened. They do not censure Biden or dislike him. But they hope for a counter-factual scenario. There is none. Asked to name a specific person they would prefer to Biden, 18% of Democrats replied with a scattering of names. Bernie Sanders, 82, received the highest support at 3%. Sanders, who has twice run for the nomination, this time has early endorsed Biden. It has taken the democratic socialist to remind that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. If Biden were not to run, the counter-factual dream of a Hollywood ending with Michael Douglas from The American President materializing would be replaced with a ferocious primary of centrifugal force exposing the party’s fractured divides and the survivor most likely at no better rating than Biden at the current fraught moment. Biden’s presence leaves that bloodsport to another day.” • Well, I know which scenario the press would prefer: Volatility.
* * *
“The 2024 candidate-bots are here” [Politico]. “On Wednesday, the [Chat2024] project will officially unveil the AI-powered avatars of 17 leading presidential candidates. Each one is a chatbot trained on reams of data generated from at least a hundred sources, like candidates’ video appearances and writings.” One hundred sources is not much. “The project is a creation of Dara Ladjevardian, the co-founder of AI startup Delph, [and] amounts to a PR stunt for Delphi’s services, of course, but Ladjevardian… thinks AI avatars have a prominent role to play in the future of campaigning, governing and public opinion tracking. He said the project was inspired by his  experience knocking on doors in the Houston area to support a losing congressional bid by his mother, Democrat Sima Ladjevardian… . He found that most voters learned about candidates from snippets of television coverage, and argues that chatbots provide a more engaging, in-depth alternative. He hopes the presidential bots will attract the attention of campaigns up and down the ballot and entice them to pay to host the avatars on their own websites. In addition to providing campaigns with a new way to show off their candidates, Ladjevardian said he intends to sell them on the idea that they can analyze the queries voters send to chatbots to better understand public opinion.” • Hmm. Wait until we can dispense with the human entirely….
“Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech for Fair and Legitimate 2024 U.S. Elections” (PDF) [Ad Hoc Committee for 2024 Election Fairness and Legitimacy]. “In jurisdictions of over 1000 voters, paper ballots should be tabulated by optical-scan computers; ballots should be tabulated in smaller jurisdictions either by optical-scan computers or by hand counting. Post-election audits should be conducted by human inspection of the human-readable portions of the paper ballots.” So why not eliminate a layer of complexity and — follow me closely here — mark the paper ballots by hand? Also: “A wealth of scientific studies have concluded that there is no known method to guarantee the security of a voted ballot returned through the internet.” • So “internet voting” is dead at last? I hope so!
2020 Post Mortem
“Fox Sued by New York City Pension Funds Over Election Falsehoods” [New York Times]. “New York City’s pension funds sued the Fox Corporation and its board on Tuesday, accusing the company of neglecting its duty to shareholders by opening itself up to defamation lawsuits from the persistent broadcasting of falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election. The lawsuit, filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery, is the most significant shareholder action since Fox settled a blockbuster defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems in April for $787.5 million. The city’s five pension funds represent nearly 800,000 current and retired workers and are worth $253 billion. ‘We are shareholders at a company that, unfortunately, has a longstanding practice of allowing conspiracy theories that its executives and its board know are false to be repeated over and over and over again, despite the very clear and present risk of defamation lawsuits eroding shareholder value,’ said Brad Lander, New York City’s comptroller, who oversees the pension funds. ‘And there has been no effort to make governance reforms.'”• Hmm. I wonder who the expert witnesses about CT will be.
“A Company Family: The Untold History of Obama and the CIA” [Covert Action Magazine (jsn)]. Re-upping this from Links of August 31; one stop shopping for Obama’s spook connections, and they are numerous. But see also the final paragraph on the Pritzkers, the oligarchs in the other Democrat state. “Penny Pritzker of the Pritzker banking dynasty—ranked number 9 on the Forbes list with a fortune of $32.5 billion—gave $500,000 to Obama’s second inauguration—earning her appointment as Obama’s Secretary of Commerce. The Pritzker family—which made its fortune through ownership of Hyatt hotels—had long ties to the CIA. They were leading depositors in the Bahamas-based Castle Bank, a CIA outfit founded by one of the CIA’s mob liaisons, Paul Helliwell, which specialized in off-shoring money. The Pritzkers were also war profiteers. In 1953, family patriarchs Jay and Robert Pritzker founded the Marmon Group, an industrial holding company which includes the subsidiary Marmon Aerospace and Defense which manufactures wires and cables for aerospace, military vehicles, combat systems, radar installations and naval shipboards. The Pritzkers—like the Crowns—thus personally profited from Obama’s mammoth military budgets, which outstripped those of President Bush by an average of $18.7 billion per year, Obama’s naval buildup in the South China Sea and his overseeing more sales of military weaponry than any other president—$60 billion more than President Bush.” • Meanwhile, I am persuaded, J. B. Pritzker waits for Biden to slip a cog….
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. (H opefully, 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.
* * *
“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
“Addressing Education and Health Inequity: Perspectives from the North of England” (PDF) [Child of the North All-Party Parliamentary Group] “Classroom Air Cleaning Technologies (Class-ACT) – how integrated datasets can be used to address fundamental research questions The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of good ventilation in the prevention of airborne diseases [63, 64, 65]. Many classrooms are poorly ventilated, which increases the risk of a child or member of staff contracting an airborne illness . One possible solution to poorly ventilated classrooms is the provision of ‘air cleaning technologies’ that remove particles from the circulating air. These include the Covid-19 virus and other pathogens, as well as particles that can cause asthma or hay fever. The linked health and education data available in Connected Bradford allowed the Class-ACT project  to conduct a to understand the impact that air cleaning technologies had on children’s attendance in school. By combining health records with school absences, the study found that . Without these connected datasets it would only be possible to obtain a piecemeal picture of the potential for disease transmission to be reduced through fitting air-cleaning technologies within schools.” • First ventilation controlled study I am aware of. Somebody tell HICPAC!
“First COVID-19 nasal spray vaccine being developed by Dartmouth Health, the NIH and Exothera” [Healthcare Finance]. “The National Institutes of Health, Belgium-based viral vector manufacturer Exothera and researchers at Dartmouth Health’s Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine are working to develop and bring to market the first nasal COVID-19 vaccine. Clinical trials are planned for the United States and Africa. The nasal-spray vaccine will not require refrigeration and does not need to be administered by a medical professional, making it a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 in developing parts of the world, according to Dartmouth Health, the health system for its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), in Lebanon, New Hampshire…. ‘We are pleased to join this collaborative effort to develop and assess the safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness of an adenovirus type 4 based vaccine expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as a novel approach to the prevention of COVID-19,’ said Wright, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Geisel. ‘Although unique in the COVID field, the vaccine has precedent in the highly successful prevention of adenovirus respiratory disease in the United States military.'” • Project NextGen goes unmentioned, so I assume this is a parallel effort. And if there’s in fact a successful “precedent” for nasal vaccines, that moves the Biden Administration’s failure to move forward on them from the stupid box to the evil box.
Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.
* * *
NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, September 11:
This time, it’s the South bringing down the curve
Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.
NOT UPDATED From CDC, September 2:
Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“). No BA.2.86 here, not even in the note, but see below at Positivity.
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, September 2:
Lambert here: Another Labor Day weekend drop, like Walgreens? Typically, three-day weekends don’t coincide with peak infection!
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 September 12:
Still climbing. I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.
NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. September 2:
At least now we now that hospitalization tracks positivity, which is nice. Even if we don’t know how many cases there are. And positivity as high as it’s been at any time, except for Omicron.
NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, September 11:
0.4% Still thinking the dip is Labor Day data. Or perhaps people were actually testing for Labor Day, and stopped. The absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say. Interestingly, these do not correlate with the regional figures for wastewater. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)
NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, August 21:
No BA.2.86 for two of the long-delayed collection weeks.
NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, September 6:
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: 1,174,691 –
1,174,631 = 60 (60 * 365 = 21,900 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, September 13:
Lambert here: This is now being updated daily again. Odd. 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. )
Inflation: “United States Core Inflation Rate MoM” [Trading Economics]. “US core consumer prices, which exclude volatile items such as food and energy, rose by 0.3% from the previous month in August of 2023, above market expectations of a 0.2% increase and accelerating from 0.2% advances in the two earlier months.”
The Bezzle: “Popular nasal decongestant doesn’t actually relieve congestion, FDA advisers say” [Associated Press]. “The leading decongestant used by millions of Americans looking for relief from a stuffy nose is no better than a dummy pill, according to government experts who reviewed the latest research on the long-questioned drug ingredient. Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on Tuesday against the effectiveness of the key drug found in popular versions of Sudafed, Dayquil and other medications stocked on store shelves. ‘Modern studies, when well conducted, are not showing any improvement in congestion with phenylephrine,’ said Dr. Mark Dykewicz, an allergy specialist at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 13 at 1:38:57 PM ET.
“The Falling Man” [Esquire]. A 9/11 story, from 2021. “The Falling Man” is a photo of one of the Twin Towers “jumpers,” and the story gives the origin, the publication history, and people’s reactions, including The Falling Man’s family. It’s moving, not typical 9/11 schlock, and well worth a read. This caught my eye: “From the beginning, the spectacle of doomed people jumping from the upper floors of the World Trade Center resisted redemption…. The trial that hundreds endured in the building and then in the air became its own kind of trial for the thousands watching them from the ground. No one ever got used to it; no one who saw it wished to see it again, although, of course, many saw it again. Each jumper, no matter how many there were, brought fresh horror, elicited shock, tested the spirit, struck a lasting blow. Those tumbling through the air remained, by all accounts, eerily silent; those on the ground screamed… And it was, at last, the sight of the jumpers that provided the corrective to those who insisted on saying that what they were witnessing was ‘like a movie,’ for this was an ending as unimaginable as it was unbearable: Americans responding to the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world with acts of heroism, with acts of sacrifice, with acts of generosity, with acts of martyrdom, and, by terrible necessity, with one prolonged act of—if these words can be applied to mass murder—mass suicide.: • When I see Covid, and its airborne transmission, normalized, I feel very much like I’m seeing an “unimaginable ending”; like I’m watching a mass suicide, albeit on a much larger scale than the 2,977 memorialized at the former WTC, and with the “jumpers” not “eerily silent” but chanting “lead your life,” as they have been taught, on the way down. It’s not especially “bearable.”
Everything’s going according to plan:
Here's the really staggering graph.
This isn't the number of people out of work.
This is the reasons people are leaving work.
That flame red wedge is the CONSTANTLY INCREASING number of people leaving the workforce due to long term sickness.
MORE PEOPLE ARE LEAVING WORK NOW DUE… pic.twitter.com/5OyQ25DKeg
— tern (@1goodtern) September 13, 2023
Hence bots, AI, etc.
News of the Wired
“Why Roman concrete is still stronger than RAAC (and other modern concretes)” [Chemistry World]. “Whence this remarkable resilience of Roman concrete architecture? It’s all down to the chemistry. The key component of mortars and cements is lime: calcium oxide, made by heating a calcium carbonate mineral such as limestone to drive off CO2. Add water and you have slaked lime Ca(OH)2, which was typically mixed as a paste with sand or rubble (aggregate) to make concrete. The hydroxide gradually absorbs CO2 from the air and reforms a hard binder of calcium carbonate. But Roman concrete was different. They mixed lime with volcanic ash composed of glassy aluminosilicate minerals to make the cement that bound big chunks of volcanic rock in a kind of random three-dimensional mosaic. Instead of forming carbonate, the slaked lime reacted with components of the ash to produce calcium aluminosilicate phases – basically a kind of rock itself, which sets around the chunky aggregate in a similar way to how geological conglomerate rocks are made. Better still, the concrete can go on reacting for years and even centuries.” • This is, however, a matter of controversy, and according to the author, the MIT guys got it wrong!
Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From AM:
AM writes: “I was ‘flaneuring’ this evening and came across this scene at the St Anthony of Padua parish, of the Franciscan Friars organization. Flower worship on West Houston Street, NYC.”