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2:00PM Water Cooler 3/2/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I have a lot more to cover on Covid, including Corsi-Rosenthal boxes and some horrid news on Carl Heneghan, the Cochrane study’s unlisted author (which violates Cochrane rules). But sadly, it must wait until tomorrow; I cannot add orts and scraps today. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

White-winged Potoo, ENE of Careiro do Castanho, Fazenda Toshiba. “Calls by a bird that was seen in silhouette as it perched 12 meters away and 12 meters up overhead in the open on a dead branch at the edge of tall terra firme on the north side of the road just before the second dip [03¡ 47′ 34″ S, 60¡ 17′ 54″ W]; this was recorded following an approach by the bird in response to my whistled imitation; the bird called today but never sang; this is presumably the same bird as that highlighted in cut #2000-28-06 recorded at this same spot on 7 December 2000; a nearly full moon was low on horizon before dawn (possibly down at this point); dense clouds were now moving in rapidly despite mostly clear conditions an hour earlier, calm, 79.” Bit too much sotto voce from the birder, but a lot going on!

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels.” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“Garland promises free rein for prosecutors probing Hunter Biden” [Politico]. • Dear Hunter!


“Trump’s loosening grip on GOP defines early 2024 campaign” [Politico]. “Rep. Thomas Massie was so eager for Donald Trump’s endorsement in a contested primary three years ago that he ran TV ads targeted at the then-president in Florida to win his support. Today, Massie is all but shunning Trump and his comeback campaign. In fact, the Kentucky Republican attended a retreat last weekend for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. ‘Ron DeSantis is the best governor there ever was,’ he said when asked if he planned to endorse in the 2024 presidential primary. The Kentucky Republican is far from the only one-time Trump ally who’s staying away from the former president, despite his lead in every major poll so far.” • So Republican electeds hate the candidate most popular with Republican voters. Sounds like a recipe for success!

Short-legged vulgarian:

“Believe It: A DeSantis Presidency Could Be Even Worse Than Trump” [The New Republic]. Basically, Chaotic Evil v. Lawful Evil. “There’s little appetite among either Democrats or Republicans for a Biden v. Trump rematch. Recent polling suggests that Biden loses in a match against DeSantis, even if a third-party candidate (like Trump) is in the race. Given this, and given how DeSantis seems relatively sane and intelligent compared to Trump, the public seems to assume that DeSantis would be a better president than Trump. This is a horrible mistake…. The damage Trump was able to do was limited by his lack of discipline, ignorance of how the system worked, laziness, and lack of motivation. He is simply a narcissist who likes feeling rich, powerful, and important. DeSantis, however, is none of these things. He is not lazy. He has discipline, motivation, and an intimate knowledge of how to use the system to get what he wants. DeSantis fully intends to remake America the way he believes God would want it to be, and his knowledge of law and governmental structure allows him to do it on a scale, and with a precision, that Trump could only dream about. We can already see the sorts of strategies DeSantis would employ as president by looking at what he’s done in his role as governor of Florida. DeSantis pursues legislation that he intentionally frames as moderate or commonsense, such as ‘only’ banning abortion after 15 weeks (but without exceptions for rape or incest). His ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law was framed as being about not teaching K–3 students about obscene material. In reality, DeSantis is pursuing one of the most aggressively authoritarian agendas in the country. He uses two primary strategies: capturing the referees and strategic ambiguity.” • His strategies make it look like he’s studied how Democrats operate carefully. Worth a read.

Republican Funhouse

“Cheney joining University of Virginia politics center as professor” [The Hill]. “Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is set to join the University of Virginia as a professor at its Center for Politics. ‘With democracy under fire in this country and elsewhere around the world, Liz Cheney serves as a model of political courage and leadership,’ the center’s director, Larry Sabato, said in a statement. ‘Liz will send a compelling message to students about integrity. She’s a true profile in courage, and she was willing to pay the price for her principles — and democracy itself.’ Cheney will participate in university-wide lectures, serve as a guest lecturer in student seminars, contribute to the department’s research, and participate in university and community events, the center said.” • Smart move by Sabato, parachuting in a celebrity.

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.

* * *

“Goolsbee’s Wife Works at Firm That Helped Pick Him for Fed Job” [BNN Bloomberg]. “The search firm hired by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to help find a new president includes among its executives the wife of Austan Goolsbee, the person ultimately picked for the role. The Chicago Fed announced Austan Goolsbee’s selection in December. He took over the leadership of the bank on Jan. 9, and is a voting member of the Fed’s interest-rate policy committee this year. Robin Goolsbee is listed as a Chicago-based managing director of Diversified Search Group, a firm the Chicago Fed announced in April had been retained to assist with the recruitment of a new president. The Chicago Fed’s search process eventually settled on her husband. The connection hasn’t been previously reported and wasn’t publicly acknowledged by the central bank until it issued statements on Wednesday evening following inquiries by Bloomberg News. ‘We have every confidence in the integrity of the search process which concluded with Austan Goolsbee being hired as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago,’ said Michael Adleman, a Chicago Fed spokesman. ‘During the search process, members of the search committee, which was composed of Class B and C directors of the Chicago Fed’s board, were made aware Robin Goolsbee was an employee of the search firm and that she had no involvement in the search for the Chicago Fed president.’ A Federal Reserve Board spokesperson said: ‘We were made aware of her employment and she played no role in the search.’” • One big happy!

Realignment and Legitimacy


Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!

• Readers, since the national data systems in the United States are being vandalized, let’s start collecting links to state data, too. If readers would send me links (see Plant below) to their favorite State and local dashboards/wastewater sites, that would be great. Canadians, too! Or leave a link in Comments.

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Resources, United States (Local): CA (dashboard), Marin; CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NM (dashboard); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OR (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Festoonic, FM, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JF, Joe, John, JM (2), JW, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White. (Readers, if you leave your link in comments, I credit you by your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle. I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy for readers to scan.)

• More like this, please! Total: 1 6 11 18 20 22 26 27/50 (54% of US states). We should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Thank you!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

“Is that a cold or COVID?: How to handle awkward conversations” [Sydney Morning Herald]. I read the piece, twice, and I don’t think the body matches the headline, and the headline is why I filed it here; read the piece under Jackpot for what the body says. Anyhow, this is good: “‘I’ve been challenged by members of my family and others who are non-medical as to whether I’m exaggerating the risk [of COVID],” says Professor Ian Hickie, a co-director at The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, of situations in which he’s inquired about whether someone has COVID if they’re unwell when he sees them, and they haven’t flagged it beforehand….. ‘Because they’ve made the decision to put other people at risk, without that kind of knowledge,’ says Hickie, who is primarily concerned about getting sick and then transferring an illness to loved ones who are older and more vulnerable. ‘I say to them, ‘Have you got COVID?’ They go, ‘Oh no. It’s not COVID.’ I go, ‘Have you tested?’ They go, ‘Oh no.’ [I say] ‘Are you planning to test?’ ‘No’. They say, ‘The cough is different [than with COVID], or I have a sore throat.”… But he understands where they’re coming from. ‘It’s the nature of infectious disease, not to see yourself as the vector; you’re not the mosquito,’ says Hickie. ‘We deny or minimise risk all the time. We deny the chance of getting infectious diseases in any public setting, the chances of having an accident on the way to the airport. I mean, in order to get on with our lives, we have to [downplay] risk all the time.’” • I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t think the risk of being hit by a car and getting Covid in a 3Cs setting are at all comparable (because we applied engineering and regulation to the former, not the latter). That said, do any readers know how to handle these conversations?

* * *

Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:

“Covid Meetups” [COVID MEETUPS (JM)]. “A free service to find individuals, families and local businesses/services who take COVID precautions in your area.” • I played around with it some. It seems to be Facebook-driven, sadly, but you can use the Directory without logging in. I get rational hits from the U.S., but not from London, UK, FWIW.


“Hospitals That Ditch Masks Risk Exposure” [Bill of Health, The Petrie-Flom Center]. “Hospitals have a common law duty to act reasonably. If they unreasonably expose patients to risk, and the patients are harmed as a result, hospitals may be liable for damages. The result: patients who can show that it is probable that they were infected with COVID-19 in a hospital, and that they would not have been if the hospital had taken reasonable measures to protect them, may be able to successfully sue hospitals for damages. The big question is what does it mean to act ‘reasonably’ in a world in which COVID-19 abounds and remains a leading cause of death, including for children. Over the past century, courts have developed a variety of approaches to figuring out the bounds of reasonableness. In determining whether a precaution is ‘reasonable,’ modern courts commonly consider the relative costs and benefits of taking that precaution. Where an individual causes harm because they fail to take a cost-justified precaution, they may be found negligent and required to pay for the damages they have caused. Requiring masks in direct patient care settings is a prime example of a cost-justified precaution. Masking is a simple, effective, and low-cost measure that hospitals can take to substantially reduce the spread of COVID-19. And the benefits are significant in hospital settings. Hospitals concentrate people who, as reflected in the conditions that bring them to the hospital, are both more prone to infection and more likely to face serious consequences if infected. Moreover, both healthcare providers and patients are known vectors of transmission in healthcare institutions.” • Stoller should take this up; I hope greedhead monopoly hospitals get sued up the wazoo, as they should, for killing people with foreknowledge, for money. I assume private equity has the deepest pockets. Speaking of hospitals, read this whole thread:

It wasn’t the employees, it was the ventilation:

But you need layered protection, so PPE (including masks) as well:

* * *

Conly Cochrane Study:

“Don’t believe those who claim science proves masks don’t work” [Lucky Tran, Guardian]. I had to leave the apples and oranges argument on the cutting room floor in my post, but this is a good explanation: “The latest culprit powering the confounding headlines is a new scientific review published in Cochrane. The paper analyzes many different studies that assess how physical measures – including masks – fare against respiratory viruses. The analysis is flawed because it compares apples to oranges. The paper mixes together studies that were conducted in different environments with different transmission risks. It also combines studies where masks were worn part of the time with studies where masks are worn all the time. And it blends studies that looked at Covid-19 with studies that looked at influenza. If apples work and oranges don’t, but your analysis mixes them together, you may come to the false conclusion that apples don’t work. Out of the 78 papers analyzed in the review, only two actually studied masking during the Covid-19 pandemic. And both of those found that masks did protect wearers from Covid-19. But these studies are drowned out by the greater number of studies on influenza included, where the benefit of masking is harder to detect because it’s a far less contagious virus than Covid-19. Even the authors themselves acknowledge in the paper: ‘The high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions.’ The clear problems with the study did not stop loud voices from exaggerating its findings on large platforms.”

Scientific Communication

“A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators”:

Well. not all legitimate…

The Jackpot

“I Just Tested Positive for COVID. Should I Get on the Plane Anyway?” [Outside]. “‘Yes, I felt like an asshole,’ a friend of mine who recently flew home when she thought she might have COVID admits. ‘Yes, I worried that I could’ve infected someone with a weak immune system. But people are coughing and sniffling on planes and in airports all the time.’” • Just because all the other kids are doing it doesn’t make it right. Put down your coffee before you read this to make sure you don’t throw your cup at the wall. (Filling this here, because “you do you” isn’t going to get us out of the pickle we’re in.)

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 27:

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.

☆ NEW ☆ Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from February 25:


NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 2:

-0.3%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,146,142 – 1,145,661 = 481 (481 * 365 = 175,565 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).

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 2,000 from the previous week to 190,000 on the week ending February 25th, below market expectations of 195,000. The latest value remained close to the nine-month low of 183,000 hit at the end of January, giving further evidence that the US labor market remains tight in part to reduced labor force participation.”

* * *

Shipping: “Idled Ships, Empty Containers. Ocean Shipping Faces Its Biggest Slump in Years” [Wall Street Journal]. “Global shipping executives are wrestling with plunging exports, falling freight rates and mounting suspense over whether the industry is headed for a price war. Traffic from China’s ports has slowed significantly, empty containers are stacked six high and trucks with no cargo dot the highway leading to the major terminals. The world’s largest box-ship operator plans to return dozens of chartered vessels to their owners. … Global shipping boomed earlier in the pandemic, when soaring demand for goods led to lines of more than 100 vessels off the Southern California coast. Since then, rising inflation has sapped demand for many products as Americans shifted more spending to food, fuel and services, leaving retailers with a glut of goods.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 2 at 1:40 PM ET.

The Conservatory

Alert reader ChrisFromGA initiated a discussion that Deadheads in the readership will find interesting, teminiscing about his experiences at the Hampton Roads arena. Since YouTube’s search function is so awful, I couldn’t find this clip quickly enough, but here it is, from 1986:

(Jesse Fuller, who wrote Beat It On Down the Line (BIODTL) has an interesting history; he recorded his first album — an analog recording medium made from vinyl in a cardboard jacket with colorful artwork, for those who came in late — at the age of 62, so for all of you old or incipiently old codgers out there, hope is real. BIODTL is one of my favorite Dreadful Great — hat tip, alert reader ThirtyOne — tunes, because of the “Happy home (Happy home!)” refrain). Here is the 1972 version of BIODTL:

1986 was the year of Garcia’s (drug-induced) coma. I think the difference between Garcia’s playing in 1972 and 1986 shows that the drugs damaged his art, and in his later years Garcia was a terribly wounded giant. (The band is terrific in both performances.) Readers, prove me wrong 🙂

Zeitgeist Watch

I agree:

No death cults here:

Our Famously Free Press

“The Original Sin of the “Anti-Disinformation” Movement” [Matt Taibbi, Racket News]. “GEC was originally formed as a response to the problem of ISIS successfully recruiting away what one source called “well off white kids from the burbs” in both the U.S. and Europe…. At the time, “information operations” had a specific meaning in the intelligence and counterterrorism realms. One might, for instance, spread a rumor that a certain terrorist had an STD, so that he would rush online to defend his honor just long enough to be geolocated and droned…. Others in the national security establishment had ultimate faith in quantitative information analysis, turning life and death matters over to algorithms that armed and fired at targets in places like Yemen or Syria once enough digital boxes were checked: military age male, used the wrong cell number too many times, spotted by satellite carrying something that could be a gun, etc. ‘We kill people based on metadata,’ boasted former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden in 2014…. Then 2016 happened, and GEC’s mission changed on a dime…. The concept that a person who has an alien belief system must have been ‘misinformed’ or ‘disinformed’ has survived to the present. It permeates the entire ‘disinformation studies’ complex, which is constantly discussing the ‘impact’ of disinformation on, say, the 2016 election, but often stops short of quantifying that impact or even identifying what the disinformation was. The notion that people voted for Donald Trump because they were ‘misinformed’ or manipulated by Russians is a fantasy, a mental self-defense mechanism for people who are unable to face the more obvious real-world reasons…. If ‘disinformation studies’ has an original sin, this is it.”

Guillotine Watch

More like this, please:

I hope whatever the Starbucks corporate communications department concocts for Schultz is mercilessly mocked and goes viral in a bad way.

Class Warfare

“ECB confronts a cold reality: companies are cashing in on inflation” [Reuters]. “Indeed, wages have been growing far more slowly than inflation, implying a 5% drop in the standard of living for the average employee in the euro zone compared with 2021, according to ECB’s calculations. That’s pretty much the opposite of the wage-led inflation that characterised the 1970s, an era which has become the most widely used point of comparison in the public debate about appropriate central bank policy responses, economists say. ‘The public discourse to some extent is detached from what’s actually happening out there,’ said Philipp Heimberger, an economist at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. “The main story of the risks going forward is still that there’s a looming wage-price spiral which should make the central bank even more aggressive in hiking interest rates.’ For example, wages were mentioned 14 times in ECB President Christine Lagarde’s latest news conference while margins didn’t get a single mention. Her deputy, Luis de Guindos, also warned that the ECB needed to be careful because labour unions might demand excessive pay rises. ‘,’ Daniela Gabor, a professor of economics and macro-finance at the University of West England in Bristol. ‘That illustrates that the distributional politics of inflation targeting is: You don’t go for profits; .’ In the United States, the issue of runaway margins has been raised by former Federal Reserve Bank vice-chair Lael Brainard, who is now President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, and Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Even inside the ECB, labour representatives demanding higher pay for central bank staff have distanced themselves from what they described as the institution’s ‘.” • Richard Wolff: Prices rise because capitalists raise them.

The rich are different. They only have money:

News of the Wired

“Most Phone Use is a Tragic Loss of Life” [Raptitude]. “I don’t know if people say this anymore, but it was common in the 1990s to say ‘smoking one cigarette takes ten minutes off your life.’ … About twenty years later — last week — I found myself sitting at my kitchen table, mechanically upvoting and downvoting hot takes on Reddit when I realized I had been aimlessly thumbing my phone for at least twenty minutes. I was vaguely aware that I had not yet done the thing that caused me to reach for my phone in the first place, and could no longer remember what it was. Even though I get caught up like that all the time, the nihilism of that particular twenty minutes really got to me. It was such a nothing thing to do. I said aloud what I was thinking: ‘That… was a total loss.’ Basically I had just aged myself by twenty minutes. Two virtual cigarettes, and not even a fading buzz to show for it. I learned nothing, gained nothing, made no friends, impacted the world not at all, did not improve my mood or my capacity to do anything useful. It was marginally enjoyable on some reptile-brain level, sure, but its ultimate result was only to bring me nearer to death. Using my phone like that was pure loss of life — like smoking, except without the benefits.”

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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 Angie Neer:

Angie Neer writes: “I think this is a nasty invasive ivy species, but the dusting of snow makes it look nice.”

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