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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/19/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

More soon! –lamnbert

Bird Song of the Day

Hermit Thrush, 1118 S Coyote Trail, Woodland Park US-CO 38.98781, -105.10087, Teller, Colorado, United States.

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“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’s the favorite for reelection despite bad polls. How come?” [Los Angeles Times]. “Sometime soon, perhaps as early as next week, President Biden will officially announce what’s been clear for months: He’s running for reelection. Only slightly more than 4 in 10 Americans approve of the job he’s doing — a number that basically hasn’t changed since early September — yet there’s strong reason to think he’s currently favored to win a second term. That might seem like a contradiction: How can he be the favorite when a majority of the public thinks he’s not doing a good job? The answers tell us a couple of important things about American politics today…. That’s one reason Biden remains the favorite: Presidents who have lost reelection bids mostly faced serious nomination challenge. Trump, of course, did not have a nomination challenge. Like President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, he lost during an extraordinary national trauma that many voters thought he worsened. Biden has neither liability.” • Trump, in my view, actually did a Good Thing for once in his life with Operation Warp Speed. But his base won’t let him run on it (even if it would totally own the libs). Biden, on the other hand, slaughtered 700,000 people after having squandered “the tool” Trump gave him. But in Biden’s base, denial reigns, and Covid is over.

“Rich GOP Donors Want a Trump Alternative. DeSantis Has Them Worried” [Bloomberg]. Somebody call a wh-a-a-a-m-bulance! “Just a few months ago, DeSantis loomed as a Trumpslayer — a conservative culture-warrior who had nonetheless won over independent voters in his landslide re-election, with none of the baggage of the former president…. But a series of missteps since the start of the year have given some big donors pause. DeSantis has stumbled with his position on the war in Ukraine, continues to battle the Walt Disney Co. — one of Florida’s most important employers — over his education policies and made a clumsy attack on Trump for allegedly paying hush money to a porn star. The former president, meanwhile, used his indictment by Manhattan’s Democratic district attorney for the alleged hush-money payments to rally the party around him, juicing both his polls and his fundraising. … DeSantis has yet to officially enter the race, and his political allies have only just begun efforts to undermine Trump’s popularity among Republican voters. Nevertheless, there is a sense among some large GOP donors that the Florida governor has already peaked, and that he doesn’t have whatever it takes to knock off Trump, who has effectively dominated Republican politics for a decade.” • Bigger lifts in his shoes?

“DeSantis Meets With Republicans on Capitol Hill, to a Lukewarm Response” [New York Times]. “[DeSantis’] journey to Capitol Hill failed to spark much momentum in his expected presidential bid among Republicans in Congress, an important group for White House aspirants. Representative Dan Meuser, who attended the gathering of about 100 people and who remains undecided in the race, left with the impression that Mr. DeSantis was close to announcing. ‘It’s a big decision,’ he said. ‘It’s up to him.’ And another attendee, Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, said, ‘I’m staying out of it.’ Representative Lance Gooden of Texas, meanwhile, sent out a statement endorsing Donald J. Trump — during Mr. DeSantis’s event.”

“Ron DeSantis Ends Disney Feud After Being Given Guest Role On ‘The Mandalorian’” [The Onion]. “‘I couldn’t be more excited to let bygones be bygones and announce my one-episode stint as Imperial Moff Rego Thalcyon,’ DeSantis said of the guest appearance, which consists solely of him delivering the line ‘Yes, most acceptable’ with his arms crossed behind his back as he dispatches an imperial guard to attack a gang of intruders.”

“EXCLUSIVE: Prominent DeSantis ally who shot himself dead last year was under investigation for using sold out Taylor Swift tickets to lure teen to his office and show him her breasts – then trying to buy family’s silence” [Daily Mail]. “Stermon was an immensely powerful behind-the-scenes figure in DeSantis’s rise, having had a major impact in catapulting him to the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee in 2018. The following year DeSantis appointed his friend to the Board of Governors which is responsible for Florida’s public university system. DeSantis also put him on his transition team and for a while DeSantis rented a condo co-owned by Stermon, according to Politico.” • Yikes. What I want to know: Who planted the story in the Daily Mail?

“Pritzker stirs White House speculation as Chicago gears up for Democratic convention” [The Hill]. “Though the billionaire and his campaign have so far sidestepped questions about his ambitions beyond the governor’s mansion, Democrats in the Prairie State believe the self-described ‘pragmatic progressive’ would be a formidable future White House challenger. ‘He’s got a very progressive agenda, but he’s also fiscally conservative. So I think even his harshest critics have to admit that he’s been a good manager of the state’s taxes,’ said political operative Victor Reyes. Indeed, in less than two years, Illinois has seen seven credit rating upgrades. The latest was an upgrade from S&P Global Ratings, which adjusted the state’s credit rating from a BBB+ credit rating to an A-. Since taking the helm of the blue state in 2019, Pritzker has also enjoyed a slew of legislative wins that’s been aided by a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature. He’s signed legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use, to raise the minimum wage by 2025 to $15 an hour and, more recently, to help legally shield patients coming from outside of Illinois to receive abortion access. Recent moves by the Illinois Democrat have encouraged speculation about possible presidential aspirations, including travels last year to the early presidential primary state of New Hampshire and Florida, home to at least one White House contender so far — former President Trump.”

“How some WH hopefuls inflate their fundraising success” [Associated Press]. “Getting donors to part with their money is a key measure of viability, especially in the early stages of a White House campaign. Those who raise ample amounts of cash will have the resources to pay for ads, travel and hold events deep into the primary. Those who struggle, or run out of cash, often drop out. Facing such high stakes, candidates often have an incentive to essentially juice their numbers to make themselves appear more competitive than they might be in reality. That’s especially true in the opening phase of the 2024 Republican presidential primary, where contenders are aiming to prove they can raise enough money to pose a threat to Donald Trump, a former president who has a reputation as a prolific fundraiser and is eager to retain his status as the GOP’s dominant figure…. Case in point is Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and onetime United Nations ambassador who became the first major Republican challenger to Trump in February. She avoided disclosing how much her campaign raised in its initial days, bypassing what’s typically an early bragging point for candidates. Notably, her campaign declined to detail her receipts even when her fundraising appeals capitalized on sexist and ageist remarks CNN anchor Don Lemon made about Haley, seeking to turn outrage into sympathetic dollars. But last week, as the deadline loomed to file the first quarterly fundraising reports, Haley’s campaign blasted out a press release touting an $11 million fundraising haul – an impressive number for any candidate in a race that has been dominated by Trump. ‘In just six weeks, Nikki Haley’s massive fundraising and active retail campaigning in early voting states makes her a force to be reckoned with,’ Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in a statement. But once her fundraising reports were made public Saturday evening, some of those claims crumbled as it became clear Haley, who started her career as an accountant, and her campaign used a series of accounting gimmicks to artificially inflate her fundraising haul. In reality, she raised just $8.3 million, substantially less than her campaign claimed.”

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.

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“Fox, Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems reach $787M settlement over false election claims” [Associated Press]. “Fox News agreed Tuesday to pay Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million to avert a trial in the voting machine company’s lawsuit that would have exposed how the network promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election…. “The truth matters. Lies have consequences,” Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson told reporters outside a Delaware courthouse after Superior Court Judge Eric Davis announced the deal.” • Some lies have consquences, indeed. Others — WMDs, RussiaGate, Ukraine and pro-infection Covid propaganda — obviously do not. (I haven’t given this story any attention because I can’t stand how the effect could be to cement electronic voting machines into our electoral system.)

“An Oklahoma Newspaper’s Secret Recording Prompts Calls for Officials to Resign” [New York Times]. “A small newspaper in rural Oklahoma secretly recorded what it said was an illegal public meeting where a county official talked about hanging Black people and several officials spoke of hiring hit men and digging holes for two of the newspaper’s reporters. Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma said on Monday that four officials in McCurtain County — the sheriff, jail administrator, a sheriff’s department investigator and a county commissioner — should resign. But the sheriff’s office has argued that the recording violated state law because it was made without the consent of at least one of the parties involved. The office also claimed the recording had been ‘altered,’ although it was not clear how. Clips of the recording released on Friday night by the newspaper, The McCurtain Gazette-News, have touched off shock and anger in the county of about 31,000 residents in the southeastern corner of the state, bordering Arkansas and Texas. The Gazette-News, which was founded in 1905 and does not have a website, published a QR code on its front page that linked to transcripts and audio clips of what it said was a long and meandering discussion that took place after a regularly scheduled county commissioners’ meeting on March 6.” • The reporters at the McCurtain Gazette-News has more courage than the spooks and sycophants in the newsrooms, so-called, at the Times and WaPo!


“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); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. We are now up to 50/50 states (100%). This is really great! (It occurs to me that there are uses to which this data might be put, beyond helping people with “personal risk assessments” appropriate to their state. For example, thinking pessimistically, we might maintain the list and see which states go dark and when. We might also tabulate the properties of each site and look for differences and commonalities, for example the use of GIS (an exercise in Federalism). I do not that CA remains a little sketchy; it feels a little odd that there’s no statewide site, but I’ve never been able to find one. Also, my working assumption was that each state would have one site. That’s turned out not to be true; see e.g. ID. Trivially, it means I need to punctuate this list properly. Less trivially, there may be more local sites that should be added. NY city in NY state springs to mind, but I’m sure there are others. FL also springs to mind as a special case, because DeSantis will most probably be a Presidental candidate, and IIRC there was some foofra about their state dashboard. Thanks again!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); 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).

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

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

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Look for the Helpers

An intervention:

Key point: “[Public health] was ok with an unmasked bus drivers catching #covid19, he was not ok with it.” The driver’s firm was ok with it, too. Of course, personal intervention doesn’t scale, but it’s still a good deed. Let’s save some lives!

“How a rural school teacher became a top COVID sleuth” [Nature]. “In late January, a team of scientists reported an ominous discovery: the widely used COVID-19 drug molnupiravir might be spurring the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants1. Four of the authors work at prominent UK universities. But one has neither attended graduate school nor stepped foot in a research laboratory. The outlier is Ryan Hisner, a school science teacher from rural Monroe, Indiana. He has attracted the attention of prominent virologists from all over the world for his uncanny ability to detect unusual mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 genome — mutations that might be a harbinger of the next variant to sweep the world. Hisner is just one of a motley crew of self-taught ‘community scientists’ from around the globe who spend hours poring through genetic sequences to track SARS-CoV-2’s evolution. Among the ranks include science enthusiasts such as Hisner, retired researchers and anonymous sleuths who go only by their online usernames. Most do this work for no pay. They might be amateurs, but their work is indispensable, says Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington. SARS-CoV-2 spawns variants at an exceptionally fast pace, leaving scientists such as Bloom scrambling to keep up while managing their research programmes.” • This is wonderful; readers know I stan for citizen science. This is disturbing: Note that as I show here GISAID, Pango, and NextStrain — the entire system of genomic surveillance — is dependent on grad students and volunteers. Here is another example of systemically vital work being done for free. OK, socialism, I guess, but that’s not the system we live under. This is no way to run a railroad….


“Airborne protection for staff is associated with reduced hospital-acquired COVID-19 in English NHS trusts” [Journal of Hospital Infection]. A professional journal published for the Healthcare Infection Society, so presumably an appreciable percentage of the hospital infection control administrators who are gleefully demasking their hospitals have read it, and decided to ignore its findings. From 2022, still germane. From the Abstract: “This study assessed rates of hospital-acquired infection (HAI), comparing NHS hospital trusts using airborne respiratory protection (e.g. FFP3 masks) for all staff, as a marker of measures to reduce airborne spread, with NHS hospital trusts using mainly droplet precautions (e.g. surgical masks). The use of respiratory protective equipment was associated with a 33% reduction in the odds of HAI in the Delta wave, and a 21% reduction in the odds of HAI in the Alpha wave (Psmiles?

Fit-testing the Aura. I should probably emphasize more than I do that differently shaped faces require differently shaped masks. Here is a useful tip:

“Dog Shit Politics” [Eschaton]. “I regularly think about how once upon a time no one cleaned up after their dog shit. More than that, suggestions to implement laws requiring it were met with a lot of scorn. People would rather live in a world of dog shit than have someone ask them to clean it up.” • The analogy is obvious.

For example:


“Association of COVID-19 Infection With Incident Diabetes” [JAMA]. N = 629,935. From the Abstract: “In this cohort study, SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with a higher risk of diabetes and may have contributed to a 3% to 5% excess burden of diabetes at a population level.”

“Severe COVID-19 linked with 16-fold risk of life-threatening heart rhythm within 6 months” [European Society of Cardiology]. “Patients with severe COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation are 16 times more likely to develop ventricular tachycardia within six months compared to their peers without severe infection, according to research presented at EHRA 2023, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1 Risks of other heart rhythm disorders were also elevated.” • OK, ventilators are bad. Try to avoid needing one.

“COVID caused 4.6-year drop in NYC life expectancy” [The Journal of Family Practice]. “Life expectancy in New York City fell to 78 years from 2019 to 2020, a 4.6-year drop mostly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, NYC Health said in releasing its annual summary of vital statistics. Non-White demographic groups had the highest drops. Life expectancy fell to 73 years for Black New Yorkers (a 5.5-year drop from 2019) and 77.3 years for Hispanic/Latino New Yorkers (a 6-year drop.) For White New Yorkers life expectancy only fell to 80.1 years (about a 3-year drop.)” • Everything’s going according to plan!

“SARS-CoV-2 Reinfection and Severity of the Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” [Viruses]. From the Abstract: “In this systematic review, we summarize the results of 23 studies addressing SARS-CoV-2 reinfections. A total of 23,231 reinfected patients were included, with pooled estimated reinfection rates ranging from 0.1 to 6.8%…. No significant differences of clinical pattern were observed between primary infection and reinfection. No significant differences in the severity of infection were observed between primary infection and reinfection. Being female, being a patient with comorbidities, lacking anti-nucleocapsid IgG after the first infection, being infected during the Delta and Omicron wave, and being unvaccinated were associated with a higher risk of reinfection.” • Second verse, same as the first!

Science Is Popping

“A ferritin-based COVID-19 nanoparticle vaccine that elicits robust, durable, broad-spectrum neutralizing antisera in non-human primates” [Nature]. “Here, we describe DCFHP, a ferritin-based, protein-nanoparticle vaccine candidate that, when formulated with aluminum hydroxide as the sole adjuvant (DCFHP-alum), elicits potent and durable neutralizing antisera in non-human primates against known VOCs, including Omicron BQ.1, as well as against SARS-CoV-1. Following a booster ~one year after the initial immunization, DCFHP-alum elicits a robust anamnestic response. To enable global accessibility, we generated a cell line that can enable production of thousands of vaccine doses per liter of cell culture and show that DCFHP-alum maintains potency for at least 14 days at temperatures exceeding standard room temperature. DCFHP-alum has potential as a once-yearly (or less frequent) booster vaccine, and as a primary vaccine for pediatric use including in infants.” • Big if true.


Elite Malfeasance

“In-person schooling is essential even during periods of high transmission of COVID-19” [BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine]. “Throughout the pandemic, data suggest significantly lower risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19 among children than adults, although the impact of rare severe cases remains relevant.29.” • Gee, I guess Newton, MA wasted a million bucks protecting Jha and Walensky’s spawn kids with decent ventilation. Bad show! Hilariously, footnote 29, the sole source for the claim, is from China. But kids. The same everywhere, right? This is the sort of article that gives evidence-based medicine, so-called, the bad name it has.

“How Hospitals and Clinics Keep You Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic” [Kaiser Permanente]. “Many hospitals and clinics now are treating people who are infected with COVID-19. So if you’re in the hospital or clinic for any other reason, this may be an unsettling time. It’s common to be concerned about becoming infected with the virus. But hospitals and clinics have policies to prevent the spread of infections. For example, doctors and nurses are trained to wash their hands before they treat you. Health care centers have stepped up these policies now. They are taking further steps to protect their patients. As long as COVID-19 remains a public health problem, things are going to be different when you go to a health care facility. They may have new rules for your safety. These could include having you wear a cloth face cover, meeting you outside the clinic, and having you sit away from others in the waiting room.” • Fomite transmission and cloth masks (er, “face cover,” the horrid non-term of non-art being “face covering). What a farce. Imagine somebody reading this, treating Kaiser as authoritative, and believing they were protected! Hospital Infection Control whacking more patients….

“Cleveland Clinic drops mask mandate, cites dropping COVID cases” [19 News]. Note the picture of “baggy blues,” the most ineffective mask after cloth. Whichever PR genius got baggy blues into all the stock photographs for “mask” instead of N95s really earned a bonus. “If a patient prefers a provider wear a mask, the caregiver will do so, officials say.” Since Covid is airborne, all patient areas should be masked, without exception. Remember how Osterholm got infected during a thirty-second elevator ride? You could get infected while trying to cajole some grinning sawbones into doing the right thing. More: “The release says the hospital will continue to adjust policies to best serve its communities, including requiring masking again in the fall to help limit the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses.” Which CDC’s green map guarantees, by design, will happen to late to prevent exponential spread.

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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!

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 (with, of course, deeper knowledge of the sequelae “we” have already decided to accept or, rather, to profit from). That will be the operational definition of “living with Covid.” More as I think on this. In addition, I recurated my Twitter feed for my new account, and it may be I’m creating a echo chamber. That said, it seems to me that the knobs on Covid had gone up to 13, partly because science is popping, which demands more gaslighting, and partly because that “Covid is over” bubble maintenance is, I believe, more pundit-intensive than our betters believed it would be.

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from April 18:

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.


From CDC, April 15, 2023. Here we go again:

Lambert here: CDC has redesigned its chart to combine actual data with NowCast model projections (which readers will recall I refused to use, because CDC’s models have a wretched track record. Worse, the press always quoted the projections, not the model). Because the new chart design makes it clear what’s data and what’s projection (though that “weighted estimate” gives me pause) I’m using it. Looks like XBB.1.16 is rolling right along.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from April 15:

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. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


I’m afraid the Walgreen’s positivity tracker has shut down, since it hasn’t updated since April 11, and all without any announcement. It’s as if we’re heading into a storm, and the first thing the captain did was order the sextant, compass, log line, sandglass, and ship’s clock thrown overboard. Then they detached the wheel from the rudder. “We have the tools.” No, we don’t. We have also decided not to know what the job is, even.


NOT UPDATED Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,158,347 – 1,158,255 = 92 (92 * 365 = 33,580 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).

Lambert here: WHO turned off the feed? Odd that Walgreen’s positivity shut down on April 11, and the WHO death count on April 12. Was there a memo I didn’t get?

Excess Deaths

NOT UPDATED Excess deaths (The Economist), published April 2:

Lambert here: Big jump from the last reading in the “Central Estimate.”

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. I”m not sure how often this updates, and if it doesn’t, I’ll remove it. (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. )

Stats Watch

There are no officials statistics of interest today.

* * *

Mr. Market: “Nurse Shortage Pushes Hospitals Into the Gig Economy” [MarketWatch]. “For a decade, Andrew Beal waited for market conditions to change. With interest rates at rock-bottom levels, year after year, and other small and regional banks taking big risks to generate a little bit of income, Beal mostly did nothing. He sat on his hands while the assets of the bank that he ran decreased over a ten-year period. Then, a year ago, Beal pounced. As the Federal Reserve was about to embark on a rapid series of big rate hikes to fight inflation, the sole owner and chief of Beal Bank, based in Plano, Texas, started buying. He didn’t buy mortgage or Treasury bonds that had for years been popular with regional banks desperate for yield. Instead, Beal bought Treasury inflation-protected securities, mostly with durations of up to three years. He bought a lot of them. By the end of 2022, Beal Bank’s assets had more than quadrupled to $32.6 billion, up from $7.5 billion at the end of 2021. The asset rise made Beal Bank the nation’s 61st biggest bank. Beal has essentially made a massive bet on inflation, buying $21.2 billion of Treasury bonds, Beal Bank’s filings with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation show. Just about all of those bonds are TIPS, says a person familiar with the trade who was not authorized to speak publicly. The massive trade is the latest move by one of the nation’s most successful contrarian investors and provides some insight into what the nation’s richest billionaire banker thinks could be ahead for the U.S. economy. It suggests Beal believes inflation is here to stay for at least several years.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 65 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 59 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 19 at 1:50 PM ET.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Meet the ‘elite’ couples breeding to save mankind” [The Telegraph]. “The new focus of Babu’s career is a philosophy known as pronatalism, literally meaning pro-birth. Its core tenet is deceptively simple: our future depends on having enough children, and yet life in developed countries has become hostile to this basic biological imperative. Linked to the subcultures of rationalism and ‘effective altruism’ (EA), and bolstered by declining birth rates, it has been gaining currency in Silicon Valley and the wider tech industry – especially its more conservative corners. ‘I’ve been in various text threads with technology entrepreneurs who share that view… there are really smart people that have real concern around this,’ says Ben Lamm, a Texas biotech entrepreneur whose company Colossal is developing artificial wombs and other reproductive tech (or ‘reprotech’) that could boost future fertility.’” • Combine this with eugenics from Covid, and you get a version of replacement theory for tech bros. Nice!

“‘I Hate You, Kathie Lee Gifford!’ Ozempic Users Report Bizarre Dreams” [Wall Street Journal]. “Ozempic and other similar medications are doing more than helping people tighten belts and fit into old outfits. Many users are reporting bizarre, vivid and eerily realistic night visions that bear no resemblance to their past dreams. … The TikTok account ‘ozempicdreams’ posts brief videos of text describing dreams submitted by followers, setting them to music to match the mood. ‘Spent the night at Home Depot ordering new cabinets and appliances for my kitchen. My salesman, Clint Eastwood, helped me pick out everything I would need,’ read one, accompanied by a sped-up version of the song ‘Escapism,’ by the singers Raye and 070 Shake.” • Maybe the same thing has happened before with, say, Sears catalogs in the 1890s. But I doubt it. Doesn’t seem like a healthy development, especially if you believe the dreams perform an important, if unknown, biological functionl.

Our Famously Free Press

“Mehdi Hasan Plagiarized Pro-Spanking Column” [Lee Fang]. Brutal. And correct. Don’t make Lee Fang mad! After the thorough demolition job on plagiarism, Fang gets down to it: “The Hasan July 2010 application letter to the Daily Mail is worth reading in its entirety. There are many other examples of Hasan either using his columns to ingratiate himself with a future employer, or turning the page on his old views the moment they become professionally inconvenient…. When called out on his flaws, Hasan tends to invoke his status as a non-white Muslim immigrant to silence critics, while lashing out at every political opponent as a bigot…. In fact, while Hasan’s parents were Indian immigrants to England, he is far from the marginalized character he plays on television. The son of a doctor and engineer, he was raised in London, and attended Merchant Taylors’ School, an elite prep school that costs as much as £23,600, or roughly $30,000 per year. He went on to receive his college degree from Christ Church at Oxford, which is famous for training the upper echelons of the UK’s banking and political class. Hasan conveniently omits his privileged upbringing when routinely describing himself as ‘a brown, lefty, Muslim immigrant.’” • All I want to know: Why did it take Hasan so long to arrive at MSDNC?

Class Warfare

“Nurse Shortage Pushes Hospitals Into the Gig Economy” [Wall Street Journal]. “Some of the nation’s largest hospital systems including Providence and Advocate Health are using apps similar to ride-hailing technology to attract scarce nurses. An app from ShiftKey lets workers bid for shifts. Another, CareRev, helps hospitals adjust pay to match supply, lowering rates for popular shifts and raising them to entice nurses to work overnight or holidays. The embrace of gig work puts hospitals in more direct competition with the temporary-staffing agencies that siphoned away nurses during the pandemic. The apps help extend hospitals’ labor pool beyond their employees to other local nurses who value the highly flexible schedules of gig work. … ‘We’re still short,’ said Elaine Zemel, business analyst for nursing administration at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, a Los Angeles-area hospital that offered gig workers at one point $106 an hour for a 12-hour intensive-care shift on Easter Sunday. ‘Nurses know that the ball is in their court.’ Many nurses retired or left the field after the pandemic made their jobs far harder [or they got sick. Or died]. Others switched hospitals for jobs with higher pay or more flexible schedules. Nurse employment dropped by more than 100,000 workers between 2020 and 2021, the largest decline in four decades of available data, a study in the journal Health Affairs showed.” • The terrific thing about gig work for nurses is that nurses will tend to work at more hospitals. With masking requirements vanishing, that means one infected nurse has many more opportunities for transmission than they would, if they worked at a single institution. (I believe a similar dynamic operated in nursing homes.)

“Why U.S. vacation policies are so much worse than Europe’s” [CNBC]. “The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee paid time off. ‘You have entire cultures like France … where pretty much everybody takes August off, and it’s just part of the culture there,’ said Shawn Fremstad, director of law and political economy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. ‘You don’t really see that here in the United States.’” Not exactly, no. More: “Even though a majority of Americans do have some kind of paid time off, nearly half of workers report not using all of those days. About half worry they might fall behind on their work if they take time off, with close to 20% thinking it could hurt their career growth and 16% saying they fear losing their job, according to data from the Pew Research Center. ‘There’s a certain fear we don’t have any legal protections and people have been fired for taking vacation time,’ said John de Graaf, author of the book ‘Take Back Your Time.’”

News of the Wired

“Offline Is Just Online With Extreme Latency” [Jim Nielsen’s Blog]. • Great title!

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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 TH:

TH writes: “Our bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) patch is looking mighty good this year. It’s in a sheltered spot, underneath the pawpaw canopy which is under a giant maple canopy. The blue blossom in lower right is vinca. Next up in the succession planting, bluebells.”

Readers, I’m running a little short on plants. So if you could send me some, that would be great (drop me a line for directions if you are new — and I hope you are!). And isn’t it about time for the first gardening shots to appear? I know it’s six weeks to Memorial Day, but in more temperate climes…

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor