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2:00PM Water Cooler 8/16/2023 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, yesterday I devoted most of my time to a (necessary) deep dive into Section Three. Today I had to continue that work, and get a handle — any handle — on Trump’s Georgia indictment, too. I will shortly fill in some Covid blanks; there will be plenty more Covid goodness tomorrow, when I assault HICPAC yet again. More soon! –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

Bobolink, Finger Lakes NF–Horton Pasture and Interloken Trail, Seneca, New York, United States.

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Look for the Helpers

“Are Libraries the Future of Media? [Popula (TH)]. 

Library Futures and Hearken [a company that helps newsrooms practice “”engagement journalism””] approached Albany Public Libraries and the Times Union about working together. So the coalition put out a survey and, to the surprise of everyone involved, close to 800 Albany library patrons and residents replied.

“”That’s unusual for us,”” said DiCarlo. “”Usually we put out a patron survey and we’ll get a couple hundred responses. The fact that 800 people were interested in local news and how it’s changed for them over the last couple decades… was [remarkable].””

The survey surfaced a lot of useful findings, but one stood out: according to the final report, 65% of those surveyed who did not use Times Union indicated that lack of access was the reason. “”Subscriptions were the most cited need for patrons to improve access [to news].””

“”At the beginning, we thought it would be amazing if there were a different relationship [between] libraries and [paywalled] newsrooms, in that newsrooms could offer consumer-grade versions of the news to library patrons,”” said Brandel–in contrast, that is, with the library’s clunky, hard-to-use access tools, such as Newsbank, that were currently in use. “”But that breaks a lot of the business model logic, which is a bigger, stickier issue.””

(If you’re wondering why it makes sense for purveyors of information to charge for access to information that is both about and for the public, you’re asking the right question.)

And so, instead of offering a digital, consumer-grade version of the paper to library patrons for free, the coalition decided to produce original journalism together. A budget of about $100,000 funded the group’s collaboration and the production of eight stories. Both the APL and the Times Union would own the articles, retaining the right to publish them on their own websites and digital channels, free of any paywall, and thus free for all to read.

TH writes: “Yes, there’s the Betteridge’s Law violation but librarians are great civic helpers. (Full disclosure, I love libraries so much, I married a librarian!)”


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

The Constitutional Order

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
–William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare says the two households are “alike” in dignity, but he doesn’t say how much dignity they actually have. If Verona’s households are like our parties, the answer is “not much.”

* * *

“The Sweep and Force of Section Three” [William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, University of Pennsylvania Law Review]. I highly recommend this piece (and the ensuing discussion at NC, starting here). As a former English major and a fan of close reading, I’m not averse to “originalism,” of which Baude and Paulsen provide a magisterial example, in the sense that understanding the law as a text must begin with understanding the plain, public meaning of the words used when the text was written. That’s how I read Shakespeare, or Joyce, so why not the Constitution? Just as long as understanding doesn’t end there! In any case, I’m working through it. One thing I notice is that there do seem to have been rather a lot of rebellions and insurrections, not just the Civil War. To me, this is parallel to one lesson I drew from Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast (episode 1): There are rather a lot of revolutions, too. Alert reader Pensions Guy summarizes Baude and Paulsen as follows:

The authors go through an exhaustive textual and originalism analysis of Section Three, and their Federalist Society leanings do not deter them from reaching their conclusion that officials in every State who are charged with determining candidate qualifications should conclude that Donald Trump is disqualified from being on ballots because of the oath he took on Inauguration Day 2017 and subsequently violated through his role in the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021.

Taking “insurrection” as read (I need to do more reading), here is another aggregation on Section Three.

* * *

“The constitutional case that Donald Trump is already banned from being president” [Vox]. “On Baude and Paulsen’s read, Section 3 is ‘self-executing‘ — meaning it does not require an act of Congress to enter force and binds those public officials in the position to act on its dictates. Basically, if a single official anywhere in the US electoral system finds their constitutional analysis compelling, Baude and Paulsen urge them to act on it.” No court determination needed. Agree or disagree, that is what Baude and Paulsen say. More: “As a matter of law, I find their arguments quite compelling…. But go rogue [framing!] is a recipe for disaster. And that disconnect, between what the law says and the practical barriers to implementing it, speaks to some deep problems in American democracy that led to Trump’s insurrection in the first place….  Imagine — just imagine — that local election administration officials in states like Georgia, Wisconsin, or Arizona acted on Baude and Paulsen’s advice and knocked Trump off the general election ballot…. Worst case — well, the January 6 riot could have been a lot bloodier than it already was…. Similarly, a serious effort to render Trump ineligible would run up against the practical problem that he is a near-lock to be the candidate of one of the two major parties — which, in a highly polarized system, means he’ll be the candidate of roughly half of the electorate. There is little reason to believe courts enjoy enough legitimacy among Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter) to be in a position to kick a major-party candidate off the ballot. The systemic consequences of such an attempt could well be devastating.” • IOW, both the Never Trumpers and the liberal Democrats are setting the country up for a civil war. And if they believe they can win it, they’re as delusional as the slaveholders who formed the Confederacy. 

“Enforcing the 14th Amendment’s Bar on Insurrectionist Officers and Candidates” [American Constitution Society]. The ACS is the New York Generals to the Federalist Society’s Harlem Globetrotters. “. Some of these officials will invariably say that Trump is ineligible, and he will then challenge those rulings in court. While there is authority holding that Section Three is not self-enforcing in an area under federal jurisdiction (for instance, in the District of Columbia), states did enforce Section Three on their own during Reconstruction and can do so again. The Supreme Court will almost certainly be asked to hear at least one of the state cases on Trump’s eligibility. Nevertheless, Congress should take action to enforce Section Three against anyone engaged in the January 6th insurrection. There is currently no federal statutory authority to enforce Section Three, and if this deficiency is not addressed many problems will follow. First, some states may simply choose to ignore Section Three or do minimal enforcement. Second, having each state enforce Section Three in its own way will result in a haphazard system especially ill-suited to resolving a question of presidential ineligibility. Third, if former President Trump runs again, his eligibility must be determined promptly–before any elections take place–otherwise the Republican nominating contest will be thrown in chaos.” • I’m assuming only Democrat election officials would rule Trump ineligible. And even they will want cover in the form of expert opinion — cover which I am sure the dense network of NGOs and think tanks that comprises the Censorship Industrial Complex will be primed to provide. Commentary:

One big happy! (NOTE: These associations don’t show that the Georgia indictment is anything other than the work product of the Fulton Country prosecutors office. But they are suggestive nonetheless.

“States have the power to judge the qualifications of presidential candidates and exclude ineligible candidates from the ballot, if they want to use it” [Election Law Blog]. “But I wanted to focus on one small (but important!) piece, the ballot access issue, which I’ve written about extensively over the years–these are my own views that try to synthesize the Constitution’s text and structure with a long liquidated practices of the states. In short, …. Think of it this way. The state legislature wants to ensure that the state is represented in the selection of the president and vice president. If the state’s electoral votes are later discarded in Congress (think Congress discarding votes for the deceased Horace Greeley in 1873), the state really has no opportunity to participate effectively in the Electoral College. This is different from congressional elections, in my judgment. Congressional elections are about the people’s unfettered choice. If the people choose to elect a candidate who is not qualified to hold office–and they have repeatedly done so in the past, with candidates of questionable age or inhabitancy qualifications–it is on the people to do so, and on Congress to decide whether to seat. And if there is a vacancy, the people have another choice to fill the seat, albeit with a vacancy that exists for some time. There is no such analogous direct interest of the people in presidential elections, as the Electoral College is designedly created of representation from the states, and from rules promulgated by the legislature. (This is a contentious proposition, to be sure, but I think is the best way of addressing the differences between the two.)” • Hmm. It’s hard to imagine a group, let alone an identity, seceding, or a political entity like a county. But a state, on the other hand…. For that, there’s precedent. One wonders what would happen if a Republican state passed a law nullifying, or purporting to nullify, Section Three? (Would that be all that different from “sanctuary cities”?)

“The Looming Supreme Court Nullification Crisis” [Washington Monthly]. Starting out with Alabama’s defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Allen v. Milligan that a districting map violated the voting rights Act. Then: “Since 2016, Republicans’ shameless political meddling with the Court—the blockade of the Merrick Garland nomination, the issuance of Donald Trump’s list of judges, and his promise that his judges would “”automatically”” overturn—were radical events. Those and what followed made the Court a different institution than it had been since at least the 1930s when the ‘switch in time’ ended its vendetta against the New Deal. Simply put, it is not acting like a court; it will not be treated indefinitely by friend or foe as if it were one. The problem with contemptible behavior is that it draws contempt from friends and foes. Let’s get serious: Everyone sees at least some members of the conservative majority for what they are—not simply intellectually but, to a stunning degree, actually dishonest, the kind of traffic-court hacks who can be bought with dinner at Applebee’s, a dime-store award plaque, and a weekend at Myrtle Beach.  .” • Just the kind of Court we want ruling on a challenge to Trump’s removal from the ballot under Section Three. Either way. Bush v. Gore2, or, depending on the number of states involved, Bush v. GoreN.

“Forget the Trump trials. He might already be ineligible for 2024” [WaPo]. “Ideally, this case would be settled before the primaries begin in January. Realistically, however, that might not be possible. . That way, voters in November 2024 would not be making a choice in which one of the two major-party contenders would be ineligible to serve if elected. What would be disastrous for democracy would be for Trump to appear on the November 2024 ballot as the Republican nominee, then to win the election, and afterward be disqualified and denied a second term. Yet that could happen if, without a Supreme Court ruling before the GOP convention, Congress were to decide for itself that Trump was disqualified and so it must nullify the will of the voters when it convenes to count the electoral college votes in January 2025.” • The Republican National Convention will be held July 15 to 18, 2024, in Milwaukee, WI. Perhaps I should set up another countdown clock….

“The Insurrection Bar to Office: Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment” [Congressional Research Service]. From 2022. “, irrespective of the Amnesty Act. The Congressman, Victor Berger, was eventually seated at a subsequent Congress after the Supreme Court threw out his espionage conviction for judicial bias…. As shown in the Berger experience discussed above, Congress has previously viewed Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment as establishing an enumerated constitutional qualification for holding office and, consequently, a grounds for possible exclusion.” • Obviously, Wilsonian Democrats would have no more trouble disbarring a socialist from office than today’s Democrats, but Republicans might well consider whether members of their party who oppose the Ukraine could be disbarred for giving “aid and comfort to the enemy,” as was Berger.


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“The State of Georgia v. Donald Trump [et al.]” [Fulton Country Superior Court]. Most of the coverage of this case seems to focus on “false statements” and the riot at the Capitol on January 6. (This is understandable, since the first reinforces the power of the Censorship Industrial Complex, much beloved by liberal Democrats, and the second is involves conspiracy, where everyone can become their own counterintelligence service. The Georgia case also has Trump’s “perfect phone” call, but (a) Trump surely had lawyers with him when he made it (readers?), and (b) are we really to believe no Democrat ever made a call to get an election official to “find” votes? Or, in the sad case of Sanders, to lose them.) However, I believe, as with Smith’s indictment, that the counts involving the “contingent electors” are by far the most dangerous, both from the standpoint of winning a conviction, and morally as well. Here is the conspiracy count:

And one of the acts in furtherance of the MR SUBLIMINAL Bud from Legal insists I add this alleged conspiracy:

Legally — of course, people with prosecutorial expertise may disagree; IANAP — the elector counts seem easier to prove, first because there are no pesky First Amendment issues (like Trump tweeting to God and the universe being an Act), and second because they’re tangible; meetings are organized, so there’s a chain of command; documents are distributed and signed, so there’s a paper trail; ballots from the electors are sent and received. Morally, it’s important to remember that many (I don’t know how many) electors were recruited on the explicit commitment by the Trump campaign that their votes would be used only if Trump won a court challenge showing or intimating election theft at least one state, which is why they were called “contingent”; but the Trump campaign then went on to violate that commitment. That’s wrong, and using and discarded supporters reflects very badly on Trump. IMNSHO, this is the charge that could hole the Trump campaign below the waterline.

“Why Trump’s Georgia charges would be the hardest to pardon” [The Hill]. “Article II of the U.S. Constitution grants the president the sole power of issuing pardons for offenses “”against the United States,”” but that power is only for federal charges, not state ones. The governor of New York can issue pardons for state crimes, which could clear Trump in the case over 2016 hush-money payments made to porn actress Stormy Daniels that led to charges of falsifying business records. Experts say those charges are the least likely of the four cases to result in prison time for the former president. But the governor in Georgia has no such pardon power.  Instead, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles is responsible for overseeing all requests for clemency. The governor is responsible for appointing the board’s five members with state Senate approval, but they otherwise have no influence over the board’s decision-making. Members serve seven-year terms that are staggered. And Trump wouldn’t even be eligible to apply for a Georgia pardon until at least five years after completing any sentence, including parole and probation. An individual also cannot be considered for a pardon if they have any pending charges, so he could not receive a preemptive one.  Trump could serve extensive time if convicted of the Georgia charges.”

“Georgia Indictment Throws Everything at Trump—and Some Might Stick” [Jonathan Turley, The Daily Beast]. “Welcome to the Jackson Pollock school of prosecution. The 98-page indictment from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is the legal version of Pollock’s style of throwing paint splatters on canvas as artistic expression. It basically makes every telephone call, tweets, and meeting a separate conspiratorial act. There are 161 separate acts. Not surprisingly, everyone then becomes part of the conspiracy…. But for all the disparate acts that Willis says constitutes a criminal conspiracy, part of this emerging picture should worry Trump….. There are three reasons why this indictment could be the most perilous for Trump, as opposed to the Jan. 6 indictments, which present serious threshold constitutional questions. First, the racketeering cases tend to be iron-plated before trial because challenges concern the interpretation of facts, which are traditionally questions left to the finder of fact (in this case a jury)…. Second, in D.C., special counsel Smith is essentially trying to create new law, or at least stretch existing case law to the point of breaking down. Conversely, elections are left largely to the states, and state prosecutors routinely bring election-based prosecutions. Willis may be stretching the evidence, but she is not stretching the law. Racketeering laws are routinely used far afield from their origins in combating criminal gangs…. Finally, as a state action, this is not a prosecution that can be ended prematurely with a presidential pardon…. Many of us disagreed with Trump after the election and publicly rejected the claims of systemic voting fraud. However, Trump had a right to not only challenge the election but to be wrong. That is why the Willis indictment is a serious threat to Trump but also to our system of democratic process. Pollock once said that ‘when I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing.’ Unlike painters, prosecutors do not have the same luxury. What Willis is doing here is excessive and it is dangerous.”

“Who is Fani Willis, the Georgia district attorney who indicted Trump?” [Al Jazeera]. ” Willis is known for pursuing RICO charges, which she said allow for a more complete picture of criminal cases. A divorced mother of two, Willis grew up mostly in Washington, DC, with her father, whom she describes as a criminal defence attorney and former Black Panther. She attended Howard University, a historically Black university in the US capital, and earned a law degree from Emory University in Atlanta. She worked as a lawyer before joining the Fulton County district attorney’s office as an assistant prosecutor. Eventually, she challenged and unseated her former boss, Paul Howard, as the county’s top prosecutor. Willis, however, faced criticism from social justice activists and election rivals in 2020 for receiving an endorsement and campaign contributions from a major police union during her campaign. Police unions often defend officers involved in misconduct.” • The Cop-Loving Black Woman Who’s Going to Bring Down Trump! Let the votive candles be prepared! And let’s not mention Stacey Abrams, bless her heart, previously beloved of liberal Democrat Schwärmer.

“Scott McAfee Has Been a Judge Six Months. He Is Now Assigned Trump’s Georgia Case.” [Wall Street Journal]. “McAfee, 34 years old, has spent much of his career as a prosecutor, first for the Fulton County district attorney and later for the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta. McAfee was randomly assigned the case, but he has worked for key people involved in the events of 2020: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican whom Trump attacked repeatedly for not joining his effort to overturn Trump’s loss; former U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak, whom Trump forced out of office for not joining the effort; and Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney in Fulton County whose more than 2½-year probe led to the charges. Attorneys in Atlanta call McAfee smart and professional. Those qualities will be tested in a gigantic case that will involve Trump, who has adopted an often brazen approach to his legal proceedings. The case will involve other well-known defendants such as former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a brigade of lawyers, complex jury selection, a cascade of legal motions from both sides, jurors who will have to serve for months at least, a horde of reporters, and intense security issues at the Fulton County courthouse and surrounding area in downtown Atlanta.” • 34. Less than half Trump’s age. And Biden’s.

* * *

“Donald Trump indicted: The former president’s one big advantage as criminal charges pile up” [Washington Examiner]. .But Trump is uniquely suited to the post-2000 American divisions in a way that Mitt Romney and John McCain were not. This is true of some of Trump’s other rivals inside the GOP…. This is why Trump has survived Access Hollywood, the Russia investigation, two impeachments, the 2020 election loss, Jan. 6, and indictments in four cases spanning multiple jurisdictions. He leads nearly a dozen other Republicans by a margin that has never been overcome even at this early phase of the race in modern primary history. And he trails Biden by less than a point. Trump is going to make the argument that his legal troubles stem from Biden’s Justice Department and partisan Democratic local prosecutors trying to ‘lock him up’ while turning a blind eye to more serious crimes, including their own. That might not get him out of his legal jam. But it could be enough to make Trump the Republican presidential nominee for the third straight election. And after that, anything can happen.” • What frosts me the most is the Party of RussiaGate, Ukraine, and mass infection without mitigation howling and yammering about “false statements.” Howling and yammering, if one can do so, with straight faces. Vociferously and continuously.

* * *

“Opinion: The lesson Obama could teach DeSantis” [CNN]. “[DeSantis] has stumbled in interviews, and often parses his answers in nakedly political ways — especially when asked about Trump. This has set up a contrast among Republican voters, who view DeSantis as an ambitious, conventional politician versus Trump, the audaciously authentic and potent avatar of an anti-establishment populist movement. The contrast was especially clear last weekend at the Iowa State Fair, where Trump received rock-star treatment — and DeSantis, by and large, did not. DeSantis’ flaws as a campaigner are problems that cannot easily be fixed, in part because the candidate may be resistant to their fixing. Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have once said, ‘A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.’ The same can be said of a candidate for president who runs his own campaign. One of the concerns that has long bounced around Florida political circles is DeSantis’ overreliance on his own political instincts and those of his wife, Casey DeSantis, a former television news anchor. Maybe DeSantis has been chastened by the humbling opening stanzas of his campaign. But it’s not clear how much of a shake-up last week’s change really represented as DeSantis moved his manager — a longtime political aide — to the position of chief strategist and summoned his chief of staff from Tallahassee to become the new manager… Still, while this midsummer drama is a sign of distress, it’s too early to count DeSantis out. Iowa has traditionally broken late and often in unexpected directions…. There are reasons to doubt whether DeSantis can live up to his extravagant advance billing. But he, like Obama, is placing all his chips on Iowa.”

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.

* * *


“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).

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

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!

* * *

Celebrity Watch

And speaking of Taylor Swift (see below):

Love Potion #19…. 

Hackers, too:

Censorship and Propaganda

Kudos to Twitter (1):

“Something Awful”

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.

* * *


* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, August 14:

Lambert here: Not much of a jump over the last three days. Happy memories of tape-watching days! It will be interesting to see what happens when schools open up. I would like to congratulate the Biden administration and the public health establishment, the CDC especially, for this enormous and unprecedented achievement. And a tip of the ol’ Water Cooler hat to the Great Barrington goons, whose policies have been followed so assiduously! A curious fact: All of Biden’s peaks are higher than Trump’s peaks. Shows you what public health can do when it’s firing on all eight cylinders! Musical interlude. NOTE I’m not happy that Biobot can’t update this data more frequently. 

Regional data:

No backward revisions; perhaps the Midwest surge, and leveling off everywhere else, is real. Let’s wait and see. Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.

Regional variant data, August 5.

EG.5 (the orange pie slice) still seems evenly distributed. Sadly, the Midwest data is not available, so we can’t infer anything about the Midwest surge and any variant(s), one way or the other. 


NOT UPDATED From CDC, August 5:

From CDC, July 22:

Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, August 12:

Lambert here: Increase is even more distinct. (The black line is “combined”, but it is easy to see that Covid, the red line, is driving everything.)

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.

• Similar data from Japan:

I would hazard a guess that Japan’s emergency response system is far more functional than our own, and so a better proxy for Covid’s rise.


I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive. Nevertheless, here’s New York City:

Could be worse, and doubtless will be. But how much worse?

“COVID hospitalizations accelerate for fourth straight week” [CBS]. “A total of 10,320 patients in the U.S. were newly hospitalized with COVID-19 for the week ending August 5, according to the figures published Monday, an increase of 14.3% from the week before.  Levels remain far below the summer peak that strained hospitals at this time last year, when 42,813 admissions were reported for the week of August 6, 2022. Hospitals across the Southeast are continuing to report the nation’s highest rate of COVID-19 admissions. In the region spanning Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, 4.58 new patients were reported per 100,000 residents. The Southeast has also been reporting the highest rate of COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents. Weekly infections are now close to the worst rates seen during 2021’s summer wave in the region, but below more recent peaks.” • The wastewater data (unless revised) says hospitalization in the South should level off soon. Let’s wait and see.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, August 14:

-0.7%. A pause here, too? Interestingly, people are citing to this, too, as well as Biobot. Vertical-ish, though 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, July 24:

Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data. They say “maps,” but I don’t see one…. 


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, August 9:

Lambert here: The WHO data is worthless, so I replaced it with the Iowa Covid Data Tracker. Their method: “These data have been sourced, via the API from the CDC: 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: 1,172,148 – 1,172,112 = 36 (36 * 365 = 13,140 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). 

Excess Deaths

The Economist, August 16:

Lambert here:  Back to almost dailiy. Odd when it is, odd when it stops. Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US rose by 3.9% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.452 million in July 2023, above market expectations of 1.448 million.”

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial production in the United States fell by 0.2% from the previous year in July of 2023, extending the 0.4% decline in the previous month.”

Capacity: “United States Capacity Utilization” [Trading Economics]. “Capacity utilization in the US rose to 79.3% in July of 2023, compared to a downwardly revised 78.6% in June and slightly above forecasts of 79.1%. ”

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Finance: “Apple Card’s Savings Account Reached $10 Billion in Deposits” [Daring Fireball]. “That works out to a nice even $1,000 average per Apple Card user. I’m guessing though, that the median is much lower, and the mean average is $1,000 because a smaller number of users have transferred large amounts to take advantage of the 4.15 percent interest rate.” • And 10 million users.

Real Estate: “An Office Is Not The Office” [Dror Poleg]. “the whole argument of the back-to-office puritans is that you cannot innovate or build culture “remotely.” But in reality, this battle has already been lost. Having people collaborate across multiple locations is now the norm. Whether these locations are offices, homes, or coffee shops is a sideshow. Work is becoming distributed. Even if demand for office space will return to its pre-Covid level (and it won’t), the demand will be for space in many new locations…. At the moment, there is a significant mismatch between office demand and supply. Many people would love to have access to an office near home. And not just people; many companies would love such access as well. But such space is not available or is too expensive. Meanwhile, the office space that is available is in the places where people used to commute to but no longer wish to. As I wrote in The Office Won’t Budge, this is like a Monopoly game that went off the rails: ‘The landlords still have a monopoly. But demand is growing outside of the monopoly board. And since buildings can’t move, those who own them are at a disadvantage. I call this the Poleg Paradox: A situation in which higher demand is bad news for incumbents. It can be observed when one party to the zero-sum game can suddenly play by different rules.’”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 55 Neutral (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 66 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 16 at 1:45 PM ET. Mr. Market is having a sad!

The Conservatory

“How ‘American Graffiti’ Invented Classic Rock (and Changed My Life)” [The Honest Broker]. “You may find this hard to believe, but rock radio stations all focused on new music in the 1960s. They might occasionally play an “”oldie,”” as they were called back then, but few people considered old rock a genre in its own right. But around the time George Lucas was filming American Graffiti, the hottest music radio station in Los Angeles, KHJ—93 on the AM dial—was trying to figure out what to do with its FM bandwidth. For a while, it played the same current hits on AM and FM, but in late 1972 they decided to try something different—they renamed the station KRTH (101) and decided to focus entirely on rock songs from 1953 to 1963. By pure coincidence, George Lucas was relying on these same old rock and roll songs for the soundtrack of his movie. And with amazing results—the soundtrack album was even more popular than the film, and soon broke into the Billboard top 10.

 he 41 songs on the double album defined this new genre. It didn’t even have a name back then. The folks at KRTH called it the gold format. But the American Graffiti soundtrack did even better than gold—it went triple platinum.” • Focusing on “new music.” Imagine!

Zeitgeist Watch

Oh noes:

“The dark truth about Taylor Swift” [Unherd]. “It’s common knowledge that women like love stories. And those which gain iconic status tend toward tragedy… What’s less well-recognised is that this kind of emotional intensity, and the motif of doomed passion that serves as its carrier, has roots in a thousand-year-old religious schism. And while its origin story has been largely forgotten, the spiritual hunger it encodes lives on in a perplexing trait often seen in the young, and perhaps especially young women: a craving for romantic transcendence that’s difficult to distinguish from self-destruction. Nowhere does this kamikaze mysticism hide more flagrantly and influentially in plain sight than in the wildly popular music of Taylor Swift, and the worldwide cult of ‘Swifties’ she has inspired. … Our love-affair with doomed love begins in early 13th-century France with the two-decade Albigensian Crusade which saw the Cathar sect persecuted, tortured, slaughtered and scattered by the orthodox Christian Knights Templar, leading to the deaths of an estimated 200,000. …. that violent religious struggle also had another, subtler and further-reaching legacy stemming from what happened to the Cathar faith. For it didn’t disappear: it went underground. And the origins of the recurring theme of doomed passion in Western culture, according to the Swiss medievalist Denis de Rougemont, lie in the survival of Cathar heresy, hidden in plain sight in ‘courtly love’ literature. This work was created by the ‘troubadours’, poets and composers attached to Provençal courts — who were, de Rougemont argues, at least Cathar-influenced if not all secret heretics. For there are eerie parallels between their poetic mythologisation of knights and ‘courtly love’, and the heretical faith they were slaughtered for. If, as it was for the Cathars, every soul was trapped in a state of longing for reunion with the Divine, when the troubadours sang of unrequited love of a knight for his ‘Lady’ that wasn’t a literal love story. On the contrary: it stood for that spiritual pain and longing. And because such a longing could only be attained by escape from the prison of flesh — which is to say, by death — the love of a knight for his ‘Lady’ could not be consummated, except by the death of one or both. In other words: to convey its esoteric meaning, the narrative ‘romance’ couldn’t have a ‘happy ever after’. In these terms, the only real happy ending is death.” • Hmm. I have literally never listened to Taylor Swift; I prefer K-Pop. Should I?

Class Warfare

The closest America ever came to a European-style welfare state was under Trump, with the CARES Act:

Stochastic eugenicism proceeding apace, I see. Joe, good job.

News of the Wired

“LK-99 isn’t a superconductor — how science sleuths solved the mystery” [Nature]. “[A]fter dozens of replication efforts, many experts are confidently saying that the evidence shows LK-99 is not a room-temperature superconductor… The South Korean team based its claim on two of LK-99’s properties: levitation above a magnet and abrupt drops in resistivity. But separate teams in Beijing, at Peking University3 and the Chinese Academy of Sciences4 (CAS), found mundane explanations for these phenomena. Another study, by US and European researchers, combined experimental and theoretical evidence to demonstrate how LK-99’s structure made superconductivity infeasible. And other experimenters synthesized and studied pure samples6 of LK-99, erasing doubts about the material’s structure and confirming that it is not a superconductor, but an insulator. The only further confirmation would come from the Korean team sharing their samples, says Michael Fuhrer, a physicist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. ‘The burden’s on them to convince everybody else,’ he says.” • I was hoping for a little bit of good news. Probably others were, as well. Although it’s good news that science, or at least materials science, still functions!

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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 RM:

RM writes: “The western Spiderwort just popped out on the prairie around here after the major rain we have had. Much different than the drought conditions that I experienced when in Michigan last month.”

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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:

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Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor