2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/2024 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Stock Dove, Wieswald, Freising, Bayern, Germany. Lots going on, including a woodpecker.

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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

Capitol Seizure

“Biden’s Valley Forge Theater and the Unraveling of Jan 6” [Declassified with Julie Kelly]. “[Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), chairman of a subcommittee of the House Administration Committee examining all things J6] said his staff is preparing a full account of January 6 including the involvement of paid agitators, law enforcement and intelligence failures, and the construction of the so-called ‘gallows’ that produced so many chilling optics from that day. ‘You’ve got the gallows, the famous gallows, that were erected on the west front of the Capitol that they love to portray in all of their committee hearings. As it turns out, those gallows were erected…at like 5:30 or 6 o’clock before the sun ever came up. ?’ We, of course, know why: so Democrats and the media can pretend that white supremacists, summoning the days of slavery, planned to hang people that afternoon. In fact, Biden used a clip of the January 6 gallows in his new campaign ad as proof of an ‘extremist movement’ in America. Almost like the day was intended to fuel the ‘extremist’ narrative well into the 2024 election…” • Not buying the “allowed to stay up” rhetorical question (though it would be nice to know who put them and why). They remained up because the participants didn’t take them down. Surely Kelly didn’t expect the Capitol police to do that?

“Hundreds of convictions, but a major mystery is still unsolved 3 years after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot” [Associated Press]. “One of the biggest remaining mysteries surrounding the riot is the identity of the person who placed two pipe bombs outside the offices of the Republican and Democratic national committees the day before the Capitol attack. Last year, authorities increased the reward to up to $500,000 for information leading to the person’s arrest. It remains unclear whether there was a connection between the pipe bombs and the riot. Investigators have spent thousands of hours over the last three years doing interviews and combing through evidence and tips from the public, said David Sundberg, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office…. The explosive devices were placed outside the two buildings between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2021, but officers didn’t find them until the next day. Authorities were called to the Republican National Committee’s office around 12:45 p.m. on Jan. 6. Shortly after, a call came in for a similar explosive device found at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The bombs were rendered safe, and no one was hurt. Video released by the FBI shows a person in a gray hooded sweatshirt, a face mask and gloves appearing to place one of the explosives under a bench outside the DNC and separately shows the person walking in an alley near the RNC before the bomb was placed there. The person wore black and light gray Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers with a yellow logo.” • Odd. Reminds me of the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill after 9/11.

Biden Administration

“Scoop: Zients plans morale booster for White House staff” [Axios]. “White House chief of staff Jeff Zients is throwing an off-campus party for hundreds of Biden staffers to celebrate their last three years — and steel the team for the final sprint ahead of the election, Axios has learned….. After the first two years of COVID-19 precautions, Zients has moved to restore a sense of normalcy to the White House…. Zients has been pressing Cabinet secretaries to break their staffs’ stubborn work-from-home habits.” • “you ever just ‘there’s pizza in the break room’ your way out of genocide”

“SBF’s Victory From Behind Bars” [The Lever]. “The cryptocurrency industry landed one of its most desired prizes last month when regulators at a small but potentially pivotal federal agency allowed a little-known cryptocurrency company to oversee all aspects of brokering, facilitating, and clearing trades of its digital assets. Regulators and experts say the move, which came after millions were spent in lobbying in 2023 alone, could endanger customer assets and stifle competition, as well as set a dangerous precedent that could set up this and other financial markets for spectacular collapse. The Dec. 13 approval of the application from Bitnomial, a small Chicago-based crypto derivatives company, is the first time the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has approved any financial institution to vertically integrate as an exchange, broker, and clearinghouse, without doing so through company acquisitions. In most financial markets, the responsibilities for different functions are handled by separate entities to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure market stability. One entity runs the exchange where financial instruments are traded; another is a broker which performs transactions on behalf of clients; and another clears, or validates, the transactions before they go through. The approval of Bitnomial’s application comes after years of cryptocurrency interests — most prominently, convicted financial fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried — cozying up to CFTC regulators and pushing to ensure all federal crypto regulations are handled by the commission. The CFTC’s limited size and funding could lead to laxer oversight, compared to regulations from the much more aggressive and powerful Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

“Another political cover-up at Biden’s DOJ” [Washington Examiner]. “In December 2022, a federal grand jury returned indictments on several counts against Democratic megadonor and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Bankman-Fried. In addition to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, Bankman-Fried was also charged with conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission and commit campaign finance violations. During extradition proceedings, the Bahamas rejected the campaign finance charges against Bankman-Fried, and his defense attorney then filed a motion in federal court to remove them from the indictment since international law bars prosecution for crimes not approved of by countries that agree to extradite a suspect. Prosecutors went forward with the prosecution of the other charges, and Bankman-Fried was convicted on all counts in November. A new trial was scheduled to begin this March on the campaign finance charges, but in a letter dated Dec. 29, the Friday before New Year’s Day, President Joe Biden’s DOJ announced it was dropping the second trial. DOJ officials said there is a “strong public interest in prompt resolution of this matter” that would be undermined by waiting until March for a new trial. The agency said a second trial would not change Bankman-Fried’s punishment because U.S. sentencing guidelines allow judges to consider all conduct and evidence of the campaign finance charge was presented at the first trial.” • I would have thought there was a “strong public interest” in knowing the names of every member of the political class, including the press, that SBF bought. Guess nt!


Less than a year to go!

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“Trump’s Race for the White House Runs Through the Courtroom” [Bloomberg]. “Time and again, Trump has cast himself as a victim. And time and again, his supporters have responded with donations. Trump promptly raised $15.4 million after he was indicted in New York over payments to Stormy Daniels, the porn star; $4.5 million after he was indicted in Miami over withholding classified documents; and $7.1 million after he was arraigned in Georgia on charges related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.” • Handy chart:

Could be the same “Pied Piper” strategy as 2016, I suppose (and 2022 also, with a 53% success rate).

“Teamsters chief, Trump meet as union weighs 2024 presidential race” [Reuters]. “Donald Trump met with the head of the Teamsters on Wednesday and made plans to meet with rank-and-file members later this month as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, the former president and the union said in statements. Sean O’Brien, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Trump had ‘an in-depth and productive discussion on worker issues most important to the Teamsters Union,’the labor group, which represents 1.3 million workers from truckers and police to nurses and film crews, said in a post on the X social media platform.”

“Trump received millions of dollars from foreign governments while president, House Democrats allege” [USA Today]. “Former President Donald Trump unconstitutionally profited from the presidency during his tenure in the White House, reaping millions of dollars for his business empire from foreign governments, House Democrats allege in an extensive report. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee released a 156-page report Thursday morning accusing Trump of exploiting the presidency to financially benefit himself and members of his family. Trump’s businesses, according to the report, received at least $7.8 million from corrupt and authoritarian governments including China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The report is the culmination of a nearly seven-year investigation. It says records and documents obtained by House Oversight Democrats reveal ‘a stunning web of millions of dollars in payments made by foreign governments and their agents directly to Trump-owned businesses, while President Trump was in the White House.’” • When will Republicans understand that a layer of indirection solved everything? Set up a foundation!

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“Joe Biden Makes Saving Democracy the Center of His Campaign” [The New Yorker]. “In a telephone call with reporters on January 2nd, the top officials in Biden’s reëlection campaign discussed their political strategy. They mentioned supporting abortion rights, mobilizing minority voters, and building an economy that benefits the middle class, but their overriding theme was that a Biden victory is essential to preserve American democracy…. Their argument is that the momentum will start to shift once voters are faced with a concrete choice between another four years of Biden and a second Trump Presidency in which the latter’s desire for revenge would be unleashed, and his control over the Republican Party in Congress would be virtually complete.” • I don’t think Trump or anybody with a voice can make this argument, but the Democrats are the voice of the PMC. None of the systems that the PMC are responsible for running are doing very well, at least if you’re a dull normal: Not healthcare, not higher education, not high school and grade school, not the law, not scientists, not management in general, not one. I’ve been hearing some horror stories on the healthcare system lately; I’d be very happy to take “revenge” on the people running it; in a way, that’s similar to the attack that the “gain of function” crowd are making, inchoate from a class perspective, sadly.

“Can Joe Biden Pull Off a Harry Truman?” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “Biden is coping with dissension in his party’s ranks but not the sort of formal crack-up that led to not one but two competing ex-Democratic presidential tickets in 1948: the States’ Rights Democratic (a.k.a. Dixiecrat) ticket led by Strom Thurmond, which attracted southern segregationists, and ex-Vice-President Henry Wallace’s left-bent Progressives. Biden also suffers from a dyspeptic post-pandemic public mood that is similar in some respects to the angst afflicting Americans after the euphoric unity of World War II. That’s bad for any incumbent president. But Truman had the additional handicap of his party having controlled the White House for 16 years, the longest stretch since the post–Civil War era of Republican dominance. Today, the United States is in an extended period of exceptional balance between the two major parties, which have each held the presidency for exactly half of the 21st century and shared control of Congress as often as not. But the most important difference between 1948 and 2024 is the identity of the likely Republican nominee. Yes, Dewey was a repeat nominee as Trump will be, having run a respectable if losing campaign against FDR in 1944. But Dewey, who was the governor of New York, was as remote from Trump in his temperament and ideological inclinations as is possible to imagine.” • The analogy seems fanciful to me. The America of 1948 is not the America of 2024.

“North Carolina goes all in with DNC in having Biden alone on primary ballot, flouting Democrat challengers” [FOX]. “North Carolina’s election board unanimously decided Tuesday to accept the state Democratic Party’s request to have President Biden as the lone Democrat presidential candidate. ” • “Our democracy.”

“Hunter Biden’s ‘sugar brother’ Kevin Morris plots gauzy documentary on first son” [New York Post]. “First son Hunter Biden’s so-called ‘sugar brother,’ Hollywood attorney Kevin Morris, is backing a soft-focus documentary on the disgraced and indicted presidential offspring…. A film crew has been trailing Hunter, 53, for years and was most recently spotted recording the first son publicly defying a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee to sit for a deposition Dec. 13. The Post has also noted the presence of cameras around the Biden scion, including when Hunter cozied up to one of our reporters at a December 2022 showing off his surprisingly pricey work at Soho’s Georges Berges gallery. The crew also popped up at the same gallery in the fall of 2021, at the very first public showing by the world’s most well-compensated amateur artist. Morris even took his cameras all the way to Serbia, where the crew crashed the set where filmmaker Phelim McAleer was shooting “My Son Hunter,” a flick mocking the Biden family that was distributed by Breitbart in September 2022. The Ireland-born McAleer told the LA Times he allowed Morris and his crew to film on their set for a few days and even went out to dinner with his adversary. At one point, the director said, Morris began asking him questions along the lines of ‘What was the history of the laptop? What did I know about the history of the laptop?’ ‘He was out there looking for information and evidence for his client while he was pretending to be something he was not,’ McAleer claimed.” • Why on earth do this? I mean, Hunter’s artwork is an obvious money laundering operation, but presumably that’s not on film. Right?

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“Watch top moments in Nikki Haley’s Iowa town hall, from torching Trump to defending recent comments” [FOX]. “‘I defeat Biden by 17 points,’ Haley said, referencing one recent poll and noting it showed she would perform better than Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican candidate, in a hypothetical November contest against Biden. ‘If you win by double digits, you go into Washington with a mandate… It is time to move past President Trump.’ Haley argued that ‘chaos follows’ Trump and that she would be the generational leader ‘that leaves negativity and baggage behind.’ However, she later defended her intention to pardon Trump should he be convicted of any crime, and said some of the prosecutions the former president is currently facing in Georgia, Washington, D.C. and New York were ‘politically motivated.’”

“Ron DeSantis criticizes Nikki Haley as ‘phony’ in final days before Iowa caucuses” [Washington Times]. “[DeSantis] also sought to once again pressure Haley over whether she would accept Trump’s offer to be his running mate if he were to win the nomination. ‘She’s the darling of the Never Trumpers. And yet when she’s asked, ‘OK, will you just categorically put this to bed and say you will not accept the vice presidential nomination?’ She will not answer that question,’ DeSantis said. Haley’s campaign previously told the Washington Examiner that ‘Nikki has been very clear from day one, she doesn’t play for second.’”

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“World renowned humanitarian”:


I dunno; maybe RFK Jr. is on to something; see this wild speculation on “the grief system” here.

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“Biden vs. Trump Is the Race Voters Want. Really.” [Washington Monthly]. “For months, headlines have told us that most Americans don’t want the 2024 presidential campaign to be a rematch of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. And yet both candidates are lapping their respective fields in primary polling…. Less than three weeks from now, after Iowa’s January 15 caucuses and New Hampshire’s January 23 primary, don’t be surprised if all significant challengers to Trump and Biden throw in the towel…. Why is this happening? Maybe it’s because Biden and Trump really are the candidates we’ve wanted all along…. This is for good reason. While the major parties are, as always, coalitions of interests with some diversity of views, Trump and Biden accurately reflect the sentiments of their parties…. In nearly every presidential election, most independent voters recognize that they are effectively faced with a binary choice between the Republican and Democratic candidates, even though neither perfectly aligns with their views. They may grouse about it, but most rebuff third-party choices for a good reason: Presidential binary choices are healthy for democracy. Voters should be able to articulate which general direction they want their country to go without having that choice confused by spoiler candidates.” • Just ask James Buchanan!

“The Unpredictable But Entirely Possible Events That Could Throw 2024 Into Turmoil” [Politico]. “global pandemic. A siege at the Capitol. A reality TV star in the White House. In just the last few years, we’ve watched the unthinkable become real. We think we have a firm grasp on what’s to come, in politics and beyond, and then something gigantic and unexpected happens. With that in mind, perhaps we need to deploy a tad more imagination before assuming we know what’s going to happen in 2024. It certainly looks like we’re headed toward a rematch of Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden and a bitterly contested, close general election. But, if recent history is a guide, something unexpected could be right around the corner.” I thought the first speculation was the most likely: “[E]fforts to subvert the election could be successful and could come from a variety of actors — from cyberattacks, deep fakes and disinformation, physical attacks on the election process and oversight, and/or mass unrest, violent intervention and even terrorism to disrupt voting on Nov. 5. . I wasn’t worried about a coup back on Jan. 6, and I don’t see any way to overturn this coming year’s election either. But disrupting the 2024 U.S. election strikes me as plausible and deeply concerning.” • We tend to forget that even though Trump butchered his attempts to prove election theft in 2020, the system is quite vulnerable (and in my view, insider threats from either party or the spooks are far, far more likely than threats from Russia, Iran or North Korea).

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Republican Funhouse

“Calmes: 2023 was the year of the do-nothing House Republicans. In 2024, they’ll do worse than nothing” [Jackie Calmes, Los Angeles Times]. “Repeatedly in 2023, we saw the dysfunction of the MAGA Republicans who narrowly took control of the House last January, making that chamber virtually ungovernable and yielding one of the least productive years in Congress’ history. Just a couple dozen mostly minor bills became law, a fraction of the usual number. The House and Senate broke for the holidays still bloodied from the unfinished sausage-making. To borrow another lawmaker metaphor, they kicked the can down the road — cans, plural — into 2024. Yet agreement on lingering issues — spending, Ukraine aid, immigration — hardly comes more easily in an election year; the distractions of the presidential primaries start this month, in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then there is the House Republicans’ greatest distraction of all: their top-priority push to impeach President Biden, on grounds still TBD. What we’re in for in 2024 is more of the misrule that results when one of our two major parties morphs from a small-government party into an unabashedly anti-government bloc.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

“Harry Dunn, Capitol Police officer on Jan. 6, announces run for Congress” [ABC]. “Harry Dunn, who struggled to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and has been one of the most outspoken members of law enforcement to condemn the attack, announced Friday that he is running for Congress. Dunn, who resigned as a Capitol Police officer last month, said he is running as a Democrat to represent Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes several Maryland counties outside Baltimore. He is running to replace Democrat Rep. John Sarbanes, who is not seeking reelection. Friday morning on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe,’ Dunn said he wants to ‘fight back and be able to push back against the people in Congress right now that I spent the last 15 years of my life protecting. And I want to serve as their equal, as their colleague I want a voice at the table.’” • Photo:

Furrowed brow, bald head: The Rock, totally. So why not?


“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 (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, 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, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Not just fashion, branding:

That obvious commercial possibilities like this were not seized upon shows how powerful the anti-mask taboo (?) has been…

Immune Dysregulation

I would really like some evidence from inside China on this, but it sure is interesting:

(Combine that with cleaning the air, and you might have something.) The whole thread is well worth a read.


“What a WoW virtual outbreak taught us about how humans behave in epidemics” [Ars Technica]. From 2020, still germane. “The Corrupted Blood outbreak was not intentional. In 2005, Blizzard Entertainment added a new dungeon called Zul’Gurub into World of Warcraft for highly advanced players, controlled by an “end boss” named Hakkar. Hakkar was a blood god known as the Soulflayer, who had, among his arsenal of weapons, a “debuff” spell called “Corrupted Blood.” Infected players would suffer damage at regular repeating intervals, draining away their “hit points” until their avatars exploded in a cloud of blood. The only cure was to kill Hakkar. Blizzard thought this would ensure the infection wouldn’t spread beyond that space. They were wrong. Rather than standing their ground, many infected players panicked, teleporting out of the dungeon before dying or killing Hakkar, and taking the disease with them. And lower ranking players, with fewer hit points, would “die” very quickly upon exposure. The biggest factor in the rapid spread of the disease was a glitch in the programming, such that non-playable animal companions also became infected. They didn’t show symptoms, but they were carriers and ended up spreading the disease even faster….. In the end, at least three servers were affected, and Blizzard had to reboot the entire game to correct the problem.” • If only we could reboot Planet Earth…


These numbers are… not good:

Elite Maleficence

Can any readers find the source for these extraordinarily frank remarks by Pfizer’s Angela Hwang?

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Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, January 5:

Lambert here: Still going up. As a totally “gut feel” tapewatcher, I would expect this peak to meet or exceed the two previous Biden peaks; after all, we haven’t really begun the next bout of holiday travel, or the next rounds of celebrations. Plus students haven’t come from from school, and then returned. So a higher peak seems pretty much “baked in.” And that’s before we get to new variants, like JN.1. The real thing to watch is the slope of the curve. If it starts to go vertical, and if it keeps on doing so, then hold onto your hats.

Lambert here: Called it. Impressively, the Biden administration has now blown through all previous records, with the single exception of the Omicron, the top of the leaderboard, a record also set by itself. Congratulations to the Biden team! I know a lot of people think the peak will come in the next two weeks or so; I’d like to hear at least some anecdotal evidence of that beyond the models (because recall JN.1, whose peak this is, is extremely infectious).

Regional data:

Regional split continues. What’s more worrisome is that the slope of the curve in the Northeast got steeper (although, as ever, Biobot data is subject to backward revision).


From CDC, January 6:

Lambert here: JN.1 now dominates. That was fast.

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

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 30:

Lambert: Return to upward movement. Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator.

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. And of course, we’re not even getting into the quality of the wastewater sites that we have as a proxy for Covid infection overall.


Bellwether New York City, data as of January 4:

Lambert here: I still don’t like the slope of that curve, and notice we’re approaching previous peak levels (granted, not 2020 or 2022, but respectable).

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 30:

Moving ahead briskly!

Lambert here: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?


Lambert here: Notice that for both Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic, that although the percentage of positives is stable, the absolute numbers have greatly increased; Walgreen’s doubled. This speaks well of people; they’re getting tested before the holidays (and in face of a shit*tstorm barrage of propaganda and peer pressure to minimize, too).

NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, January 2:

1.1%. Up. (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 Cleveland Clinic, December 30:

Lambert here: Percentage plateaued. Absolute numbers steadily increasing.

• You, Cleveland Clinic:

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 11:

Turning down.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 4:

BA.2.86 back up, totally dominant. This would be a great early warning system, if the warning were in fact early, instead of weeks late, good job, CDC.


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 23:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the United States held at 3.7% in December 2023, unchanged from the previous month and slightly below the market consensus of 3.8%, influenced by a slowdown in new entries into the labor force.”

Services: “United States ISM Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI unexpectedly fell to 50.6 in December 2023, the lowest reading in seven months.”

* * *

Manufacturing: “Boeing wants FAA to exempt MAX 7 from safety rules to get it in the air” [Dominic Gates, Seattle Times]. “Little noticed, days before the holiday break, Boeing petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption from key safety standards for the 737 MAX 7 — the still-uncertified smallest member of its newest jet family. Since August, earlier models of the MAX currently flying passengers in the U.S. have had to limit use of the jet’s engine anti-ice system after Boeing discovered a defect in the system with potentially catastrophic consequences. The flaw could cause the inlet at the front end of the pod surrounding the engine — known as a nacelle — to break and fall off. In an August Airworthiness Directive, the FAA stated that debris from such a breakup could penetrate the fuselage, putting passengers seated at windows behind the wings in danger, and could damage the wing or tail of the plane, ‘which could result in loss of control of the airplane.”…. In its petition to the FAA, Boeing argues the breakup of the engine nacelle is ‘extremely improbable’ and that an exemption will not reduce safety…. [W]ithout an exemption from current safety regulations, the FAA cannot approve the final two MAX models, the MAX 7 and MAX 10, to fly passengers.” • Something for the new CEO to deal with? (It’s sort of amazing to see a national champion like Boeing in the process of destroying itself — and the nation, too.)

Tech: “Microsoft is adding a new key to PC keyboards for the first time since 1994” [Ars Technica]. “Microsoft pushed throughout 2023 to add generative AI capabilities to its software, even extending its new Copilot AI assistant to Windows 10 late last year. Now, those efforts to transform PCs at a software level is extending to the hardware: Microsoft is adding a dedicated Copilot key to PC keyboards, adjusting the standard Windows keyboard layout for the first time since the Windows key first appeared on its Natural Keyboard in 1994.” • What’s a the icon? A paperclip?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 74 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 5 at 1:46:57 PM ET.

The Gallery

“What Do You Do When Anything Goes?” [Artforum]. “We have moved from an art world in which it is simply impossible for a urinal to be art to an art world in which this particular urinal is art, and in which anything can be art. You can make sculpture out of fat and felt if you are Joseph Beuys. You can make Conceptual art out of a sentence typewritten on a piece of paper if you are Robert Barry. You can make art literally out of anything. …. When did this passage happen? How did it happen? Where are the art history books that tell that story? I haven’t found any. And yet the difference between an art world in which, in order for something to be art, it has to be a painting or a sculpture or a poem or a piece of music, etc., to an art world in which any material object, anything that has physical, sensory existence, can be promoted to art—that passage is as radical as the passage from a monarchy to a republic. (It’s an analogy.) How do you pass from a monarchy to a republic? Not by a monarchy morphing insensibly into a republic. That doesn’t work. There has to be a revolution or at least an abdication of the king or the queen, and one day you wake up a citizen and no longer a subject. It is as impossible to smoothly morph the Beaux-Arts system into the Art-in-General system as it is to smoothly morph a monarchy into a republic. Art history conceived as the history of styles and movements doesn’t account for a radical break of this kind. The break occurred, and it’s invisible, it’s not been recorded by art history books. Two chapters devoted to the invention of non-art address this issue and give an answer. Non-art is not Duchamp’s invention, nor is it the Dadaists’. It is a byproduct of the French Beaux-Arts system, which slowly emerged to the surface of consciousness like a photographic print in a bath of developer until, with Fountain, Duchamp registered the breakdown of the Beaux-Arts.” • Hmm.

Groves of Academe

Not really a joke:

Zeitgeist Watch

“If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right” (PDF) [Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert, Timothy D. Wilson]. “The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it. Drawing on empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material goods; (2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves; (3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones; (4) eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance; (5) delay consumption; (6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives; (7) beware of comparison shopping; and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others.” • Consumers, eh? What about the wealthy?

Class Warfare

“Marxist bros”:

News of the Wired

“A Compelling Theory to Explain a Key Trait of Modern Humans” [Resilience]. “Paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean has developed a comprehensive explanation based on a synthesis of research and archaeological evidence for what propelled H. sapiens to leave Africa about 70,000 years ago and colonize every part of the world, replacing other existing hominin populations. Key to the process is ‘hyperprosociality,’ by which Marean means the ability to cooperate with people who are not relatives. This in turn requires the use of symbolism in language and cultural communication, including art. Paradoxically, hyperprosociality produces cooperation among unrelated individuals at the same time that it fosters conflict to protect territory and food…. The on-the-ground evidence supports the emergence of hyperprosociality. The interaction of bands of people can be inferred from technologically advanced dating methods that can track the movements of an individual, group, or artifact from its place of origin to another location. Other techniques, such as chemical analysis of materials and tools in distant areas, suggest evidence of a network of groups that collaborated. ‘The evidence in Eurasia for such structures and networks,’ Marean writes, ‘is present only after the dispersal of modern humans.’ The adaptive shift to hyperprosociality as a trait occurred in Africa as groups began making use of ‘dense and predictable resources,’ Marean says. Along with this improved diet came the setting of territorial borders to secure the resources, and the consequent conflict with rivals for the food supply. The necessary cooperation with non-kinfolk for defense purposes led, in turn, to conditions that favored strong evolutionary ‘selection for hyperprosocial proclivities,’ he writes. Cooperation between bands of people evolved into the first ‘ethnolinguistic’ groups.” • Perhaps SARS-CoV-2 is leveraging our “hyperprosociality”?

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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: “This is Parry’s Phacelia, a species of Forget-Me-Not unique to California and Baja California, or so I’ve read.”

• Kind readers, I still not completely comfortable that I have enough plants in the queue. Snow-covered trees! Icy flowers! The fall harvest! Autumn leaves! Last year’s wildflowers! Also, of course, honorary plants like fungi and lichen! Algae! Pots on your kitchen windowsill

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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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