ECONOMY

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/11/2024 | naked capitalism

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Laughing Dove, Bhutnal Kere ಭೂತನಾಳ ಕೆರೆ Vijayapura, Karnataka, India. “Adult, Unknown sex.”

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Politics

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

“Constitutional Courage” [Timothy Snyder, Thinking About…]. ” An insurrectionist, Donald Trump, purports to be running for president, although the Constitution forbids this. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment frankly disqualifies anyone who has taken part in an insurrection, or given aid and comfort to insurrectionists…. The authors of Section Three anticipated just such a frightful situation. An insurrectionist who swears an oath and violates it has done something terrible. He will have allies who have tasted tyranny and liked it…. Yet Americans who should know better are choosing fear over the Constitution, finding excuses to ignore what it says. Indeed, they are choosing to fear the Constitution. Far too many politicians and other media commentators respond to our present situation — a real insurrectionist who has tried to overthrow the Constitution while in office, a real Constitutional ban on insurrectionists running for office a second time — by saying that it is the Constitution that must yield. Their slogan is: ‘let the voters decide.’ That is to say: in the case of Trump, and Trump alone, let us simply overlook what the Constitution says.’ … The exceptionalism reeks of fear. In no other case do we wish away the qualifications for office. There will be thousands and thousands of contested elections in the United States in November 2024. With respect to only one of them are people saying that legal qualifications for office do not matter.” • The alternative, I suppose, being to have a combinatorial explosion of party members in different states and branches of government, using different standards of evidence and burdens of proof, disqualifying their political opponents from the ballot. Even granting Snyder’s reading of Section Three and his assumptions, it’s not a pretty sight either way.

“Disqualifying Trump Is Not Antidemocratic” [Adam Serwer, The Atlantic]. “[New York] Times legal reporter Charlie Savage described the ruling as pitting ‘one fundamental value against another: giving voters in a democracy the right to pick their leaders versus ensuring that no one is above the law.’ This argument is simple and intuitive: People should get to vote for whomever they want to vote for. [But] democracy is not simply voting; it includes limits on how and under what circumstances political power can be disputed and wielded so that democracy itself can survive from generation to generation. For this reason, democratic constitutions have counter-majoritarian limits; in fact, democracies cannot function without durable rules that set guidelines for contesting political power. That is the entire purpose of a written constitution, to place certain rights and principles outside the back-and-forth of normal political competition. Americans generally accept that these rules cannot be altered except through the formal process for doing so—constitutional amendment—and so, until that happens, democratic competition takes place within the lines that have been previously agreed upon. It is not somehow more democratic to pretend those rules don’t exist if they fall out of fashion with one side. The prospect of allowing Trump on the ballot is not itself so dire, but doing so demands disregarding the rule of law on Trump’s behalf simply because of who he is.” • Funny to see this “counter-majoritarian” argument popping up in multiple places. It’s almost like Democrats are preparing the ground for the day after they lose the popular vote….

“Section Three And Constitutional Democracy?” [Vermillion Plain Talk]. “Some provisions of the original Constitution, including protection for slavery and denial to women of the right to vote, for example, were clearly undemocratic but, over time, were amended out of the Constitution, as the American people came to recognize the cruelty and arbitrariness of those provisions that reflected anachronistic values of another age. But other provisions that seem undemocratic — Article II criteria for presidential eligibility, the Impeachment Clause, the Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment and the 22nd Amendment — because they impose limits on the choices of voters, have retained their vitality and relevance in an age marked by grave constitutional challenges. These voter-limiting provisions serve the greater interest of the nation — the necessity of preserving our constitutional democracy.”

The Constitutional Order

2024

Less than a year to go!

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“The Hackery of Judge Florence Pan” [Julie Kelly]. “A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia—Biden appointees Florence Pan and Michelle Childs and George H. W. Bush appointee Karen Henderson—heard oral arguments for Donald Trump’s appeal of a lower court decision that concluded presidents are not immune from criminal prosecution for their conduct in office. The appeal originated out of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s four-count indictment against the former president related to the events of January…. The debate involved two competing, and untested, views: Team Trump argues impeachment and conviction by Congress is the Constitutionally mandated way to handle criminal conduct by a president while Smith and Chutkan argue that being president does not confer a ‘get-out-of-jail-free pass,’ as Chutkan wrote in her opinion. John Sauer, one of the attorneys representing the former president, was barely one minute into his opening statement before Pan cut him off. Sauer presented a few examples of former presidents who engaged in presumably prosecutable conduct in office—George W. Bush lying about the pretext of the Iraq War and Barack Obama authorizing drone strikes that resulted in the killing of Americans overseas—which prompted Pan to concoct her own hypotheticals. Calling impeachment ‘a cumbersome process that requires the actions of a whole branch of government that has a lot of different people involved’—no duh—Pan asked Sauer if selling pardons or military secrets would prevent a president from criminal prosecution. As Sauer tried to answer, Pan presented her made-for-cable-news clickbait: ‘Could a president order Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival? That’s an official act, an order to Seal Team Six?’ She quickly interrupted Sauer—a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and solicitor general for the state of Missouri—as he pointed out that such an order would result in immediate impeachment and conviction.” • “[A] whole branch of government that has a lot of different people involved” is inane. Huh? Did Pan ever work for Pelosi?

“Election Countdown: 300 Days to Go” [James Fallows, Breaking the News]. Fallows urges that you listen to the audio, which is here. “The arguments concerned Donald Trump’s effort to dismiss charges from the January 6 insurrection, on grounds that he was immune from prosecution for any presidential acts. The drama in this discussion started early, when Judge Florence Pan asked Trump’s representative, D. John Sauer, about the implications of this argument. I stress that this was genuine intellectual drama, rather than histrionics. The judge’s questions were relentless but her tone was low-key and calm. Most news reports today involve the vivid hypothetical question that Sauer could not answer. You can hear it starting at time 8:00 of this audio-only C-Span version. Judge Pan asks, “Could a president order Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? As an official act, an order to Seal Team 6?” Sauer keeps talking after that, but he has nothing left to say…. One other note about Sauer’s performance. Some members of Trump’s ever-shifting legal defense teams have been grifters or incompetents. By contrast D. John Sauer’s background is as august as you could find. And still he put himself in a position to make arguments that will forever be ridiculed—the lawyers’ counterpart of the ‘Rose Mary stretch.’” • I have to say I remain unconvinced by Pan’s rhetorical question. The question is not the action, but who does the convicting for it. Take the example of George W. Bush. His program of warrantless surveillance was clearly felonious. Congress granted him retroactive immunity for it; in other words, did not impeach him. To take Pan’s example, and a beloved one among Baude and Paulsen adherents: Suppose the political rival had been Jefferson Davis? Wouldn’t that have been a good clean kill? Of the two options, conviction through the executive branch, and conviction by impeachment, I prefer conviction by impeachment.

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“Trump’s $370M civil fraud trial is nearing an end. Here’s what to know” [ABC]. “After hearing 11 weeks of testimony, a judge on Thursday will hear closing arguments in a court case that could dismantle former President Donald Trump’s New York-based business empire. The final decision in Trump’s civil fraud trial — which Judge Arthur Engoron is expected to issue later this month — could not only cost Trump hundreds of millions of dollars but also bar him from the New York real estate industry that propelled him to stardom and, later, the U.S. presidency. Resting her case after presenting more than two dozen witnesses, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged that Trump, his adult sons, and his top deputies inflated the assets listed in his annual financial statement, known as a statement of financial condition or SFC. The statements gave Trump’s lenders a false sense of confidence about doing business with him, which led them to offer Trump more favorable interest rates than he would have otherwise received, James alleged… ‘There was no bank that brought any claims against anybody that is a defendant in this case, because there was no damage and there was no victim,’ Trump’s legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, said during the trial. Testifying as a witness during the state’s case, Trump assailed Engoron’s finding that Trump valued his Mar-a-Lago resort at roughly $18 million for tax purposes while listing it in his financial statement at more than $612 million. ‘The fraud is on the Court, not on me, when you rule that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million. I could give you a quarter of a tennis court would be worth that,’ Trump testified.” • Jake, it’s New York real estate.

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“Donald Trump enjoys a relaxed Fox News town hall while top Republican rivals have fiery debate” [Associated Press]. “When asked about his previous statements that a second term as president would be about retribution for his enemies, Trump said he wouldn’t have time for it. ‘The ultimate retribution,’ he said, ‘is success.’” • Served cold.

“Trump blames Biden’s ‘weak’ presidency for Ukraine war, Hamas attack in Israel” [Anadolu Agency]. “‘It would have never happened in Ukraine. Russia would have never gone in, would have never happened. The recent attack on Israel would have never happened,’ Trump said during a Fox News town hall. ‘They see a weak president (Biden) in our country,’ he said. ‘And they did something that was unthinkable. .’” • I think sentence [2] has great appearl, and only Trump can say it. Sentence [1], though… A country that can’t even manage to manufacture its own ammunition has issues that go beyond the Oval Office.

“Trump Suggests He’s Picked Vice Presidential Running Mate: ‘I Know Who It’s Going To Be’” [Forbes] • What a showman. Scorps! Yo, Scorps! Over here!

“Polls show Latinos back Trump over Biden in 2024. And immigration isn’t the reason” [USA Today]. “Democratic pollsters have long anticipated that the Latino population bomb would mean huge gains for Democrats and a realignment in our national politics. But demography alone is not destiny…. Both the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll and the CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that Trump has a 5-point lead with Latino voters. This was not the direction the wags expected nascent Latino voters to lead the country – toward the champion of disaffected white America, to the man who promised to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it…. One of the strange twists in U.S. politics has been the remaking of the GOP from the party of the corporate executive in the 1980s to the party of the Americans who drive nails. Donald Trump’s Republican Party is decidedly more working class, and that has drawn especially Latino men. ‘Latinos tended to favor Democratic presidential candidates over Republican ones, but Latino men surprised pundits by more strongly supporting Donald Trump in 2020 than was expected based on his 2016 showing,’ University of Arizona political scientist Lisa M. Sanchez said in a Q&A with UA News. ‘Is there a Latino agenda? It is a myth that the top issue for the majority of Latinos is immigration policy. The top issue for Latinos is usually the economy. In fact, research suggests that the Latino agenda looks a lot like the agendas of any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S.’… To quote the indelicate phrase from the ‘90s: It’s the economy, stupid. In 2024, Latinos are likely to be concerned with issues of massive inflation, stagnant wages and soaring healthcare costs – all economic in nature.’”

“Trump critic Chris Christie exits 2024 US presidential race” [France24]. “Since launching his bid in June, Christie has been a staple on cable news shows offering withering critiques of Trump, calling him unfit for office and arguing that he was morally responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. While the broadsides earned Christie a sliver of support among Republicans wanting to move in a new direction, Trump’s tight grip on the party’s most active members meant Christie never rose above low single digits in national polls. His departure eliminates the most vocal Trump antagonist from the race, although Haley, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, has grown increasingly critical of Trump in recent months.” • Oh well…

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“The Biden Box” [The American Prospect]. “So is nothing to be done other than explore the rules for emigrating to Canada? We can’t take 20 years off Biden, but there are actually several things to be done. For starters, as Obama suggested, Biden needs a campaign team that is not the same as his top White House staffers. Second, he needs to stop touting his economic successes and make the campaign about Trump. His Valley Forge speech was a good start. I thought the Charleston speech, aimed at rallying the Black vote, was less effective because it lacked Obama’s touch at uniting Black and white voters. The “cease-fire now” interruptions were a reminder that there is more than one way to depress the Black vote. Third, Biden needs to end the two wars that are dragging down his credibility as a leader. Netanyahu (who would rather have Trump) is making a fool out of Biden. The U.S. needs to use its leverage to set explicit humanitarian conditions and move Israel to an early cease-fire and peace plan. Even the most pro-Israel Jewish voters (and donors) are fed up. There is also a deal to be had to end the Ukraine War. The deal is some land in exchange for a cease-fire and NATO guarantees of Ukrainian sovereignty. Biden will always be an aging leader who is at risk when he is off-script. But at least he can be a better version of himself.” • Biden believes in his two wars, especially Israel’s war. And there’s only a deal to be had to end the war in Ukraine if (a) Russia believes the US is a “agreement-capable,” and (b) if Russia has achieved its war aims. Both are unlikely. In any case, why would Putin want to help re-elect Biden?

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“Republicans push ahead with Hunter Biden contempt charge after surprise visit to Capitol Hill” [Associated Press]. “The House Oversight and Judiciary committees each passed contempt charges against the younger Biden with unanimous Republican support and all Democrats opposed. The action sets up a House vote on recommending criminal charges against a member of President Joe Biden’s family as the GOP moves into the final stages of an impeachment inquiry into the president himself. If the House votes to hold Hunter Biden in contempt, it will be up to the Department of Justice, specifically the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, to decide whether to prosecute.” • Ridiculous to see supposedly serious legislators voting in favor of a stunt.

“Why Hunter Biden showed up at the Capitol” [Axios]. “Hunter’s team didn’t loop in White House aides about his plans [or so they say] — the latest example of the president’s son taking control of his legal defense, three people familiar with the matter told Axios. Hunter’s sudden appearance with attorney Abbe Lowell created a nationally televised frenzy at the Capitol at a time when Republicans have targeted Hunter’s foreign business dealings as part of an impeachment inquiry into his father. Hunter went through a lengthy prep for Wednesday’s hearing [or so they say] just in case House Republicans decided they wanted him to testify publicly, according to two of the sources who spoke with Axios.” • I guess it does make sense to do prep in case the Republican’s called Hunter’s bluff — Dear Hunter! — but come on. You don’t just show up at a Congressional hearing!

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“Cenk Uygur Fights the Natural-Born Citizen Restriction” [American Prospect]. “There is a hearing this morning before the U.S. district court in Columbia, South Carolina, based on a complaint Uygur filed that seeks an injunction against the decision to take his name off the ballot for the February 3 Democratic primary. The South Carolina Democratic Party rejected Uygur’s bid to make the primary ballot—without refunding him the $20,000 filing fee—based on a reading of Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution, which says that only ‘natural born citizens’ are allowed to serve in the office of the presidency. Uygur argues that the denial of his petition for placement on the ballot violates a separate part of the Constitution: Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which states that ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States’ are citizens, and that ‘No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ In the reading of Uygur and his team, this overrides the Article II restriction on naturalized citizens to become president.’” Interesting idea! Also: “Six states have let Uygur onto the ballot.”

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“Big 2024 Presidential Election Changes Are Leaving Voters Baffled” [Wall Street Journal]. “Iowa Republicans on Monday will caucus to choose a presidential candidate, but Democrats will start to vote by mail and wait weeks for results. In New Hampshire the following week, both parties will cast primary ballots, but the Democrats’ votes will be purely symbolic.

And then in early February, Nevada Republicans can vote in two contests: a caucus without all the GOP candidates, and a primary where results won’t count toward the nomination.

For that confusion, voters can thank allies of President Biden and former President Donald Trump, who have pushed for changes to the calendar to boost their candidates’ nomination prospects and make it harder for challengers…. On the Democratic side, Biden personally asked that South Carolina replace Iowa as the party’s first nominating contest. The state saved his struggling 2020 primary campaign after he performed poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. For Republicans, the Trump campaign said it helped influence party officials in some states, including California, to change their rules so the former president can accumulate delegates more quickly. In Nevada, party officials close to Trump opted to award delegates through a caucus instead of the state-mandated primary because, they said, its in-person format mitigates election-security concerns. Critics said voters would be confused and Trump will benefit because the type of engaged voters who support Trump also favor in-person caucuses.”

MN: “Rep. Ilhan Omar to report raising $1.6 million in Q4” [Axios]. “The latest raise, which matches her total contributions from the first nine months of the year, was fueled by about 47,000 individual donations, the campaign told Axios. About 98% of those were under $200. The three-term member of Congress is one of several House Democrats affiliated with the ‘Squad’ to attract a serious primary challenger following their criticism of Israel’s actions in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.” • I’d love to see Ilhan beat AIPAC.

NV: “Counties remind Nevadans: Trump didn’t file for presidential primary, so he won’t be on ballot” [News from the States].

Democrats en Déshabillé

“Judge orders Democrats at the Colorado Capitol to stop using secret voting system to allocate state budget” [Colorado Sun]. “Denver District Court Judge David Goldberg ruled that the secret system — quadratic voting — doesn’t comply with the state’s open meetings laws, which prohibit government bodies from taking formal action by secret ballot…. Democrats began using quadratic voting in 2019, as reported at the time by The Colorado Sun. The process applied an obscure economic theory to the challenge of prioritizing budget requests, essentially turning the caucus’ decision-making process into a market. Lawmakers received an allocation of vote tokens to ‘spend’ on programs they cared about most. But the lawsuit argued that not only did the system violate public transparency laws, it was ‘purposefully constructed to conceal information the public is entitled to know.’ The caucus hired a third-party contractor to conduct the vote and keep the ballots anonymous through an electronic voting system…. Lawmakers contended in court that the voting system wasn’t a ‘secret ballot’ because the quadratic voting didn’t constitute an official action of the legislature. The appropriations bills still had to go through public hearings, debates and votes to be adopted into law. Goldberg disagreed. ‘Adopting a proposed position through anonymous voting is precisely the reason why the General Assembly amended (the open meetings law) to prohibit secret ballots,’ he wrote.” Electronic voting. Of course.

“Democrats! Time to Re-Embrace Merit, Free Speech, and Universalism” [Ruy Teixeira, The Liberal Patriot]. “Most voters, especially working-class voters, think racial preferences are not fair and fairness is a fundamental part of their world outlook. They actually believe, with Martin Luther King Jr., that people should ‘not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ In a recent University of California Dornsife survey, this classic statement of colorblind equality was posed to respondents: “Our goal as a society should be to treat all people the same without regard to the color of their skin”. This MLK-style statement elicited sky-high (92 percent) agreement from the public, despite the assaults on this idea from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and large sectors of the Democratic left. In a fascinating related finding, the researchers found that most people who claim to have heard about CRT believe CRT includes this colorblind perspective, rather than directly contradicting it. Perhaps they just can’t believe any theory that has anything to do with race would reject this fundamental principle.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“American Gerontocracy, Explained” [Crooked Timber]. “My claim is that a confluence of largely unrelated factors will cause generational conflict to become a central cleavage in US politics in the 2020s. This means holding fixed the time Period of analysis and treating Age (there are a lot of old people) and Cohort (those old people are Baby Boomers) as two distinct types of causes of the present generational conflict…. This conflict has a zero-sum dimension, as younger and older generations jostle over a fixed fiscal budget, with mutually exclusive preferences…. But in another important sense, the tension between Boomer Ballast and the internet revolution is negative-sum, and potentially even more concerning for the viability of the United States as a system…. Our society is like a sluggish laptop with too many browser tabs open, too many resources devoted to maintaining things as they are, to be able to do new things quickly…. [A] fully armed and operational internet/social media/smartphone stack, deployed to the majority of humans in under a decade, is reshaping societies, economies, cultures, families. But because this “freedom” comes without increased capacities, it produces mostly meaninglessness, alienation and vitriol. And Boomer Ballast makes the problem much worse.” • I dunno….

#COVID19

“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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Look for the Helpers

Counting particles! Really small ones! Including aerosols!

Respirator test at 5:48.

Another open source project:

Media

Deborah Birx: Understanding COVID response failures critical for future” [Chris Cuomo, NewsNation]. • Cuomo has Long Covid; his Covid coverage improved. One infection at a time…

“Orf vs. the Memory Hole: The Heartless Shaming Campaigns of Covid-19” (paywall) [Matt Taibbi, Racket News]. “I’m recovering from a particularly violent bout of Covid-19, so perhaps as a vaccinated person I’m a bit frostier on the subject than one might normally be, but [Racket’s Matt Orfalea] has put together a clip I hope future historians will bother to review. It’s now clear one of the biggest, if not the biggest single sources of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic was Fauci himself. Incidentally, as Dr. Jay Bhattacharya just noted, Fauci just admitted the six-foot social distancing rule ‘just sort of appeared,’ and was likely not based on any data. So there’s that.” • The remainder of Taibbi’s no doubt penetrating remarks is hidden behind a paywall. I’m not really happy with Taibbi normalizing psycho eugenicists like “Dr.” Jay Bhattacharya (he being an economist, not a medical doctor). I’m even less happy with ‘just sort of appeared,’ not because Fauci isn’t a loathesome gremlin and a skillful liar, he totally is, but because “just sort of appeared” is, in fact one of Fauci’s lies, though without a transcript — not yet public, Taibbi sourced to a tweet — we can’t be completely sure of the the context. If you think for a moment, you will see that anybody who believes in droplet dogma must believe that by the laws of ballistics, droplets will fall within a certain radius of the emitter (unlike aerosols, which float like smoke). Hence social distance. See this article on droplet dogma from Wired, covering how Linsey Marr and Jose-Luis Jimenez tracked down the history of the science. First, social distancing didn’t “appear.” It was actively propagated by CDC and WHO. Second, the science is at best questionable: “[S]ocial distancing guideline seemed to be based on a few studies from the 1930s and ’40s.” Third, aerosol transmission, which necessarily de-emphasizes social distancing, is being and has been fought tooth and nail at both CDC and WHO by the public health establishment. Shorter: Fauci’s lying about “just sort of appeared,” too, and while I love Taibbi’s reporting on Iowa, in Covid he’s either too infatuated by GBD goons like Bhattacharya, not interested in running down the story, or — heaven forfend — suffering from loss of executive function.

Sequelae

“Incidence of persistent SARS-CoV-2 gut infection in patients with a history of COVID-19: Insights from endoscopic examination” [Endoscopy International Open]. N = 166. “Gut infection is common during acute COVID-19, and persistent SARS-CoV-2 gut infection has been reported months after the initial infection, potentially linked to long-COVID syndrome. This study tested the incidence of persistent gut infection in patients with a history of COVID-19 undergoing endoscopic examination…. Gut mucosal tissues can act as a long-term reservoir for SARS-CoV-2, retaining viral particles for months following the primary COVID-19 infection. Smokers and individuals with diabetes may be at an increased risk of persistent viral gut infection.”

Elite Maleficence

Somebody put Mandy on a milk carton:

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, January 9:

Lambert here #1: 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 superspreading events 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 #2: 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).

Lambert here #3: Slight decrease in slope, due to the Northeast and the West (unless it’s a data issue). Personally, I wouldn’t call a peak, based entirely on the anecdotes I’m scrolling through, which are not encouraging, particularly with regard to the schools. Very unscientific, I agree! Let’s wait and see. Note that I don’t accept the PMC “homework” model, whose most famous exponent is Sociopath of the Day Bob Wachter, where you adjust your behavior according to multiple sources of (horrible, gappy, lagged) data about infection levels (ignoring “risk of ruin”). Just stick with your protocol day in and day out, my advice. K.I.S.S. However, tracking these trends, besides having intrinsic interest, is pragmatically useful for major decisions, like travel, cruises (surely not, readers), relocation, family events, communication with recalcitrant HCWs, etc.

Regional data:

Regional bifurcation continues. The slope of the curve in the Northeast got less steep, which is good news (although, as ever, Biobot data is subject to backward revision).

The MWRA, January 8:

MWRA is down, but I’m guessing that’s because the students aren’t back. (Spring semester begins at BU January 12; Harvard, January 22.) OTOH, students return to Boston public schools January 3.)

Variants

NOT UPDATED 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, January 6:

Lambert: Down, but New Year’s reporting?

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.

Hospitalization

Bellwether New York City, data as of January 11:

Lambert here: Very slight decrease. Note that NYC data only lags by a day.

NOT UPDATED 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?

Positivity

NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, January 8:

0.5%. 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, January 6:

Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 18:

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 18:

Note the chart has been revised to reflect that JN.1 is BA.2.86.1 (the numbers “roll over”).

Deaths

NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 30:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised value to 202,000 on the period ending January 6th, well below market expectations of 210,000. In the meantime, continuing claims fell by 34,000 to 1,834,000 on the earlier week, also below market expectations of 1,871,000.”

Inflation: “United States Core Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual core consumer price inflation rate in the United States, which excludes volatile items such as food and energy, eased to a 2-1/2-year low of 3.9% in December 2023, down from 4% in the prior month and just above market forecasts of 3.8%.”

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Manufacturing: “FAA launches probe of Boeing following door plug incident” [ABC]. “The Federal Aviation Administration said it is conducting an investigation of Boeing after a defective door plug fell out of an Alaska Airlines plane last week, forcing an emergency landing. ‘This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again,’ the FAA said in a statement, noting it has formally notified Boeing of the probe…. The FAA said its investigation will ‘determine if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations.’ The Boeing probe is a result of the door plug incident and ‘additional discrepancies,’ the FAA said. ‘Boeing’s manufacturing practices need to comply with the high safety standards they’re legally accountable to meet,’ the agency said.” • Speaks will of Mayo Pete that he isn’t grandstanding this.

Enshittification: Remember the “sharing economy”?


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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 74 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 73 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 11 at 1:27:12 PM ET.

Class Warfare

“The Cannabis Industry and Labor Unions” [On Labor]. “[T]he market for recreational cannabis products continues to gain traction, cannabis workers across the country are unionizing. These organizing drives have brought to light the ways in which, to its workers, the cannabis industry is not all that its consumer brand would suggest. This organizing has also illustrated how unions and labor law can be powerful countervailing forces when employers do not treat their workers well…. There are three sectors of the cannabis industry. First, agricultural workers grow cannabis; then, processing workers turn raw cannabis into products for sale; finally, retail workers sell the products at dispensaries. All three sectors can be challenging places to work. The cannabis cultivation sector, for starters, involves the sort of commercial agricultural work that is notoriously dangerous, demanding, and low paying in the United States. And the processing of cannabis material, too, can place workers at grave risk. In one case, constant exposure to air filled with cannabis dust caused a woman to develop asthma within months of working at a cannabis cultivation and processing facility. Tragically, in January of 2022, the 27-year-old woman suffered a fatal heart attack at her workstation because of an asthma attack. The retail segment of the industry is also earning a bad reputation among some workers. Many ‘budtenders’ (cannabis salesclerks) report encountering disorganized management, unpredictable scheduling, and toxic or even abusive bosses. As the aforementioned cannabis CEO acknowledged, the industry ‘doesn’t necessarily have a good track record of treating employees very well.’ In a striking illustration of the disillusionment that many workers feel, 55 percent of budtenders leave their dispensary jobs within 12 months.”

News of the Wired

I am not feeling wired today. Perhaps tomorrow!

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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 Desert Dog:

Desert Dog writes: “When the Sharp-tailed Grouse come through they always send a lookout up in the tree so the hungry fox and coyotes dont get ‘em.”

• Kind readers, I think I’m OK on plants for awhile, though it never hurts to have more!

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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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