2:00PM Water Cooler 1/23/2024 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this Water Cooler is a little bit light; household matters compelled my attention. Certinaly more tomorrow, after New Hampshire! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Pine Siskin, Wellington, Ontario, Canada. “Birds “hanging out” at the feeder, staying in the trees, then flying away just to come back again for a bit, feeding at the feeder, chirping in the trees.”

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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

The Constitutional Order

“Mass. State Ballot Law Commission dismisses challenges to Donald Trump’s eligibility” [CBS]. “The State Ballot Law Commission met last week to consider objections to Trump appearing on the Massachusetts primary election ballot. On Monday, a judge dismissed the challenge to Trump appearing on the ballot saying there is a lack of jurisdiction.” • So, another type of body, besides the legislative and judicial branches: A Commission. The decision will be appealed.


Less than a year to go!

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Trump (R): “Donald Trump has a big problem ahead” [Politico]. “There’s a whole swath of the Republican electorate and a good chunk of independents who appear firmly committed to not voting for him in November if he becomes the nominee…. Trump is not making his pitch to voters as a first time candidate. He is a known quantity who is being judged by the electorate not for the conduct of his current campaign so much as his time in office. And that, political veterans warn, makes it much harder for him to win back the people he’s alienated, including those once willing to vote Republican… The data supports the idea that there are problems ahead for the former president. Even before the Iowa survey, a New York Times/Siena College poll found that — including independents who say they lean toward one party over the other — Biden had slightly more support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (91 percent) than Trump did among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents (86 percent)… [I]t could be enough to tip the scales for Democrats. At a minimum, it is a major liability for the GOP should the party, as expected, push Trump through as its nominee.”

Trump (R): “Senate GOP fears drop in Trump enthusiasm, energy” [The Hill]. “GOP senators say there is less enthusiasm for former President Trump among Republican-leaning voters compared to 2016, a drop in voter energy that was apparent when only 15 percent of Iowa’s registered Republicans showed up for Monday’s caucuses. Lawmakers acknowledge the weather was a factor behind the low turnout in Iowa but point to other signs of diminished enthusiasm for Trump, something that could hurt down-ballot Republican candidates in swing states…. A Colby College poll released Friday, for example, showed rural voters, one of Trump’s core constituencies, aren’t that excited about his candidacy. Nearly a third of rural voters said their vote for Trump was really a vote against Biden and just more than half of them said they are ‘very happy’ with him as the GOP nominee.”

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Latest extremely spontaneous line of attack:

“Trump’s Gaffes and Slurring This Weekend Should Be Leading Every Newscast — Why Aren’t They?” [Mediaite]. “Trump will be 78 when voters take to the polls in November. While he has mostly been sharp and lucid during rallies and friendly media appearances, this past weekend told a different story. The former president made a series of flubs and missteps that serious minds should want to know more about. And yet, his stumbles are barely getting covered on cable news.” For example: “‘You know, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, you know they– do you know they destroyed all of the information and all of the evidence?’ Trump told a crowd. ‘Everything. Deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it because of, lots of things. Like, Nikki Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people.’” • Pelosi, surely.

“Sununu says Trump has ‘no energy’: ‘He can barely read a teleprompter’” [The HIll]. “‘It’s really about the energy of that campaign. Trump has no energy — the guy can barely read a teleprompter right now. All the wind is behind … Nikki’s sails. So I just think the sky’s the limit,’ Sununu added.” • Sununu endorsed Haley.

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Trump (R): “Appeals court declines further review of Trump Jan. 6 gag order” [The Hill]. “A federal appeals court declined an effort Tuesday by former President Trump to have his challenge to a gag order in his election interference case heard by the full court, teeing up a likely Supreme Court battle over restrictions to his speech. A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals had largely upheld a lower court ruling restricting Trump’s speech in the case. That decision largely affirmed a prior ruling from Judge Tanya Chutkan, who barred Trump from making statements that ‘target’ foreseeable witnesses, court staff and prosecutors…. The D.C. Circuit’s refusal to rehear the case is likely to bring the issue to the Supreme Court next. Trump could petition the justices to review the gag order and also ask them to put it on hold in the meantime.”

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Trump (R): “Trump’s biggest rival ends presidential campaign with quote Churchill never said” [Metro]. “Ron DeSantis announced he was suspending his presidential campaign in an X (formerly Twitter) post on Sunday in which he quoted the most famous British prime minister of the 20th century. ‘Winston Churchill once remarked that, ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” said DeSantis near the end of a more than four-and-a-half minute long video message…. But the prime minister never said those words, according to the International Churchill Society. ‘We base this on careful research in the canon of fifty million words by and about Churchill, including all of his books, articles, speeches and papers,’ said the society in response to a 2013 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution using the same quote.” • Terrible staffwork.

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Phillips (D): “In Long-Shot Challenge to Biden, Dean Phillips Goes Where Few Democrats Dare” [Wall Street Journal]. “The party, Phillips says, is sleepwalking into disaster by renominating the oldest and by some measures most unpopular incumbent in history. Yet his colleagues’ response to this clarion call hasn’t exactly been one of gratitude, and he has struggled to get the attention of voters. He hopes to change that in Tuesday’s New Hampshire presidential primary, when he will be on the ballot and President Biden will not….Phillips hopes that he can vault into contention by getting a significant share of Tuesday’s vote, which he defines as a percentage in the “mid-20s.” Polling is challenging given the race’s unusual dimensions. Recent surveys have shown Phillips, who has poured millions of his personal fortune into the effort, notching as little as 6% to as much as 28% of the Democratic vote. (Nationally, he is little-known, barely registering in single digits in surveys in which he has been included.) The ballot will also feature more than a dozen lesser-known aspirants and the self-help author Marianne Williamson, but not Camelot scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who dropped out of the Democratic primary in October to run as an independent instead.”

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NH: “When we expect to get New Hampshire primary results” [WaPo]. “Polls in the state start to close at 7 p.m. Eastern, with the last closing at 8 p.m…. The larger set of GOP results in 2020 were first reported around 7:30 p.m. Eastern, moments after the first polls closed. Vote tabulations during that primary night ended around 1:15 a.m. Eastern…. Getting the results of the Democratic primary may take a little longer than the Republican race [because of the write-ins].

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“Inside the fallout from Biden’s decision to upend the Democratic primary calendar” [MSNBC]. “Along with putting South Carolina at the front of the line, the DNC committee also allowed Nevada, Michigan and Georgia in the early window. While Republican officials in Georgia blocked the plan to move up that state’s primary date, the rest of the changes still meant a massive influx of voters of color into the Democrats’ primary process. Biden and other Democrats believe this more diverse electorate will select presidential candidates with wider appeal and give the party an edge in future races.” • Another way of saying this is that Clyburn’s machine in South Carolina gave us Obama, Clinton, and Biden, which is what the party grandees want.

Democrats en Déshabillé

“It’s Not Just Biden” [Joe Klein, Sanity Clause]. “the Republican base is about ideology and the Democratic base is about identity. The Republicans are coherent, even if the ideology is a repulsive right-wing populism. The Democrats are an amalgam of identity groups, with varying agendas and beliefs. You can aim a message at black activists—on say, reparations, as the ever-foolish Jamaal Bowman did this week—and a fair number of Latinos will be turned off. You can try to stroke Latino activists on immigration, and a fair number of blacks—to say nothing of middle-class Latinos (and the rest of us, for that matter)—will wonder why on earth you can’t act to shut down the southern border…. The Democrats’ ethnicity problems have multiplied in recent years as the identity groups have become more complicated. There is a black middle and professional class now; it holds different views from academic blackdom and from the black underclass. It was middle- and working-class blacks, angry about crime, who elected Eric Adams over the lawyerly MSNBC darling Maya Wiley for mayor of New York…. This has been a disaster for Democrats. They made a terrible mistake emphasizing identity over community fifty years ago. It was one of the great flubs in American political history. And now the coalition is fraying, for the very best of reasons. The “protected” groups are assimilating into the American mainstream (often to the dismay of the activists like Ibram X. Kendi, who would be forced to look for honest work absent his imagined apocalypse of grievance). There are multiple black and Latino agendas now; the most important have nothing to do with identity—but with education, crime and inflation.” • Universal concrete material benefits….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“If you want to understand modern politics, you have to understand modern fandom” [Vox]. “It’s a common observation that modern-day politics increasingly resembles fandom: Both feature communities created around and united by passion, and both are often heavily fixated on a single public figure…. That communal narrative is crucial connective tissue between politics and fandom; it unites people around not just a shared sense of identity, but a shared story and the idea that they’re building that story together. These narratives aren’t just entertainment. To their proponents, they have a higher moral purpose…. Trump’s political rise coincides with a specific substrain of intense celebrity fandom that emerged in the new millennium. The ‘stan,’ sometimes referred to collectively as ‘standom,’ is an ironic term borrowed from Eminem’s 2000 song ‘Stan,’ about a stalker fan whose obsession goes too far. The concept of ‘stanning’ was hugely shaped by Twitter’s ability to allow fans to follow their faves in real time, commune with other fans, and even talk directly to the creators they stanned. It hardly seems coincidental that during the era when celebrities and pop stars became more immediately interactive with their fanbases, Trump successfully styled himself not as a politician, but as a celebrity who deigned to do politics just to satisfy his long-suffering fans. By pretending that he didn’t need politics but politics needed him, Trump established the idea that his political participation was not self-serving, but rather a conduit for the frustrations of his followers. From the outset, he presented himself as a vessel for their beliefs. As one Trump supporter recently told MSNBC’s Garrett Haake, ‘When Trump is facing all these things, he’s doing it for us in our place.’”Making Trump a Christ-like figure, I suppose. More: “But the idea of Trump as a conduit works both ways. If you wanted to see political change, you couldn’t just vote for Trump; you had to transfer your emotional investment from politics at large onto him individually. You had to stan him.” • Interesting, though surely the first contemporary example of the political stan was the Obot? Also, is it possible to stan for a symbol?


“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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Covid is Airborne

If we could see Covid:


Good news (!!):

HICPAC and FACA at NC here and here, coverage that in part inspired this complaint to the HHS Inspector General for “gross misconduct.” I assume that “expanded” “technical backgrounds” of participants means aerosol experts, at the very least — is it too much to ask for a mask manufacturer? — which could be good, but we will need to look at the actual proposed members very carefully (for example, Joseph Allen is sound on building ventilation, but opposes masks).



“Work From Home: A 21st Century Revolution” [World Health Network]. “The pandemic propelled Work From Home (WFH) into the mainstream as the risk of infection drove individuals, employers, and governments to adopt WFH when hospitalizations and deaths were skyrocketing. Office occupancy plummeted to 10-20%, and what had not previously been considered was now embraced—a monumental change in behavior. Although occupancies have since rebounded, current data shows that occupancy rates have only reached 50% and are declining in certain cities. This indicates that a fundamental shift in behavior is taking place for non-frontline workers. A major benefit of WFH continues to be avoiding Covid and other airborne infections that are commonly transmitted in poorly ventilated, shared-air environments found in many offices and transport. WFH also offers other advantages. These include reduced time, expenses, pollution, and energy consumption related to commuting; expanded availability of long distance work and for individuals with disabilities [7]; and increased flexibility of lifestyle and family responsibilities and less burnout.” • WFH might be one reason JN.1 was not a second Omnicron. Handy chart:

Elite Maleficence

“GRANT: Stop blaming people for the behaviour of a virus” [Toronto Sun]. “Buying into the delusion that somehow we can “win” this game, if only we try hard enough, will bring nothing but pain. . For the rest, we need to accept that we cannot change the virus or its behaviour and be kind to each other.” • Dr. Jennifer Grant is an infectious diseases physician and a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine.” An infectious disease physician knows — or at least says — nothing at all about non-pharmaceutical interventions. Four years into the pandemic. Why does she still have an academic post, let alone practice medicine?

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(If you want the full-size image, Command/CTRL-click on the thumbnail.)


[1] Even after a decline, we’re still higher than any of the surges under Trump.

[2] Sto;; decline in the Northeast!

[3] “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.

[4] “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.

[5] Decrease for the city aligns with wastewater data.

[6] “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†”.

[7] -0.7%. (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.)

[8] Lambert here: Percentage and absolute numbers down.

[9] Up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The composite manufacturing index in the US Fifth District area fell to -15 in January 2024, the lowest since February 2023, from -11 in December 2023, and much worse than forecasts of -7. The reading pointed to sluggish manufacturing activity in January….”

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Tech: “Mother of all breaches reveals 26 billion records: what we know so far” [Cybernews]. “There are data leaks, and then there’s this. A supermassive Mother of all Breaches (MOAB for short) includes records from thousands of meticulously compiled and reindexed leaks, breaches, and privately sold databases. The full and searchable list is included at the end of this article. Bob Dyachenko, cybersecurity researcher and owner at, together with the Cybernews team, has discovered billions upon billions of exposed records on an open instance whose owner is unlikely ever to be identified. According to the team, while the leaked dataset contains mostly information from past data breaches, it almost certainly holds new data, that was not published before. For example, the Cybernews data leak checker, which relies on data from all major data leaks, contains information from over 2,500 data breaches with 15 billion records. The MOAB contains 26 billion records over 3,800 folders, with each folder corresponding to a separate data breach. While this doesn’t mean that the difference between the two automatically translates to previously unpublished data, billions of new records point to a very high probability, the MOAB contains never seen before information.” And: “According to the team, the consumer impact of the supermassive MOAB could be unprecedented. Since many people reuse usernames and passwords, malicious actors could embark on a tsunami of credential-stuffing attacks.” • News you can use!

Tech: “China planning 1,600-core chips that use an entire wafer — similar to American company Cerebras ‘wafer-scale’ designs” [Tom’s Hardware]. “Scientists from the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences introduced an advanced 256-core multi-chiplet and have plans to scale the design up to 1,600-core chips that employ an entire wafer as one compute device. It is getting harder and harder to increase transistor density with every new generation of chips, so chipmakers are looking for other ways to increase performance of their processors, which includes architectural innovations, larger die sizes, multi-chiplet designs, and even wafer-scale chips.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 71 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 23 at 1:53:15 PM ET.

News of the Wired

“Is the Emergence of Life an Expected Phase Transition in the Evolving Universe?” [arXiv]. From the Abstract: “We propose a novel definition of life in terms of which its emergence in the universe is expected, and its ever-creative open-ended evolution is entailed by no law. Living organisms are Kantian Wholes that achieve Catalytic Closure, Constraint Closure, and Spatial Closure. We here unite for the first time two established mathematical theories, namely Collectively Autocatalytic Sets and the Theory of the Adjacent Possible. The former establishes that a first-order phase transition to molecular reproduction is expected in the chemical evolution of the universe where the diversity and complexity of molecules increases; the latter posits that, under loose hypotheses, if the system starts with a small number of beginning molecules, each of which can combine with copies of itself or other molecules to make new molecules, over time the number of kinds of molecules increases slowly but then explodes upward hyperbolically. Together these theories imply that life is expected as a phase transition in the evolving universe. The familiar distinction between software and hardware loses its meaning in living cells.” • Sounds neat. Wish I understood.

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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, lichen, 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 No Spam:

No Spam writes: “I heard the call for plants. This is a Garry oak, which may be a quercus Oregonia. On south Vancouver Island.”

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