By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Patient readers, I apologize that this Water Cooler is so light; I’ve had a tiring couple of days. But you can talk amongst yourselves! –lambert
Bird Song of the Day
Alpine Thrush, Dhap Kharka, Nepal.
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“Anti-Abortion ‘Abolitionists’ Want to Charge Abortion Patients Like Murderers Now” [Vice]. “Mainstream anti-abortion activists have long insisted they don’t want to punish people who get abortions. Now, that claim is being put to the test. Although many states are only a few weeks into their first state legislative sessions since Roe v. Wade was overturned, legislators in Arkansas and Oklahoma have already introduced bills that would punish abortion patients. In Alabama, the state’s attorney general initially said he could use a state law to punish people for ending their pregnancies, then tried to walk it back. These kinds of tactics are forcing anti-abortion activists to confront a long-simmering tension within their movement: What are they supposed to do with people who get abortions? Typically, abortion restrictions target providers, not patients. Within the anti-abortion movement, patients are treated like victims who have been bamboozled into ending their pregnancies by the predatory ‘abortion industry.’ But now that Roe is gone and states are proposing policies to legally treat fetuses like people, that may not hold water for much longer. ‘I think there are some people, and probably a fairly large group of people, for whom women’s innocence is conditional and they could be persuaded that it’s not real,’ said Mary Ziegler, a professor at the University of California, Davis, law school who studies the legal history of reproduction.”
“Veterans of the Obama-era debt ceiling standoff on the current one: We may be doomed” [Politico]. “[An economic adviser in the Obama White House, David] Kamin isn’t the only one struck by a foreboding sense of déjà vu. From the White House to Wall Street, a growing number of veterans of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis are again watching a story of bluster and brinkmanship play out — and are terrified this will be the time it ends with the country in financial ruin…. The parallels to the Obama-era stalemate are clear, as House Republican leaders vow to place restraints on a Democratic administration, while also trying to manage their troublesome conservative wing. But unlike in 2011, Republicans are preparing to stare down the White House with no clear consensus on what they want in exchange for keeping the U.S. financial system afloat. The prevailing principle, instead, appears to be extracting a degree of political pain for President Joe Biden. And perhaps most worryingly — Democrats, economists and even some Republicans say — there’s little confidence that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has the influence to successfully steer his conference away from the brink.” • Hmm. The whole article is weird, since although there’s a lot worry emanating from Obama veterans, the situation is also being gamed out, but the games are not described. If you believe that Obama’s hand held the dagger on the Biden document flap, you might well believe that Obama’s pulling the strings of these “veterans.” Perhaps to weaken Biden? To bring about, at long last, the “Grand Bargain”?
Fighting like hell (1):
President Biden announced in October that he was pardoning all people convicted of simple cannabis possession at the federal level.
111 days later, the Justice Department still hasn’t posted the application to obtain a pardon.
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) January 26, 2023
Fighting like hell (2):
Today, fewer families are facing foreclosure and eviction than before the pandemic.
People are starting to breathe just a little bit easier.
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 25, 2023
“Fewer.” “A little bit easier.” It’s like the Biden White House has settled on the “minimum viable bullet point” for all its communications to voters…
“OMG. Trump Has Started Texting.” [New York Times]. “The former president has long been constantly on his phone, but only to talk into it — or, before he was kicked off Twitter, to send streams of tweets. (The former aide who helped set up his Twitter account once told Politico that when Trump, who initially relied on aides to write his posts, began to tweet on his own, it was akin to the scene in the film “Jurassic Park” when the velociraptors learned to open doors.) For years, people corresponding with him sent him text messages, which always went unanswered. He was unreachable by email. He sometimes asked aides to send electronic messages to reporters, referring to the missives as ‘wires,’ like a telegram. Now his delayed embrace of what has long been a default mode of communication spanning generations signals not only a willingness to join in the world of LOLs and BRBs but also a small shift from his aversion to leaving paper or electronic trails. People who have worked for Trump in the White House and in his private business say he has prided himself on being “smart” for leaving almost no documentation of his communications and discussions in meetings. That included snatching notes being taken in real time by a junior legal associate in his offices in the 1990s, when Trump spotted the man scribbling, according to a consultant working for him then. Those who have witnessed firsthand his visceral aversion to record keeping said they were shocked to learn about his new electronic habit…. The fact that Trump is now sending texts has caused alarm among some of his associates, who are concerned about what he might say. Still, they have been relieved about another shift: His phone now sends calls that are not from numbers in his contacts to voicemail, according to two people familiar with the change. That shift occurred this month after an NBC reporter called Trump directly during Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s desperate fight to be elected speaker of the House. Trump picked up, giving a brief interview that created some political heartburn for Republicans. Still unclear is Trump’s position on emoji.” • I think Trump will be here for emoji, as he should be.
Democrats en Déshabillé
Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert
I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:
The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.
Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.
* * *
Realignment and Legitimacy
“To reclaim Ohioans’ historical power, First Energy’s corporate charter should be revoked” [Ohio Capital Journal (Carla)]. “The illegalities connected to FirstEnergy Corporation in its bribery scheme to pass House Bill 6 (HB 6) continue to surface, most recently its improper use of ratepayer money to fund dark money efforts totaling $70.9 million. Several individuals have already pleaded guilty for their role in the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history…. ndependent of further federal action and court cases against responsible individuals, Ohio Attorney General David Yost can and should commence charter revocation (called “quo warranto”) proceedings against FirstEnergy, a legal creation licensed in the state of Ohio as provided by Ohio Revised Code § 2733.02 to § 2733.39. Several Ohio groups are calling for this action, a process that would dissolve the company. Quo warranto is a legal proceeding challenging the continued right of an individual or corporation to possess governmental privilege, be it an office in the case of an individual or charter in the case of a corporation. Corporations should serve the public good. They receive their charter from the government, which grants them certain privileges and powers. Corporations found to break the law and do so with intent should not simply be fined, as FirstEnergy Corporation has been, but have their charters revoked or terminated. Every day we see that monetary fines do not change criminal corporate behavior. Revocation of corporate charter was once common in Ohio in response to corporations acting beyond their authority as defined in their corporate charters. Quo warranto proceedings were once used routinely as a democratic tool by Ohio legislatures and courts to affirm the sovereign power of We the People over corporations, which are, after all, creations of government. The most well-known quo warranto case in Ohio history involved the efforts to revoke the charter of the Standard Oil Company, the most powerful U.S. corporation of the time, for forming a trust… Charter revocation is seen by some as a ‘radical’ act when in reality it only follows a strong historical precedent already set in our state. The truly ‘radical’ act is a rogue corporation blatantly trampling on our democratic process.” • Very interesting!
Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.
I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful).
Stay safe out there!
“WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing – 24 January 2023” [WHO]. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s “Technical Lead” on Covid Response: “Too few people – especially older people and health workers – are adequately vaccinated. Too many people are behind on their boosters. For too many people, antivirals remain expensive and out of reach. And too many people don’t receive the right care.” • Amazing how Vax-only (plus, to be clear, treatment plus a handwave to healthcare here) has worked like a strange attractor for global elite opinion. They all converge on it. Even Xi. Read Van Kerkhove in full: There’s not a hint of (1) preventing transmission, nothing about (2) airborne, nothing about (3) ventilation, nothing about (4) a layered “Swiss Cheese” strategy. In other words, even though Van Kerkhove must know perfectly well that Davos attendees understood and acted upon (1)-(4), she has nothing to say about that in public. Don’t want to give the dull normals ideas, I suppose.
“Tonsils Are Major Sites Of Prolonged Sars-Cov-2 Infection in Children” [medRxiv]. n = 48. From the Abstract: “In the present study, we show that SARS-CoV-2 can infect palatine tonsils and adenoids in children without symptoms of COVID-19, with no history of recent upper airway infection. …. SARS-CoV-2 antigen detection was not restricted to tonsils, but was also detected in nasal cells from the olfactory region. In conclusion, palatine tonsils and adenoids are sites of prolonged infection by SARS-CoV-2 in children, .” • I wonder if this “prolonged infection” involves transmission….
NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from January 23:
Lambert here: For now, I’m going to use this wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.
Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map,” which is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) The map is said to update Monday-Friday by 8 pm:
The previous map:
NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published January 26:
Wastewater data (CDC), January 21:
Easing off, though you do have to wonder what’s the point of a national system where half the country has gone dark.
And MWRA data, January 24:
Lambert here: Still uptick in the north. However, only some the students are back; BU classes begin January 19; Harvard’s January 22.
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.
Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 16:
Lambert here: XBB overtakes BQ, but CH is coming up on the outside. That’s a little unsettling, because a Tweet in Links, January 11 from GM drew attention to it (“displays such a high relative growth advantage”) and in Water Cooler, January 18, from Nature: “CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 variants were highly resistant to both monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccinations.” Now here is CH.1.1 in the Walgreens variant data. Let’s see what CDC does with it tomorrow, if anything. The Covid variant train always leaves on time, and there’s always another train coming!
Lambert here: Wierdly, the screen shot about has been replaced today by data from “10/7/2022.” (It’s clearly not current data; BQ.1* and XBB do not dominate.
NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), December 31 (Nowcast off):
BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. CH.1, unlike the Walgreens chart, does not appear. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) Here is Region 2, the Northeast, where both BQ.1* and XBB are said to be higher, and are:
Makes clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we ended up with different variants dominating different parts of the country.
• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated January 26:
• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 23:
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,130,962 –
1,129,618 = 472 * 1344 (1344 * 365 = 490,560 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).
Lambert here: Deaths lag, and now we have some confirmation that whatever we just went through is decreasing.
It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 from the previous week’s downwardly revised value to 186,000 on the week ending January 21st, the lowest since April, and well below expectations of 205,000. The result further consolidated evidence of a tight labor market despite elevated tech layoffs and the Federal Reserve’s aggressive tightening path last year.”
Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “Durable goods orders in the US, which measure the cost of orders received by manufacturers of goods meant to last at least three years, soared 5.6 percent month-over-month in December of 2022. It was the sharpest gain since July 2020 and well above market forecasts of a 2.5 percent increase. Transportation equipment, up four of the last five months, drove the increase.”
Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production index rose to -4 in January of 2023 from an upwardly revised -6 in the previous month, pointing to the lowest decrease in manufacturing output in four months. Improvements were noted mostly in durable goods plants, mainly for wood products, machinery, and the manufacturing of transportation equipment.”
Manufacturing: “Boeing to appear in federal court for crime related to 737-Max plane crashes” [WJLA (ChrisFromGA)]. “Airline giant, Boeing, will appear in federal criminal court in Texas on Thursday…. [V]ictims’ families are planning to testify in Texas this week at the arraignment. And in doing so, they hope to encourage the judge to rescind the immunity agreement between Boeing and the Department of Justice because, under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, families were supposed to be consulted in that agreement and were not…. If the judge throws out the immunity provision, the attorney for victims’ families, Paul Cassell told 7News that it would be possible for additional charges to be filed against Boeing’s leadership at the time of the crashes. This would make the company criminally responsible for the deaths of 346 people. Cassell said it’s time for Boeing to be treated like any other criminal defendant under United States law.” • Big time!
“The Economy”: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index edged up to -0.49 in December of 2022 from -0.51 in November, indicating a softer economic contraction in the US economic activity.”
Retail: “Into the Sparkly Heart of Zazzle’s Font War” [Slate]. “Many of us primarily associate Zazzle with the holiday cards on our fridge. But over the past 17 years, the company has grown into a marketplace offering clothing, mugs, clocks disguised as bagels, and thousands of other customizable products. Zazzle is no Amazon, but last February Bloomberg reported that it was expected to soon go public at a valuation of $1 to $2 billion. This is yet to happen. And some Zazzle sellers fear that the site’s best days are now behind it due to a slowly advancing lawsuit, filed last summer, involving “Blooming Elegant,” one of the most popular fonts on Zazzle. Nicky Laatz, who created the loopy, handwriting-style font, says that the company brazenly stole it from her, copying her typeface software onto its servers and making it available to millions of customers without a proper license. Therefore the company owes her a cut of millions in profits, her lawyers argue. Zazzle has pushed to dismiss the suit, arguing, in part, that she’s misinterpreting copyright law. • I’m filing this under Retail in case anybody is long (or short) Zazzle, but read on for the issues of what is and is not licensable on the Intertubes.
The Bezzle: “One of Wall Street’s most feared short-selling research firms just accused Asia’s richest man of a multibillion-dollar fraud” [Fortune]. “In a report published on Tuesday, Hindenburg Research said Adani Group and its founder, Gautam Adani—one of the richest people in the world—had engaged in ‘a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades.’… Hindenburg Research has a history of shining a light on corporate malpractice, successfully predicting the demise or exposing the shortcomings of several companies, including Nikola, Riot Blockchain, and China Metal Resources Utilization…. Through its wide-reaching investigations, Hindenburg said it had uncovered a “vast labyrinth of offshore shell entities” being managed by Adani’s older brother, Vinod. Thirty-eight of those shell companies were in Mauritius, the report claimed, with others discovered in Cyprus, the UAE, Singapore, and the Caribbean. ‘The shells seem to serve several functions, including stock parking/stock manipulation and laundering money through Adani’s private companies onto the listed companies’ balance sheets in order to maintain the appearance of financial health and solvency,’ Hindenburg’s report said. ‘This offshore shell network also seems to be used for earnings manipulation.’ One offshore fund had allocated around $3 billion almost exclusively to shares of Adani Group companies, Hindenburg’s report also claimed. A former trader at the fund reportedly said it was obvious the Adanis controlled those shares, but that the fund had been ‘intentionally structured to conceal their ultimate beneficial ownership.’”
Labor Market: “What Is “Core PCE Services Ex-Housing” Anyway?” [Employ America]. “The Fed is worried that inflation will continue until wage growth comes down or unemployment ticks up. As evidence for this proposition, the Fed has been pointing to the continued strength in “Core PCE Services ex-Housing” as the most important metric for the monetary policy outlook. … By using “Core PCE Services ex-Housing”, the Fed is acknowledging that pandemic disruptions have led to inflation in a wide range of sectors, and that inflation in core goods and housing is analytically distinct from wage-driven cost-push inflation. But does this metric actually capture cyclical inflation driven by the labor market? And how much of the inflation that it does capture is actually evidence of wage-driven cost-push inflation? … As we will see, there are ample side-channels through which the very dynamics the Fed is looking to screen out can show up in this aggregate. Even worse, roughly a quarter of this newly preferred price aggregate is directly based on opaque indices of compensation and not market-determined consumer prices, creating a mechanical relationship between compensation data and the Fed’s gauge of inflation. A wage target is not a priori wrong – our flagship Floor Gross Labor Income proposal sits comfortably within the idea of wage targets – but presenting a wage target as though it were a price target is analytically unacceptable.” • Into the weeds… But if you’re a Fed watcher, this is for you.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 69 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 26 at 12:51 PM EST.
“Warning: Commercial Dishwashers Can Damage the Gut and Lead to Chronic Disease” [SciTech Daily]. “A typical cycle in a commercial dishwasher involves circulating hot water and detergent for around 60 seconds at high pressure. Afterward, there is a second 60-second washing and drying cycle in which water and a rinse agent are applied. ‘What’s especially alarming is that in many appliances, there’s no additional wash cycle to remove the remaining rinse aid,’ says Cezmi Akdis, UZH professor of experimental allergology and immunology and director of the SIAF, who led the study. ‘This means that potentially toxic substances remain on the dishes, where they then dry in place.’ When the dishes are used the next time, this dried chemical residue can easily end up in the gastrointestinal tract. This inspired the research team under Akdis to investigate what effect the components of commercial-grade detergents and rinse agents have on the barrier in the gut – the layer of cells that lines the intestinal tract and controls what enters the body. A defect in this barrier is associated with conditions such as food allergies, gastritis, diabetes, obesity, cirrhosis of the liver, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorders, chronic depression, and Alzheimer’s disease… The team used various biomolecular methods to analyze the effect that commercial detergents and rinse aids have on these cells. They diluted these substances to reflect the amounts that would be present on dry dishes (1:10,000 to 1:40,000). The result was that high doses of rinse agents killed the intestinal epithelial cells and lower doses made it more permeable. Researchers also observed the activation of several genes and cell signaling proteins that could trigger inflammatory responses. A more detailed analysis showed that one component of the rinse agent – alcohol ethoxylates – was responsible for this reaction. According to Akdis, these findings have significant implications for public health.” • “Epithelial.” There’s that word again.
“I used ‘lucky girl syndrome’ to make more than £1 million from my jewellery brand – and it can help YOU get anything you want too!” [Daily Mail]. “After using the Lucky Girl Syndrome technique ‘for years’, Stephanie admits her biggest ‘gripe’ with the method is its name. ‘It has NOTHING to do with luck,’ she insisted. ‘It’s the law of assumption – when you expect it to happen, it surely will.’” • Dogmatic doxastic voluntarism (DDV). It’s everywhere!
News of the Wired
“Why Corporate America Still Runs on Ancient Software That Breaks” (podcast) [Odd Lots]. “Southwest Airlines had a disastrous holiday season, thanks in part to a software bug that left crews out of place and grounded thousands of flights. But Southwest isn’t alone in having software in the headlines lately. The New York Stock Exchange recently had a software error that caused weird pricing on stocks and the FAA had its own computer issue that grounded planes earlier this month. So what’s the deal with corporate software?”
“New Starbucks coming to area of Fresno that’s never had one, plans to open next year” [Fresno Bee].
Feel Good Fresno Week at Naked Capitalism continues: “The nation’s most popular coffee shop will be going up at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Church Avenue. That’s close to where the new Fresno City College West Fresno campus is being built at Church and Walnut avenues.” • I was living in Palmdale, CA when the first Starbucks came in, part of a ginormous Barnes & Noble dropped by helicopter onto a concrete slab next to a parking lot. I was actually encouraged, not so much at the volume of horrid sticky drinks sold by the Starbucks, but by how much people wanted to read. So I’m pleased that Fresno is getting a new college campus. (And I hope the Fresno Starbucks promptly unionizes.)
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