By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Hawaiian Bird Week at Naked Capitalism continues.

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Biden Adminstration

“Essential Politics: Why is the White House unfazed by high-profile COVID-19 cases?” [Los Angeles Times]. “‘I don’t think this is a moment where we have to be excessively concerned,’ [Jha told NBC’s ‘Today’ show].” I think “excessively is doing a lot of work, there. “Jha’s attitude echoes the actions of administration officials, including Harris. The vice president, for example, continues to attend indoor events without a mask, despite being a close contact of at least two infected people.” Excellent. Since cases don’t matter, let ‘er rip! More: ‘”Certain restrictions — like mask mandates and social distancing — should only return to ‘blunt the peak of hospitalizations,’ said Dr. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, adding that it was not clear that such admissions are rising.’ Dowdy needs to be checking NC’s charts. Hospital admissions are rising, at least in the Northeast and some other states, a lagging indicator to cases. Not to make a call, but we do have form, and removing protections too soon, and adding them too late, is our past pattern and practice.

“The Gridiron Club Dinner Was a Predictable Superspreader Event” [MedScape]. “The gathering of Washington politicians and journalists last week at the Gridiron Club annual dinner, a prestigious event, has turned into a superspreader event, illustrating one downside of the “urgency of normal” club. One difference is that the elite status of attendees protects them, in many ways, from the reality of getting COVID.” Yep. More: “Some things could be done to get us back closer to normalcy. Require proof of vaccinations and testing before attendance at an indoor event (at a minimum) like the Gridiron dinner. Space people out. Perhaps don’t have a meal with the entertainment. Six hundred–plus people eating and singing sounds like a recipe for disaster. Improve ventilation. We have learned from Drs Prather, Richard Corsi, José-Luis Jimenez, Don Milton, and others how to do this. Having ‘Corsi-Rosenthal’ boxes is effective and relatively inexpensive. Use CO2 monitors as a measure of a room’s ventilation and have the readings prominently displayed. I’m sure there are other ways to mitigate risk. Listen to the aerobiologists I mentioned above.” • Sounds like I’m not the only one losing patience.

“Washington Post scraps White House correspondents’ dinner party amid COVID surge” [WaPo]. “The Washington Post has canceled plans to host a party before the White House correspondents’ dinner scheduled for later this month. In a memo sent on Tuesday, publisher Fred Ryan and executive editor Sally Buzbee said plans for the annual gathering had been scrapped due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the Washington, D.C., region. ‘We had hoped to be emailing you an invitation to The Washington Post reception preceding the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 30,’ the pair wrote. ‘As much as we would have loved to see everyone, in light of what appears to be an increase in Covid-19 transmission, we did not want to put our friends and colleagues at further risk.’”• Is there reason to think that a reception would be less dangerous than the main event?

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“Biden needs to keep his mouth shut” [The Week]. “In remarks delivered in Des Moines yesterday, Biden accused Russia of committing “genocide” in Ukraine. Because it’s a deeply serious charge that could theoretically trigger an international tribunal, administration officials had previously avoided using the term. Later that day, therefore, Biden was forced to conduct some rhetorical cleanup. Speaking to reporters on the airport tarmac, he clarified that he would “let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.” This isn’t the first time Biden’s loose lips have created a problem for his foreign policy. In Poland last month, the president offered the apparently spontaneous conclusion that “for God’s sake, this man [Russian President Vladimir Putin] cannot remain in power.” Panicked by this rhetorical flourish, U.S. officials insisted regime change is not the United States’ goal. Biden, they implausibly claimed, was only referring to Putin’s influence over neighboring states, not his position within Russia itself. These gaffes are more than unfortunate misstatements by a elderly politician with a long history of talking off-script. They threaten to undermine Biden’s own largely successful approach to the Ukraine war. Despite calls for a no-fly zone, Biden has rejected direct interventions that could lead to nuclear war. He has also maintained relative unity among NATO members, despite their varying tolerances for military and economic burdens. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone, yet, on balance, U.S. policy so far has opposed Russian aggression without risking the unthinkable. But off-the-cuff remarks that evoke hazy memories of the second World War threaten to unsettle that balance. Despite evidence of war crimes, Putin’s Russia is very far from Nazi Germany. And while the future of the conflict is unclear — primarily because the Ukrainians have fought harder and better than almost anyone expected — it is very unlikely to end with the surrender of Russian forces or a transformation of the Russian government.” • I think there has been an increasing tendency toward moralizing among liberal Democrats for some time, combined with a complete inability to introspect. Calling Putin a war criminal is moralizing (and moralizing that puts the speaker’s moral certitudes before the security of the nation, too, How do we negotiate after that? “C’mon, Vlad, this is Joe talking. You know I didn’t mean it.”). It’s a bell that can’t be unrung. Words that can’t be unsaid. (It’s a lot like Obama supporters smearing all their opponents as racists in 2008. More moralizing and another bell that can’t be unrung, unless your relationship to your own words is purely tactical.)

Democrats en Déshabillé

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!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“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.

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The party of Conor Lamb:

Today, @PHLDems endorsed a challenger instead of popular incumbent @Fiedler4Philly in South Philly, weird because they usually endorse incumbents and because the guy they endorsed is a Republican sympathizer. Don’t take my word for it, let’s go to the tweets! 1/many

— George Donnelly (@g_donnelly4) April 12, 2022

Realignment and Legitimacy

The Gridiron Club debacle has gotten me trying to imagine how our elites really think, what they talk about among themselves, what they do all day. Surely they’re not sending their best? But they must be! They’re elites! They went to Yale!

Elites (1):

But it is raw power. It is the power a lion enjoys over a gazelle. It isn’t mythologised in the idea of a freedom struggle or a rags-to-riches story. The silent word is: I am strong, you aren’t, and things don’t work out for people like you when they cross people like me, see.

— JT (@misyarns) April 13, 2022

(SV = Silicon Valley.) I think this gentleman’s view of Silicon Valley may be a bit gauzy.

Elites (2): More and more Bob and Ray seems to be showing up on YouTube, which is great. This is an especially excellent “Garish Summit.” They provide two answers to the question, “What do elites do all day?” One is in the standing intro of every episode: “There in stately splendor, far removed from the squalid village below, they fight their endless battles over power and money.” The second… Well, you have to listen to the episode:

Elites (3): I listen to them, and what I hear is nonsense. But what do they hear when they talk to each other?


“As U.S. cases tick up, the new White House Covid czar says it’s not a moment to be ‘excessively concerned.’” [New York Times]. “‘Right now that is showing an uptick, but not showing substantial changes in what we should be doing,’ Dr. Jha said on CNN, referring to the C.D.C. framework. ‘And I think the C.D.C. policy is right on this.’ And while he praised the role of at-home tests, Dr. Jha acknowledged many of those results may go unreported, underpinning, he said, the importance of hospitalizations as a metric.” In other words, Zha just doubled down on community levels (see NOTE under #COVID19 case counts, here). Not that The World’s Greatest Newspaper™ would think to link to “the framework” or “CDC policy” or “hospitalizations as a metric.” I mean, everybody knows what “Let ‘er rip” means.

At the risk of further coarsening our discourse MR SUBLIMINAL But what the heck I had too much fun inventing this new feature (suitable for framing):

Today’s decision was tough for the judges, and Leana Wen was a close contender all the way, but in the end we had to award the laurel of victory to Zha, for the statements above were from his first day on the job. Congratulations, Ashish Doctor!

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If you missed it, here last week’s post on my queasiiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case count by United States regions:

Uh oh. Remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. Here are the cases for the last four weeks:

Commentary on the Northeast:

At the same time, we haven’t seen hospitalizations move. Maybe they will in coming weeks. But we should’ve seen some movement already.

Most importantly, I feel very certain they won’t overwhelm our healthcare institutions like just a few months ago.

— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) April 10, 2022

As we know, making hospitalization the metric doens’t account either for Long Covid or for neurological and vascular damage that can occur even among the asymptomatic. It’s natural that the perspective of hospitals, which are enormous profit centers — that’s why their data is good! — should dominate. But we really are in “drunks looking under the streetlight” mode here. Spencer is also wrong on hospitalization numbers, in addition to being wrong on the merits:

I understand the reasoning behind the CDC metric change from cases to hospitalizations, but here’s the problem: We essentially shifting from reacting when we see the lions teeth, to waiting till we see the inside of its belly…

— Jerome Adams (@JeromeAdamsMD) April 10, 2022

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. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

As I said on 4/8: “Too soon for a Fauci line? I’d give it a week.” I was too conservative. As usual, the crisis of the past is the normal of the present.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

MWRA has two systems, north and south. Here is what they look like:

For grins, here’s the wastewater of another college town, Ann Arbor, Michigan (hat tip kcp):

The Ann Arbor curve is your good ol’ exponential growth. That’s what I’m waiting to see at the MWRA (and elsewhere). The exponential growth in wastewater will be lagged by cases, and in turn lagged by hospitalization, so under the CDC’s “community levels” metric, people will be choking the wards before non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking are introduced, good job.

For more grins, here is the CDC’s wastewater tracker:

I actually got this tracker to display, but then I changed the settings and refreshed, and I didn’t have ten minutes more to wait, so here we are. Odd. I mean, you think they’d put their best guy on the best pre-hospitalization data we’ve got.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

The Northeast isn’t looking too good, now confirmed by hospital data. I wonder how many Gridiron Club attendees took the Acela home the following morning? (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.)

The previous release:

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

Continuing slow improvement as the map shifts from mostly red to mostly yellow (assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered). However, look at the Northeast, which remains stubbornly red.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Suddenly, the Northeast isn’t looking good. Of course, absolute levels are still low, so CDC can argue that nothing should be done. Again, I don’t like these sudden effloresences of yellow and orange. I don’t care that the baseline is low. From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,013,044 1,012,461. We did it. Break out the Victory Gin. have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. The numbers have been level for the past few days, and they’re still democidally high.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Stats Watch

“United States Producer Price Inflation MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Producer prices for final demand in the US increased 1.4% month-over-month in March of 2022, the biggest increase since at least December 2009 and above market forecasts of 1.1%. Main upward contribution came from diesel fuel prices (20.4%) and cost also went up for gasoline (4.9%), fresh and dry vegetables (42.4%), jet fuel (23%), iron and steel scrap (27.6%), and electric power (1.9%). In contrast, prices for beef and veal fell 7.3% and cost for residential natural gas (-0.4%) also declined.”

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The Bezzle: “Lucrative SPAC Trades Spur Insider-Trading Probe” [Bloomberg]. “A pattern of prescient and potentially very lucrative trading has taken shape on a once-obscure corner of Wall Street—and U.S. investigators are suspicious. The setting is the world of special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, the shell corporations that have flooded onto markets in recent years to raise money from investors and then hunt for companies to buy. The instrument is a stock warrant, which gives holders the right to buy shares at a specified price in the future. SPACs happen to issue a lot of warrants. The curious trading pattern starts when someone buys piles of a SPAC’s warrants, sending the daily volume of trading 10, 20, or even 60 times above normal levels. Within a few weeks, word emerges that the SPAC has found a business to buy, often sending the warrant prices soaring. Bloomberg calculated the normal trading in a SPAC’s warrants by averaging volume for trading sessions 30 to 90 days before a merger announcement. Any warrant that had fewer than 10 trading days in that period was excluded from the analysis because of insufficient data. The resulting list included 287 blank-check firms that had announced mergers through early March 2022. If there were multiple trading spikes in a SPAC’s warrants within 30 days of its merger announcement, the first one is presented. Such spikes in warrant trading appear before about one out of every four SPAC deals, a Bloomberg review of almost 300 mergers announced since late 2018 shows. The potential profits can be dramatic: In more than a dozen cases, warrant buyers would have at least doubled their money if they held on to the instruments for mere days or a few weeks. In one case, the warrants soared 888%. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is now examining warrant trades that took place before deals to discern whether they were illegally based on inside information, according to people with knowledge of the matter.” • Looks like Trump did this with his SPAC.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 46 Neutral (previous close: 46 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 48 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 13 at 1:24pm. Frankly, I don’t understand Mr. Market’s neutrality at all.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that

The Gallery

These figures look like anime:

Max Ernst, In-text plate (page 17) from Galapagos: Les Iles du bout du monde, 1955 #museumofmodernart #maxernst

— Max Ernst (@artisternst) April 10, 2022

Class Warfare

“America’s Highest Earners And Their Taxes Revealed” [Pro Publica]. This would not have been the story I chose for a mobile-friendly presentation. It’s simply too hard to read, though it’s worth reading. From a table near the end:

Who are these “name withheld” bozos? There’s a bunch of ’em in private equity and hedge funds, but there’s no legend in the table to explain.

Meanwhile, there are people who do actual, important work:

Workers in @IndianaGrads begin their strike today. IU refuses to recognize the union they voted for. Pass the hat!

— Dan Greene (@Greene_DM) April 13, 2022

And again:

Huge shout out to @FlyingWithSara and the @afacwa for their undying support of the #UMWA! The miners on strike at #WarriorMetCoal have given everything to fight for justice & @FlyingWithSara has been there every step of the way! #CaravanToWarriorMet

— United Mine Workers (@MineWorkers) April 13, 2022

Much elan among the youth, a pleasure to see. You have to click on the image because of Twitter’s stupid cropping algo for vertical photos:

Aminah Sheikh, Union Organizer

— Dripped Out (Trade) Unionists (@UnionDrip) April 12, 2022

“A Brief History of the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County: Notes on the Banality of Evil” [Fullerton Observer]. From 2019, still germane. “Following the rise of the Klan to overt political power in Anaheim (and other neighboring cities), a group of civic leaders and Orange County District Attorney Alex Nelson, planned to take them down. Some of these leaders formed the U.S.A. club, in an attempt to counter the Klan’s claim of being ‘100 percent American.’ The anti-Klan coalition consisted of L.A. Lewis, Thomas McFadden, Reverend James Geissinger, Lotus Louden (editor of The Bulletin, Anaheim’s other newspaper), and members of the local Knights of Columbus such as Ernest Ganahl and Samuel Kraemer, as well as Father Patrick Browne of St. Boniface’s Catholic Church. The anti-Klan forces reasoned that if the Klan’s secrecy had been a powerful factor in its successes, then unmasking it might take it down. They needed a list of members. Different stories exist about how the list was obtained. Lewis’ claims he bought it directly from the ‘King Kleagle’ of the Klan of the State of California for $700. Armed with the list, the anti-Klan forces made effective use of it to expose and take down ‘The Invisible Empire,’ the KKK. Nelson revealed that some of the Anaheim councilmen who had been elected were Klan Members. The anti-Klan forces ‘based their attack on small town America’s tradition of free, open government as opposed to what they claimed was the Klan’s secret, corrupt, dictatorial government.’ Anaheim Methodist pastor Geissinger criticized the Klan as “revolting and totally un-American” and stated that bigotry and religious hatred had no place in Anaheim. The local Lions, Rotary, and Elks clubs and the Masonic Lodge denounced the Klan as a menace to prosperity and an agent of bigotry. The American Legion post in Anaheim was the only civic or social group that the Klan dominated.”

News of the Wired

A beautiful book:

Excellent medieval knowledge organisation. The New Testament epistles in the middle, with a running commentary in two columns on each side, interlinear glosses, and marginal notes. Masterful control of space and registers.

Karlsruhe Cod. Aug. perg. 242, 13th century

— Mateusz Fafinski (@Calthalas) April 12, 2022

I’m glad we cleared this up:

Railway map of Antarctica

— Terrible Maps (@TerribleMaps) April 10, 2022

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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 the Nation via Resilc:

Re Silc writes: “My woods.” Y-e-e-e-a-h. So much lovely rot going on here, enriching the soil.

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