2:00PM Water Cooler 4/19/2022 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Lyre Bird week at Naked Capitalism. The sound visualization does not disappoint!

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Politics

“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

“Biden has told Obama he’s running again” [The Hill]. “President Biden has told former President Obama that he is planning to run for reelection in 2024, two sources tell The Hill. The admission to Obama is the latest indication that Biden is likely to run for a second term, something the president has spoken about publicly. During a press conference in Brussels last month, he told reporters he’d be ‘very fortunate’ to run against his rival in the 2020 election, former President Trump. ‘[Biden] wants to run and he’s clearly letting everyone know,’ said one of the two sources familiar with the conversations between Obama and Biden…. The source familiar with the talks between Biden and Obama said, meanwhile, that many Democrats are skeptical of Harris’s chances of winning in 2024. ‘People think she has no shot, which has to keep him as the guy.’” • One wonders why Biden feels he has to underline this now. Speculating freely, he’s telling Democrat lunatics who want ground troops in Ukraine to back off; Obama, remember, was enough of a realist to believe that Ukraine was not a vital interest to us (but was to Russia). So the meeting is a silent endorsement by Obama of Biden’s Ukraine policy (unless the Obama camp starts leaking stuff, of course). I mean, I can see ClintonWorld tasking Perkins Coei to find some cutouts that will get them a copy of Hunter’s laptop (if they don’t already have it).

“Give me a break. I have no empathy”:

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!). ; 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.

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Note the sting in the tail:

A little more ice cream for Nancy’s freezer.

2022

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“5 plot twists that could upend the midterms” [Politico]. • A good technical analysis. Again, it’s amazing to me that the two biggest issues facing the country — the Covid pandemic and accountability for it, and potential war with a nuclear power — aren’t seen as “political issues” at all, even as they are the focus of enormous, mindblowing propaganda campaigns. Instead, it’s Inflation! Immigration! Crime! Maybe even Abortion! Most disappointingly, the left has been conspicuous by its silence on both these issues, including especially Sanders.

#COVID19

Generally, I deprecate the use of the word “terrifying.” But:

The easy explanation would be that the CDC has been gagged across two administrations. The darker answer would be that CDC — full of scientists, after all — knows full well what the results of its policies are and will be, and finds them literally unspeakable.

More CDC:

Cases are going up, so the obvious first response is to decrease our tracking ability in known hotspots.

A good question:

How it started, how it’s going:


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If you missed it, here’s a 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:

Fiddling and diddling. Remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. One source said they though cases might be undercounted by a factor of six. Yikes. But how do we know? Here are the cases for the last four weeks:

“Transcript: Dr. Scott Gottlieb on “Face the Nation,” April 10, 2022” [Big Yahu]. ” I think we’re dramatically undercounting cases. We’re probably only picking up one in seven or one in eight infections. So . And they’re concentrated in the Northeast right now. And that’s because a lot of people are testing at home. They’re not presenting for definitive PCR tests, so they’re not getting counted. So when you look at the Northeast, for example, cases are up 89% over the last 14 days in Washington, DC, they’re up 58% in New York City, up 65% in New Jersey. So cases are up in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic are going up. But the rest of the country looks pretty good right now.”

Let the spinning begin:

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.

From the Walgreen’s tracker:

I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

NOT UPDATED MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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.

Cases lag wastewater data.

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

The Northeast isn’t looking too good, now confirmed by hospital data. I’m picturing all the Gridiron Club attendees chugging up and down the Acela Corridor, and thinking it might be a good idea to take the Northeast Regional for a bit. Also, Amtrak should have masked cars, just like they have a quiet car. (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:

The Northeast remains stubbornly and solidly red.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

if anybody tells you hospitalization is down, tell them “No, it very isn’t.” (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.) Oh, and

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,015,790 1,015,451. 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):

Not sure what’s happening with Spain.

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US unexpectedly edged 0.3% higher to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.793 million in March of 2022, the highest since June of 2006 and beating market forecasts of 1.745 million. Figures for February were also revised higher to 1.788 million from an initial of 1.769 million. Starts of houses with five units or more jumped 7.5% to 0.574 million and single-family starts dropped 1.7% to 1.2 million. Housing starts are still recovering from a low reading in January when pandemic-related labour shortages and weather constraints dragged housing activity down while a record low housing supply should continue to underpin homebuilding. However, mortgage rates continue to soar, material costs remain elevated and supply constraints persist which is weighing on house prices and reducing affordability.”

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Retail: “Delta sparks backlash for calling COVID-19 ‘ordinary seasonal virus’” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “In a press release Monday night announcing its new mask-optional policy, Delta said it was ‘relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.’… It was not the first time Delta has referred to COVID-19 as a seasonal. Last week, Delta CEO Ed Bastian labeled it as such while discussing the company’s financial results. Dr. Henry Ting, Delta’s chief health officer who joined the airline from the Mayo Clinic, and entering an endemic stage,’ Business Travel News reported. He added then that ‘we will see this become a seasonal respiratory virus.’” • So why are we listening to Ting, when he’s an idiot? Also, Delta’s financials depend on this?! Commentary:

Tech: “Elon Musk Demonstrates How Little He Understands About Content Moderation” [TechDirt]. “There’s then a slightly more interesting discussion of open sourcing the algorithm, which is its own can of worms that I’m not sure Musk understands. I’m all for more transparency, and the ability for competing algorithms to be available for moderation, but open sourcing it is different and not as straightforward as Musk seems to imply. First of all, it’s often not the algorithm that is the issue. Second, algorithms that are built up in a proprietary stack are not so easy to just randomly “open source” without revealing all sorts of other stuff. Third, the biggest beneficiaries of open sourcing the ranking algorithm will be spammers (which is doubly amusing because in just a few moments Musk is going to whine about spammers). Open sourcing the algorithm will be most interesting to those looking to abuse and game the system to promote their own stuff. We know this. We’ve seen it. There’s a reason why Google’s search algorithm has become more and more opaque over the years. Not because it’s trying to suppress people, but because the people who were most interested in understanding how it all worked were search engine spammers. Open sourcing the Twitter algorithm would do the same thing.” • Well worth a read.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 42 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 46 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 19 at 1:25pm.

Zeitgeist Watch

“This Teen Shared Her Troubles With a Robot. Could AI ‘Chatbots’ Solve the Youth Mental Health Crisis?” [The 74 Million]. “Digital wellness tools like mental health chatbots have stepped in with a promise to fill the gaps in America’s overburdened and under-resourced mental health care system.” • ”Digital wellness.”

News of the Wired

UI/UK:

“The Significance of Sniffing: A Reading List on Smell” [LongReads]. “Every spring there is a moment when I am overcome by the scent of the new season. Sometimes I’m outside, sometimes it floats in on a breeze through windows thrown wide open; but wherever I am, I stop, shut my eyes, and inhale. Spring smells the same every year, and that scent is sharpest when the season is new — before the smell grows familiar and is relegated to background noise. This kind of experience isn’t unique to spring. Every season has its own scent. The musty wet decay of fall. The ozonic crispness of the first snowfall. The sharp green of freshly cut grass.” • The reading list looks good.

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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.

SC writes:

It’s end of March and Spring has arrived. Between tax season and unexpected eventualities of life (“life” seems to be even more unavoidable than “death” and “taxes”; I suppose I shouldn’t complain about this), I have lost some time in my seed starting agendas — about a dozen trays that I would have liked to bring indoors from their cold treatment are still waiting.

However, there is significant progress. The first attached photo shows another “high density away from windows” seed germination setup, assembled hastily a few weeks ago against the looming wave of trays needing warmth and light. It’s an HDX utility rack repurposed for seed tray heating and illumination. All four shelves are lit with low-cost LED grow lights; the two bottom shelves also have heat mats on top of thick cardboard and wood slats to protect the mats from the wire shelves. Warming the germination trays really seems to accelerate the process. It’s a good idea to cover the germination trays with humidity domes at first to protect the newly germinated seedlings from drying out; this also further elevates the temperature. I find it hard to avoid either “too dry” or “too damp” and tend to err on the side of “too damp”; many of my trays develop a green crust on the growing medium, which I hope is nothing worse than algae.

The 2nd photo is a closeup, from the other side, of the 3rd from bottom shelf in the first photo. From left to right these are Tithonia and Tomatoes, Thyme, more Tomatoes, and a plug tray with Spearmint and Coleus. I put a few particles of slow release fertilize in each cell for the tomatoes; this may help to account for how large the plants 3rd from left are.

The 3rd photo illustrates a small victory in my long-standing struggles to learn how to effectively cold-stratify seeds that need Winter to germinate. It’s a tray of (what I hope are) Purple milkweed seedlings started from seeds saved from a plant shown in a 2021 Water Cooler.

They were left outside for a couple of months in the coldest part of Winter, very damp at first and watered again once when the ice had sublimated away. (They were on my back porch protected from the weather and so did not get more frequent natural watering; I was worried that these seeds, which are hard to source, might wash away in a heavy rain). The watering schedule was accidental (and I was worried at first that it would turn out to have been too infrequent) but seems to have worked; this tray is at above 50% germination and the time distribution of the emergences suggests that there are more to come. A prior tray of commercial Purple MW seed treated the same way reached close to 90% germination. I have two more 72-cell trays of this plant, so it looks like I will be busy this Spring repotting and pushing these to blossom.

The weather has warmed enough to start setting the larger of these seedlings outside under shade cloth for hardening off, but they may have to come back inside at night if it’s too cold. I need to set things out in any event to make space for the remaining trays waiting to be brought in.

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