HomeEconomy2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/2022 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I must add a little 1/6 stuff… –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Who? Who?

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Capitol Seizure

Greenwald is right:

Presumably, insurrection and sedition are crimes. It’s been a year. The small fry went to jail. If there are indeed big fish, where’s Merrick Garland?


“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 Administration

“White House embraces a manage-not-contain Omicron game plan” [Politico]. “When President Joe Biden took office last January amid a winter Covid-19 surge, he vowed an all-out federal assault aimed at vanquishing the virus…. The new reality has further darkened the mood among White House aides already frustrated by the lack of progress toward ending a pandemic many initially believed could be dispatched within a year. It’s also accelerated the administration’s pivot toward preparing people to live with the virus indefinitely. In interviews, officials described the next few weeks as a triage operation focused on containing the reverberations of the surge well enough to avert breakdowns in essential services, mass school closures and overrun hospitals.” • As I wrote back in August: Let ‘er rip.

“Ninety Miles Away w/Special Guest Gareth Reynolds” (podcast) [The West Wing Thing]. • Starts out with a truly impressive level of outrage and clarity on Biden’s Covid policy. If you don’t listen to this podcast, consider it. It’s also very funny. (Also, they have good voices, so I can fall asleep to it.)

“Lawmakers discuss additional Covid relief amid Omicron, but talks stall” [CNN]. “A senior Biden administration official poured cold water on any further stimulus at this time, leaving the possibility open to some relief for restaurants.” • Biden’s helped to kill more people than Trump. And his economics packages are worse (and don’t @ me on BIF; it doesn’t pay the bills). Plus he owes me six hundred bucks.

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“Democrats eye same plays hoping for better results” [The Hill]. • If the Democrats were the Green Bay Packers running the Lombardi Sweep, this would make sense. But they’re not.

“Manchin floats modest Senate rules changes” [The Hill]. “Manchin said that Democrats were also talking about the idea of a talking filibuster, where opponents could slow down a bill for as long as they could hold the floor, but there were questions about how under such a change ‘how do you get off of it.’ Supporters of a talking filibuster want to structure it so that opponents can delay a bill for as long as they can hold the Senate floor. But after they are done talking senators would then be able to pass a bill with a simple majority, effectively nixing the current 60-vote threshold required for most bills to advance in the Senate. But Manchin indicated that he still wants to keep a supermajority requirement to end debate, but that he was supportive of changing it from requiring 60 votes needed to break a filibuster to three-fifths of senators present and voting. Under that shift, senators could break a filibuster with fewer than 60 votes if there were absences.”

“GOP-aligned ‘dark money’ group launches $1M ad campaign to pressure Manchin” [NBC]. “— A political ‘dark money’ group led by a former top aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is launching a $1 million ad campaign in West Virginia to pressure Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to keep the filibuster rules intact…. ‘Call Senator Manchin. Tell him to keep his promise. Tell him to protect the Senate filibuster,’ a narrator says in the 30-second ad.” • Grifters gotta grift. Honestly, do any West Virginia voters care?


“BTRTN: The Biden Dream of a 2022 Comeback Is Over…Right?” [Born to Run the Numbers]. From earlier this month: “[On Thanksgiving, Biden’s] thought process might have gone something like this. Delta was on the rise again for sure, but would likely peak in January at a lower level than in 2020, and, as in 2020, fall quickly from there, perhaps even achieving ‘endemic not pandemic’ status by the spring, and life could return to normal. Inflation was forecast by many, including Goldman Sachs and Moody’s, to be a transient blip, driven by very strong consumer demand that had overwhelmed a ‘just in time’-oriented supply chain, which would ease once the holidays and the Chinese New Year were behind us – again, in time for the summer. And surely, given the House’s passage of the hard infrastructure bill, the pressure on Manchin and Sinema to find a way to ‘yes’ on the soft one would cause them to cave, perhaps even on Chuck Schumer’s ambitious ‘by Christmas’ timetable. Once the signing ceremony was over, the third Biden stimulus package would begin to roar through the economy in 2022. If all that fell into place, he might have hoped for “Biden Comeback” headlines by, say, June of 2022 – months before the midterms. It might not be enough to hold onto the Democratic trifecta, but it just might prevent the kind of bloodbath in the House that befell previous first-termers Ronald Reagan (who lost 26 House seats in 1982), Bill Clinton (-54 in 1994), Barack Obama (-63 in 2010) and Donald Trump (-40 in 2018), and perhaps even enough to hold the Senate in Chuck Schumer’s hands. That rosy scenario began to collapse that very Thanksgiving night, when word came from South Africa of the brand-new Omicron variant….” • I would like to imagine that 2022 would bring a “national conversation” [snort] on the Biden Administration’s Covid response. Do you see anybody advocating a strategy that’s better than “Let ‘er rip,” whether piggishly-lipsticked (Biden) or feral hoggery? No? Then what?


“Kamala Harris aide leaves vice president’s office for Capitol Hill on heels of other departures” [CNBC]. “Another key aide is leaving Vice President Kamala Harris’ office following the departure of two other advisors. Vincent Evans, Harris’ deputy director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, has taken a top job at the Congressional Black Caucus, he said in a statement provided to CNBC. A person familiar with Evans’ departure says he is leaving on great terms with the vice president, and that he plans to maintain his close relationship with her. The move, this person added, has nothing to do with the other recent departures. Harris, according to this person, supports Evans’ decision. The person declined to be named in order to speak freely about the job change.” • [nods vigorously]. Out of the frying pan into the cesspit….

Battleground states:

Democrats en Deshabille

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.

We sometimes tell ourselves that society is structured like a corporation or the army, where there is a “chain of command.” I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been reading — and I need to do a lot more reading of books than I do skimming of Twitter, how to find the time — Pierre Bordieu’s Forms of Capital (1983-1984). He has this to say, which helps me think about how to anatomize the Democrat Party:

I think one of the obstacles to thnking scientifically about the social world and providing an adequate construction of it us the architectural type of philosophy that Marxism [not equal to Marx], with its infrastructures, superstructures, procedures and apparatuses, so powerfully underpins….. [Our social unconscious] tends to represent the social world as a house where there are foundations (the infrastructure) and then superstructures. The social world then is construed as something well structured, something we could draw: society is like a pyramid…

Speaking of a “space of spaces” is to say that there is a universe of of spaces whose boundaries are not very clear — which is a nuisance: We like to draw lines around things. we like things to say in their place — and with no obvious hierarchies, since the hierarchies are in a state of constant flux. One property of these subspaces is precisely their struggle for their positions in the space. We might see this as a sort of artistic construction like mobiles, which move very subtly with a kind of imperceptible shift (by the time we have detected it, it is already over) or, sometimes, with an abrupt change of position.

Methodologically: To give an account of RussiaGate — that enormous Democrat Party operation — will I think be far easier to do using Bordieu’s style of thought than more conventional left approaches. (See Capital, Volume III, Chapter 52: “[Here the manuscript breaks off.]” I should say that by no means wish to erase real, material power relations, or even the notion of class; I just want to use a lens that can actual detect the cascading motions of the object of interest. For those still reading, here is an image of a Calder mobile:

(Here is a video about Calder; here is a video of how to make a Calder-style mobile. Good project!) Back in the day, I used to go regularly to the Fogg Museum in Cambridge. They had a Calder mobile on display; the wonderful thing is that I could blow on it — without a guard coming a-running, interestingly — and the mobile would move. The mobile was dynamic, and every part affected every other part. And I suppose if one wished to stop the mobile from moving, the schwerpunkt would not be that difficult to detect. Nor a correlation of forces. Not so with a monolithic, static pyramid… Adding, I believe a mobile could be represented as a force-directed graph, which IMNSHO has insufficient dimensions to model the Democrat Party structure, so there is much work to be done (which perhaps Bourdieu does) but that’s still better than a squat pyramid or an org chart.

(I have updated my “Notes Toward” post with these musings.)

* * *

“The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones” [Zeynep Tufecki, Scientific American]. “Game of Thrones, in its eighth and final season, is as big as television gets these days. More than 17 million people watched the season’s opening. Judging by the fan and critic reaction though, it seems that a substantial portion of those millions are loathing the season. Indeed, most of the reviews and fan discussions seem to be pondering where the acclaimed series went wrong, with many theories on exactly why it went downhill. The show did indeed take a turn for the worse, but the reasons for that downturn go way deeper than the usual suspects that have been identified (new and inferior writers, shortened season, too many plot holes). It’s not that these are incorrect, but they’re just superficial shifts. In fact, the souring of Game of Thrones exposes a fundamental shortcoming of our storytelling culture in general: we don’t really know how to tell sociological stories…. . After the show ran ahead of the novels, however, it was taken over by powerful Hollywood showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Some fans and critics have been assuming that the duo changed the narrative to fit Hollywood tropes or to speed things up, but that’s unlikely. In fact, they probably stuck to the narrative points that were given to them, if only in outline form, by the original author. What they did is something different, but in many ways more fundamental: .” • Political writing, too. The issue is not Manchin, not Sinema!!

Republican Funhouse

“The GOP’s masculinity panic” [Vox]. Forget the clickbait headline. An interview of David French, well worth a read. At least there’s material to contend with. French: “Aggression can be virtuous, or it can be deeply problematic. These things are characteristics, not vices, by and large. So what does a healthy masculinity do? It channels these characteristics toward virtue and away from vice. Not to get too stereotypical, but that’s essentially what you’re talking about when you’re talking about, say, how a Marine Corps boot camp turns a boy into a man.” • I’m with French until the final turn; I mean, let’s hope the “man” isn’t also a torturer, eh? That said, the notion of virtue (cf. Alasdair MacIntyre) is worth having a discussion about. But my view would be that although the 20th Maine’s downhill bayonet charge down Little Round Top showed great courage, as did the 15th Alabama’s uphill, the 15th Alabama’s virture was in service of a cause that was “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse,” as Ulysses S. Grant put it. So where is the virtue?


Case count by United States regions:

Again, if anything, this count is an underestimate. Counts from the long New Year’s weekend look suspiciously low, and at least one state was so overwhelmed it didn’t supply data at all. (I wrote: “As happened in 2020, I would expect a second, higher peak, from Omicron if for no other reason.” Here we very are. This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.) It would sure be nice if “rise like a rocket (and fall like a stick)” applied, but we can’t know that yet. To be fair, previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecendented.

The official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is completely exploded. What a surprise!

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

The MWRA, too, needs a bigger chart.

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.

From CDC: “Community Profile Report” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Even worse. Looks like the flying coals landed and caught everywhere. Quite a change from the previous release.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

The tsunami is still coming in. (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: 851,475 848,885. Well, we didn’t hit a million by New Year’s. So there’s that.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Might was well check out where we go, in case we bring something back (as from Italy to New York in 2020). This is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away. (The data is from 2019, and so subject to subsequent events, but this is the best I can find.)

The CDC modeling hub and excess deaths charts will appear weekly, on Friday.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the United States hired 807K workers in December of 2021, the most in 7 months and more than double market forecasts of 400K, as the fallout from the Delta variant faded and Omicron’s impact had yet to be seen. Hiring was broad-based, though leisure and hospitality led with 246K new jobs.”

Services: “United States Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Services PMI stood at 57.6 in December 2021, little-changed from a preliminary estimate of 57.5 and below November’s 58.0. The latest reading signaled a sharp upturn in service sector business activity, despite the pace of growth easing to a three-month low, helped by strong client demand. New order growth quickened to the fastest since July, amid customer acquisitions and contract gains, while the pace of job creation was only marginal and the slowest for three months due to labor shortages and difficulties retaining workers. Meanwhile, backlogs of work continued to rise sharply.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “DOL takes on data-miner over novel health insurance plan” [Reuters]. “A data-mining company and federal regulators will square off Wednesday before a U.S. appeals court over a 2020 ruling that critics say erases the need for employee-benefit health insurance to only be offered in a genuine employment context and encourages risky “junk” plans. The U.S. Labor Department wants the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a Fort Worth, Texas federal judge’s ruling that health insurance policies offered by Data Marketing Partnership LP are employee-benefit plans, not state-regulated private health insurance. According to DMP’s appellate briefs, the Texas-based company was created in 2018 to give internet users a financial stake in the booming data-aggregation market. Users join DMP’s limited partnership by downloading tracking software, with the chance of sharing in the profits from the future sale of aggregated data. The only immediate benefit, however, is the opportunity to buy low-cost health insurance through the company, at the users’ own expense.” • Imaginative!


Supply Chain: “Indonesia talks on coal exports postponed as scores of ships in limbo” [Reuters]. “Indonesian authorities postponed a meeting with coal mining companies on Wednesday, as scores of ships moored off the coast remained in limbo as they waited to see whether the government would lift a ban on coal exports. The government has said it would review the ban on Wednesday and was due to meet mining companies in the morning ahead of a decision, which is keenly awaited by top economies in the region that rely on Indonesian supplies. However, officials at the Indonesian Coal Miners Association (ICMA) said a planned meeting with trade minister Muhammad Lutfi had not taken place. They did not say why the meeting was postponed and added no new time had been agreed. Ministry officials declined to comment. Indonesia, the world’s top exporter of thermal coal and China’s largest overseas supplier, announced on Saturday a ban on coal exports in January to avoid outages at its own generators, sending coal prices in the region surging.”


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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 67 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 4 at 12:05pm. Big switch to Greed over the holidays!

Rapture Index: Close unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

Civil War Studies

A true scholar:


“Thank You!” (podcast) [The Civil War (1861-1865)]. • The podcasters, Rich and Tracy Youngdahl, live in Boulder, Colorado. They had to flee their home when the Marshall Fire hit their neighborhood, but when they returned, their home was intact, although many of their neighbors homes were not. Note: These supremely dedicated amateurs actually know the year the Civil War began.

Zeitgeist Watch


“Stocked up,” perhaps, but not exactly Jackpot-ready:

Class Warfare

Since I mentioned that “breathing is a social relation“–

“Hidden Toxic Mold Lurking In Schools: Why No One Is Testing” [Good Day]. From 2019, still germane. “a state report to the legislature in 2004 found the majority of California schools surveyed reported signs of moisture or mold in their classrooms. The report linked mold spores to allergies and asthma, noting asthma was the ‘number one cause of chronic school absences, accounting for as many as 3 million missed school days a year.’ Fifteen years later, there is still no required testing for mold in schools and no law that regulates air quality in schools. However, the Department of Education tells CBS13 that mold concerns are the most common complaint that they get. The state reports the primary health hazards for mold in schools include asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, eye irritation, and rashes, like eczema. However, more severe symptoms ranging from tremors to memory loss.” • So school ventilation issues… have a history.

“America’s schools are falling into disrepair with no solution in sight, experts say” [NBC]. “While there have been significant associated health risks for decades, the Covid-19 pandemic has shed new light on the scale of the problem. For example, last summer the GAO estimated that 36,000 schools nationwide needed heating and air-conditioning repairs or updates for problems that, if left unaddressed, could lead to poor air quality and mold…. The disrepair in many inner-city schools is one of the starkest illustrations of inequality in America. Most school funding is tied to local tax bases, not formulas for equitable distribution.”

* * *

“The luxury air business is booming — as many Californians struggle to breathe” [Los Angeles Times]. From 2020: “Gregory Malin remembers the night he realized a breath of fresh air could help sell a mansion. The year was 2009. Some 2.8 million foreclosures were underway across the nation. Malin was hosting a party in San Francisco’s tony Pacific Heights, where his real estate development and investment firm, Troon Pacific, had bought a house for $6 million to gut and renovate it as a showpiece. They’d turned it into the greenest residence in the city, scoring super-platinum points on the LEED certification scale. Now they were showing it off. A woman approached him and asked: ‘Oh, my God. What do you do in this home? Do you produce oxygen? I feel so much better right now than I felt all year,’ Malin recalls. He had installed a state-of-the-art ventilation system for energy efficiency, but it also kept fresh filtered air moving through the building. Something clicked. ‘My late wife looked at me and said, ‘Truly, the greatest luxury in life is your health.’’ The house sold for more than $13 million, and Malin began marketing air as a health-and-wellness amenity, the same way builders of yore pitched hot tubs or home gyms.” • Gotta surf the waves of change!

“High-End Homes With High-End Air Purification Systems” [Wall Street Journal]. From 2014: “Alongside infinity pools and gourmet kitchens, more high-end developers and luxury-home builders are pitching a new amenity: freshly circulated, highly scrubbed air. Developers of 155 East 79th Street, a condominium under construction on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, boast that its ventilation technology first cleanses air via a hospital operating-room-grade purification system and then brings the fresh filtered result into each unit. In San Francisco, luxury developer Troon Pacific says it has built several speculative homes in the $5 million-plus range that fully exchange their indoor air at least three times a day.” • Three times a day is not enough, but get the super to crank those babies down in the basement…

Air in another sense:

Good call!

News of the Wired

“A trip to the doctors? Active ingredient in magic mushrooms could help treat mental health disorders including PTSD, research suggests” [Daily Mail]. “An active ingredient in magic mushrooms could help treat mental health disorders including PTSD, research suggests. Scientists say that small doses of the psychedelic drug psilocybin, found in ‘magic’ mushrooms are not only good at easing disorders resistant to treatment but they also have no short or long-term side effects in healthy people. Researchers in a study led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, found that the drug can be given safely in doses of either 10mg or 25mg to up to six patients. The report, in partnership with COMPASS Pathways, is an essential first step for experts to prove the safety and feasibility of drug psilocybin as a treatment alongside talking therapies for a range of conditions including treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and PTSD. It is the first drug to go head-to-head with the traditional and often ineffective treatments on the market. Early research hailed the mushroom as a promising treatment but no human trials have been conducted until now. ” • Please, let them say mushrooms and not turn into pills….

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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. Today’s plant (via):

The exhilaration of a sunny, freezing day….

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