HomeEconomy2:00PM Water Cooler 1/6/2022 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/6/2022 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I wouldn’t want to hear that cry if I were a small creature in the night….

* * *


“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

Capitol Seizure

Readers, my priors on this are perhaps too strong. (1) If the Capitol seizure is an insurrection or sedition, where is the Attorney General? (2) The story is from the usual suspects who promoted RussiaGate; they have form. (3) I don’t say that the FBI instigated the seizure, but it’s impossible for me to believe they knew nothing of it, and weren’t involved; they too have form (they did instigate the Whitmer kidnapping plot, and they had at least one informer in the Proud Boy leadership, and another present with the Proud Boys on the day). (4) The rioters were ineffectual; the QAnon shaman didn’t exactly proclaim a new republic from the House dais. (5) The Capitol Police report to Pelosi, so their failure that day — if failure it was — comes down to her. (6) Since the Democrats can’t run on their record in 2022, given their mountain of Covid bodies is higher than Trump’s, “our democracy” is something they can run on. Surely this has been the leadership’s scheme from the start, and so the entire enterprise is polluted, top to bottom, in the ways we are already familar with. That said–

“Jan. 6 shows impunity is the rule for American elites” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “When Lucius Sergius Catilina attempted to overthrow the Roman Republic in 63 BCE, he was hunted down by the military and killed along with all his followers. When Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, invaded England to try to depose Henry IV, he was defeated, beheaded, and his head displayed on the London Bridge. When a group of army officers attempted to overthrow the French Republic in 1961, they were arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned (though some later had their sentences commuted). At the risk of belaboring the obvious, all this happened because of the incumbent government’s self-preservation instinct. States punish insurrectionists both as a signal that sedition won’t be tolerated and to take specific dangerous figures out of play. Historical exceptions to this practice only further the point: When Adolf Hitler attempted a putsch in 1923, for instance, he got off with a slap on the wrist thanks to a sympathetic right-wing judge. A decade later he was chancellor. It’s not hard to imagine what a normal country would do in response to something like Jan. 6. The putschists who stormed the Capitol would be prosecuted, of course, but the principal organizers would get the primary attention of law enforcement. We don’t need medieval barbarities to deter sedition — enforcing existing laws would be just fine…. But America is not a normal country. The low-level chumps, lunatics, and small business owners who made up the bulk of the putschists are being prosecuted, thus far exclusively for relatively minor crimes like trespassing or disorderly conduct. And Trump and other organizers are getting off scot-free…. That, I submit, explains Garland’s refusal to prosecute someone who is certain to try to seize power again if he can: Whenever something awful happens to demonstrate that the U.S. is just another ordinary country with many foibles, or that the political class is full of deranged criminals, the chauvinist instinct is to sweep it under the rug and deny anything is wrong.”

“The Real Tragedy of Jan. 6 Is That It’s Still Not Over” [Daily Beast]. “And then there was the moment when, while trying to get into the Capitol through an area that was already blocked off with bicycle racks, I saw a phalanx of Capitol Police in riot gear walking through the sea of protesters. I went up to one, flashing my congressional press badge and beginning to explain that I was trying to get into the building. He stopped me, looked at me like I was crazy for strolling through this crowd—even crazier for wearing a press badge—and immediately just swept me into the line of cops without saying a word. I hadn’t yet understood the danger these protesters posed, but the police already knew.” • A population known for its devotion to guns hadn’t brought any….

“Riot shields and metal detectors are a reminder of deadly U.S. Capitol assault” [Reuters]. • All the deaths on the day were rioters, including the one the cops whacked.

“‘We were trapped’: Trauma of Jan. 6 lingers for lawmakers” [Associated Press]. “Vividly they remember the loud, hornetlike buzz of their gas masks. The explosive crack of tear gas in the hallways outside. The screams of officers telling them to stay down. The thunderous beating on the doors below. Glass shattering as the rioters punched through a window pane. The knobs rattling ominously on the locked doors just a few feet behind them. And most indelibly, the loud clap of a gunshot, reverberating across the cavernous chamber. ‘I’ve heard a lot of gunshots in my time, and it was very clear what that was,’ Crow said. ‘I knew that things had severely escalated.’ The shot was fired by Officer Michael Byrd and killed Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter from California who was trying to crawl through the broken window of a door that leads to the House chamber. Both the Justice Department and Capitol Police investigated the shooting and declined to file charges. While the gunshot dispersed some of the violent mob, the lawmakers ducking in the gallery believed the worst was just beginning. ‘I think all of us, myself included, had images of a mass-shooting event,’ said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who posted video updates on Twitter as the chaos unfolded. ‘It was terrifying in the moment.’” • I have sympathy for their experience — even as the AP focuses on their feelings, as opposed to the actual death — but whatever an insurrection might be, it’s not a “mass-shooting event.” What an odd categorization.

“Recalling Jan. 6: A national day of infamy, half remembered” [Associated Press]. “But since that day, separate versions — one factual, one fanciful — have taken hold. The Capitol riot — the violent culmination of a bid to delegitimize the 2020 election and block its certification — has morphed into a partisan “Rashomon,” the classic Japanese film about a slaying told from varying and conflicting points of view.” Oddly, having established the binary, the story doesn’t follow through with quotes (IIRC, Rashomon wasn’t binary either; it had multiple points of view). “Instead of receding into the past as an anomalous threat to the heart of American democracy, the history of the Capitol riot is yet to be fully written. Some projects are ongoing. To tell the story of Jan. 6, the Capitol Historical Society is creating an oral history. Some of the stories — like those of staffers who have since quit government and returned home — are particularly haunting for the society’s president, Jane L. Campbell. Meanwhile, the Capitol remains closed to the public. Where tours once regularly paraded, now only those with an appointment may enter.” • So at least there has been one happy outcome. I remember good ol’ Harry Reid remarking about how the tourists smelled. Surely, a few moments of fear is worth years of unsullied scent receptors?

“U.S. Democracy Under Siege After Tech Lobbyist Invites Some Senators To Dinner” [The Onion]. “‘Rarely do we see such a brazen attack on our democratic values, and yet we could only watch in shock and horror as a paid representative for several biotech firms entered Charlie Palmer Steak with three U.S. senators for a sumptuous five-course meal,’ said political scientist Monica Turley, adding that the vicious assault on representative self-government was compounded by the fact that U.S. intelligence officials had done nothing to address it, despite records showing that the dinner reservation had been in place for months.”

Biden Administration

“Joe Biden’s Lobbyists Are Helping Big Pharma Profiteers” [Jacobin]. “President Joe Biden’s top media buying firm is helping Big Pharma’s efforts to kill his party’s watered-down drug pricing legislation and targeting Senate Democrats up for reelection this year. It’s the latest reminder that for the Beltway consultant class, money is far more important than ideology. While Big Pharma’s allies in Congress have already succeeded in scaling back the Democrats’ drug pricing plan, the provision in Biden’s Build Back Better legislation still represents the party’s most sincere effort to fulfill its longtime promise to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. The idea of allowing the government to negotiate drug prices — like most other high-income countries do — is one of the most popular items in the Biden social agenda bill. Yet, a top Democratic Party media buying firm, Canal Partners Media, is placing ads for drug industry front groups that want to block Democrats from lowering drug prices as promised in the Biden reconciliation bill.” • “Most sincere” does not actually mean “sincere,” of course.


“2022 House Overview: Still a GOP Advantage, but Redistricting Looks Like a Wash” [Dave Wasserman, Cook Political Report]. “The surprising good news for Democrats: on the current trajectory, there will be a few more Biden-won districts after redistricting than there are now — producing a congressional map slightly less biased in the GOP’s favor than the last decade’s. The bad news for Democrats: if President Biden’s approval ratings are still mired in the low-to-mid 40s in November, that won’t be enough to save their razor-thin House majority (currently 221 to 212 seats).” • So, on redistricting, the yammering Democrat NGOs were wrong, and the yawning Democrat electeds were right. Fascinating.

“Why 2022 Rhymes With the Previous Four Midterms” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “Democrats need to rally their voters *against* something. Which is why you are seeing so much attention focused on Pres. Trump and the events of January 6th. Republicans tried a similar strategy in 2018 by trying to link every Democratic candidate with Nancy Pelosi or Bernie Sanders. This counter-attack only works if the other side falls into the trap. In 2018, Democrats worked hard to side-step controversial issues like abolishing ICE. Others promised to vote against Pelosi for speaker. We’ll have to see how well Republicans avoid nominating controversial candidates or engaging in unpopular behavior.”

“Republicans lose edge on generic congressional ballot: poll” [The Hill]. “Republicans have lost their lead on the generic congressional ballot ahead of November’s midterm elections, according to a new USA Today-Suffolk University poll released on Tuesday. The survey shows Democrats narrowly leading Republicans on the generic ballot, 39 percent to 37 percent, marking a major shift from the GOP’s previous 8-point lead in a November USA Today-Suffolk University poll. The Democrats’ lead falls with the poll’s 3.1 percentage margin of error. However, according to the latest poll’s findings, Republicans are necessarily not hemorrhaging support to Democrats — rather more Republicans said they were undecided. Undecided voters ticked up 16 percent to 24 percent from November to January. The poll also showed dismal approval ratings for President Biden, a bad sign for down-ballot Democrats going into this year.”


We’re really making progress now:

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.

* * *

And speaking of the class power of the PMC:

“Vaccine Politics” [Will Stancil]. “[T]ens or hundreds of millions of Americans still face serious risks during a COVID surge, either from direct infection or from other disruptions to their lives. However, that overall risk has been shifted away from cultural, political, and economic power centers and towards smaller, poorer, marginalized, and disadvantaged communities. As a result, there has been a shift in the political response to COVID. As people in high-income, high-visibility groups have become more insulated from the crisis, political and social leaders have demonstrated lower appetite for disruptive policy responses to COVID. Government interventions like mask mandates or vaccine passports have not been widely adopted, and many existing mandates have been ended. School closures, business closures, and other restrictions on gatherings have been largely abandoned. This shift is particularly noticeable among liberal elites, who are heavily concentrated in the power centers that are now most insulated. Many liberal elites in politics and media previously embraced an ethos of shared sacrifice to deal with the pandemic, in the name of ‘flattening the curve.’ A number of these same political and social leaders have drifted towards a rhetoric of personal responsibility, sometimes suggesting that this is a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ that can be safely forgotten by the majority who have received a vaccine, or that people who suffer from a surge have no one to blame but themselves. This contingent increasingly includes Democratic federal and state officials, like Governor Polis of Colorado.”

Hmm. Open Secrets:

Obama Legacy

I can’t figure out if this is dogs-playing-power sentimental, or ironic:

I support the tropes, but what are they?

Trump Legacy

“Head of State Collection, 2022” [Melania Trump]. • NFTs, of course:

I suppose this is better than laundering the money through an art gallery….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The insurrection will be decentralized: The next Jan. 6 will happen in the state houses” [Salon]. “A year later, we must again look to our state houses for a preview of what is to come. In key battleground states, Republicans are steadily building toward a future where they can engineer election outcomes. GOP-controlled legislatures are setting the stage for another attempted coup. The next insurrection will be decentralized, coming from our state houses with the sheen of legal authority. If we do nothing to stop their plans, then as the 2024 votes are tallied in our states, the laws and rules governing the process and outcome will have been rewritten for a particular outcome: Republican wins, regardless of the votes. And an arch-conservative Supreme Court could stand poised to thwart a constitutional challenge to this state power grab. We have the opportunity to stop this in its tracks — by pouring resources and attention into key state legislative chambers and races immediately. What we do next for our states could determine the fate of our democracy.”

“White Backlash Is A Type Of Racial Reckoning, Too” [FiveThirtyEight]. • Ruy Teixeira’s “coalition of the ascendant,” to which the Democrat Party adhered for many years, was quite explicit that demographic advances by what some call “people of color” would lead to Democrat hegemony, without Democrats doing much of anything on policy. (Teixeira paradigm isn’t looking so good these days, as some “Asians” and “Hispanics” — severely crude categories — turned out to prefer Republicans.) However, did Teixeira and the army of Democrat strategists really not consider the possibility that a demographic whose political demise they desired would not react? Of course there was a reckoning, for good or ill.


Case count by United States regions:

A lessening of the increase. The last time we saw this, it was data, and not the approach of a peak. Note that this increase is small relative to the previous few days, but compared to the chart as a whole, it is still very large. 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!

NOT UPDATED 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 roaring 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: 853,612​851,475.

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 Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based companies announced plans to cut 321,970 jobs from their payrolls in 2021, the least on record and down 86% from 2020 as employees try to retain workers faced with a record number of job quits. Company closings caused the most cuts (69,648), followed by restructuring (58,712), and market conditions (54,160).”

Employment Situation: “United States Jobless Claims 4-week Average” [Trading Economics]. “The 4-week moving average of US jobless claims, which removes week-to-week volatility, rose to 204.5 thousand in the week ending January 1st, from a revised 199.75 thousand in the previous period.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods rose by 1.6 percent from a month earlier in November 2021, the largest increase since May and slightly above market expectations of 1.5 percent.”

Services: “United States ISM Non Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI fell to 62 in December from a record high of 69.1 in November, well below market forecasts of 66.9. but still pointing to the 19th consecutive month of growth in the sector. The demand for services remains strong and sustained but companies continue to struggle with inflation, supply chain disruptions, capacity constraints, logistical challenges and shortages of labor and materials.”

* * *

Retail: Magic of the marketplace:

It really wouldn’t have taken a lot of effort to turn the mask situation around.

The Bezzle: “Coinbase Lifted to Buy; Bank of America Sees New Revenue Streams” [The Street]. • I’ll bet.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 4 at 12:05pm. Last updated Jan 6 at 1:28pm.

The 420

Somebody at NAICS has a sense of humor:

Class Warfare

“Review: How Labor Can Stop ‘The Privatization of Everything’” [Labor Notes]. “As private companies have grabbed a bigger share of the $7 trillion spent every year on public services, the impact of privatization on pay, benefits, and income inequality has become more pronounced. In their many case studies, [Dan Cohen and his co-author Allen Mikaelian] show how contracting out has been a win-win for the rich and powerful, but rarely for anyone else…. The authors also show how Democrats have been complicit with Republican office holders in “treating us as mere consumers of public services rather than citizens.” President Bill Clinton ‘found privatization useful for precisely the same reasons that Reagan Republicans had—it gave the appearance that government could be cut without cutting services.’ But the news isn’t all bad: “Between 2003 and 2019, more than 70 U.S. communities were able to take control of local water systems back from private contractors. In Felton, California, city officials created a public co-op to take their local water infrastructure back from the investor-owned California Water Company. In Missoula, Montana, concerned residents and city leaders waged a long but successful battle to buy its waterworks from the Carlyle Group, one of the largest private equity funds in the world.”

“How the pandemic made hotel housekeeping more difficult — and disgusting” [Los Angeles Times]. “To reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, many of the nation’s largest hotel chains have adopted policies that make daily housekeeping optional, letting guests choose how often housekeepers enter the rooms. In most cases, that means housekeepers enter only after guests check out, leaving multiple days’ worth of trash, grime and discarded towels to deal with…. The messes housekeepers are reporting include mounds of fast-food wrappers, piles of dirty towels, containers of half-eaten takeout food, floors sticky with spilled drinks and, occasionally, feces smeared on bathroom walls. One housekeeper shared a photo with The Times of a bed covered in hundreds of nitrous oxide capsules, manufactured for whip cream dispensers but often used by people who inhale the gas to get a quick dizzying high…. ‘The pandemic has been an unmitigated, nonstop health and safety disaster for housekeepers,’ [Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here] said. ‘Cleaning a room that has been left untouched for days is not only more difficult and time-consuming, but it is far less safe for guests and workers.’ The new conditions are likely to increase the already high injury rates among hotel housekeepers, he said.”

When it comes time for administrators to really earn their money (1):

When it comes time for administrators to really earn their money (2):

News of the Wired

I don’t think it’s possible to subscribe to too many artbots:

This painting is in the Boston MFA. From six feet away, the snow appears glittering white. Put your nose up to the canvas, and you see many tiny strokes of different brilliant colors: Blue, red, yellow. Amazing stuff. Perhaps NFTs mean we’re running out of “real” art?

* * *
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RH has nothing to say, and perhaps there is nothing to say!

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