2:00PM Water Cooler 11/29/2021

2 00pm Water Cooler 11 29 2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Darwin*’s finches, “foraging or eating.” Plus plenty of background chatter. Five minutes, so you can prepare coffee if I am late. NOTE * Yay.

The sound of crinkling foil:

can’t talk my ride’s here pic.twitter.com/I3txQgeOot

— kim (@KimmyMonte) November 23, 2021

I think it’s PhotoShopped (the “WAKE UP” at left doesn’t blend with the front fender’s surface). Then again, this is America, so maybe not.

“Wildlife artist paints a book of love letters to Malaysia’s birds” [Globe_]. • Indeed, lovely paintings.

* * *


Because what we laughingly call our government does not deem a pandemic sufficient cause to collect or process data over a long holiday weekend, all these charts are really screwed up, and some haven’t been updated at all. It will take a few days to return to form, such as it is. –lambert

Vaccination by region:

59% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 23. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Thailand in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). No change from last week, but I assume that’s a holiday data issue.

Case count by United States regions:

An enormous drop, just like the enormous drop 368 days ago on 26 November 2020, a Thursday.

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “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 clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

* * *

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above:

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Looks like all the students left for Thanksgiving. Bringing their viral load with them?

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. This, at least, was updated November 24:

Status quo, pretty much, except for Maine. Maine worries me because I worry about something coming across the border from Quebec, having originated in the Francophonie; note the County got red first. The counter-argument here would be that Upstate New York, subject the same cross-border traffic, got less red, not more. So, fingers crossed. Maybe it’s all the out-of-states from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 799,414 796,420. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so. (CDC explains there are data lags).

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital.)

Covid cases in historic variant sources, with additions from the Brain Trust:

Adding South Africa. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

* * *


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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

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

Biden Administration

“Friends, I have wasted a day.” –The Emperor Titus

“Citizens, I have squandered a year.” –President Biden

“Blame Fauci for the delay in halting Omicron’s spread in America” [New York Post]. “US regulations require all airline travelers to present proof of vaccination — but read the fine print. The regulations exempt travelers from countries where vaccination rates are very low. That’s crazy. Just 6 percent of Africa’s population is vaccinated. To quantify the danger Fauci created by delaying the travel ban, consider two flights that landed Friday in Amsterdam from Johannesburg and Cape Town, with 600 passengers in all. On arrival, 10 percent of those passengers tested positive for COVID-19 and were subjected to tests for Omicron. Thirteen, it turns out, carried the variant. It’s plausible that 10 percent of passengers arriving in the United States from South Africa over the weekend carried the virus as well, including some with Omicron. Thank you, Dr. Fauci.” • Fauci — hence Biden — does not seem to understand the precautionary principle, though to be fair, I don’t think the Post’s attack dog writer does either. The writer also doesn’t mention Biden’s so-called travel banwhich doesn’t apply to US citizens, presumably because the new variant is smart enough to check passports.

“FDA nomination slips after Biden admin fails to send papers to Congress” [Politico]. “A plan to speed Robert Califf’s nomination for FDA commissioner through the Senate next month is on hold after the Biden administration failed to submit the necessary paperwork to Congress in time, three people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO…. The document submission is a formality in the confirmation process, but must be completed to ensure senators have all the materials they need to fully consider a nominee…. Three Democratic senators have already expressed deep reservations about Califf’s candidacy over his connection to the FDA’s decision-making on opioids, as well as his work for a variety of pharmaceutical companies. Still, the White House is counting on Califf winning some Republican support in the evenly divided Senate, as well as the vast majority of Democrats.” • The adults in the room were supposed to handle this stuff. What’s going on?

* * *

A non-gotcha, how refreshing:

3. Even though surgical mask has lower efficiency, the combined efficiency of two 70% masks is 91%. Saying they’re useless is incorrect.

— Joseph Allen (@j_g_allen) November 29, 2021

The whole thread is worth a read.

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, 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 that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like, and with the unions (especially teachers) involved. At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a plan, and the ground prepared for it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing governance. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing for it.

And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.

* * *

“Democrats can’t win elections and can’t govern, so stop supporting them and send your money somewhere that will actually help” [Business Insider]. “In local elections, progressives and socialists won important seats at the table, like the election of Michelle Wu as mayor of Boston. Candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America won elections in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and elsewhere. And more critically, a wave of non-electoral radicalism is sweeping the country: Tens of thousands of workers, from machinists at John Deere to film production workers in Hollywood, have gone on strike and demanded higher wages and better benefits. Even the much-maligned nationwide labor shortage can be viewed as a progressive win: It’s an unofficial general strike. Americans have decided they would rather not work than give in to appalling working conditions and low pay. Polls show Americans support progressive policies and support for unions is higher than it’s been in 50 years. These are all signs of a swelling progressive movement in this country. But for this movement to continue, the average Democrat has to completely reconfigure their own priorities: How much bigger could each strike be if the billions of dollars committed to failing electoral campaigns were instead committed to strike funds and local labor organizations? How many more local candidates who really have a chance of enacting significant change could win elections were Democrats’ attention spans not filled up with ineffective national politics? Democrats are currently operating according to the sunk cost fallacy — like a gambler who thinks just one more hand will get him out of debt. The only option now is to simply walk out of the casino.” • Good point on the strike funds.

“Chicago area Democrat staffer forced to resign after linking Rittenhouse verdict to Waukesha killings, saying it was ‘karma’” [Journal-Sentinel]. “A Chicago area Democratic operative was ousted Monday after posting a series of tweets linking the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal to the Waukesha parade killings. ‘You reap what you sow, Wisconsin,’ wrote Mary Lemanski, who had been the social media manager for the the Democratic Party of DuPage County until the party said it ‘severed ties’ with her after her tweets. ‘It was probably just self-defense #Wisconsin #KyleRittenhouse,’ she tweeted Sunday night after five people were killed and more than 40 injured when an SUV rammed into the annual Waukesha Christmas Parade. She added: ‘I’m sad. I’m sad anytime anyone dies. I just believe in Karma and this came around quick on the citizens of Wisconsin.’ In an early Monday morning reply to Twitter comments, Lemanski wrote that ‘the blood of Kyle Rittenhouse’s victims is on the hands of Wisconsin citizens, even the children,’ according to the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper.” • Cf. Matt 18:21-22.


“The Buttigieg presidential buzz has hit the White House” [Politico]. “Sinema, who has occasionally given the White House and progressives fits, seemed delighted to appear with Buttigieg at a round table at Mesa Community College where he sat between the two senators. ‘Thanks for your leadership,’ in getting the infrastructure bill signed, Buttigieg said.” • A quick study.

Obama Legacy

Wait for it….

[embedded content]

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ general business activity index for manufacturing in Texas fell slightly to 11.8 in November of 2021, from a three-month high of 14.6 in October. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose 9 points to 27.4, a reading well above average and indicative of robust output growth. Other measures of manufacturing activity also indicated a further pickup in growth.”

* * *

Commodities: “Copper firms as low inventories outweigh Omicron fears” [Reuters]. “Copper prices climbed on Monday as fears about further damage to growth and demand from the Omicron coronavirus variant were outweighed by low inventories of the industrial metal.”

Commodities: “Iron Ore Surges as China’s Steel Mills Prepare to Restock” [Bloomberg]. “Iron ore futures in Singapore jumped nearly 10% as optimism over a bout of restocking by China’s steel mills added to tailwinds from the risk-on mood in global markets. Prices rebounded from Friday’s pandemic-driven losses alongside a rally across commodities from nickel to crude oil on bets the impact of a new coronavirus variant may not be as severe as initially feared.” • I certainly hope whoever spread the “mild” rumor traded on it!

Commodities: “Helium removed from US critical minerals list” [Gas World]. “Helium has not been included in the US Geological Survey’s (USGS) 2021 Draft List of Critical Minerals, published in the Federal Register on 9th November. The USGS, an agency under the Department of the Interior (DOI), is required by the Energy Act of 2020 to refresh the List of Critical Minerals at least every three years and the previous list of 35 critical minerals was published in May of 2018. Helium, which is critical for applications such as semiconductor chip manufacturing, aerospace, MRI scanning, optical fibre manufacturing and nuclear power generation, and which has been prone to recurring shortages, was included on the 2018 list so it is a surprise to see helium not included on the draft 2021 list…. While the US is not yet dependent on foreign supply, it seems very shortsighted on the part of the USGS to remove helium from the List of Critical Minerals, when the ongoing decline of domestic production puts us on a path toward reliance on foreign sources, and the primary alternatives to US production will be located in countries that are all subject to either geopolitical risk or supply chain disruption.” • OK, the USGS minerals list is a draft, and the writer is ticked and wants the draft changed. Are they wrong?

Retail: “Best Buy robbed by large group in Minnesota on Black Friday” [The Hill]. • Who says we’re an atomized society?

Shipping: “Toy makers are working around the clock to overcome supply chain snags” [Los Angeles Times]. Here is the lead, eight paragraphs in: “Control of about 80% of the global shipping market and 95% of the transpacific routes is concentrated in the hands of nine companies based mainly in Asia and Europe, according to S&P Global Platts, and they exert near-total control over the prices. It currently costs $10,000 to $15,000 in the spot market to ship a 40-foot container from China to the West Coast, more than five times the pre-pandemic rate.” • So, exactly like the pandemic itself, what’s not to like?


MarineTraffic #AIS data shows boxships from Asia to the US slowing down to avoid mass congestion in California.
📉More insights on our graph showing how the average speeds of container voyages from China to California have been shaped over the past 8 months vs same months in 2020 pic.twitter.com/YXwbLy6VtN

— MarineTraffic (@MarineTraffic) November 29, 2021

My impression is that Mainers universally believe that heating oil prices are manipulated, and that one way oil companies manipulate supply is by managing the speed of tankers. So I wonder if something similar is going on here. Not that I’m foily.

Shipping: “Hundreds of FedEx packages are found in Alabama woods” [ABC]. “An Alabama sheriff is trying to figure out how hundreds of FedEx packages ended up dumped in the woods. An estimated 300 to 400 packages of various sizes were found in a ravine near the small town of Hayden on Wednesday, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Deputies were sent to guard the scene until FedEx workers could arrive to pick up the packages, Sheriff Mark Moon said. FedEx sent multiple trucks and drivers from across the South to load up the packages, Moon said.” • FedEx is non-union. Just saying.

Shipping: “Reluctant Merchants Are Embracing Amazon’s Chartered Ships This Holiday Season” [gGaptain]. “[Amazon’s] logistical prowess hasn’t been lost on the merchants who sell products on Amazon’s sprawling marketplace. For years, they resisted using the company’s global shipping service because doing so means sharing information about pricing and suppliers, data they fear the company could use to compete with them. But container shortages in the leadup to the holiday season persuaded many of them to overcome their qualms and entrust their cargos to the world’s largest online retailer. ‘Amazon had space on ships and I couldn’t say no to anyone,’ says David Knopfler, whose Brooklyn-based Lights.com sells home décor and lighting fixtures. ‘If Kim Jong Un had a container, I might take it, too. I can’t be idealistic.’ Knopfler says Amazon’s prices were ‘phenomenal,’ $4,000 to ship a container from China compared with the $12,000 demanded by other freight forwarders. Amazon also simplifies the process since it oversees the shipment from China to its U.S. warehouses. Other services have lots of intermediaries where cargo swaps hands, presenting opportunities for miscommunication and delays.” • Goodness, I wonder why Amazon’s prices were so good. I realize Knopfler had no choice, but that’s rather the point, isn’t it?

The Bezzle: “The Token Disconnect” [Stephen Deihl]. Important! “To the overwhelming majority of us in the software engineering profession who live closest to the metal, we see blockchain as a technology that barely works and whose use cases (if any) are vanishingly small and niche. Blockchains are a solution in search of a problem, but in the meantime we’re expected to pre-invest in ‘tokens’ while the decades roll by with seemingly no progress on the fundamental question of ‘For what?’. It all looks like a form of reverse-innovation where discovery precedes purpose. Perhaps it is our field’s version of string theory, theoretically-plausible castles in the sky which are built on unfalsifiable claims and are only loosely tethered to reality. But what really triggers our engineer ‘baloney detection’ alarm, is that it’s a set of incoherent ideas attached to so many get rich quick schemes. The venture capitalist class sees crypto in a vastly different and largely incommensurate way. At its core their profession is simply about one thing: returning money to their LPs. Crypto offers an genuinely exciting new financial tool for that purpose, arbitraging securities regulation.” • Commentary:

It’s been startling to dig into web3 to find its just crypto where the focus has gone from making your own currency without regulation to selling your own stocks without regulation.

It’s the future of VCs & Wall Street financialization not the future of the world wide web. pic.twitter.com/wpshGL8EBT

— Dare Obasanjo (@Carnage4Life) November 27, 2021

I hadn’t thought of “founder” and “fraudster” as synonyms, but I suppose it was only a matter of time…

The Bezzle: “The ‘Buy’ Button in The iTunes Store” [Truth in Advertising]. “A new class-action lawsuit alleges Apple misleads consumers by advertising that they can “buy” digital content when Apple does not own all of the movies, shows and music it sells in its iTunes store and must revoke access to content if its license to the content is terminated…. A similar class-action complaint was filed against Amazon regarding its Prime Video streaming service in April 2020. Last month that lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning an amended version of the complaint can be filed.”

The Bezzle: “StubHub refund ruling highlights Calif. precedent companies despise” [Reuters]. “U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam of Oakland on Monday refused to compel arbitration of California state-law claims by a class of consumers who allege that StubHub Inc wrongfully changed its cash refund policies when COVID-19 forced widespread event cancellations. StubHub’s terms of service include a provision requiring individual arbitration of consumer claims, but Gilliam ruled that the company cannot enforce the provision for claims under California law because of state supreme court precedent from 2017’s McGill v. Citibank NA…. The StubHub case is a good example of how McGill has empowered plaintiffs to push for class litigation. It also shows why the California precedent is so bitterly despised by corporate defendants that are now hoping for help from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Bezzle: Oopsie:

MUST watch… 🚩🚩🚩🤦‍♂️
تسلا تصدم جمل #تسلا
Tesla could not see the camel… #Tesla #ElectricVehicles
h/t @mu05029433
also, pictures below
from https://t.co/k2VFkHhkWq pic.twitter.com/p3qLowWZoD

— Anas Alhajji (@anasalhajji) November 27, 2021

The Bezzle: “Uber Survived the Spying Scandal. Their Careers Didn’t.” [New York Times]. • I dunno. After RussiaGate, I wouldn’t trust a story the Times wrote on supposedly former intelligence operatives as far as I could throw the Taj Mahal, whether they left for the private sector or not.

Tech: “Jack Dorsey Steps Down as Twitter CEO, Replaced by CTO Parag Agrawal” [Bloomberg]. “Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., is stepping down, ceding the position to the company’s Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal… ‘I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,’ Dorsey said in the statement. ‘My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead.’ And more: “‘The headline takeaway here is Twitter’s execution,’ said Mandeep Singh, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. ‘When you compare Twitter to all the other social media platforms, the level of engagement they had, they never were able to monetize it as well as some’ other rivals.” • “Other rivals” = Facebook, meaning Wall Street also wants Twitter to become a cesspit of algorithmic manipulation. Lambert here: People love to whinge about Twitter, but I think you get from it what you bring to it (which Facebook’s newsfeed makes impossible). I belong to several nice little neighborhoods in Twitter that are very important to me. Further, Twitter, as a meeting ground for the great unwashed, the press, and policy makers and academics of a certain level, performs an important social function much like the blogosphere once did. It’s impossible for me to imagine, for example, that the aerosol science thought collective would gotten the traction it did without Twitter. That translates directly into lives saved. I take some hope from the fact that the CTO is Dorsey’s successor, not the CFO, heaven forfend, or some lawyer or private equity weasel. Note to Agrawal: I would pay a reasonable monthly fee for Twitter that didn’t perform any algorithmic manipulation on my feed whatever, including censorship. Let me do that. Also, give me simple HTML, including links, in the Tweet body. C’mon, dude, it’s the Internet! I would bet there are others who feel the same. (Maybe the $3.00/month version does, but frankly, $3.00 feels so cheap there can’t be value. Irrational reaction to pricing, I know, but there we are!)

Supply Chain: “Holiday shopping ‘hell’: workers brace for unruly customers and labor strikes” [Guardian]. Why on earth would workers have to “brace” for a strike? More: “Isabella Burrows, 19, started working at PetSmart in Michigan just ahead of the holiday shopping season in 2020. ‘It was one of the worst things I’ve had to work through. We didn’t have enough people to deal with those crowds. We had three registers and there were lines around and out the doors for how much traffic we had,’ said Burrows. This year, Burrows is scheduled to work from 3 to 11.30pm on Black Friday at a store one hour away from where she lives. She was transferred from a closer store in May after complaining to human resources that her manager downplayed and dismissed the tragic death of her 12-year-old brother two days after it happened. Though she has different managers at her new store, she still fears asking anything from management, while still grappling with the trauma from the incident at her previous store, ongoing worries about Covid-19, and bracing for the influx of store traffic and aggressive customers during the holiday shopping season.” • So, that Petsmart manager really fulfilled their social function big-time, didn’t they?

Mr. Market: “Top Glove Jumps 21% as Omicron Variant Concerns Boost Outlook” [Bloomberg]. “The two-day gains in glove makers are reminiscent of the eye-popping rallies seen by medical wear companies last year before vaccine rollouts, the economic reopening and forced labor allegations weighed on their outlook. The sector was one of the hottest pandemic trades in 2020 but many of the glove producers more than halved in their market value this year.” • If I played the ponies, I would have been long stupid. Maybe hedging with a little flutter on alternative delivery technologies to syringes.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Greed (previous close: 33 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 29 at 11:36am. Omicron.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Oil Supply/Price. “Oil prices have declined in the past few weeks” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 183. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

The Biosphere

“The Arctic Ocean began warming decades earlier than previously thought, new research shows” [CNN]. “The Arctic Ocean has been warming since the onset of the 20th century, decades earlier than instrument observations would suggest, according to new research. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, found that the expansion of warm Atlantic Ocean water flowing into the Arctic, a phenomenon known as ‘Atlantification,’ has caused Arctic water temperature in the region studied to increase by around 2 degrees Celsius since 1900. Francesco Muschitiello, an author on the study and assistant professor of geography at the University of Cambridge, said the findings were worrisome because the early warming suggests there might be a flaw in the models scientists use to predict how the climate will change.”

Health Care

“Shining a light on more efficient nasal vaccines” [Advanced Science News] Wiley. From Korea. “The same mechanisms that protect us from inhaled particles and pathogens create a barrier to vaccine antigens. Lining the respiratory tract is a layer of mucus that immobilizes foreign material and fine hairs — or cilia — that sweep them back out. In the case of vaccine development, antigens are usually cleaned out of the nasal passage before a robust immune response can be generated. The research team, led by Professor Kun Na of The Catholic University of Korea, improved the retention of their vaccine in the nasal cavity, and super-charged the ensuing immune response with light. They combined the properties that would make a more effective intranasal vaccine into a nanoparticle held together by electrostatic interactions. Their nanoparticle complex consists of a harmless viral protein — influenza hemagglutinin — and a light sensitive polymer. Particulate antigens resist clearance from the nasal passage better than smaller proteins. And the positively charged polymer attaches more avidly to the negatively charged surface of epithelial cells that line the mucosa. Once administered into the nasal cavity, a laser is used to activate the polymer to generate reactive oxygen species. This in turn stimulates the maturation and activation of immune cells and augments the specific immune response against the virus. ‘Light activation of nanoparticulate vaccine can act as an adjuvant that allows nanoparticles to better penetrate the intranasal mucosal layer and increase the immune response,’ said lead author and graduate student, Hayoon Jeong.” • Light as an adjuvant… Certainly lateral thinking!

“Clinical study shows therapeutic sleep training for older adults can prevent depression” [USA Today]. “A new clinical study revealed that therapeutic sleep training can ease symptoms of depression in older adults. The form of cognitive behavioral sleep training, tabbed CBT-I, helps teach adults how to break bad habits to prep their mind and body for a good night’s sleep. The peer-reviewed study, published last week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, showed that adults who have insomnia can are less likely to develop depression. The study’s findings are among the first to show evidence of treating insomnia through a behavior strategy and not medication. According to research outlined in the study, 30% to 50% of older adults experience insomnia, which has become a major risk factor for depression and, in turn, suicide rates.”

Taleb is correct about printed books, which are more pleasurable to read and easier on the eyes than eBooks*:

I made a mistake. I wrote that “nobody reads textbooks for pleasure”.
Well, I now do.

1) They look like old illuminated MS (unlike drab books), #Lindy.

2) Much, much more pleasureable to read physically than digitally (in spite of, or owing to, the weight: 2 vol = 24lbs). pic.twitter.com/qFHq71pRm7

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) November 20, 2021

But why is Taleb reading medical textbooks?

NOTE When writing my post on O’Brian’s Far Side of the World, I needed a quote (“The horizon all round was a blackish purple….”) As so often, I opened the book directly to the passage I wanted. Not sure what capability my brain was calling on, here, but I do know this has never happened to me with any electronic document, I assume because the lack of tactility means a lack of spatiality, and hence no ability to navigate (unconsciously). Not a miracle of navigation like those performed by salmon or pigeons but not [lambert preens] entirely unimpressive.

Best call ever?

Whoa, Nate. From August 4…#Omicron https://t.co/t9KUymlqjL

— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) November 26, 2021

Or this?

New variants from unvaccinated areas that force us to get boosters is literally the business model of big pharma. I wrote this back in May. https://t.co/5fLOjxqYQG https://t.co/bUOaQnsA3I pic.twitter.com/mp66E6BBPq

— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) November 28, 2021

Thanksgiving Post Mortem

Somehow I missed this:

#HappyThanksgiving from the Harkonnen family to yours. #DuneMovie pic.twitter.com/hsXYBVrwdY

— DUNE (@dunemovie) November 25, 2021

Just a half a mile from the railroad track:

Lol. Actual clip from the Berkshire Eagle. pic.twitter.com/U2VQwN2A16

— Sam Husseini (@samhusseini) November 26, 2021

Well — flapping my newspaper, Colonel Blimp style — I was very young at 19, and very stupid, too.

Zeitgeist Watch

“The metaverse is just the latest incarnation of Las Vegas” [Izabella Kaminska, Financial Times]. “BBC documentary maker Adam Curtis’ once opined that ‘all of us in the west — not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves — have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world.’ The forward march to the metaverse pushes this trend to the extreme. It sends the message that perhaps our true world is so corrupted, so divided and so unfair, that it isn’t worth saving after all. Alternatively, we can photoshop reality to the point we can all pretend everything is as pretty as we experience it in our own heads. Also known as cultivating delusions: don’t worry about your lousy life, come join us in your own dreamworld. Not only is this a damning verdict on digital technology’s capacity to generate growth on the ground, it’s a recognition that future growth is now, more than ever, dependent on initiating a brain drain away from attempts to improve things in base reality.There is no better metaphor for what’s going on than the story of how Las Vegas was turned from a barren Nevada wasteland into a hedonistic escape from the harsh realities of The Great Depression in the 1930s.” • Sadly, Kaminska is leaving the FT. I wish her well!

Class Warfare

“COVID Parenting Is Reaching a Breaking Point” [The Atlantic]. “How can it be that even after two years, I won’t be able to meet my friends and their kids at the aquarium, or a museum, or a pizza place without dedicating brain space to what we’re all risking?” I knew this would be awful, and it was awful. The author interviews “a small group of my Atlantic colleagues” with children: All senior editors living in New York City or Washington, D.C. All working from home. Also from the Atlantic: “In reality, only 13.4 percent worked from home” [in August]. • Look, I have an “email job” too, very luckily for me. But I don’t whinge about my First World problems in the pages of the Atlantic, either. And I also don’t erase people with kids and a 60-hour-a-week job in an Amazon warehouse either — talk about a “breaking point’! — as all these nice NPR totebaggers did in their interview. I think the 100 – 13.4 = 86.6% are a lot more important on every level: Materially, politically. Morally. The tagline at the bottom says it all: “The Atlantic’s COVID-19 coverage is supported by grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.” Facebook money paid for the Atlantic to interview its own employees ffs.

News of the Wired

“Why a toaster from 1949 is still smarter than any sold today” [The Verge]. “When you stick a piece of bread into [ the Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster, sold from 1949 all the way through the late ‘80s], it pushes down a series of cleverly designed levers that have just enough tension to lower and raise two slices all by themselves — and it’s got a mechanical thermostat inside that stops your bread toasting when it’s toasted and ready, NOT after some arbitrary amount of time.” • Wait. There’s no app?

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) 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 (Re Silc):

Re Silc writes: “Wonderful old trees in Rock Creek Park, Maryland.” Hoom hoom!

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2021

This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on November 29, 2021 by Lambert Strether.

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered.
To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

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