2:00PM Water Cooler 12/1/2021

2 00pm Water Cooler 12 1 2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

More Darwin’s finches, foraging and eating on the Galápagos islands.

NOTE Alert reader MP writes: “As far as I can tell, the ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ campaign is basically merchandising imitating conspiracy theory.” Creative! But I won’t dignify the campaign with a link.

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#COVID19

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:

Rebounding from Thanksgiving data problems.

59.4% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 30. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Thailand in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). Big jump as we catch up with the long weekend data. No change from last week, but I assume that’s a holiday data issue.

Case count by United States regions:

Rebounding after the Thanksgiving drop.

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.)

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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. Back in action, but showing Thanksgiving data problems like everything else:

(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, still not updated:

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. Updated November 29:

This would be remarkably good news, if true. I think it’s a reporting artifact.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile), also November 29:

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: 803,186 801,326. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), now updated::

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.

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Politics

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

“They had 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

“7 policies in Biden’s spending plan aimed at health equity” [STAT]. “Embedded in the nearly $2 trillion plan are billions of dollars to help make health care services more accessible and affordable for Americans who slipped through the cracks of existing safety-net policies. … The health equity programs span the beginning of life, aiming to make birth safer for Black mothers, to the end, offering incentives to boost pay for home care services disproportionately provided by Black and Hispanic women. The package would also provide cheaper coverage options for low-income adults in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — a population that is 60% people of color — and provide stable funding for coverage programs for children and people in the U.S. territories.” • “More accessible and affordable.” Translation: Bandaids. Note also the assumption that the only form of “equity” is race-based.

“Dems’ paid leave push faces last stand” [Politico]. “The Senate is on the precipice of tossing a national paid family and medical leave program from President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion climate and social spending bill at the behest of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Manchin says he supports enacting paid leave, but wants to do it separately to allow for Republican input…. ‘I’ve urged Sen. Manchin that there are many things that we can do on a bipartisan basis. But they do not include a universal earned benefit. It does not include something that’s mandatory,’ said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who’s doggedly trying to sway Manchin. Gillibrand maintains the only way to cover West Virginians with low incomes is ‘a universal mandatory benefit. And the only chance of ever covering them would be something we would do now during reconciliation.’” • “Universal mandatory benefit.” Wait. What about complex eligibility requirements? What about means-testing? And when and how did Gillibrand see the light on this?

Yves ran this in Links this morning, but I want to add the point that ending a drone war is, like ending the war in Afghanistan, a reason for the warmongering political class to keep open season on Biden going forever:

I didn’t appreciate how Biden has all but halted the drone war, especially compared to Trump https://t.co/kjTNuWdw3r pic.twitter.com/wE7qyqjAmO

— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) November 30, 2021

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.

NEW Showing the PMC’s inability to govern, as a class they seem unable to expand their scope of operations into new fields. Consider the possibilities of the “Swiss Cheese Model.” Layered defenses include extensive testing, contact tracing, ventilation systems (not merely blue collar HVAC work, but design and evaluation), and quarantines. If we look at each layer as a jobs guarantee for credentialed professionals and managers, like ObamaCare, the opportunities are tremendous (and that’s before we get to all the training and consulting). And yet the PMC hasn’t advocated for this model at all. Instead, we get authoritarian followership (Fauci) and a totalizing and tribalizing faith in an extremely risky vax-only solution. Why? It’s almost as if they’re “acting against their own self-interest,” and I don’t pretend to understand it.

* * *

“CNN’s Chris Cuomo suspended over role in ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sex scandal” [Reuters]. “Cuomo, who hosts CNN’s most-watched prime time news show, had admitted in May he breached some of the network’s rules in advising his brother how to handle the allegations from a public relations perspective. He also pledged not to report on the case on air. CNN said on Tuesday that at the time it ‘appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second‘, but said the new documents ‘raise serious questions.’” • Well, I’m sure any Walmart worker with a family will appreciate the new baseline CNN has set. What happened? A Democrat press asset got disciplined…. for making it too obvious. Meanwhile, there’s an outpouring of support for Cuomo from political and media figures, presumably because they want to be guests on Cuomo’s next show when he is, inevitably, rehabilitated.

Trump Legacy

“CIA book on Trump briefings more interesting for what it omits” [Washington Examiner]. “Unmentioned in the new chapter is the fact that the FBI’s first intelligence briefing of candidate Trump in August 2016 was used as a ‘pretext’ to investigate him and his then-foreign policy adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. It also fails to mention that then-FBI Director James Comey’s briefing of Trump on the dossier in January 2017 was used as an opportunity to try to advance the Crossfire Hurricane inquiry.” • On January 6, 2017, Comey met with Trump, opened up his briefcase, and showed Trump a horses head. Trump, being from New York real estate, knows a shakedown when he sees one. So that is how the intelligence community introduced itself to him, good job.

Clinton Legacy

“Clinton Foundation donations plummet 75%” [Axios]. “Donations to the Clinton Foundation plummeted to $16 million last year, down nearly 75% from the organization’s peak when former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for president, records reviewed by Axios show. The foundation was a financial juggernaut in the years after Bill Clinton served as president and while his wife led her own political career.” • It’s almost like the Clinton Foundation lost an important product line. I wonder what they could have been selling?

Realignment and Legitimacy

Throwing declining life expectancy, Covid deaths, death threats, and wishing death on one’s political opponents into one bucket. I’m not making any causal argument, and I’m not sure what to label the bucket. I’d file these under Zeitgeist Watch, were there the slightest flavor or irony or frivolity:

“One thing Americans can’t deny: The nation’s low life expectancy” [The Hill]. “Some Americans may deny climate change, a presidential election outcome, a vaccine’s efficacy, war crimes, a domestic insurrection, a mass shooting of children, the nation’s racial history, etc. However, one thing that Americans can’t deny is the low U.S. life expectancy at birth compared to other advanced countries. Among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, U.S. life expectancy does not even appear on the list of the top 20 countries. Countries such as Iceland, Israel, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland had life expectancies in 2020 that were no less than five years greater than America’s figure — i.e., 83 to 85 years of age versus 77 years. Other countries with significantly higher life expectancies than America include Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Making U.S. mortality worse, COVID-19 caused about 375,000 deaths during 2020, contributing to a 16 percent increase in the death rate.” • Musical interlude, a familiar one…

Profiles in courage:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) plays a horrific death threat she received following Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) recent Islamophobic attacks on her.

Warning: It’s incredibly graphic. pic.twitter.com/5PGODcaJOu

— The Recount (@therecount) November 30, 2021

I’m sure this is not the only such call.

“On Mocking Dying Working Class White People” [Matt Stoller, Medium]. From 2017, still germane: “I’m just going to cut and paste comments from this story at the Huffington Post on white working class people dying of despair.” • Ugh.

* * *

“Wisconsin Supreme Court says it would minimize changes to current election maps, handing Republicans an initial redistricting victory” [Journal-Sentinel (Allan)]. “The majority also determined Wisconsin’s courts cannot throw out election maps because they are politically lopsided. The U.S. Supreme Court reached the same conclusion in 2019 for federal courts. That ruling means voters around the country cannot challenge maps in federal court if they believe they are drawn to entrench the power of one political party. Tuesday’s decision means such arguments are also barred in Wisconsin’s state courts.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the United States hired 534 thousand workers in November 2021, compared with a downwardly revised 570 thousand increase in October and beating market expectations of a 525 thousand rise, as the labor market continued to show signs of a solid recovery amid the ongoing economic rebound.”

Manufacturing: “United States Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI was revised lower to 58.3 in November 2021, from a preliminary estimate of 59.1 and slightly below the previous month’s final reading of 58.4. The latest figure pointed to the weakest pace of expansion in the manufacturing sector since December 2020 amid reports of near-record supply delays and slowing demand. Output growth was the second-slowest since September 2020 and new orders rose the least in 11 months. In addition, the rate of job creation slowed to only a modest pace, however, as labor shortages stymied efforts to fill current vacancies.”

Manufacturing: “United States ISM Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Manufacturing PMI in the United States edged up to 61.1 in November 2021, from 60.8 in the previous month and broadly in line with market consensus of 61.0. The latest reading indicated expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 18th month in a row after a contraction in April 2020, even as factories continued to struggle with pandemic-related shortages of raw materials.”

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Shipping: “Walmart rents space for pop-up container yards near major ports” [Freight Waves]. “Walmart executives say a new pop-up yard near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has helped the retailer improve import cargo flow and make more goods available for customers. The good news about having few shortages was delivered to President Biden Monday during a White House meeting to learn how major retailers, grocers, toymakers and other companies have overcome supply bottlenecks and are preparing for the holiday shopping season. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer improved its ability to clear goods through ports by rerouting cargo to other ports, extending lead times and developing other creative solutions. He also credited the Biden administration this fall for pressing ocean shipping stakeholders to collaborate on fixing gridlock created by record import volumes. Marine terminals squeezed by an overflow of shipping boxes have slowed down this year because there is little room for cargo-handling equipment and trucks to maneuver, or for incoming cargo to be stored. ‘We have seen an increase in throughput over the last four weeks of about 26% nationally in terms of getting containers through ports,’ McMillon said, according to a White House transcript of the meeting. ‘And in the Southern California ports, in particular, where you’ve been really focused, we’ve seen a 51% improvement in that flow. And that’s helped a lot as it relates to categories like toys, which are so important for Christmas.’ Also contributing to the reduced cargo friction, and unmentioned by McMillon, are Walmart’s new overflow yards for staging containers and private chartering of small vessels to get around ocean shipping delays. The temporary lots prevent import boxes from becoming trapped under piles of cargo in major ports and give the retailer a place to store merchandise until there is room to accept it at crowded import centers for redistribution around the country.” • Walmart didn’t tell Biden about the pop-up container yards? Why?

The Bezzle: “Meta’s Cryptocurrency Leader Announces Departure” [Al Mayadeen]. “The leader of cryptocurrency efforts at Meta, David Marcus, announced Tuesday that he will leave his position at the end of the year. His departure comes after the company, formerly known as Facebook, failed to launch a cryptocurrency project to transfer money online through Facebook products. Initially called Libra, the project was later renamed Diem and is currently managed by an independent association and is still inaccessible to the public. Marcus joined Meta in August 2014 after heading PayPal for two years. The entrepreneur was the vice president of Facebook’s Messenger application before running Facebook’s financial projects in 2018.” • I hate calling Facebook Meta, because it supports whatever scam Zuckerberg is coming up with now. But there’s no choice…..

Supply Chain: “U.S. Labor Secretary Visits Top West Coast Ports as Union Talks Loom” [Maritime Logistics Professional]. “The U.S. labor secretary on Tuesday met with unions and employers at the nation’s busiest port complex in Southern California as anxiety builds ahead of next year’s contract negotiations covering roughly 22,000 West Coast dockworkers. The contract expires in July, and the stakes are particularly high at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex that handles some 40% of U.S. imports. Docks at the side-by-side ports are crowded with cargo boxes and more than four dozen container ships are waiting to unload as retailers like Walmart scramble to stock shelves with holiday gifts. The last round of talks in 2014 and 2015 was contentious, leading to temporary port shutdowns. A repeat of that could harm a U.S. economy already grappling with inflation fueled by soaring shipping costs and product shortages. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said interested parties are talking and that he is available, should the two sides reach an impasse. ‘If need be and I’m asked, I would definitely step in anytime to offer my support to try and get to resolution,’ Walsh said. The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) that represents workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington recently rejected a one-year contract extension offer from the 70 ocean carriers and terminal operators represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).” • Now they talk to the unions….

Infrastructure: “A cascading catastrophe: The drone threat to critical infrastructure” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]. “The risk of cascading consequences—that is, when damage to one area of critical infrastructure cascades to others—is particularly concerning. In 2019, during a five-day blackout in Venezuela, hospitals lost power, patients died of treatable conditions, food spoiled, residents went to rivers to drink, and transport stalled. The Venezuelan government has blamed sabotage and terrorists for blackouts, but others say the outages in that oil-rich country simply reflect its poor track record of investment in energy infrastructure.” • Not seeing a link to “others say.” I wonder who they mean?

Concentration: “New Report: Amazon’s Toll Road” [Institute for Local Self-Reliance]. Yikes:

One of the most striking measures of Amazon’s monopoly power is the extraordinary amount of money that it’s able to extract from the independent businesses that rely on its site to reach customers. In this report, we find that, over the last two years, Amazon’s revenue from the fees it levies on third-party sellers has more than doubled. In 2019, Amazon pocketed $60 billion in seller fees.This year, its take will soar to $121 billion, our new research finds.

To put that in perspective, had Amazon’s third-party marketplace been a stand-alone company in 2020, when it took in $90 billion in seller fees, it would have ranked 31st on the Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest corporations — bigger than Citigroup, Facebook, and General Electric. This year, with its revenue from seller fees expected to swell by an additional $31 billion, Amazon Marketplace may end up large enough to qualify for a spot in the top 25 (if it were a stand-alone company).

The staggering scale of these fees provide evidence of Amazon’s monopolization of the online market and the high costs that come with it. Businesses that make or sell consumer goods and want to reach shoppers online have little choice but to sell on Amazon’s site. That’s because more than 60 percent of Americans looking to buy something online start their product search on Amazon, rather than a search engine.[1] In 15 of 23 major product categories, the tech giant captures more than 70 percent of online transactions.[2] Companies large and small must either sell on Amazon or forfeit access to much of the market.

As we detail in this report, Amazon is exploiting its position as a gatekeeper to impose increasingly steep tolls on these businesses. Using a variety of fees, Amazon now pockets a 34 percent cut of the revenue earned by independent sellers on its site, our analysis found. That’s up from 30 percent in 2018, and 19 percent in 2014.

The Fed: “Hawkish Powell Is a Force Markets Haven’t Faced in Three Years” [Bloomberg]. “Jerome Powell’s appetite for a faster tapering of Federal Reserve stimulus is casting him in a role financial markets haven’t seen since 2018: hawk. Stocks slid, short-term interest rates rose and measures of equity volatility surged Tuesday after the central bank chairman warned that elevated inflation could justify ending asset purchases sooner than planned. Buffeted also by anxiety around the coronavirus, the S&P 500 just endured its worst stretch of turbulence in more than a year. For investors, an urgent question becomes whether Tuesday’s congressional testimony was a watershed moment for the monetary policies that have helped the S&P 500 effectively to double since Christmas 2018. That’s when Powell’s last big pivot occurred — the dismantling of interest-rate hikes that made the fourth quarter of that year one of the worst for equities ever.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 30 Fear (previous close: 26 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 1 at 12:43pm.

Health Care

Walensky on aerosol transmission and ventilation:

In light of #OmicronVariant, you should:
-Get vaccinated, if you are not yet vaccinated against #COVID19.
-Get boosted, if you are vaccinated.
-Continue hand washing, physical distancing etc.
-Know that @CDCgov is monitoring AND prepared for variants. https://t.co/bfOV5VzBpq

— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) November 30, 2021

See, “etc.” is doing more work than a poor little adverb should ever have to do. At this point, one must conclude that the Administration is not merely forgetting to mention aerosol transmission and ventilation: They are actively hostile to them. (This attitude is prevalent in the hospital infection control community, a citadel of reaction where handwashing droplet dogmatists serve as gatekeepers for transmission models. These mossbacks seem to believe that methods which work in well-ventilated hospital environments will also work in the home and the workplace. Walensky comes from Mass General, so infection control probably damaged her brain.) I would be surprised if Biden did not express similar views in his speech on Covid tomorrow.

“Why It Could Take ‘Two Weeks’ To Learn If Omicron Impacts COVID-19 Vaccines” [Gothamist]. “Why two weeks? A fortnight is a weirdly specific timeframe? The main reason behind the wait is that a legion of virologists need this time to tease apart omicron’s attack patterns. This new variant’s large amount of mutations has made this work harder than it typically is. Omicron has about 50 mutations — twice as many mutations overall as delta. Also contributing to the delay is the lag time between catching the virus and being hospitalized. It typically takes about seven to 12 days. Most of the early omicron cases were spotted in college students who developed mild disease, according to their doctors. But younger adults are way less likely to experience severe COVID, and wave after wave has taught us that these youths also tend to be on the leading edge of surges. So, these early cases do not offer much clarity on omicron’s severity.”

Another professional conference:

What makes the report even worse:

1) The first cardiologist was infected at a conference in the UK returning last thursday.
2) The cardiologist did 7 operations and participated in two conferences in Israel before recognizing symptoms.

How many cardiologists got infected in UK

— Yaneer Bar-Yam (@yaneerbaryam) November 29, 2021

Reminds me of the Biogen superspreader conference….

“Businesses fear they will miss out on billions because of Covid curbs” [Daily Mail]. “And Steve Brine, a former Tory health minister, said the Government’s decision to make all contacts of those testing positive for the Omicron variant self-isolate would have a ‘chilling effect’. He added: ‘There’s everything in the language and the narrative that’s coming out of government right now that is causing Christmas parties to be cancelled.’” • That’s a damn shame.

“Postmodern Medicine with Dr Benway and Pseud Dionysius, MPH” (podcast) [Outsider Theory]. “My pseudonymous native informants from the illustrious realms of Science make the provocative case that medicine has become a quintessentially postmodern field. They attribute this development to the rise of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) in the 1990s in Canada, which has occasioned (as its pioneers intended) a Kuhnian paradigm shift in the field. After surveying the spread and impact of the EBM revolution, we explore its after-effects in the Covid era.” • I have the feeling that IM Doc would enjoy this. It’s also important, because — I found this inconceivable, but it seems to be true — that RCTs are purely statistical, in that they do not require the description of a biological substrate for whatever effects they deem significant; in other words, clinicians and clinical experience are irrelevant. EBM, then, is extremely ugly. And as we have seen, EBM, if rigorously adhered to, would always prevent us from dealing with an exponentially growing infectious disease; it’s too slow. So you can forget all this yammering about a gold standard. EBM is more like the banker’s umbrella: Taken away when it rains. (Dr. Benway is a Naked Lunch reference, by the way. Kudos.)

Sports Desk

“Tiger Woods says he will ‘never’ play golf again full time” [NBC]. “Tiger Woods said Tuesday he’s ‘lucky to be alive’ following a serious car crash earlier this year that will prevent him from ever playing the game full-time again…. In his first press conference since suffering severe injuries from the Southern California wreck in February, Woods also revealed that he nearly lost a leg and that amputation ‘was on the table.’ In an interview published Monday in Golf Digest, Woods said he’ll ‘never’ be a full-time player on the PGA tour again but still hopes to ‘click off a tournament here or there.’”

Xmas Gift Ideas

One of my advisees just gave me a War of 1812 scented candle, and it is *hilarious.* This is the end of semester pick-me-up that we all need. pic.twitter.com/5807NX13Kb

— Mary Draper (@DrMaryDraper) November 29, 2021

Our Famously Free Press

New worlds to conquer:

The only thing more infinite than the scroll is the dopamine. Follow The Onion on TikTok: https://t.co/cI11iOHMYc pic.twitter.com/plOybxcvkT

— The Onion (@TheOnion) November 30, 2021

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The population prevalence of solitary confinement” [Science]. The Abstract: “Solitary confinement is a severe form of incarceration closely associated with long-lasting psychological harm and poor post-release outcomes. Estimating the population prevalence, we find that 11% of all black men in Pennsylvania, born 1986 to 1989, were incarcerated in solitary confinement by age 32. Reflecting large racial disparities, the population prevalence is only 3.4% for Latinos and 1.4% for white men. About 9% of black men in the state cohort were held in solitary for more than 15 consecutive days, violating the United Nations standards for minimum treatment of incarcerated people. Nearly 1 in 100 black men experienced solitary for a year or longer by age 32. Racial disparities are similar for women, but rates are lower. A decomposition shows that black men’s high risk of solitary confinement stems primarily from their high imprisonment rate. Findings suggest that harsh conditions of U.S. incarceration have population-level effects on black men’s well-being.”

Class Warfare

“Making sense of the Great Resignation” [Financial Times]. “As has been shown by an FT series published throughout this week, asking ‘where have all the workers gone?’, there is no one single experience of labour markets after the pandemic. The term Great Resignation was coined in the US, where thousands have handed in their notice in search of better remunerated or more rewarding work. Much of this has been so-called job-to-job moves, where workers leave their job to find something else. That, generally, represents a policy success as in-demand workers improved their lot and perhaps businesses too profited from getting workers that are a better ‘fit’. Not all is well, however. Many others have dropped out of the labour market altogether. There are roughly 4m fewer workers in the US than there were before the pandemic. Some of this could be the lingering effects of the Covid crisis, with workers in many face-to-face industries still worrying about the risks of infection. There have been more than 2.4m ‘excess retirements’ since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. Similar trends have been seen in the UK, where the most common reason for leaving work was either long-term illness or retirement.”

News of the Wired

“When civilisation ends, a Xenix box will be running a long-forgotten job somewhere” [The Register]. “Just for a few weeks, mind. Until the new system was in place.”

“Making Sense of Recipes for Amulets and Natural Magic, Kabbalistic Style (Marginalia Included)” [Hypotheses]. “The secrets gathered by Zacuto in Poland belong thus to two separate subcategories, sodot and segulot [i.e., secrets and qualities]. The first category, in Zacuto’s parlance, refers to the applications of divine names in either recited adjurations or written amulets. These types of applications would be useful, for instance, to fend off evil by means of summoning and controlling guardian angels, to shield oneself from being harmed by weaponry, to reduce fevers, to bring good fortune, to save from badmouthing, to receive answers to questions posed in dreams, to open doors without keys, to urge love, to win when gambling, or to support women during difficult childbirth…. The second subcategory of Zacuto’s secrets comprises ‘properties’ [segulot], that is, those qualities of things which belong to the physical world and can be manipulated without resorting to the influence of divine names, and which reveal their hidden power in the process of elemental inter-reactions and transformations. Among those ‘properties’ learned by Zacuto in Poland, one can find recipes for domesticating pigeons, on confirming pregnancy, on preparing ink visible only under water, on healing toothaches, on concocting wondrous candles, or instructions for tricks and dice games.”

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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 (RH):

RH has “earth tongues” in the subject line, but I’m not sure whether that’s a metaphor, or their local, colloquial name.

Readers, I am running short of plants, so if you could send some photos to the address below, that would be great! I’d really like to see photos of harvests or completed projects, to inspire people to plan for spring over the winter. Also fall foliage? Thank you!

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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:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

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!

This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on December 1, 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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