By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Patient readers, I had to do some catch-up on the banks, so there’s a lot more business news than usual. Comments welcome! More soon. –lambert UPDATE Finished!
Bird Song of the Day
Eastern Bluebird (Eastern), Adamstown; Mt. Ephriam Road, Frederick, Maryland, United States. “Some distant traffic and some stomach noises.” Must have been a sensitive mike!
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“Biden supports repeal of Iraq, Gulf War authorizations, White House says” [The Hill]. “The White House on Thursday threw its support behind legislation to repeal the Iraq and Gulf War military force authorizations. The White House said the bill keeps with Biden’s ‘longstanding commitment to replacing outdated authorizations for the use of military force’ and ‘would have no impact on current U.S. military operations,’ according to a statement of administration policy. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. The legislation is up for a procedural vote in the full Senate on Thursday. It would still need to pass the GOP-controlled House to make it to Biden’s desk. Attempts to end the authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) for the Gulf War and the Iraq War have been introduced several times before in Congress, including an effort last year that became snagged in congressional business.”
“Marianne Williamson’s ‘abusive’ treatment of 2020 campaign staff, revealed” [Politico]. Oh, here we go. Nevertheless: “Interviews with 12 people who worked for Williamson during her 2020 presidential campaign paint a picture of a boss who can be verbally and emotionally abusive…. Williamson would throw her phone at staffers, according to three of those former staffers. Her outbursts could be so loud that two former aides recounted at least four occasions when hotel staff knocked on her door to check on the situation. In one instance, Williamson got so angry about the logistics of a campaign trip to South Carolina that she felt was poorly planned that she pounded a car door until her hand started to swell, according to four former staffers. Ultimately, she had to go to an urgent care facility, they said. All 12 former staffers interviewed recalled instances where Williamson would scream at people until they started to cry…. In her year-long candidacy, Williamson burned through two campaign managers, multiple state directors, field organizers and volunteers. Some were let go, but others said they quit because of the campaign’s culture…. ‘It’s cliché, but all I can say is: don’t meet your heroes,’ said a fifth former staffer.”
No wonder DeSantis is so beloved by anybody who is anybody. Quinnipiac:
Hypothesis: Ron DeSantis is the Elizabeth Warren of 2024.
R voters with a college degree: DeSantis leads Trump 58% to 32%.
R voters without a college degree: Trump leads DeSantis 54% to 37%.
Overall: Trump leads 51% to 40%. pic.twitter.com/FZ00GZptNt
— Justin Tiehen (@jttiehen) March 16, 2023
“Pritzker, allies to DNC: We’ll cover the bill — if Chicago gets the ’24 convention” [Politico]. • The DNC wants to cancel the debates; why not the convention?
“Inside the Trump world-organized retreat to plot out Biden oversight” [Politico]. “A group closely aligned with former President Donald Trump helped organize a “bootcamp” for GOP congressional staff this past February, training them on how to conduct aggressive oversight of the Biden administration, according to new disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House clerk’s office. The sponsor, the Conservative Partnership Institute, counts Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows among its leaders and has been described as the “nerve center” for the MAGA movement and MAGA-aligned lawmakers. It was one of three organizations to host the gathering. The two-day event, which took place on Maryland’s Eastern shore, illustrates how Trump-allied activists are quietly shaping House Republicans’ investigations of the Biden administration right as Trump himself mounts another White House bid. Topics discussed at the bootcamp included tutorials on obtaining records and deposing and interviewing witnesses, according to a flier in the filings. Among those who briefed the congressional aides was a former Trump administration official, an energy lobbyist and a reporter from Epoch Times, a nonprofit media company tied to the Falun Gong Chinese spiritual community and known for its conspiratorial, pro-Trump views.” • Federalist 51: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Isn’t this how our system is supposed to work?
Democrats en Déshabillé
Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert
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.
* * *
“Obama official, Hillary donors, improv actor: Meet SVB’s board of directors” [New York Post]. “One is a Hillary Clinton mega-donor who went to a Shinto shrine to pray after Donald Trump won the White House. Another worked for President Barack Obama before her own political career spectacularly failed. A third is a prolific contributor to Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi — who owns a Napa Valley vineyard just 15 minutes from the former House speaker’s. There’s even an improv performer. The 12 directors who were supposed to oversee fallen Silicon Valley Bank — and prevent the catastrophic errors that threw the entire banking system into jeopardy on Friday — might not be household names. But they are facing a series of investigations into their collective role in its collapse. A Post examination of the board reveals it did not jibe with Silicon Valley’s young image: Only one independent director is under 60, while the oldest is 78.” • Hmm. Rather a lot of Democrats (exactly as there where rather a lot of Democrat NGOs that took SBF’s money, which to this day nobody talks about).
“Nancy Pelosi At SXSW: Former House Speaker Hopes Silicon Valley Bank Will Be Bought By Rival Bank; Talks About ‘Cult’ & ‘Thug’ Republican Party” [Deadline]. “‘Many of the small businesses have accounts at [SVB], they have money there, so that they can pay the payroll,’ explained Pelosi, ‘So, if this bank fails, we’re concerned about the payroll of the workers in these companies.’” • That’s the talking point, but are we talking small businesses, or SMEs, or start-ups rebranding themselves as small businesses? Remember that ~90% of SVB’s depositors were over the $250,000 limit. That, to me, means not small. When I think of the coffee shops, the drugstore, the pizza joint, the hardware store, the barber shop: None of them need $250K in the bank to make payroll. So who are these “small businesses”?
* * *
“Barney Frank Talks More About the Surprise Shuttering of Signature Bank” [New York Magazine]. Frank: “There’s an old French expression — they were interested in the 18th century, how strict the discipline was in the British Navy, and in one case, the British Navy executed a guy for a relatively minor infraction because they were worried about the behavior of all the sailors. And the French said, “Oh, those peculiar English. They shoot one man to encourage the others.” And that phrase, pour encourager les autres, people understand what that means. And I think it’s probably working.” • Admiral Byng was executed after (being blamed for) losing the battle of Minorca. Meanwhile, Voltaire believed in Byng’s innocence and fought on his behalf. From the Voltaire Foundation: “[In Candide, Voltaire] stages the moment of execution on Byng’s ship off Portsmouth without naming names. In this way, Voltaire focuses the spotlight on the timeless absurdity of executing an admiral who loses in battle. In an uncharacteristically decisive move, Candide darkly refuses to set foot in Voltaire’s beloved England, as he ponders pseudo-logically: ‘mais, dit Candide, l’amiral français était aussi loin de l’amiral anglais que celui-ci l’était de l’autre‘ [“but, says Candide, the French admiral was as far from the English admiral as the latter was from the other”], His interlocutors’ response is less a criticism of the execution itself than a broader indictment of the immense and miserable follies of war and of mankind: ‘il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres‘” [“it is good to kill an admiral once in a while to encourage others”]. • So, with Frank, it’s bullshit all the way down? Hardly surprising. Frank’s omission of Voltaire in in his half-remembered crotte of pseudo-erudition is amusing, but the fact that, for Frank, the “others” to be “encouraged” are not Admirals, as in Voltaire, but sailors — proles — is characteristically liberal Democrat.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Tucker Carlson Unbound: Setting Fire to the Uniparty” [RealClearPolitics]. “[Carlson:] ‘The protesters were angry. They believed the election they had just voted in was unfairly conducted. They were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy.’ He didn’t go beyond that in explaining the illegitimacy of the election, but he didn’t have to. The ‘it is clear’ speaks volumes to those who haven’t bought into the official narrative that the 2020 election was ‘the most secure’ in the nation’s history. Yeah, it was secure if you don’t believe the Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that election law was violated en masse in those states. It was secure if you don’t have any concern about billionaire Mark Zuckerberg spending hundreds of millions of dollars to gain access to voter rolls and ensure that likely Biden voters were goosed to get their butts out of the chair and their ballots in the drop boxes. It was secure if you don’t care about Twitter and Facebook colluding with the federal government to make sure that Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop was falsely painted as Russian disinformation in the weeks leading up to the election.” • I don’t buy PA and WI. And nobody said GOTV operations were undemocratic. But the Hunter Biden laptop? Unquestionably correct (and to this day I don’t understand why Trump didn’t make it the centerpiece of his efforts, rather than election fraud). If you believe that Clinton lost 2016 because of Comey’s October 2016 letter (I don’t; at best, it was the last pebble in a landslide of fail), then I don’t see how you can not believe that the “Censorship Industrial Complex” composed of Democrats, spooks, and platforms suppressing Hunter Biden’s laptop didn’t swing election 2020 (besides being wrong in itself).
“Shasta County offers top job to secessionist leader” [Los Angeles Times]. “The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has offered the job of running the day-to-day-operations of its government to a top figure in the New California movement pushing to split California into two states. In an unusual news release, county officials announced that ‘a majority of the board’ had made a ‘preliminary job offer’ to Chriss Street, vice president of New California and a former treasurer of Orange County, to be the county’s chief executive officer. Proponents of New California, formed in 2018, maintain that old California has become ungovernable and seek to gather much of the rural parts of California, along with San Diego and Orange counties, and form a 51st state.”
On DC statehood:
That reminds me, the deal to be had with GOP on DC Statehood is drop-kicking the old Virginia part of DC into the new State. VA Republicans would go for that— Arlington County & the City of Alexandria are the most Democratic part of Virginia (Mark Warner lives in Alexandria). https://t.co/WbfM8fBFBp
— Carlos Mucha (@mucha_carlos) March 13, 2023
“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison
Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).
• Readers, thanks for the push. We are now up to 38/50 states (76%). Could those of you in states not listed help out by either with dashboard/wastewater links, or ruling your state out definitively? Thank you! (I think I have caught up with everybody I missed.)
Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard), Marin; CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (
wastewater); WY ( wastewater).
Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).
Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).
Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, Joe, John, JM (6), JW, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (4), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3). (Readers, if you leave your link in comments, I credit you by your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle. I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy for readers to scan.)
• More like this, please! Total:
1 6 11 18 20 22 26 27 28 38/50 (76% of US states). We should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Thank you!
Look for the Helpers
Leaving this one up for another day because it’s important:
“Introducing: The Covid Underground” [Covid Underground]. The deck: “Welcome to The Covid Underground, a newsletter for the Covid-free movement and all of those who continue to avoid infection.” More: “True health is the ability to change. About 10-30% of the U.S. population has changed their lives in the light of the freeing revelations of 2020, and we keep changing. We are dynamically, creatively faithful to what was— briefly— plain to all: normal is a dangerous illusion.” • Worth a read.
* * *
Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:
Thought I’d add this here in case anyone is interested. Places to find people who “Still Covid” in your area & online: https://t.co/T4ND4XbrpF & https://t.co/sP5wq4fAw5 You can also search on FB “Still Coviding ____” & see if there’s a specific group on your area.
— Adriel Rose (@adriel_rose) March 1, 2023
“Covid Meetups” [COVID MEETUPS (JM)]. “A free service to find individuals, families and local businesses/services who take COVID precautions in your area.” • I played around with it some. It seems to be Facebook-driven, sadly, but you can use the Directory without logging in. I get rational hits from the U.S., but not from London, UK, FWIW.
Covid Is Airborne
“Airborne transmission: a new paradigm with major implications for infection control and public health” (PDF) [New Zealand Medical Journal]. From the Abstract: “Recognition of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses is a paradigm shift in the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) field, contributed to by New Zealand’s experience in Managed Isolation Quarantine Facilities (MIQF). Slowness to embrace this shift by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies highlights the importance of applying the precautionary principle and . Improving indoor air quality to reduce infection risk and provide other health benefits is a new frontier, requiring much additional work at both grassroots and policy levels. Existing technologies such as masks, air cleaners and opening windows can improve air quality of many environments now. To achieve sustained, comprehensive improvements in air quality that provide meaningful protection, we also need additional actions that do not rely on individual human’s behaviour.” • Nothing NC readers don’t know, but clearly stated without jargon. A very good read. Here is a handy chart:
First, one more thing to worry about at the airport (an airport bus being the use case). Second, air on public transport, at the very least, should always be fresh, and not recirculated.
“Who Is Most at Risk for Long COVID?” [Harvard Medical School]. “A new study of more than 800,000 people has found that in the U.S., COVID “long haulers” were more likely to be older and female, with more chronic conditions than people in a comparison group who — after getting COVID — did not have diagnosed long COVID or any of the symptoms associated with long COVID. The findings are published in the March issue of Health Affairs… The study’s findings also indicate that symptoms of long COVID can appear or persist much longer after initial infection than many previous studies had suggested… Most earlier work showed a peak of long COVID symptoms and diagnoses within the first six months of a person’s initial COVID-19 diagnosis, the authors note, but the new research shows another, smaller peak around one year, which the authors note was significantly longer than the follow-up period of most initial studies… Whether you call it long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), long-term effects of COVID, or chronic COVID, the condition has hit one in five adults in the U.S., according to the CDC, and tens of millions worldwide with sometimes debilitating symptoms including shortness of breath, fatigue, and brain fog… The Health Affairs study authors found that the leading risk factors for long COVID included high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression.” • In other words, to be at risk, be an American? Apparently not;
This is big. Spain’s central bank warned yesterday that the Spanish population is sicker than ever with record hours of work lost and they say it is “in line with the predictions about covid sequalae.” This comes a few weeks after Spain dropped its remaining mask mandates https://t.co/JsXalxabpr
— Nate Bear (@NateB_Panic) March 16, 2023
“The Next Stage of COVID Is Starting Now” [Katherine Wu, The Atlantic]. “To be a newborn in the year 2023—and, almost certainly, every year that follows—means emerging into a world where the coronavirus is ubiquitous. Babies might not meet the virus in the first week or month of life, but soon enough, SARS-CoV-2 will find them. “For anyone born into this world, it’s not going to take a lot of time for them to become infected,” maybe a year, maybe two, says Katia Koelle, a virologist and infectious-disease modeler at Emory University. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this virus will be one of the very first serious pathogens that today’s infants—and all future infants—meet. Three years into the coronavirus pandemic, these babies are on the leading edge of a generational turnover that will define the rest of our relationship with SARS-CoV-2. They and their slightly older peers are slated to be the first humans who may still be alive when COVID-19 truly hits a new turning point: when almost everyone [surviving childhood] on Earth has acquired a degree of immunity to the virus as a very young child.” • Paywalled, sadly. I think “degree” in “a degree of immunity” is doing rather a lot of work. Nor am I sure that “degree of immunity” is not a moving target:
Isn’t this what all that “herd immunity” rhetoric was/is? Sacrificing the “weak” (those who will die and have died, as well as those who will be and have been disabled) so that the “strong” may live? It’s eugenics, plain and simple.
— A. Keyes (@akeyes_dance) March 15, 2023
And the kids are already not alright:
New research from @shwoolf and colleagues shows rising pediatric mortality from external causes in the past few years.
“Current efforts to…enact sensible firearm policies are not progressing with the speed that pediatric suicides and homicides require.”https://t.co/fkW7nKXb9N
— Benjy Renton (@bhrenton) March 15, 2023
“The Worst Covid Strategy Was Not Picking One” [Bloomberg]. We did pick one: the “business-friendly” “Let ‘er rip.” Led by the West, especially the Five Eyes, China adopted it. To me, worldwide, eugenics as a “strange attractor” (“mass infection without mitigation”) is the story. Bloomberg disagrees:
For the US, I don’t know what “a nation fractured by politics” even means.
Hospital Infection Control is at it again, this time in the UK:
Hospital-Acquired COVID-19 in England, 16th Mar 2023
In the last 28 days, of 26,484 patients in hospital with Covid-19, 8,644 probably or definitely caught it there (32.6%)
Looks like >30% is standard now. This isn’t great.
— 𝚃𝚘𝚖 𝙻𝚊𝚠𝚝𝚘𝚗 💙 (@LawtonTri) March 16, 2023
Not clear to me why the record these guys have entitles them to any authority whatever.
And in the US:
@nyulangone How is it possible that you have a dedicated Covid care center in a building that does not require masks in its public areas or elevators, and with a waiting room that includes unmasked, coughing patients?
— Gregg Levine (@GreggJLevine) March 15, 2023
And in Australia:
So. Much. This. My highest risk activity is monthly treatment in hospital for autoimmune disease. Day Oncology Unit, all staff downgraded from N95 masks to surgical masks last month. This unit specialises in treating immune suppressed pts. I cannot comprehend. #CovidIsNotOver https://t.co/VrOX6kJLHe
— Sue (@suemsm) March 16, 2023
Long Covid policy failure, if failure it be:
The establishment is failing in:
1. STILL providing no public warning about Long Covid, ME/CFS and related
2. STILL offering zero treatments
3. STILL not promoting low-cost protections—respirators, air purifiers—to help prevent more suffering
How could I NOT become radical?
— Michael A Osborne (@maosbot) March 15, 2023
Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!
NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from March 13:
For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.
Covid Emergency Room Visits
NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 11:
NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now.
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 16:
-2.1%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,150,133 –
1,149,253 = 880 (880 * 365 = 321,200 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).
★ NEW ★ Excess Deaths
NOT UPDATED (but updating). Excess deaths (The Economist), published March 7:
Lambert here: Based on a machine-learnning model. Again, we see a high plateau. I”m not sure how often this updates, and if it doesn’t, I’ll remove it. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it.
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 20,000 from the previous week to 192,000 on the week ending March 11th, well below expectations of 205,000. It was the biggest fall since July mostly impacted by the drop in claims in New York, where school workers returned to work after a school break. The result pointed to further evidence of a stubbornly tight labor market, in line with the hot payroll figures for February. The tight job market forces employers to raise wages [damn, damn, damn] to attract and keep staff, magnifying inflationary pressure on the American economy.”
Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US ticked up 1 point to -23.2 in March 2023, missing market expectations of -15.6 and marking its seventh consecutive negative reading. More than 34 percent of the firms reported declines in activity, while 11 percent reported increases; the majority (53 percent) reported no change.”
Lambert here: Let’s wait and see what the Fear and Greed indicator says in a week.
Banks: “Federal Reserve Board announces it will make available additional funding to eligible depository institutions to help assure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all their depositors” (press release) [Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System]. From March 12: “The additional funding will be made available through the creation of a new Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP), offering loans of up to one year in length to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and other eligible depository institutions pledging U.S. Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, and other qualifying assets as collateral. These assets will be valued at par. The BTFP will be an additional source of liquidity against high-quality securities, eliminating an institution’s need to quickly sell those securities in times of stress.” And: “Depository institutions may obtain liquidity against a wide range of collateral through the discount window, which remains open and available. In addition, the discount window will apply the same margins used for the securities eligible for the BTFP, further increasing lendable value at the window.” • Maybe somebody who speaks Fed can translate that, especially the last part. I’m totally not a Fed maven, but these two reports might be interesting, today and tomorrow:
Two semi-obscure weekly Fed reports will be VERRY interesting this week:
H.4.1, the Fed balance sheet, out Thurs. PM, will capture uptake in discount window and the new emergency bank lending facility.
H.8, bank assets and liabilities, out Fri. PM will show any deposit outflow
— Neil Irwin (@Neil_Irwin) March 15, 2023
Banks: “First Republic Downgraded by S&P from Confidence-Inspiring-LOL “A-” Investment-Grade to BB+, One Itty-Bitty Notch into Junk. Shares, Bonds Re-plunge: [Wolf Street]. “Yesterday evening, S&P Global had put First Republic on review for a downgrade, a day after Moody’s put the bank on review for downgrade. And now S&P Global reviewed the bank, and downgraded it four notches. Moody’s is still reviewing the bank, with a downgrade coming soon. So that’s a start. But it’s way late for investors in its bonds that had relied on these ratings and have already taken massive losses. ‘We believe the risk of deposit outflows is elevated at First Republic Bank despite the actions of federal banking regulators and the bank actively increasing its borrowing availability to mitigate risk associated with the bank failures over the last week,’ S&P Global said in the statement, cited by Morningstar.” • Never at a place called “Mom’s.” Never do business with a firm that has “First” in its name.
Banks: “Biggest U.S. Banks Race to Rescue First Republic” [Wall Street Journal]. “JPMorgan is working with Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. to provide a lifeline to First Republic, the people said. Others involved include Morgan Stanley MS 1.28%increase; green up pointing triangle and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as well as U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc., PNC 2.81%increase; green up pointing triangle the people said. The deal could be unveiled as early as today, the people said. The situation is fluid and whether a deal comes together and what it might look like is still highly uncertain. Any deal would need the blessing of regulators and will be driven at least in part by the bank’s highly volatile stock… First Republic came under a spotlight after Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse last week sparked concerns about other regional banks with large collections of uninsured deposits. Customers yanked billions of deposits out of First Republic and the bank over the weekend sought to stem the tide with a deal, announced Sunday, involving additional funding from the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan that gave the bank a total of $70 billion in available liquidity….First Republic’s business and stock-market valuation were long the envy of the banking industry. Its customers are wealthy individuals and businesses, primarily on the coasts. . Few of those loans ever went bad. The bank had about $213 billion in assets as of the end of 2022. The bank’s profits rose in 2022, but the Fed’s aggressive rate increases took a toll. First Republic’s wealthy customers were no longer as content to leave huge sums of money in bank accounts that earned no interest.” •
Banks: “Credit Suisse shares soar after central bank offers lifeline” [Associated Press]. “Credit Suisse shares surged Thursday after the Swiss central bank agreed to loan the bank up to 50 billion francs ($54 billion) to bolster confidence in the country’s second-biggest lender following the collapse of two U.S. banks. Credit Suisse announced the agreement before the Swiss stock market opened, sending shares up as much as 33% before they settled around a 17% gain, to 2 francs ($2.15), in late afternoon trading. That was a massive turnaround from a day earlier, when news that the bank’s biggest shareholder would not inject more money into Credit Suisse sent its shares tumbling 30%. The plunge in price dragged down other European banks and deepened concerns about the international financial system… The Swiss National Bank said Wednesday that it was prepared to back Credit Suisse because it meets the higher financial requirements imposed on ‘systemically important banks,’ adding that the problems at some U.S. banks don’t ‘pose a direct risk of contagion’ to Switzerland. Regulators are trying to reassure depositors that their money is safe. They ‘don’t want anybody to be the person who sits in a darkened room or darkened cinema and shouts fire, because that’s what prompts a rush for the exits,’ said Russ Mould, investment director at the online investment platform AJ Bell. Credit Suisse, which was beset by problems long before the U.S. bank failures, said the loans from the central bank would give it time to complete a reorganization designed to create a ‘simpler and more focused bank.’” • Commentary:
The Credit Suisse problem makes the picture more systemic in nature. All prior bets are off regarding any predictions we had about what CBs are likely to do. First they have to calm things down and go from there. /2
— Edward Harrison (@edwardnh) March 15, 2023
Tech will be hurt but the real problems are those associated with capital needs while lenders pull back. To me that speaks to generic office real estate and perhaps retail property too.
— Edward Harrison (@edwardnh) March 15, 2023
Another analyst takes a less sanguine view:
🧵Investors are slowly waking up to the fact that Credit Suisse may have Kobayashi Maru-Ed the market with some of the most ingenious financial engineering seen yet. We’re talking Wall Street Bets level of creativity to save a business they are too attached to let go of.
— Izabella Kaminska (@izakaminska) March 16, 2023
Read the whole thread, because it’s above my paygrade to disentangle it. And:
People rightly asking what’s the significance of the SNB intervention. Here’s what I wrote to someone this morning: yes in the short term this is good news for financial stability. But for me, in the longer term, it’s all about how this becomes a sovereign crisis. There’s no… https://t.co/HihyYeJ1fM
— Izabella Kaminska (@izakaminska) March 16, 2023
Banks: “Real-Estate Investor Run on Signature Bank Helped Fuel Its Demise” [Wall Street Journal]. “A rush by New York City real-estate investors to yank money out of Signature Bank last week played a significant role in the bank’s collapse, according to building owners and state regulators. The withdrawals gained momentum as talk circulated about the exposure Signature had to cryptocurrency firms and that its fate might follow the same path as Silicon Valley Bank, which suffered a run on the bank last week before collapsing and forcing the government to step in. Word that landlords were withdrawing cash spread rapidly in the close-knit community of New York’s real-estate families, prompting others to follow suit. Regulators closed Signature Bank on Sunday in one of the biggest bank failures in U.S. history. Real-estate investor Marx Realty was among the many New York firms to cash out, withdrawing several million dollars early last week from Signature accounts tied to an office building, said chief executive Craig Deitelzweig. The bank’s crypto exposure and plummeting stock price worried him. ‘We just thought ‘Why have that risk?” Mr. Deitelzweig said. Some real-estate investors said that finding a place to park their withdrawn funds was a challenge.” • “My friends and I coordinated a bank run” seems not to apply only to tech bros…
“Goldman Sachs Eyes a Big Payout From Silicon Valley Bank Deal” [New York Times]. The deck: “The Wall Street giant is likely to be paid more than $100 million for its role in a bond purchase that ultimately failed to save the California bank from collapse.” • The adults in the room….
Banks: “‘They will learn nothing from this’: Tech leaders remain staggeringly oblivious to the true lessons of Silicon Valley Bank” [Business Insider]. “The end of a financial mania is, in essence, a crisis of trust. As the tech bubble has popped over the past year, that crisis has been visible all over the industry. Workers no longer trust that their employer is looking out for them, companies stopped trusting that employees were pulling their weight, and investors no longer trust that companies will deliver explosive returns. In this environment of suspicion, the very financial institution that facilitated the tech industry’s exuberance became unreliable. A few whispers from powerful VCs, like the leaders of Peter Thiel’s hyperinfluential Founders Fund, and the run was on. If there is a better real-life illustration for that utter collapse of confidence than a bank run, I don’t know what it is. ‘,’ one founder connected to the much-vaunted startup incubator Y Combinator told me. “They like to say they’re empirically minded — ‘Occam’s razor’ and ‘first principles’ — but when it comes down to it the greatest weapon and greatest tool they have is gossip. And last week was a brilliant case in which it went awry. Grown people with advanced degrees using gossip as gospel.’ Once the spark was lit, Silicon Valley’s hype machine took it from there. The faithless VCs ended up freaking out the founders of companies they were invested in, leading to startups yanking all of their cash as quickly as possible. One founder with 12 years of experience in the tech industry who was at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, told me some of the horror stories: Startup CEOs with tens of millions of dollars sitting in SVB scrambling to get some money out, fearful they would get only a fraction of it back. The VCs had told them to put their money in the bank, so they did — and now the same VCs were warning of an ‘extinction-level event.’ Or as the economic historian Adam Tooze put it in a recent newsletter: ‘This was not so much a classic large-scale bank run in which mass psychology played its part on a grand scale, but a bitchy high-school playground in which the cool thing to do was to bank with SVB until it no longer was.’” • Tooze makes a distinction without a difference. And these are the people who are performing the social function of capital allocation! (I would very much like to know the role of Y Combinator alumni in the SVB run, as well. I’d bet it was significant.)
Banks: “‘Meme stock in reverse’: SVB collapse portends new era of viral bank runs” [Banking Dive]. “‘We are entering a new era of a social media-driven run on banks,’ Solomon Lax, a former investment banker and venture capitalist who is now CEO of online lender Revenued, told Banking Dive in an email. “This is a meme stock in reverse.’ While SVB had been facing liquidity strains for the past year, the bank’s disclosure last week that it was raising capital after it had lost nearly $1.8 billion in the sale of long-term bonds, panicked the VC community. ‘I’ve seen a lot of emails floating around from large VC funds telling their portfolio companies to deposit their money in large banks,” said Rohit Arora, CEO of small-business financing fintech Biz2Credit.’ Prominent venture capital firms, including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, instructed their portfolio companies to pull cash from SVB, according to Bloomberg. Venture firms Coatue Management, Union Square Ventures and Founder Collective also advised startups to withdraw funds, the wire service reported. Founders and investors likely shared their concerns over the bank in private chat groups before word spread to social media, Jason Goldman, Twitter’s former head of product, told The Wall Street Journal. The bank’s situation was amplified by Twitter users with large followings, such as entrepreneur and internet personality Kim Dotcom and startup investor Jason Calacanis…. Meanwhile, the hashtag #BankCrash trended on Twitter throughout the weekend…. ‘It’s dangerous,’ [ Rohit Arora, CEO of small-business financing fintech Biz2Credit] said. ‘Everybody has a smartphone, everybody can just put anything on social media, there’s no filters, no authentication checks. And then everybody can go online today and withdraw the money.’… [T]he SVB’s accelerated collapse last week stunned the banking industry. ‘I was amazed to see how a bank of this size and pedigree failed in 36 hours,’ Arora said. ‘Even in 2008, it took quite a bit of time for these banks to go down.’”
Banks: “How much blame do supervisors deserve for Silicon Valley Bank’s demise?” [American Banker]. “The Fed announced Monday that Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr will lead a six-week review of the central bank’s supervisory and regulatory actions surrounding Silicon Valley Bank, to determine where its efforts might have fallen short. The Fed has committed to releasing a report on its findings by May 1. Following bank failures, the FDIC’s inspector general also conducts a post-mortem review of the contributing factors. Until those reports are made public, there is little insight to glean into how examiners dealt with the issues at Silicon Valley Bank. Communications between banks and their regulators are deemed confidential supervisory information, and are kept under lock and key. Some information — such as a bank’s capital adequacy, assets, management capabilities, earnings, liquidity and sensitivity, or CAMELS, rating — is considered so sensitive that it is illegal to make it public. Banks the size of Silicon Valley, which had more than $200 billion of assets before it was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last week, frequently have examiners on their premises. They are also subject to regular formal evaluation processes. The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, which declined to comment for this article, and the Fed typically alternate conducting full-scope, on-site examinations annually…. The size and speed of the run was unprecedented, but some experts said it was predictable, given the Fed’s clear messaging around raising interest rates to quell inflation. Had supervisors encouraged Silicon Valley to better hedge its rate risk exposures, the bank could have avoided the liquidity crunch that triggered the bank run, said Ted Tozer, the former president of Ginnie Mae.” • Hmm.
Simple reform idea for Congress. Private bankers are on the boards of the Federal Reserve bank branches who regulate them. The CEO of Silicon Valley Bank Gary Becker was on the board of his regulator, the San Francisco Fed. That’s insane and probably unconstitutional. End that.
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 16, 2023
NAILED IT: “In five years a number of banks will not be around because of blockchain technology.”
-Joseph DiPaolo, Signature Bank CEO, 2018https://t.co/2A6L0sodEA
— felix salmon (@felixsalmon) March 14, 2023
Tech: “Microsoft adds OpenAI technology to Word and Excel” [CNBC]. Yes, the [O|o]ffice environment sounds like a natural fit for a bullshit generator.
Tech: “Biden admin tells TikTok’s Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the app or face a possible U.S. ban” [NBC]. “In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said: ‘If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.’ Any divestiture by ByteDance would have to be approved by the Chinese government. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday that the U.S. had failed to provide any evidence that TikTok poses a threat to its national security.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 25 Extreme Fear (previous close: 19 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 16 at 1:48 PM ET.
“Meet the football playing robot that’s ‘better than Messi’: Watch as the full-sized bot sprints, jumps and walks just like a real human” [Daily Mail]. • Kill it with fire, before the robot dogs get you.
“Exclusive: Effective Altruist Leaders Were Repeatedly Warned About Sam Bankman-Fried Years Before FTX Collapsed” [Time]. “eaders of the Effective Altruism movement were repeatedly warned beginning in 2018 that Sam Bankman-Fried was unethical, duplicitous, and negligent in his role as CEO of Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm that went on to play a critical role in what federal prosecutors now say was among the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history. They apparently dismissed those warnings, sources say, before taking tens of millions of dollars from Bankman-Fried’s charitable fund for effective altruist causes. When Alameda and Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX imploded in late 2022, these same effective altruist (EA) leaders professed outrage and ignorance. ‘I don’t know which emotion is stronger: my utter rage at Sam (and others?) for causing such harm to so many people, or my sadness and self-hatred for falling for this deception,’ tweeted Will MacAskill, the Oxford moral philosopher and intellectual figurehead of EA, who co-founded the Centre for Effective Altruism. Yet MacAskill had long been aware of concerns around Bankman-Fried. He was personally cautioned about Bankman-Fried by at least three different people in a series of conversations in 2018 and 2019, according to interviews with four people familiar with those discussions and emails reviewed by TIME. He wasn’t alone. Multiple EA leaders knew about the red flags surrounding Bankman-Fried by 2019, according to a TIME investigation based on contemporaneous documents and interviews with seven people familiar with the matter. Among the EA brain trust personally notified about Bankman-Fried’s questionable behavior and business ethics were Nick Beckstead, a moral philosopher who went on to lead Bankman-Fried’s philanthropic arm, the FTX Future Fund, and Holden Karnofsky, co-CEO of OpenPhilanthropy, a nonprofit organization that makes grants supporting EA causes.” • I like the “moral philosopher” especially!
“Reforming to Survive:The Bolshevik Origins of Social Policies” (PDF) [Magnus Bergli Rasmussen and Carl Henrik Knutsen, University of Oslo]. From 2021, still germane. “We detail how elites provide policy concessions when they face credible threats of revolution. Specifically, we discuss how the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent formation of Comintern enhanced elites’ perceptions of revolutionary threat by affecting the capacity and motivation of labor movements as well as the elites’ interpretation of information signals. These developments incentivized elites to provide policy concessions to urban workers, notably reduced working hours and expanded social transfer programs. We assess our argument by using original qualitative and quantitative data. First, we document changes in perceptions of revolutionary threat and strategic policy concessions in early inter-war Norway by using archival resources. Second, we code, e.g., representatives at the 1919 Comintern meeting to proxy for credibility of domestic revolutionary threat in cross-national analysis. States facing greater threats expanded various social policies to a larger extent than other countries, and some of these differences persisted for decades.” • Handy chart:
Arno Mayer is right. https://t.co/yHUnKUzMS0 pic.twitter.com/vebIiGMEx1
— New Left EViews (@NewLeftEViews) March 14, 2023
And speaking of Arno Mayer–
“Princeton professor facing eviction after complaining about living conditions, attorney says” [NJ.com]. “A Princeton University emeritus history professor who filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and 40 other tenants in an apartment building for “unlawful living conditions” last fall is now facing eviction, his attorney and son said. Arno Mayer, 95, who lives in an apartment in Witherspoon House, on 55 Witherspoon St. in Princeton, filed the lawsuit against Witherspoon Urban Renewal Associates, LLC; Callaway Henderson/Sotheby’s International Realty, LLC; and John Does 1-10 in September of 2021. In the lawsuit, Mayer alleges: an ongoing rodent infestation; multiple evacuations for elderly tenants due to fire code violations in the building’s restaurants; a defective intercom system; refusal to issue COVID relief to tenants; and prior violations of the township’s noise ordinance that the landlord pled guilty to. Mayer and his son held a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss the lawsuit’s contents. He is not currently teaching, his son said. Represented by his son Carl Mayer, an attorney and former member of the township committee, Arno Mayer is asking for monetary damages and injunctive relief.”
“Waking Up From the American Dream” [Kirkus Review]. “Two March books address the situation, poking holes in the flawed assumption that if you just work hard, you will succeed financially. In Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves From the American Dream (Ecco/HarperCollins, March 14), journalist Alissa Quart explodes the myth of ‘bootstrapping,’ which she describes as the ‘every-man-for-themselves individualism’ that underpins the free market system. This significant follow-up to Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, our reviewer says, delivers a forceful ‘contrarian rebuttal of the notion that wealthy Americans deserve everything they have and that the ‘poor are responsible for their own poverty.” In our late-stage capitalist democracy, too many people live paycheck to paycheck, often working multiple jobs while rent, food, and other expenses surpass wage increases. Quart ‘proposes a more meaningful safety net of cooperative work and mutual aid, whereby workers pool their capabilities and time to produce needed and sustainable things while being their own bosses,’ delivering an urgent ‘repudiation of gig-economy capitalism that proposes utopian rather than dystopian solutions.’ Any examination of wealth inequality in the U.S. would be incomplete without input from Matthew Desmond, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted. His latest, Poverty, by America (Crown, March 21), is a dissection of the many dimensions of poverty in America, which differs from that in many parts of the world. In the U.S., it’s ‘not for lack of resources,’ the author notes, but rather what our reviewer describes as a lack of ‘compassion’ but also the lack of ‘a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year.’”
“The U.S. Is Choosing Child Labor Over More Immigration” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “In one part of the western hemisphere, there are too many well-paying jobs and too few workers. In another, there are too many workers and few good jobs. As a result, people in Central America are eager to seek work internationally…. On paper, this does not look like a difficult policy problem to solve…. There is no “skills” mismatch between economically desperate Central Americans and open U.S. positions. The U.S.’s labor shortage is concentrated in fields that do not require an extensive education. The U.S. needs more kitchen staff, construction workers, and delivery drivers. Central America is home to a large number of people with the interest in and capacity to perform those roles. Opportunities for ‘win-win’ policy-making are rarely so clear-cut. Yet U.S. policy-makers refuse to take the win. Instead, their answer to the twin problems of a U.S. labor shortage and Central American poverty crisis is, effectively, as follows: To close the gap between job openings and available workers, the Federal Reserve will simply raise interest rates until a critical mass of Americans become too poor to afford discretionary purchases, demand for labor drops, and, in all probability, the U.S. enters a recession. Meanwhile, to mitigate the poverty of those to our south, the U.S. has been allowing Central American children to enter our country, work illegally at brutal jobs, then send remittances home to their adult family members. Specifically, we have decided to let Central American kids do this if — and only if — they embark on a roughly 2,000-mile journey to the U.S. border without a parent or guardian.
“Wealthy Executives Make Millions Trading Competitors’ Stock With Remarkable Timin” [Pro Publica]. “[D]ozens of top executives who have traded shares of either competitors or other companies with close connections to their own. A Gulf of Mexico oil executive invested in one partner company the day before it announced good news about some of its wells. A paper-industry executive made a 37% return in less than a week by buying shares of a competitor just before it was acquired by another company. And a toy magnate traded hundreds of millions of dollars in stock and options of his main rival, conducting transactions on at least 295 days. He made an 11% return over a recent five-year period, even as the rival’s shares fell by 57%. These transactions are captured in a vast IRS dataset of stock trades made by the country’s wealthiest people, part of a trove of tax data leaked to ProPublica. ProPublica analyzed millions of those trades, isolated those by corporate executives trading in companies related to their own, then identified transactions that were anomalous — either because of the size of the bets or because individuals were trading a particular stock for the first time or using high-risk, high-return options for the first time. The records give no indication as to why executives made particular trades or what information they possessed; they may have simply been relying on years of broad industry knowledge to make astute bets at fortuitous moments. Still, the records show many instances where the executives bought and sold with exquisite timing.”
News of the Wired
“‘What Happens If I Just Don’t Pay My Taxes?’” [New York Magazine]. News you can use! ‘There are a couple of things to remember about the IRS. First of all, they’re stretched thin. Secondly, they just want you to pay your taxes, and something is always better than nothing. ‘They’re like a really nice mafia,’ says Rus Garofalo, the founder of Brass Taxes, a tax-preparation service that caters to artists and small-business owners. ‘They need their cut, but they don’t want to have to chase you, mostly because they don’t have the resources.’ One final piece of advice for the tax-averse: A lot of people — particularly freelancers — delay filing their taxes because they’re afraid they can’t afford them. But the penalty of late tax filing is actually much higher than the penalty for late payments, says Willets. ‘So even if you fall behind on payments, make sure to file on time,’ she says. In case you haven’t gotten the message by now, the IRS is just like anyone — it just doesn’t want to be ignored! A little bit of acknowledgment goes a long way.” • Caveat that I am totally not a lawyer, this is not advice, seek out a tax professional, etc.
“High caffeine levels ‘may help people stay slim’ and cut risk of diabetes” [Sky News]. n = ~10,000. “[P]eople who metabolise caffeine more slowly are more likely to be thinner and have less risk of diabetes…. Dr [Study author Dipender] Gill said it is currently unclear what proportion of the population metabolises caffeine more quickly.” • Well, at least I have no good reason to reduce my consumption….
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