2:00PM Water Cooler 6/29/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. The United States as a whole:

Second verse, same as the first. (OK, I grant the two slopes aren’t exactly the same.)

“Analysis: Governing in reaction mode, and always a beat or two behind” [Texas Monthly]. “The Texas resurgence was predictable. Local officials who wanted stronger rules on masks and crowds and social distancing — in both big and small Texas cities and counties — were right after all. And Abbott, who blocked local governments from acting on their concerns about the coronavirus, waited until case numbers, infection rates and hospitalizations jumped. You can get ready when a storm is coming or wait until it blows your roof off. Abbott, who’s been reinstalling some of the regulatory safeguards he dismantled in May, dithered until the wind was blowing…. Maybe people have to see it to believe it. The state’s restrictions were working pretty well. After a month, the governor — hoping to revive the state’s economy — began easing up, slowly and then rapidly. The coronavirus made its comeback, slowly and then rapidly — probably a mix of opening the state’s businesses and other institutions and of people gathering in restaurants, demonstrations, parks and beaches. Every step of this has been more reaction than part of a plan. The rise of the disease led to restrictions. The fall of the economy led to reopening. And here we are again, reacting to the pandemic that never left. All that changed was the response.”


“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 Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

The electoral map. As of June 25: Lots of new polls. And yet so far the consensus (aggregating ten organizations) remains the same.

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!


Biden (D)(1): “What Americans Don’t Know About Joe Biden” [The Atlantic]. “Voters’ vague sense of Biden doesn’t seem to be hurting his poll numbers. But the polls are more a measure of how many Americans are rejecting Donald Trump. With a little over four months until the election, most voters don’t know what Biden stands for—except for not Trump. Still, perpetually anxious top Biden supporters say that he is unprepared for another seismic event in a year that’s already been full of them. ‘There is some awareness that he is a longtime politician, but there is little substance or specificity behind the impressions,’ consultants associated with the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country warned in an April memo about swing-voter focus groups they had conducted. When told a little bit about Biden, though, participants in the groups were inclined to support him, because they saw him as decent and his biography left an impression on them. ‘People feel good about Joe Biden, and it doesn’t take a lot to make them feel really good about Joe Biden—but this is the time when voters need that information,’ says Lily Adams, Unite the Country’s communications director. Other focus groups have revealed similar data. The word young voters most associate with Biden is old, followed by good, and then roughly by creepy, Democrat, and smart, according to a focus group conducted over the past few weeks for NextGen America, a political organization that focuses on increasing youth turnout. Mixed in are leader, great, nice, experienced, okay, and cool, but also senile and dementia.”

Trump (R)(1): “Trump Is in a Deep Hole. Can He Dig Himself Out Before November?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. ” And, for those of us who covered the 2016 campaign, we feel as if we’ve been here before. After all, back in June of 2016, Hillary Clinton led Trump by anywhere from 4 to 10 points. Trump was deeply unpopular back then and still won. So, can Trump to turn things around this year like he did in 2016?… The biggest challenge for Trump is that he’s not the outsider anymore. He’s in charge… [Trump could try to drive up Biden’s unfavorables but], one of the biggest impediments to driving up Biden’s unfavorable ratings is the president himself. Trump is unable to take himself out of the spotlight, even when it would benefit him. In fact, we may all look back next year and point to two unnecessary public appearances — the one in front of St. John’s church that required the military to clear peaceful protesters in front of the White House and the rally in Tulsa in the middle of a spike in COVID infections — that sealed his political fate. The Trump campaign and GOPers know that they can’t afford this election to be a referendum on Trump. But, the president himself can’t help but ensure that it is.”

Trump (R)(2): “Fox’s Gasparino: GOP operatives raising possibility Trump ‘could drop out of race’ if polls don’t rebound” [The Hill]. “A Fox News report on Sunday says that “GOP operatives are for the first time raising the possibility” that President Trump could drop out of the 2020 presidential race “if his poll numbers don’t rebound” against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The report by Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino, political reporter Andrew O’Reilly and producer Lydia Moynihan comes as the former vice president leads the Republican incumbent by 9.2 points in the RealClearPolitics index of major polls…. “It’s too early, but if the polls continue to worsen, you can see a scenario where he drops out,” a GOP operative who asked to remain anonymous told Fox News. Gasparino also reported that one “major player” within the Republican Party described “Trump’s current psyche as ‘fragile.’” • I should, I suppose be following the polls more closely. If I could be sure they weren’t all push polls, or advocacy. I hate to sound foily, but see here.

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.

Manufacturing: “June 2020 Texas Manufacturing Improves” [Econintersect]. “Of the five Federal Reserve districts which have released their June manufacturing surveys – two in expansion, two in contraction, and one is at zero…. Important subindices new orders improved (remains in expansion) and unfilled orders also improved (remains in contraction). This should be considered a better report relative to last month. It will be interesting to see what the Federal Reserve’s industrial production is this month with such a split of results from the various federal reserve districts.”

Housing: “May 2020 Pending Home Sales Record Comeback” [Econintersect]. “The National Association of Realtors (NAR) seasonally adjusted pending home sales index had a record recovery from coronavirus shutdown – but the index remains in contraction…. The year-over-year growth is in NEGATIVE territory. I believe the housing industry will reset due to the coronavirus – and I suspect housing will slow after this initial recovery.”

Retail: “Men’s Makeup Goes Mainstream With CVS Rollout” [Bloomberg]. “Men’s makeup is going mainstream in America. CVS, the country’s largest drugstore chain, is making the biggest bet on the category in the U.S. yet, by adding a cosmetics line from Stryx, a brand launched last year, to 2,000 stores (about a quarter of its total). The retailer is giving more legitimacy to a small, but growing, group of products that had mainly been sold through high-end stores. With this move, CVS likely has potential customers such as Max Belovol in mind. The 23-year-old grew up wearing dazzling eyeshadows and foundation for figure-skating competitions, but didn’t become truly comfortable with wearing makeup during work until the coronavirus lockdown. ‘It’s a Zoom effect,’ said Belovol, a law student based in Atlanta, who prefers concealer and its subtle look. ‘People don’t have to worry about how they look at work. You can paint your nails, and nobody on the Zoom call is going to know.”” • So it’s not that you look better on Zoom; it’s that Zoom’s resolution is crappy?

Concentration: “Break Up Google” [Tim Bray]. “Why break it up? · There are specific problems; I list a few below. But here’s the big one: For many years, the astonishing torrent of money thrown off by Google’s Web-search monopoly has fueled invasions of multiple other segments, enabling Google to bat aside rivals who might have brought better experiences to billions of lives…. Financially, I think Google’s whole is worth less than the sum of its parts. So a breakup might be a win for shareholders. This is a reasonable assumption if only because the fountain of money thrown off by Web-search advertising leaves a lot of room for laziness and mistakes in other sectors of the business.” • Well worth a read, and from a solid and well-respected tech insider.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 46 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 29 at 12:20pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Earthquakes. “Massive quake strikes southern Mexico” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I feel apocalyptic. Why don’t these guys?

The Biosphere

“Why are plants green?” [Science Daily]. • Read it twice. This is the best I can find: “Our model shows that by absorbing only very specific colors of light, photosynthetic organisms may automatically protect themselves against sudden changes — or ‘noise’ — in solar energy, resulting in remarkably efficient power conversion,’ said Gabor, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, who led the study appearing today in the journal Science. ‘Green plants appear green and purple bacteria appear purple because only specific regions of the spectrum from which they absorb are suited for protection against rapidly changing solar energy.’”

Health Care

“School Children Don’t Spread Coronavirus, French Study Shows” [Bloomberg]. “Scientists at Institut Pasteur studied 1,340 people in Crepy-en-Valois, a town northeast of Paris that suffered an outbreak in February and March, including 510 students from six primary schools. They found three probable cases among kids that didn’t lead to more infections among other pupils or teachers. The study confirms that children appear to show fewer telltale symptoms than adults and be less contagious, providing a justification for school reopenings in countries from Denmark to Switzerland. The researchers found that 61% of the parents of infected kids had the coronavirus, compared with about 7% of parents of healthy ones, suggesting it was the parents who had infected their offspring rather than the other way around.”

“Universal Health Care Supports Thailand’s Coronavirus Strategy” [NPR]. “While the pandemic has raged in the U.S. and Europe, Thailand has been able to control its epidemic with a caseload among the lowest in the world – just 58 deaths. Thai epidemiologists say the country’s universal health care system played a major role…. Dr. Pongpirul says the fact that the taxi driver sought medical attention early on, that he wasn’t put off by having to pay for something he couldn’t have afforded, made a huge difference in helping them control the virus.” • Say, since we’re a First World country, maybe we could set up a system of tax credits for COVID-19 Testing Savings Accounts…. That way, risking $1,000 for testing woudn’t seem like such an insuperable obstacle. Granted, costs, random and opaque as usual, don’t generally reach that level. But still.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“How Planes, Trains and Automobiles Worsened America’s Racial Divide” [Politico]. “This is not just an obscure social critique: It’s a finding endorsed by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. In a 2019 research paper that examined the reasons and impact of the Freeway Revolts against urban highway construction, the researchers concluded that the American history of road development systematically shifted prosperity from inner cities to suburbs: ‘Freeways caused slower growth in population, income, and land values in central areas, but faster growth in outlying area. These patterns suggest that in central areas, freeway disamenity effects exceeded small access benefits.’ In other words: Cutting through communities helped spur suburban growth but destroyed urban communities.”

Police State Watch

CHOP shootings:

“One Dead, One in Critical Condition After Shooting at CHOP at 2:20 am” [The Stranger]. “Early Saturday morning citizen journalist Omari Salisbury reported two people shot near or on the borders of the Capitol Hill Protest Area (CHOP), one dead and one wounded…. [His] video [(included)]also shows protesters confronting a phalanx of cops who entered the zone with guns out and shields raised on a mission to retrieve the victims. Cops say they were ‘later’ told that the victims had already been transported to Harborview before they arrived, but video shows the protesters telling the cops that at least one of the victims had already been driven to the hospital, though there was confusion over ‘a second body.’”

“At least two shot as camp reportedly opens fire on jeep after Capitol Hill protest zone drivebys — UPDATE: One dead” [Capitol Hill Seattle Blog]. “At least two people were reported shot in a chaotic scene of frightened campers, security volunteers, and heavily armed private security early Monday morning on the edge of the Capitol Hill protest zone…. 911 callers reported a person shooting into a vehicle… A group of heavily armed private security was seen taking position in the area of the Car Tender [a luxury car repair shop] lot at 12th and E Olive St where the group has been deployed in recent days…. The white Jeep Cherokee involved in the shooting was reported empty of occupants by police near 12th and Pine, pointed north where it crashed through a barrier near where the core group of occupying protesters has set up camp outside the emptied East Precinct. It was not clear if both people reported shot were in the vehicle or if there were any victims from the camp.” • Normally, I wouldn’t post this tweet, but since it shows a White Cherokee, here it is:

Sanders was the compromise….

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“Gun-Swinging Lawyers Confront Protesters in Central West End” [Riverfront Times]. “As hundreds of protesters marched toward Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house this evening they were met by a surprising sight — a gun-swinging couple on the lawn of their Central West End mansion. The couple, personal injury attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey, shouted at marchers who seemed to be just passing through the gated community. A video recorded by freelance photographer Theo Welling for the Riverfront Times shows Mark, dressed in a pastel pink polo shirt and khakis, brandishing a rifle with an extended clip while Patricia, wearing black-and-white-striped top with capri pants, casually holds a small handgun.” • For copycats:

The interior of the McCloskey’s house:

Hilariously, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson lives in a gared community:

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“Minneapolis Council members get private security after threats” [FOX9]. • Private security forces are one obvious outcome of defunding the police.

Our Famously Free Press


Can this be true?

Nothing anywhere I can find, as of this writing. (Riley, who I remember from Occupy Oakland, directed “Sorry to Bother You,” among other ventures.

News of the Wired

Machine learning:

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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 (WB):

WB writes: “Vinca and Columbine; finally some color in MN.” Columbines! One of my favorites!

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