2:00PM Water Cooler 6/30/2020

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. Our problem states:

Slamming on the brakes when the car is already hydroplaning (“the vehicle becomes, in effect, an uncontrolled sled”).

CA: “Holiday blues: 19 counties now on watch list for more COVID-19 restrictions” [CalMatters]. “Four new counties — Solano, Merced, Glenn and Orange — were added Monday to the list of hard-hit locales where state health officials are monitoring infection data, providing technical assistance and weighing new measures to slow the spread of the virus. Bars were already ordered to shut down in Los Angeles and six other counties on Sunday as businesses hit hard by the virus looked to the busy summer holiday to recoup some losses. Even after the closures, local health officials warned on Monday of “alarming” increases in the number of new COVID-19 cases in L.A., and County Supervisor Janice Hahn announced on Twitter that officials plan to close beaches for the holiday from July 3-6. The question now is if and when the governor may ask other counties on the list to “toggle back” reopening plans, though exactly what that might entail remains unclear. ‘We are considering a number of other things to advance,’ Newsom said, ‘and we will be making those public as conditions change.’” • If there’s one thing we know about COVID-19, it’s that measured responses to exponential growth invite failure.

CA: “Newsletter: California’s turn for the worse” [Los Angeles Times]. “In the coronavirus crisis, it was one of health officials’ biggest fears: that reopening would coincide with sudden jumps in disease transmission that have the potential to overwhelm public and private hospitals. In parts of California, those fears are beginning to be realized. Some of the worst outbreaks are in Imperial and Riverside counties, where ICU beds are nearly full. With a predicted increase in hospitalizations, for the first time since the coronavirus crisis seemed to ease locally, Los Angeles County is now projecting the possibility of running out of hospital beds in two to three weeks. Likewise, the number of intensive care unit beds in the county could be exhausted sometime in July… The worsening situation in California has left numerous health officials feeling frustrated and fearful. Many said that while hospital capacity has increased, and more is known about how to treat the disease, those on the front lines still face shortages, stress and chagrin that the public is not taking precautions such as wearing face coverings and avoiding large gatherings. Likewise, many businesses haven’t been adhering to health orders. Not helping matters: the politicization and divisiveness surrounding masks and other COVID-19 control measures.” • Once again, if we must speak of politicization, Fauci and WHO acting like Philosopher Kings and lying about masks just as the virus was ramping up really didn’t help.

FL: “A Miami ER doctor explained how Florida’s COVID-19 response went from success to disaster” [Business Insider]. “Weeks later, the numbers have changed. While New York reported 624 new coronavirus cases on Sunday — down from highs of more than 10,000 a day — Florida is reporting more cases than ever before: more than 5,000 a day for a week straight, as of Monday. DeSantis has attributed that increase in part to young people. ‘You can’t control’ them‘, he said on Sunday, adding, ‘They’re going to do what they’re going to do.’ He’s also attributed it to the larger number of tests. ‘As you’re testing more, you’re going to see more cases,’ he said earlier in the month. But while young people have indeed accounted for a large share of new coronavirus cases, many were drinking at bars that the state reopened — only to close them again last Friday. And though the increase in cases has come amid an increase in testing, more people being swabbed have tested positive. In May, fewer than 5% of people tested were found to have COVID-19. On Monday, the number was three times that, hitting a seven-day average of just under 16%…. ‘When everything started to open up and ease up, then our volume picked up,’ Dr. Mark Supino, an emergency-medicine physician at Jackson Health System in Miami, told Business Insider.” • “Millenials are ruining COVID is certainly a novel theory of governance.

As I’ve been warning about for some time:


“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: Still no change. So, regardless of polling, 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): “Access”:

So, a shit sandwich with woke toppings.

Biden (D)(2): “Biden to Criticize Trump for Golfing, Holding Rallies During Covid Crisis” [Bloomberg]. • Yes, this is stupid and bad. And even if Biden has been hiding out in his basement, a functioning opposition party would have rolled out their strategy months ago. Maybe held hearings on it idk. Musical interlude (lyrics):

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “Biden tells donors: I’m going to get rid of most of Trump’s tax cuts ‘and a lot of you may not like that’” [CNBC]. “‘Folks, this is going to be really hard work and Donald Trump has made it much harder to foot the bill,’ Biden said, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter’s press pool report about the event. But even before the coronavirus crisis effectively froze the U.S. economy and sent unemployment skyrocketing, Trump’s ‘irresponsible sugar-high tax cuts had already pushed us into a trillion-dollar deficit,’ Biden said. ‘I’m going to get rid of the bulk of Trump’s $2 trillion tax cut,’ Biden continued, ‘and a lot of you may not like that but I’m going to close loopholes like capital gains and stepped-up basis.’” • (Readers, does “stepped-up basis” mean anything to you?) So Biden plans to run on the so-called deficit? Grand Bargain, here we come (“Everybody must do their share.”)

UPDATE Biden (D)(4): “Biden Team Begins Raising Money for Transition Committee” [New York Times]. “The Biden campaign has not widely advertised the existence of the transition committee as a fund-raising vehicle, preferring that most donors give first to the campaign itself, or even the Democratic National Committee. Even some members of Mr. Biden’s national finance committee have been unaware of its existence; donors have been mostly invited to give, bestowing the committee something of an aura of exclusivity.” • Oh. More: “At least four officials have been soliciting money for the transition committee, according to people familiar with the matter: Jeff Zients, a former director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama; Mark Angelson, a businessman and former vice chairman of the Biden Foundation; Alex Katz, a former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer who now works at the investment firm Blackstone; and Evan Ryan, a former aide to Mr. Biden.” • Well, any Blackstone dude that used to work for Schumer is A-OK in my book.

UPDATE Biden (D)(5): “Biden campaign staffs up from Obamaworld” [Axios]. “In the past few weeks, four former staffers who worked for Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett joined Biden’s campaign…. Karine Jean-Pierre, Julie Chavez Rodríguez, and Ashley Allison all joined within one week starting May 20, in senior adviser roles. Yohannes Abraham joined the Biden campaign’s transition team in late June. All are women or men of color. All were longtime Obama White House staffers and worked with Jarrett in different capacities in her roles including senior adviser and directing public engagement and intergovernmental affairs…. Amid questions around Biden’s age and what that means for who he selects as a running mate, these hires show how the campaign is positioning a younger generation of former Obama aides to land the plane in November.” • So Biden’s like that 9/11 hijacker who wanted to learn how to take off, but not to land? More: “Part of Biden’s core campaign message is around his government competency. One Obama alum tells Axios: “By lifting up these particular individuals, he’s giving the rest of us a window into who’s going to help run the show in the White House, and I think that’s engendering more confidence in him.” • So, as I’ve been saying, you’re not really voting for Biden; you’re voting for the Obama Alumni Association. Based on past performance, expect the next recovery to be like this, but worse, because the initial conditions are worse:

UPDATE Biden (D)(6): “Joe Biden wants to be the next FDR — but that won’t be enough to solve our crises” [Salon]. “When the Great Recession hit in 2008, many believed Democratic candidate Barack Obama would not only win the 2008 election, but become a latter-day FDR.” • Including a lot of good people, including Thomas Frank. More: “Given the magnitude of the problems we face today — some of which existed during Roosevelt’s era and went unaddressed (the New Deal, for example, perpetuated racist inequalities) and others which are new to our own time (Roosevelt, to be fair, had no inkling that global warming even existed) — the Roosevelt/Biden approach is woefully inadequate. The underlying principle behind the New Dealer approach, after all, is to co-opt left-wing rhetoric and use it to pass policies that leave capitalist class structures in place while making its injustices just bearable enough for ordinary people that they don’t violently rebel against it.” • Once again, this from Wells Fargo:

Or this from the World Economic Forum’s front page:

It is not, I think, a coincidence that the erasure of Sanders’ class-based politics (however mild) by identity politics has been so ferocious (which is not to say that the George Floyd protests at ground level are not fully justified, they are; but the elite has been almost indecently hasty in its usual strategy of co-optation). So, Sanders was the compromise, and here we are.

Biden (D)(7): “The white-collar revolt against Trump is peaking” [Ronald Brownstein, CNN]. “These reactions could make the 2020 election the culmination of the long-term electoral realignment that I’ve called the “class inversion”: the movement of well-educated White voters toward the Democrats even as blue-collar Whites drift toward the GOP, a reversal of the pattern that defined American politics for the first decades after World War II.” • Making this a little more pointed: 2016 was, among other things, a judgement on the rule of the PMC (as we may call them). Electoral politics in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 have been driven by their reaction to that judgment (among other things. As a downwardly mobile PMCer, I would prefer to write and teach, and not rule; but there’s no denying as a member of my class, I inherited and was taught my skills in order to rule; granted, to rule the sort of political economy that no longer exists, one with white shoe lawyers and bankers who leave at four, and granted, I turned out to be a discard, happily for me. But still.)

Trump (D)(1): “Choir of more than 100 people sings without masks at Pence event in Texas” [The Hill (SlayTheSmaugs)]. • Licking the shrine, I believe the Iranians call it.

Trump (D)(2): I have not found it within myself to put on my yellow waders for the “Putin’s Afghan Bounty” moral panic, because (a) it strikes me as cray cray to believe that Afghans need cash incentives to kill Americans, (b) I don’t believe there have been any named sources, and (c) when other venues confirm the original stenography reporting, they too use anonymous sources, leading to (d) a suspicion that everybody’s reading memos from the same intelligence community faction, and (e) I’ve seen the earlier releases from the RussiaGate franchise and felt they didn’t live up to expectations. Fortunately, Aaron Maté stepped up:

I mean, sure, you get to keep the Afghan war going, tweak Putin, and help elect Biden — in other words, perform all the functions that our famously free press now performs — so the upsides are real. But still.

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“Amy McGrath just won her unexpectedly close Kentucky Senate primary” [Vox]. “Despite election day in Kentucky being held on June 23, a crush of absentee ballots made it impossible to know statewide results until a full week later. Vox’s partner Decision Desk called the race on June 30, around 11:15 am. The week of delays could serve as a preview for the November general election, if it is close.” • But already:

I’ll wait for the Trillbillies to call the election. Not Vox.

UPDATE And then there are the polling places:

UPDATE And then, of course, the ballots:

I’m still gonna wait for the Trillbillies to call it. Certainly not Vox and their “partner,” holy [family blog].

Realignment and Legitimacy

Wellie, the headline is just what the Democrats were in a dither about in 2016. Right before Trump won and they they refused to accept the legitimacy of the result (and then lost their minds over Clinton’s vile RussiaGate scheme). But the interview is much, much more interesting than the clickbait-y headline. I would say it illustrates (a) the continuing descent of politics at the elite level into Third World solutions and assumptions — for example, the military and/or the intelligence community as the guarantors of election integrity — combined with (b) some players who have genuine care for the country and are terrified by our descent (as I would say Wilkerson does). Well worth reading and discussing.

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.

Coincident Indicators: “30 June 2020 New York Fed Weekly Economic Index (WEI): Index Declined and Remains At Recession Levels” [Econintersect]. “This data set should be considered a high-frequency coincident indicator on a par with the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index produced by the Philly Fed – and both show conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are already worse than the Great Recession. However, the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index is improving whilst the WLI is still declining. Logic would say with the partial reopening of the economy – the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index seems to be correct.”

Manufacturing: “June 2020 Chicago Purchasing Managers Barometer Improves But Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The Chicago Business Barometer rose 4.3 points to 36.6 which was under expectations. The Fed manufacturing surveys were mixed this month because of the coronavirus impacts.”

Housing: “S and P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index April 2020 Year-over-Year Growth Not Effected By Coronavirus” [Econintersect]. “All home price indices are continuing to show home price growth is accelerating year-over-year. It is interesting that the coronavirus had little effect on home prices. However, the impact has varied significantly at the local level.” • Huh?

Honey for the Bears: “June 2020 Chemical Activity Barometer Again Declines and Remains Deep In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), eased 0.3 percent in June on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 4.6 percent decline in May. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer fell 12.0 percent in June…. The Chemical Activity Barometer has four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators. Production-related indicators were slightly positive in June. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed, as were resins used in appliances, light vehicles, machinery and other durable goods. Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were positive. Performance chemistry rebounded and U.S. exports were weak. Equity prices were mixed and product and input prices are firming. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were mixed.”

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Commodities: “Prices for [lithium] have been grinding lower since the pandemic battered world-wide car sales… leaving lithium out of the rebound that has boosted oil, copper and other commodities. One measure shows prices for lithium carbonate, produced from salt lakes in Chile and Argentina, dropped 42% in May” [Wall Street Journal]. “Prices for a related compound found in Australia and favored for batteries that power longer-distance vehicles fell 34%. The bust is a lesson in supply and demand. The market started turning in 2018 after rising prices prompted a surge in new production. The glut of metal expanded last year when China scaled back subsidies for electric vehicles.”

Real Estate: “Warehouses are proving to be a safe haven in a commercial real-estate market battered by the coronavirus. While retail and mall landlords are facing a reckoning as stores go out of business, owners of sites focused on distribution are on a steady path thanks to the broad changes that are sweeping the consumer sales world” [Wall Street Journal]. “Spending has moved online during widespread lockdowns aimed at containing the virus, and many experts say some of that shift will be permanent. UBS expects one-quarter of all U.S. retail spending to be online by 2025, a trend expected to force 100,000 physical stores to close by the middle of the decade and punish owners of retail properties.”

Shipping: “Need for speed drives ships toward Pacific ports” [Freight Waves]. “The battle for Asian containerized exports rages on between West and East Coast ports. The East had been steadily gaining ground, but COVID-19 is changing the balance in favor of the West, at least in the short term. The most immediate effect of the coronavirus, reported by FreightWaves in late March, was a shift from air cargo to premium ocean service. Advantage West Coast ports. Former air-cargo shippers with time pressures don’t take the long route to the East Coast…. The second COVID-19 effect was driven by the surge in e-commerce popularity among locked-in consumers…. More e-commerce could incentivize shorter delivery times from Asia. Yet again: advantage West Coast.”

Manufacturing: “The U.S. supply chain for personal protective equipment is growing as the coronavirus is spreading. Florida-based manufacturing services company Jabil Inc. is jumping into the face-mask field in the U.S….. with plans to produce more than a million masks daily at sites in Tennessee, Massachusetts and Illinois” [Wall Street Journal]. “The decision is the latest in a stream of shifts by suppliers of goods like shoes, mattresses and other products turning their assembly lines over to goods aimed at controlling the spread of coronavirus…. The renewed surge is straining supplies of medical-grade N95 masks despite efforts by 3M Co. and other manufacturers to scale up production, and it’s pushing more Americans to stock up on face masks.”

The Bezzle: “Wirecard’s Auditors Are Under Fire” [Michael Rapoport, The Dig]. “German payments-processing company Wirecard has unraveled, and its auditors at EY’s German firm face scrutiny about whether they fumbled their work and failed to catch and stop a major fraud. So if you’re an investor, you likely won’t be enthused to find out EY Germany worked on your company’s audit

But that’s exactly what’s happening at McDonald’s, Expedia, Texas Instruments, Archer Daniels Midland, and other high-profile U.S. companies. And most of their shareholders don’t have a clue about it.”

The Bezzle: “Philippines promises ‘thorough’ probe of Wirecard, looking at three local payment firms” [Channel News Asia]. “The Philippines’ anti-money laundering agency on Monday (Jun 29) said it would conduct a ‘swift and thorough’ investigation into scandal-hit German payments firm Wirecard AG and that it has drawn up an initial list of people and entities of interest. Wirecard’s collapse last week and admission that US$2.1 billion of its cash probably didn’t exist came after auditor EY refused to sign off on accounts for 2019, adding there were clear indications of an elaborate fraud involving multiple parties around the world.” One reads on: “Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Reuters on Friday that [Jan Marsalek, Wirecard’s chief operating officer was in the Philippines on Jun 23 and immigration records showed he flew to China from Cebu the next day. But Guevarra added that Marsalek was not captured leaving the country on airport surveillance cameras and there is no record of a flight to China from Cebu on Jun 24, suggesting he may still be in the Philippines.” • Oh.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 48 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 30 at 12:32pm.

Our Famously Free Press

“Bob Woodward talked out of exposing Brett Kavanaugh as anonymous source by Washington Post editor: report” [The Hill]. “Bob Woodward was prepared to unmask Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings as an anonymous source for a book the Watergate icon wrote more than 20 years ago but was talked out of it by the Washington Post’s top editor [Marty Baron], The New York Times reported on Monday. Woodward was reportedly set to expose Kavanaugh as an anonymous source for his 1999 book ‘Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.’ At the time the book was being written, Kavanaugh served as a lawyer on independent counsel Ken Starr’s team in its investigation of President Clinton.” • To anybody who remembers how Ken Starr worked the press with anonymous leaks during the Clinton Impeachment saga, this is not a case of virtue rewarded. Of course, at NC we know what Marty is; this story merely confirms it.

“Twitter Remorse: Deleted Tweets Trigger Backlash At The DNC, Washington Post, CNN, and The White House [Updated]” [Jonathan Turley]. Concluding: “The fact is that I view all of these tweets are likely the result of incautious, negligent, or thoughtless moments. I tend not to ascribe evil or racist or hateful motivations when simple stupidity or spontaneity could be the reason for a controversy. A tweet is a dangerous invitation for heedlessly moments as this week has already shown.”


Retweeted by Simon Stålenhag:

The visuals remind me: I’ve now finished (hat tip to the reader I cannot find who piqued my interesting) Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2041, another version of The Jackpot. If (following Shakespeare, we classify New York 2041 (following Robinson himself) as a comedy, and Gibson’s The Peripheral triology-to-be as a history, can readers suggest a Jackpot tragedy? (I don’t mean a novel that ends unhappily, but one that has the classic elements of tragedy, especially catharsis. Thank you!)

Class Warfare

What’s not to like:

“Virus Labor Market Destruction Is Proving Worse Than Anticipated” [Bloomberg]. “The damage inflicted on the global labor market by the coronavirus is proving worse than initially estimated and will be impossible to repair in the second half of 2020 even under the most optimistic scenario, according to the International Labour Organization. Working hours in the second quarter were 14% lower than before the virus, equivalent to a loss of 400 million full-time jobs, the Geneva-based organization said Tuesday. The sharp increase from a previous estimate of 305 million reflects a worsening situation over the past weeks, especially in developing regions, it said. The data add to evidence that the economic fallout from the virus is disproportionately being felt by the less well off, exacerbating existing social and wealth inequalities. While some jobs will return, weak demand may persist in many industries, and a full recovery is unlikely for some time.” • Everything’s going according to plan!

“The real cost of Amazon” [Recode]. “At 5:30 every morning, Rosie, an Amazon worker at a fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, checks her text messages to see if she’s received more bad news: yet another colleague infected with Covid-19, on top of the at least 50 people at her facility who she says have already gotten sick. As an older employee, Rosie is at higher risk of developing serious complications from the disease than many of her younger coworkers. Her two children beg her to quit. ‘It’s frightening, but you have to put on a smile and you go to work because you need the income,’ Rosie, who is being identified by a pseudonym because she fears losing her job for speaking to the press, told Recode in late May.” • Yes, that is the nature of wage labor. More: “On a follow-up call in late June, Rosie said that since management canceled morning meetings, there is no longer crowding before shifts, and conditions have improved, but not entirely. ‘It affects your nerves, your mental state, your way of thinking — because you have to be cautious in everything you do now,’ Rosie said. ‘It’s like I’m risking my life for a dollar. It’s twisted.” • It feels like that because it is like that. C-M-C’ rules!

“N+1 and the PMC: A Debate about Moving On” [Nonsite.org]. From 2019, quite dense, and worth a read. This caught my eye: “[T]he fact that a particular form of exploitation registers as exploitation is dependent not on any objective fact about how much of the pie one is getting, but on the expectations of what one thinks one is owed. This is a normative and political problem. American workers might think that getting a two week’s paid holiday is a luxury, British workers might think it’s inadequate, and the French see themselves as entitled to over a month. The standards and expectations of workers, and consequently the definition of exploitation, are changed by the political norms that are prevalent. We can’t, in an analytic fashion, sidestep this issue and proceed from an analysis of reality to political action. The fact that I interpret a particular state of affairs as leading to a particular action, joining a union, voting for Sanders or Labour, is primarily dependent on the dominance of political norms, not some positivistic conception of material interests which could be inferred from my location on the social hierarchy.”

News of the Wired

I’m not happy with the writers. This should have happened in Monday’s episode:

“Carl Reiner Dead at 98” [TMZ]. “Reiner appeared in a bunch of TV shows and movies, including “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming…” • Didn’t know that! Here’s one of Reiner and Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man” sketches:

“He came in the store, he never bought anything.”

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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 (AM):

AM writes: “The first picture is April 3, the second is June 3, Roger Williams Park, RI. Spring has sprung!”



Encouraging! Normally I deprecate lawns, but I don’t think that’s so much a lawn as a sward.

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