2:00PM Water Cooler 7/13/2020

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 five problem states, with New York for comparison:

I’ll just keep doing this one until I see a peak followed by a decline. CA had a big drop, but it could be an artifact. So did Florida. (Seems like the “first wave” is geographically and chronologically distributed. It will be interesting to see if and when New York starts going up again.)

World cases, United States and China highlighted:

Sure, China is China, but it would take data manipulation on a world-historic scale to get them into our league. USA! USA!


“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 July 12: Wisconsin moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. On July 7, the undecided votes were 86. Now they are 56. This puts Biden at 278, i.e. over 270.

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!


Trump (R)(1): “Donald Trump’s base-first strategy is working — and dooming him” [CNN]. “[M]ore than 9 in 10 (91%) Republicans now approve of the job Trump is doing in office. That’s up from 85% who said the same in the last Gallup poll, which was conducted in early June. Which makes perfect sense! Trump has leaned hard into his base-first strategy over the last month as he looks for a handhold amid a political free fall. He’s talked relentlessly about the lawlessness of the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in late May in Minnesota. He’s appealed to a defense of ‘our heritage.’ He’s cast the very fabric of America as tearing — thanks to the assault of a liberal horde intent on destroying everything that made America great. ‘Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,’ Trump argued in a speech on July 3 at Mount Rushmore. The problem for Trump, politically speaking, is that every political action — or at least this political action — has an equal and opposite reaction. Which, in this case, is a drop in Trump’s support among independents — and even Democrats.”

Trump (R)(2): “What 9 GOP Campaign Consultants Really Think About Republicans’ Chances in November” [Tim Miller, Rolling Stone]. “I reached out to nine of my former allies and rivals who still consult for Republican candidates at the highest levels of Senate and House races, some who have gone full MAGA and others for whom the president is not their cup of tea. I asked them to speak candidly, without their names attached, to learn about the real behind-the-scenes conversations about the state of affairs. How is the president’s performance impacting their candidate? Are there discussions about either storming the cockpit or gently trying to #WalkAway from Trump? And finally, why in the hell aren’t they more pissed at this incompetent asshole who is fucking up their lives? What I found in their answers was one part Stockholm Syndrome, one part survival instinct. They all may not love the president, but most share his loathing for his enemies on the left, in the media, and the apostate Never Trump Republicans with a passion that engenders an alliance with the president, if not a kinship. And even among those who don’t share the tribalistic hatreds, they perceive a political reality driven by base voters and the president’s shitposting that simply does not allow for dissent. As one put it: ‘There are two options, you can be on this hell ship or you can be in the water drowning.’” • I know the feeling…

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“Republican anxiety grows as Democratic Senate challengers outraise incumbents” [CNN]. “Democratic Senate candidates, spurred by anger at President Donald Trump and hope that the party could take back the Senate, have posted massive second quarter fundraising numbers this month, distressing Republicans who now fear November’s election could be devastating. The hauls are giving some Republicans déjà vu, reminding them of the 2018 midterms, when dozens of Democratic challengers across the country consistently outraised Republican incumbents. That fundraising superiority led Democrats to take back the House. Some of the most substantial numbers have come in deep red states that Trump won handily in 2016. In South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison announced on Tuesday that his campaign raised nearly $14 million in the second quarter, building on the $7.3 million he raised in the first quarter. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has not yet released his second quarter fundraising totals, but Harrison outraised Graham’s $5.7 million in the first three months of 2020. In Kentucky, Democrat Amy McGrath raised $17.4 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to a campaign official. McGrath is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong fundraiser, but Democrats are hopeful that McGrath’s ability to raise millions could keep a tough race close.” • Sending a lot of Democrat strategists’ kids to college!

“Ex-Sanders aides launch pro-Biden ad targeting Latino voters” [Politico]. “A pair of super PACs launched by top aides to Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign is rolling out its first presidential campaign ad. The spot, shared with POLITICO, targets Latino voters and attacks President Donald Trump over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is part of a seven-figure buy that will appear on TV and digitally in Arizona, Michigan and North Carolina, in Spanish as well as English…. The advertisement was the combined effort of Nuestro PAC, launched by ex-Sanders senior adviser Chuck Rocha, and America’s Progressive Promise, which was founded by top Sanders aide Jeff Weaver. The operatives are looking to persuade Sanders supporters, particularly Latino voters, young people and progressives, to back former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.”

When Democrats suddenly grow spines:

And 2016 was a walk in the park compared to 2020.

Realignment and Legitimacy

On political parties, a thread:

Obviously, the “left” — even if you include the DSA — is very far from even raising such issues.

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.

Employment Situation: “The impact of social distancing on leisure and hospitality” [The Fred Blog]. ”

The GeoFRED map above shows the percent change in employment levels in the leisure and hospitality industry by U.S. state between May 2019 and May 2020. Note that the data are seasonally adjusted. That means they discount regularly occurring increases and decreases in activity due to seasonal demand, such as winter skiing in Colorado or summer vacationing in Florida. The number of employees in the leisure and hospitality industry decreased in all 50 states during May compared with a year ago. That decrease ranged from 18% in Oklahoma to 62% in New York. The median value was 38%.” • Handy map:

Purple is high, dark green is low, white is in the middle. (Is that color scheme weird?)

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The Bezzle: “Why general artificial intelligence will not be realized” [Nature]. “[W]hen one looks at what has actually been accomplished compared to what is promised, the discrepancy is striking. I shall later give some examples. One explanation for this discrepancy may be that profit is the main driving force, and, therefore, many of the promises should be regarded as marketing. However, although commercial interests no doubt play a part, I think that this explanation is insufficient. I will add two factors: First, one of the few dissidents in Silicon Valley, Jerone Lanier, has argued that the belief in scientific immortality, the development of computers with super-intelligence, etc., are expressions of a new religion, “expressed through an engineering culture” (Lanier, 2013, p. 186). Second, when it is argued that computers are able to duplicate a human activity, it often turns out that the claim presuppose an account of that activity that is seriously simplified and distorted. To put it simply: The overestimation of technology is closely connected with the underestimation of humans.” • See robot cars.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed;) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 13 at 12:09pm. Fully shifted into Greed mode.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Food Supply. “Fears of Covid-19 related food shortages have not panned out” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. The Rapture crowd believes in a V-shaped recovery? Really? Apparently so!

Health Care

“Surgeon general says U.S. can reverse coronavirus surge in a few weeks ‘if everyone does their part’” [The Hill]. “”Just as we’ve seen cases skyrocket, we can turn this thing around in two to three weeks if we can get a critical mass of people wearing face coverings, practicing at least six feet of social distancing, doing the things that we know are effective,” [Surgeon General Jerome Adams] said. ‘And it’s important for the American people to understand when we’re talking about the fall, we have the ability to turn this around very quickly if people will do the right thing.’” • Good for him. But then there’s this: “Adams said mandates requiring face coverings work best on the local and state levels, arguing a federal mandate could lead to issues with ‘overpolicing.’ ‘We need people to understand why they’re doing it, and we need people to understand how they benefit from it,’ he said. ‘If we just try to mandate it, you have to have an enforcement mechanism, and we’re in the midst of a moment where overpolicing has caused many different individuals to be killed for very minor offenses. That is a very important consideration.’” • I’m not sure he’s wrong. But it does call into question the liberal Democrat mantra that the only missing ingredient is leadership. What if the dogs don’t eat the dog food? And speaking of dog food–

“Column: Hey, Hollywood, we could use a snappy ‘wear the damn mask’ campaign right now” [Los Angeles Times]. • Interesting:

{H]ow hard was it to wear a seat belt? Or to stop flicking lit cigarettes into the brush and leaving campfires burning in the forest? How hard was it to quit thinking it was OK to throw bags of trash out the car window?

Hard enough to warrant some fairly serious and successful PSA campaigns.

Smokey the Bear has been warning us that “Only you can prevent forest fires” since the 1940s, and the 1971 “Keep American Beautiful” “Crying Indian” commercial (though problematic in many other ways including the fact that the “Indian” was portrayed not by a Native American but an Italian American) kept many bags of trash in the car, and is still considered one of the best ads of all time.

Smokey Bear was created Aug. 9, 1944, as a property of the U.S. government. During World War II, government officials were worried that enemies might set fire to U.S. forests to destroy an important resource: timber.

These and other campaigns, including Woodsy the Owl (“Give a hoot, don’t pollute!”) helped modify many types of harmful behavior over the years — but it’s the “Crash Dummies” series that provides the best “wear a mask” model.

The federal law requiring seat belts in all vehicles passed in 1968, but by 1985, only 21% of Americans were using them. Car seats? Forget about it — kids just rolled around in the back of station wagons half the time. Then, in an effort to decrease the number of car accident fatalities, the U.S. Department of Transportation partnered with the Ad Council to produces a series of ads featuring two crash test dummies.

Over the next six years, Vince and Larry tried to explain, and often vividly show, the need for buckling up. Each spot ended with the memorable tagline “You could learn a lot from a dummy” and, in conjunction with the passage of many state laws, helped almost quadruple the safety-belt compliance rate.

“A New Understanding of Herd Immunity” [The Atlantic]. “But the effects of the coronavirus are not linear. The virus affects individuals and populations in very different ways. The case-fatality rate varies drastically between adults under 40 and the elderly. This same characteristic variability of the virus—what makes it so dangerous in early stages of outbreaks—also gives a clue as to why those outbreaks could burn out earlier than initially expected. In countries with uncontained spread of the virus, such as the U.S., exactly what the herd-immunity threshold turns out to be could make a dramatic difference in how many people fall ill and die. Without a better plan, this threshold—the percentage of people who have been infected that would constitute herd immunity—seems to have become central to our fates. Some mathematicians believe that it’s much lower than initially imagined. At least, it could be, if we choose the right future.” • The article goes on to give estimates like 20% and 40%. Well worth a read, disagree or not. But “In countries with uncontained spread of the virus, such as the U.S….” Holy moley.

“How can airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors be minimised?” [Environment International]. “[E]xisting evidence is sufficiently strong to warrant engineering controls targeting airborne transmission as part of an overall strategy to limit infection risk indoors. Appropriate building engineering controls include sufficient and effective ventilation, possibly enhanced by particle filtration and air disinfection, avoiding air recirculation and avoiding overcrowding. Often, such measures can be easily implemented and without much cost, but if only they are recognised as significant in contributing to infection control goals. We believe that the use of engineering controls in public buildings, including hospitals, shops, offices, schools, kindergartens, libraries, restaurants, cruise ships, elevators, conference rooms or public transport, in parallel with effective application of other controls (including isolation and quarantine, social distancing and hand hygiene), would be an additional important measure globally to reduce the likelihood of transmission and thereby protect healthcare workers, patients and the general public.”

“Airborne coronavirus transmission, explained” [Vox]. This is useful: “Perhaps a part of the reason the WHO has been slow to address the airborne transmission of Covid-19 is because in a health care setting, ‘airborne’ means a very specific thing. Though infection prevention experts know there’s a fuzzy boundary between drops that fall and specks that float, the dichotomy between airborne and droplet-borne is baked into how health care workers are trained to respond to outbreaks. ‘We’ve trained [health care workers] for decades to say, airborne is tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox, droplet is flu and pertussis and meningitis,’ Saskia Popescu, a hospital epidemiologist in Arizona, says. ‘And that’s, unfortunately, kind of antiquated. But that’s how we’ve always done it.’ They do it because there are very specific sets of guidelines in place to deal with extremely contagious airborne diseases in a hospital setting. For instance, a patient with a dangerous airborne disease often needs to be put in a room with an air pressure lower than the rest of the rooms in the building. That way, no virus in the air of that room can escape it (since air flows from high pressure to low pressure). For droplet transmission, health care workers can be a little more lax; they can wear simple surgical masks during routine care and can save high-filtration (and sometimes scarce) respirators for the most dangerous procedures and cases. In this light, it makes some sense that the WHO has been hesitant to label Covid-19 an ‘airborne’ infection. It’s not an airborne infection like measles is. It is not as contagious. Contact tracing studies consistently find that Covid-19 is spread most readily among people in the closest physical contact to one another. ‘Airborne’ means something very specific, very resource-intensive, and very scary for hospitals and the people who work in them. And Covid-19 doesn’t match that definition.” • I wonder if we’re optimizing too much for hospitals (that is, in the United States, for enormous profit centers). I can think of three other examples: Ventilators (which turned out to be awful for patients), hydrochloroquinine studies that were not prophylactics, and, of course, Fauci and WHO’s noble lie about masks.

Our Famously Free Press

“Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund, has won the auction to buy the McClatchy newspaper chain” [Poynter]. “The stage was set for the McClatchy family to relinquish control and put the company into bankruptcy. They chose to do so after failing to get a waiver from the Internal Revenue Service or the PBGC for pension payments due this year that the company would be unable to make. Chatham also controls American Media Inc., which includes the National Enquirer (which it announced in April 2019 had been sold — though the transaction has never closed). It also has a controlling interest in Postmedia, a large Canadian chain. Chatham has managed each with a light hand. And since it has been in a position to influence decisions in McClatchy for some time, my guess is that deep cuts or other radical action once it owns the company are not likely.” • Maybe. Before McClatchy was McClatchy, it was Knight-Ridder, the only “newsgathering” organization that did not support Bush’s WMD scam that helped justifiy the Iraq War (looking at you David Frum). So McClatchy goes under, while the warmongering Washington Post and New York Times go from strength to strength.

The Tube

“It Looks Like a Reality Show. Why Not Just Make It One?” [New York Times]. Those smiles. I want to slap some sense into them. Anyhow: “[M]any wonder if a new wave of unscripted shows about the lives of young influencers could captivate the next generation of viewers.” • The shows are thoroughly scripted. Just not by scriptwriters.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“Ghislaine Maxwell’s House” [Virtual Globetrotting]. What an interesting site: “View amazing and beautiful satellite imagery from across the globe. Celebrity homes, roadside attractions, movie locations, landmarks, military, and more!” For example, “Billionaire & Millionaire Homes” (always assuming, of course, that the family office didn’t intervene with Google and fake data. Not that I’m foily).

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Trump Financial Regulator Quietly Shelved Discrimination Probes Into Bank of America and Other Lenders” [Pro Publica]. “Since President Donald Trump took office, the OCC has quietly shelved at least six investigations of discrimination and redlining, according to internal agency documents and eight people familiar with the cases. Flagstar Bank, a leading lender in Michigan, wrongly charged Black homeowners more through a network of mortgage lending affiliates, OCC officials concluded in 2017. That same year, agency examiners found that Colorado Federal Bank, an online lender, was doing the same to female borrowers. Another inquiry by OCC officials concluded that Chicago-based MB Financial, a lender acquired by Fifth Third Bank last year, charged Latinos too much on mortgage loans. Cadence Bank, a lender in several Southern states, was turning away minority borrowers in Houston, according to an OCC investigation. Fulton Bank, a lender based in Pennsylvania, had been discriminating against minorities in parts of Richmond, Virginia, and its home state, regulators concluded. In each case, despite staff recommendations that fines or other penalties be imposed, the OCC took no public action and closed the investigations quietly. In the past, banks have had to pay substantial sums after similar investigations.”

Guillotine Watch

“Stocks Generate Big Gains and Bigger Questions” [New York Times]. “‘We’ve gotten the gains, now we’ve gone too far,’ said Tobias Levkovich, chief United States equity strategist at Citi Research. ‘What happens to the tens of millions of unemployed? Retailers are closing stores. Where do those jobs go?’” • IBGYBG. That’s what happens.

Class Warfare

“A Quiet Genocide: Rural America and the Continuing Plague” [The Muckrake]. “A child of rural America, I’m now hearing horror stories of mounting tension and spreading infection. Our rural communities, middle America, the interior of the country, is swimming in coronavirus. Confirmed cases are growing, doubling in some cases, even while testing remains virtually inaccessible in these regions. It’s going to get even worse, especially if we reopen America, or whatever slogan they’ll try next, and, most tragically, these deaths will probably never be known or counted…. Right now, following decades of top-down, Reaganomics manipulation, the rural parts of our country have been devastated. They’ve been hollowed out by Walmart. By corporations looting, polluting, and addicting Americans to drugs that are designed to be addictive. The schools are falling apart or can’t hire teachers. There are no jobs. There is no local economy or culture. The towns are unconscious on their feet, ready to fall at the slightest breeze. And all of it has been by design. Like my family, rural Americans are more likely to have preexisting conditions. They’ve been worked hard, exploited by industry, exposed to chemicals, addicted to pain relievers and prescription medications. They are more likely not to have health insurance or at least decent health insurance. They are taught to grin and bear the pain, to avoid going to the doctor because the bills are exorbitantly high and can bankrupt them.” • All true. And if Trump weren’t so wussy, “genocide” is the word he would use. And he would be right (falling life expectancy; opiods). Of course, he didn’t deliver on “stop the carnage,” but who delivers on anything?

“Mammoth Heat Wave Lasting “Weeks” Will Cause Painful Spike In Utility Bills For Poor Americans” [Forbes]. “‘Hot and humid conditions are likely to persist with much-above-normal temperatures predicted for much of the country during the last two weeks of July,’ the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today. For many Americans, the timing could not be worse. America’s public spaces and offices are still mostly closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving Americans of cool places of refuge such as shopping malls and movie theaters, and instead forcing them to crank up air-conditioning units inside their homes. For low-income families and the 11.1% of the workforce that is unemployed, air-conditioning will either be a luxury they can’t afford or a burden that pushes them closer to financial ruin.” • Or a way of recirculating the virus in a closed system, which is bad.

News of the Wired

These are prayer flags, not garbage:

Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that the best prayer flags of all would be the clouds and the wind.

“Noisomeness” [London Review of Books]. Smells have a cultural history. Here is an interesting nugget: “In 1893 the medical officer appointed for schools in Bradford found that more than a third of the first three hundred children he inspected hadn’t removed their clothes for at least six months.” • Perhaps that’s why Bruegel’s children look the way they do:

McMansion Hell, but for Shutters:

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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 plan (CM):

CM writes: “Springtime in a Grey County (Ontario) marsh! The dogwoods and marsh marigolds are showing their colors before they get hidden by reeds.” The composition is what it is because the things in themselves are what they are 🙂

And is a garden project (CO):

CO writes: “You said you’d like a picture of our garden projects. This garden is in the “Driftless” area of Wisconsin.” The beds are structured so that gate is really inviting.

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