2:00PM Water Cooler 7/21/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, that horrid transcript about “free” COVID testing under “Health Care” took some doing, and so this Water Cooler is a bit thin. I’ll add more shortly. –lambert


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. California and Texas resume their rise, Florida goes down (!). Texas and California were tracking each other with eerie similarity untiil eight days ago (or, I suppose, 8 days + two weeks ago?).

A few weeks ago, we ran this chart showing Rt (“the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly”). Here it is again, state by state:

And here is the same chart from back in June 8:

These are point estimates (the ovals) within a range (the shaded bar).

AZ vs. NM:


“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. July 17: Georgia, Ohio, ME-2 move from Leans Republican to Toss-up. Continued yikes. On July 7, the tossup were 86. Only July 17, they were 56. Now they are 91. 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!


Biden (D)(1): “Ex-Gov. John Kasich slated to speak at the Democratic National Convention for Joe Biden” [Cleveland.com]. “John Kasich, the Republican ex-governor of Ohio turned critic of President Donald Trump, is expected to speak at the Democratic National Convention next month in support of Joe Biden…. It’s a move that would be unthinkable just a few years ago, when, as governor, Kasich clashed with Democrats on a range of issues, from abortion to collective bargaining for public employees. Kasich is one of a number of high-profile Republicans who intend to work against Trump’s re-election in the closing days of the campaign… John Weaver, a senior strategist for Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, co-founded the Lincoln Project, a group that is already airing anti-Trump TV ads. In addition, ex-Ohio GOP Chair Matt Borges, a Kasich ally, has formed a pro-Biden super PAC…. The news drew a swift backlash from Democratic candidates, staffers, and activists on social media.” • But who cares? They have no place to go. And I have to say…. As readers know, I’ve been blogging since 2003, and got my real start at Eschaton; I can still remember playing whack-a-mole with series of WMD stories propagated (and later determined to be planted) by the Bush administration. And so the concept of Bush Republicans and liberal Democrats actually merging their campaigns is profoundly disoriented to me. It’s like being clubbed over the head with a bag of wet sand. .I know it’s a two-party system, and the system is a single system, but that we seem to be heading toward something like a one-party state, where leadership factions of both parties merge… That wasn’t on my Bingo card at all. (though I suppose, in retrospect, Obama voting to retroactively legalize Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance in July 2008, after promising to filibuster it in January, should have sent a strong signal). Like so much in politics following campaign 2016, I’ve never seen anything like it. I wonder what Kasich’s price was?

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“McConnell previews GOP coronavirus relief bill” [The Hill]. “McConnell, as he did during the recent two-week July 4 break, outlined the major pillars of the forthcoming Republican bill as jobs, health care, kids in school and liability protections. But he also provided new details including that Republicans would include $105 billion in help for schools, as well as provide more help for businesses, who have been hit hard as the spread of the coronavirus forced many to close or scale back…. McConnell also indicated that the bill would include another round of stimulus checks. McConnell did not provide details on who would qualify but has previously talked about Americans who make up to $40,000 per year, in particular, needing additional assistance.” • Means-testing, so good! More: “McConnell also indicated that the GOP proposal will include more funding for testing and vaccines, though he did not provide a dollar amount… The GOP bill is also expected to provide a five-year shield from lawsuits tied to coronavirus infections unless an entity — including businesses, schools, hospitals or government agencies — engaged in gross negligence or intentional misconduct…. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Mnuchin have indicated they want an agreement by the end of next week, which is the end of the month.”

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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.

Leading Indicators: “21 July 2020 New York Fed Weekly Economic Index (WEI): Index Again Declined and Remains At Recession Levels” [Econintersect]. “The New York Fed’s Weekly Leading Index (WLI) declined and continues to show an economy that is significantly worse than seen during the Great Recession. However, this index remains on a recovery trend. 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.”

Housing: “May 2020 CoreLogic Single-Family Rent Index Significantly Declines” [Econintersect]. “The Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI), which analyzes single-family rent price changes nationally and among 20 metropolitan areas shows a national rent increase of 1.7% year over year, down from a 2.9% year-over-year increase in May 2019… Despite local economies beginning to open back up in May, rental demand continued to be impacted by unprecedented unemployment rates and stay-at-home directives, which contributed to the slowing in rent prices.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 65 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 21 at 12:54pm.

The Biosphere

“Global warming shrinks bird breeding windows, potentially threatening species” [Science]. “For breeding birds, timing is everything. Most species have just a narrow window to get the food they need to feed their brood—after spring’s bounty has sprung, but before other bird species swoop in to compete. Now, a new study suggests that as the climate warms, birds are not only breeding earlier, but their breeding windows are also shrinking—some by as many as 4 to 5 days. This could lead to increased competition for food that might threaten many bird populations. Birds typically time their breeding to cues signaling the start of spring, so that their chicks hatch when food like plants and insects is most abundant. But global warming has pushed many species to breed earlier in the year; that effect is especially prominent at higher latitudes, where temperatures are rising faster than near the equator.”


“Fishermen without fish as Cambodia’s river reversal runs late” [Reuters]. “Crucial water flows to the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake, have been delayed for a second consecutive year according to river experts, severely disrupting fishing and threatening the food supply of more than a million people…. ‘I went out fishing for two nights and couldn’t catch enough,’ said 37-year-old Khon Kheak, repairing a fishing net under his stilt house at Kampong Khleang, a floating village with little water to float in. That trip earned him 12,000 riels, or about $3, compared to $12-$25 a day last year, enough to support his family of six. His wife Reth Thary worries those days may be over. ‘If it continues like this we would be finished, we also owe people money,’ she said, referring to a $1,000 loan.” • Loans being a big, yet little covered aspect of village life in South and Southeast Asia. More: “Savuth may go to Siem Reap, a city 55km (34 miles) away, to find construction work.” • More at NC here.

“Himalayan rivers must be lynchpin of India’s new water policy” [Third Pole]. “In spite of the great socio-economic use of the flows in the IHR rivers, their hydro-meteorological picture is far from being precisely known. While the monsoon and the westerlies generate the overall climate of the IHR, the steep slopes and rugged undulating Himalayan landscape generate a mosaic of micro climates all over the region, which impacts the local economies. Understanding of the climate process in the IHR is handicapped by lack of dependable micro-level data, a characteristic problem of the whole Himalayan region. Bridging this knowledge gap is essential. Unfortunately, the assessment of the water flowing in the IHR river basins suffers from great uncertainty, as Richard Kattelmann pointed out in 1987 in Uncertainty in Assessing Himalayan Water Resources. The uncertainty is increased by the impacts of global warming and climate change, as Molden and others pointed out in 2014. Thus, a policy for water in the rivers from the IHR has to start with the generation of better knowledge of the climate process and assessment of the water precipitated and flowing in the streams and rivers. The policy for the reduction of uncertainty in the assessment of water flowing in the IHR rivers in the era of global warming and climate change is clearly a priority.”

Health Care

Timotheus throws the following thread over the transom. He writes: “I thought you might be amused/horrified by this thread I lifted from a Facebook page for Inwood (upper Manhattan) about one person’s experience getting a ‘free’ COVID test from the tent outside a housing project.” (Sorry for the crude reformatting, but I think the content is clear enough.)

Dimitri Mack


Beware of covid 19 testing at Dyckman Clinica de Las Americas on 175 Nagle Ave st 200 New York N.Y zip 10034.
It’s not free. I was billed $509.33 for a free covid test by my insurance. Look at your insurance statement. I spoke to my insurance they said speak to the testing location. I spoke to the testing location where I had the test done. They told me to speak to my insurance. Then I spoke to someone else there. They gave me a number and 3 weeks later this is still an ongoing issue. Just Beware of that location and check you insurance statements. They had the nerve to tell me they have to bill the insurance even though its free.

Kim Racon Did you fill out the insurance portion of the form, Dimitri? I ask because I was tested there last week, and they said you didn’t have to fill it out. I didn’t–and I haven’t received a bill–and my balance on their MyChart app says $0.00.

Dimitri Mack Kim Racon I was told I have to fill that out. I was also told by the person that does the billing that my insurance has to be charged even if its free. I said why are you charging if this is free. She said they will have to take the hit.

Kim Racon Dimitri Mack Yes–in the fine print on the NYC+ website, it does say your insurance company will be billed for the cost of the test–here’s the language from their site, “The COVID-19 test is free at these locations and no appointment is necessary. Please remember to bring ID and your insurance card. If you have insurance, NYC Health + Hospitals will bill your insurance plans for the cost of the test. However, patients will not be billed for any co-pays.”

I think, once they bill your insurance, it’s down to your insurance company if they cover the cost of the test or not–and that’s when it all gets into the weeds, if they deem NYC+ Health out of network and therefore they won’t pay the bill. It’s worth calling your insurance company to see what their COVID 19 testing payment plans are. I know my insurance company has updated their payment policies for testing (and different payments for nasal swab versus antibody testing) at least twice since March.

Dimitri Mack Kim Racon I understand that but they billed it as a in office visit for a flu shot. I can understand if this was March and they didn’t know how to code it. This test was taken a month ago. I just want everyone on be alert.

Marieka Jackson Dimitri Mack, Id put that information in your original post. That they labeled it an office visit and flu shot.

Delfina Cortez Dimitri Mack they billed wrong cause the cpt codes are there

Kim Racon Dimitri Mack Yes! The other person who posted last week was also charged for an office visit, as opposed to a diagnostic test. I’m not sure her situation was resolved either, as she was passed around to a few people between NYC+ Health and her insurance company.

Dimitri Mack Delfina Cortez I figured they had codes for this we are 3 months into this nightmare called covid 19.

Annette Rivera CPT needs to be fixed and rebilled correctly.

Louise Reist Dimitri Mack Did you see a doctor, nurse practitioner (NP), or a Physician’s Assistant (PA) and, if so, did they ask questions about your past medical history, do an exam, etc? If not, they cannot legally bill for an office visit. If they did, that is …See More

Dimitri Mack Louise Reist thank you none of the above . No personal information asked just my name and she admitted the test. We are waiting to see what happens with the bill after my conversation with the clinics account supervisor.

Louise Reist Good luck!

Alexis Stern I’m sorry for what you are going through, but they have fixed this problem now. They don’t even ask for your insurance information to get the free tests in the tent. I went last week.

Andrea Teresa Barrios Thanks for sharing this. Sorry you are going through it. My mom just called me to say she wants to get tested but those tents are not actually Free because her friend was also billed. they need to get it together. Thats not okay

Dimitri Mack Andrea Teresa Barrios the people are great
that does the testing. They are professional and great at what they do. My only issue is the billing.

Monica Indira Fernandez Someone always pays. Even if it’s free for YOU, your insurance still pays. This is standard practice, I’m not sure why you’re upset.

Kim Racon I think it’s that his insurance passed the $500-some bill onto him, rather than the insurance company paying for it. Which is what some people have said happens–they provide their insurance information, then they get billed for an out-of-network office visit.

Monica Indira Fernandez It wasn’t clear in OP. It seemed it was free for him but they billed his insurance, which is why he’s upset.

Yeah if they are charging him $500 directly then that’s NOT ok. But if it was billed to his insurance, I don’t see the problem.

Ismael Mosquera No cool. 

Sarah Trull Highly recommend antibody testing with Bioreference through ny.gov – COMPLETELY FREE. Did not have to present an insurance card. https://appointments.bioreference.com/nyc

Mark Wallem When I called that location right after they opened for testing I was told all that was needed was an ID, that’s it. I ended up not going there, but that’s what I was told – ID only, no mention of insurance info.

Maggie Wiggin It sounds like a billing error – annoying to have to make the phone calls to get it corrected, but it will be corrected and you will not owe. My husband and I both went to the tent for our tests and billed it to our insurance. The out of pocket is supposed to be $0 for everyone. Sorry you got stuck with this hassle!

Amala Lane Here in Ithaca’s Mutual Aid Tompkins County FB group, someone brought up the same issue. It is a coding error. But all of this is a terrible thing you should not have to endure. Good luck! (Contact the Attorney General office if you have ongoing issues.)

Clarissa Grullon I never even gave them my insurance cards.

And we wonder why people don’t go get tested. Timotheus: “And New York is one of the “success” states.”

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Quoting Taleb:

Replacing equivalent terms:

Understanding how the subparts of the brain immune system (say, neurons T-cells) work will never allow us to understand how the brain immune system works.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“EXCLUSIVE: Ghislaine Maxwell paid $25K to fake news purveyor Jacob Wohl to ‘smear Epstein victims and to get prosecutor Geoffrey Berman fired in attempt to stall sex trafficking investigation against her’” [Daily Mail]. “Ghislaine Maxwell hired fake news purveyor Jacob Wohl to smear her and Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims, a former friend has told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview. As part of a $25,000 deal made in June, Wohl and his lobbyist colleague Jack Burkman also allegedly pushed to get New York US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who had led Epstein’s case, fired in order to stall or stop the criminal investigation into Maxwell. Wohl and Burkman are far-right lobbyists who have become a laughing stock in DC after several failed attempts to smear top political figures including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Cruz, Robert Mueller and Dr. Anthony Fauci by paying women to make false claims of sordid affairs and drug-dealing.” • Yikes.

Class Warfare

It’s good to see the pandemic is working out for someone:

“How Remote Work Divides America” [Reuters]. “Professional, management and technology jobs run the gamut from accountants and architects to lawyers, insurance underwriters and web developers. This group is much more likely to retain the privilege of collecting a paycheck while working remotely, and is based in major metropolitan areas, like New York and Los Angeles.” • With lots of charts.

“Race Is About More Than Discrimination” [Bill Fletcher, Monthly Review]. • Here’s the more interesting and historically grounded version of “the Irish were slaves, too”:

The construction of “race” and “racism” was the construction of a system of total subjugation that was integral to the development of capitalism. It was never a system of prejudice alone. Various forms of prejudice appear to have been with homo sapiens throughout recorded history. But the creation of “race” as ideology and oppression (and later pseudoscience) was necessary as a means of constructing capitalist nation-states and introducing what would later be identified as class collaboration in order to ensure the relative permanence of the system.

The invasion and subjugation of Ireland introduced a new element in the construction of race that had not taken form with the completion of the Reconquista in Spain. The English subjugation of Ireland turned out to be far more than the capture and absorption of a territory or kingdom, a practice with which humans were familiar since the commencement of class society. It was also different, in important respects, from the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere (which, until 1607, was largely about conquest, enslavement, and annihilation on the part of the Spanish and Portuguese). It was the development of the settler colony and, ultimately, the settler state.

The English totally subjugated the Irish, rendering unlawful their political system, language, and land control. They also began a process of moving in settlers from England, Wales, and Scotland who were given the best land, control of their own weapons, and an overall privileged status vis-à-vis the indigenous Irish. Central in the construction of this settler colony was the notion of “race” that the English used not in descriptive terms but as a way of designating allegedly superior populations (English) versus allegedly inferior populations (Irish). The settler state, then, was racially constructed from its inception, but was linked to the idea of displacement/expulsion of the indigenous population. This is what made settler colonialism different from other variants of colonialism where the Europeans (or later the United States) occupied territory, frequently ruling through local compradors and agents.

News of the Wired

“Sleeping Woke: Cancel Culture and Simulated Religion” [Alexander Beiner, Medium (DG)]. “If your deepest held beliefs can be comfortably absorbed into Starbucks’ PR strategy, it may be time to go on a vision quest.”

“Michael Brooks Dead: Popular Host of ‘The Michael Brooks Show’ Dies Suddenly” [Heavy]. “Brooks obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science at Bates College in Maine, where he studied from 2005 to 2009.” • Yay!

“Remembering Our Friend and Comrade Michael Brooks” [Jacobin]. “Victor Serge once said – in a line I recently discussed with Michael – that “the only meaning of life lies in conscious participation in the making of history.” Now that he’s gone, that sounds almost wooden. Michael sought to make the world rather than be made by it, that much is true, but I’ll remember more than his politics. I’ll remember someone who was deeply human; someone who made an impact in those parts of life which politics never quite solves. He was all these things, and he was also an ambitious winner, someone who wanted to take on our callous rulers, and help build a just world, one where accidents of birth don’t condemn millions to misery.” • Brooks’ Bill Clinton impression:

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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 (CL):

No note from CL, but wow!

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