2:00PM Water Cooler 7/3/2020

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:


“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 2: Still no change. So, regardless of polling, the consensus (aggregating ten organizations) remains the same. And a Biden 10 point lead means a swing of five flips the race. Of course, that can’t happen….

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): “How the Trump Campaign Is Drawing Obama Out of Retirement” [New York Times] (Rising commentary on YouTube). “Mr. Obama speaks with the former vice president and top campaign aides frequently, offering suggestions on staffing and messaging. Last month, he bluntly counseled Mr. Biden to keep his speeches brief, interviews crisp and slash the length of his tweets, the better to make the campaign a referendum on Mr. Trump and the economy, according to Democratic officials…. Moreover, Mr. Obama has always been cleareyed about his friend’s vulnerabilities, urging Mr. Biden’s aides to ensure that he not ’embarrass himself’ or ‘damage his legacy,’ win or lose. When a Democratic donor raised the issue of Mr. Biden’s age late last year — he is 77 — Mr. Obama acknowledged those concerns, saying, ‘I wasn’t even 50 when I got elected, and that job took every ounce of energy I had,’ according to the person.” • Can’t understand the lack of enthusiasm…

Sanders (D)(1): I got a very good response to my call for Sanders canvassers, so let me repeat it, and make the response even better!

My analysis of the pathways to misfortune for the Sanders campaign is still hung up, because there’s been no reporting involving actual voters on why the campaign’s theory of change misfired. Reading Sam’s comments, it occurred to me that canvassers might have a good sense of what the voters they contacted were thinking (supporters or no), as well as voters they did not contact, who they might have expected to. If I could interview, say, half a dozen canvassers, I might get some sense of what happened (and not what the media thinks happened). Anyone interested in helping me out can contact me using the address about the plant; please put “SANDERS” in the subject line. (I’m not interested in the failings of the Sanders campaign, but the mindset of voters.) Thank you!

I will aggregate your responses, cogitate, and probably ask some questions of you all, if that is OK.

Trump (R)(1): “Trump Is in Trouble in Pennsylvania, but ‘He’s Been Way Behind Before’” [New York Times]. “A New York Times/Siena College poll of six battleground states released last week showed that the former vice president’s net approval in Pennsylvania was largely the same as elsewhere: Fifty percent of registered voters viewed him positively and 48 percent saw him negatively. President Trump, mired in the lowest point of his presidency, was viewed favorably by just 43 percent of voters in the six battlegrounds. It helped explain why he trailed Mr. Biden in all six states and by 10 percentage points in Pennsylvania, a dire picture of the president’s chances of re-election. Still, with four months to go until Election Day, Mr. Trump could well become competitive again. Leaders of his campaign in Pennsylvania, seizing on Mr. Biden’s failure to shine as a favorite son, have sketched out a comeback path for Mr. Trump. Its steps include the Republican Party’s advantage in new voter registrations; a return to in-person organizing while Mr. Biden’s ground game remains virtual; and a range of issues — including energy policy, reopening the economy and defunding the police — that Republicans believe will peel away swing voters in a state Mr. Trump narrowly won in 2016.”

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“Episode 153: The Kentucky Axis of Evil” (podcast) [The Trillbillies]. • Yes, voter suppression in Kentucky was real. Discussion starts at 36:39, although the beginning is certainly entertaining!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Biden Says 600 Lawyers Will Guard Against Election ‘Chicanery’” [Bloomberg]. “Joe Biden said Wednesday that his campaign had convened a group of 600 lawyers and thousands of volunteers to prepare for any ‘chicanery’ that might disrupt or interfere with the November election…. ‘We have over 10,000 people signed up to volunteer,’ he said Wednesday. ‘We’re in the process of getting into the states in question to train them to be in a polling place.’”

“House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate” [The Hill]. “The House Armed Services Committee has voted against limiting presidential authority under the Insurrection Act, the law President Trump threatened to invoke to deploy active-duty troops in response to protests against racial injustices. The amendment, offered by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), failed largely along party lines in a 25-31 vote. Several moderate or vulnerable Democrats voted against the amendment: Reps. Kendra Horn (Okla.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Jared Golden (Maine), Elaine Luria (Va.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.) and Gil Cisneros (Calif.). Last month, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act at the height of the protests, saying he would deploy active-duty troops if governors did not “dominate” demonstrators.nThe 1807 act creates an exception to the general prohibition on using the U.S. military to enforce domestic laws. It was last used by former President George H.W. Bush at the request of California’s governor to quell the 1992 Rodney King riots.” • That’s our Democrats!

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.

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 27 June 2020 – June Down 14.3% Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. “ntermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. declined and remains deep in contraction.”

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“June jobs report shows recovery, but small business owners still need urgent cash assistance to survive” [MarketWatch]. “From plunging revenues to shuttered storefronts, it’s no secret that the COVID-19 public health crisis has driven too many small businesses to the brink of collapse. An estimated 100,000 small businesses across the country have already closed their doors permanently. And Black business owners, who largely run sole proprietorships or small businesses, have declined by 41%…. The pandemic’s impact on the small business community has been front and center during the crisis. Importantly, this emergency has exposed fundamental inequities in our economy that favor large, politically-connected corporations over the Main Street businesses and solo enterprises that drive our economy.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 1 at 12:38pm. Grey, grey, grey, dull grey and not red or green.

Health Care


Bizarre that we’re acting on data from the finance sector on a public health issue, but here we are.

“Treatment with Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, and Combination in Patients Hospitalized with COVID-19” [International Journal of Infectious Diseases]. n=2541. “According to a protocol-based treatment algorithm, among hospitalized patients, use of hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin was associated with a significant reduction in-hospital mortality compared to not receiving hydroxychloroquine.” From CNN: “Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, said 26% of those not given hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 13% of those who got the drug. The team looked back at everyone treated in the hospital system since the first patient in March.” • Yes, it’s an observational study, and so what? If you haven’t read this from Tricia Greenhalgh, read it now.

“It’s not just coronavirus: America repeatedly fails at public health” ‘[Los Angeles Times]. “But if the president’s disdain for masks may be extreme, his impulse to look for the latest and greatest medical intervention reflects a strong tradition in American healthcare that has long put a premium on new drugs, bigger medical systems and more technology, often at the expense of public health initiatives that other nations have shown to be more effective at lower cost. ‘We are much more willing to put money toward treating something than preventing it,’ said Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who now heads the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation…. Since the 2008-09 recession, the Trust for America’s Public Health has estimated that nearly 60,000 state and local public health jobs have been lost as investment in public health flagged.” • Dang. Who was President, then, anyhow?

“One U.K. trial is transforming COVID-19 treatment. Why haven’t others delivered more results?” [Science]. “Large, randomized trials are the gold standard to test a drug’s efficacy. But they have been scarce so far in the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Everybody has the first part about ‘randomized,’ but they omitted the ‘large’ part, says Ana-Maria Henao Restrepo, a medical officer at the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Emergencies Programme. ‘Every clinician, every researcher wants to help and then they end up having a trial with 300 or 400 patients that cannot come up with conclusive evidence.’ In a sea of small, single institution studies, Recovery, with 12,000 patients and hundreds of participating hospitals, stands out—and offers lessons for the few other megatrials, organized by WHO and other bodies, which have been slow off the mark. ‘I think the three Recovery trials are the best trials that have been performed to date,’ Topol says. One reason Recovery has done so well is that it was backed by the United Kingdom’s centralized National Health Service (NHS), involving 176 of its hospitals. In the United States, where the health care system is fragmented, the National Institutes of Health has only begun a few large trials so far and completed just one….” • Gilead’s. Naturally. Ka-ching.

Police State Watch

“The Problem Isn’t Just Police—It’s Politics” (interview) [Boston Review]. Alex Vitale: “[T]he decision to turn social problems over to the police is a political decision (as is the creation of the social problems in the first place). Responding to this deeply entrenched form of governance requires a new politics. We just cannot fix policing with a set of superficial, technocratic reforms, because they don’t address the way the most basic needs of people have themselves been defunded, creating the ‘crime’ that must be policed in the first place. And that dynamic requires a profound political transformation that neither political party’s leadership is prepared to embrace right now. In the short term there’s so much waste, there’s so much misspent money in policing that we can start there—defunding and shrinking police forces—and shift huge amounts of resources into communities. But to really fix the problems of mass homelessness, economic precarity, healthcare disparities, that’s going to require more resources—whether that comes from states, or the federal government, or a complete rethink about how taxes are structured in these big cities.”

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

Joffrey Lannister, not the Joffrey Ballet:

“Episode 80: Ghislaine Goes Down” (podcast) [TrueAnon]. • Lots of good material here, including detail on Maxwell’s house (“Tuckedaway,” purchased through an LLC for one million in cash) and an analysis of the indictment; interestingly, the three victims are all before Epstein purchased his house on Little St. James (in 1998), although at that point he did own Zorro Ranch.

“Ghislaine Maxwell ‘asked her realtor about flight patterns’ over the $1M New Hampshire hideout where she was arrested and ‘bought it anonymously with the help of a mystery British tech firm owner’” [Daily Mail]. • A good wrap-up, with good links.

“Ghislaine Maxwell’s Case Will Unearth Secrets Epstein Took to His Grave” [Bloomberg]. “And she stood at the very center of the web of wealthy and powerful figures surrounding Epstein. The network she inherited from her billionaire father, the late British publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, gave Epstein access to the highest echelons of society. She even introduced Brooklyn-born Epstein to Britain’s Prince Andrew, whose connection to the pedophile has forced the British royal from public duties… Epstein’s high-powered network means there’s potential for a public reckoning that could tarnish top figures on Wall Street, in corporate America and in Washington. Perhaps more important, a trial would at long last give victims a chance to face at least one of their alleged tormentors. ‘There is no way for prosecutors to present a case against her without going into all the evidence they had against Epstein, because the charges here are intertwined,’ said Jessica Roth, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Cardozo School of Law in New York. ‘The original indictment against Jeffrey Epstein made it clear that he didn’t act alone and that the government had evidence that other people were also involved.’” • I dunno. Who wants that?

“James Comey’s daughter is a lead prosecutor on Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case. Here’s what we know about her.” [Business Insider]. “Maurene Comey — the daughter of former FBI director James Comey — is one of the three lead prosecutors on the case. Despite her father’s history of dominating the news cycle, Maurene Comey has largely stayed out of the spotlight, instead maintaining a low-profile legal career up until now. Here’s what we know about the first daughter of law and order.” • OK, a beat sweetener. But we’re turning into an aristocracy, aren’t we?

“Boris Johnson Says No Approach From U.S. for Prince Andrew Interview” [Bloomberg]. “U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.S. government hasn’t approached his administration to request an interview with Prince Andrew over the Jeffrey Epstein affair, but declined to comment on whether Britain would comply if such a demand was made. ‘No such approach has been made,’ Johnson said in an interview on LBC Radio on Friday. ‘It’s a matter for the Royal Family.’”

The conventional wisdom:


“#MintTheCoin & COVID Relief with the Modern Money Network” (podcast) [Monthly Review]. “Rohan Grey and Nathan Tankus join Money on the Left to discuss the flurry of debate about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) arising out of the Coronavirus crisis. We focus, in particular, on the Modern Money Network’s multi-pronged efforts to illuminate and remedy the resulting economic devastation. At the center of our conversation is Rohan’s contribution to Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s ‘Automatic BOOST Act.’ Known by the popular hashtag #MintTheCoin, Tlaib’s proposal calls on the U.S. Treasury to mint two trillion dollar platinum coins in order to deliver direly-need cash assistance via preloaded public debit cards for all—no exceptions. In response to dismissive critiques of the proposal as a gratuitous ‘gimmick,’ we affirm #MintTheCoin’s political significance as a gimmick—whether as a critical parody of sound finance trickery or as a meaningful pedagogical ritual that makes public money creation visible.” • Fascinating to see MMT in the Monthly Review…

Class Warfare

I need to think about this one:

No knock on Nathan, but it strikes me that treating ascriptive identities literally as credentiasl is a fascinating take on the PMC’s embrace of identity politics.

“‘OSHA is AWOL’: Critics say federal agency is where workplace COVID-19 complaints go to die” [Miami Herald]. “OSHA, charged with enforcing health and safety in the American workplace, has received more than 6,000 complaints nationwide about unsafe work conditions related to COVID-19. And yet, on June 9, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia told lawmakers that OSHA, which his department oversees, had issued just one citation related to the coronavirus — to a Georgia nursing home for failing to report the hospitalization of six employees within 24 hours. The agency proposed a $6,500 fine. ‘Essentially, OSHA is AWOL,’ said David Michaels, a former head of OSHA under the Obama administration who now teaches at George Washington University’s school of public health.” • OSHA isn’t really absent; it’s just a question of where they are.

News of the Wired

“Finding the ‘invisible’ millions who are not on maps” [BBC]. “”There are about two billion people in the world who don’t appear on a proper map,” says Ivan Gayton from the charity Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. “There are about two billion people in the world who don’t appear on a proper map,” says Ivan Gayton from the charity Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. ‘It’s shameful that we – as cartographers of the world – don’t take enough interest to even know where they are. People are living and dying without appearing on any database… If you come into a health facility anywhere in the world with a communicable disease, they’ll ask you where you’re from. In the low-income world you don’t always have a system for describing that location.”

“Twitter teases adding an edit button to the platform, but only if EVERYONE wears a mask – but some say they would rather not suffocate” [Daily Mail]. • That’s in good taste. WTF is wrong over there?

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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 (RM):

RM writes: “The Sego lilies are loving the spring rains this year on my Montana prairie ranch.”

Readers, I could still use some more images of plants — especially garden projects!

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