2:00PM Water Cooler 7/7/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I hope your Fourth of July holiday was enjoyable — even if it did end on Monday morning, and not, as I thought, on Tuesday! I am not very holiday minded. –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:

And stop flapping your jaws, Red State h8terz, because California is tracking Texas very nicely.

Memento mori:

“N.Y., N.J. and Connecticut Add Three States to 14-Day Quarantine” [Bloomberg]. “The full list of states subject to the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut advisory is: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. ‘New Yorkers did the impossible – we went from the worst infection rate in the United States to one of the best – and the last thing we need is to see another spike of Covid-19,’ Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday in a statement.” • Cuomo has such chutzpah.


“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): “Biden builds lead as Trump goes from trailing to flailing” [Politico]. Cutesy alliterative headline from the Editor; the URL gave a quite different slant: “biden-polling-lose-to-trump.” And the second paragraph: “But there are still four months before the election — and any number of ways for Biden to blow it.” No bias here! More: “Biden’s polling lead over Trump is significant, but not unprecedented. The RealClearPolitics polling average has Biden running ahead of Trump by just less than 9 percentage points.” • As I keep saying, that’s only a five point shift, and that’s before we consider swing states. This is mere Democrat triumphalism in the dog days of summer. Wake after Labor Day.

Sanders (D)(1): “What Went Wrong for Bernie Sanders?” [Ross Barkan]. “I’ve had campaign operatives try to spin me and tried to spin reporters myself. If the left is to win the future and back a candidate who seizes the Democratic nomination and eventually the presidency, it will mean practicing an inside-outside strategy to traditional media with the same sort of vigor it already channels toward field organizing. Mastering Chomsky, while important, will not win you an election in the 2020’s. Here’s the cold truth: most journalists and even their bosses aren’t mere automatons for oligarchs. They are largely culturally left people on the hunt for sexy angles to drive pageviews and ratings. They are human beings who react best when engaged with—courted, worked over, and even flattered.” • Hmm.

Trump (R)(1): “Republican internal polling signals a Democratic rout” [Harry Enten, CNN]. “Right now, Democrats and liberal groups are releasing a lot more surveys than Republicans, which suggests the public polling showing Democrats doing well is backed up by what the parties are seeing in their own numbers.” • Republican pollsters not barking in the night is a better sign for Democrats than the triumphalist nonsense.

West (I)(1): “Kanye West declares he will run for US president in 2020” [Guardian]. “Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, rapper Kanye West declared his candidacy for US president…. Nor was it clear whether the 43-year-old had filed any official paperwork to appear on state election ballots. The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states….. If he ran, West would follow in a long tradition of independent or third-party campaigns challenging the Democratic and Republican stranglehold. In 1992, Ross Perot, an eccentric Texan billionaire, took 19% of the vote.” • I’m skeptical until I see West on some ballots somewhere. Until then, he’s just doing celebrity marketing. Nevertheless!

West (I)(2): “kanye for president” [Reading the Tarot (DG)]. “For years, we have been in essence functioning without a government. Our president issues some insane edict and we all have to find ways to survive it. Our local governments give free reign to police unions and property developers, and we have to find a way to survive their decisions….. Maybe it would help, then, to make it official and abolish the presidency. Or not abolish it, exactly. Just remove all of the office’s powers. We need a place to store our megalomaniacs, after all…. It’ll be ceremonial, like the Queen of England. And like the Queen, we’ll let Kanye wear a nice hat and we’ll pretend we care about the goings-on of his children and he’ll go to other countries to have his photo taken with other world leaders and we’ll let him sit in the best seats at polo games and so on.” • This will only work after we’ve put the squillionaires on their own island.

* * *

* * *

“Chelsea Manning’s Jailer Is Running For Congress — As A Democrat” [Too Much Information (NippersMom)]. “James Averhart, who is competing in a July 14 run-off election for an Alabama congressional seat, also oversaw a Bush-era military push to track down and punish veterans who deserted the Vietnam War — an initiative seen as an attempt to discourage soldiers from deserting during the Iraq War…. In the Alabama race, Averhart became a candidate after overseeing the brig at Quantico, Va., where Manning was held between July 2010 and April 2011…. ‘Averhart and his successor rejected psychiatrists’ nearly weekly recommendations to ease the restrictions that kept Manning in an 8-by-6-foot cell at least 23 hours a day,’ the Associated Press wrote in 2012.” • That’s a damn shame. That Averhart isn’t a [x] woman, I mean.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Lincoln Project capitalizes on Trump’s rage as its spending comes under scrutiny” [Open Secrets]. From May, still germane: “The Republican super PAC has amassed a substantial war chest, but it has come under scrutiny for funneling money to its advisory board members and spending relatively little airing political ads to influence voters. The group also hides some of its vendors by stealthily paying subcontractors, making it difficult to follow the money.” • Bitcofer seems to think highly of it….

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: “07 July 2020 New York Fed Weekly Economic Index (WEI): Index 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…. 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.”

Employment Situation: “May 2020 Headline JOLTS Job Openings Rate Improved But Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) can be used as a predictor of future job growth, and the predictive elements show that the year-over-year growth rate of unadjusted private non-farm job openings improved but remains in contraction…. The unadjusted data this month remained well below average for the rate of growth seen in the last year. With this low average rate of growth, JOLTS is predicting lower employment growth than we have seen over the past year. Jolts predicted the slowing of employment growth. However, the pandemic effects will drive this data.”

Housing: “May 2020 CoreLogic Home Prices: Home Prices Projected to Cool This Summer, Plunge 6.6% by May 2021” [Econintersect]. “CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (HPI) shows home prices increased by 4.8%, compared with May 2019. Home prices increased 0.7% in May 2020 compared with April of this year…. This is a rear view of home prices. Econintersect believes home prices will deteriorate as the year progresses as the knock-on effect of the coronavirus will grow. The worst-case will be a decline to Great Recession levels but the most likely scenario is a 10% decline roughly equal to the expected unemployment rate. Too much money is being removed from the economy due to the COVID restrictions and elevated unemployment.”

* * *

Commodities: “A world-wide surge in oil prices is coming as output in the sector plummets. U.S. crude supply is falling at its quickest pace ever… easing a global oil glut as OPEC and its partners also reduce output at a record rate” [Wall Street Journal]. “Weekly U.S. output recently fell to 10.5 million barrels a day, down from a near-record 13 million barrels a day in March. Turmoil is still rippling through the U.S. sector, and many investors still expect a wave of bankruptcies and deals that overhauls the U.S. energy landscape. Tanker operators have warned about a falloff even as they continue to book vessels for floating storage. Lloyd’s List Intelligence reports ships storing oil at sea reached a new record the week ending July 3.”

Retail: “Protective facemasks are giving one e-commerce operator a boost in the push for new online customers. Sales of the gear aimed at protecting users from the coronavirus have soared at crafts specialist Etsy Inc….” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company’s response to the pandemic demonstrates Etsy’s nimble approach to the market, highlighting a strategy that mobilizes third-party sellers without giving the company the inventory headaches that have troubled most retailers. That agility has proven to be a key advantage as competitors have been hamstrung by supply-chain constraints, warehouse closures and manufacturing and shipping delays. The company said it sold 12 million masks in April, 17% of its total gross market sales that month, even as the broader retail market sank.” • Remarkable.

The Bezzle: “Consolidation in the food-delivery sector is accelerating as the competition turns into a nationwide fight for customers. The Uber Technologies Inc. $2.65 billion acquisition of rival Postmates Inc. sets up Uber Eats as one of the top players in the market… and signals that the big operators believe home delivery of food and groceries will remain a big factor in consumer shopping” [Wall Street Journal]. “The all-stock deal would create the second-largest restaurant delivery service in the U.S., following DoorDash Inc. and ahead of Grubhub Inc. Uber is also betting it will expand the company’s identity and bring new customers to its ride-sharing. That provides a compelling financial case while food-delivery operations still face big logistics and profit challenges as standalone businesses.” • Oh?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 47 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 7 at 12:15pm. Mr. Market is about as exciting as a television tuned to a dead channel.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Unemployment. “After months of negative news, unemployment data has turned positive” [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?

Health Care

“Months of Trial and Error in the ICU Offer Clues on How to Save Covid Patients” [Bloomberg]. “Faced with an unmanageable influx of coronavirus patients at Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s step-down unit, an intermediate care ward, Jelic made an unorthodox decision: she asked those struggling to breathe to roll onto their bellies while they waited for intubation to mechanically ventilate their inflamed lungs.” • It worked! I’m also sure we had an alert NC reader suggest just this, but I cannot find the comment. Whoever you are, take a bow! More: “In the absence of a cure, doctors like Jelic were left relying in part on trial and error, but months into the most destructive pandemic in a century, their collective experience is starting to build a framework of how best to cope with coronavirus patients… The collective experience may be showing results. U.S. deaths, which often ranged between 2,000 and 3,000 a day in April and May, have mostly remained below 1,000 and in the low hundreds since the beginning of June.” • Hopeful. It’s going to much easier to “live with” COVID-19 if it becomes a treatable disease (like AIDS).

“The Pandemic Experts Are Not Okay” [The Atlantic]. “Popescu is one of many public-health experts who have been preparing for and battling the pandemic since the start of the year. They’re not treating sick people, as doctors or nurses might be, but are instead advising policy makers, monitoring the pandemic’s movements, modeling its likely trajectory, and ensuring that hospitals are ready. By now they are used to sharing their knowledge with journalists, but they’re less accustomed to talking about themselves. Many of them told me that they feel duty-bound and grateful to be helping their country at a time when so many others are ill or unemployed. But they’re also very tired, and dispirited by America’s continued inability to control a virus that many other nations have brought to heel. As the pandemic once again intensifies, so too does their frustration and fatigue. America isn’t just facing a shortfall of testing kits, masks, or health-care workers. It is also looking at a drought of expertise, as the very people whose skills are sorely needed to handle the pandemic are on the verge of burning out.”

“Walmart to open Medicare insurance agency in the Dallas market” [Talk Business & Politics]. “Walmart is jumping into the insurance brokerage business under the business name Walmart Insurance Services LLC. The Bentonville-based retailer is in the process of hiring Medicare insurance agents in the Dallas area….. Kaiser Health reports nearly 20% of the U.S. population is covered by Medicare, and that is expected to rise sharply in the next five years in states like Texas, Florida and California that have the largest populations of adults over age 65. Medicare spending will top $835 billion this year and is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion in the next five years.”


“US rivers and lakes are shrinking for a surprising reason: cows” [Guardian]. “A recent analysis published in Nature found cattle to be one of the major drivers of water shortages. Notably, it is because of water used to grow crops that are fed to cows such as alfalfa and hay. Across the US, cattle-feed crops, which end up as beef and dairy products, account for 23% of all water consumption, according to the report. In the Colorado River Basin, it is over half.” • Absurd!


“Thursday’s Unemployment Report Made “The Case for a Job Guarantee” Imperative, Read This New Book” [Medium]. Pavlina Tcherneva, The Case for a Job Guarantee. “Tchervenva wrote her book before the Covid-19 Crisis produced the disastrous employment numbers shown above. During this crisis, the key question for tens of millions has been my job or my health? That has been an agonizing dilemma for precariat workers because they have no bargaining power, no savings, and often no health insurance. JG would help redress their lack of bargaining power, so that workers can do what’s right for them, their families, co-workers and communities. With JG, low-wage workers can stay home if they feel they need to, a public health measure to control Covid-19 could be part of their JG job, knowing that they can still get a living wage job with benefits, which they often don’t have, if their previous job is no longer available. It gives them some power and control over their lives that those with much higher income have right now. Even during an economic recovery, without JG many long-term unemployed will become ‘unemployable,’ a catch-22 the longer they remain without a job. JG would help prevent that outcome. Tcherneva uses the metaphor of joblessness as a deadly epidemic that must be prevented.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Both important:

“Reparations Are a Concrete Way to Address Systemic Racism and Inequality” [A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity, Teen Vogue]. “As we say in From Here to Equality, some believe recompense should come from clearly identified perpetrators. But, as we write, when ‘the entire political order is complicit, it is not sufficient to bill individual perpetrators. Laissez-faire or ‘piecemeal reparations’ may assuage individual guilt but cannot meet the collective national obligation. The invoice for reparations must go to the nation’s government. The U.S. government, as the federal authority, bears responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining, and enabling slavery, legal segregation, and continued racial inequality.’”

“The Racial Wealth Gap Is About the Upper Classes” [Matt Bruenig, Jacobin]. “What this means is that the overall racial wealth disparity is being driven almost entirely by the disparity between the wealthiest 10 percent of white people and the wealthiest 10 percent of black people.” • Handy chart:

Even if Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending, that’s no reason not to soak the rich.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“”Ghislaine, Is That You?”: Inside Ghislaine Maxwell’s Life on the Lam” [Vanity Fair]. “t was not the first time in her life Ghislaine Maxwell went to ground. Her process of disappearing began, really, on a dreadful day almost 30 years ago, with a dead body floating in the sea. Arms splayed out, face staring into the sky, enormous belly bobbing in the Atlantic just off the coast of Tenerife in the Canary Islands: That’s how Spanish police discovered the ‘naked, stiff, and floating’ corpse of the British media baron Robert Maxwell on November 5, 1991. A helicopter hovered overhead, lowering its cable and straining to recover the cadaver, which weighed 310 pounds.” Flash forward: “Ghislaine helped Jeffrey become who he became,’ says one of Epstein’s victims. ‘He had the money, but he didn’t know what to do with it. She showed him.’” • One of the reasons to confiscate inherited wealth is to protect squillionaires children from the impact of it. Robert Maxwell was not a nice person at all.

Guillotine Watch

Bad scholarship in — hold onto your hats, folks — mainstream economics:

Class Warfare

“‘They Want to Kill Me’: Many Covid Patients Have Terrifying Delirium” [New York Times]. • Of course they want to kill you; that’s what health care for profit does.

News of the Wired

Why I like cats:

Would a dog say that? I think not.

“The Glossary of Happiness” [The New Yorker]. From 2016, still germane: “Soon after [Tim] Lomas returned to the University of East London, where he is a lecturer in applied positive psychology, he launched the Positive Lexicography Project, an online glossary of untranslatable words… It is a veritable catalogue of life’s many joys, featuring terms like utepils (Norwegian, ‘a beer that is enjoyed outside . . . particularly on the first hot day of the year’), mbuki-mvuki (Swahili, ‘to shed clothes to dance uninhibited’), tarab (Arabic, ‘musically induced ecstasy or enchantment’), and gigil (Tagalog, ‘the irresistible urge to pinch/squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished’). In the course of compiling his lexicon, Lomas has noted several interesting patterns. A handful of Northern European languages, for instance, have terms that describe a sort of existential coziness. The words—koselig (Norwegian), mysa (Swedish), hygge (Danish), and gezellig (Dutch)—convey both physical and emotional comfort. ‘Does that relate to the fact that the climate is colder up there and you would value the sense of being warm and secure and cozy inside?’ Lomas asked. ‘Perhaps you can start to link culture to geography to climate. In contrast, more Southern European cultures have some words about being outside and strolling around and savoring the atmosphere. And those words”—like the French flâner and the Greek volta—’might be more likely to emerge in those cultures.’” • Readers, can you think of any American words to add to the lexixon? They have to be untranslatable!

* * *

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: “Bee friendly to cactus.” Bee photos are a fun genre, but I have never seen a bee photographed in a cactus before!

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

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email