2:00PM Water Cooler 7/8/2020

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 guess I’ll just keep doing this one until I see a peak followed by a decline. (Seems like the “first wave” is geographically and chronologically distributed.)


“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 8: Pennsylvania moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. Uh oh….

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!


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Biden (D)(1): “Progressives wary as Biden talks compromise with GOP” [The Hill]. “Progressives are warning Joe Biden about compromising with Republicans, saying they will hold him accountable if he moves too much toward the center if he is elected president. The former vice president has increasingly signaled a willingness to cooperate with Republicans as he takes a bigger lead on President Trump in national and statewide polls, a stance some interpret as a strategy to win over independents and even some Republicans who may be abandoning Trump, who has seen his approval numbers slide. During a speech Friday to the National Education Association’s virtual Representative Assembly, Biden said change will take compromise and compromise ‘is not a dirty word.’ ‘It’s how our government was designed to work,’ the former vice president and longtime senator from Delaware added. “I’ve done it my whole life. No one’s ever doubted my word, and I’ve been able to bring Democrats and Republicans together in the United States Congress to pass big things, to deal with big issues.’” • Big things…

Trump (R)(1): “Trump drops out. Biden gets sick. Pence is fired. What if 2020 gets really crazy?” [Politico]. “Based on the record so far of the Trump years — and especially of the crisis-infused year we are in now — it borders on crazy to imagine that the balance of 2020 will unfold without becoming even more crazy. Multiple interviews in recent days with influential people in Washington’s political class, including strategists and government veterans in both major parties and figures who have served at high levels in the Trump White House, found most people expecting some sort of dramatic shift of plot in this election year.” • I think 2020’s showrunners need to be replaced entirely. More: ”

But if there is consensus on the high odds of more disruption, there is hardly uniformity on its precise manifestation. Here are seven scenarios that are something less than predictions but — by virtue of the experience of the people interviewed — something more than pure parlor-game speculation. One veteran Republican operative, close to many in the GOP’s donor class, said in the past couple weeks it’s been stunning the extent to which people who have some association with Trump are speculating he might drop out of the race. “He doesn’t want to be a loser, and that’s all in jeopardy now,” this strategist said. “It’s less than 50-50 [Trump would pull himself off ticket] but I’m amazed at the amount of New Yorkers that are talking about this — his former friends. … They think he’s looking for an excuse to get out.’ Worth emphasizing: This speculation is not coming from people claiming firsthand knowledge of Trump’s thinking in recent weeks,”


“Why we need a little skepticism, and more evidence, on Russian bounties” [The Hill]. “None of this disproves the allegation that the Russians are paying bounties for dead Americans in Afghanistan, an activity that, if true, would require a resolute U.S. response. It is not out of the question that the Russian government or parts of it might see such bounties as payback for perceived U.S. perfidy in Ukraine, Georgia and Russia itself. But it certainly means that the standard of evidence for validating such allegations should be much higher than our media’s barely concealed lust to embrace them would suggest.” • What was “barely concealed” about it?

Obama Legacy

Obama in a nutshell:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Can Our Ballots Be Both Secret and Secure?” [The New Yorker]. • Buffing the turd of digital voting; the assumption stamped into every line of the piece is that hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, are not safe and secure. Worth a read to watch a bunch of smart people going all the way around the barn and triumphantly finding something there was no reason to look for in the first place. (And, since it’s a software solution, it’s by definition hackable. Sigh.)

The Great Assimilation™:


Now liberal Democrats are finding their inner Reagan. (“Come on. You know you want to.”)

On the horrid assimilation of Bush Republicans by liberal Democrats, I still haven’t been able to find the William Burroughs quote that I want (and only a writer with his style and turn of mind would be equal to the occasion). However, I did stumble on this from Gravity’s Rainbow. Kreplach is like a Yiddish wonton:

Remember the story about the kid who hates kreplach? Hates and fears the dish, breaks out in these horrible green hives that shift in relief maps all across his body, in the mere presence of kreplach. Kid’s mother takes him to the psychiatrist. “Fear of the unknown,” diagnoses this gray eminence, “let him watch you making the kreplach, that’ll ease him into it.” Home to Mother’s kitchen. “Now,” sez Mother, “I’m going to make us a delicious surprise!” “Oh, boy!” cries the kid, “that’s keen, Mom!” “See, now I’m sifting the flour and salt into a nice little pile.” “What’s that, Mom, hamburger? oh, boy!” “Hamburger, and onions. I’m frying them here, see, in this frying pan.” “Making a little volcano in the flour here, and breaking these eggs into it.” “Can I help ya mix it up? Oh, boy!” “Now, I’m going to roll the dough out, see? into a nice flat sheet, now I’m cutting it up into squares-” “This is terrif, Mom!” “Now I spoon some of the hamburger into this little square, and now I fold it over into a tri-” “GAAHHHH!” screams the kid, in absolute terror-“kreplach!”

To explicate: “the kid who hates kreplach” is the liberal Democrats, especially The Resistance. The process of making making the kreplach is forty years of neoliberalism. And the kreplach…. is Trump (“GAAHHHH! Orange Man bad!”) But the conditions that created President Orange Man? They are good! (“That’s keen, Mom!”). So all we need to do decompose the kreplach back into its ingredients, and everything will be jake with the angels. (I don’t know who “Mom” is. The goddess Clio, perhaps.)

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.

There are no stats of interest today.

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Shipping: “A China-based blockchain platform for the shipping sector is taking shape. State-run container line Cosco Shipping Holdings Ltd. struck an agreement with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and its payments affiliate Ant Financial Group… setting up a three-legged support system for technology meant to track goods across seaborne supply chains” [Wall Street Journal]. “Alibaba signed a similar deal in May with China Merchants Holdings to create a digital platform for port operations. The digital deals effectively set up China operations that rival the TradeLens blockchain platform established by Maersk Line and International Business Machines Corp., a network that has signed on several other big container line.”

Manufacturing: “[Auto] sales in China are picking up steam even as business in the U.S. and Europe founders… adding to strains on an industry that was already struggling before the pandemic hit. Fresh data from German luxury-car maker BMW AG illustrates a changing world map with China sales up 17% from a year ago in the second quarter while its U.S. and European sales fell at least 40%” [Wall Street Journal]. “Ward’s Auto forecasts overall U.S. light vehicle sales fell 27% last month, and sales have been down even more across Europe. The slack demand could weaken a budding recovery in U.S. auto supply chains that saw automotive shipments on North American railroads grow more than triple from May to June, according to the Association of American Railroads.”

Supply Chain: “U.S. authorities are sending a strong warning to American importers over the use of forced labor in supply chains. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently seized nearly 13 tons of hair from a Chinese manufacturer…. signaling a crackdown on imports suspected of originating from forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region” [Wall Street Journal]. “The supply chains of dozens of multinationals in the fashion and food industries pass through the area of northwestern China where Muslims have faced mass detentions. A Customs official says the latest seizure is part of a “foot-stomping” reminder that U.S. importers are obligated to ensure that their supply chains are free of forced labor.” • No gold teeth, I trust.

Uber Acquires Postmates For $2.7 Billion Plus $3 Billion Service Fee The Onion

Facebook ad boycott organizers met with Zuckerberg. It didn’t go well CNN

The Bezzle: “Q&A: The Masterminds Behind Toyota’s Self-Driving Cars Say AI Still Has a Way to Go” [IEEE Spectrum]. “The industry-wide effort vacuumed up many of the world’s best roboticists and set rival companies on a multibillion-dollar acquisitions spree. It also launched a cycle of hype that paraded ever more ambitious deadlines—the most famous of which, made by Alphabet’s Sergei Brin in 2012, was that full self-driving technology would be ready by 2017. Those deadlines have all been missed. Much of the exhilaration was inspired by the seeming miracles that a new kind of AI—deep learning—was achieving in playing games, recognizing faces, and transliterating voices. Deep learning excels at tasks involving pattern recognition—a particular challenge for older, rule-based AI techniques. However, it now seems that deep learning will not soon master the other intellectual challenges of driving, such as anticipating what human beings might do.” • Thank heavens.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 48 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 8 at 12:19pm. Mr. Market is about as exciting as a television tuned to a dead channel.

The Biosphere

Arctic sea ice melt. Thread:

“‘Landscape of fear’: what a mass of rotting reindeer carcasses taught scientists” [Guardian]. Memento mori once more: “Rotting bodies also change flora. Surrounding the 323 reindeer carcasses were seeds of crowberry – a keystone species of alpine tundra – that scavengers were dropping around the site. Out of 24 faecal samples from crows, 21 contained viable crowberry seeds, according to a study published in Biology Letters in 2018, that suggests seed banks are likely to build up around carcasses…. Research published in the science journal Plos One in January suggests the red deer carcasses benefited biodiversity in Oostvaardersplassen. After near-complete decomposition, plant biomass surrounding them was five times greater than usual, leading to an increase in plant-eating invertebrates and therefore an increase in predators. This bloom of life lasted for months and spread through food chains – even creating scrubby areas and heterogeneity in the landscape, scientists found.” • As one would expect!!!

Health Care

“Airborne SARS-CoV-2 is Rapidly Inactivated by Simulated Sunlight” [The Journal of Infectious Diseases]. “Aerosols represent a potential route of transmission of COVID-19. This study examined the effect of simulated sunlight, relative humidity, and suspension matrix on the stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols. Both simulated sunlight and matrix significantly affected the decay rate of the virus….. Decay rates in simulated saliva, under simulated sunlight levels representative of late winter/early fall and summer were 0.121±0.017 min-1 (90% loss: 19 minutes) and 0.379±0.072 min-1 (90% loss: 6 minutes), respectively. The mean decay rate without simulated sunlight across all relative humidity levels was 0.008±0.011 min-1 (90% loss: 125 minutes). These results suggest that the potential for aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 may be dependent on environmental conditions, particularly sunlight.” • Re-upping this, because I am becoming somewhat hopeful that real COVID prevention strategies are becoming possible in the indoor spaces that I control, which is good news. Perhaps a combination of light and a home HEPA air purifier (see below) would neutralize the aerosols, leaving only worries about fomites. Readers?

“Airborne coronavirus spread: Five things to know” [Al Jazeera]. “In closed spaces at schools, offices and hospitals, increasing proper ventilation with outdoor air by opening windows can also mitigate the risk of infection, [Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado] said. ‘For spaces where ventilation cannot be increased, we recommend portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air cleaners or possibly ultraviolet (UV) germicidal lights at the high end of need. We do not recommend other types of air cleaners.’” • The right kind of lightbulb (see above) plus the right kind of air cleaner might not be insuperably expensive, either.

* * *

“Anthony Fauci: The Last American Hero?” [The Nation]. “Despite his famous halo of truthfulness, Fauci has deliberately misled the public on several occasions during the crisis. At the beginning of the outbreak, he and CDC Director Robert Redfield defied medical common sense and lied about the efficacy of face mask usage. While news programs were showing entire Asian societies safely masked, we were told that face coverings were unnecessary, useless, and possibly dangerous. Asked in February about what advice he would give to ordinary Americans, Fauci remained in lockstep with the White House. ‘So the question is, should we do anything different from what we’re already doing? No. Should we all be wearing a mask? Absolutely not.’ Six weeks later he explained that this was a necessary ploy to stop panic-buying and conserve existing supplies for hospitals.’”

“The retired inventor of N95 masks is back at work, mostly for free, to fight covid-19” [WaPo]. “When the novel coronavirus began gripping the globe in March, Tsai was summoned from his short-lived retirement. He was in urgent demand because he is the inventor who, in 1995, patented the filtration material used in disposable N95 respirators…. Oak Ridge National Lab, a Tennessee-based laboratory sponsored by the U.S. Energy Department, got in touch, too. The team at Oak Ridge was searching for ways to scale production of N95 masks…. The goal was to convert the lab’s carbon-fiber-processing facility into a filtration-cloth facility to produce the filter technology needed for N95 masks. The conversion process proved complicated, but with Tsai’s help, “we quickly got the system up and running,” said Lonnie Love, a lead scientist at Oak Ridge…. While Oak Ridge does provide the filter material to other labs to study, it does not sell the product directly for widespread distribution. Rather, the team teaches industry partners how to scale production.”

* * *

“Walgreens strikes deal with primary-care company to open doctor offices in hundreds of drugstores” [CNBC]. “Walgreens Boots Alliance will soon have doctor offices inside of hundreds of its U.S. drugstores. The pharmacy chain said Wednesday it has struck a deal with VillageMD, which will staff and run the primary-care clinics. The companies said they will open the clinics in 500 to 700 stores in more than 30 U.S. markets over the next five years…. Walgreens will invest $1 billion in equity and convertible debt in VillageMD over the next three years as part of the deal, including a $250 million equity investment completed Wednesday. Most of the money will be used by VillageMD to open the clinics and integrate its technology with Walgreens. VillageMD will recruit and pay employees’ salaries, cover other operating expenses and pay Walgreens to use the space. Walgreens said it will own about 30% of the primary-care company after the multiyear investment.” • VillageMD is a start-up. Zeke Emannuel (Democrat) [vomits] is on the Board of Directors. So its Annie Lamont, wife of (Democrat) Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. So there’s your answer on #MedicareForAll, or part of it. (I have to say, again, that I find Walmart very depressing. I hope VillageMD’s offices are bright and cheery.)

“Comparing Private Payer and Medicare Payment Rates for Select Inpatient Hospital Services” [KFF].

Our analysis finds:

  • Private insurance payment rates were between 1.6 and 2.5 times higher than Medicare rates, with some variation among the ten DRGs included in our analysis.
  • Private insurance rates varied more widely than Medicare rates.
  • The average private insurance payment rates paid for diagnoses related to COVID-19 increased between 9.3% and 22.4% from 2014 to 2017, much faster than Medicare rates.


“Found art.” Thread:

Department of Feline Felicity

Since we spoke of bee photos as a genre yesterday:

I guess this is a thing now!

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“The Complicated Orbit of Jeffrey Epstein” [Bloomberg]. • Very useful, and not exactly a yarn diagram, although some mischievous graphics person chose red for cross-organizational lines. However, there’s something left out: Any connection to the intelligence community. Odd!

“Deutsche Bank maintained accounts for Jeffrey Epstein despite ‘red flags’: Regulators” [ABC]. • It’s like Deutsche is the Wells Fargo of Europe.

“Empty Promise” [Chicago Tribune]. From 1996, describes the Manhattan townhouse Epstein bought from Wexner: “Visitors described a bathroom reminiscent of James Bond movies: hidden beneath a stairway, lined with lead to provide shelter from attack and supplied with closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet beneath the sink.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“What Happened In Bethel, Ohio?” [Buzzfeed]. “When Lois and Andrea first entered the scene, someone yanked Lois’s sign and tore it in half. She didn’t recognize that person, or any of the others pushing her around. But later, once she’d made it to the rest of the demonstrators, she looked across the street. Like everyone else, she saw people she knew. She got in a ‘stare down,’ as her daughter later described, with one of her former colleagues. ‘Lois, I cannot believe you’re here,’ the other teacher yelled.” • Worth reading in full, especially if you’re from a small town.

“Opinion: Want to tear down insidious monuments to racism and segregation? Bulldoze L.A. freeways” [Los Angeles Times]. “Los Angeles was never a paradise of racial acceptance, but in 1910 some 36% of L.A.’s African Americans were homeowners (compared with 2.4% in New York City) — tops in the nation. L.A.’s comprehensive Red Car transit system, which offered easy, unsegregated access to the region’s growing economic opportunities, was fundamental to this success. Integrated, racially diverse neighborhoods like Watts and Boyle Heights emerged and thrived along these transit corridors. But as L.A.’s population surged from 320,000 in 1910 to more than 1.2 million in 1930 — including tens of thousands of African Americans from the Deep South — white Los Angeles decided it was time to ramp up its own brand of Jim Crow segregation. These efforts took many forms — most famously racially restrictive covenants, which barred African Americans and other ethnic minorities by deed from living in houses and neighborhoods deemed “white.”… But neither the Klan nor legally dubious covenants nor flagrantly unconstitutional land grabs were arguably as effective as the automobile and its attendant infrastructure at turning Los Angeles into an intentionally segregated city. When the 1944 Federal-Aid Highway Act allocated funds for 1,938 miles of freeways in California, planners used the opportunity, with full federal support, to obliterate as much as possible the casual mingling of the races.”

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

“Lime Unveils Pilot Program For Inexplicable New E-Cubes” (podcast) [The Topical]. • This is The Onion’s podcast, which does what The Onion does. I wish I liked the show better, but often the humor strikes me as a little off, somehow. This show, however, is very pure and very silly.

Cancel culture?

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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:

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

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