/2:00PM Water Cooler 6/10/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/10/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Having done the South and the West last week, and the Midwest yesterday, here is the Northeast:

1000 daily confirmed cases still in New York…


“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

Since we’re getting closer to the election, maybe it’s time to start looking at the electoral map, updated June 8 and unchanged:

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): “Biden: We must urgently root out systemic racism, from policing to housing to opportunity” [Joe Biden, USA Today]. “I’ve long been a firm believer in the power of community policing — getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they are there to serve and protect. That’s why I’m proposing an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing in our country. Every single police department should have the money it needs to institute real reforms like adopting a national use of force standard, buying body cameras and recruiting more diverse police officers.” • So Biden hears “defund the police” and mentally translates that to “give the police $300 million.” Oh, and there are tax credits. Of course.

Biden (D)(2): “Biden targets young voters amid anger over racial inequality in new digital ad” [ABC]. “The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll shows the presumptive Democratic nominee is still struggling to win over the group. The majority of voters ages 18 to 29 hold an unfavorable opinion of the former vice president, according to the poll from late May.”

Sanders (D)(1): “Joe Biden is ‘more receptive’ to progressives than past Democrats, Bernie Sanders says” [CNBC]. • The headline, from this New Yorker interview:

Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Sanders Is Not Done Fighting” (interview) [The New Yorker]. • Oh gawd, the “fighting for” trope…. More:

[SANDERS:] Longer-term, obviously, what I am trying to do is to bring people together to defeat Trump and to elect Biden. It is no great secret that Joe Biden and I have very serious political differences, but, at this particular moment in history, what is most important is to defeat Trump, who, as you implied a moment ago, is literally a threat to American democracy, and is moving this country not only in a dangerous way but in an authoritarian way, as well. Trump has got to be defeated and, in a variety of ways, I intend to play an active role in that process.

hirdly, it is not good enough just to elect Joe Biden. We’ve got to continue the movement in this country for transformative change, and to understand that we are way, way, way behind many other industrialized countries in providing for the needs of working families. So the fight continues for a Medicare for All single-payer program, and that becomes especially obvious when you have seen in recent months millions of people losing their jobs. They’re also losing their health care because, under our system, health care is an employee benefit not a human right. So I’m going to continue that fight, and, no question, we are gaining momentum at the grass roots. And on and on it goes.

Sanders (D)(3): “The Consultant Class Ran the Bernie Campaign to the Ground & Disenfranchised the Grassroots” [Bernie 2020 Autopsy CA (Arizona Slim)]. That’s into the ground. Although there’s much more, this graphic conveys the thesis:

I think the institutional issue is that you can’t base a movement on a political campaign (at least one run by professionals).

Sanders (D)(4): “Bernie Sanders Lost, But He Advanced the Class Struggle” [Jacobin]. “The gains made by Bernie’s campaigns may be lost on many in the liberal punditry, but anyone who has been on the activist left for any length of time must appreciate the sea change. We went from playing the most marginal of roles to influencing the national discussion and coming closer than anyone could have imagined to having a socialist in the White House. We can now speak of a national political platform around which a growing socialist left can organize.” • Subject to our famously free press being what it is, we’re in the midst of a recession and a pandemic, and we’ve had a strike wave and then a multi-city uprising that’s still going on, and so far as I can tell, “the left” has no presence in either. As Benjamin Studebaker commented (linked yesterday): “Sadly, our organizations are inferior to the organizations of the anarchists and the woke neoliberals, and for this reason they will continue to hasten the victory of the right nationalists, much to our chagrin.”

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Lexington Herald-Leader endorses Booker:


AOC’s challenger:

Obama Legacy

Aged like fine wine:

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.

Inflation: “May 2020 CPI: Year-over-Year Inflation Rate Slows to 0.1%” [Econintersect]. “According to the BLS, the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) year-over-year inflation rate was 0.1 % year-over-year (down from the reported 0,3 % last month). The year-over-year core inflation (excludes energy and food) rate declined from 1.4 % to 1.2 % and remains above the target set by the Federal Reserve….The index for energy was the reason for the decline of the CPI-U. Medical care services cost inflation increased from 5.8 % to 5.9 % year-over-year.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 67 Greed (previous close: 67 Greed;) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 10 at 1:31pm.

The Biosphere

“After COVID-19, green investment must deliver jobs to get political traction” [Nature]. “The most precipitous contraction of the global economy in a century has seen carbon emissions plummet. By the end of this year, emissions are likely to be 8% less than in 20191 — the largest annual percentage drop since the Second World War…. Breaking the historical iron law that links economic growth to carbon emissions requires energy supplies to be decarbonized, and is essential to stop global warming. But we must be honest. Nothing in history suggests that emissions can drop fast enough to limit warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels — an aspirational goal of the Paris agreement, which is up for review over the next few years. This would mean cutting emissions by an amount similar to that delivered by the current economic catastrophe every year for the next decade3. We need more pragmatic goals…. Rather than boosting green investment, in the past ten weeks, the United States, Mexico, South Africa and other nations have relaxed laws controlling pollution and standards for vehicle energy efficiency. The US rollback on fuel economy rules, finalized in March, will commit the nation to higher transport emissions — now the largest source of warming gases in the United States — for a decade or more.”

“Urban foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst” [Science]. “In a famous ongoing experiment started in 1960, scientists turned foxes into tame, doglike canines by breeding only the least aggressive ones generation after generation. The creatures developed stubby snouts, floppy ears, and even began to bark. Now, it appears that some rural red foxes in the United Kingdom are doing this on their own. When the animals moved from the forest to city habitats, they began to evolve doglike traits, new research reveals, potentially setting themselves on the path to domestication. … Like early dogs, urban foxes would need to overcome their fear of humans to get close enough to eat our trash. And that may have been the spark that led to a host of other biological changes. Foxes have started down this domestication path before in many parts of the world, Zeder notes. Their bones show up in early farming communities, for example. But unlike wildcats, who entered these communities and transformed into the furballs we know today, these foxes never become fully domesticated. “They never move any farther down the path to domestication,” Zeder says. ‘We don’t know why.’” • “Furballs”? In a science magazine?

A lovely garden:


Health Care

“Three big studies dim hopes that hydroxychloroquine can treat or prevent COVID-19” [Science]. “[N]ow three large studies, two in people exposed to the virus and at risk of infection and the other in severely ill patients, show no benefit from the drug. Coming on top of earlier smaller trials with disappointing findings, the new results mean it’s time to move on, some scientists say, and end most of the trials still in progress…. Another hope for hydroxychloroquine, that it might prevent people exposed to the virus from getting sick, also faded last week when David Boulware of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and colleagues published the results of the largest study to date of this strategy, called postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). The researchers sent either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo by mail to 821 people who had been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient for more than 10 minutes without proper protection. They reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that 12% of the people who took the drug went on to develop COVID-19 symptoms, versus 14% in a placebo group, a difference that was not statistically significant. A second large PEP trial has come up empty as well, its leader tells Science. Carried out in Barcelona, Spain, that study randomized more than 2300 people exposed to the virus to either hydroxychloroquine or the usual care…. The data are important because they come from large randomized trials…. There is one exception. Many researchers agree that a good case can be made for continuing to test whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent infection if given to people just in case they get exposed to the virus, for instance on the job at a hospital—a strategy called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).” • Readers will correct me, but my feeling is that the comentariat converged on PrEP (in conjunction with zinc) sometime ago. So we’ll see if this pans out. Weird how prevention is never a priority.

“Coronavirus research updates: Virus conscripts a pair of human proteins to invade cells” [Nature]. “A massive coronavirus testing campaign in Vietnam has found evidence that infected people who never show any symptoms can pass the virus to others…. Of roughly 14,000 people tested between mid-March and early April, 49 were infected. Le Van Tan at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and his colleagues monitored 30 of the 49 individuals and found that 13 developed no symptoms during their hospital stay…. Nasal swabbing showed that the infected but asymptomatic study participants had lower levels of viral RNA than infected people who felt ill at some point. But it’s “highly likely” that two of the asymptomatic participants were the source of infection for at least two other people, the authors say.” • I wish somebody would figure out how to run a study to find out if medical dogs can detect otherwise “asymptomatic” cases.

“In Japan and France, Riding Transit Looks Surprisingly Safe” [CItyLab]. Very interesting:

Between May 9 and June 3, 150 clusters of new coronavirus cases emerged in France, according to the country’s national public health body. Defined as three cases or more of Covid-19 linked by contact, these clusters occurred largely in the sort of places you might predict they would: healthcare facilities, workplaces and homeless shelters — all sites where people mix in enclosed spaces for long periods of time and, in the case of hospitals, where people who are already infected are likely to congregate.

What was striking however, was the number of clusters associated with public transit: There weren’t any. For almost a month, not a single Covid-19 cluster had emerged on France’s six metro systems, 26 tram and light rail networks or numerous urban bus routes.

Given the enclosed, ill-ventilated nature of subways and buses and the ease with which they can crowd even during lockdown periods, this apparent lack of clustered cases might come as a surprise. But the results from France closely parallel reports from Japan, whose coronavirus containment strategy focused intently on finding these Covid-19 clusters rather than strict lockdowns, social distancing regulations and mass testing. As Science reported when Japan lifted its state of emergency in late May, most infection clusters there were connected to gyms, bars, music clubs and karaoke rooms; none were traced to the country’s famously crowded commuter trains.

Suggested reasons: Masking, partial ventilation, brief exposures (and little conversation). These would distinguish theses cases from the (oddly withdrawn) Chinese bus study, where exposure was extended and there was air conditioning. It would be interesting to know if the same were true in New York’s subway system, but of course we don’t have the data for that.

Aggregate demand:

I sure as hell don’t.. But as I have said, my regular routine doesn’t include lot of interpersonal contact in any case.

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“Italian woman prepares olives during brain tumour operation” [BBC]. “Italian media describe how the operating theatre resembled something of a kitchen during the procedure. A speciality of the Marche region of central Italy, [Ascoli olives] consist of pitted green olives wrapped around balls of seasoned meat, and are coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before being fried.” • There’ll always be an Italy!

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Liberals: Don’t Be Afraid of Calls to Defund the Police” [Joan Walsh, The Nation]. “Even those who profess to support ‘defunding’ the police mean different things. For many, it starts with demilitarizing urban police forces by not investing in the armaments of war. For others, it’s putting significant chunks of police budgets into social services treating homelessness, mental health issues, and substance abuse. It can also mean disbanding police forces, as the Minneapolis City Council seems to envision—but even that proposal remains admittedly vague. And though he only uses the word “reform,” Minneapolis SEIU leader Javier Morillo laid out seven tough moves— to break the power of conservative, often brutal police unions that have blocked attempts at change in many cities, including his own.” • I dunno. Walsh and such-like seem to be working hard to make “defund the police” seem vague, much as they did with “Medicare for All,” and I would imagine for the same reasons. Frankly, I haven’t had time to sort this out, partly because I feel that the drivers are local left groupuscules I have to research, partly because there seem to be different proposals. However, “Defund the police” seems pretty straightforward to me conceptually: It means, for starters, taking their money away by gutting their budgets. Which seems a reasonable interpretation, given that the slogan comes who call themselves Abolitionists.

Reform vs. abolition:

Police State Watch

A long thread on the various protests/riots/rebellions. It begins in Minneapolis but moves to Seattle:

Well worth scanning through. The left has been out-organized by anarchists ffs.

For comparison purposes (WB):

WB writes: “In case you want to supplement the nice article about how to properly use rubber bullets, here is a photo we took in Derry, Northern Ireland last Fall, where our friends showed us their souvenirs from the Troubles. Gives a sense of scale.”

Class Warfare

“Evictions expected to spike as states end moratoriums that offered relief during COVID-19” [USA Today]. “So far, 24 states are now processing evictions again, and that number is expected to climb to at least 30 states by the end of June…. Not all renters in those jurisdictions are vulnerable, though. Nearly 30% continue to be protected by a federal moratorium under the CARES Act that will remain in place until July 25…. For these unprotected renters, the threat of eviction is very real – especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. With tens of millions of workers unemployed and the economy expected to remain shaky until there’s a vaccine and consumers feel safe enough to travel, dine out and go to theme parks and movies again — homelessness could come at any time. And like everything else that COVID-19 touches, it’s communities of color that face disproportionate risk.”

“Chaos In The Time Of Covid” [Chris Arnade, American Compass]. “Rural residents are frustrated with urban residents, who in their minds, unleashed the crisis with needless global travel only to then spend it holed up in apartments getting paid to write scolding essays while they are not allowed to work. In cities, the well-to-do are angry at the hicks and their ‘just the flu’ mantra. Meanwhile, the poor, only a few neighborhoods away, are angry at the well-to-do, who tweet #AloneTogether from book-lined rooms, while they crowd into fourth-floor walkups with one bathroom, a bible, and dreams of not having to go to the Laundromat. At every income level, entrepreneurs, bearing the brunt of the economic lockdown, are mad at the risk averse, for wanting to lock down forever: The hair dresser who can’t work is mad at the neighbor on disability, the bar owner at the bureaucrats with their weekly check, and the CEOs of troubled companies at academics happily Zooming away from home. Meanwhile the working class, mostly blacks and latinos, have died in numbers that should be the national disgrace. But that has been drowned out by everyone else complaining about lesser problems.” • Everything’s going according to. plan!

“The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening sharply” [Financial Times]. “As economists debate the letter-form trajectory of the recovery ahead, it is not too soon to identify the letter shape of what has occurred so far. At best, it might be called a K-shaped recovery. While we panicked together in March, since then there have been two vastly divergent experiences…. Put simply, the haves are largely back to where they were before the outbreak, while, despite unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy action, the have-nots have even less. For most of the world’s largest companies, the wealthy and the work-from-home crowd, there has been a bungee jump-like rebound in confidence. Meanwhile, for small businesses, the clearly overleveraged, the working class and many in essential roles, conditions have deteriorated further….. With many public support programmes nearing an end, and financial markets pricing in a V-shaped recovery, policymakers would be wise to consider the divide that now exists. We must address the adverse consequences of the K-shaped recovery or they could easily lead to an L-shaped recovery for all.” • Considering what happened the last time we had a K-shaped and prolonged “recovery,” it’s worth asking what will happen if we have one again.

News of the Wired

“Democracy of Speed” (photo essay) [The Bitter Southerner]. Eighteen years ago: “The first thing I noticed after I parked the car and walked toward the pits, is that I wasn’t the only African American there. Far from it. Many of the racers were black. So were plenty of the spectators and one or two of the track’s personnel. Most of the people at the track, from racers to workers, were white, and many of them had friendly relationships with the black people who were there. (I was to learn that these friendships often went back decades…. It turns out that no motorsport has been more open to African Americans and to other people of color than drag racing. What I saw on my first trip to the track is duplicated all over the country, from small, grassroots dragstrips, like Eastside, to the large corporate tracks that attract the National Hot Rod Association’s top professional racers. The same is true for women racers, and it’s been this way for a long time. African Americans started racing at Eastside when it opened in 1965 — that is, when the “Whites Only” signs were only beginning to come down throughout the South. Women were racing there by the 1970s. Elsewhere, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans had been a part of the drag racing scene since its beginnings as a formal sport in the late 1940s. Women also have an extensive history in the sport, one that starts in the 1950s and includes world champions like the late Carolyn “Bunny” Burkett, who appears in several of these photos.” • Well worth a read, and spectular black-and-white photos.

Yarn diagrams in the wild. Thread with many examples, some from literature:

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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 (PI):

PI writes: “Stopped for this pic near Lake Los Angeles, CA in the Antelope Valley today. Thought you’d enjoy it. The mountains are the San Gabriels. Los Angeles proper is on the other side…” Lake Los Angeles is a splendid example of California real estate speculation, but the high desert is often very beautiful.

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