/2:00PM Water Cooler 7/16/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/16/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, this Water Cooler will be truncated, because I’m still reeling with the effects of fighting my way through submitting my taxes online. –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. Florida blows past New York, with California and Texas falling back.

CA: “Californians turn against each other amid 2nd coronavirus shutdown” [Los Angeles Times]. • Many anecdotes…

FL: “This Southern metro area has become the epicenter of the coronavirus — and food insecurity” [NBC News]. “As South Florida grapples with being described as the new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also among the worst in the nation when it comes to its residents experiencing food insecurity and scarcity, according to Census Bureau data. Over 14 percent of South Florida residents — about 1 in 7 households — reported sometimes, or often, not having enough to eat in the last seven days. Last week it ranked first in food insecurity; this week it’s second only to the Houston metro area.”

FL: “At least 31 percent of children tested in Florida are positive for COVID-19: report” [FOX]. “Florida had tested 54,022 Florida residents under the age of 18, according to the state’s COVID-19 pediatric report on July 10. Of those tests, 16,797, or just over 31 percent, have come back positive. Meanwhile, the positivity rate for Florida’s entire population stands at roughly 11 percent.”

GA: “Kemp’s ban of mask mandates puts Georgia on collision course with its cities” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “The governor’s order, signed late Wednesday, puts the state on a collision course with local leaders and public health experts who say requiring face coverings is an essential step to containing the spread of the coronavirus. Several mayors said they would continue to enforce mask mandates despite Kemp’s measure. ‘When it comes to protecting the lives of Augustans, we are not going to back down,’ Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis said. Though Kemp’s previous orders have barred local governments from taking more restrictive steps than the state, the rules he signed on Wednesday were the first to explicitly ban cities and counties from requiring the use of masks or other face coverings. The governor has said he believes requiring masks are a “bridge too far” and that such a mandate is unenforceable. Instead, he’s urged Georgians to don face coverings and warned not doing so threatens the college football season.” • Oh.


“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 15: Kansas moves from Safe to Likely Republican. Yikes. On July 7, the undecided votes were 86. Now they are 56. 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!


Patient readers who were also Sanders canvassers, thank you for your responses. I am mulling them. I may end up doing a survey, hopefully not too onerous. –lambert

Biden (D)(1): “Biden’s Wall Street Undertow” [Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect]. Personnel is policy:

Biden is inundated with Wall Street supporters, who use their influence to assure that he will be another president in the Clinton-Obama mode—liberal-ish on social issues, but not a threat to Wall Street’s toxic business model, which is such a fundamental driver of gross inequality of income and wealth as well as extreme corporate concentration.

Today at 5:30, there is a big, virtual Biden fundraising event by and for Wall Street donors. It was organized by 44 alums* of the Obama and Clinton Treasury Departments.

Make a donation, and you too can participate. Lead gifts are $25,000.

Keynote speakers, discussing the future of the American economy, include former Treasury Secretary and OMB Director Jack Lew, and former head of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling. Lew, under Obama, was one of the cheerleaders for budget austerity. Sperling helped negotiate the end of Glass-Steagall.

Lew is now a partner at the private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg, which specializes in leveraged buyouts, one of the curses of the economy that a progressive Biden administration would need to rein in. Budget austerity plus private equity!

Gene Sperling, who runs his own strategies firm, is more of a liberal who genuinely cares about poverty and inequality, but far from a crusader for Wall Street reform. And he will be speaking to a group of Wall Street donors.

“Nothing fundamental will change.” –Joe Biden NOTE * Literally members of The Obama Alumni Association, no doubt.


Biden (D)(3): “JOE BIDEN’S PLAN TO BEAT COVID-19” [Joe Biden]. • This is the second.

Sanders (D)(1):

Trump (R)(1): “Threat of a Trump without rallies triggers fears across GOP” [Politico]. “At this point in 2016, Trump was already holding several rallies each week, including a double-header in Nevada and Arizona on June 18 and a three-day span in late July that featured six rallies in four states over 72 hours. By comparison, the president has only attended two large campaign gatherings — his Tulsa rally and a ‘Students for Trump’ event in Phoenix — since his March 13 Oval Office address about the novel coronavirus. The Trump campaign had hoped to be averaging two rallies per week by June 2020, according to a person involved with the president’s reelection.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Cannibalism Is No Cure for Covid-19” [The Nation]. “[S]ome of Trump’s most ardent supporters are making strange claims of the merits of eating human flesh. Alex Jones was a pioneer in the field. ‘I’ll admit it,’ Jones said on May 1. ‘I will eat my neighbors. I won’t have to for a few years ’cause I got food and stuff.… But I’m literally looking at my neighbors now and going, ‘I’m ready to hang ’em up and gut ’em and skin ’em. My daughters aren’t starving to death.’ I will eat my neighbors.’ It’s easy to dismiss Jones as unhinged, but on Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh, recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor available to an American, spoke favorably about the Donner Party, an infamous group of pioneers whose ill-fated trek to California in 1846–47 ended in the consumption of human corpses. Limbaugh contrasted the hardiness of the Donner Party with the alleged softness of the ‘Millennial generation,’ who stood accused of lacking the fortitude to do what is necessary in an emergency.” • Reminds me of this from the Orange County school board the other day: “Among our greatest responsibilities as adults is our responsibility to model courage and persistence in the face of uncertainty and fear.” For some definitions of “courage and persistence, I suppose.

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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.

Manufacturing: “July 2020 Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Index Marginally Declined” [Econintersect]. “The Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey marginally declined but remains well into expansion. Overall, this report was slightly better than last month’s report as key elements significantly improved.”

Retail Sales: “Retail Sales Again Improves in July 2020” [Econintersect]. “Retail sales modestly improved according to US Census headline data. The three-month rolling average improved.”

Inventories: “May 2020 Business Inventories Decline” [Business Inventories Decline]. “Headlines say final business sales data (retail plus wholesale plus manufacturing) improved month-over-month. The rolling averages improved. Inventories declined but remain elevated. There is little effect from the coronavirus this month except for inventory reduction. This is a strange recession where normally inventories rise – but the coronavirus recession caused inventories to rise.”

Employment Situation: “U.S. Job Gains Look Like They’re Slowing or Reversing in July” [Bloomberg]. “U.S. job gains are set to slow sharply or even reverse in July after a resurgent coronavirus and new wave of shutdowns stymied the economic rebound…. The July unemployment rate will be based on whether respondents have a job this week, while payroll counts are based on the pay period — mostly weekly or biweekly — that includes the 12th of the month. That means any layoffs or stalled rehiring related to the latest shutdowns will potentially be a factor in the July jobs report due Aug. 7, though several analysts expect a greater impact in August’s or September’s figures, given that there was probably more rehiring before this week. Coming on the heels of a combined gain of 7.5 million jobs in May and June, the trends spell a slowdown or halt to the labor-market rebound that President Donald Trump is counting on to revive his re-election chances.”

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Tech: I confess, I used Google, but that’s good because I got to see Google losing its mind:

First, the match may not be “great” but it is exact! Second, isn’t that about the worst use of precious screen real estate you’ve ever seen? Couldn’t they at least let me choose to read the tips by clicking “?” or something? The madness continues:

Two exact results and one very close result equal “no results?” Huh?

Pandemic: “Virus Fears Hurt U.S. Economy Whether Locked-Down or Reopened” [Bloomberg]. “In a study of customer visits to more than 2.25 million businesses, University of Chicago economists Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson found that traffic fell by 60 percentage points — and that legal restrictions explained only slightly more than one-tenth of that drop. The decline began before stay-at-home orders were in place, was closely tied to the number of virus deaths locally, and showed that consumers were actively avoiding the busier stores, according to the paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. ‘The politicians like to feel like they’re the ones in control of making the decision, but at the end of the day the virus is the boss,’ said Goolsbee, a former aide to President Barack Obama. ‘If the death rate goes back up and people get scared, the economy will get worse. It could easily wipe out the economic recovery that you generated in the short run by getting rid of the order.’ That’s why the key pandemic data-point is the reinfection rate, known as R0, he said: ‘We are going to end up back to the plan which is we have to do everything to get the R0 down so this disease peters out.’”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 62 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 16 at 12:20pm. Whoa, back to Greed!

The Biosphere

“New York Driver Captures Water Spewing Inside the Lincoln Tunnel” (video) [Yahoo News]. • I was hesitant to run this, but at least one major venue went with it. The video:


Health Care

“Maine is 1 of 2 states where coronavirus cases continue to fall” [Bangor Daily News]. “The downward trend in cases puts Maine alongside neighboring New Hampshire as the only two states where the virus is declining… Testing numbers dropped slightly, with only 15,000 new viral tests performed compared to more than 15,600 the previous week… the percentage of tests coming back positive continued to decline, with the average daily positivity rate over the last week dropping to 1 percent. It suggests that the continued drop in case numbers was not due to less testing. The overall positivity rate dropped to 3.2 percent…. The state announced Tuesday that 18 new “swab-and-send” sites were opening and would send samples from patients who meet the state’s testing criteria to the Maine CDC lab in Augusta. The Maine-based testing should allow the state to avoid national testing backlogs, said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah acknowledged that some Maine residents looking to get tests through private companies have experienced longer wait times due to high national demand in recent weeks.” • If Maine can set up its own testing facilities….

“Fewer Covid ICU Deaths Suggest Care Is Improving, Study Finds” [Bloomberg]. “Overall mortality of Covid-19 patients treated in ICUs had fallen to just under 42% at the end of May from almost 60% in March. That’s according to the first systematic analysis of two dozen studies involving more than 10,000 patients in Asia, Europe and North America… ‘It may reflect the rapid learning that has taken place on a global scale due to the prompt publication of clinical reports early in the pandemic,’ wrote the authors, led by Tim Cook, an anesthesiologist and intensive care physician in Bath, England. ‘It may also be that ICU admission criteria have changed over time, for example, with greater pressure on ICUs early in the pandemic surge.’” • Or both!

“Face masks as pro-growth economic policy” [James Pethokoukis, AEI]. “[I]f the econ team at Goldman Sachs is anywhere close to being right, mask-wearing is a tremendous pro-growth economic policy with a tremendous return on investment. From “Face Masks and GDP,” a new GS note: ‘[A] face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP.’ A pretty good bargain, then. Avoiding a trillion-dollar GDP subtraction at the cost of $59 million to $1 billion for 325 million N95 masks.” • Elite consensus… In the Western World, at least.

“A mask cuts your COVID-19 risk by 65%, experts say” [World Economic Forum]. “A range of new research on face coverings shows that the risk of infection to the wearer decreases by 65%, says Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Davis Children’s Hospital. ‘On the issue of masks, I’d like to restart—because we’ve learned a lot,” Blumberg says. “We’ve learned more due to research and additional scientific evidence. What we know now is that masks work and are very important.’ Blumberg and William Ristenpart, a professor of chemical engineering, appeared on a recent livestream devoted to explaining how the coronavirus spreads and how to prevent transmission. In their comments and answers to questions from viewers, Blumberg and Ristenpart repeatedly made the point that research continues to support the fundamental methods to prevent spreading COVID-19: Wear masks, maintain social distance, and keep social interactions outdoors whenever possible.” • Elite consensus…

“Israeli Data Show School Openings Were a Disaster That Wiped Out Lockdown Gains” [The Daily Beast]. “Of 1,400 Israelis diagnosed with COVID-19 last month, 657 (47 percent) were infected in schools. Now 2,026 students, teachers, and staff have it, and 28,147 are quarantined.” • Yikes.

“Federal stockpile is thin amid coronavirus surge, internal documents show” [NBC]. “The federal government may not have the capacity to supply medical professionals with personal protective equipment amid the latest surge in coronavirus cases, according to internal administration documents obtained by NBC News. For example, the Strategic National Stockpile and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have fewer than 900,000 gloves in reserve after shipping 82.7 million of them — or just 30 percent of the amount requested by state, local and tribal governments — since the COVID-19 crisis began, according to figures compiled Sunday by Health and Human Services Department officials for senior leaders of the interagency coronavirus task force effort. In particular, nursing homes and long-term care facilities say there is a major personal protective equipment shortage.”

Zeitgeist Watch

“”Welcome Home” – Walt Disney World Cast Members” (video) [Walt Disney World Cast and Community]. I’m a little behind the curve on this one; and I’m sorry to use Facebook, but on YouTube, the original — if is there — has been overwhelmed by parodies and “fixes.” Love the brown shirt-colored Mickey at the start, but to listen all the way to the end; it’s only 31 seconds long.

Guillotine Watch

Promotional items:

“Sqirl Founder Jessica Koslow Promises to Throw Away Moldy Jam From Now On” [Eater Los Angeles]. • Oh.

Class Warfare

“The Surprising Cross-Racial Saga of Modern Wealth Inequality” [Adolph Reed, The New Republic]. “[T]he racial wealth gap’s ultimate source is the racial income gap—and therefore closing the income gap would be the most effective route to narrowing the wealth gap. The right-wing panaceas of tax cuts and privatization count for little in redressing the black-white wealth gap, in other words; policies that redistribute income downward will have the greatest direct effect on most African Americans’ capacities to accumulate household or family wealth. There’s a vital lesson here for liberal economic reformers as well: Reversing the great concentration of income at the top that has occurred during the last half-century not only would benefit all working- and middle-class Americans but also would be especially beneficial to African Americans hoping at long last to overcome the economic legacies of discrimination.” • Controversial among reparations advocates, I am sure.

“Reader’s Guide to Anti-Oedipus” [Ian Buchanan]. “Deleuze’s hypothesis is that hitherto most theories of power, particularly those developed by the Left, treat it as a problem of interests – power is consolidated in the hands of a ruling class and exercised according to a set of protocols that best serve their inter- ests. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, was blatantly in the interest of the ruling elite in the US inasmuch as it offered a tremendous opportunity for personal and corporate enrichment…. For Deleuze, the only adequate way of posing the question of power is in terms of desire. But one has to first of all abandon the old binaries that distinguish between the powerful and the power- less, those who have power and the freedom to exercise it and those who do not, because such rigid separations blind us to the real com- plexity of power relations. Power is a highly variegated substance with both a consolidated (molar) and dispersed (molecular) form. Consolidated and dispersed are not simply new codewords for powerful and powerless, but a reconfiguration of our understanding of how power actually works into the language of process. Every substance has both a consolidated and a dispersed dimension, depending on how you look at it. To the naked eye the human body is a self-contained whole made up of solid state organs and limbs, but under the microscope it is a vast multiplicity of cells which are made up of even more microscopic entities which rely on the pre-existence of still smaller entities and so on to infinity. The body never ceases to be the body, regardless of how infinitesimal our gaze is, just as the cells composing our body never cease in their being when we look up from the microscope.” • Hmm.

News of the Wired

A pitiful, helpless giant shrimp with a gun:

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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 (GJ):

GJ writes: “I take almost macro photos of plants to use as my desktop background which tend to be very big, and somewhat blurred – I’ve attached a very reduced image of the one I’m currently using. Are these acceptable for your plant photos?” In my personal aesthetic, I reject blur except when its caused by motion. At the same time, however, that would make photographing flowers very difficult, because small aperture tends to mean a slow shutter, and flowers — as adaptive beings! — sway in the slightest breeze — and blur. Here, the combination of the soft background and soft colors is very pretty (and I assume you line up your icons on the the left :-).

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