/2:00PM Water Cooler 7/27/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/27/2020

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 (Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, and Arizona), with New York for comparison:

Another few days of this and I’ll have to call a peak (though not, I think, without another deep dive into the data-gathering). So, looking at the chart and speculating freely, let’s call the peak 9 days ago in Florida on 07-18-2020. New York’s peak was 2020-04-09, and colorably flattened at a low rate 2020-06-23, but let’s say puffery rounds the flattening date back to 2020-06-01. That’s 54 days. There are 99 days ’til election day. A vaccine plus America having the memory of a goldfish could solve a lot of problems.

This chart includes new cases and positivtity (because deaths scrunch together at the bottom of the chart and I don’t trust that data anyhow; excess deaths would be nice). In terms of undercounting as measured by positivity (higher is bad), the order from worst to best would be AZ, FL, TX, GA, CA, and CA, at 7.42%, is still too high by WHO standards (they want 5%).


“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. July 17: Georgia, Ohio, ME-2 move from Leans Republican to Toss-up. Continued yikes. On July 7, the tossup were 86. Only July 17, they were 56. Now they are 91. 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!


Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders delegates mount convention rebellion over ‘Medicare for All’” [Politico]. “A revolt is brewing among Bernie Sanders delegates three weeks from the Democratic National Convention. More than 360 delegates, most of whom back Sanders, have signed on to a pledge to vote against the Democratic Party’s platform if it does not include support for “Medicare for All,” the petition’s organizers told POLITICO. They argue that single-payer health care is an urgent priority amid a worldwide pandemic and the biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression….. The warning is all but certain to set up a clash between Sanders’ most dedicated supporters and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who opposes Medicare for All, at a time when the party is seeking to demonstrate unity ahead of its August convention. Though the petition signers have little chance of revising the platform to include Medicare for All support, they do have the numbers to draw attention to their protest and cause.” • Unless the DNC edits everything out of the Zoom feed (or whatever the tech is).

Trump (R)(1): “Trump goes all in on vaccines and therapeutics” [Axios]. “Top Trump advisers and GOP leadership have told the president in recent weeks that he needs to switch gears on the coronavirus and go all in on messaging about progress on vaccines and therapeutics. The big picture: The goal is to try to shift the focus of the election conversation to who would be better at reviving the economy. Administration officials say this is a key reason Trump restarted his briefings this week and that this rhetoric will only accelerate in the weeks to come. When scientists and health care researchers make big strides on vaccine and therapeutic development, the White House wants Trump at the podium, delivering the good news himself.” • That wasn’t hard to see coming…

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“The Establishment Is Gunning for Rashida Tlaib” [Jacobin]. “Like her colleague and close ally from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is facing a primary challenge with support from a political establishment that desperately wants her to go away. Unlike Omar, who is trailing in funds raised thanks to a massive influx of Wall Street and lobbyist cash, Tlaib does at least enjoy a clear lead in fundraising and is currently blowing out her opponent (Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones) by a whopping margin. But the challenge, which in many ways mirrors the recent effort to take down New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaks to the ongoing resolve of big Democratic donors and other establishment interests to neutralize the growing insurgency within their ranks.” • Gee, I wonder if the DNC blacklisted any of the challengers running against incumbents Tlaib, Omar, and AOC. Kidding!

“Inside 100 Days To The Presidential Election, 9 Things That Could Change The Race” [NPR]. “Biden’s advantage in those national surveys has come largely from a drop in Trump’s support rather than a big increase in the percentage of people saying they would vote for Biden. The Biden campaign has been saying for months during this surge that it expects the race to tighten, and no one should be surprised if it does….. With no bigger wildcard than Trump, we should all be prepared for the unexpected.” • Yep. Worth a read.



This won’t help you, Charles.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Fasten your seatbelts:

Frustratingly, Duncan doesn’t list the factors.

“Bartlet For America” (podcast) [The West Wing Thing]. • On The Great Assimilation™ (though it’s not named).

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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 Texas Manufacturing Marginally Improves” [Econintersect]. “Of the four Federal Reserve districts which have released their June manufacturing surveys – all are in expansion…. Important subindices new orders improved (remains in expansion) and unfilled orders improved (remains in expansion). This should be considered about the same as last month.”

Manufacturing: “Headline Durable Goods New Orders Improved In June 2020” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say the durable goods new orders improved for the second month. Our analysis shows the rolling averages improved…. The data this month was within expectations – however, the previous month was revised down. In the adjusted data, the improvement was in automobiles – with headwinds in aircraft and manufacturers who have unfilled orders.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 65 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 27 at 11:58am. Firmly in greed territory.

Rapture Index: Closes down one again on Beast Government. “The government movement is having trouble with world unity” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 181. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.)

The Biosphere

“Flaring from Unconventional Oil and Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas” [Environmental Health Perspectives]. “Our study suggests exposure to flaring from [Oil and Gas Development] is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. Our findings need to be confirmed in other populations.”

“A Guide To Homemade Mulch” [A Guide to Homemade Mulch]. “Expert gardeners from the Texas A&M University Extension also say that if done properly, a well-mulched garden can yield 50 percent more vegetables than an unmulched garden of the same size. You can get mulch at your local garden center for a pretty penny, but there are also a number of ways to make your own for much cheaper. You can use a cocktail of materials for effective mulch or opt for a single ingredient. This guide will give you a variety of options.” • Avoid garden centers! You don’t know what’s in that mulch. (Casella’s mulch in Maine was made from sewage and gawd knows what was in it but it felt dry and dead when I rubbed it between my fingers.) Let “nothing mulchable leaves the property” be your guide. As we see–

“Contaminated compost: How an industrial herbicide is ruining backyard gardens” [The Counter]. “[Clopyralid,] along with aminopyralid and picloram and a few other varieties, are all known as ‘persistent herbicides’ because they take a long time to break down. All of them are commonly used on golf courses and hayfields where they’re deployed to kill problematic broadleaf weeds. Even though state rules (which vary) are supposed to prevent clopyralid-contaminated grass, wheat, or other clippings from ending up in compost, cases like the [ruined community gardens] in Portland are not uncommon. If an animal like a horse or cow eats feed that has been sprayed with clopyralid, the herbicide can pass through the digestive tract and come out in the manure still active, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. This contaminated animal manure can also make its way to local composting companies. Clopyralid leaves grass or hay intact while killing pesky broadleaf weeds like thistles and dandelions, according to Rick Carr, farm director and compost specialist for the Rodale Institute, a nonprofit that researches organic farming methods. This has led to its popularity on everything from rangelands and pastures to golf courses. But it’s now finding its way into compost facilities through clippings from sprayed lawns and clopyralid-laced manure.”

“Sultry Nights and Magnolia Trees: New York City Is Now Subtropical” [New York Times]. “It was the fig trees that tipped him off. Something was very unusual at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was May in the early 2000s and Chris Roddick, the head arborist there, was making his rounds when he noticed a big mistake. Months ago, a gardener had forgotten to wrap the fig trees in burlap, which protects them over the winter — an annual rite handed down from immigrants who brought them over from Italy 100 years before. Mr. Roddick expected them to be damaged, perhaps even destroyed. But they were fine. Actually, they looked great. That year the garden reaped a phenomenal bounty of ripe figs.” • Yikes!

Health Care

“Virus vaccine put to final test in thousands of volunteers” [Associated Press]. “The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government — one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race. There’s still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect. The needed proof: Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked. Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month. But the U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country and has set a high bar: Every month through fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate — each one with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers. The massive studies aren’t just to test if the shots work — they’re needed to check each potential vaccine’s safety. And following the same study rules will let scientists eventually compare all the shots.” • That actually sounds rational, and couples nicely with Operation Warp Speed.

“Particle sizes of infectious aerosols: implications for infection control” [The Lancet]. “. The purpose of this Viewpoint is to review the scientific literature on the aerosols generated by individuals with respiratory infections, and to discuss how these data inform the optimal use of masks, respirators, and other infection-control measures to protect health-care workers from those aerosols. This is not a review of the literature on the use of surgical masks or respirators, as several have been done already.” • If you work in health care, this might be useful. (It’s not about SARS-COV-2 as such, but about the size of the particles that bear the virus through the air.)

“The Best Ad Slogans to Get Americans to Wear Masks” [Bloomberg]. “”My first thought is to have our military promote it by saying, ‘We’re out here protecting America. You could do the same thing in America and wear a mask,’” said Graf, the founder and former chief creative officer of Barton F. Graf, an ad agency that recently closed.” • Hmm.

“You Can Stop Cleaning Your Mail Now” [The Atlantic]. “In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines to clarify that while COVID-19 spreads easily among speakers and sneezers in close encounters, touching a surface ‘isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.’ Other scientists have reached a more forceful conclusion. ‘Surface transmission of COVID-19 is not justified at all by the science,’ Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told me. He also emphasized the primacy of airborne person-to-person transmission. There is a historical echo here. After 9/11, physical security became a national obsession, especially in airports, where the Transportation Security Administration patted down the crotches of innumerable grandmothers for possible explosives. My colleague Jim Fallows repeatedly referred to this wasteful bonanza as ‘security theater.’ COVID-19 has reawakened America’s spirit of misdirected anxiety, inspiring businesses and families to obsess over risk-reduction rituals that make us feel safer but don’t actually do much to reduce risk—even as more dangerous activities are still allowed. This is hygiene theater.” • I understand the metaphor. But in my own personal practice, it seems to me like those aerosols have to land somewhere, and the virus is capricious. So I will continue wiping down my computer with rubbing alchohol, wiping off light switches and doorknobs, etc. (I never did wash vegetables, but I do wash milk cartons, because they are refrigerated, which can preserve the virus for long periods.)

I hate to, er, platform an insurance company-funded lobbyist paid to prevent #MedicareForAll can be right, but Slavitt has the right of it. Good thread:

Now, if you read the thread with an eye to political economy — unemployment insurance is not the only thing that workers thrown out of work need — there are weaknesses. But solely from the public health perspective, Slavitt is right.

“Maine’s community health centers need long-term funding” [Bangor Daily News]. “Thanks in large part to Maine’s rational approach to the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases in our state remains relatively stable. Yet, we cannot overlook the toll that the pandemic has taken on our state’s economy and on our health and well-being. Loss of jobs and income is increasing mental, emotional and physical stress at a time when the ability to pay for medical care is decreasing. With Maine’s economy so heavily dependent on seasonal cycles of tourism and natural resources, we will feel the economic impacts of this pandemic for many long months to come. … Maine’s community health centers serve more than 210,000 people annually, a number that will most likely rise from the economic downturn. Seventy locations throughout the state provide services on a sliding fee scale, offering affordable health care options to all residents, including those who are just above the threshold for Medicaid coverage. Community health centers are Maine’s health care safety nets because no one is turned away. Community health centers are on financial shaky ground, however, because Congress has failed to allocate sufficient emergency funding during the pandemic and has yet to reauthorize long-term funding for community health centers as it has done for decades. Unless Congress acts quickly, millions of Americans could lose access to health care services that they depend on.”

Police State Watch

“Windows smashed, courthouse lobby set ablaze following huge Saturday night rally in Oakland” [San Francisco Chronicle]. Interestingly: “Most people in the diverse crowd were wearing masks, from bandannas to full respirators.” More: “A fire was set at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse, and police station windows were smashed hours after protesters had peacefully marched from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza along Broadway.” • “Huge” equal thousands.

“More LA Protests Underway Sunday After Turbulent Night” [Patch]. Also interesting: “The Daily Bruin tweeted a video showing one counter-protester in the midst of the group being shouted at by demonstrators for not wearing a face covering.” More: “[I]t was at the federal prison that some demonstrators ramped things up a notch, smashing three window panes — one kicked in, another smashed with a skateboard, writing “FTP” — a profane anti-police slogan — across adjacent windows and blacking out part of the facility’s emblem with spray- paint.”

“City Hall, jail vandalized during Sacramento march. One woman was arrested, police said” [Sacramento Bee]. Nothing on masks: “But after about 150 protesters broke off from the main group and began their own downtown march, windows at City Hall were shattered and protest slogans were spray-painted onto the front doors of the Sacramento County Main Jail. Along H and I streets, large trash bins were dragged into the roadway, blocking traffic. Police radio dispatches indicated that one person, armed with a chainsaw, was cutting down branches from nearby trees and leaving them strewn about.”


“How water sustains movements from North Carolina to the borderlands” [Southerly]. “On a sweltering evening last month, I attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Durham, three hours west of Asheville. Community members had set up water stations in front of bars and restaurants and hauled water bottles in wheelbarrows and shopping carts. After hours of marching, I sensed a metallic taste in my mouth — one of the initial symptoms of dehydration. Almost instantly, I found a water station. As I tipped back the paper cup, the relief reminded me that water sustains dissent and energizes movements. In the desert, we wrote words of encouragement with sharpies for migrants to continue their journeys — an affirmation of their crossing, a show of solidarity. Thousands of miles away, this offered the same message. It was a practice of radical care.”

Groves of Academe

Debate still exists. I suppose:

The Tube

“Beavis and Butt-Head are Coming Back and They’re Dads” [The Dad]. “The revival is part of Comedy Central’s efforts to double down on animated content geared towards adults, as they try to program more shows to pair with ‘South Park.’ The news is already firing up fans on social media, who are mostly reduced to GIFs and an endless stream of “heh heh heh ehehs.’”

Is this a valid interpretation:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Bill by Sen. Tom Cotton targets curriculum on slavery” [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]. Cotton: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.” • This is uncomfortably close to the “positive good” theory promoted by pre-Civil War slavery advocates. Interestingly, the Democrat-Gazette lists the critiques of the project form historicians, and the Times walkback in response to those critiques — Hannah-Jones won her Pulitzer for commentary, not as a historian — but doesn’t cite to their source: WSWS, the only publication with the guts to take on the topic. Although for different reasons than Cotton gives, under no circumstances should the 1619 Project be taught to children.

News of the Wired

For the student who has trouble writing a paper to the required length:

Changing period sizes is GENIUS!!!! The kids are alright!


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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 (AM):

AM writes: “Backyard – hard to photograph due to height differences. Garden came with the house, apart from the roses, not sure what everything is.” Those chairs look like they’d be really nice to sit in, and just take the garden in.

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