/2:00PM Water Cooler 8/5/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 8/5/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Here are the bottom five of the top ten problem states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, and Illinois, with Georgia for comparison:

And just for grins, the Swing States (from 270toWin):

Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Nebraska, Ohio.


“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. August 3: Still no changes.

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 hits back at reporter asking if he took a cognitive test: ‘Are you a junkie?’” [Politico]. “Joe Biden rebuked a reporter who asked if the former vice president had taken a cognitive test, claiming that asking the question was similar to asking the interviewer if he was using cocaine. CBS correspondent Errol Barnett prompted the presumptive Democratic nominee to clarify if he had taken a test measuring his mental acuity, leading to a tense exchange.” • Video and transcript:

Barnett is, of course, Black.

Biden (D)(2): “Biden Would End Border Wall Construction, But Wouldn’t Tear Down Trump’s Additions” [NPR]. • Why the heck not? (From the same presser as above, which seems to have been exciting.)

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): Senator Chris Murphy, a “rising Democratic star,” is “The Senator of State” and part of Biden’s foreign policy kitchen cabinet:

So the problem is not the coup itself… I think we can infer that Biden’s foreign policy will have many continuities with the previous two administrations (granted, he might renegotiate the Iran deall, if that’s possible, one of Obama’s few actual achievements).

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On the astonishing Cori Bush win in Missouri:


Realignment and Legitimacy

“Breakup sex” [Interfluidity]. “The metaphor for how I think that “we” (for a suitably nebulous we) should deal with the 2020 election is “breakup sex”. Our current relationship with the Democratic Party is intolerable…. We’ve tried for two Presidential election cycles to reform the party from the inside, using the primary process, and not succeeded, both for reasons fair and foul…. Within the Democratic Party our values are undermined, coopted, sacrificed on the alter of a cynical realism that the well-remunerated realists quietly prefer. If we split from the Democratic Party, we hand power to a coalition that is, at the moment, an unabashedly fascist death cult. Things are tough all over. This is intolerable. We have to find a way out. I think there is a way out…. So, breakup sex. I think, in this year of our lord 2020, we should actively, enthusiastically, passionately support the Democratic Party and the prototype institutional Democrat who leads its ticket…. As soon as the election has passed, I think we should form a distinct organization that would not be a political party in the sense of participating in our country’s deeply flawed public primary process, but that would, like a political party, sometimes moot its own candidates for public office and help get them placed on ballots (whether as organization representatives or notional independents). Sometimes is an important word in that description. Most of the time, it hopefully would not. The organization would simply endorse the Democratic party candidate, keeping whole the not-Republican coalition. But, if a high (supermajority) threshold of the membership decides that the Democrat would not represent our values effectively, that the risk of spoiling the election is acceptable given whoever the Republican would be and is outweighed by the possibility our better candidate might win, then we would run that candidate and organize on their behalf with energy and unconflicted enthusiasm. Defecting from the Democratic Party, when it makes sense, makes much more sense as a collective rather than individual choice…. During a Biden administration, there will be a huge battle over who must be betrayed — corporations and donors, or us. For now, the best way to wage that fight is to be an indispensable part of this election’s coalition. Beginning in November 4th, we organize to credibly threaten to take our indispensable selves elsewhere if it is us who is betrayed.” • Maybe. Interestingly, that was similar to DSA’s strategy.

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.

Employment Situation: “July 2020 ADP Employment Gains 167,000” [Econintersect]. “ADP reported non-farm private jobs growth at 167,000 which was SIGNIFICANTLY below expectations. A quote from the ADP authors: ‘The labor market recovery slowed in the month of July.’ Last month’s employment gain significantly revised upward. It will be interesting to see what the BLS says is the jobs growth.ADP employment has not been a good predictor of BLS non-farm private job growth.”

Services: “July 2020 ISM and Markit Services Surveys Again Improve” [Econintersect]. “The ISM services survey is in a territory associated with a relatively strong expansion whilst the Markit Services index is showing no growth. Just looking around tells you that the Markit Services is likely in the correct value. It is obvious the ISM survey did not include bars and restaurants.”

Trade: “June 2020 Trade Improved But Remains Deep In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “Trade data headlines show the trade balance improved with both imports and exports increasing…. The data in this series wobbles and the 3-month rolling averages are the best way to look at this series. The 3-month average rate of growth declined for imports and exports – and is now deeper in contraction.”

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Tech: “Google Pay Partners With Six More Banks With Digital Banking On The Rise” [Forbes]. “Google isn’t the only big tech company to make the push into financial services, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple have all made strides because it is another way to gain valuable user data. A sizable share of consumers trust big tech with their financial needs, according to the McKinsey survey, which found Amazon was the most-trusted at 65%, followed by Google with 58%, Apple with 56% and Facebook with 35%.” • Those trust numbers don’t seem very high, given that, well, it’s my money.

Manufacturing: “HOTR: Boeing warns of forward losses on 787, 777X programs” [Leeham News and Analysis]. “In another demonstration of the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis, Boeing warned that two flagship airplane programs could face forward losses. Neither the 787 nor the 777X are in forward loss positions yet. A forward loss means Boeing won’t make money on the program. Despite the 787 incurring more than $30bn in deferred costs, Boeing hasn’t taken a write down.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 69 Greed (previous close: 67 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 5 at 11:50am. Solid greed. Starting to get dull.

Health Care

“Immunology Is Where Intuition Goes to Die” [The Atlantic]. This is worth reading in full. I’m just going to quote the lead, because we need more jokes: “There’s a joke about immunology, which Jessica Metcalf of Princeton recently told me. An immunologist and a cardiologist are kidnapped. The kidnappers threaten to shoot one of them, but promise to spare whoever has made the greater contribution to humanity. The cardiologist says, ‘Well, I’ve identified drugs that have saved the lives of millions of people.’ Impressed, the kidnappers turn to the immunologist. ‘What have you done?’ they ask. The immunologist says, ‘The thing is, the immune system is very complicated …’ And the cardiologist says, “Just shoot me now.’”

“Selective and cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes in unexposed humans” [Science]. From the abstract: “Many unknowns exist about human immune responses to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. SARS-CoV-2 reactive CD4+ T cells have been reported in unexposed individuals, suggesting pre-existing cross-reactive T cell memory in 20-50% of people. However, the source of those T cells has been speculative…. [V]ariegated T cell memory to coronaviruses that cause the common cold may underlie at least some of the extensive heterogeneity observed in COVID-19 disease.” • Perhaps we have an immunology maven who can comment.

“What We Don’t Know About COVID-19 Can Hurt Us [Time]. “So how do countries avoid an indefinite, unsustainable, cycle of opening and closing society? What is needed to prevent a future of strict social distancing and closed borders? To escape this limbo, we need to know more about each step in the chain of infection: why some people are more susceptible or have more symptoms, how our interactions and surroundings influence risk, and how we can curb the impact of the resulting disease. Research around the globe has yielded some promising insights into these questions, but also some contradictory findings. Some studies suggest children are less susceptible to disease, while others suggest they are less likely to spread infection too. There is evidence that some aspects of immunity against the virus may wane quickly, while others persist. Based on certain datasets, few individuals are truly asymptomatic; according to other studies, a larger proportion may be. Often when a new disease outbreak declines, we only later discover precisely why it took the shape it did.”

“Nine Important Things We’ve Learned about the Coronavirus Pandemic So Far” [Scientific American]. • From the Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American. I’m with her until the final paragraph, where she repeats what I regard as two flagrant errors. I don’t question her good faith, but I do think that “trust the science” cannot be adequate and turns all too easily into “trust the scientists” and then “trust this science” (and see Thomas Frank’s latest on the demand for deference by experts). But “trust the science insofar as your critical thinking skills allow you to do so” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Nor is critical thinking widely practiced; among other things, it’s the antithesis of partisanship.

“The nursing science behind nurses as coronavirus hospital heroes” [STAT]. “Like medicine, nursing is a scientific discipline, and it’s time people see nurses as more than just angels or heroes. Nurses are not kind and heroic simply because they are good people, but because nursing science tells us that building relationships with patients and treating the whole-person response to disease is therapeutic for their health…. We define nursing like this: Nursing is the diagnosis and treatment of the human response to health and disease. This is distinct from medicine, which is about the diagnosis and treatment of disease itself…. Nursing does not lend itself well to the -ology verbiage typical of medical science, but perhaps that’s fitting because nursing science is different than many other types.” • Yeah, but the -ologies are easy to bill for. You can code for them.

Feral Hog Watch

Has it really been a year:

Bible Corner

“Religious Groups Received $6-10 Billion In COVID-19 Relief Funds, Hope For More” [NPR]. “Among those receiving multi-million dollar forgivable loans were some of the best known evangelical churches in the country, including the First Baptist Church of Dallas and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, received $5-10 million in relief aid, as did the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).” • That’s nice. Can we tax them now? (I should actually be charitable, given how Chris Arnade shows how religion plays a real role in the lives of the backrow kids, but somehow I don’t think it’s the storefront churches that are really profting from this windfall.)

The Louvin Brothers, a thread:

“Broad Minded”

“Satan Is Real”

The straight stuff. The harmonies, though! For contrast:

The straight stuff, though in a different way…

Groves of Academe

“Operation Varsity Blues: Elite Anxiety, Not Elite Privilege” [The American Conservative]. “How did a washed-up basketball coach like Singer work his way into the private homes of not just the Hollywood elite but even Silicon Valley royalty like venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins? One reason is that he did the parenting they wouldn’t. Unacceptable notes again and again how much clients appreciated the way Singer would give their kids tough love and pep talks — every coach’s specialty, as anyone who played high school sports remembers. He did the nagging they were too cool to do themselves. “Jack, we’re going to get those grades up, right?” Singer exhorted one client’s son. “What can you commit to?’ Is Unacceptable a story about privilege? A scandal as juicy as this one seems like should say something about society, and that’s the moral most people have drawn from it: rich parents game the admissions system to give their kids unfair advantages. But the dominant emotion among Singer’s clients was not arrogance but anxiety.” • Anxiety is perfectly compatible with “Predatory precarity,” as Steve Randy Waldman calls it.

Guillotine Watch

“For richer and poorer, Uncle Sam’s coronavirus response widened the gulf” [NBC]. “Near the New York state line in Greenwich, however, Peter Brant’s White Birch Farm had no problem getting a taxpayer-backed windfall. The sprawling estate houses one of his family’s mansions and a thoroughbred facility for his polo horses…. When Congress and President Donald Trump created the loan program, they were clear that the intention was to protect workers from layoffs. No one said anything about providing for the upkeep of personal polo grounds or ensuring that the ultra-rich, like Brant, could improve their balance sheets with backing from taxpayers.” • Oops. I can accept a certain amount of sloppiness from shoveling the money out as fast as possible; after all, poverty actually went down (something Obama never achieved with his miserably inadequate stimulus package). But polo ponies? Really?

Class Warfare

“‘Life In the Iron Mills’ Told of the Suffering of America’s Working Classes” [Teen Vogue]. On Rebecca Harding Davis Life in the Iron Mills (!): “Class divisions were redrawn like battle lines, with wealthy capitalists and industrialists indulging their whims for gorgeous mansions while the poor and working classes were squeezed into rickety boarding houses, stinking tenements, and dank cellars. When new immigrants came in hopes of building better lives for themselves and their families, they were swept up into the labor pool by greedy bosses who saw a chance to extract as much value from their bodies as possible. It was a miserable time to be alive without the benefit of also being rich. Whether they were native born or came from elsewhere, a 19th century factory worker’s living conditions were utterly grim; diseases ran rampant, sewage pooled in the streets, and people of all ages starved — physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Wage slavery was a death sentence. Some workers paid the cost of urban living with their blood, sweat, and tears, and managed to carve out something resembling a decent existence; others struggled, living hand to mouth, their bodies and spirits broken as soon as they could walk. An unfathomable number paid with their lives. And for a very long time, their stories were left untold.”

“Virtuoso Consumer Flawlessly Exchanges Currency For Goods” [The Onion]. • M-C within C-M-C 🙂

New of the Wired

“The Sociologist Who Could Save Us From Coronavirus” [Adam Tooze, Foreign Policy]. “In risk society, we become radically dependent on specialized scientific knowledge to define what is and what is not dangerousIn risk society, we become radically dependent on specialized scientific knowledge to define what is and what is not dangerous in advance of encountering the dangers themselves. We become, as Beck puts it, “incompetent in matters” of our “own affliction.” Alienated from our faculties of assessment, we lose an essential part of our “cognitive sovereignty.” The harmful, the threatening, the inimical lies in wait everywhere, but whether it is inimical or friendly is “beyond one’s own power of judgment.” We thus face a double shock: a threat to our health and survival and a threat to our autonomy in gauging those threats. As we react and struggle to reassert control, we have no option but to “become small, private alternative experts in risks of modernization.” We take a crash course in epidemiology and educate ourselves about “R zero.” But that effort only sucks us deeper into the labyrinth…. the more we know, the more we realize that we are not the only ones judging. Every interested party is picking and choosing its sources. It is an enlightening but also shocking exposure to how the sausage of modern knowledge is truly made.” • This is a really excellent article from Tooze, and my excerpt doesn’t do it justice. Worth reading in full.

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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 (MF):

MF writes: “This was taken during a visit to the Poison Garden at Blarney Castle last fall. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the plant’s name (and image search failed me).” Readers?

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