/2:00PM Water Cooler 8/10/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 8/10/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, more on Politics shortly. –lambert


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 here are the United States regions:

Data: “Covid Cases Go Undercounted With Muddy Data From U.S. States” [Bloomberg]. • Just a mess, and going on for months. And oddly, we never heard a thing about it from the CDC, whether in the crisis, or before the crisis hit (which would have been the time to have handled it).

CA: “California to towns defying the COVID-19 shutdown: No cash for you” [Los Angeles Times]. “With just 12 confirmed cases, the City Council in mid-May declared Atwater a “sanctuary city” for business, allowing all businesses to reopen in defiance of California’s shutdown orders.” • Hilarious to see “sanctuary city” repurposed. More: “Unless Atwater scraps its sanctuary city resolution, the state will withhold up to $387,428 for which the city is eligible because it is violating state public health rules, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services told city leaders late last month. The tussle comes as COVID-19 cases have exploded in Merced County. The county had 5,012 confirmed cases as of Friday. On June 6, it had just 343 cases. Atwater had 831 confirmed cases as of Friday. On June 6, it had confirmed 32 cases…. Among the facilities in Merced County with an active COVID-19 outbreak is the Walmart Supercenter in Atwater, according to the county.” • Yikes.


“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 10: 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): “Willie Brown: Kamala Harris should ‘politely decline’ any offer to be Biden’s running mate” [The Hill]. “Brown suggested Harris could be more effective, and better positioned for an ongoing political career, as U.S. attorney general. ‘Given the department’s current disarray under William Barr, just showing up and being halfway sane will make the new AG a hero,’ he wrote. ‘Best of all, being attorney general would give Harris enough distance from the White House to still be a viable candidate for the top slot in 2024 or 2028, no matter what the state of the nation.’” • Oof. I wonder who told Brown to give the word to Harris? Brown’s royalty; he wouldn’t do this for some hackish junior. Brown speaking: “I could not love thee (Dear) so much,. Lov’d I not Honour Barack more.”

* * *

* * *

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 Conference Board Employment Index Insignificantly Improves and Remains Deep In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index – which forecasts employment for the next 6 months recovered marginally again after the coronavirus crash with the authors saying ‘Despite increasing again, the ETI’s July results mark a small improvement compared to the gains made in May and June. The slowing momentum likely resulted from the diminishing impact of the reopening of the economy.’ [But] The bottom line is that I doubt you can forecast using traditional methods what employment will look like six months from today.”

Employment Situation: “June 2020 Headline JOLTS Job Openings Rate Improved But Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The unadjusted data this month remained well below average for the rate of growth seen in the last year. With this low average rate of growth, JOLTS is predicting lower employment growth than we have seen over the past year. Jolts predicted the slowing of employment growth. However, the pandemic effects will drive this data.”

* * *

Construction: “‘Horrible sequence of mistakes’: How bullet train contractors botched a bridge project” [Los Angeles Times]. Everything is like CalPERS:

A series of errors by contractors and consultants on the California bullet train venture caused support cables to fail on a massive bridge, triggering an order to stop work that further delayed a project already years behind schedule, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Times under a public records request show the steel supports snapped as a result of neglect, work damage, miscommunications and possible design problems.

The problems on the Road 27 bridge reveal project management hitches that have dogged the bullet train for years. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has five separate layers of consultants and contractors on the bridge. Any one of them could have identified a long series of errors, but it appears no one did so.

Oh, and:

The bridge is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan for a 171-mile, $20.4-billion bullet train operation from Merced to Bakersfield.

Stories like this fill me with rage and despair. China built a 10,000km high-speed rail network in ten years. We can’t even build 171 miles of high speed rail from [family blogging] Merced to [family blogging] Bakersfield. We can’t even build a bridge that doesn’t collapse. Same deal on the other Coast: We can’t build a new tunnel under the Hudson for the Northeast Corridor when we know the existing tunnel is going to fail. Good thing there aren’t similar problems with all that expensive weaponry we’ve sold ourselves and our “allies.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 75 Extreme Greed (previous close: 72 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 7 at 12:00pm. Greed now extreme. Remarkable.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Earthquakes. “The largest quake since 1916 hits North Carolina” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.)

Health Care

“The Great Covid-19 Versus Flu Comparison Revisited” [Bloomberg]. “After much back and forth in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, a consensus is emerging that the overall risk of dying for those infected with the disease — at least so far, in a population with an age distribution roughly similar to that of the U.S. or Europe — is about 6 or 7 in 1,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upwardly revised its “best estimate” of the fatality rate in July to 0.65% from 0.26%. An occasionally updated “meta-analysis” by Australian researchers Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz and Lea Merone of all relevant studies on the disease has it at 0.68%. This isn’t much below the approximately 1% estimated in a Feb. 10 study by the Covid-19 disease-modeling group at Imperial College London, which was adopted as a provisional consensus by many in the epidemiology and public health communities. [We can] conservatively calculate an infection fatality rate of 0.065% — exactly one-tenth what the CDC currently estimates for Covid-19.” • The full article is really good and worth a read (and it’s not quite as cut-and-dried as my excerpts suggest. See, for example, the four (4) methods of figuring the “infection fatality rate to influenza.”

“Statistical dark arts endanger democracy — and life” [Nature]. “Yet there are missed opportunities. Most importantly, the referencing is below par. The authors assert that, to verify a claim, one must “dig to the source”. Why, then, does Calling Bullshit not use citation footnotes? Instead, it presents a chapter-specific alphabetized literature list and the unappealing prospect of guessing which references are relevant to what. A claim such as “Most people think they’re pretty good at spotting bullshit” might not be supported by any empirical research; it is difficult to tell (I could find no references for it in the list). Neither is there a figure listing. So how can we evaluate a graph suggesting that, around 2001, television channels Fox News and CNN had roughly similar ideological orientations — could this be balderdash? In that case, the source paper is listed at the back of the book, but I wonder how many will dig for it.”

“Your Old Radiator Is a Pandemic-Fighting Weapon” [Bloomberg]. “The Spanish Influenza, which caused just over 20,000 deaths in New York City alone, “changed heating once and for all.” That’s according to Dan Holohan, a retired writer, consultant, and researcher with extensive knowledge of heating systems and steam heating. (Among his many tomes on the topic: The Lost Art of Steam Heating, from 1992.) Most radiator systems appeared in major American cities like New York City in the first third of the 20th century. This golden age of steam heat didn’t merely coincide with that pandemic: Beliefs about how to fight airborne illness influenced the design of heating systems, and created a persistent pain point for those who’ve cohabitated with a cranky old radiator. …. According to Holohan’s research, the Board of Health in New York City ordered that windows should remain open to provide ventilation, even in cold weather. In response, engineers began devising heating systems with this extreme use case in mind. Steam heating and radiators were designed to heat buildings on the coldest day of the year with all the windows open. Anybody who’s thrown their windows open in January, when their apartment is stifling, is, in an odd way, replicating what engineers hoped would happen a century ago.” • Amazing! My “This Old House” is steam-heated and I love the engineering’s ruggedness and simplicity; once you get steam properly tuned, it works great. I bought Holohan’s book to understand my system, and I highly recommend it.

“Statement from Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and its Use in COVID-19” [Medium]. • A statement against Harvey Risch’s defense of Hydroxychloroquine here. I think Risch’s central claim is this: “I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations.” If this claim is correct, at some point the data will be produced. I am with Tricia Greenhalgh: “In a complex system, the question driving scientific inquiry is not ‘what is the effect size and is it statistically significant once other variables have been controlled for?’ but ‘does this intervention contribute, along with other factors, to a desirable outcome?’”

“Antiviral activity of green tea and black tea polyphenols in prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19: A review” [Phytomedicine]. From the conclusion: “This review summarizes the available reports and evidences which support the use of tea polyphenols as potential candidates in prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.” • Worth noting that Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian countries tend to drink more tea than Western Countries — though I suppose the UK drinks a lot of tea, too (though not green tea. Black tea?).

* * *

Police State Watch

Learning from Hong Kong:

Without graffitti and street art, this exhibit doesn’t really look like the Portland Protests on the ground. There, I have an aesthetic reaction, and its negative. That probably says more about me than anything else. I did not, however, have such a reaction with any of the Occupy movements.


When I had my first Mac I got hooked for three days some sort of early Tetris variant. It was clear I would never get anything done if I kept on with computer games, so I swore off them. Thread:

Remember when you could actually own software? Anyhow, lots of history on this thread!

Feral Hog Watch

About the boar that stole the nude guy’s laptop the other day:

Who said that Art History degree was worthless?

Guillotine Watch

Marie Antoinette would love it:

“Passports for purchase: How the elite get through a pandemic” [CNN]. “For most people, the coronavirus pandemic has meant fewer travel options. Not so for super-rich families who are increasingly using their money to cross borders that would otherwise be closed to them. This is the elite world of investment migration, where passport applications are based not on nationality or citizenship, but on wealth and the willingness to move it around the planet. These so-called citizen-by-investment programs, or CIPs, are currently a growth industry, as are residence-by-investment arrangements, also known as ‘golden visas.’ They’re a way for ultra-rich individuals to not only diversify their portfolio by moving their money into a country, but also receive the benefits of citizenship, including a new passport. Over the past five to 10 years, the primary motivations amongst CIP participants — who tend to have a net worth of anywhere from $2 million to over $50 million — have been freedom of movement, tax benefits and lifestyle factors, such as better education or civil liberties. But with Covid-19 dramatically transforming our 2020, some elite families are also considering healthcare, pandemic responses and potential safe havens to ensure they have a backup plan for the future.” • When, oh when, will there be a Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong, so the likes of me can just buy a passport?

Class Warfare

Massive takedown. Thread:

New of the Wired

“Can Bullet Journaling Save You?” [The New Yorker]. • Bullet journaling seems sort of lie scrapbooking for professionals to me, but maybe I’m being too harsh. Do any NC readers keep a bullet journal?

* * *

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 (AC):

AC writes: “Some saguaros outside Tucson, AZ (the saguaros were shot with an infrared filter which turns their green surfaces white…).” Onward and upward!” My mentor, NC commenter the late Isolato was quite taken with infrared.

Regarding Kinnucan’s millet the other day, 1 SK via email:


You got lucky to plant MILLET. It is a great grain nutritionally and healthwise.

You can EAT IT instead of rice or wheat flour products in everything like bread, pancake Pasta, cereals cookie etc. It has more fiber which is in the entire grain (not only on the surface) and is helpful with diabetes prevention and also naturally facilitates elimination.

It is not just for the birds and has been consumed for centuries in Asian countries, like India. Plant requires lot less water to grow.

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Original Source