/2:00PM Water Cooler 11/6/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/6/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

More hot takes soon! As usual, there’s far too much to process! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

Case count by United States region:

Waiting for the line to go vertical…

Test positivity by region:

Case fatality rate by region:

Here again the Northeast (orange) really stands out.


“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

2020 Hot Takes

Good question (1):

Good question (2):

Biden and the Obama Alumni Association do have form.

What do we learn, Palmer:

Now they can stand down:

2020 Democrats in Disarray

Money money money money, money [Repeat: x 6] (1):

Money money money money, money [Repeat: x 6] (2):

Grifters gotta grift.

Excellent thread from AOC worth reading in full:

One thing I like about AOC is that she does her homework.

This video includes Stoller’s superb rant on ObamaCare (“It’s like if someone hired a plumber to fix the sink and he didn’t….):

I’m sort of amazed Stoller went on Nomiki Konst’s show; this Nomiki Konst.


The call everyone was waiting for:

“Biden campaign tells staffers to ‘enjoy this moment’” [NBC]. “A top Biden aide said not to expect to hear from Joe Biden until Friday in prime time, assuming the race is called by then…. The Biden campaign held its usual communications staff call earlier Friday, led by Communications Director Kate Bedingfield. One person on it says that where she’s been reserved these last few days, the vibe Friday morning was ‘we did it.’ Staffers had previously been told, ‘don’t watch the news, keep your head down, do the work.’ But Friday morning, they were told: ‘This is the moment when you should be watching the news. They did the work, now enjoy this moment.’ For a campaign staff that has tried to be reserved these last 48+ hours, this feels like a breaking of the emotional dam.” • Break out the Victory Gin!

“In Torrent of Falsehoods, Trump Claims Election Is Being Stolen” [New York Times]. “Most television networks cut away from the statement President Trump gave Thursday night from the White House briefing room on the grounds that what he was saying was not true.” • Well, I’m glad that precedent’s been set. More: “Others believe that he will concede if it is clear he has lost, but that he will most likely never publicly accept the result.” • The focus on whether Trump will concede or not strikes me as bizarre. There’s no Constitutional requirement for it, unless the Norms Fairy added a clause when I wasn’t looking.

Why not the basement?

“Pelosi formally seeks another 2 years as speaker” [Politico]. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants another two-year term running the House, cementing her role — for now — as the most powerful woman in Washington…. Pelosi has served as the Democratic leader since 2002, and the vast majority of her colleagues have never known anyone else running their caucus… House Democrats will formally begin choosing their leaders on Nov. 18. No challenger to Pelosi is expected to emerge, and none could defeat her, although a small number of disgruntled House Democrats want a change atop her caucus.”

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GA: “Georgia Presidential Race Likely Headed For Recount, Secretary Of State Says” [NPR]. “Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters that the state will conduct a recount given the razor-thin margin between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump. ‘The focus for our office and for the county elections officials for now remains on making sure that every legal vote is counted and recorded accurately,’ Raffensperger said. ‘As we are closing in on a final count, we can begin to look toward our next steps. With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia,’ he predicted.”

NV: “Nevada Republican Party sends criminal referral to DOJ alleging thousands of cases of voter fraud” [The Hill]. “The Washington Post reported that the party’s lawyers sent Barr a list of voters identified by cross-checking voter registration names and addresses with the National Change of Address database. Nevada law allows residents to cast ballots after moving out of state if they are serving in the military, a spouse of someone in the military or attending school. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada pointed out in a tweet Thursday following the criminal referral announcement that voters in the state do not lose their eligibility to vote when they leave the state temporarily…. [Joe Gloria, Clark County’s registrar of voters] also said Thursday that the bulk of ballots in Clark County would likely be counted by the weekend, adding that the processing of ballots will not be complete until Nov. 12.”

NV: “What Happens In Vegas May Not Stay In Vegas: Why The Nevada Challenge Could Be Important To The Presidential Election” [Jonathan Turley]. “the Nevada Republican Party has sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department alleging at least 3,062 instances of voter fraud in the battleground state. The referral is substantially less than the “10,000” referenced earlier but the underlying allegation is still important. The early concern for many of us was that the system established in Clark County would be difficult to review for violations due to how the tabulation was handled and the record preserved.The allegations over ineligible voting were raised before Election Day. Many states like Nevada are relying on notoriously outdated voter lists and applying fairly lax standards for confirming the identity of voters for mail-in ballots. In Nevada, this is a particular concern because many workers moved out of the state due to the pandemic’s impact on the casino industry. You cannot vote if you moved out of the state over 30 days prior to the balloting. The problem is the accuracy of state voting and residency records in showing such changes shortly before an election. Absent a system of authentication of residency and identification, it would be a system based on the honor system – an approach that no casino would allow even at the nickel slots section…. I have repeatedly stated that we must not make assumptions on either side. My concern is that it is not clear how a court could review these ballots in Clark County if it agrees that there appears to be systemic problems. If the court believes that thousands votes illegally, that lack of a record could prove the undoing of the state officials. At some point, the burden can shift and courts demand proof that a problem was not systemic. If they cannot, the question will be raised whether the same vulnerability existed in other states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Georgia. A court could be presented with a decision of when the unknowable becomes the unacceptable.

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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.

Employment Situation: “October 2020 BLS Jobs Situation – Employment Grew 638,000 But Still Down 8,394,000 Year-to-Date” [Econintersect]. “The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth continues to show a very good job gain and was near expectations, with the unemployment rate improving from 7.9 % to 6.9 %…. The economically intuitive sectors were positive for economic growth. The rate of further recovery will be dependant on the coronavirus effects.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 31 October 2020 – October Up 2.0%” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has two components – carloads and intermodal (containers or trailers on rail cars). Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. remains deep in contraction. This week again intermodal continued in expansion year-over-year and continues on a strengthening trendline. However, carloads remain in contraction. But overall, rail is on an improving trendline.”

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The Bezzle: “Uber reports 18% revenue decline but says ride-hailing business is picking back up” [CNBC]. “Uber’s third-quarter earnings are out, and the company reported losses of 62 cents per share and revenue of $3.13 billion. Bookings from deliveries outpaced bookings for rides and mobility again for Uber, as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to impact travel and commuting during the third quarter. Shares of Uber rallied mid-week after California voters approved Proposition 22, which allows ride-hail and delivery businesses to classify drivers as independent contractors not employees.”

The Bezzle: “Uber, Lyft paid $85K to firm of NAACP leader who backs their ballot measure” [CNET]. Missed this at the time. “The Yes on Proposition 22 campaign even secured an endorsement from Alice Huffman, a notable Black leader and president of the state’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People…. A little digging through campaign finance records, however, raises questions about the independence of Huffman’s support. In February, the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign began making $10,000 and $15,000 payments to AC Public Affairs, the small Sacramento-based consulting firm that Huffman runs with her sister. As of Sept. 30, the firm had brought in $85,000 from the campaign.” • I wonder if Kamala Harris — whose brother-in-law, Tony West, is Uber’s Chief Legal Officer, and whose sister, Maya, has worked in Uber’s policy department — will find Huffman a place in the incoming Democrat administration. I think she’d fit right in.

The Bezzle: “Airbnb to make IPO filing public next week despite COVID-19 surge: sources” [Reuters]. “The U.S. home rental company’s planned debut on the Nasdaq is set to be one of the largest stock market listings of 2020, amid a pandemic that has seen demand for house rentals surge as vacationers snub hotels to practice social distancing. Airbnb’s initial public offering filing will give outsiders their first detailed look into Airbnb’s business, shedding light on the company’s reinvention after the coronavirus outbreak pushed it to shift focus from city apartments to holiday homes. Airbnb plans to set an IPO price range and kick off an investor roadshow in December, the sources said, cautioning that the timing is subject to market conditions.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 34 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 5 at 11:37am. • Greed and Fear on. NOTE For those who wonder if we should keep running it, readers asked for it back after I took it away. Also, I like having a quick insight, however shallow, into Mr. Market’s psyche.

The Biosphere

“No Pattern Separation in the Human Hippocampus” [Trends in the Cognitive Sciences]. “Relatively recent evidence from human single-neuron recordings shows that, contrary to pattern separation, episodic memories are coded by context-independent and invariant engrams in the human hippocampus. Associations constitute the skeleton of episodic memories and are coded with partially overlapping assemblies, which prompts us to reconsider the view of episodic memory as mental time travel, and the distinction between episodic and semantic memory. A lack of pattern separation may explain human cognitive abilities, such as our unique powers of generalization and of creative and abstract thinking.

Pattern separation is a basic principle of neuronal coding that precludes memory interference in the hippocampus. Its existence is supported by numerous theoretical, computational, and experimental findings in different species. However, I argue that recent evidence from single-neuron recordings suggests that pattern separation may not be present in the human hippocampus and that memories are instead coded by the coactivation of invariant and context-independent engrams. This alternative model prompts a reassessment of the definition of episodic memory and its distinction from semantic memory. Furthermore, I propose that a lack of pattern separation in memory coding may have profound implications that could explain cognitive abilities that are uniquely developed in humans, such as our power of generalization and of creative and abstract thinking.” • Obviously, we should legalize psychedelics immediately!

“Wealthy countries edge towards global climate finance goal” [Reuters]. “Wealthy countries have ramped up financing to help developing countries cut carbon emissions and cope with the impact of climate change, although it is unclear if they will meet their goal of $100 billion this year.” • A hundred lousy billion?!

“Female hunters of the early Americas” [Science]. The abstract: “Sexual division of labor with females as gatherers and males as hunters is a major empirical regularity of hunter-gatherer ethnography, suggesting an ancestral behavioral pattern. We present an archeological discovery and meta-analysis that challenge the man-the-hunter hypothesis. Excavations at the Andean highland site of Wilamaya Patjxa reveal a 9000-year-old human burial (WMP6) associated with a hunting toolkit of stone projectile points and animal processing tools. Osteological, proteomic, and isotopic analyses indicate that this early hunter was a young adult female who subsisted on terrestrial plants and animals. Analysis of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene burial practices throughout the Americas situate WMP6 as the earliest and most secure hunter burial in a sample that includes 10 other females in statistical parity with early male hunter burials. The findings are consistent with nongendered labor practices in which early hunter-gatherer females were big-game hunters.”

“Horse mastery helped mysterious Mongolian warriors build a multiethnic empire” [Nature]. “To learn more about human migration across Central Asia, a team led by Choongwon Jeong of Seoul National University and Harvard University’s Christina Warinner sampled and sequenced DNA from human remains found in Mongolia… DNA from 60 human skeletons from the Xiongnu’s 300-year-run shows how the region was transformed into a multiethnic empire. After more than 1000 years in which three distinct, stable human populations lived side by side on the Mongolian steppe, genetic diversity rose sharply around 200 B.C.E. Populations from western and eastern Mongolia mixed with each other and with people carrying genes from as far away as present-day Iran and Central Asia. Such wide-ranging mixing has ‘never been seen before at that scale,’ Jeong says. ‘You can see the entire Eurasian genetic profile in the Xiongnu people.’ The results suggest mastery of the horse made possible stunning long-distance voyages on Central Asia’s sea of grass. Archaeological finds in the graves of Xiongnu elites, such as Roman glass, Persian textiles, and Greek silver, had suggested distant connections. But the genetic evidence suggests something more than trade. Eleven Xiongnu-period skeletons showed genetic signatures similar to those of the Sarmatians, nomad warriors who dominated the region north of the Black Sea, 2000 kilometers across the open steppe from Mongolia.”

Health Care

“What COVID-19 Exposed In Long-Term Care” [Health Affairs]. “We might have assumed as well a vigorous policy response to the problems that make senior facilities so vulnerable: the chronic underfinancing, inadequate clinical services, and fragile staffing that are all endemic to skilled nursing facilities. But, similarly, that response is yet to come. We’ve seen these underlying factors contribute significantly to the COVID-19 death toll in these facilities. The consequences of this: nearly 40 percent of US COVID-19 deaths were among seniors in all long-term care facilities. In late September 2020, the federal government had an opportunity for powerful intervention. The Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes, established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), released a report detailing its response to COVID-19 in nursing homes. However, the report, issued six months after our nation was aware of the death toll in nursing homes, failed to present a bold new vision for skilled nursing care. Although this cautious response is a disappointment, it comes as no surprise. The federal government followed a standard process: assemble academics, researchers, and thought leaders in a commission; charge them with determining consensus recommendations; publish a report; and hope that something will happen as a result. This is not what the circumstances demand.”

“Coronavirus: Oxford vaccine trial issues warning after participants share swabs with family and friends” [The Independent]. “Volunteers in the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine trial – on which hopes of ending the global pandemic may rest – have been sharing swabs with people not involved in the study, The Independent can reveal. A message to participants of the clinical trial, sent today from the Covid research team based at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals Trust in London and seen by The Independent, confirmed some positive infections identified by the trial had been tracked to people who were not participating in the study. Oxford University today confirmed the problem but said it was a small number of participants whose results could be easily identified and would not affect the final results…. But the actions of some participants drew criticism from one doctor in London, who is also a part of the trial. Speaking to The Independent, they said: ‘As both a doctor and a trial participant I am aware that the swabs I send in weekly are incredibly important to track the efficacy of this new vaccine. I am scared and angered in equal measure that some participants are jeopardising this critical study through submitting false data…. We cannot afford an increase in vaccine scepticism and behaviour like this risks giving ammunition to that cause. A good vaccine is our way out of this crisis and undermining the data quality of an essential study will add genuinely credible evidence to a cause usually based on disproportionate scaremongering and misinformation.’” •  E.M. Forster: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” And the guts to accept the subsequent shaming and scolding. I don’t think what the sharers have done is right; but a good doctor would, I think, make some effort to understand (and not center their own feelings of fear and anger. I don’t know if we’ve done a mass testing program where the test subjects, if randomly chosen, were more likely to be in desperate straits).

“Study Showing Masks Aren’t Harmful May Do More Harm Than Good” [MedScape]. For the study in question, n=25, and oxygen saturation was, oddly, the proxy for pulmonary well-being. “Since the authors of the paper, and the editors of JAMA are physicians, they well know that people who hold irrational beliefs are not persuaded by a study of 25 participants…. The editors knew the study proved nothing, but they still published it. In one day, the paper had more than 13,000 page views and an Altmetric score of 536. This paper will be cited often. The business model of medical journals is attention—page views, citations, and media coverage. That a top-tier medical journal publishes the equivalent of a high-school science project tempts me to believe that attention trumps scientific merit. Think about the next time JAMA publishes a really important finding—say, a study on vaccines. People turned cynical by the publishing of flawed attention-grabbing studies could reasonably think the journal editors are not fair judges of good science. When the important paper comes, scientists will now have to say, yes, yes, we know medical journals publish flawed studies for attention, but this really important paper is different…. In addition to attention, the findings of this study will surely be held up as a cudgel to persuade people to wear masks, the enforcement of which is a policy issue. When medical journals take sides in political debates, they lose the perception of impartiality. That is a problem because dealing with a pandemic requires people to cooperate. This requires trust. And trust is hard-won but easily lost.” • Amen.

The 420

“As Advocates Celebrate a ‘Renaissance,’ Could Psychedelics Become the Next Cannabis?” [Adweek]. “With new national attention comes a logical question: Are hallucinogens queuing up to be the new cannabis? Advocates acknowledge the short mental hop between both drug categories. But on a deeper level, they hasten to add that there are few direct parallels between the fast-growing legal cannabis industry, which added five states to the market on Tuesday, and the nascent psilocybin movement. For instance, shrooms will not be sold at the neighborhood dispensary, at least not in the foreseeable future. Still, the results in Oregon may be a harbinger of things to come. Americans increasingly indicate that they’re open to formerly verboten drugs as remedies. And as this recent election cycle proves, they’re voting in significant numbers for decriminalization.” • I would love to see both corporations and advertisers/marketers forbidden to enter the marijuana or hallucinogen market, and everything given to small growers. Utopian, I know.

Our Famously Free Press

It’s hard to come up with a lead-in for perfection:

Class Warfare

Interesting anecdote:

Interesting method, too. Readers, can you confirm?

News of the Wired

“How to Ace Coding Interviews – Advice from a Former Amazon Dev” [Hackernoon]. • “Learn to code.”

“DNA might replace barcodes to tag art, voter ballots: study” [Agence France Presse]. “Easy-to-remove barcodes and QR codes used to tag everything from T-shirts to car engines may soon be replaced by a tagging system based on DNA and invisible to the naked eye, scientists said Thursday. The DNA-based system could help anti-forgery efforts, according to researchers who said thieves struggle to find or tamper with a transparent splash of DNA on valuable or vulnerable items, such as election ballots, works of art, or secret documents…. [R]esearchers at the University of Washington and Microsoft said that the molecular tagging system, called Porcupine, is — unlike most alternatives — cost-effective…. Unlike existing systems to tag objects, DNA tags are undetectable by sight or touch, senior author Jeff Nivala said in a press release from Washington University.” • Sounds like the surveillance industry could get a boost from this as well, though oddly the article doesn’t mention that….

Seasonal artbots:

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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 (WB):

WB writes: “Solo Bee Balm blooms make nice table flowers.”

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