/2:00PM Water Cooler 11/16/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/16/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I got wrapped around the axle with a technical issues. More from the Augean stables soon. –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:

Test positivity by region:

Case fatality rate by region:

We’ll need to watch this to see if it changes with the increased case count. I added the death counts, and yes, deaths are rising with the case count.

Hospitalization by region:


“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


Biden (D)(1): “Biden advisers to meet vaccine firms as Trump stalls handoff” [ABC]. “Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with vaccine makers in coming days as the presidential transition remains stalled because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election. That delayed handoff is especially problematic during a public health crisis, the government’s top infectious disease expert said…. [Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain] said Biden’s experts also need a detailed understanding of distribution plans being finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon. In some ways, that’s the more critical issue, he said.” • I’m a little frustrated by the focus on “the transition period” as a barrier to Biden explaining what his plans are. In a Parliamentary system, there would be a Shadow HHS Secretary (although nothing but, I suppose, norms prevented the Biden campaign from innovating that role. If the Democrats are worried about there being “two Presidents,” why not add a layer of indirection? Blue-skying here: Put together an enormous non-partisan conference, with tracks for all the subject matter experts. Make Biden the key-note speaker and have him give the policy speech. If the Covid is the crisis they say it is, why no? Too late for Thanksgiving, sadly, but Christmas is coming. At the very least, couldn’t Biden be addressing the nation or something? All we’re getting right now is whinging about Republican non-cooperation. That’s true, but you have to step up and lead anyhow!

Harris (D)(1): “Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff breaks gender stereotypes by putting her career ahead of his as second gentleman” [USA Today]. “During a recent fundraiser, Emhoff said many of the issues he would want to focus on as second gentleman are justice related, particularly ‘access to justice.’” • Oh.

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“Rethinking the future of American capitalism” [McKinsey & Company]. “Capitalism’s effectiveness in directing capital formation toward the most promising investments has implications for market structure and concentration of economic power.” • Why do we assume this? Uber? Unicorns? There’s so much stupid money sloshing around we don’t know where to invest it, and at the same time we can’t build a new Amtrak tunnel under the Hudson when we know the existing tunnel is doomed. Or take a look at years of underinvestment in public health. Why do we we assume capital formation isn’t in crisis, along with everything else? And isn’t “promising” doing a lot of work, there?

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: “November 2020 Empire State Manufacturing Index Declined” [Econintersect]. “The Empire State Manufacturing Survey index declined but remained in expansion… The Empire State Manufacturing Survey index declined but remained in expansion.”

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Tech: “HP: That print-free-for-life deal we promised you? Well, now it’s pay-per-month to continue using your printer ink” [The Register]. “For users who don’t need to print much, and to lure folks into the subscription system, HP marketed a print-free-for-life tier that cost nothing, though it was limited to 15 pages a month, and $1 per 10 additional pages. The idea being: you buy a printer, you sign up for the Instant Ink free tier, and get enough supplies gratis to print a few things a month during the device’s lifetime. Well, not anymore: the free tier is being scrapped, and now folks have to pay. Below is a typical email sent to customers at the end of last month. One print-free-for-life reader told us he has to start paying HP a monthly fee from December 26, or his printer will stop working unless he buys his own fresh cartridges. The fees start from $0.99 a month for 15 pages, just like the free tier albeit with the ability to rollover up to 45 unused pages.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 67 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 16 at 1:40pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on leadership. “The potential win by the Democrats has upgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 181. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.) I would have expected “Beast Government” to be popping with Biden’s election. “Leadership” seens a little anodyne.

The Biosphere

“How To Spot Wildlife In The City: Tips From An Urban Naturalist” [Euronews]. “With British towns teeming with wildlife, I started to realise that becoming an urban naturalist has never been easier – and anyone can do it. Mental health experts have shown that spending time in nature can be extremely positive for our wellbeing and it gets us away from the daily stress and pressures of city lifestyle. Crucially, the more of us take an interest in the wildlife in our cities, the more local government will have to plan with animals in mind. We’ll demand cleaner waterways, more trees and larger green spaces. Bricks can be modified into homes for migratory swifts and insects can benefit too. For instance, tree bumblebees that have moved through Europe into the UK, are currently nesting in a bird box in my garden. Fascinating, charismatic species can be found right next to where you live. By taking an interest in our local ecosystems, learning about the species that surround us, and preserving our most biodiverse regions, we can ensure a sustainable future for all city-dwellers. The first step is to get outside and look.” • I’m sure this is true everywhere, not just the UK!

Health Care

“Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective against COVID-19, a crucial victory in the fight against the pandemic” [Business Insider]. “The upstart biotech Moderna announced the success Monday morning in a press release, saying its vaccine was 94.5% effective at preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. An independent group of experts found clear signs of effectiveness after reviewing preliminary data from an ongoing 30,000-person study, Moderna said…. Moderna’s analysis was based on 95 COVID-19 cases, while Pfizer’s review included 94 cases. Neither company’s data has been published in a scientific journal, and both are still collecting more information on how safe their shots are.” • So not time to declare victory yet.

“2nd virus vaccine shows overwhelming success in U.S. tests” [Associated Press]. “Pfizer’s [vaccine] must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said Monday it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern.”

“An mRNA Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 — Preliminary Report” [Nature]. The article is dated November 12, 2020. Weirdly, there’s also an Editor’s Note: “This article was published on July 14, 2020, at NEJM.org.” “We conducted a phase 1, dose-escalation, open-label trial including 45 healthy adults, 18 to 55 years of age, who received two vaccinations, 28 days apart, with mRNA-1273 in a dose of 25 μg, 100 μg, or 250 μg. There were 15 participants in each dose group…. The mRNA-1273 vaccine induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in all participants, and no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified. These findings support further development of this vaccine.” • This the Moderna vaccine

“How to Avoid a Surprise Bill for Your Coronavirus Test” [New York Times]. “Congress wrote rules in March that aimed to make coronavirus testing free for all Americans. Patients, with or without insurance, have found holes in those new coverage programs. They’ve faced bills that range from a few dollars to over $1,000. I’ve spent much of the past four months collecting patients’ bills related to coronavirus. As part of that project, I’ve read through more than 100 patient stories about coronavirus tests. Many patients are happy to report no charge at all, while others have been billed large unexpected fees or denied claims related to coronavirus tests. The surprise bills have hit uninsured Americans as well as those with robust coverage. The health data firm Castlight estimates that 2.4 percent of coronavirus test bills leave some share of the charge to consumers, which means there could be millions of patients facing fees they did not expect. These are some simple steps you can take to lower your chances of becoming one of them.” Step one: “If you can, get tested at a public site.” • Whaddya know.

“Surging virus cases get a shrug in many Midwestern towns” [Associated Press]. “‘We have an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old, and we certainly believe this is an important time of life to maybe shine a little bit,’ [Jay Stibbe] said. “We’re trying to create as much normalcy as we can. We try not to live in fear. We’ve traveled. We go out to dinner.” In Plattsmouth, Nebraska, Karen Prohaska, 76, said she generally doesn’t wear a mask in her downtown purse and jewelry shop but will put one on at the request of a customer. When customers come into the store with a face covering, she asks if they’d like her to don one as well. Most say no and ask if it’s OK for them to remove theirs. ‘I hope that I don’t get the virus, but I’ve never really been a germophobe,’ Prohaska said. The pandemic hasn’t stopped Mary Gerteisen, of Eagle, Nebraska, from visiting her 96-year-old father on weekends to watch football. Gerteisen said she understands the risks, given her father’s age and vulnerability, but she also weighed the fact that he’s in the early stages of dementia and often believes family members have abandoned him. ‘There are times when I think that I do need to take the pandemic more seriously,’ she said. ‘But I want to see my dad, and I don’t know much longer I have with him. I would love for him to live to 100-some years old, but if he comes down with (the virus), he’s lived a good, long life.” • “Maybe shine a little bit” is so, so sad…

Heh heh:

First, do no harm, eh?

Our Famously Free Press

“This tool could act as an early warning system for harmful conspiracy theories” [Fast Company]. “But how can you tell if an emerging narrative on social media is an unfounded conspiracy theory? It turns out that it’s possible to distinguish between conspiracy theories and true conspiracies by using machine learning tools to graph the elements and connections of a narrative. These tools could form the basis of an early warning system to alert authorities to online narratives that pose a threat in the real world. The culture analytics group at the University of California, which I and Vwani Roychowdhury lead, has developed an automated approach to determining when conversations on social media reflect the telltale signs of conspiracy theorizing. We have applied these methods successfully to the study of Pizzagate, the COVID-19 pandemic, and anti-vaccination movements. We’re currently using these methods to study QAnon.” • Not RussiaGate?

Zeitgeist Watch

“How Economists Can Enhance Their Scientific Creativity, Engagement and Impact” [Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal]. ” I am offering a six-week program (on Zoom) to enhance your personal scientific creativity, engagement and impact in economics.” • Mainstream economists need coaching now?

Guillotine Watch

Do all 1%-ers have terrible taste?

“Wells Fargo offers Native American designs on credit cards” [Indian Country]. “Wells Fargo said the campaign stems from its commitment to future generations….” • Oh.

Class Warfare

“Rule by Data: The End of Markets?” (PDF) [Katharina Pistor, Law and Contemporary Problems]. “This Article explores data as a source and, in their processed variant, as a means of governance that will likely replace both markets and the law. Discussing data not as an object of transactions or an object of governance, but as a tool for governing others on a scale that rivals that of nation states with their law, seems a fitting topic for a special issue that is devoted to the legal construction of markets. Here, I argue that while it may well be the case that law constitutes markets, markets are not the only way in which economic relations may be organized, and law is not the only feasible mode of governing these relations. Central planning under socialism posed an alternative, which proved ultimately non-viable. The rise of big tech companies (Big Tech) and their accumulation of vast amounts of data offers yet another possibility: the rule by data.” • The first paragraph. Throws down the gauntlet, doesn’t it?

News of the Wired

Gritty once more:

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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 (RM)

RM write: “I collected these Oregon White Truffles in Pacific City, Oregon. Additional treasure include a nice haul of King Boletes and a small bag of magic. It was a good morning. Oregon has a medical psilocybin measure on the ballot. Getting that passed would be a good first step.” It passed!

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