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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/05/2021

Breaking News

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/05/2021


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

More shortly. I got wrapped round the axle with the new Covid charts. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

The note is great: “Kree-urk and chip calls from a covey near the trail.”


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

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

I finally cajoled the 91-DIVOC UC into giving me hospitalization, positivity, fatalities, and above all vaccination, besides caes count nationally and in the Big States. I’ll mess around with them during the week to improve them.

Vaccination by region:

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Going down? WTF?

Case count by United States region:

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Reporting is back to normal.

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:

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Reporting is back to normal here, too.

Test positivity:

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Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


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=Hospitalization is discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home. –>

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

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That slow and steady rise in the fatality rate, is still troubling.


“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

Election Legitimacy



Trump and Roll Call are both wrong. U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2:

Clause 2. Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Clause 3. The Electors shall meet in their respective States and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted.

Each state certifies its own list of electors. The President of the Senate (that is, the Vice President or his nominee) has only role: to open the envelope with the list of electors inside, and count the list. The Vice President doesn’t certify anything.

Transition to Biden

Preemptive strike:

The formula for Obama was “He’s only been President ___ months.” I think that one died out about six months in. Maybe before.

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.

“November 2020 CoreLogic Home Prices: Annual U.S. Home Price Appreciation Jumped to 8.2%” [Econintersect]. “CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (HPI) home prices for October 2020 increased 8.2% in November 2020, compared with November 2019, marking the largest annual appreciation since March 2014. On a month-over-month basis, home prices increased by 1.1% compared to October 2020…. ‘The demographic tailwind has arrived as Generation X and millennials drive housing demand,’ said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. ‘Lower-priced home values increased about one and a half times faster than higher-priced home values in November, as first-time buyers tend to seek out homes within the lower price ranges.’”

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Tech: “When Big Brands Stopped Spending On Digital Ads, Nothing Happened. Why?” [Forbes]. “When P&G turned off $200 million of their digital ad spending, they saw NO CHANGE in business outcomes [1]. When Chase reduced their programmatic reach from 400,000 sites showing its ads to 5,000 sites (a 99% decrease), they saw NO CHANGE in business outcomes [2]. When Uber turned off $120 million of their digital ad spending meant to drive more app installs, they saw NO CHANGE in the rate of app installs [3]. When big brands stopped spending on digital ads, nothing happened. Even further back in time, in 2012, eBay turned off their paid search ad spending, and saw NO CHANGE in sales coming from those sources [4]…. Chase did not need to show their ads on 400,000 websites, when showing ads to humans on 5,000 yielded the same outcomes. Small business owners did not need to buy millions of ad impressions, when buying 1/10 the quantity yielded more sales. Nowhere else is the phrase “you get what you pay for” more applicable than in digital marketing. If you are buying large numbers of low-cost ad impressions from programmatic channels, you’re likely getting ripped off instead of doing digital marketing. Run your own experiments — give your digital ad spending a “time out.” It’d be “fou” (“crazy”) if you don’t.”

Tech: “Ticketmaster to pay $10 million fine over hacking charges” [Associated Press]. “Court papers accused Ticketmaster of trying to infiltrate systems created by Songkick for artists that had hired the startup to help sell up to 10% of seats for U.S. tours directly through their fan clubs. The arrangement was seen as a way to reward loyal fans while thwarting scalpers — and also something that could cut into profits for the Ticketmaster empire. Ticketmaster employees ‘repeatedly — and illegally — accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect potential business intelligence,’ said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. A statement from Ticketmaster on Wednesday said that the conduct involved only two employees who were fired in 2017.”

Tech: “Apple pulls iPhone app promoting secret parties during the COVID-19 pandemic” [The Verge]. “Vybe Together’s now-removed FAQ page acknowledged the danger of the pandemic, but it said the app was designed to promote ‘small gatherings’ rather than ‘big parties.’ (Smaller gatherings of people from different households can still spread the coronavirus, creating chains of infection that extend far beyond the original event, putting people who didn’t attend the party at risk.)”

Travel: “Alaska Becomes First US Airline To Ban Emotional Support Animals” [One Mile at a Time]. “Alaska Airlines will be banning emotional support animals as of early 2021. This follows a recent ruling by the DOT giving airlines the right to do this. While I know many will celebrate this change, don’t get too excited — psychiatric service animals continue to be allowed, and that includes dogs. While this will lead to the end of animals other than dogs in airplane cabins, I wouldn’t expect a huge decrease in the number of travelers with dogs.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 5 at 12:26pm.

Health Care

“Why Isn’t New York Vaccinating More People?” [Ross Barkan, Political Currents]. This is a massive, and well-deserved takedown of Cuomo’s performance on Covid. “Last week, Cuomo threatened healthcare providers that commit “coronavirus vaccine fraud” with up to $1 million in fines. The fines will apply to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and any licensed healthcare professional…. The real problem with Cuomo dangling million dollar fines over providers for administering a vaccine to anyone who does not meet the state’s strict priority guidelines is that it will discourage mass vaccinations at a time when New York desperately needs them. This is dangerous, considering vaccines stored in deep freezers can expire when unused. Cuomo’s million-dollar hammer is one more manifestation of his authoritarian instincts…. Vaccination is the last chance for New York to be a national leader, to set a standard it has not come close to reaching throughout this crisis. If America is regarded, by so many liberals, as a failed state, then what is New York? The death toll hasn’t stopped climbing.”


“Dayton mayor unhappy as Gov. Mike DeWine signs ‘stand your ground’ legislation into law” [Columbus Dispatch]. “For more than a year, Gov. Mike DeWine warned GOP Ohio lawmakers: Don’t send me any gun bills until you deal with the plan I introduced after the Dayton mass shooting in August 2019. On Monday he caved. He signed into law a controversial “stand your ground” measure that the Republican-dominated legislature approved last month after declining to give the governor’s proposals serious consideration…. But the Ohio House added language expanding the locations where residents have no duty to attempt to retreat before using a firearm in self defense. ‘If a person is in danger of grievous bodily harm or worried about his or her life to the point where they need to use a firearm to defend themselves, very clearly this removes the duty to retreat, just as if you were in your home or in your car,’ Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, said during the floor debate on the legislation.”• “Worried.”

Our Famously Free Press

“What was blogging?” [An und für sich]. “Why can’t I just move on? Why this attachment to an outdated publication model, such that a website redesign can quite sincerely ruin my afternoon? It’s because blogging isn’t just another tool to me. It was my way out. It allowed me to build up a social network and a reputation that I never could have achieved otherwise. I realize that a big part of this was the dumb luck of getting into blogging just slightly before it hit the bigtime, but it also reflects a lot of hard work and energy on my part — not just writing, but recruiting other writers (and then writing even more to make sure the audience would be there whenever they decided to post), coming up with events and traditions (like Friday Afternoon Confessional) that made the blog feel like a real community, organizing book events and structured discussions (like the University Without Condition discussion of Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence”), etc., etc., etc.” • Reports of blogging’s death are greatly exaggerated; the growth of substack shows this; and I am continually running across good blogs. What has died — or rather, what has been killed — is the ability to find blogs.

Book Nook

“Tom Stoppard and the Last Crusade” [Kotke.org]. “Stoppard wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and served as an uncredited ghostwriter on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In fact, not only was Stoppard not credited, the lack of credit was actually given to a pseudonym, “Barry Watson.’ Everything suggests that Stoppard’s contributions to the film were substantial. In a brief oral history of The Last Crusade, now lost to linkrot but still preserved by the Wayback Machine, Spielberg says, ‘Tom is pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue.’ Last year, narrative analyst Mike Fitzgerald broke down in detail differences between a draft version of the screenplay by credited writer Jeffrey Boam and the published draft, including revisions by Spielberg and a heavy rewrite by Stoppard. (You can actually download both versions of the screenplay on Fitzgerald’s site.) Again, Stoppard contributed not just lines of dialogue, but new scenes, a new structure, and changes in characterization.” • There’s a great clip from The Last Crusade at the link. “Well, they don’t come any closer than that!” Any scriptwriters in the readership will enjoy this.

Xmas Postgame Analysis

“Pensioner reveals how she wraps her Christmas tree in CLING FILM with all the decorations still on to save time putting it away” [Daily Mail]. “The cling filmed tree is then put in the garage ready for use again in 11 months and [Larraine McDougall (71)] has been tidying her tree away using this method for the last four years.” • Seems obsessive. Why not just leave the tree up? Dust, your say? What’s that?

Class Warfare

“Here’s what we know about the Google union so far” [The Verge]. “On Monday, roughly 230 Google employees announced they were forming a union with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). It’s open to employees and contractors at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. As a minority union, it doesn’t need to go through a formal legal process in order to exist. It just needs to announce itself. That part is done. World, meet the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU)… As a minority union, or a solidarity union, AWU doesn’t need to go through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and hold a vote to convince the majority of employees to sign on. With the announcement, ‘Google workers are taking immediate advantage of the power of a union,’ according to Clarissa Redwine in Collective Action in Tech. This structure puts the emphasis on employee organizing, rather than politics and negotiations, which can come later. Workers told The New York Times that it was ‘primarily an effort to give structure and longevity to activism at Google, rather than to negotiate for a contract.’… The structure allows AWU to welcome Alphabet contractors as well as employees. At Google, temporary workers outnumber full-time staff but often receive just a small fraction of the benefits. AWU wants to unite the interests of janitors and cafeteria workers with those of engineers and product managers…. AWU hasn’t published a list of demands. As a democratic organization, it wants to hear from new members before deciding on major initiatives. But organizers have hinted that they’re not stopping at pay disparity. “Our goal with the union is to ensure that tech companies use their technology to make the world a better place,” says Alan Morales, a Google engineer and AWU organizer. Can a union with only a few hundred members be effective? The short answer is probably not — but AWU isn’t expecting to stay at just a few hundred. When the union went public, it had about 230 members. Less than 24 hours later, it has more than 400. Organizers anticipate the membership base will continue to swell.” • Creative thinking!

“Google workers organize innovative new type of union with CWA” [People’s World]. “They immediately instituted democratic elections and went beyond that, to ensure the most-exploited workers—women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, who are overrepresented among the non-full-timers—have their own voice on the job, too, and ‘can focus on specific issues important to them. The unit’s annual assembly will have “similar structures.’ So in general meetings, any idea the Alphabet Workers United board hasn’t considered can be brought up by a petition from 10% of the membership. And there are smaller subgroups within Alphabet Workers United for those often underrepresented groups of workers. The unit itself will be allied with CWA Local 1400. Shaw believes those features will attract more and more Google and Alphabet workers to the union. So does CWA.” • Interestingly, The Verge focuses on the “solidarity union” concept, where the former Daily Worker… doesn’t.

“‘Lazy,’ ‘Money-Oriented,’ ‘Single Mother’: How Union-Busting Firms Compile Dossiers on Employees” [Vice]. “According to documents obtained by Motherboard, IRI union avoidance consultants regularly gathered information about 83 rank-and-file hospital employees’ personality, temperament, motivations, ethnicity, family background, spouses’ employment, finances, health issues, work ethic, job performance, disciplinary history, and involvement in union activity in the lead-up to a union election. Each employee was then given a rating for how likely the company believed they were to vote for the union. In the notes for one employee, IRI consultants wrote that they were ‘lazy,’ ‘money oriented,’ ‘aloof,’ ‘from Samoa,’ ‘tired of people on team and doesn’t want to assist them,’ and told managers that ‘the union is full of crap.’ Notes described another employee as a ‘follower,’ ‘impressionable,’ ‘a single mother,’ adding that their ‘rent [had] increased’ and they couldn’t ‘afford [union] dues’ and ‘will do whatever friends do.’ A source familiar with IRI’s practices told Motherboard that collecting detailed personal information on each rank-and-file employee in order to assess their union sympathies is standard practice for how IRI Consultants and other union avoidance firms conduct work for all of their clients.” • Google retained IRI in 2019.

From AWU:

Here is the AWU website.

Essential worker:

News of the Wired

“Conspiracy theorists share schematic for “5G chip” they claim is implanted in COVID-19 vaccines – only it’s actually for the Boss Metal Zone” [Guitar Zone]. “The notion that COVID-19 vaccines will be used by governments across the globe to track the human race’s every move has long been a topic of discussion among conspiracy theorists. But now, new ‘evidence’ has emerged from Italian proponents of the idea – only it would be evidence, were it not a reworked schematic for the Boss Metal Zone. The conspiracy theorists shared the schematic online, claiming it depicted the diagram for the supposed 5G chip. It features a section labelled “5G frequency” – clearly the source of many a theorist’s eureka moment – as well as terms guitarists will find familiar: ‘MT-2 Gain’, ‘Footswitch’ among the most recognizable.. ‘Here in Italy people started to share this figure claiming that this is the diagram of the 5G chip that has been inserted in the COVID vaccine,’ [Mario Fusco, a senior software engineer at Redhat] tweeted. “In reality it is the electric circuit of a guitar pedal.’” • Oh.

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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):

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WB writes: “Gnarly tree and smooth hedge, Boboli Gardens, Florence.”

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