2:00PM Water Cooler 1/07/2021
Great news! Apple is going give me back, er, access to my machines in two weeks! On Inauguration Day, as it happens. Fortunately, although I cannot install the apps I need, including email, I can access Twitter through the browser, and DM myself links to my own account, which I also read on my laptop. Kludgey and slower, but workable. And now you see why Apple would really prefer to do everything with apps, and it slowly but surely strangling everything else. –lambert
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
I think “coup” is the wrong word, but this is nevertheless a lovely thread:
So it turns out that amidst an ongoing coup attempt is a great time to go birding.
Though the pair of bald eagles circling and screaming do tug at some thing, I admit. pic.twitter.com/2TbG84Epc6
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) January 6, 2021
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 UI into giving me hospitalization, positivity, fatalities, and above all vaccination, besides case count nationally and in the Big States. I’ll mess around more with them during the week to improve them. I think the new UI will allow me to integrate more data series legibly, especially vaccination.
Case count by United States region:
I wonder if Christmas travel has caused all regions to correlate.
Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):
Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.
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):
Fatality rate looking a little better, though still not as good as two months ago.
“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 Latest: Schumer urges Cabinet to oust Trump” [Associated Press]. “Schumer said Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment and immediately remove Trump from office. He added, ‘If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.’” • So the concept is pass the ball to the Administration, go on recess, and come back only if the Administration drops it? Schumer:
What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by President Trump.
This president must not hold office one day longer.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 7, 2021
“Oh, and we’re leaving town. Let us know how it goes.” Confirmation:
Here’s the Senate schedule too.
Pro forma sessions = no business. pic.twitter.com/JKFDb0asEZ
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) January 7, 2021
“U.S. Capitol breach prompts urgent questions about security failures” [Seattle Times]. “Law enforcement experts said they were mystified by the tactics that police used once the mob was already inside the Capitol. One woman was shot and killed by Capitol police as officers tried to stop a group from penetrating the building, according to two law enforcement officials, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe security operations. But other police seemed to stand by, observing the disorder instead of stopping it: One image posted on social media showed an officer taking a selfie with one of the intruders, and a video seemed to show officers opening the security fence to let Trump supporters closer. Police did not appear to try to detain the rioters, allowing them to leave unhindered. .” • Well, that’s the kind of service you expect from an institution with 1,800 sworn officers and a budget of 426 million.
“Capitol police chief defends response to ‘criminal’ rioters” [Associated Press]. “Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a former police chief, said it was “painfully obvious” that Capitol police ‘were not prepared’ for what took place Wednesday. ‘I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force, that there would have been steps taken in the very beginning to make sure that there was a designated area for the protesters in a safe distance from the Capitol.” • “Free speech zones,” as for example at political conventions.
“Washington nears its breaking point” [Politico]. “‘I’ve reached the breaking point,’ he snapped.” More: “IT’S A BREAKING POINT for many Republicans in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency, after Trump’s single-minded focus on overturning the election culminated in a riot that breached both chambers of Congress…. THE NEXT 13 DAYS COULD BE A WHITE-KNUCKLE RIDE. Several top White House advisers are considering resigning, and Bloomberg reported late Wednesday that coronavirus task force member Matthew Pottinger had stepped down — further hollowing out an administration that’s struggling to conduct a mass vaccination campaign and manage the pandemic response.” • Pottinger got very good press in this recent New Yorker retrospective on our Covid response.
“Zuckerberg says Trump will be blocked from Facebook and Instagram” [Politico]. “‘We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,’ Zuckerberg wrote in a statement posted to his personal page. ‘Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.’” And: “Separately, YouTube removed that video for violating its policies against content alleging rampant voter fraud in the 2020 elections, though it would allow others to repost the video if they added context.” • Politico confuses “voter fraud” with “election fraud.” Any takers for how long it will take for Facebook to deplatform legitimate election fraud research?
“Barr blasts Trump for orchestrating mob, calls it ‘betrayal of his office’” [CNBC]. ” Former Attorney General William Barr has called President Donald Trump’s actions a ‘betrayal of his office and supporters’ after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. In a statement obtained by NBC News Thursday, Barr said Trump was responsible for ‘orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress,’ calling his former boss’ actions ‘inexcusable.’” • This article also has a lot of detail on arrests (68) and other agencies involved (the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service).
“Jim Nussle renounces Republican Party” [Bleeding Heartland]. “A longtime Republican member of Congress from Iowa has renounced his party following the attempts by elected officials and a violent mob to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. ‘I will no longer claim I am a Republican tonight,’ Jim Nussle tweeted on January 6, ‘as I am outraged and devastated by the actions of too many elected Republicans (some I know and served with) and supporters. Today a final line was crossed that I will not excuse. The GOP is NO more and left me and others behind.’”
“Gaetz defends President Trump, suggests Antifa could be behind US Capitol attack” [WEAR] • Not a lot of antifa rocking The Full Siegfried, last I checked.
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Never accept any crowd shots other than aerial or wide-angle. This (from Reuters) is the best I could find:
First, I’ve been on that lawn during Occupy; it’s not big. The crowd is not large for a protest crowd in DC, and not that dense. (A large crowd would surround the Washington Monument reflecting pool, in the background. Second, the class and cultural markers shown by the crowd’s clothing are interesting; not a lot of North Face parkas or backpacks. Third, who the heck permitted that sound system tower contraption?
“How America Can Restore Confidence In Its Elections” [The American Conservative]. “What are the needed reforms—almost all within the power of the states and the Supreme Court—that don’t require a constitutional amendment?… First, return to election day voting for nearly all ballots, assisted by state legislation making it a paid holiday… Second, limitation of ‘early voting’ to the Saturday before election day, eliminating the danger of the ‘cooping’ of voters that in an earlier time killed Edgar Allen Poe [here]…. Third, insistence on the sanctity of the secret or Australian ballot, which does not exist for remotely cast ballots which can be cast by persons other than the voter, or cast for monetary reward…. Fourth, obvious safeguards against impersonation, including purges of voter rolls every two years by comparison of precinct lists and voting records with the Social Security death index.” • Oddly, no mention of hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. There were many more points, some of them poison pills for liberals, but at least they’re thinking. As readers know, I strongly support elimination of early voting (and making election day a holiday). Not only does early voting encourage party and not candidate voting, which reinforces partisanship and is therefore bad, it means renders the last days of a campaign irrelevant, also bad. (I also don’t have a way to express the idea that all voters should be able to vote on the same state of affairs, impossible if the voting period is drawn out to weeks).
GA: “Democrats control the Senate. Now they must learn why they won” [OpenDemocracy]. “It’s not just Stacey Abrams. Years before the Democratic Party establishment took Georgia seriously, a nimble yet powerful operation was being built here. Travelling across the ‘peach state’ this month, we got to see it up close. It is the future of political campaigning: inspiring, connected, authentic – and meticulously organised.” • Well, let’s hope they do better on policy than Ossoff and Warnock in the years to come.
“486 – Eel Dealings (1/4/21)” (podcast) [Chapo Trap House]. • A reading of Trump’s call to Raffenberger.
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: “02 January 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 750 K to 895 K (consensus 803 K), and the Department of Labor reported 787,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 837,500 (reported last week as 836,750) to 818,750.”
Employment Situation: “December 2020 Job Cuts Jump” [Econintersect]. “Planned job cuts announced by U.S.-based companies jumped to 77,030 in December, up 18.9% from the 64,797 in November.”
Trade: “November 2020 Trade Data Continues To Show Recovery But Exports Remain In Contraction Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. “Trade data headlines show the trade balance continues to worsen 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 improved for imports and exports – but remains in contraction.”
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Real estate: “Finally, a Use for the Old Sears: Covid-19 Vaccine Center” [Wall Street Journal]. “Public-health agencies and health-care organizations from Iowa to Florida are using some of the hundreds of closed Sears department stores to help with the nationwide effort to administer Covid-19 vaccines to millions of people. Vast floor plans, sprawling parking lots and easy access to highways that attracted property developers and shoppers during the retailer’s heyday are drawing the attention of health officials. The stores are well-known destinations, and house enough space for workers and vaccine recipients to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. ‘You know where the tools were kept and where the appliances were,’ said Brian Hanft, director of public health in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, where on Monday officials agreed to set up a Covid-19 vaccine administration site inside an old Sears location. ‘It takes you back a little bit.’”
Shipping: “Maybe scale in container shipping isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. ZIM Integrated Shipping is touting its ‘flexibility and agility’ while sailing away from the sector’s strong focus on market share… [T]he Israel-based company is embracing the benefits of smaller ships and niche services as it moves toward a potential initial public offering” [Wall Street Journal]. “CEO Eli Glickman says the company has advantages over bigger rivals that operate larger vessels and depend on economies of scale. Instead, he says, its targeted services and point-to-point operations can move goods more rapidly and, for ZIM, potentially more profitably.
Health Care: “An upheaval in healthcare supply chains is resuming after a pause during the pandemic. Walgreens Boots Alliance plans to sell control of its pharmacy wholesale unit to AmerisourceBergen… as the company focuses on competition from longtime rival CVS Health and a growing challenge from Amazon” [Wall Street Journal]. “The cash and stock deal gives Chesterbrook, Pa.-based AmerisourceBergen a bigger geographic footprint in its distribution of prescription medicines, home-health items and other products and services to health-care providers….. The wholesale business generated $6 billion for Walgreens in its latest quarter. But Amazon’s expansion into the pharmaceutical business is buffeting the sector, pushing companies to pare some operations. Walgreens is bulking up health-care services, including work with clinics, and CVS bought insurer Aetna.” • Corporate re-orgs in the midst of a pandemic and a vaccine rollout, good job.
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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 7 at 11:54am. So the Capitol seizure didn’t rock Mr. Market’s World at all?
“Immunological memory to SARS-CoV-2 assessed for up to 8 months after infection” [Science]. “While immune memory is the source of long-term protective immunity, direct conclusions about protective immunity cannot be made on the basis of quantifying SARS-CoV-2 circulating antibodies, memory B cells, CD8+ T cells, and CD4+ T cells, because mechanisms of protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 are not defined in humans…. Nevertheless, our data show immune memory in at least three immunological compartments was measurable in ~95% of subjects 5 to 8 months PSO, indicating that durable immunity against secondary COVID-19 disease is a possibility in most individuals.”
“High prevalence of pre-existing serological cross-reactivity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) in sub-Saharan Africa” [International Journal of Infectious Diseases]. Conclusion: “The low incidences of SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease in SSA appear to be correlated with the pre-pandemic serological cross-recognition of HCoVs, which are substantially more prevalent in SSA than the USA.” Caveat, from this article: “Wood emphasized that the team’s study confirmed only the cross-reaction of the seasonal coronavirus antibodies with the SARS-CoV-2 antigens, and not the production of cross-reactive T-cells necessary to establish protective immunity.” Also, this is interesting: “The team’s experiments also revealed that most of the responsive antibodies in the sub-Saharan samples targeted not the now-famous spike protein, which protrudes from SARS-CoV-2 and binds to host cells, but instead a so-called nucleocapsid protein that encases the genetic material at its core. That would make sense, Wood said, given that spike proteins tend to feature more variation within a virus family—variation that forces an immune system to generate specific antibodies for each member of that family. The relative uniformity of the nucleocapsid makes it more prone to being recognized by a cell-mediated immune response and some cross-reactive antibodies that are actually produced in response to other members of the family—in this case, the seasonal relatives of SARS-CoV-2.”
“The new tongue-twisting drugs that can ‘cut the risk of death by up to 24%’: Boris Johnson hails ‘life-saving’ arthritis drugs trial (after stumbling over how to pronounce them)” [Daily Mail]. “In one of the biggest medical breakthroughs of the pandemic, scientists found [that tocilizumab and sarilumab] can boost the survival odds for patients already taking dexamethasone, a steroid which British scientists discovered could reduce death in the sickest Covid patients over summer…. The results come from the REMAP-CAP trial which involved 3,900 people with severe Covid in 15 countries. The drugs, marketed under the brand name Actemra and Kevzara, are administered via an intravenous drip for an hour…. The two rheumatoid arthritis drugs also slash the time a patient spends in intensive care by up to ten days, researchers say, down to 13 days from 23 days.”
“Early High-Titer Plasma Therapy to Prevent Severe Covid-19 in Older Adults” [New England Journal of Medicine]. From the Conclusion: “Early administration of high-titer convalescent plasma against SARS-CoV-2 to mildly ill infected older adults reduced the progression of Covid-19.” • Huh!
“Quantifying the importance and location of SARS-CoV-2 transmission events in large metropolitan areas” (preprint) [medRxiv]. From the Abstract: “Detailed characterizations of SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk across different social settings can inform the design of targeted and less disruptive non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI), yet these data have been lacking. Here we integrate real-time, anonymous and privacy-enhanced geolocalized mobility data with census and demographic data in the New York City and Seattle metropolitan areas to build a detailed agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. The aim is to estimate where, when, and how many transmission events happened in those urban areas during the first wave of the pandemic. We estimate that most infections (80%) are produced by a small number of people (27%), and that about 10% of events can be considered super-spreading events (SSEs), i.e. generating more than eight secondary infections. Although mass gatherings present an important risk for future SSEs, we find that the bulk of transmission in the first wave occurred in smaller events at settings like workplaces, grocery stores, or food venues. .” • Oh.
“Colorado ranchers adapt for a changing climate” [High Country News]. “Regenerative agriculture is considered an important climate solution since it has the potential to draw down a lot of carbon. One technique that the U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks is the use of cover crops, which help promote healthy soil instead of leaving the ground bare between harvests. From 2012 to 2017, there was a 2.8% increase in cover crop acreage in Colorado, USDA data shows. But only about 1% of the total crop acreage planted in Colorado was used for cover crops. While more farmers and ranchers are adopting regenerative agriculture techniques, they make up a small number overall. Civita said that it’s not what most producers know. ‘There’s a knowledge gap that we need to bridge because we have been farming in agrochemical-ly intensive ways for a long time,’ she said. Farmers and ranchers also need to be convinced that these techniques work, [Nicole Civita, the sustainable food systems specialization lead at the University of Colorado Boulder] said. Many are reluctant to abandon current farming methods that seem to be working. It also takes time to reap the benefits, she said. ‘It’s not as though a farmer can stop farming in a more conventional way tomorrow and suddenly the soil is magically healed.’”
News of the Wired
“Eventual Failure of False Beliefs” [Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture]. “A large group of people are refusing to embrace reality. They have managed to avoid doing so without penalty for a long while. This is due to those fields where the feedback loops are slower and the penalties modest or non-existent. The result is the rise of the “professional wrongster” — the people who suffer no penalties for their errors, or are rewarded for them, regardless of how grotesque.” • Ritholtz begins with the Capitol Hill rioters, and not, say, Larry Summers, surely a “professional wrongster”, or mainstream macro; people with real power, whose side hustle isn’t selling vitamin supplements. And then there are the funders: “Mozart was funded by Baron Gottfried van Swieten (1733-1803), a man whose love of music led him to support not just Mozart, but Beethoven and Haydn, too. The results of the Barron’s generosity can still be heard centuries later. How will history remember the funders of an alternative reality, based on falsehoods and propaganda?” • That’s a good question. Maybe it depends on who wins….
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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 (SV):
SV writes: “Bamboo bending …UNDER THE WEIGHT OF SNOW, Northwest Arkansas, 14 December, 2020.
1st real snow in years.”
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