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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/08/2021

Breaking News

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/08/2021


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Stormy petrels seem right just about now.


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 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.

Vaccination by region:

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/08/2021 1

Improvement. I imagine Cuomo is holding back the Northeast.

Case count by United States region:

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/08/2021 2


Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/08/2021 3

Oh, California!

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):

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/08/2021 6

Fatality rate looking a little better, though still not as good as two months ago.

NY: “N.Y. Front-Line Workers to Lose Place in Line If Skip Shot” [Bloomberg]. “New York has administered only 430,000 of the 900,000 doses it has received, leaving more than half of the Covid shots unused on the day the state reported the most daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic… Officials around the state have asked Cuomo for freedom to expand eligibility for who can receive the virus because they say the strict rules are unnecessarily delaying the vaccine rollout. In New York City, health officials have thousands of shots available “without arms to give injections to,” Mitchell Katz, chief executive officer of NYC Health and Hospitals, said in a separate Thursday briefing.” • I hate this “arms” trope that’s all over everything. We’re vaccinating people, not injecting arms!


“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

Capitol Seizure

“The Enablers of Insurrection Should Be Ostracized” [Jeet Heer, The Nation]. “What these Trump staffers fear is in fact what progressives should aim for: a world where having Trump on your résumé makes you unemployable.” • Come on, man. Iraq War instigator David Frum is now editor of the Atlantic. Bush himself gave Michelle candy. All the torturers and war criminals got jobs, and in the fullness of time, many of them became Heroes Of The Resistance™. And before we go on about interfering with a Constitutional process, Bush destroyed the Fourth Amendment with his program of warrantless surveillance. I’m seeing — mostly from the NGOs and the media — an enormous amount of what on a lesser issue would be called liberal fingerwagging, but in the Capitol seizure is a desire for vengeance (“Impeach, then Humiliate“), and an almost tribal desire not to associate with the unclean, the contaminated, the taboo. As here. I’m seeing very little thought being given to what actions can be taken to make sure this never happens again. Ostracism was invented to deal with individuals, not classes of people, let alone slightly under half the population, which is what this will turn into. I don’t say I have a solution; I don’t. But on all sides I see people doubling down on their priors, and I look for little good to come of that.

Taibbi on The Rising:

Taibbi on Q supporters: “They had to go through a period of disenchantment that lasted decades before they got to this place. And I think people don’t understand that.” Again, I’m not sure what the solution is, other than to begin by eliminating social media entirely.

“Platforms Must Pay for Their Role in the Insurrection” [Wired]. “[I]nternet platforms—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, in particular—have played a fomenting and facilitating role that no one should overlook. In their relentless pursuit of engagement and profits, these platforms created algorithms that amplify hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. This harmful content is particularly engaging and serves as the lubricant for businesses as profitable as they are influential. These platforms also enforce their terms of service in ways that favor extreme speech and behavior, predominantly right-wing extremism.”

* * *

So who were the rioters?

“Texas woman flew on private jet to Washington, DC, to ‘storm the Capitol’” [NY Post]. “A real estate broker from Frisco, Texas, flew on a private jet to Washington, DC, along with friends to “storm the Capitol” on Wednesday. Jenna Ryan, who is also a radio host, flew from US Trinity Aviation in Denton, Texas, all they way to the nation’s Capitol — where she had ‘one of the best days of my life.’… The morning of the riots, Ryan livestreamed the walk to Capitol Hill, saying, ‘All these working class people taking the week off [(!!)] … We flew here for freedom. They want to steal the election, they want to steal everything.’” • Not American gentry, I would say, but gentry-adjacent.

A second anecdote:

Also gentry-adjacent.

A third anecdote:

Also gentry-adjacent.

“Some clarifications on class and Trump’s shock troops” [Carl Beijer]. “On one hand, we need to distinguish workers — who, under capitalism, are all ultimately subject to increasing economic precarity — from the bourgeoisie, which is not…. On one hand, we need to distinguish workers — who, under capitalism, are all ultimately subject to increasing economic precarity — from the bourgeoisie, which is not. This is a class distinction, defined by different relationships to capital and the means of production. On the other hand, however, we also need to be able to distinguish among workers who, at any given moment, may be experiencing very different material conditions despite their identical class position. This is the only way you can avoid the common liberal equivocation between workers and the immiserated poor. 3) Once we make these distinctions, and bearing in mind that demographic generalizations are always dangerous, I think we can speak clearly about who these protesters were. Were most of them the bourgeoisie? Obviously not, simply because very few people are actually the bourgeoisie. Were they the poor then? This doesn’t seem very likely, either. The poor in the US are overwhelmingly disengaged from politics; they aren’t spending the insane amount of time consuming boutique right-wing infotainment that these protesters clearly consume; and they aren’t taking several days off of work for a field trip to Washington DC, a city where few poor right-wing people actually live. Just a glance at this crowd makes it clear that these are the same people who always show up for this kind of protest in DC: well-off Republican contractors and apparatchiks from the nearby suburbs, and the sort of activists who have the time and disposable income to visit the Capitol. The overlap with Trump’s hardcore base of beautiful boaters is obvious, and the endless succession of protesters who have since been identified as lawyers, doctors, and small business owners don’t exactly contest this.”

“Jan. 6 Was 9 Weeks — And 4 Years — in the Making” [Politico]. “The core of the Tea Party was senior citizens in lawn chairs waving miniature flags and handing out literature; the only people in costumes wore ruffled shirts and tri-corner hats. The core of the MAGA movement is edgier, more aggressive and less friendly; its adherents would rather cosplay the Sons of Anarchy than the Sons of Liberty. There is one thing that connects these movements: Both were born out of deception. Republican leaders convinced the grassroots of 2009 and 2010 that they could freeze government spending and reform entitlement programs and repeal Obamacare. Trump convinced the grassroots of 2015 and 2016 that he, too, could repeal Obamacare, while also making Mexico pay for a border wall and overhauling the nation’s infrastructure. The key difference is that the Tea Party slowly faded into obscurity as voters realized these promises politicians made were a scam, whereas the MAGA movement has only grown more intensely committed with each new con dangled in front of them.”

Election Legitimacy

“Sidney Powell Sued by Dominion for $1.3 Billion Over Vote-Fraud Claims” [Bloomberg]. • And so we’re going to end up with ballot marking devices percieved as legitimate [pounds head on desk].

Transition to Biden

“Biden DHS pick discloses corporate clients” [Politico]. “Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Homeland Security secretary, has made more than $3.3 million over the past two years as a corporate lawyer representing and advising companies such as Airbnb, Northrop Grumman, T-Mobile and Uber, according to a newly filed disclosure…. The most problematic might be Intuit, the tax preparation company behind TurboTax. More than a dozen lawmakers — including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — urged the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 to investigate whether efforts by Intuit and other tax prep companies to conceal their free tax filing options from the public, which were exposed by a ProPublica investigation, constituted ‘unfair and deceptive practices or unfair methods of competition.’”

Now that we know who controls the House and the Senate (and presumably the committees):

Realignment and Legitimacy



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: “December 2020 BLS Jobs Situation – Employment Declines” [Econintersect]. “The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth declined and was well below expectations, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 6.7%… Employment recovery from the coronavirus has now stalled…. The rate of further recovery will be dependant on the coronavirus effects.” • Teachers, yikes:

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 02 January 2021 – Rail Down 7.2% For The Year” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has two components – carloads and intermodal (containers or trailers on rail cars). Container exports from China have recovered, container exports from the U.S. remain deep in contraction. This week again intermodal continued in expansion year-over-year and continues on a strengthening trendline. Carloads 4 week rolling average is in expansion when compared to the 4 week rolling average one year ago but the economic intuitive sectors remain in contraction. But overall because of the strength of intermodal, rail is growing year-over-year.”

* * *

Private Equity: “Pack of private equity bidders circle £400m KPMG restructuring arm” [Sky News]. “Last autumn, KPMG became the second member of the big four – after Deloitte – to signal plans to sell its restructuring wing amid growing pressure on auditors over their management of conflicts of interest.”

The Bezzle: “Apple’s Self-Driving Electric Car Is at Least Half a Decade Away” [Bloomberg]. “Apple Inc. will take at least half a decade to launch an autonomous, electric vehicle because development work is still at an early stage, according to people with knowledge of the efforts…. The goal is to let a user to input their destination and be driven there with little or no other engagement, according to the people familiar with the project.” • In other words, Level 5 autonomy. Again, I don’t think robot cars can ever work unless they operate in a closed environment, like a retirement community, or a completely rebuilt road system.

The Bezzle: “Hyundai Motor says it’s in early talks with Apple to develop a car, sends shares soaring 19%” [CNBC]. “The statement followed a local report from the Korea Economic Daily that said Apple suggested the tie-up and Hyundai Motor was reviewing the terms. The report said both electric vehicle production as well as battery development were included in the proposal, and that the car could potentially be released in 2027.” • So presumably, Apple won’t be redefining “car” to mean flying car.

Tech: “Amazon’s Purchase of Wondery Is a Big Bet on Podcast Advertising” [Bloomberg]. “More than 100 million people in the U.S. listened to podcasts each month in 2020… The investment follows Sirius XM Holdings Inc., Spotify Technology SA, and a string of others spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy podcasting companies… Amazon is well-positioned to translate Wondery’s audience into advertising revenue, something the industry is still figuring out. “Podcasts have huge audiences, but they’re still the most undermonetized media around,” says Dave Zohrob, chief executive officer of Chartable, a podcast analytics firm.” • We like them undermonetized. Jeff, Jeff, before you destroy podcasting as we know it, and impoverish all the small operators in your usual winner-take-all fashion, could you please let Rich and Tracy finish The Civil War Podcast? They probably only have two or three years to go….

Tech: “How Tinder became the app that defines online dating” [Financial Times]. “Success is down to Tinder’s relatively simple set-up. The company says that it dropped its Elo score, an unnerving system that rated user attractiveness based on how many people liked their profile and then showed them equally popular users. But it still matches on proximity and encourages users to swipe yes or no based on appearance rather than pretending to care about a date’s hobbies or interests. The result is that shares in Match now trade at 70 times expected earnings, according to Refinitiv data. To warrant that high it must continue to add paying subscribers when life returns to normal. Tinder, which accounts for more than half of [parent company] Match’s 11m subscribers, has an offering that should do the trick: a subscription level that allows users to see who likes them. This lure has helped Tinder convert free users to subscribers without spending large sums on marketing.”

Tech: “What happens when a Chrome extension with 2m+ users changes hands, raises red flags, doesn’t document updates? Let’s find out” [The Register]. If you’re using The Great Suspender add-on, don’t. Final paragraph: “The Register asked Google whether it plans to implement any measures to help make it easier for people to understand who maintains Chrome extensions and to understand code changes that have been made. We’ve not heard back.” • Shocker.

Mr. Market: “Capitol chaos and a record market rally: Traders on the disconnect between Washington and Wall Street” [CNBC]. “Nancy Tengler, chief investment officer at Laffer Tengler Investments, credits the cool nature of the markets in looking past the unrest. ‘The stock market is not a proxy on society; it’s a proxy for future economic growth, and so while we can certainly feel the sadness and sorrow of this event, the market doesn’t have feelings. It’s looking forward to future earnings,’ Tengler told CNBC’s ‘Trading Nation’ on Thursday. Additional stimulus should also keep money flowing into the market, she said. ‘If you look at the lagged effects of stimulus, we are still benefiting from the March/April stimulus that we received last year, and so we expect that the $900 billion that was just passed is not even in the market yet,’ said Tengler.” • Mr. Market doesn’t have feelings? What about fear and greed?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 69 Greed (previous close: 66 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 8 at 11:51am. The Capitol seizure didn’t rock Mr. Market’s World at all.

Health Care

“High-content screening of Thai medicinal plants reveals Boesenbergia rotunda extract and its component Panduratin A as anti-SARS-CoV-2 agents” [Scientific Reports] (this is Nature, i.e. peer-reviewed). “Among 122 Thai natural products, we found that Boesenbergia rotunda extract and its phytochemical compound, panduratin A, exhibited the potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity…. Our study demonstrated, for the first time, that panduratin A exerts the inhibitory effect against SARS-CoV-2 infection at both pre-entry and post-infection phases….. Since B. rotunda is a culinary herb generally grown in China and Southeast Asia, its extract and the purified panduratin A may serve as the promising candidates for therapeutic purposes with economic advantage during COVID-19 situation.” • In vitro, but still interesting.

“Could new COVID variants undermine vaccines? Labs scramble to find out” [Nature]. “‘By next week we’ll have much more information,’ says Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, whose team is gearing up to study the variants.” •

“Genomic Evidence of In-Flight Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Despite Predeparture Testing” [Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC]. Really good article with a seating map. From the Abstract: “Among 86 passengers on a flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that arrived in New Zealand on September 29, test results were positive for 7 persons in MIQ. These passengers originated from 5 different countries before a layover in Dubai; 5 had negative predeparture SARS-CoV-2 test results. To assess possible points of infection, we analyzed information about their journeys, disease progression, and virus genomic data. All 7 SARS-CoV-2 genomes were genetically identical, except for a single mutation in 1 sample. Despite predeparture testing, multiple instances of in-flight SARS-CoV-2 transmission are likely.” • A twitter thread on this is really interesting:

The index cases are (most likely) A and B. From the thread, which is really nerdy about air travel, you will notice that the index cases are behind other infected cases. Since airlines tend to serve from the galley forward, this would imply that A and B took of their masks firstin row 26, and the virus had time to spread to 24, and infect it. Speculation!

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