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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/12/2021

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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/12/2021


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, as you know, my workflow woes will only be solved when Apple gives me back control of the iPad I paid them for, eight days from now (on Inauguration Day, oddly). Nice timing, with an overwhelming mass of material from the Capitol seizure. Please check back at 3:00 or so for more material on that, plus at long last some thoughts from me. Sorry for the slowness. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

The bird singing and that buzzing insect really conjure up the prairie.


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:

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The South is the national champion for vaccination, so far.

Case count by United States region:

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

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Oh, California!

Test positivity:

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Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


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Big jump in Northeast hospitalization, but perhaps its reporting. 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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Fatality rate looking a little better, though still not as good as two months ago.

* * *

NY: “New York state will open Covid vaccinations to everyone 65 and over, Gov. Cuomo says” [CNBC]. “Cuomo said further expanding to those 65 and older will open the eligibility to about 7 million people, but the state is only receiving about 300,000 doses per week… Cuomo said the state is still dealing with a ‘drip, drip, drip from the faucet of federal dosage availability,’ which is inhibiting the state’s ability to vaccinate people. The federal government has been withholding more than half of all available vaccine doses to ensure that there’s enough for second booster shots needed to achieve maximum immunity. But the Trump administration will announce Tuesday that the government will begin distributing those doses to states, a senior administration official told CNBC.” • Oy. Pouring more water into a clogged sink doesn’t unclog it. We’re looking at a last mile problem, not a supply problem. That would be the better problem to have!

OR: “Oregon COVID-19 cases creep upward, raising questions about post-holiday surge” [OregonLive]. “Oregon reported 1,225 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday, part of a trend of increasing cases that started in the week after Christmas. The rolling seven-day average of new cases stood at 898 on Dec. 30. But it has increased slightly — to an average of 1,032 on Sunday — raising questions of whether holiday travel and indoor celebrations are the culprit that’s nudging numbers up. State officials haven’t officially declared a ‘post-holiday surge’ is underway, but they do say coronavirus transmission had been ‘decreased dramatically’ between late November and mid-December before starting an upward trajectory.”


“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

“Director of Army Staff disputes Capitol Police chief account of National Guard deployment” [The Hill]. “Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, the director of the Army Staff, on Monday disputed former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s account of how and when the National Guard was deployed to assist with Wednesday’s Capitol riots, saying that he did not push back against calls for deployment. The top Army official contradicted what Sund told The Washington Post occurred on a conference call between officials. Piatt said that ‘as soon as’ Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy received the request from the Capitol Police to deploy the National Guard, ‘he ran to the Acting Secretary of Defense’s office to request approval.’…. Piatt said authorization to activate the National Guard came ‘approximately forty minutes after that call initiated,’ though the first National Guard personnel did not arrive on the scene until 5:40 p.m., after four of the five deaths amid the riot had already occurred.” • I think, in all of this, we need to remember that the press and the political class are players. They have same personnel and interests after the Capitol seizure as they did before, and that anything they say needs to be taken with a dose of salts. Hence I tried yesterday to get as much granular and on-the-ground information as I could.

Transition from Trump

“Trump defends remarks before Capitol riots, calling them ‘totally appropriate’” [The Hill]. “President Trump on Tuesday said his remarks to supporters just before they stormed the U.S. Capitol last week were ‘totally appropriate,’ even as they have become the basis for an article of impeachment against him. ‘They’ve analyzed my speech and my words and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody, to the T, thought it was totally appropriate,’ Trump told reporters as he departed Joint Base Andrews to visit the border with Mexico.” • We had vetting. We had the best vetting.

“Trump dropped by biggest lender Deutsche Bank for future business: NYT” [Reuters]. “Deutsche Bank will not do business in the future with U.S. President Donald Trump or his companies in the wake of his supporters’ assault on the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times reported.”

Transition to Biden

“Sanders to wield gavel as gatekeeper for key Biden proposals” [The Hill]. “As Budget chair, Sanders will have the opportunity to shape each reconciliation bill. He addressed that new role on Tuesday. ‘In the past, Republicans used budget reconciliation to pass massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations with a simple majority vote,’ Sanders tweeted. ‘As the incoming Chairman of the Budget Committee, I will fight to use the same process to boldly address the needs of working families.’” • “Fight to,” ugh. Plus, Sanders and Manchin, a marriage made in heaven. Nevertheless, better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish.

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.

Small Business Optimism: “December 2020 Small Business Optimism Drops Below Index Average in December” [Econintersect]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index declined 5.5 points in December to 95.9, falling below the average Index value since 1973 of 98. Nine of the 10 Index components declined and only one improved. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months declined 24 points to a net negative 16%…. Said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg: “This month’s drop in small business optimism is historically very large, and most of the decline was due to the outlook of sales and business conditions in 2021. Small businesses are concerned about potential new economic policy in the new administration and the increased spread of COVID-19 that is causing renewed government-mandated business closures across the nation.”

* * *

Bitcoin: “Bitcoin Rebounds While Leaving Everyone in Dark on True Worth” [Bloomberg]. “The digital coin rose 4.9% to $35,616 as of 11:30 a.m. in London, following yesterday’s 11% slide. The latest bout of roller-coaster volatility recalls past boom and bust cycles including the 2017 bubble, and has investors debating whether this is a healthy correction or the end of the latest bull run for cryptocurrencies.” • True worth…

Tech: “The pandemic proved that ‘the PC is essential’: HP executive” [Yahoo Finance]. “The coronavirus pandemic forced millions of people around the world to turn their living rooms into their new offices. And one of the biggest beneficiaries of this transformation has been the PC market. According to Canalys, the PC market grew by a whopping 25% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2020, with more than 90 million units shipped worldwide.” • Otherwise, this is product placement for HP. Yech!

Tech: “Spotify Bets Big on Podcasts as a Path to Profitability” [Bloomberg]. “In the past two years, Spotify has spent close to $900 million acquiring podcast production and technology companies. And it’s spent millions more on exclusive rights to shows from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and TikTok star Addison Rae. Two of its most popular programs are comedian Joe Rogan’s The Joe Rogan Experience and The Michelle Obama Podcast, and Spotify expects new shows from Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to put up big numbers, too.” • Those bloodsucking Silicon Valley ghouls are going to destroy podcasting exactly as they destroyed the blogosphere.

Manufacturing: “Boeing’s 2020 aircraft cancellations worst on record, despite December Max orders” [CNBC].

Mr. Market: “Wall Street Visionaries Provide Chilling Views on Next Big Risk” [Bloomberg]. Goldman Sachs: Cybersecurity. Bridgewater Associates: Displacement of the workforce. Two Sigma Investments: “We may be building a world that is not particularly designed for humans.”


Leading Indicator: “Carnival expects 2021 loss but says 2022 bookings are strong” [ABC]. “Carnival Corp. said Monday its 2022 cruise bookings are running ahead of 2019 numbers, a good sign that guests will return once the pandemic has eased…. The company is confident customers will return as it slowly ramps up business. As of Dec. 20, bookings for the second half of 2021 were within historical ranges despite minimal advertising and marketing, Carnival said.” • So cruise cancellations would be something a bear would look at.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 66 Greed (previous close: 65 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 12 at 12:16pm.

Health Care

Handy guide to the naming convention for proteins, a thread:

“What sunspots are whispering about covid-19?” [Medical Hypotheses]. “Several studies point to the antimicrobial effects of ELF electromagnetic fields. Such fields have accompanied life from the very beginning, and it is possible that they played a significant role in its emergence and evolution. However, the literature on the biological effects of ELF electromagnetic fields is controversial, and we still lack an understanding of the complex mechanisms that make such effects, observed in many experiments, possible. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how fragile we are in the face of powerful processes operating in the biosphere. We believe that understanding the role of ELF electromagnetic fields in regulating the biosphere is important in our fight against Covid-19, and research in this direction should be intensified.” • I’m putting this out here as a marker and only because its peer-reviewed (and not, because I really am a trusting soul, as a honeypot for 5G speculation now that comments have returned).

Our school systems really don’t seem to be anti-fragile:

“Infection control theatre” is a keeper. Something to bring up at your local school board….

The Biosphere

“Apollo astronauts left their poop on the moon. We gotta go back for that shit.” [Vox]. “[T]he bigger human footprint on the moon is, arguably, the 96 bags of human waste left behind by the six Apollo missions that landed there…. Around 50 percent of [the fecal] mass is made up of bacteria, representing some of the 1,000-plus species of microbes that live in your gut. In a piece of poop lives a whole wondrous ecosystem…. With the Apollo 11 moon landing, we took microbial life on Earth to the most extreme environment it has ever been in. Which means the human feces — along with bags of urine, food waste, vomit, and other waste in the bags, which also might contain microbial life — on the moon represents a natural, though unintended, experiment. The question the experiment will answer: How resilient is life in the face of the brutal environment of the moon?”

“Tech companies aren’t doing enough to keep their devices out of landfills, and neither are we” [CNBC]. “”Smartphones and tablets are challenging,” John Shegerian, CEO of ERI says. ‘Many of them are no longer made with screws; they’re made with glue. Glue makes things very hard to take apart and recover materials from because it degrades the value of the commodity product itself.’ About 6.9 million metric tons of e-waste was produced in the US alone in 2019, according to Global E-Waste Monitor, a research group that tracks electronic waste. That’s about the same weight as 19 Empire State Buildings. Of that, only about 15% was collected for recycling. And some of the minerals and metals being thrown away with our e-waste aren’t just valuable; they’re toxic. Creating a phone that stayed relevant for four or five years instead of one or two could make a huge difference.” • 

Screening Room

“Matrix analysis (1): Battery” [Marxian Matrix]. “This publication is called the Marxian Matrix and I thought it would be a great idea that we start by a precise analysis of the Wachowskis’ Matrix. After watching the movies again for the purposes of this analysis, I have come to believe that it is not only a great idea, but an indispensable stop on the path of our inquiry into the present structure of social relations. This first part and the next three that follow are, as it were, arguments for this indispensability.” • From 2018, which does not affect its germane nature.

Class Warfare


News of the Wired

I don’t want to pitch for this guy’s store….

… but perhaps the idea springs out of the zeitgeist now (“no idea why I drew this”) with the realization that the platforms can deplatform anybody at any time, arbitrarily (“If your politics depends on a platform, you don’t have a politics”). But that’s not true for good ol’ print which, after all, worked very well for the Bolsheviks….

And I like Fetterman, but he’s getting too much press lately. Still:

Butter Gritty is shlock, totally (i.e., not kitsch).

Words to live by:

However, interesting things happen when you transfer these maxims to the realm of the political class….

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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 (SE):

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SE writes: “Take your pick–trees or moss! Taken in the woods of West Virginia.”

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Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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