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2:00PM Water Cooler 12/31/2020

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2:00PM Water Cooler 12/31/2020


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I’m being extremely lazy in the run-up to New Year’s. See you next week! –lambert.

Bird Song of the Day


Not exactly holiday material, but it has to be done. Drops across the board, which I assume is entirely a holiday-driven reporting issue.

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:

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An enormous holiday drop, far larger than Thanksgiving. 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?

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

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Enormous drops, except in New York.

The test positivity, hospitalization, and case fatality graphs have moved or disappeared (plus all the other URLs changed), and I miss them. The change log doesn’t reflect this. I think this is a volunteer project, so I’m assuming I’m not getting it (but “Don’t make me think”) or that the charts are in a New Years’ shakedown phase.


“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

Democrats en Deshabille



Somebody should ask Ossoff if he organized “West Wing” watch parties at Georgetown:

Narrator: “That’s what they said at first.”

“Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Fetterman relentlessly trolls Dan Patrick seeking $1M voter fraud bounty” [Houston Chronicle]. “The Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania has been trolling his Republican counterpart for weeks to collect on the $1 million Patrick offered in November for evidence of fraud in the Nov. 3 election. Three supporters of President Donald Trump have now been charged in separate voter fraud schemes in Pennsylvania. Fetterman says they should all count for bounty purposes. The most recent charges came this week — against the second Pennsylvania man to be accused of casting a ballot for Trump in the name of his deceased mother. ‘We hit the jackpot with this last one,’ Fetterman said. ‘There are three documented cases — three.’”

“Why McConnell was ok with Trump losing” [Ryan Grim, Bad News]. “One of the enduring mysteries of the 2020 presidential election was McConnell’s apparent lack of interest in helping to reelect Trump. From the perspective of the White House, the political press corps, Democrats, and effectively everybody watching the race, there was one major thing they thought would go a long way to delivering four more years for Trump, and that was a major round of stimulus in the weeks before the election, complete with checks destined for voters. Given that a swing of fewer than 100,000 votes in the right states would have flipped the election to Trump, it’s fair to say that such a stimulus could indeed have turned the tide for Trump. Yet McConnell stood in the way….. From McConnell’s perspective, he has gotten nearly everything he could out of Trump: three Supreme Court justices, control of the federal judiciary, sweeping deregulation, and trillions in tax cuts. Yet for McConnell, dealing with Trump is also a daily humiliation, like being charged with babysitting a toddler who has been told by his parents that he’s the boss. What could Trump do for McConnell in a second term that would be worth the headache? And aside from the degradation, Trump represents a threat to McConnell’s vision of the Republican Party as a coalition led by billionaires and supported by the white working class. In Trump’s party, politicians like McConnell would not lead, but would be at the whim of the QAnon-inspired masses.”

Transition to Biden

Biden on the $2,000

Although in publlic Biden didn’t lift a finger to help, I’m sure he was working hard behind the scenes.

Our Famously Free Press

“The Resistance’s Breakup With the Media Is at Hand” [The Atlantic]. “As the White House beat became the biggest story in the world, once-obscure correspondents were recast in the popular imagination as resistance heroes fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. They were showered with book deals, speaking gigs, and hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. They got glow-ups to accompany their new cable-news contracts, and those glow-ups were covered in glossy magazines. Along the way, many of them adapted their journalism to cover an unusually mendacious and corrupt president (much to the delight of their new fan bases).” • The writer seems a little confused about the nature of “the popular imagination.”

Obama Legacy

“The Fraudulent Universalism of Barack Obama” [Current Affairs]. “From his debut book Dreams From My Father to the present day, Obama’s tendency to invoke grand, dialectical oppositions then resolve them with abstract appeals to unity or similitude has been a hallmark of his style. Combined with his flair for lofty, even mythical imagery and ability to fuse his thoughts and biography with everything around him, the upshot is a rendering of events in which every strand of history, culture, and ideology appears to realize itself in Barack Obama: a man whose life and presidency represent the synthesis of every strain of American life hitherto in tension.” • That’s not a small-d democratic dynamic to the slightest degree.

Realignment and Legitimacy

It’s people like you what cause unrest:

Stats Watch

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 50 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 31 at 12:46pm.

Health Care

“Here’s Why Distribution of the Vaccine Is Taking Longer Than Expected” [New York Times]. “States vary widely in how many of the doses they’ve received have been given out. South Dakota leads the country with more than 48 percent of its doses given, followed by West Virginia, at 38 percent. By contrast, Kansas has given out less than 11 percent of its doses, and Georgia, less than 14 percent. Compounding the challenges, federal officials say they do not fully understand the cause of the delays. But state health officials and hospital leaders throughout the country pointed to several factors. States have held back doses to be given out to their nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, an effort that is just gearing up and expected to take several months. Across the country, just 8 percent of the doses distributed for use in these facilities have been administered, with two million yet to be given. The holiday season has meant that people are off work and clinics have reduced hours, slowing the pace of vaccine administration. In Florida, for example, the demand for the vaccines dipped over the Christmas holiday and is expected to dip again over New Year’s, Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Wednesday. And critically, public health experts say, federal officials have left many of the details of the final stage of the vaccine distribution process, such as scheduling and staffing, to overstretched local health officials and hospitals.”

“Some 500 Coronavirus Vaccine Doses Intentionally Destroyed, Hospital Says” [NPR]. “Aurora Medical Center officials had initially suspected the Moderna vaccines, which must be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, had inadvertently been left out at the Grafton hospital on Dec. 26. But an investigation found the [now-former employee] ‘acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration,’ officials said Wednesday.”

“St. Joseph’s ER in St. Paul closes Wednesday morning” [Star-Tribune]. “St. Joseph’s ER was seeing a greater share of patients who were homeless and primarily seeking shelter or had mental health or chemical dependency problems. Nicholson said Fairview is addressing that population with new services so they won’t need emergency care — including leasing Bethesda Hospital, the former long-term acute care facility in St. Paul, to Ramsey County for conversion into shelter housing…. While modernized health care that improves outcomes is the goal, it was born of financial necessity. Fairview reported a net operating loss of $152 million in the first nine months of 2020, compared with a loss of nearly $60 million over the same time frame in 2019. Fairview took on the money-losing St. Joseph’s as part of a 2017 merger with HealthEast and hastened its losses by concentrating more inpatient psychiatric services there.” • Oh.

“Obamacare, in Its First Big Test as Safety Net, Is Holding Up So Far” [New York Times]. The deck: “Job losses and the loss of insurance have typically gone hand in hand. This year, more Americans are staying covered.” “More” is doing a log of work, there. Ten paragraphs down: “Mr. Bruenig said he was struck by how many low-income people remained uninsured, a sign, he said, that the new system [(!!!!!!)] was not yet reaching everyone it was designed to help. ‘There’s a lot of uninsurance at the bottom, more than you might think,’ he said. ‘Because for one reason or another, people are not getting on these plans.’” • ObamaCare is not “new.” It was passed in 2009, ffs.

The Biosphere

“Transforming carbon dioxide into jet fuel using an organic combustion-synthesized Fe-Mn-K catalyst” [Nature]. “As this carbon dioxide is extracted from air, and re-emitted from jet fuels when combusted in flight, the overall effect is a carbon-neutral fuel. This contrasts with jet fuels produced from hydrocarbon fossil sources where the combustion process unlocks the fossil carbon and places it into the atmosphere, in longevity, as aerial carbon-dioxide.”

2020 Postgame Analysis

Maybe I filtered it out, but there seems to be a shortage this year of retrospectives, like “Best of 2020,” “2020’s Top Ten _______,” or “2020 in Pictures,” style-of-thing. Herewith a few random items:

Good call. Note the date:

2020’s showrunners were terrible:

The one aggregation that did make it onto my feed:

Salads (1):

Salads (2):

“MapLab: Your Brain on Maps” [Bloomberg]. “We’ve now gathered nearly 450 maps from people all over the world, from many walks of life, showing how their lives have been transformed by the arrival of Covid-19.” Here they are. Hong Kong:

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Class Warfare

“Influence of socioeconomic deprivation on interventions and outcomes for patients admitted with COVID-19 to critical care units in Scotland: A national cohort study” [The Lancet]. Scotland. “Patients with COVID-19 living in areas with greatest socioeconomic deprivation had a higher frequency of critical care admission and a higher adjusted 30-day mortality. ICUs in health boards with higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation had both higher peak occupancy and longer duration of occupancy over normal maximum capacity.”

News of the Wired


Women, too? I don’t know from experience; there were no women in the factory I worked in that used pallet jacks.

“New Train Hall Opens at Penn Station, Echoing Building’s Former Glory” [New York Times]. “For more than half a century, New Yorkers have trudged through the crammed platforms, dark hallways and oppressively low ceilings of Pennsylvania Station, the busiest and perhaps most miserable train hub in North America…. After nearly three years of construction, the new Moynihan Train Hall, in the James A. Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station, will open to the public on Jan. 1 as a waiting room for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers.” Fourteen paragraphs in: “The Moynihan hall caters primarily to Amtrak passengers, who account for just 5 percent of Penn Station’s 650,000 weekday riders and will board and exit trains through the new waiting area. Long Island Rail Road commuters will be able to get to trains from the new hall, but officials expect most of them to continue to use the older Penn Station…. The station’s six subway lines run along Eighth and Seventh Avenues and Avenue of the Americas — a good distance from the new train hall. That leaves subway riders, who tend to be less affluent than Amtrak users, and New Jersey Transit commuters to the bowels of Penn Station.” • So, optimized for Acela riders? I’m shocked. Now do the tunnels under the Hudson before they implode. Meanwhile, in a productive, not financialized political economy:

Fast forward to Basquiat?

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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 (HH):

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HH writes: “Pflugerville, TX just just northeast of Austin city limits December 10, 2020. Bitter oranges (aka Seville oranges) are what you might get if you plant citrus trees and then forget about them: The root stock for grafting citrus (lemons, loquats, mandarins, navels, etc.) is often a bitter orange, which is more cold-hardy and disease-resistant. But if you don´t watch out, the bitter orange can take over, and in our case, we now have several two-story trees full of bitter citrus. As you can see, some oranges have fallen off, but the trees are still loaded with fruit. On the upside, they are the preferred orange for marmalade and they are also really good with gin and tonic.” So if you have bitter oranges, make a gin an tonic. Very on-brand for 2020.

I have enough plants in the inventory not to feel nervous now. Coral is an honorary plant, and some of you sent coral; lichen and fungi are also honorary plants, and I don’t have many of those, so it’s not too late to send them in. Thank you!

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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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