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2:00PM Water Cooler 3/26/2020


2:00PM Water Cooler 3/26/2020


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this will be an abbreviated Water Cooler, partly because I had to launch this year’s Water Cooler fundraiser (there is a tip jar on this page as well), but also because I must finish a post on #COVID19 and class. I will be back at full force tomorrow. –lambert


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart:

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The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. I am using a linear, not a logarithmic scale, because the linear scale conveys the alarming quality of the multiplication better (don’t @ me, math nerds). I did not adjust for population, because it seems to me that the epidemics spread through a population in a fractal matter; within reasonable limits, the shape of the curve will be the same. Show me I’m wrong!


“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

Key dates coming fast now, so I added some counters:

Some of the next primaries. (I picked the major dates; here is a complete calendar.)

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We encourage readers to play around with the polling charts; they are dynamic, and there are a lot of settings, more than I can usefully show here. Here is a link to alert reader dk’s project. You can also file bug reports or feature requests using the same contact process as for Plants, below. Thanks — but no promises!

We have no new national or state polls today. (Indeed, one might question what polling in the midst of a pandemic really means. It would seem that those who are willing to pick of the phone would increase, yes?

It does seem that the strategy of keeping Biden out of the public eye pays off. Earlier in the year, we often had occasion to comment on the mysterious strength of the Biden Juggernaut, on display here; but it’s also true that Biden’s ups and downs have been of much greater amplitude than other candidates. As today!

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Cuomo (D)(1):

Cuomo (D)(2): “Cuomo Takes Jab At Trump’s Priorities: ‘Job One Has To Be To Save Lives. That Has To Be The Priority.’” [Forbes]. • Well and good. But see above.

Sanders (D)(1): I’m not impressed with Sanders getting better UI benefits, if indeed he did (I haven’t seen a paper trail of the amendment), because that’s a trivial benefit from handing the very worst sort of billionaires the power to remake the economy with trillions in free money. I’ve been impressed with the ability of the Sanders campaign to transition from rallies to digital events; and with using the list for fundraising. But he’s got the most dedicated, loyal, and active voter base in the country (and hitherto they’ve been willing to fund him). What’s he using his movement for, then? As Madeline Albright said to Colin Powell: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Somehow, directing it at the New York primary seems beside the point; especially with Cuomo getting such good press.

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: Holy moley:

There seem to be a lot of “lines” like that just about now.

“Third Estimate 4Q2019 GDP Unchanged at 2.1%. Corporate Profits Improved” [Econintersect]. “The third estimate of fourth-quarter 2019 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 2.1 % (unchanged from the second estimate). I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but my year-over-year preferred method showed a moderate deceleration from last quarter.” • The Donald was cruising. And then…

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Commodities: “Opinion: ‘There is no gold.’ Bullion dealers sell out in panic buying” [MarketWatch]. “‘There’s no gold,’ says Josh Strauss, partner at money manager Pekin Hardy Strauss in Chicago (and a bullion fan). ‘There’s no gold. There’s roughly a 10% premium to purchase physical gold for delivery. Usually it’s like 2%. I can buy a one ounce American Eagle for $1,800,’ said Josh Strauss. ‘$1,800!’ Major gold dealers have sold out of coins and gold bars amid panic buying as the U.S. economy plunges and the government agreed to a record $2 trillion emergency lifeline.”

Marketing: “For Influencers, Affiliate Revenue Is Next to Disappear” [Business of Fashion]. “Some large fashion and beauty retailers have paused affiliate link programmes as the coronavirus pandemic depresses sales, BoF has learned, throwing a cornerstone of the social media economy into turmoil. Macy’s, Dillard’s, T.J. Maxx and Ulta Beauty were among the chains to at least temporarily end the practice this week, denying influencers and media companies of the sales commissions they receive from posting links to products. These links have become a multi-billion dollar ecosystem, serving as the main source of income for many influencers and a lucrative revenue stream for media brands. But with stores closed in most major cities, and consumers cutting back their spending on fashion, retailers are slashing costs. Millions of US workers have been laid off across all industries in the last two weeks, and some economists are predicting a global recession as bad or worse than the downturn that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Dillard’s told its affiliate partners in an email that ‘the decision was made due to the impact of Covid-19 and the realignment of marketing strategy.’ Now, influencers find themselves scrambling to figure out how to supplement that once-reliable source of income.” • Rough business.

Retail: “Walmart Was Almost Charged Criminally Over Opioids. Trump Appointees Killed the Indictment.” [ProPublica]. “A fine would not be a sufficient deterrent, the DEA’s Dhillon added, since Walmart ‘has more money than it knows what to do with.’ ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that,’ Rosenstein responded, according to five people familiar with the investigation. ‘We are all capitalists here.’ Rosenstein’s quip brought the prosecutorial team up short. They weren’t pursuing Walmart because it was profitable but because, in their view, the company had put its customers at deadly risk. Not long after, Rosenstein’s assistant entered the room to say he had a call. He left. The prosecutors’ push to persuade Rosenstein to revive the criminal case had failed.” • Wait, I thought Rosenstein was Hero Of The Resistance™?

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 21 Extreme Fear (previous close: 17 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 7 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 26 at 1:28pm.The chorus of “put American back to work” must be gratifying to Mr. Market. As is the likely passage of the stimulus bill.

The Biosphere

“International regulations have paused a jet-stream shift in the Southern Hemisphere” [Nature]. “[T]he authors’ results provide a clear signal that human actions can affect Earth’s climate: the Montreal Protocol has paused the climate change associated with ozone depletion. This is an object lesson in how the international community should react to global environmental challenges. Restricting dangerous emissions and changing business practices is also the way to combat global warming caused by greenhouse gases.”

Health Care

“COVID-19 needs a Manhattan Project” [Science]. “If we want to maximize the chances for success, however, and have enough doses to end the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, current piecemeal efforts won’t be enough. If ever there was a case for a coordinated global vaccine development effort using a “big science” approach, it is now. There is a strong track record for publicly funded, large-scale scientific endeavors that bring together global expertise and resources toward a common goal. The Manhattan Project during World War II didn’t just bring about nuclear weapons quickly; it led to countless changes in how scientists from many countries work together. The Human Genome Project and CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) engaged scientists from around the world to drive basic research from their home labs through local and virtual teamwork. Taking this big, coordinated approach to developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will not only potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives, but will also help the world be better prepared for the next pandemic. An initiative of this scale won’t be easy.”

“Canada’s Coronavirus Response Shows Why We Need Medicare for All to Fight This Pandemic” [Jacobin]. “I’m a dual American-Canadian citizen, and over the past weeks, I’ve read countless stories on social media of exasperated American friends seeking coronavirus testing who describe a complex journey navigating between primary-care providers, hospitals, and local health departments. The fragmented nature of the US health-care system has made it difficult to coordinate a response or testing strategy, especially between completely separate health-care providers that often have different testing equipment and protocols. Meanwhile, in Canada, the provincial government is essentially the only financier of hospitals and health-care providers in each province, making it much easier to coordinate strategies. In Ontario, for example, anyone who suspects they have coronavirus is instructed to self-assess using an online tool, then either call a central Telehealth number, call their primary provider, or visit a dedicated assessment center. All three resources are receiving regular information from the provincial government and are able to determine what steps someone should take next: arranging testing, instructing the person to self-isolate, or providing reassurance. Each province has set up their own similar centralized system, and even before some of the newer resources were created, health departments at the local, provincial, and federal level were acting as central contact points for individuals and organizations. This coordination stands in stark contrast to the confusing and contradicting information provided by different levels of government in the United States, especially in the earlier days of the crisis.”

Class Warfare

“Thomas Piketty Takes On the Ideology of Inequality” [Marshall Steinbaum, Boston Review]. “The tendency in economics now—as well as in a great deal of public discussion—is to view the economy as a natural force, existing independently from our ideas about what it is and how it ought to work. This book systematically demolishes that self-serving conceit by charting in extensive detail how differently it has operated at different periods of time, and how its operation is conditioned by the ideologies with which it co-develops. ‘The market and competition, profits and wages, capital and debt, skilled and unskilled workers, natives and aliens, tax havens and competitiveness—none of these things exist as such,’ Piketty insists. ‘All are social and historical constructs’ that ‘depend entirely’ on the ‘systems that people choose to adopt and the conceptual definitions they choose to work with.’… An exhaustive assessment of Capital and Ideology would require more space and expertise than I have, but the basic contours of the book are easy enough to describe. ‘Every human society must justify its inequalities,’ the book begins. What follows is a comprehensive investigation of how different societies have done precisely that, ranging through what the book terms various ‘inequality regimes.’”

News of the Wired

“Jure Tovrljan redesigns iconic logos to reflect a world under coronavirus” [Dezeen]. “The overlapping circles of the Mastercard logo, as well as the iconic rings of the Olympic flag are reimagined safely spaced apart. ‘I tried to send a message for people to stay at home and if they really need to go out, act responsibly, keep your social distance,’ the designer explained.” • Apparently done by MacDonald’s Brazil:

Solidarity generally talkes a material form; as, fpr example, wages, sick leave and so forth.

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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 (MF):

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MF writes: “I took this photo of Heteromeles arbutifolia, commonly known as Toyon, Christmas berry, or California holly, while hiking Mulholland Gateway Park in the Santa Monica Mountains.” I think we’ve got some fringing, but they are lovely berries.

I put out a call for reader projects suitable for a spell of isolation, including model trains. Alert reader RR responded:

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RR writes: “Work has halted as my train room has been reassigned as my wife’s telework office. The beginnings of a tunnel can be seen on the right. My local library has a 3d printer that I used to print a portal. My rocket scientist did the rest during a telecon.” That’s super-neat about the 3D printing, and especially in a public library; how amazing! Do any other readers work with 3D printers?

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

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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