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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/1/2020


2:00PM Water Cooler 4/1/2020


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


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

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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 a new national poll from YouGov, as of 4/1/2020, 12:00 PM EDT. The sample size is miserably small:

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The numbers:

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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. What’s fascinating is that underneath it all, if you look at the trendline, Sanders continues a slow and steady rise. Not the same as delegates, of course!

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Biden (D)(1):

Let us also remember that the impeachment only took place in January because that was the calendar Pelosi wanted.

Biden (D)(2): “Joe Biden’s Campaign Claimed It Was Safe to Vote During the Pandemic. It Absolutely Wasn’t.” [Jacobin]. “[A]fter the CDC on March 15 advised the public to cancel all gatherings of more than fifty people, a senior adviser to Joe Biden, the current frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate, went on CNN and claimed the CDC had deemed in-person voting safe. And not a single major media outlet reported on it. Nor did they report on the actual dangerous conditions at multiple primary voting sites, and the exposure of trusting citizens to the coronavirus that the adviser’s reckless advice had encouraged. And it wasn’t just one irresponsible adviser that put people at risk: DNC chair Tom Perez made misleading statements, downplayed the dangers and exaggerated the preparedness of voting sites, and criticized and threatened states which wanted to postpone their primaries. The Biden campaign as well as the DNC put politics over people, exposing countless voters to a fatal virus. We now know that at least two poll workers at locations described as safe by Perez and the Biden campaign have contracted COVID-19.” • They did.

Biden (D)(3): “Biden allies wants [sic] Sanders out, sooner rather than later” [The Hill]. “Another fundraiser was more blunt: ‘He’s an asshole. It’s over. Bernie folks are clinging as they always do.’” • Understandable that a large donor would think that way.

Biden (D)(4): If canidates are responsible for their supporters…

What’s fascinating in this dogpile is how many of the tweets to Sanders Press Secretary Briahna Joy Grey were of the “You’ll never eat lunch in this town again!” variety. Very clarifying.

Cuomo (D)(1): “Cuomo could be the leader the Democratic Party and nation desperately need” [Katrina vanden Heuvel, WaPo]. Whichever editor wrote the headline: Authoritarian followership on full display. More: “The current Cuomo moment is therefore contradictory. The nation rightly celebrates a politician who seems to be able to tell it like it is, to be empathetic and smart and competent all at the same time. How unusual! But within days, this same politician will unveil a monumental budget deal in Albany. Will he channel his father and ask the rich to dig deeper and pay more in taxes to help the state in its time of need? Or will he continue to accept the inequality that characterizes American society today and stand by his cuts to vital services such as Medicaid — not unlike Trump’s cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that millions of New Yorkers depend on?” • I think I know the answer…

Sanders (D)(1): Sanders goes on The View:

Sanders (D)(2): Crisp messaging that should have been delivered before Florida:

Sanders (D)(3): “I worked for Bernie in 2016. Here’s why Black voters aren’t feeling the Bern in 2020” [The Grio]. From Sanders Black Outreach Director in 2016: “The brand of politics that Bernie wields comes from the populist theories of Governor Huey Long to the civil rights era struggles of Black organizations and leaders in the 1960s. At its core, the class-based “for all” policies Bernie has produced is what Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and the Black Panthers wanted for our own communities. Bernie adopted the policies that basically shaped our movements…. .In the end, Bernie lost the Black vote when he was in the best position to get it.” • This is well worth a read, and dovetails with what Bill Fletcher has to say here.

Trump (R)(1): “Who Are the Voters Behind Trump’s Higher Approval Rating?” [New York Times]. “While public perceptions are fluid in a crisis, a notable twist in polling at this point is that independents are driving Mr. Trump’s bump in approval, and some increased Democratic support is a factor as well. Gallup called that “highly unusual for Trump” in reporting its latest survey, which was released last week and showed Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 49 percent, equal to the best of his presidency. While Republicans’ views of Mr. Trump were flat — a sign they had already topped out — approval by independents rose by eight percentage points from early March, while Democratic approval was up by six percentage points. Polling experts said that it was normal for the country to rally around a president during a national crisis, and that Mr. Trump’s dominance of the airwaves alone was enough to sway a slice of voters who don’t normally tune in to politics.” • It is also true that the Democrats, collectively, have never send a consistent policy message other than “Orange Man Bad.” As usual.

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“Gov. Tony Evers to use National Guard members to work the polls amid massive shortage of workers” [Milwaukee Journal]. Gov. Tony Evers has agreed to use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to work at the polls during the April 7 election amid a massive shortage of poll workers that is leaving some communities without anyone to give voters ballots on Election Day. More than 100 communities in Wisconsin don’t have any poll workers for the spring election in six days and a record number of voters are overwhelming clerks with absentee ballots — leading to warnings that thousands of votes may not be counted.” • In the Third World, having the military run an election is generally a very bad sign.

“Kansas Democrats Eliminate In-Person Voting in May 2 Party-Run Presidential Primary” [Frontloading HQ]. ” But Kansas Democrats arrived at the same conclusion other states with party-run contests recently have. Democrats in Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming all chose to end their in-person voting on April 4 and completely lean on the mail-in option each had layered into their delegate selection plans from the start. That insurance policy — the presence of and planning for a vote-by-mail system — gave each state party something to fall back on given the threat the coronavirus now poses to in-person voting this spring. Typically, state parties are at a disadvantage in implementing these types of party-run elections. Those parties just do not have the (funding) resources that state governments do. But in this case, careful planning ahead of time — and in response to new DNC encouragements in Rule 2 to increase participation — laid the groundwork for this unique alternative option. Now, states with primaries but no vote-by-mail infrastructure — states like Delaware — have had to change the dates of their primaries to hopefully shift out of the window of time in which the coronavirus may reach its peak.”

Realignment and Legitimacy


Slip of the tongue? Or something more?

“Republican senator Kelly Loeffler admits to millions MORE in stock sales after coronavirus briefing including ditching shares in retailers and buying into company that makes protective equipment as Justice Department launches Senate probe” [Daily Mail]. •As usual with the Mail, the whole story is in the headline. One detail: “The wealthy Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat and is married to the president of the New York Stock Exchange, sold $18.7 million in International Stock Exchange.” • That’s nice. I wish I had a yarn chart of political class spousal relations.

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: “March 2020 ADP Employment Declines 27,000” [Econintersect]. “Last month’s employment gain was cut. What ADP is saying is that their estimate of job growth is not accurate because of the coronavirus pandemic as the cutoff for this report was before the major impact of the coronavirus on the economy. ADP employment has not been a good predictor of BLS non-farm private job growth.”

Contruction: “February 2020 Construction Spending Declines” [Econintersect]. “Construction spending is trending upward – but this is the month before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The inflation-adjusted data is no longer in contraction. Private construction had been fueling construction growth – but currently, public construction is fueling the growth. The reason for the headline decline is the significant upward revision of last month’s data.”

Manufacturing: “March 2020 ISM and Markit Manufacturing Surveys Are In Expansion But Marginally Declined” [Econintersect]. “The ISM Manufacturing survey declined and is in contraction. The Markit PMI manufacturing index also declined and is now in contraction…. Overall, surveys do not have a high correlation to the movement of industrial production (manufacturing) since the Great Recession.”

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Commodities: “The Effects of COVID-19 Will Ripple through Food Systems” [Scientific American]. “Though the extent of the blow to U.S. food production is unclear—and will depend on how long the pandemic and countermeasures last—widespread food shortages are unlikely anytime soon, several researchers say. Agriculture is considered essential work under the shelter-in-place orders expanding across the country. But farmers must still adhere to social-distancing requirements and can be buffeted by regulations and other changes along the food supply chain, such as the shuttering of restaurants. Some work can easily continue with little interruption. For example, many U.S. farmers producing staple crops, including wheat and rice, do so with mechanized tools that already limit human-to-human contact and fall within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus.”

Shipping: “Amazon.com is facing overwhelming demand from consumers turning to e-commerce amid broad lockdowns, even as the digital behemoth copes with absences at its logistics operations and an increasingly restive workforce” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company says it is ‘working around the clock to bring on additional capacity to deliver all customer orders.’ But employees say Amazon at times has operated warehouses with half the typical number of workers, as staffers call in sick and those remaining struggle with the heavy demand. Amazon has prioritized crucial shipments, but absences and quarantines at some sites have pushed delivery of some in-demand products to weeks rather than hours or days.”

Shipping: “FMC tracks COVID-19-induced supply chain bottlenecks” [American Shipper]. “On March 31, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) authorized Commissioner Rebecca Dye to begin working with representatives from the container-shipping industry to identify “operational solutions to cargo delivery challenges” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The FMC order, known as Fact Finding 29 International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, highlighted the commission’s statutory mandate to ‘ensure efficient and economic transportation system for ocean commerce.’ The order also stated that ‘the commission has determined there is a compelling need to convene new Supply Chain Innovation Teams to address these challenges.’”

Tech: “Honda bucks industry trend by removing touchscreen controls” [Autocar]. “While most manufacturers are moving to touchscreen controls, identifying smartphone use as their inspiration — most recently seen in Audi’s latest A3 — Honda has decided to reintroduce heating and air conditioning controls via a dial rather than touchscreen, as in the previous-generation Jazz. Jazz project leader Takeki Tanaka explained: ‘The reason is quite simple – we wanted to minimise driver disruption for operation, in particular, for the heater and air conditioning.’”

Tech: “Zoom Meetings Aren’T End-To-End Encrypted, Despite Misleading Marketing” [The Intercept]. “ZOOM, THE video conferencing service whose use has spiked amid the Covid-19 pandemic, claims to implement end-to-end encryption, widely understood as the most private form of internet communication, protecting conversations from all outside parties. In fact, Zoom is using its own definition of the term, one that lets Zoom itself access unencrypted video and audio from meetings…. So when you have a Zoom meeting, the video and audio content will stay private from anyone spying on your Wi-Fi, but it won’t stay private from the company.” • Oh.

Tech: “Zoom Calls Aren’t as Private as You May Think. Here’s What You Should Know.” [Consumer Reports]. “Zoom collects personal information about its users and doesn’t provide a lot of detail about how it’s used for advertising, marketing, or other business purposes. And most of the people on Zoom calls probably don’t realize how much information a host can gather. Depending on what tier of service—from a free option to advanced levels for big companies—a host can make a recording of the conference, have it transcribed automatically, and share the information later with people who aren’t in the meeting…. If you feel that you need to have the camera turned on, Zoom lets you choose a photo as the background for your video. You can pick one from your hard drive or use one supplied by Zoom. That can be important because the books on the shelf, posters, or other items in your living space can reveal information that you might not want to share with some of your co-workers or clients. And those images of your bedroom may not disappear when the conference is over; they can be stored for months or even years, and shared with people you’ve never met.”

Tech: The Zoom install on Mac OS seems more than a little sketchy. Thread:

Apparently, everybody loves Zoom because “it just works.” But at what?

Manufacturing: “Hospitals in some cities are using 3-D printers as a stopgap measure to fabricate goods including nasal swabs and face masks” [Wall Street Journal]. “The moves are part of the push of patchwork solutions, often with technologies still under development, to respond to the crushing demand on medical systems as Covid-19 cases mount…. U.S. regulators recently issued updated guidance for 3-D printing specific medical devices and personal protective equipment.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 22 Extreme Fear (previous close: 25 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 17 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 1 at 11:44am. Back to Extreme Fear; no doubt Trump’s presser.

The Biosphere

“Carbon declines along tropical forest edges correspond to heterogeneous effects on canopy structure and function” [PNAS]. “Nearly 20% of tropical forests are within 100 m of a nonforest edge, a consequence of rapid deforestation for agriculture… We uncovered declines in aboveground carbon averaging 22% along edges that extended over 100 m into the forest. Aboveground carbon losses were correlated with significant reductions in canopy height and leaf mass per area and increased foliar phosphorus, three plant traits related to light capture and growth. Carbon declines amplified with edge age. Our results indicate that carbon losses along forest edges can arise from multiple, distinct effects on canopy structure and function that vary with edge age and environmental conditions, pointing to a need for consideration of differences in ecosystem sensitivity when developing land-use and conservation strategies.” A popularization.

“Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic” [NPR]. “For decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can’t be or won’t be recycled. In 40 years, less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled. In a joint investigation, NPR and the PBS series Frontline found that oil and gas companies — the makers of plastic — have known that all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite…. [T]he industry promoted recycling as a way to beat back a growing tide of antipathy toward plastic in the 1980s and ’90s. The industry was facing initiatives to ban or curb the use of plastic. Recycling, the former officials told NPR and Frontline, became a way to preempt the bans and sell more plastic.” • Goddammit.

“How Did Deepwater Horizon’s Spill Affect The Coastal Soils And Wetlands In The Gulf Of Mexico?” [Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!]. “The slow, chronic natural leaks are something that Mother Nature can handle on its own. It’s man-made disaster spills causing acute levels of oil that cause real issues. Instead of 20 million gallons spread over 365 days, Louisiana wetlands received 200 million gallons in the course of almost three months during Deepwater Horizon. This completely overrode the natural way of handling hydrocarbon seepage…. During the two-month journey to the Gulf’s shores from the wellhead, the oil also was exposed to sunlight. This caused further chemical reactions to take place before it washed up on coastal shores. We’ll refer to this as “weathered oil.”… Research showed that the weathered oil was less toxic to the soil microorganisms than the fresh oil. One study did report that submerged oil had an impact on wetland plants’ roots. This could potentially increase their stress and damage the plants. Erosion happened in areas where the oil washing up on shore was too thick. The plants’ roots died in some locations, and roots are important to prevent erosion. Without plant roots, wetland soils were at the mercy of tidal movements and weather.”

“Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050” [PNAS]. “Here, we discuss and evaluate the potential of social tipping interventions (STIs) that can activate contagious processes of rapidly spreading technologies, behaviors, social norms, and structural reorganization within their functional domains that we refer to as social tipping elements (STEs). STEs are subdomains of the planetary socioeconomic system where the required disruptive change may take place and lead to a sufficiently fast reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The results are based on online expert elicitation, a subsequent expert workshop, and a literature review. The STIs that could trigger the tipping of STE subsystems include 1) removing fossil-fuel subsidies and incentivizing decentralized energy generation (STE1, energy production and storage systems), 2) building carbon-neutral cities (STE2, human settlements), 3) divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels (STE3, financial markets), 4) revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels (STE4, norms and value systems), 5) strengthening climate education and engagement (STE5, education system), and 6) disclosing information on greenhouse gas emissions (STE6, information feedbacks).” • “Online expert elicitation.” Interesting method.

Health Care

“Archived chat: the coronavirus pandemic” [STAT (nvl)]. • A good Q&A, where the reporters take questions from readers. nvl singles out one exchange:

I am especially interested in whether or not vaped air–which one can smell even if no one is in sight–could be contaminated with viruses. The answer:

“This has not been directly studied. But it’s clear from analyses of air samples and surfaces that people infected with the new coronavirus can expel it when they cough and, probably, talk, so there is a good chance that exhaling anything from the lungs would also have this effect. And fwiw, a new study finds that smokers are particularly likely to become infected with this coronavirus, because of how chronic exposure to smoke increases the expression of the receptor through which the virus enters airway cells. As for airborne lifetime, not zero but not long: one study (not of smoke/vapor exhalation, though) found very, very low levels after more than an hour. Viral suspension in vaping vapor would be worth studying.”

You can’t just put hospital beds everywhere, like bunk beds:

I knew if I searched on “oxygen tank shortage” I’d find something…

“As Coronavirus Surges, ‘Medicare for All’ Support Hits 9-Month High” [Morning Consult]. “In the midst of a pandemic that has spurred an economic crisis and put Americans’ health care costs in stark contrast with the rest of the industrialized world, support for ‘Medicare for All’ has risen to its highest point in about nine months, according to new Morning Consult/Politico data.”

Failed State

“U.S. unemployment offices sitting on mountain of pending claims” [Reuters]. “Some state officials say they’re struggling to process a flood of applications, and to adapt computer systems to accept new types of claims allowed under the CARES Act. That’s creating a backlog of claims that aren’t yet showing in the official figures…. U.S. unemployment benefits processing is built around a decades-old mainframe computer system, which each state has modified in different ways, making the changes described in the bill difficult to quickly adopt nationwide.” • Paging Clive! (Although we’re probably lucky no contractor has tried to replace the mainframe. “Node.js. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

Class Warfare

Why did we let private companies manage our health?

“Essential and Exposed: Anxiety Spreads Among UPS, FedEx Drivers” [Bloomberg]. “In the new coronavirus economy that divides labor into essential and nonessential, truckers and parcel delivery drivers have become some of the most indispensable — and most exposed — workers as shut-in Americans rely more on online shopping.” • Lol, “the economy” has always been divided into essential and non-essential workers. The PMC is only realizing this because they’ve been personally affected by it.

News of the Wired

Another home-based project:

“Tales From the Loop Review: Amazon’s Otherwordly Sci-Fi Series Is Remarkably Grounded in Reality” [TV Guide]. “Cole and May live in Mercer, Ohio, in some hazy, indeterminate version of what appears to be the 1980s. Mercer’s home to the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics, colloquially known as The Loop. The Loop has a founder named Russ Willard (Jonathan Pryce), a history, and a center; it’s built around a mysterious black orb called The Eclipse, described as “the beating heart of the Loop.” But Tales from the Loop leaves the other details fuzzy. Based on the three episodes supplied to critics, what the Loop is and what it does isn’t really the point of the series, which takes place in an underpopulated, unsettlingly beautiful alternate universe in which science fiction concepts double as ways to explore emotional truths.” • As readers know, I’m a Stålenhag fan:

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Except now Stålenhag, instead of being a quirky Swedish retrofuturist, has an Amazon series reviewed in TV Guide. “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded”?

“A History Of Sprawl In One Road Trip” [The American Conservative]. “We are really seeing two things here: a physical history of the layers/rings of development, and the current built form/stage of development of each particular place. Places back east like Annandale or Bailey’s Crossroads, or some parts of Arlington—now congested and undergoing some of the physical decay typical of early suburbs—were not built all at once. They all went through a process: something like countryside/farm > transition zone > exurb > suburb. Unless land use and housing affordability change dramatically, in all likelihood today’s transition zone, and communities still further west for 10 or 20 miles, will eventually go through this same process. At the same time, the overall density gradient or layers of development, driving west from D.C., will remain observable, because there will always be a particular land area undergoing transition.” • This is very good, and should have its own Stålenhag to chronicle it.

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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: “Spring has come to Los Angeles.” A bit of flare at top fight, but a lovely composition and I am sure very evocative for anyone who knows the hills and canyons of Los Angeles.

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