2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, more soon. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

A shore-bird. I can’t hear the sea, though I wish I could.


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.

Vaccination by region:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 2

Look at the South go! • Early in February, I said a simple way to compare Biden’s performance to Trump’s on vaccination would be to compare the curves. If Biden accelerated vaccine administration, the rate of vaccination post-Inaugural would kink upward, as the policies of a more effective administration took hold. They have not. The fragmented, Federalized, and profit-driven lumbering monstrosity that we laughingly call our “health care” “system” has not responded to “energy in the executive,” but has continued on its inertial path, albeit in an upward direction.

Case count by United States regions:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 3


The Midwest in detail:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 4

Michigan is… not looking good. And Minnesota is following.

MI: “Michigan Shows Why Managing The COVID-19 Endgame Is So Hard” [HuffPo]. “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded to her state’s soaring COVID-19 caseloads on Friday by calling for a two-week, voluntary return to more social distancing…. But while Whitmer urged residents to avoid indoor dining and asked school districts to suspend both in-person high school learning and after-school sports for the two-week period, she declined to issue new orders in either case. It’s a less aggressive move than many public health experts had been urging, even as she faces ongoing, relentless calls from Republicans and their allies to dial back restrictions even more…. Friday’s announcement suggests that she is trying to walk a fine line between following public health guidance and recognizing that her constituents, even the politically sympathetic ones, have lost their patience for pandemic restrictions. Of course, that is precisely the problem now all over the country: Many Americans are ready to move on from the virus, but the pandemic isn’t over just yet. It’s a difficult situation to manage, especially in such a politically polarized environment. But lives are literally at stake.” •

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

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 5

The big drop in New York, but flattening. Florida on the continues its slow climb. I’ve helpfully added a black line to compare our new normal with New York’s peak last year.

Test positivity:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 6


2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 7

Still heading down.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 8

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is dropping now, for some reason as unknown as why it rose.

* * *


“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

Biden Administration

“Why Would Anyone Want to be President?” [Elizabeth Drew, Project Syndicate]. “Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality.” • Whew!


“Amtrak’s Future Lies Between Boston and Washington” [Matt Yglesias, Bloomberg]. “The best thing Amtrak could do for its long-term future is to identify routes with high returns on investment — that is, ones that are likely to generate large increases in ridership and reduce its dependence on federal subsidy. That means focusing on high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, where for many trips it’s already faster to take the train than fly (once you factor in travel to and security at the airport).” • Says the Acela Corridor rider…. Why are we accepting the premise that Amtrak needs to be profitable?

“I don’t get the high-speed rail thing (yet)” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. “The potential decline of business travel calls into question the entire economic benefit of HSR. Yes, making it easier for businesspeople to travel between production locations is a boost to productivity. But Zoom might simply supersede those gains by providing a much bigger boost. Making it slightly more convenient to talk face to face with a coworker, supplier, or customer in another city is good. Making it infinitely cheaper and much more convenient is better, and eliminates much of the scope for gains from trains.”

Democrats en Deshabille

The reason the rules don’t seem to make sense is that they do not, in fact, make sense:

Isn’t Biaggi guilty of micro-aggression, here?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Q: Into the Storm Exposes the QAnon Conspiracy and Its Toxic Roots” [Jacobin]. “Interacting with both Jim and Ron Watkins over the course of several years — the project being some three in the making — the director’s seemingly passive eye clearly understands its subjects well, and a mixture of editing and commentary makes it obvious that he finds them neither sympathetic nor trustworthy. The series’ key moment [spoilers incoming] comes in its final episode, when Hoback, having embedded himself with Jim Watkins during January 6 Capitol storming, concludes by arguing that the identity of the mysterious Q is, in fact, Ron Watkins himself. ‘If you look at my Twitter feed, that’s what I’m doing publicly now,’ Watkins tells the filmmaker during their final conversation in the film, adding: I’ve spent the past . . . almost ten years, every day, doing this kind of research anonymously. Now I’m doing it publicly, that’s the only difference. . . . It was basically . . . three years of intelligence training teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously but, before, never as Q. Watkins, whose ensuing cheeky expression carries the air of someone catching themself midway through a mistake, hastens to add: ‘Never as Q. I promise. Because I am not Q, and I never was.’: • RussiaGate normies, of course, were taught how to do intelligence work by high intelligence officials, on national media, and their service providers in the press.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Consumer Inflation Expectations” [Trading Economics]. “Inflation Expectations in the United States increased to 3.20 percent in March from 3.09 percent in February of 2021.

* * *

Retail: What Happened to Pickup Trucks?” [Bloomberg]. “Since 1990, U.S. pickup trucks have added almost 1,300 pounds on average. Some of the biggest vehicles on the market now weigh almost 7,000 pounds — or about three Honda Civics. These vehicles have a voracious appetite for space, one that’s increasingly irreconcilable with the way cities (and garages, and parking lots) are built. Styling trends are almost as alarming. Pickup truck front ends have warped into scowling brick walls, billboards for outwardly directed hostility. ‘The goal of modern truck grilles,’ wrote Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky in 2018, ‘seems to be… about creating a massive, brutal face of rage and intimidation.’…. Giant, furious trucks are more than just a polarizing consumer choice: Large pickups and SUVs are notably more lethal to other road users, and their conquest of U.S. roads has been accompanied by a spike in fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists.” • [sings] “We’re bringing the war / back home….”

Retail: “Nightclub nightmare: industry fears for its post-Covid future” [Financial Times]. • No more velvet ropes manned by thick-necked, steroidal enforcers? That’s a damn shame.

The Bezzle: “Coinbase Sails Toward $100 Billion Valuation on Crypto Frenzy” [Bloomberg]. “Coinbase Global Inc., the fast-growing exchange at the center of the speculative frenzy in cryptocurrencies, is expected to go public this week at a staggering valuation of about $100 billion. That’s more than the venerable New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market combined — for a company that didn’t even exist a decade ago. If all goes according to plan, Wednesday’s scheduled direct listing on Nasdaq will cement Coinbase’s position as the Big Board of the U.S. crypto scene and a potent symbol of the risks and rewards of the new era of digital money.” • I wouldn’t be so negative about “digital money” if I could see anything other than downsides for me, personally. It seems like a rentier’s wet dream. Which I suppose explains the valuation.

The Bezzle:

Tech: “What chipageddon? Samsung says sales and profits soared in Q1” [The Register]. “However, Samsung is less affected by the shortage than others as the giant chaebol makes many of its own components.” • Vertical integration as a form of insurance?

Tech: “Why it’s easier to move country than switch social media” [Wired]. “When we talk about social media monopolies, we focus too much on network effects, and not enough on switching costs. Yes, it’s true that all your friends are already stuck in a Big Tech silo that doesn’t talk to any of the other Big Tech silos. It needn’t be that way: interoperable platforms have existed since the first two Arpanet nodes came online. You can phone anyone with a phone number and email anyone with an email address. The reason you can’t talk to Facebook users without having a Facebook account isn’t that it’s technically impossible – it’s that Facebook forbids it. What’s more, Facebook (and its Big Tech rivals) have the law on their side: the once-common practice of making new products that just work with existing ones (like third-party printer ink, or a Mac program that can read Microsoft Office files, or an emulator that can play old games) has been driven to the brink of extinction by Big Tech. They were fine with this kind of “competitive compatibility” when it benefited them, but now that they dominate the digital world, it’s time for it to die. To restore competitive compatibility, we would need reform to many laws: software copyright and patents, the anti-circumvention laws that protect digital rights management, and the cybersecurity laws that let companies criminalize violations of their terms of service.”

Tech: “Revealed: the Facebook loophole that lets world leaders deceive and harass their citizens” [Guardian]. “The most blatant example was Juan Orlando Hernández, the president of Honduras, who in August 2018 was receiving 90% of all the known civic fake engagement in the small Central American country. In August 2018, Zhang uncovered evidence that Hernández’s staff was directly involved in the campaign to boost content on his page with hundreds of thousands of fake likes. xOne of the administrators of Hernández’s official Facebook Page was also administering hundreds of other Pages that had been set up to resemble user profiles. The staffer used the dummy Pages to deliver fake likes to Hernández’s posts, the digital equivalent of bussing in a fake crowd for a speech. This method of acquiring fake engagement, which Zhang calls “Page abuse”, was made possible by a loophole in Facebook’s policies. The company requires user accounts to be authentic and bars users from having more than one, but it has no comparable rules for Pages, which can perform many of the same engagements that accounts can, including liking, sharing and commenting.” • Even under Hanlon’s Razor, Facebook can’t possibly be that stupid.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 Neutral (previous close: 60 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 42 (Fear). Last updated Apr 12 at 12:39pm.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)

The Biosphere

“A Soil Scientist’s Perspective – Carbon Farming, CO2 Certification & Carbon Sequestration in Soil” [Resilience]. “When it comes to humus and soils, the focus must be on soil fertility, ecosystem services and greater resilience to climate change, and not on CO2 sequestration, certificate trading and carbon storage. Considering an isolated factor within an agricultural ecosystem in purely economic terms does not put enough value on ecosystem services and risks incentivising the adoption of one-sided measures.”

“Evolutionary stasis of a deep subsurface microbial lineage” [Nature]. From the press release: “[A] group of microbes, which feed off chemical reactions triggered by radioactivity, have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years…. ‘This discovery shows that we must be careful when making assumptions about the speed of evolution and how we interpret the tree of life,’ said Eric Becraft, the lead author on the paper. ‘It is possible that some organisms go into an evolutionary full-sprint, while others slow to a crawl, challenging the establishment of reliable molecular timelines.’:

Health Care

A thread refuting WHO”s John Conley on aerosols (from the recent conference on aerosol transmission at the University of Calgary):

Shorter: If you want to manage the complexity, learn the science instead of denying it. Some other reactions to the conference:

The Agony Column

“A Truce Proposal In The Trans Wars” [Andrew Sullivan, The Weekly Dish]. • Hmm.

“The Healing Power of JavaScript” [Wired]. “A pattern was set: When the complexities of social situations exhausted me as a child, I turned to code, became an isolate. Ellen Ullman writes in her book Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology, ‘Until I became a programmer, I didn’t thoroughly understand the usefulness of such isolation: the silence, the reduction of life to thought and form; for example, going off to a dark room to work on a program when relations with people get difficult.’ Reading assembly language books in middle school or programming BBS software in high school didn’t register, then, explicitly, as a salve.”

The Conservatory

“Rest in Peace: Earl Simmons and DMX” [Six Perfections]. “Years and years passed. Now I can listen to his songs through a different prism. Earl Simmons had terrible asthma, too many kids, was in and out of jail, struggled with money, drugs, and the warrior myth of DARK MAN X. He couldn’t escape the monster of his creation. I relate to that…but I still bob my head when I hear his song, recall the videos, think about all the drama, and the songs he left like the armor-plated suit of an imposing superhero. Dark Man X.”

Our Famously Free Press

An aerosol scientist grapples with gaslighting. A thread:

Police State Watch

“LexisNexis to Provide Giant Database of Personal Information to ICE” [The Intercept]. “Though LexisNexis is perhaps best known for its role as a powerful scholarly and legal research tool, the company also caters to the immensely lucrative “risk” industry, providing, it says, 10,000 different data points on hundreds of millions of people to companies like financial institutions and insurance companies who want to, say, flag individuals with a history of fraud. LexisNexis Risk Solutions is also marketed to law enforcement agencies, offering “advanced analytics to generate quality investigative leads, produce actionable intelligence and drive informed decisions” — in other words, to find and arrest people. The LexisNexis ICE deal appears to be providing a replacement for CLEAR, a risk industry service operated by Thomson Reuters that has been crucial to ICE’s deportation efforts. In February, the Washington Post noted that the CLEAR contract was expiring and that it was “unclear whether the Biden administration will renew the deal or award a new contract.”

Class Warfare

Twitter, interestingly, flags the second tweet (“if there is some profit…”) as “The following media includes potentially sensitive content”:

News of the Wired

Motif, 1934:

Motif, 1937:

Moar trains:

* * *

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 (AM):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 9

AM writes: “No idea what this is, but it’s definitely alive and not your ordinary palm. North Naples, FL 3/24/21.” Well, it’s not a maple or an oak, that’s for sure.

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful 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.

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/12/2021 10

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.