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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/24/2020

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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/24/2020

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

A bit more shortly; I got wrapped around the axle on some household-related stuff. –lambert

#COVID19

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

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/24/2020 2

The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. I have changed to a logarithmic scale for US States and territories.

Finally, after days of flirting with 1.0 (no increase) New York reaches it.

* * *

See Vice, “How to Read the Coronavirus Graphs“:

Quantities that grow exponentially, when depicted on a linear scale, look like curves that bend sharply upward, with the curve getting constantly steeper. On a log scale, exponentially growing values can be depicted with straight diagonal lines.

That’s the beauty of plotting things on log scales. Plots are meant to make things easy to understand, and we humans are much more adept at understanding linear, straight-line behavior. Log plots enable us to grasp exponential behavior by transferring the complexity of constantly steepening curves into the simplicity of an exponentially increasing scale.

On a log scale, we want to constantly be making the line more and more horizontal. The general concept of “flattening” is still a good one, but it’s never going to curve down. And so what we should be looking, and hoping for is a trend toward horizontal.

Trade

“The supposed rush to reshore global supply chains may end up going nowhere. Those expecting large-scale deglobalization and the return of domestic production for many goods might be disappointed, the WSJ’s Mike Bird writes, with reports suggesting that global sourcing remained in full force heading into this year even as the U.S.-China trade war flared. A.T. Kearney said U.S. imports from China fell sharply last year, but imports from other Asian nations rose at the same time. There have been some coronavirus-induced supply-chain shifts as countries have sought to step up production of protective equipment. Japanese consumer-products manufacturer Iris Ohyama says it will take government subsidies to expand the production of masks domestically. That will augment the company’s existing production in China. Without big subsidies or even more punitive trade restrictions, the seemingly fragile spider’s web of global commerce may remain surprisingly resilient.”

Politics

“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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2020

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Biden (D)(1): “Biden sexual assault allegation roils #MeToo movement” [Politico]. “A friend of Reade’s, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she met Reade while interning in Ted Kennedy’s Senate office. She said Reade told her she was subjected to unwanted and frequent comments about her looks by Biden and complained to a supervisor, but it was ‘in one ear, out the other. The response I heard at the time was, ‘Well, if you’re not happy here, there are 99 other Senate offices to choose from. Pick one of them.” Then, the friend said, Reade told her that she was physically assaulted by Biden. The friend said she told Reade not to report the sexual assault to the police because it would have ruined her career. After the story broke, Reade filed a police report. Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, confirmed to other media outlets that his sister told him in real time about the assault and harassment when she said they occurred. He didn’t return calls and messages seeking comment for this story.” • Contemporaneous commumications. Christine Blasey Ford didn’t have that. One would hate to think that #MeToo is just another bad faith NGO.

Biden (D)(2): “Larry Summers Advising Biden Campaign on Economic Recovery” [Bloomberg]. “Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on economic policy, including its plans to revive the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic, according to five people familiar with his involvement…. Summers was the first name on the ‘Biden do not reappoint list’ published last month by the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, who wrote that Summers in 2009 ‘not only lowballed the necessary economic stimulus and ended it prematurely, but he successfully fought for rescuing the biggest banks rather than taking them into temporary receivership.’ Summers’s involvement in Biden’s campaign, however, offered some reassurance Wall Street that Biden is not moving too far to the left from the centrist positions that earned him his establishment support. • Yeah, I’lll say. Thomas Frank brings the receipts:

(To be fair, the PMC meritocrats who form the Democrat Party base believe exactly what Summers believes.) Yesterday I asked: “The question nobody is asking: Does the United States have the operational capability to mobilize, no matter the party in charge?” And I guess I have my answer: No, no more than Obama’s team did in 2009. And I asked: “What would the Democrat team that replaced Trump’s team look like?” And I have my answer there, too: Biden’s team will look like Obama’s 2009 team. This is, of course, another kick in the teeth for the left, but Biden’s voters want an Obama restoration, and they will have it.

Biden (D)(3): “Biden Will Fund-Raise With D.N.C. and His Appointee Will Lead the Committee” [New York Times]. “At the request of the Biden campaign, Mary Beth Cahill, a D.N.C. senior adviser who briefly served as its interim chief executive in 2018, will take over from Seema Nanda. Ms. Cahill, a longtime operative for the party, served as campaign manager for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Mr. Kerry is a longtime friend of and 2020 campaign surrogate for Mr. Biden. Ms. Nanda will leave the D.N.C…. Some donors had been confused in recent weeks at the delay for setting up such an accord. Ultimately, the initial agreement is exclusively between the D.N.C. and the Biden campaign; the maximum contribution is likely to increase in the future as Democratic state parties are included.” • The Biden campaign’s decision-making process is certainly slow; they fought for a month over their tech vendor, and AFAIK haven’t decided yet.

Sanders (D)(1): “Ex-Sanders campaign aide Nina Turner on why ideology is more important than race for Biden VP pick” [The Hill]. Turner: “”Issues first, and then after that certainly people want to see themselves reflected. It is high time in this country, absolutely, that there is more color at the top. But color for the sake of color when you’re going to continue to do the same things does not change the material conditions of the lives of the people in this country.” • Heresy!

Trump (R)(1): “Trump’s ‘secret stash’ of voters” [Roll Call]. “Handicappers of old may not use all the snazzy models of today, but we always had one rule of thumb on which many of us relied: For incumbents, what you see is what you get. I’ve watched thousands of races, and in all but a few, an incumbent trailing in a race can’t count on getting most of the undecided voters. If, after years in office, he or she hasn’t sold himself or herself to voters, then that incumbent is unlikely to win late-deciders or reelection.”

* * *

I’ve been yelling about AOC constituent services:

For AOC’s sake, I hope service like this has been happening every day for the last year, and it needs to happen every day until election day.

“‘We Are Abdicating Our Responsibility’: Why AOC Is Not Following the Pelosi Line on the Emergency Relief Bill” [Vanity Fair]. “While recognizing that Democrats managed to secure some wins in the nearly $500 billion legislation—which includes funding for hospitals, small businesses, and testing—Ocasio-Cortez has essentially dismissed it as a Band-Aid for a gunshot wound. ‘We are abdicating our responsibility. We haven’t legislated for a month and thousands of people are dying…. Every time we pass one of these bills, we are hearing that the real solution is coming in the next bill and the next bill and the next bill,’ the freshman congresswoman said in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday night, hours after the bill passed the Senate. ‘At some point, we have to raise our hands and say, ‘When is the solution coming?’ Because two months of rent are going to pass by before we are actually entertaining a real bill.’”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Jeni’s Ice Cream Is About To Give Us A Sequel To Pizzagate” [Mel Magazine]. The ice cream Pelosi stores in her freezer. “Far more appealing to Q folks and their fellow travelers is the art of collaging a map with red yarn to show how seemingly mundane details all web together as proof of secret, terrible machinations that sabotage America and destroy the lives of innocents….. Where will the QAnon sleuths take it from here? Pizzagate proved that the simplest recipe for an arcane right-wing conspiracy is [junk food] + [Democratic machine] + [election year], and we’ve got those ingredients at a steady simmer again. So where a rational observer might note that Jeni’s founder Jeni Britton Bauer is a long-time supporter of Biden and former President Obama, or that Biden and Pelosi are supporting a swing-state business, the truthers can begin their work.” • I’m really running this to draw attention to the TrueAnon podcast–

“Episode 63: Exiled On Main Street” (podcast) [TrueAnon]. “True Anon is joined by Mark Ames of the War Nerd and Exiled to talk social collapse, Russiagate, Shock Therapy and Comrade Putin” • TrueAnon tracks all things QAnon too, retaining their sanity and humor while doing so. Impressive!

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.

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-787-idUSKCN226014?taid=5ea2783de153850001937485&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

Commodities: “Charting the Trade Turmoil” [Bloomberg]. Handy chart:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/24/2020 3

Note that the United States is not experiencing any good shortages. Canada, however, is (pasta).

Shipping: “A global trade downturn doesn’t appear to be slowing the drive for bigger container ships, at least in one corner of the sector. South Korea just launched the world’s biggest boxship in turning a vessel capable of carrying 24,000 20-foot boxes over to flag carrier HMM…. providing a mammoth demonstration of Seoul’s aggressive support of key national industries” [Wall Street Journal]. “It may be awhile before the ship termed a megamax can test the limits of its capacity. The vessel is launching into a depressed global trade market, with operators canceling hundreds of sailings and idling droves of ships. Industry observers say megaships are leaving Asian ports half full”

Shipping: “Railroads Unclear What’s Around the Bend for U.S. Economy” [Bloomberg]. “According to data from the Association of American Railroads, carloads of commodities have slumped for the past seven straight weeks, reaching their lowest level in records going back to 1999 when you exclude the usual year-end dropoffs in demand. The fallout from the coronavirus is shredding not just the obvious consumer sectors like hotels, shops and restaurants that are closed during extended lockdowns. It’s hitting America’s industrial economy with equal force and similar uncertainty about what’s around the bend.”

Supply Chain: “China’s supply chain for medical goods is turning into a free-for-all. Agents for foreign governments, hospitals, businesses and an army of middlemen are descending on the country to secure ventilators and masks and other protective gear… creating scenes of disarray marked by million-dollar deals and little certainty that purchases will lead to deliveries. Chinese factories are taking advantage, dictating buying conditions and demanding advance payments in full, while buyers must quickly vet newly-minted vendors” [Wall Street Journal]. “One healthcare executive who’s effectively leading a procurement team calls it ‘very much a wild, Wild West scenario.’ The chaos underscores how desperate U.S. and other buyers have become to secure medical gear. Even when expensive deals can be made, shipping remains a problem. Regulatory hurdles make the products’ export difficult, and China has limited foreign airlines’ flights, reducing cargo capacity and sharply driving up airfreight rates.”

The Bezzle: “E-scooter company reportedly laid off 406 people in 2-minute Zoom call” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “On March 27, electric scooter startup Bird reportedly sent out calendar invites to several hundred employees for a “COVID-19 Update” Zoom meeting, according to The Verge. Once employees logged onto the one-way meeting, a woman’s voice began reading a script, informing the attendees that they had all been laid off in a 2-minute speech. Bird’s founder and CEO, Travis VanderZanden, was not even the one delivering the bad news — the chief communications officer was chosen for the job instead… Then, the meeting abruptly ended and everyone’s email and Slack accounts were reportedly instantly deactivated.” • Classy! So, people were right to set those scooters on fire and throw them in trees?

Tech: “Banks grow wary of Zoom meetings” [American Banker]. “Yet Standard Chartered Bank has reportedly banned employees from using Zoom videoconferencing because of security concerns, and survey data suggests other banks are starting to scale back or stop using the service… In a recent poll conducted by Blind, 28% of financial employees said they were worried their information may have been compromised through a videoconferencing tool. About 12% said they have stopped using the popular Zoom tool, and 10% said they have decreased use of it over hacking concerns. Card company employees seem to be especially worried: 56.6% of Visa employees said they have completely stopped using Zoom, as did 55.6% of American Express staff. More than a third of Goldman Sachs employees who took the survey said they fear data compromise with the use of Zoom, as did 27.8% of JPMorgan Chase staff and 20.7% of Capital One workers. Several banks have experienced Zoom bombings in which hackers have broken into a meeting and shown porn or flashed themselves. ‘That has happened quite a few times, and we’re collecting lots of stories on that,’ said Steve Hunt, senior analyst at Aite Group. There is no profit motive — they do it ‘to get their jollies,’ he said.” • What, no profit motive?

Manufacturing: “Boeing Set To Cut 787 Dreamliner Production Rate” [Simple Flying]. “Boeing will cut the production of the 787 by roughly 50% percent, bringing down its 14 aircraft a month to figures in the single digits…. Boeing was also forced to temporarily close many of its facilities over virus concerns…. In an open letter to employees, Boeing CEO David Calhoun speaks about how ‘it’s important we start adjusting to our new reality now.’ The letter also mentions that Boeing will likely take years to recover from this pandemic as the aviation market continues to shrink.” • “We.”

Manufacturing: “Boeing 737 Max return expected to be delayed until late summer or early fall: WSJ” [MarketWatch]. “he company’s 737 Max fleet has been grounded since last March following two deadly crashes related to an anti-stall system. The Federal Aviation Administration is not expected to approve the lifting of the grounding until August or later, as officials work from home, putting further pressure on the aerospace company, which is also being hit as airlines around the world stop flying during the pandemic. The FAA has not signed off on details of two outstanding software fixes to flight-control systems because agency experts are still reviewing them, according to one U.S. government official, and the contagion has slowed other parts of the effort, the paper reported.”

The Fed: “Fed’s Near-Zero Rates to Last into 2023, Economists Predict” [Bloomberg]. “The Federal Reserve may hold interest rates near zero for three or more years, and its balance sheet will soar above $10 trillion as policymakers seek to revive the U.S. economy from recession, economists said in a Bloomberg survey. Just over half the 31 respondents to an April 20-23 poll predicted the target range for the federal funds rate, now at 0-0.25%, won’t move up until at least 2023. Another 22% said not before 2022. Asked where the balance sheet would peak, the median estimate was $10 trillion, and the average $10.9 trillion.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Fear (previous close: 40 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 43 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 24 at 12:40pm.

The Biosphere

“How to bail out the oil industry without destroying the planet” [The Week]. “The problem with the oil industry is that it’s run by people who don’t want it to die. But what if it was run by people who did recognize the need to ultimately dismantle fossil fuel production? If the federal government just straight-up nationalized the industry in the near future, it would have almost three decades to transition its workers and physical capital into green sectors, wind down oil production to zero, and figure out what to do about plastics and petrochemicals. Among progressive climate activists, there are burgeoning proposals to do just that. And right now, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, the oil industry has never been a cheaper bargain. Haliburton’s stock is down by two-thirds. ExxonMobil’s is down by 38 percent. Every energy company on the S&P 500 could be bought out for a grand total of about $700 billion — or roughly one-third of what the U.S. government just spent on the CARES Act.” • Seems like a no-brainer.

“Pennsylvania bet its economic future on fracking, plastics. Was it all a giant scam? [Will Bunch, Philadellphia Inquirer]. “A report released earlier this month by the Center for International Environmental Law — warning the U.S. government that bailing out Big Oil, Gas and Plastics with coronavirus relief dollars would be ‘an unfillable sinkhole’ — spells out why the pipe dream for state officials of plastics plants using fracked-in-Pa. natural gas lining the banks of the Ohio may be just that, a dream. The report argues that industry estimates of an ever-rising global demand for plastic products like those to be manufactured by the Shell ethane cracker and its competitors were bogus — even before the pandemic crashed the economy. ‘The whole push to build out this massive infrastructure for new plastic capacity has been driven not by any existing demand for plastics’ — either in the U.S. or in international markets, Carroll Muffett, the president and CEO of CIEL, told me in a phone interview. ;It’s driven by this flood of very cheap gas. The industry had this massive resource and they needed something to do with it.’” • Oh.

“Ghost Flights” Haunt the Skies, Enlarging Carbon Footprints” [Scientific American]. “Under the terms of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress last month, the Department of Transportation forced airlines that receive aid to continue providing a minimum number of flights to destinations they served before the pandemic. In some cases, the DOT requirements have compelled airlines to keep flying to destinations that have seen precipitous drops in passengers…. Approximately 92,859 passengers passed through TSA checkpoints Tuesday, compared with 2,227,475 passengers the same day last year, marking a dramatic 96% drop, according to TSA data. But spurred by the DOT requirements, airlines only have reduced the number of flights available in the United States by 58% compared with the same period last year.

“Decorah Eagles” (live cam) [Explore]. • Lots and lots of liive cams on bear, birds (and also surfing, etc.).

“Why vinegar might be your secret weapon to fighting weeds” [Los Angeles Times]. “Boiling water or full-strength white vinegar can kill the leaves and stems of most tender green weeds, such as spotted spurge, crab grass, sow thistle and prickly lettuce — especially when they’re young. The vinegar is easier to use, and some people dilute it 50-50 with water, but Kent says he uses it full strength to drench the plants “because it’s so cheap.” White vinegar is particularly useful at getting weeds in gravel paths, rock walls and gaps in the concrete, which are otherwise nearly impossible to pull.” • This is a very good article with lots of good tips. (They also recommend “sheet mulch,” permaculture’s gateway drug, though they call it “lasagna mulch.”

Water

“‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science” [Science]. “Today, in a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled six to three that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams, and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies…. In the decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that groundwater pollution was subject to federal water-quality regulations as long as the connection to surface waters was the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge such as a pipe… The court’s decision spells out criteria that might influence whether groundwater pollution meets the new standard and is covered by the law. Those criteria could include how quickly and how far the pollution moves from its source before reaching surface water, the underlying geology, and how much the chemicals are diluted or broken down.”

“EXCLUSIVE: Audio shows Governor Rick Snyder’s ‘fixer’ lied about warnings Snyder and his administration received on ‘toxic’ Flint water, attempted to pay off sick Flint couple, and the mystery of the stolen Flint pipe” [Detroit Metro Times]. “Two days away from what Attorney General Dana Nessel’s criminal prosecutors told Flint residents was the Michigan statute of limitations for new charges to be filed in relation to the Flint water crisis, Metro Times has obtained shocking audio from a February 2017 meeting between Governor Rick Snyder’s right-hand man and top adviser, Rich Baird, and a sick Flint couple. The audio reveals alleged criminal activity by Baird — that Baird claims he told the governor about — as well as potential evidence that Governor Snyder himself had lied about what, and when, he knew about Flint’s deadly water.” • 

Health Care

“Hospitals sound alarm over privately run virus test centre at Surrey theme park” [Guardian]. “Hospitals sought to take over the operation of a flagship government coronavirus testing centre from the accounting firm Deloitte after severe failings in the service led to the test results of NHS staff being lost or sent to the wrong person, the Guardian can reveal…. Deloitte was hired to help scale up testing nationally, and is understood to be handling logistics across a number of the sites, working alongside other private firms such as Serco and Boots…. In revelations that raise concerns over the rapid outsourcing of testing during the pandemic, chief executives at hospitals in south-west London are understood to have had talks about removing Deloitte and running the Chessington drive-in testing centre themselves.”

“Acute lung injury” [My Pathology Report]. An explainer in lay language.

Games

OK, I give:

What’s Animal Crossing? Do I care?

“Travis Scott’s virtual concert on Fortnite set a record” [CNN]. “More than 12 million people hopped on Fortnight Thursday for the debut of Travis Scott’s new song. The Grammy-nominated rapper debuted “Astronomical” within the wildly popular online video game, and it attracted a record audience.” • 12 million is a lot. I wonder if Sanders could have held rallies in Fortnite (and whether that would have been a good idea, given the possibility of griefers).

News of the Wired

What it’s like to live in a First World country. Matt Bruenig: “The 2020 baby box is out, which is provided by the state to all Finnish newborns for the next year.

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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 (SR):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/24/2020 4

SR writes: :Calacanthus floridus, Carolina Allspice or Sweetshrub, Opelika, AL 3-25-2020.” Very pretty. Like to hear the story of that house, though.

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