2:00PM Water Cooler 7/29/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/29/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Monotonous Lark, Limpopo, South Africa. I’m not sure if this is a duet, or an echo.

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Politics

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Abortion

“Abortion access finds a place even in down-ballot campaigns” [Associated Press]. “Appearing bare-shouldered in a TV ad, Connecticut Democrat Dita Bhargava looks directly into the camera and promises, if elected, to ‘lead the crusade’ for abortion rights. Photos of other women flash on the screen, also with no clothes showing. ‘This is who have freedom over their own bodies stripped away,’ Bhargava says in the commercial, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning the constitutional right to abortion. ‘This is who the Supreme Court left completely vulnerable.’ It would make sense to think Bhargava is running for governor, state legislature or Congress — positions that could play a direct role in future abortion laws. She’s not. She’s a candidate for state treasurer. ‘When I’m state treasurer, the state will not invest in companies that don’t do the right thing by their employees,’ she said. ‘And part of doing that right thing is to support a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion.’” • Interesting! (And I wonder what CalPERS is doing….)

Biden Administration

“Basement talk, virtual handshake led to Manchin-Schumer deal” [Associated Press]. “The 725-page ‘Inflation Reduction Act of 2022’ would cap out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors to $2,000 a year, and help some 13 million families with subsidies to purchase their own health insurance policies. It invests $369 billion over the decade on tax incentives to fight climate change, including $4,000 for used electric vehicles and $7,500 for new ones. The package is paid for largely by imposing a 15% minimum tax on corporations earning more than $1 billion a year and by allowing the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower costs. Leftover savings, some $300 billion, will go to pay down deficits. With Republicans solidly opposed, Democrats will need every senator in their 50-50 majority to ensure passage, which is what gives Manchin — and every other senator, in fact — such a strong hand in negotiations.” More:

“After Clash, Manchin and Schumer Rushed to Reset Climate and Tax Deal” [New York Times]. “Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has also been a holdout on her party’s domestic policy package, skipped the meeting with Mr. Schumer on Thursday and would not comment on the bill or indicate whether she planned to support it. She dispatched a spokeswoman to say she was reviewing the text and waiting to hear if it complied with Senate rules.” • Sinema’s got a point. The Norms Fairy Senate Parliamentarian could put the kibosh on the whole thing!

“A Manchin Miracle?” [Ryan Grim, Bad News]. “I’m as stunned as you are. This evening, seemingly out of thin air, Manchin and Chuck Schumer put out a joint statement announcing they had come to terms on a deal – a bill, even – that they called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. I can’t ever recall a major deal being announced without the Capitol Hill press corps knowing that negotiations were even taking place…. That $369 billion for ‘energy security and climate change,’ if it becomes law, will change the world. It represents the biggest climate investment made by any country ever, and it will unlock potentially trillions in private capital, which is waiting on the sidelines for the types of subsidies, credits and guarantees this bill will include. It’ll also spur other countries to make their own investments, not wanting to fall behind in the industry that will dominate the next century. It’s projected to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2030 by 40 percent. That’s huge.” • Maybe. I don’t buy the “unlock private capital” line, though. We didn’t need to do that for, say, the Manhattan Project, or indeed building the machine that won World War II. In fact, is anything less than a trillion even “real money” these days?

“What’s in the Democrats’ climate and energy legislation” [Politics]. The deck: “The bill, dubbed the ‘Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,’ would spend nearly $370 billion on a raft of tax credits to help stimulate adoption of clean energy technologies.” Tax credits? Wowersl, if there’s anything a llberal Democrat loves more than means testing, it’s tax credits. On methane: “Oil and gas companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually will be fined beginning in 2025 if their methane leakage rate exceeds a certain threshold. The fee would escalate over time from $900 per metric ton of emissions to $1,500 beginning in 2027, and cover wide swaths of the industry: emissions at the wellhead, compressor stations, gathering stations, onshore transmission pipelines and both underground and liquefied natural gas storage sites. The provision is a potentially significant policy for fighting climate change in the near and long-term: Methane is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, meaning curbing it is one of the fastest, most efficient ways to avoid warming the planet. Many of the solutions for reducing methane from energy production are technical, and the largest companies are already embracing them. The package gives EPA more than $1.5 billion through Sept. 30, 2028 to help companies reduce methane emissions, such as providing technical assistance to improve greenhouse gas reporting, shut-in wells and deploying methane-reduction equipment and processes. It also would let companies that comply with any future federal methane rules to avoid paying the fee, so long as those regulations achieve the same amount of emissions reductions. Rising oil and gas production has been driving emissions of methane, which leaks as a byproduct of drilling and transporting hydrocarbons.” • I wonder how the methane measurements will be done, and who will do them. The story doesn’t say.

“Big business groups lash out at Manchin-Schumer deal” [The Hill]. “Lobbying groups representing large corporations swiftly criticized a revamped reconciliation deal announced by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday. They are zeroing in on the plan’s 15 percent minimum tax on corporations, which would help pay for massive investments in climate and energy security, extended health care subsidies and reduce the deficit. Big business lobbyists are expected to make a last-minute push to defeat or weaken the Manchin-Schumer agreement, which took K Street by surprise.” • What’s their objection? 15% is too low?

“Did Manchin and Schumer Just Play Mitch McConnell?” [Slate]. “McConnell had tried to take a hostage earlier in the summer by saying that a long-simmering bipartisan industrial policy bill wouldn’t pass if Democrats went ahead with a sweeping, partisan reconciliation bill. This was not, in our minds, McConnell’s deftest threat; much of corporate America wanted the “CHIPS” bill, as it’s informally known, to go through regardless of whether Democrats were also able to pass a bill making prescription drugs cheaper. But with a broad reconciliation bill seemingly off the table after Manchin nixed it a couple of weeks ago, the Senate passed a version of CHIPS earlier Wednesday afternoon. A few hours later, Manchin and Schumer announced they had a reconciliation deal after all.”

“Susan Collins: Democrats’ Climate Deal May Doom Bipartisan Efforts On Same-Sex Marriage” [HuffPo]. “Sen. Susan Collins, one of a handful of GOP senators working to garner support in her party for a bill to codify gay marriage, said the Democrats’ surprise embrace of a tax and climate change bill made her job much harder…. Collins warned that the manner in which that victory was secured, where it appeared Democrats kept Manchin and Schumer’s negotiations under wraps until a separate bipartisan computer chip production incentive bill was passed by the Senate, hurt the effort to gather support among Republicans to bring the gay marriage bill to the floor. ‘After we just had worked together successfully on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPs bill, it was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way,’ she said.”

“Blindsided veterans erupt in fury after Senate GOP tanks toxic burn pit bill” [NBC]. “Blindsided veterans erupted in anger and indignation Thursday after Senate Republicans suddenly tanked a widely supported bipartisan measure that would have expanded medical coverage for millions of combatants exposed to toxic burn pits during their service….. But in a move that shocked and confused veteran groups Wednesday night, 41 Senate Republicans blocked the bill’s passage, including 25 who had supported it a month ago.”

“Why two dozen in House GOP supported CHIPS despite last-minute whip” [The Hill]. “Among those who voted for the CHIPS and Science Act were powerful committee ranking members Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) of the Rules Committee, and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the House Appropriations Committee. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, who is leaving Congress at the end of this year, also voted for the bill. ‘It’s a no-brainer that more Republicans should have voted for it. Politics got in the way,’ Katko said after the vote. ‘I think it was unfortunate that [Senate Minority Leader Charles] Schumer had reconciliation right afterwards. It seemed almost mean-spirited, in a way.’ Republicans in favor of the bill cited its importance to national and economic security. ‘Taiwan has 90 percent of semiconductor manufacturing in the world. If China invades Taiwan, they will … control the global market. That’s why this bill is so important,’ McCaul told reporters.”

2022

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“Why the midterms look so bleak for Democrats: Joe Biden” [Jeff Cohen, Salon]. Interesting argument:

The liberal and centrist pundits at CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, the New York Times and the Washington Post seem to agree on two obvious truths about the Nov. 8 elections.

1. Republicans are very likely to win big — taking over the U.S. House, and probably the Senate.

2. Republicans in Congress have never been as extreme as they are now, and they’re out of touch philosophically with most voters.

It’s not hard to see the contradiction in those two “truths”: If Republicans are so out of touch with voters, why will they be winning big with those same voters?

The author’s view is that Biden is a boat anchor. The author does not consider another possibility: That voters are sick of Democrats lying to them, not delivering, and fundraising off their failures (Exhibit A: faliure to codify Roe). Flaky piecrust though Trump may have been, he (1) halted TPP in his first week, (2) avoided major wars (both with Russia and with Syria), (3) actually decreased poverty with the CARES Act (in great contrast with Obama’s miserably inadequate post-Crash, decade-long “recovery”), and (4) through Operation Warp Speed, brought vaccines to fruition in record time. Biden’s molassed-brained administration cannot point to similar successes. Biden squandered the time OWS bought with his vax-only strategy, and fomented a losing war in Ukraine. We can revise the classic question: “Are You Better Off Than You Were 4 2 Years Ago?” I think a lot of voters would answer no, and that’s even if you leave inflation and gas prices aside. To put this another way, if Biden delivered, his age and mental acuity wouldn’t matter. The Democrats can argue that the new Manchin-Schumer deal solves the “Democrats don’t deliver” problem, but voters won’t see any benefits immediately (and it may well be that the bill’s tax credit structure will slow that down).

PA: “Fetterman leads Oz by 11 points in Pennsylvania Senate race: poll” [The Hill]. “Democratic candidate John Fetterman is leading Republican Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race by 11 points, according to a new Fox News poll. The poll, released Thursday, found that Fetterman is backed by 47 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters surveyed, while Oz has notably lower support at 36 percent of voters…. More than half of voters surveyed said they are worried that Oz, who lived in New Jersey for years, is not familiar enough with the state of Pennsylvania to be an effective senator, with 22 percent of Republicans saying they are concerned he’s not up to the job.” • Effective messaging? We’ll see….

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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“The people coming after us”:

Personnel is policy. This whole thread is worth a read, and it gets nastier and nastier as it goes on:

At least with respect to the NGOs, “Don’t say ‘social justice,’ say ‘counter-insurgency’ has a nice ring to it. Do we have New Orleans readers who can comment?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Yang’s Forward party merges with groups led by former GOP officials” [The Hill]. “Former Democratic New York City mayoral candidate and presidential candidate Andrew Yang has joined forces with former Republicans, Democrats and independents on the Forward Party, Yang announced Wednesday. The political party, initially formed in October, is now a merger of three organizations: Yang’s Forward Party, the Renew America Movement, consisting of former Republicans led by former Trump White House official Miles Taylor, and the Serve America Movement, made up of Democrats, independents and Republicans, and founded by former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.).” Building on the success of the No Labels movement! I wonder of Gottheimer willl join? More: “According to Yang’s announcement, the Forward Party is currently on the ballot in several states.” • That’s odd. The Democrats are fighting Green ballot access tooth and nail, often successfullu, but not the Foward Party’s.

“What makes 2022 NY governor’s race different from the last 80 years of elections” [Syracuse.com (bob)]. “The election for New York’s governor will have only two candidates on the ballot this fall for the first time in at least 80 years after seven candidates failed to qualify on third-party lines. The state Board of Elections this week rejected nominating petitions submitted by candidates for the Green, Libertarian, Unite, Freedom, Parent, Diversity and New Vision parties because they didn’t meet new requirements for ballot access.” • Hmm. Can any readers from New York comment?

“Lawmakers Aren’t Disclosing Their Next Jobs” [Lever News]. “A 2007 law requires retiring lawmakers to notify a congressional ethics committee when they begin negotiating for a new job. But in the 15 years since the law took effect, more than 500 federal lawmakers have retired, with many taking lucrative gigs as lobbyists, lawyers or trade association officials — and only 18 departing representatives and senators have filed such disclosures, according to a review by The Lever. This year promises to be no different. Fifty House members and a half-dozen senators have announced plans to retire; only one outgoing representative has notified an ethics panel about his post-congressional job prospects. Loopholes in the 2007 ethics law and a lack of enforcement have allowed retiring lawmakers to routinely negotiate future jobs with corporate lobbying firms without ever notifying the public whom they are supposedly still representing.” • The law was called “The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.” Never eat at a place called “Mom’s.”

#COVID19

• Maskstravaganza:

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If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case Count

Case count for the United States:

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Lambert here: This tapewatcher is slightly befuddled by the case data. Set aside the worrying assumption that the curves for real cases are the same shape as the curves for reported cases, even though there’s nothing to prove this. We have a period of fiddling and diddling at A), after which Omnicron takes over and cases go through the roof. We are in the midst of another period of fiddling and diddling at B), in the era of BA.5/BA.4. But cases are not going through the roof, at least in terms of case reporting. Data artifact? “Vaccine wall”? Why this slow, sawtooth pattern when BA.5 is known to be very infectious? For example, even though wastewater data is patchy, we’d expect it to be coupled to case count. It isn’t, at least in San Fransciso (check the chart):

Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~131,400 Today, it’s ~125,000 and 125,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 750,000 per day. That’s rather a lot of cases per day, when you think about it. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes we’ve seen have a basis in reality. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises.

Regional case count for four weeks:

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The South:

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A slow upswing in the rest of the south, beneath the Florida and Texas gyrations.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

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North Carolina and Georgia have no data today (hence the gaps in the chart).

The West:

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California drives the national drop. This big drop is supported by yesterday’s Walgreens positivity data (although not by wastewater. The populations for these two populations don’t necessarily overlap, however.)

Positivity

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, July 28:

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4.8%. Up! (I wonder if there’s a Keynesian Beauty Contest effect, here; that is, if people encounter a sympotomatic person, whether in their social circle or in normal activity, they are more likely to get a test, because they believe, correctly, that it’s more likely they will be infected.) What we are seeing here is the steepest and largest acceleration of positivity on Walgreen’s chart.

Lambert here: The date range at top ends at 7/27. The “index” is “updated” (bottom left) on 7/28. Today’s curve (see red circle) looks nothing like yesterday’s, which I repost here:

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Note states with case counts less than 10 are not included; in this case, New York. New York under 10? Not possible. So this looks like either a data debacke or retrospective revision (like Biobot used to do all the time. I don’t like it because the potential for gaming is so obvioius, particularly when there is no explanation given). So I’m depressed.

Transmission

NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Use the community transmission immediately below.

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you. For July 21, 2020:

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Status quo, i.e. it’s a totally not-over pandemic.

Lambert here: After the move from the CDC to the laughingly named ‘https://healthdata.gov,” this notice appeared: “Effective June 22, 2022, the Community Profile Report will only be updated twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.” So now the administration has belatedly come to the realization that we’re in a BA.5 surge, and yet essential data for making our personal risk assessments is only available twice a week.

Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), July 29:

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Improvements everywhere!

Previous Rapid Riser data:

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Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 29:

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More green. Good!

Variants

Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), July 14:

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NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), July 9 (Nowcast off):

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BA.5 moving along nicely.

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), July 25:

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I found this chart hard to read, so I filtered the output to the highest (red) and next-highest (orange) levels (somewhat like Rapid Riser Counties, see on here). What’s visible is that a lot of cities are in trouble; but that coverage is really patchy. Illinois, for example, has always had a lot of coverage, but the dots stop at the Illinois border. This chart works a bit like rapid riser counties: “This metric shows whether SARS-CoV-2 levels at a site are currently higher or lower than past historical levels at the same site. 0% means levels are the lowest they have been at the site; 100% means levels are the highest they have been at the site.” So, there’s a bunch of red dots on the West Coast. That’s 100%, so that means “levels are the highest they’ve ever been.” Not broken down by variant, CDC, good job.

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,054,422 1,053,969. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a nice, simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

GDP: Commentary:

Inflation: “United States Personal Spending” [Trading Economics]. “Personal spending in the US jumped 1.1% mom in June of 2022, beating market forecasts of a 0.9% rise and much higher than an upwardly revised 0.3% increase in May. Figures showed a general increase in spending as high prices forced consumers to pay more. Gasoline, motor vehicle fuels, new light trucks, health care and housing led the increases. However, real PCE which is adjusted for inflation, edged up a meagre 0.1%, after falling 0.3% in May.”

Inflation: “United States Personal Income” [Trading Economics]. “Personal income in the United States increased 0.5 percent from a month earlier in June of 2022, the same as in the previous month and above market expectations of 0.5 percent. It was the fifth consecutive rise reflecting increases in compensation, led by private wages and salaries; and proprietors’ income, mainly nonfarm.”

Consumer Sentiment: “United States Michigan Consumer Sentiment” [Trading Economics]. “The University of Michigan consumer sentiment rose to 51.5 in July of 2022 from a record low of 50 in June, in line with preliminary estimates. The current economic conditions subindex was revised higher to 58.1 from a preliminary of 57.1 while the expectations gauge was unchanged at 47.3, the lowest since 2009. At the same time, concerns over global factors have eased somewhat. This easing provided some limited support to buying conditions for durables, which remained near the all-time low reached last month, as well as a modest retreat in long run inflation expectations.”

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago PMI in the United States decreased to 51.1 points in July of 2022 from 56.0 points in June and missing market forecasts of 55. It was the lowest reading since August of 2020.”

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Tech: “Spreadsheets Are Hot—and Cranking Out Complex Code” [Wired]. From April, still germane: “[S]preadsheets are joining the ‘no code’ trend in Silicon Valley—they’re becoming tools that let non-programmers automate some very complex workflows. I spoke to Mário Tarouca, a Portuguese entrepreneur who used Rows in precisely that way. He’d founded a startup in Lisbon (now acquired by the food-ordering firm EatTasty) that let people in Airbnbs order delivery meals from local cooks.” Oh, great. More: “Tarouca used Rows as the backend for his service: Customer orders flowed into his sheets from his web site, and local cooks typed their inventory into forms he created with Rows; if a formula detected the cooks weren’t making enough of a particular item (orders for omelettes > supply of omelettes), the sheets would blast a warning out to his team’s Slack so someone could deal with it. ‘I’m not a developer, but I’m a geek,’ he told me. ‘It’s really fun to build these things.’ Because he was already familiar with regular spreadsheets, he says, it wasn’t terribly hard to figure out. Indeed, as Tarouca pointed out, a spreadsheet is actually better for building a small business app than an old-fashioned database. Databases are powerful but inscrutable; to see what’s ‘in’ yours, you need to query it, which usually means having a programmer on staff. But with a spreadsheet, everyone knows how to open it up and look at it. The user interface—columns and rows—is part of our cognitive canon, and decades of use have trained businessfolk everywhere in what tech writer Steven Levy neatly dubbed, back in 1984, ‘A Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge.’” • Sounds maintainable!

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 41 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 38 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 29 at 1:24 PM EDT.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“State Department.” Really?

News of the Wired

“The Centuries-Long Quest For The Scent Of God” [Noema]. “Wherever [Padre Pio (later sainted) went, he carried with him an intense aroma of violet. Priests and laypeople alike reported being met with waves of the pleasant odor during the Sanctus, a triumphal moment of the Catholic mass. So powerful was the scent it could cause some to faint. ‘If you wanted to know where Padre Pio was,’ a contemporary said, ‘it was enough to follow the wake of the perfume.’… Unusual smells have been a distinguishing mark of holiness since the earliest days of Christian worship…. If God doesn’t have a body, then he certainly doesn’t have a smell. But running alongside that tradition is a different historic quest to understand God’s nature, not by withdrawing from the world, but by embracing our sensual experience of it. Within this tradition, smell has long been a method of interacting with the divine and attempting to understand it. ‘Christianity emerged in a world where smells mattered,’ the historian Susan Ashbrook Harvey writes in her seminal work on sacred smells in the ancient world, ‘Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination.’ ‘A common understanding prevailed that sensory experiences carried effective power for good and for ill.’ The association of pleasant smells and good things is innate to human nature. But for as long as we have recorded history, people have gone out of their way to cultivate strange and exotic odors specifically for their use in worship, searching to capture a scent both pleasing to and reflective of God.”

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) 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. From Eoin Mac:

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Eoin Mac writes: “This is Borage. It’s a high quality edible flower, the bees love it and it grows like a weed. Super plant.” I’m a big borage fan. It’s nice to look West at sunset and see how the light plays over the fuzzy stems.

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