2:00PM Water Cooler 12/23/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

The sound on this a bit low, but it really reminds me of the prairie.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

Case count by United States region:


Resuming the upward climb, though at a lesser slope. Looks like the Midwest did it, from the regional data, with now a little help from the Northeast. I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

California’s neighbors and the West Coast:


California, Arizona, and Nevada all track together until seven to ten days ago. Cascadia follows its own path.

Test positivity by region:


A wild swing in the West. Again.

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.

Hospitalization by region:


Distinct flattening, thanks to the Midwest and the West. Hospitalization is also discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home.

Case fatality rate by region:


Resuming the upward climb. I don’t much care for that gradual increase in the fatality rate and wonder what’s behind it.


“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

Democrats en Deshabille

Liberals Can’t Memory Hole The Trump Era Like They Did With Bush

Election Legitimacy

UPDATE “How Long Can This Continue?” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. • As long as Trump can raise money off it and the media needs the clicks, I would think. So, years?

UPDATE “The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media” [New York Times]. “[SmartMatic, now a major global player with over 300 employees, pulled out of the United States in 2007 after a controversy over its founders’ Venezuelan roots, and its only involvement this November was with a contract to help Los Angeles County run its election.” • [lambert sobs quietly]. The Times is either ignorant or playing stupid. Please see “Los Angeles County to Intoduce VSAP E-Voting System: NOT Hand-Marked, NOT Paper, NOT Hand-Counted in Public” from 2019. Smartmatic has the VSAP contract with Los Angeles Country, which plans to open source its software so that the rest of the country can use it. And the VSAP system uses ballot-marking devices that are not auditable. Trump, through his slopply and poorly lawyered election fraud lawsuits, couldn’t be doing more to legitimize digital voting if he tried [sobs, puts head in hands].

Transition to Biden

UPDATE “Biden names Bruce Reed as deputy chief of staff” [Axios]. “Joe Biden’s transition team today named six new White House hires, including Bruce Reed, the president-elect’s long-time confidant, to serve as deputy chief of staff.” • Reed, executive director of the Bowles-Simpson Commission and President of the Betsy Devos- and charter-loving Broad Foundation? That Reed? Austerity, here we come. On the other hand, this could actually be good: “Gautam Raghavan, a former chief of staff to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, will be the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, a powerful position in helping the administration fill its appointed posts.”d

UPDATE “Big Tech’s stealth push to influence the Biden administration” [Reuters]. “The Biden transition team has already stacked its agency review teams with more tech executives than tech critics. It has also added to its staff several officials from Big Tech companies, which emerged as top donors to the campaign. Now, executives and employees at tech companies such as Alphabet Inc-owned Google, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp are pushing to place candidates in senior roles at government agencies, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The agencies many of these executives are aiming for include the U.S. Commerce Department, Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs – a key agency under the White House Office of Management & Budget which drafts policies impacting the tech industry, the State Department and the Department of Defense, according to the sources. Many company executives, who in some cases helped raise money for the Biden campaign or have ties to those on the president-elect’s transition team, still have a huge commercial interest in pushing candidates with industry ties at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission – both of which are investigating whether Big Tech abused its market power. But the spotlight on those agencies from progressive interest groups and members of Congress is likely to make it much harder for Silicon Valley to succeed, the sources said. To be sure, there is no formal process via which such names and recommendations are being floated by company executives to the transition team.” • To be sure!

Transition from Trump

UPDATE “Trump trashes McConnell to fellow Republicans” [Axios]. “President Trump lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night for acknowledging Joe Biden won the election, sending a slide to Republican lawmakers taking credit for saving McConnell’s career with a tweet and robocall…. While both the message and its delivery targeted McConnell, they also carried a subtle warning to other Republicans who may follow suit as the president grasps at the last straws of his election-fraud claim. Trump’s remaining power over the GOP is not his waning authority as president, but the perception of his lingering ability to make or break politicians in their re-election campaigns.: • “Lingering”? Who says that?

UPDATE “Liberals Can’t Memory Hole The Trump Era Like They Did With Bush” [Oliver Willis]. • Yes, they can.


UPDATE “Immigrant Neighborhoods Shifted Red as the Country Chose Blue” [New York Times]. “Across the United States, many areas with large populations of Latinos and residents of Asian descent, including ones with the highest numbers of immigrants, had something in common this election: a surge in turnout and a shift to the right, often a sizable one. The pattern was evident in big cities like Chicago and New York, in California and Florida, and along the Texas border with Mexico, according to a New York Times analysis of voting in 28,000 precincts in more than 20 cities…. Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he worried before the election that Democrats’ focus on racial justice issues came at the expense of outreach about easing the lives of hard-pressed workers. ‘In general, it suggests that Democrats’ theory of the case — that their electoral problems were all about race rather than class — was incorrect,’ he said.” • That’s rich, because nobody worked harder than Teixeira to convert the Democrat party its base in the working class to a bundle of identity politics verticals — the so-called “coalition of the ascendant” that I [lambert preens] pilloried in back in February 2016.

UPDATE The diversity racket (and I use racket in the fullest sense of the word):

I believe I’ve been saying for some time [lambert preens again] that identity politics goons think the world is an HR department and should be run that way.

“Bernie Sanders says Democrats pushed working class supporters to Trump” [Independent]. “In a record year for turnout, the incumbent won some 74 million votes compared with just under 63 million in 2016…. Mr Trump increased his support in deprived communities, where unemployment and poverty are high. And according to Mr Sanders, many of those voters supported the president because they did not like what they saw from the Democrats. ‘This is a reflection of the Democratic Party,’ said the left-wing lawmaker in a Friday interview with SiriusXM radio host Dean Obeidallah. ‘I think if you talk to many of those … working class people who voted for Trump, they’ll say, ‘Look, of course we know he’s a liar. We know he’s full of shit. But at least he does this; he does that.’ Something the Democrats don’t do.’” • If Sanders had “gone militant” and explicitly put himself and his movement at the head of the strike wave in Summer 2020… Before Black Lives Matter emerged…. “Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Why It’s Good To Push Politicians To Do The Right Thing (Even When They Probably Won’t)” [Caitlin Johnstone]. “There’s a misconception which spans almost the entire US political spectrum, and that is the idea that some part of the system serves the people. Progressives believe they can use the electoral process to obtain economic justice for Americans. Trumpers believe the judicial system is going to overturn Biden’s win any minute now. Liberals believed Mueller was going to drag the entire Trump camp out of the White House in chains. And that’s just not the case. There is no part of the US political system which is anything other than innately oppositional to economic justice. There is no part of the US judicial system which would ever act to reverse widespread establishment electoral fraud. There was no part of the Special Counsel which was separate from the same unifying power structure that Trump serves to remove him from office over corruption or anything else. Ever since 2016 people have been predicting massive upheavals which radically shift power from one mainstream faction to the other, but it never happens; the imperial machine keeps chugging along with all its parts working in well-oiled harmony. And that’s all the US governmental system exists for: ensuring the uninterrupted functioning of the imperial machine.” • James Madison did his work well. More: “But that doesn’t mean there’s no value in pushing for officials to do the right thing. You don’t push politicians to do the right thing because you think they will, you do it to show everyone else that they won’t…. Human behavior only changes when there’s an expansion of consciousness, whether you’re talking about individuals or a collective of any size.” • Hmm. Mining the same territory–

UPDATE “The Left’s Most Naïve Cynics Have Turned on AOC” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. The original headline, from the URL, is more fair: “jimmy-dore-aoc-medicare-for-all-strategy.” Levitz writes: “Last month, Dore argued that AOC and her progressive allies can best advance the cause of universal health care by denying Nancy Pelosi the support she needs to retain the Speakership — until she agrees to hold a House vote on Medicare for All. Dore considers this course of action so self-evidently optimal that the only possible explanation for why Ocasio-Cortez declined to pursue it is that the congresswoman is a fraud who cares more about her career than the needs of her constituents. ‘She is standing between you and health care,’ Dore told his viewers last week. Responding to Ocasio-Cortez’s argument that it takes years of organizing to lay the groundwork for seemingly spontaneous progressive breakthroughs, Dore exclaimed, ‘I figured this out in two weeks, AOC! You liar. You coward. You gaslighter.’ The comedian’s proposition (if not his condemnation of AOC) was taken up by a gaggle of other left-wing YouTube commentators, among them former MSNBC anchor Krystal Ball; host of Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski; and ex–Bernie Sanders campaign spokesperson Briahna Joy Gray. Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to respond to their call on Twitter further amplified its reach. Dore’s proposal was not entirely absurd.” •

Lambert here: I don’t really have a dog in this fight. AOC is an original, still the most interesting politician of the day. Dore is a comedian and media figure. If we’re looking for a leadership figure in the intersection of the set of all militants, the set of all those with strategic acumen, the set of all those committed to policy that centers the working class, and the set of all those with operational capability, neither Dore not AOC fall into that intersection. (Neither does Sanders. It also helps to be lucky, as Napoleon said of his generals. AOC is that.)

I also agree with Levitz that the Medicare for All movement is in need of a little self-reflection. Medicare, due to a neoliberal infestation, is not the panacea it is made out to be, as Yves shows here. Rather than consistently pointing to polling, advocates would do better to ask themselves why they haven’t closed the sale.

Finally, Dore has a YouTube audience of 653,000, big albeit not Limbaugh scale. If we apply the old adage from the blogosphere that of a readership, 1% comment, and of that 1%, another 1% go on to found their own blogs, Dore’s, er, militants would number 653000 * 0.01 * 0.01 = ~65. To be fair, that seems low. A good test of strength would be for Dore to organize Tea Party-style pro-#MedicareForAll activism at town halls in the upcoming Congressional recess. Let’s see what can be done on the ground.

“The Black Caucus Unified with the Progressive Caucus? Watch Out, Baby”: Nina Turner, Progressive Disciple, Could Make Waves in Biden’s Congress” [Vanity Fair]. “When, within a week of suspending his presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden, the calculation was clear: progressives would get on board to take out Donald Trump, but they’d want something in return. Now, with Trump scheduled to vacate the White House in just over a month, the bill is coming due. As the so-called Squad swells with the additions of Congress members-elect Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, and Mondaire Jones, progressive lawmakers in the House are preparing to meet the Biden administration head-on. And in a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Biden—by tapping Congresswoman Marcia Fudge to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development—may have paved the way for one of his most formidable potential antagonists. After weeks of rumors, prominent progressive and top Sanders ally Nina Turner announced her campaign for Ohio’s 11th Congressional district, Fudge’s old seat, pending Fudge’s confirmation. And Turner—who once likened voting for Biden over Trump to eating half ‘a bowl of shit’ instead of the ‘whole thing’—has no patience for half measures as the COVID-19 crisis ravages the country, making societal inequities impossible to ignore. ‘The pandemic leaves no doubt that the system is rigged in this country…a system that does not benefit the poor, the working poor, and the barely-middle class,’ she told me in an interview on Wednesday.” • I like Turner. She’s militant, and militant is my favorite new word. But she was also in charge of the Sanders operation in South Carolina in 2020, and that did not go well. Militancy needs to be combined with operational capability even at the individual level. Does Turner have that?

Militia Watch

UPDATE “‘Moorish sovereigns’ try to seize $4.5 million Woodway home” [Herald.net] (Everett, Washington) “Two members of a sovereign citizen group broke into a vacant $4.5 million home in Woodway, claiming they had seized the property under Moorish law, according to police. Six times since October, residents of Edmonds or Woodway have reported self-proclaimed Moorish sovereigns showing up to expensive homes uninvited and claiming the legal right to seize the property… Around 9:05 p.m. Friday, a neighbor called police saying someone broke into a gated home in the 21700 block of Chinook Road in Woodway, according to reports filed Monday in Everett District Court. The neighbor knew the owners, and knew nobody should be inside. It’s an affluent, exclusive neighborhood. The house — with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, an indoor basketball court, indoor pool and four-car garage — went up for sale a few weeks ago…. Officers recognized Maddox Bey from the other recent run-ins with Moorish sovereigns. Those incidents got some national media buzz, when a man wearing a tall red fez — later identified as Maddox Bey — knocked on doors carrying documents written in a strange form of legalese, announcing to at least one resident, “I am here to let you know that I am the legal owner of the property and today is the day!” In those incidents, the unwanted guests departed without making any direct threats of violence…. A Snohomish County deputy prosecutor noted Maddox Bey had been accused of violating anti-harassment orders on March 26 and March 27, as well as May 29. Maddox Bey listed an address as ‘general delivery,’ which is common for people with no fixed home.” • Here is a thread JJ McNabb, who is the go-to account on sovereign citizens, militias and so forth:

This whole thread is wild stuff, worth reading in full, and clicking through. I think there are also some lessons for the left here in terms of militancy (and perhaps even organizational tactics, though that would be like trying to reverse engineer reality out of a fun-house mirror). I haven’t seen the left seize many million-dollar mansions recently (though respect due to empty home seizures by homeless activists)

UPDATE “How Ammon Bundy Helped Foment an Anti-Masker Rebellion in Idaho” [The New Yorker]. “Minutes before Davis arrived at her desk on the chamber floor, several of her colleagues heard glass shattering and a huge ruckus from above. A crowd of about two hundred unmasked men, women, and children, carrying American flags and homemade signs, had climbed the capitol rotunda’s grand marble staircase and crowded into a fourth-floor hallway leading to the House chamber’s viewing gallery, most of which had been reserved for lawmakers with health concerns. A line of state troopers in black masks stood between the crowd and a set of glass-panelled doors. “This is our house!” the protesters shouted. A chant began: “Let us in! Let us in!”

UPDATE “Far-right protesters storm Oregon Capitol calling for end of COVID-19 restrictions” [The Hill]. “Right-wing protesters in Oregon swarmed the state capitol early Monday calling for an end to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions and the resignation of the state’s Democratic governor. Video of the incident obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) showed police in riot gear clashing with protesters, who were described by the news service as being armed with bear mace and some firearms…. OPB reporters identified the protesters as members of Patriot Prayer, a local right-wing organization that regularly stages armed demonstrations in the Portland area. Photos of the conclusion of the demonstration indicated that at least two members of the group were arrested after refusing to leave the scene.”

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.

Manufacturing: “December 2020 Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey Improved” [Econintersect]. “Of the four regional Federal Reserve manufacturing surveys released to date, all are in expansion… The important Richmond Fed subcategories (new orders and unfilled orders) are well into expansion and improved this month. We consider this survey better than last month.”

Consumer Confidence: “December 2020 Conference Board Consumer Confidence Again Declined” [Econintersect]. “Consumer confidence had been steady for the previous two years – but the coronavirus killed the upswing. Consumer confidence is as low as seen in 2014.”

GDP: “Third Estimate 3Q2020 GDP Improves Marginally to 33.4%. Corporate Profits Improve” [Econintersect]. “The third estimate of third-quarter 2020 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) improved from the second estimate’s positive 33.1 % to 33.4 %… The coronavirus recovery is the reason for the improvement from the previous quarter – and pushed GDP quarter-over-quarter growth to record levels. I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but the recovery from the pandemic is not over as the year-over-year GDP growth remains in contraction.”

* * *

Shipping: “Persistently tight containers market expected into 2021 as contract talks evolve” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “The existing challenges in the container market are likely to persist into the first quarter of the next year as firm demand meets supply constraints and logistical bottlenecks, market sources said. ‘All shipping liners have verified that demand is ramping up and is unlikely to slow down before Chinese New Year,’ said Peter Sundara, Vice President Global Freight Management, Global Ocean Product, LF Logistics.”

Retail: “Amazon shuts New Jersey facility till Dec. 26 on virus spike among workers” [Reuters]. “Amazon.com Inc said on Sunday it had closed one of its warehouses in New Jersey out of caution till Dec. 26, after seeing an increase in asymptomatic positive cases amongst workers…. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, said it isn’t anticipating any impacts to operations or deliveries due to this shutdown. It did not specify the number of workers who contracted the disease at its PNE5 facility, which is a sorting center.:

Tech: “Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes ‘next level’ battery technology – sources” [Reuters]. “Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service. Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could ‘radically’ reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design…. Making a vehicle represents a supply chain challenge even for Apple, a company with deep pockets that makes hundreds of millions of electronics products each year with parts from around the world, but has never made a car. It took Elon Musk’s Tesla 17 years before it finally turned a sustained profit making cars. ‘If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone,’ said a person who worked on Project Titan. It remains unclear who would assemble an Apple-branded car, but sources have said they expect the company to rely on a manufacturing partner to build vehicles.”

Shipping: “IMO Secretary-General denounces “no crew change” clauses” [Hellenic Shipping News]. •  In other words, nothing has been done?

Mr. Market: “Hope and how it functions in financial markets: Morning Brief” [Yahoo News]. “‘Hope’ is a relatively unscientific concept that sometimes draws mockery in the investment community. But just because a concept doesn’t fit the mold of strict fundamental analysis doesn’t mean that it doesn’t play a big role in how financial markets function. Indeed, there’s an entire field of study within finance that explores these types of less-than-rational concepts.” • “Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all -” — Emily Dickinson, ““Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)


* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 22 at 1:38pm. Sorry I missed the transition to mere greed!

The Biosphere

“Wildfire smoke, a potential infectious agent” [Science]. “Wildland fire is a source for bioaerosols that differ in composition and concentration from those found under background conditions, and most of these microbes in smoke are viable (1, 2). Bioaerosols, composed of fungal and bacterial cells and their metabolic by-products, are known to affect human health (3). At the same time, respiratory allergic and inflammatory diseases, including asthma and bronchitis, are exacerbated by exposure to wildfire smoke (4). However, the risk of infection to the upper and lower respiratory tract after exposure to wildfire smoke is frequently overlooked (5). Smoke-related immunologic deficits and inflammatory responses may exacerbate the effects of inhalation of airborne microbial particulates and toxicants in smoke.” • Hmm. Speculating freely, I wonder if the California wildfires are a partial explanation for California’s Covid oddities, and those neighboring states downwind from it?

“Permit granted for Wyoming coal mine, 1st in decades” [Wyoming Tribune Eagle]. “An independent council has upheld a decision by Wyoming environmental regulators to grant a mining permit to a coal technology company, making it the state’s first new coal mine to open in decades. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council affirmed the permit extension on Wednesday, allowing Ramaco Carbon to dig for coal at a former mine site near Sheridan, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.” • Jawbs. The permitting process held off the mine for a decade, so at least opponents cost the company some money. Still.

“Will Rising Temperatures Make Superweeds Even Stronger?” [Wired (Re Silc)]. “mounting evidence suggests that temperatures of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above can make some herbicide-resistant weeds even more resistant, and cause other weeds to be less sensitive to certain chemicals. Some farmers say they know high temperatures can mess with some herbicides, so they try to avoid spraying in the heat of the day. “A good rule of thumb is if it’s 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, just don’t spray,” says Curt Gottschalk, a farm manager in Hays, Kansas.” • Whoops. So I guess the answer is to go back into the lab and come up with some new formulations…..

“Evidence of “modified gravity” in 150 galaxies strengthens dark matter alternative” [New Atlas]. “[O]bservations continue to support the idea of dark matter. But one major piece of the puzzle is still missing – finding the stuff itself. Plenty of experiments have tried to detect particles of the elusive dark matter, or even create them, but so far none have been successful. Perhaps that’s because it’s not really there after all, and instead it might be that our models of gravity and physics need some tweaking. This class of hypotheses is known as modified gravity, and now astronomers claim to have found evidence supporting one particular model, known as Modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND). First proposed in 1982 by physicist Mordehai Milgrom, MOND suggests that at low accelerations, gravity’s effects are stronger than Newton’s laws describe. A side effect of this is that the motions of objects would depend not just on their own mass, but all other masses in their neighborhood. This phenomenon is known as the external field effect (EFE). And now, researchers on the new study say they’ve observed the EFE in action in 153 different galaxies.” • Neat! Gravity would be relational!

Will Rising Temperatures Make Superweeds Even Stronger? Wired

Health Care

“Anti-vaxxers Think This Is Their Moment” [The Atlantic]. “The misleading claims Americans will soon hear about the newly released COVID-19 vaccines are nearly identical to claims made about smallpox immunizations 120 years ago: The ingredients are toxic and unnatural; the vaccines are insufficiently tested; the scientists who produce them are quacks and profiteers; the cell cultures involved in some shots are an affront to the religious; the authorities working to protect public health are guilty of tyrannical overreach. In the British Medical Journal in that period, a Dr. Francis T. Bond frets about what to do about his era’s anti-vaxxers and their arguments, which have since become well-trod canards because they are effective in frightening people. Today’s anti-vaccine activists, however, enjoy a speed, scale, and reach far greater than those of Dr. Bond’s day. Bottom-up networked activism is driving the spread of anti-vaccine COVID-19 propaganda. Americans are about to see a deluge of tweets, posts, and snarky memes that will attempt to erode trust in the vaccine rollouts.” • All this is true. Nevertheless, “what we’ve got here is failure to communicate” (a.k.a. “respect mah authoritah”) hasn’t worked, and shaming and fingerwagging haven’t worked either. The author recommends a “whole-of-society approach.”

“COVID-19 testing: One size does not fit all” [Science]. “Similar to home pregnancy tests, screening tests should be easy to obtain and administer, fast, and cheap. Like diagnostic tests, these tests must produce very low false-positive rates. If a screening test does not achieve high-enough specificity (e.g., >99.9%), screening programs can be paired with secondary confirmatory testing. Unlike diagnostic tests, however, the sensitivity of screening tests should not be determined based on their ability to diagnose patients but rather by their ability to accurately identify people who are most at risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2. Such individuals tend to have higher viral loads, which makes the virus easier to detect. A focus on identifying infectious people means that frequency and abundance of tests should be prioritized above achieving high analytical sensitivity. Indeed, loss in sensitivity of individual tests, within reason, can be compensated for by frequency of testing and wider dissemination of tests. In addition, public health messaging should ensure appropriate expectations of screening, particularly around sensitivity and specificity so that false negatives and false positives do not erode public trust. Tests for public health screening require rapid, decentralized solutions that can be scaled for frequent screening of large numbers of asymptomatic individuals.” • Lot of detail. Well worth a read for testing mavens.

“What the Chaos in Hospitals Is Doing to Doctors” [The Atlantic]. “Article after article outlined a series of awful questions: If and when New York hospitals ran out of ventilators, should the machines be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis? Based on who was sickest? Based on who was most likely to survive? Based on who, if they survived, had the most years left to live? Based on some randomized lottery system? As it happens, the job of answering these questions is still frequently left to committees. But today, “the lawyer, the housewife, the banker, the minister” have been supplemented by bioethicists.” • I don’t think that’s a good thing at all. I mean, Zeke Emanuel is a bio-ethicist,

Our Famously Free Press

“How Civil Society Can Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech Without Making It Worse” [The Media Manipulation Casebook]. Here is a handy diagram:


A cynic might say that looks like a self-licking ice cream cone. A Buddhist might say it looks like the karmic wheel. A realist might say “‘Twas ever thus!” My problem with such goo goo efforts is that the notion of “civil society” goes unexamined. What if civil society itself is based on frameworks of deception and illusion, like RussiaGate? Or mainstream macro?


It seems that Kelton’s book is doing well:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Living With Karens A white woman calls the police on her Black neighbors. Six months later, they still share a property line.” [New York Magazine]. Final paragraph: “Sometimes, well, often, when he’s standing in his house, looking out over the fence, he sees Schulz in her yard, or even just the empty yard, and it hits him. Just for an instant. Maybe it was silly or naïve or too optimistic, but there was an expectation that in Montclair he could be aware of the reality of being Black in America without having to confront it or acknowledge it in his daily life. But now, ‘we do actively acknowledge it,’ he said. ‘It’s just a reminder of that reality.’” • From Montclair, NJ.

Class Warfare

“Uber and Lyft’s Gig Work Law Could Expand Beyond California” [Wired]. “Now New York, a less-than-traditional gig market in many ways, is set to be among the first states where a post-Proposition 22 battle might play out. A constellation of gig companies and allies on Monday introduced the New York Coalition for Independent Work, which describes its mission as “protecting self-employed, app-based contractors’ independence and flexibility while also working to provide them with needed benefits.” But the state’s relatively labor-friendly climate means that gig companies will have to tread carefully—and that a pitched battle is likely ahead…. In statements, spokespeople for Uber, Instacart, and DoorDash said the companies would work with legislators to protect flexible work schedules for their gig workers, something they have said would be impossible if they were forced to treat the workers as employees. DoorDash vice president of communications and policy Liz Jarvis-Shean said the company wants to work with state and federal lawmakers ‘to help create a new portable, proportional, and flexible framework that embraces today’s modern workforce.’ Uber spokesperson Matthew Wing said the company supports state laws to require ‘all gig economy companies—including ours—to provide new benefits and protections to all independent workers.’”

“Hidden Foster Care: All of the Responsibility, None of the Resources” [The Appeal]. “Removing children from their parents and placing them with relatives is a common occurrence in Texas, and around the country, as child welfare authorities intervene in situations like Sophie’s. But unlike the traditional foster care system, no court case is initiated, and no lawyers are present to advise either parents or caregivers of their rights. Legal advocates say these arrangements lead to confusion around custody rights, are ripe for coercion of the parent, and leave caregivers without any support in caring for children. The phenomenon has been termed ‘shadow foster care’ or ‘hidden foster care’ by legal researchers, who estimate that these informal arrangements are made at a rate on par with the traditional foster care system. In fiscal year 2014 in Texas, there were just over 30,000 children placed in the foster care system, with CPS cases in the courts overseen by judges; that year, the state made 34,000 informal placements of children with relatives as a result of a CPS investigation, which had no court cases attached. That number seems to be declining, according to recent data acquired from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. This year, DFPS reported about 12,000 children currently in such placements; more than 1,000 of these arrangements have been closed each year for the last five years with the child’s relatives still caring for them, without a custody order in place.”

“The Battle for Waterloo” [Pro Publica]. “As the [he Peoples Community Health Clinic] staff tended to the sick, a chilling pattern emerged: 99% of the patients either worked at the local Tyson Foods meatpacking plant or lived with someone who did. Some patients said they’d come from a town two hours away where an outbreak had shut down another Tyson plant… Meanwhile, a lawsuit would later allege, top Tyson managers in Waterloo were directing interpreters to downplay the threat of infection at the plant, while privately making winner-take-all bets on how many workers would test positive. (Seven managers were fired last week).” • A must-read, I can’t adequately excerpt. To be read in conjunction with–

“How the History of Waterloo, Iowa, Explains How Meatpacking Plants Became Hotbeds of COVID-19” [Pro Publica]. • An excellent timeline, 1891 – 2020.

News of the Wired

“Aphorisms on programming language design” [Michael Arntzenius]. “3. The measure of a language is not what is possible in it, but what it makes easy.” • Human languages are not programming languages. That said, what English does not make easy is pointing to and classifying sets with fuzzy edges or overlaps. Sets like “Black,” “women,” “working class.” We have awkward bolt-ons like “some” or “all,” or “most” but nothing in core, as it were. I wonder if there is some obscure language that does better?

“Bos Taurus” [The Last Word on Nothing]. “One of my favorite bull stories, The Story of Ferdinand, is about a young Spanish bull who does not enjoy fighting, but prefers to sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers. The simple power of Ferdinand’s story, I think, is that it unravels the old conflation of male strength and violence, revealing such macho projections for what they really are: bullshit. (Disliking what he deemed its pacifist message, Hitler ordered the book to be burned.)”

“Historic Auction of Iconic East Village Institutional Items” [Gem Spa]. “To illustrate the vital importance of its illustrious history, Gem Spa is featured on the back cover of the first album by the New York Dolls. Poets Allen Ginsberg and Ted Berrigan both mentioned the stand in their works, where Robert Mapplethorpe bought Patti Smith her first egg cream, Madonna shot Desperately Seeking Susan there in 1984, Lou Reed loved to get egg creams there, Jean-Michel Basquiat paid homage to Gem Spa in a 1982 painting. In 1966, The Village Voice called it the ‘official oasis of the East Village;. Abbie Hoffman gathered people for his 1967 protest at the New York Stock Exchange at Gem Spa. it was known as a ‘hippie hangout’. In the late 60s, it was midway between two other iconic venues, the Fillmore East and the Electric Circus, now gone forever.”


This sign, apparently, features an egg cream. Whatever that is…

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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 (RM):


RM writes: “While on a hike in the hills in eastern Montana I came across this outcrop of scoria covered in lichen. The scoria is made by coal layers that catch on fire and burn underground for many years. The heat bakes the overlaying clay and makes it like pottery.” Wow!

Readers, I could use more photos from readers who have not contributed before! Thank you!

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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.


If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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