By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“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
Key dates coming fast now, so I added some counters:
Some of the next primaries. (I picked the major dates; here is a complete calendar.)
We encourage readers to play around with the polling charts; they are dynamic, and there are a lot of settings, more than I can usefully show here. Here is a link to alert reader dk’s project. You can also file bug reports or feature requests using the same contact process as for Plants, below. Thanks — but no promises!
Today we have one national poll from IPSOS, and no state polls, as of 3/17/2020, 11:00 AM EDT. The empire strikes back:
And the numbers:
Pretty much the same story everywhere. Earlier in the year, we often had occasion to comment on the mysterious strength of the Biden Juggernaut, on display here; but it’s also true that . <-- What did I say? To be fair, the IPSOS sample size is not large, and it's a B- poll. Nevertheless...
* * *
Joe Biden’s relentless lying in last night’s debate, and the media’s astonishingly servile reaction, have made it clear that the “post-truth era” will not be over when Donald Trump is gone. https://t.co/QJySuRK7B0
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) March 17, 2020
I haven’t seen an annotated list of Biden’s lies during the debate; readers flagged then in real-time in comments, but it would be nice to see a consolidated list (not from the campaign). I can’t find one with a cursory search.
Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders Wants to Fight On. He Has His Reasons.” [Sidney Ember, New York Times]. “Yet even as his path to the nomination looks increasingly bleak, with Mr. Biden favored in three more primaries on Tuesday, some allies are publicly urging Mr. Sanders to remain in the race, eager for him to continue to pitch voters on a liberal agenda that he has promoted for decades.” • Oh, Sidney. Sanders is not a liberal! Holy Lord.
The Norms Fairy now permits open lying:
The month @BarackObama entered office in midst of Great Recession, the U.S. lost a staggering 800K jobs. Yesterday, Trump’s former chief economist said job loss could hit a MILLION in March.
If we could’ve passed a larger stimulus then, we would have.
Congress should do more.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 17, 2020
“If we could’ve passed a larger stimulus then, we would have.” (1) Axelrove had the House, the Senate, the greatest orator of our time in the White House, and a mandate for “hope and change.” Coulda/would/shoulda is is an obvious and open falsehood. (2) See the Larry Summers/Christina Romer episode; if the Democrats could not, it’s because they crippled themselves, not because of some mysterious outside force. Now that Biden (and his advisors, including Harvey Weinstein-adjacent lawyer Anita Dunn) has set the tone, Establishment Democrats are going to say whatever they want, true or false.
“Free The Trolls: The Justice Department Moves To Drop Major Mueller Case Against Russian-Linked Companies” [Jonathan Turley]. “It appears that trolls are enjoying St. Patrick’s Day as much as Leprechauns. The Justice Department shocked many by dropping the matinee case of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller against two Russian companies accused of funding the “troll farms” in the 2016 election. Many critics have charged that the trolling operation was laughingly ineffective and clumsy. Moreover, the evidence against the companies, including Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering, was questioned. The prosecutors, while defending the original charges, moved to dismiss the case because they viewed the trial as threatening national security secrets. That claim seemed like more of a spin in a case that never seemed to materialize into hard evidence to support these charges. Update: The company has announced that it will sue the U.S. government for billions in damages — a move that will once again raise this same information for trial.” • If Putin is the Machiavellian genius Democrat RussiaGate assets think he is, those billions were his goal all along. That would be funny!
Realignment and Legitimacy
Here’s a chart showing concern about #COVID-19:
These data are a week old, 3/8-10. We’ll get an update Monday.
I wonder if the partisan gap will be reduced.
— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) March 15, 2020
But note the scale on the left.
FL: “Light turnout expected in Florida amid coronavirus fears” [The Hill]. “The Sunshine State is the most populous state holding a primary and it also has the most confirmed cases of the virus, known as COVID-19, of the three states. Five people have died from the disease.”
Election Day so far: 5/8 election staff are elderly, we were provided with no cleaning supplies, we are missing an ENTIRE blue box (meaning anyone who comes to this precinct cannot vote), we are missing 2 election judges & nobody is answering our calls. pic.twitter.com/aPfmZ5McCt
— rebecca 🌹🔥 (@rebeccapearl21) March 17, 2020
entirely correct, like I said a few days ago, there is not going to be a way to *legitimately* determine a primary winner given the situation we are facing, and people really have to start figuring out what to do about that https://t.co/nXBXRNkUp3
— Matt Bruenig (@MattBruenig) March 17, 2020
“Bernie Sanders is raising the prospect of postponing all primaries” [Chris Cilizza, CNN]. “Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper whether the primaries scheduled for Tuesday should be postponed, Sanders responded this way: ‘That is a very good question, and as you know Louisiana, and Georgia, and Puerto Rico have delayed their elections. Postponed them, they’ve got dates in the future. Look, election dates are very very important we don’t want to be getting into the habit of messing around with them. But you remember, and I just researched this, 9/11, you know there was a primary in New York City? Do you remember that?…. ‘….There was a primary. And it was canceled for obvious reasons in New York City and it was rescheduled two weeks later. I would hope that governors listen to the public health experts, and what they are saying as you just indicated, we don’t want gatherings of more than 50 people. I’m thinking about some of the elderly people sitting behind the desks, registering people, doing all that stuff. Does that make a lot of sense? I’m not sure that it does.'” • Given the givens, the political calculation that Sanders, who is behind, can’t call for the primaries to be postponed without being accused of speaking in bad faith, but I don’t think Sanders’ caution is warranted. That said–
Lambert here: I don’t see who elections conducted under these circumstances can possibly be regarded as legitimate. What kind of sociopathic political system asks its voters to cast their ballots while endangering them with a plague? It’s like a poll tax but a million times worse.
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.
Retail: “Headline Retail Sales Declined in February 2020” [EconIntersect]. “Retail sales declined according to US Census headline data. The three-month rolling average improved…. There was an upward adjustment to last month’s data. The real test of strength is the rolling averages which improved. Overall, this report is considered better than last month – but this coming month is affected by the coronavirus and will suck.”
Manufacturing: “February 2020 Headline Industrial Production Improved” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say seasonally adjusted Industrial Production (IP) improved month-over-month – but no shows no growth year-over-year. Our analysis shows the three-month rolling average improved…. Note that manufacturing is in contraction year-over-year – and capacity utilization remained in expansion year-over-year. Consider this report marginally better than last month.”
Retail: “A virtual shutdown of a large swath of the U.S. economy is triggering high demand at Amazon.com Inc. The online behemoth plans to hire an additional 100,000 employees in the U.S…. and will raise pay for workers as households turn to online deliveries at a breakneck pace to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus” [Wall Street Journal]. “Amazon accounts for 39% of all online orders in the U.S., and the new surge in business is part of a larger move toward digital services as people hunker down in their homes. That’s fed enormous demand on operators like meal-order delivery companies and entertainment streaming services, and tested the limits of online fulfillment and inventory management. Amazon like other companies is coping with the impact of the pandemic on its operations and its finances, and recently added part-time warehouse workers to its sick-leave policy.” • That’s nice. A fine example of disaster capitalism. Once again, social distancing reinforces our worst, least sustainable and most monopolistic tendencies.
Retail: “The retail world’s response to the coronavirus is rapidly transforming the sector’s supply chains. U.S. clothing and mall retailers from J. Crew Group Inc. to Nike Inc. are closing thousands of stores across the country for two weeks… in unprecedented moves to stem the growth of the pandemic” [Wall Street Journal]. “Many stores say they are directing consumers to their websites, where their capacity to fulfill orders is now being tested. Analysts say e-commerce sales are unlikely to fill the void in any case, since many retailers get 75% of their revenue from their stores.”
Shipping: “Crude-tanker stocks plunge as rates hit record highs” [Freight Waves]. “It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. Just as spot freight rates for supertankers have reached epic new heights, crude-tanker stocks are plummeting…. Some analysts believe publicly listed VLCC owners are an ideal hedge and safe haven during the coronavirus-induced stock-market crash. Alas, they were not a haven Monday, at the very time record-setting VLCC employment contracts were finalized.”
Tech: “Will COVID-19 be a tipping point for telehealth in the U.S.?” [MarketWatch]. “That said, telehealth is a little used tool in the U.S., generating less than 1% of U.S. medical claims in 2018, according to a 2019 FAIR Health white paper. It is unclear how comfortable Americans, who are largely still loyal to the idea of in-person interactions with physicians, or the doctors who trained in an era without virtual care, are with using telehealth on such a large scale. However, as some states and cities in the U.S. have moved toward some form of a lockdown to mitigate the impact of the virus and as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise, some clinicians say the pandemic may serve as a tipping point for telehealth in America.” • Go long social distancing (which again unfortunately reinforces all the atomization and alienation that neoliberalism also promotes).
Mr. Market: “‘We may get to a point where we shorten’ stock-market trading hours, says Treasury Secretary Mnuchin” [MarketWatch]. “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday midday said that he believed it was crucial to keep the markets open during the COVID-19 outbreak that has infected more than 180,000 people and had far-reaching effects in disrupting business and personal live. “We absolutely believe in keeping the markets open,” Mnuchin said during a news conference in Washington, D.C., with President Donald Trump to update the public on the efforts to combat the pandemic and limit the damage to the U.S. economy. He also said ‘we may get to a point where we shorten the hours,” presumably referring to regular trading hours for stocks which runs from 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time to 4 p.m. The treasury secretary’s comments come amid chatter of a two-week trading holiday that advocates say might help to quell volatility in markets that have rocked a number of assets and driven major equity indexes into bear-market territory, commonly defined as a decline from a record high of at least 20%.” • Never believe anything until it’s been officially denied?
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 4 Extreme Fear (previous close: 3 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 6 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 17 at 11:56am. Haven’t ever seen the needle pinned at zero. I wonder if the formula permits that.
“As nations bicker, a greener future evolves in finance” [Agence France Presse]. “Regardless of the politics of climate change, there is real money to be made today in the exploding market for bonds and other instruments invested in environmentally sustainable projects…. Hard-nosed US investors in fields such as solar panels are not necessarily driven by anxiety about global warming, Climate Bonds Initiative chief executive Sean Kidney said. ‘Most of them are Republicans for god’s sake,’ he said at a conference on climate finance organised by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London. ‘They care only about price,’ he added, predicting the transition to a low-carbon future would generate $90 trillion investment by 2050 in areas including low-energy cooling, urban farming and greener transport.”
“Air pollution likely to increase coronavirus death rate, warn experts” [The Guardian]. “The health damage inflicted on people by long-standing air pollution in cities is likely to increase the death rate from coronavirus infections, experts have said. Dirty air is known to cause lung and heart damage and is responsible for at least 8m early deaths a year. This underlying health damage means respiratory infections, such as coronavirus, may well have a more serious impact on city dwellers and those exposed to toxic fumes, than on others. However, strict confinement measures in China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, and in Italy, Europe’s most affected nation, have led to falls in air pollution as fewer vehicles are driven and industrial emissions fall. A preliminary calculation by a US expert suggests that tens of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution may have been avoided by the cleaner air in China, far higher than the 3,208 coronavirus deaths. The experts stressed, however, that no one is claiming the pandemic can be seen as good for health and it is too early for conclusive studies to have been done. In particular, they said, other indirect health impacts of the coronavirus, via lost income and lack of treatment for other illnesses, will also be large.” ”
“No, the coronavirus is not good for the climate” [The Correspondent]. “Wishing for a disaster to make the large-scale changes that scientists say are necessary to prevent a planetary collapse is counterproductive. Remember, we’re doing this to *save* lives. Cheering on the coronavirus because of climate change isn’t progress, it’s eco-fascism. It’s the same logic that eugenicists use to argue for population control, or racists use to preach ethnic nationalism and anti-immigration policies in an era of climate emergency. Discrimination and death are not the way to reduce emissions. Ending the climate emergency is not just about reducing emissions. It’s about treating each other better. And, it’s very likely that the ultimate climate legacy of the coronavirus will be a setback to global efforts to transition to a zero-carbon society. Due to the sudden drop in aerosols, temperatures could actually rise this year
Read more about the effects of air pollution on global warming.in regions where factories are shuttered. Time and money governments spend fighting sudden wars and recessions and outbreaks — and propping up the economy in the meantime — have historically not been kind to the concerns of those on the margins of society.”
“The World’s Biggest Emitter of Greenhouse Gases” [Bloomberg]. “At 56.5 million tons of greenhouse gases a year, Secunda’s emissions exceed the individual totals of more than 100 countries, including Norway and Portugal, according to the Global Carbon Atlas.”
“Deserted oil wells haunt Los Angeles with toxic fumes and enormous cleanup costs” [Los Angeles Times]. “But after more than a century of aggressive drilling by fossil fuel companies, most of Los Angeles’ profitable oil is gone. What remains is a costly legacy: nearly 1,000 wells across the city, in rich and poor neighborhoods, deserted by their owners and left to the state to clean, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of state records by the Los Angeles Times and the Center for Public Integrity. Few U.S. cities are punctured with such a concentration of old drilling sites, with tens of thousands of residents living nearby, from Ladera Heights to Echo Park. If not plugged and cleaned up, many of these orphaned wells will continue to expose people to toxic gases, complicate redevelopment and pose rare but serious threats of explosions. If the state were to tackle the cleanup, it would cost tens of millions of dollars.”
For planning your garden (though I would imagine these figures vary somewhat by the zone):
Fastest growing veggies to jump start your family food security.
Bush Beans 45 days
Pumpkin 95 days
Cucumber 55 days
Potatoes 70 days
Sweet potatoes 95 days
Carrots 75 days
Beetroots 50 days
Eggplants 100 days
Tomatoes 45 days
Most Leafy Greens 30 days
— Ismail (@Ismaarl) March 14, 2020
“Coronavirus: Apple Tells Iphone, Ipad And Mac Owners How To Safely Clean Their Devices” [Independent]. “‘Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces,’ [Apple’s] note reads. ‘Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don’t submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents.'” • This seems to be a change, FWIW; the pre-2020 Internet is full of warnings not to use pre-moistened lens cleaning wipes, because they contain alchohol.
Feral Hog Watch
Ferality is a spectrum:
“Burning calories: pig starts farm fire by excreting pedometer” [Guardian]. “Firefighters in North Yorkshire have tackled a blaze that broke out after a pig swallowed a pedometer which then combusted in its pen after excretion…. The North Yorkshire fire and rescue service said the fire was caused by ‘nature taking its course’ and copper from the pedometer battery reacting with dry hay and the pigpen’s contents. The pedometer was being used to prove the animal was free range and had been taken off one of its fellow pigs.” • Free range, but in a pen? Am I missing something here?
Will no-one think of the executive bonuses:
— The Guillotine Shouter (@guillotineshout) March 14, 2020
Or we could nationalize them, keep the scientists, and throw away the managers, executives, and owners.
Everything new is old again:
I can't believe I'm entering the second global financial meltdown of my adult life and more or less the same people are still in charge of everything
— 'Weird Alex' Pareene (@pareene) March 16, 2020
Yeah, it’s like all the leaders who got us into Iraq still were still well-respected in public life, and held powerful positions. Oh, wait…
“What is Political Power?” [ViewPoint]. “The first is that as they have emerged in actual history, rights are the rights of the self-interested individuals of the marketplace, individuals who are separated from each other and the community. The formal and abstract equality of these individuals masks the real inequality generated by the market — a society in which everyone has freedom of speech, but only a select few own Fox News and MSNBC, and are able to effectively control who speaks and who is heard. In this individualistic society, the only way that people experience community is in the state, but in the realm of the state people’s social powers are also separated from them and dominate them like an alien force. So rights can only be at best the foundation of a partial emancipation. Real emancipation would mean overcoming the individualistic separation of the market, and reabsorbing the separate powers of the state into the human community.”
News of the Wired
“The artist who co-authored a paper and expanded my professional network” [Nature]. “But [French artist Karine Bonneval] asked one question that no soil ecologist would ever pose: ‘What sounds do fungi make as they grow through soil?’ At first I dismissed her query as a silly one, but I couldn’t stop thinking and reading about it. In the end, a new research question was born, which resulted in a paper listing Karine as a co-author. The paper explores the role of sound or vibrations as a source of information in soil — a medium that we think of as dark and quiet, and that houses organisms that communicate through chemistry.” • From the abstract of the article: “Sound, if firmly established as a mode of information exchange in soil, could be useful in an ‘acoustics-based’ precision agriculture as a means of assessing aspects of soil biodiversity, and the topic of sound pollution could move into focus for soil biota and processes.”
Don’t be evil:
To use the Google/Verily screening program to see if you're eligible for COVID-19 testing, you have to create a Google account or connect it your existing Google account.
This is both a barrier to entry and a major privacy problem pic.twitter.com/L9j5ZDIFGp
— Natasha Singer (@natashanyt) March 16, 2020
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 (PS):
I can almost hear the snow creak under my boots.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 28, 2020
MR comments: “Anyone staying home who has some fabric and a sewing machine could be doing this if they need something to do and feel useful. supplies could be ordered, maybe via Etsy, where a lot of craft supplies are sold, or Michaels online.” Note that some of the masks have colorful prints. They are fashion-forward, as I suggested (!). Here is a manual, complete with patterns. If you make some masks, please send photos! Big hat tip to MR for this.
NOTE This is not a competition!!!!!!
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