2:00PM Water Cooler 4/16/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

#COVID-19

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

“But the number of new cases in the state seems to have reached a plateau, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said, ‘I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart.'” [New York Times]. • This curve hasn’t gone flat though….

The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. I have changed to a logarithmic scale for US States and territories, adjusted for population. See Vice, “How to Read the Coronavirus Graphs“:

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

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

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

I hope this change is helpful. One also notices at once that the New York and New Jersey metroplexes stand out.

Politics

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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

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

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2020

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Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden Is the Democratic Nominee. Progressives Are Worried About His Cabinet” [Mother Jones]. “Now that Biden is moving ahead to the general election, progressives are determined to exert what power they have to shape his future appointments. But the former vice president ran a campaign that, for the most part, remained ideologically agnostic and scant on policy details. That, in combination with his White House experience, may actually set the table well for progressives hoping to exercise some control, says Chris Lu, who served as a deputy secretary of labor during the Obama administration and executive director of the Obama–Biden transition.” • I thinik they’re delusional. My, well, current model is that Biden is being operated — because how else could he function? — by some sort of kitchen cabinet. They will make the picks. A tell-tale lacuna in the article is HHS. Not, I would think, Jayapal. Or any single payer advocate. I suppose it’s a good fight to have to weed out the crazies — like Larry Fink of BlackRock should not be Secretary of the Treasury — but ultimately of little importance. Does it really matter if Count Witte stays on through 1907 instead of leaving in 1906?

Biden (D)(2): Two products of Tyrell Corporation in one shot! I mean, at least two:

Perhaps the Biden campaign thinks Facebook appeals to the youths. Let me disabuse them of that notion. (I periodicallly play this video; I can’t imagine who at Adobe was permitted to come up with it.

Biden (D)(3): “AOC lays out progressive wish list for Biden” [Politico]. “Although Ocasio-Cortez said she was heartened by Biden’s pledge to name a female running mate and his openness to a woman of color being on the Democratic ticket, she argued that ‘what’s really important is not only just that woman’s identity, in terms of gender and cultural terms, but … who that woman is and [what] her stance is.’ ‘There is a wide spectrum, politically, of women of color. There’s some that are very conservative, in terms of Democratic context, and there’s some that are more progressive,’ she said.” • No explosion of fury from the idpol crowd, oddly.

Biden (D)(4): “Progressive movement wary of Warren for VP” [Politico]. “Sanders’ campaign leadership believes that her assertion that Sanders privately told her a woman couldn’t win, which he denied, hurt him among women voters and amounted to a personal betrayal. Sanders was also deeply disappointed that she didn’t endorse him after she dropped out of the primary, and it even made him question her progressivism.”

UPDATE Biden (D)(5): “Essential workers”:

Maybe we could expand the category of “essential workers” to those otherwise inessential wprker who selll their labor power to feed their families. Or how about the unpersons otherwise unworthy of life who contribute to aggregate demand? Words can’t express how deeply I loathe this concept, currently generating buckets of virtue signaling by liberal goodthinker, the same kind of people who thought Clinton’s $12 an hour minimum wage was probably too generous, in 2016. I forget who brought this wonderful piece of ’80s madness to our attention:

“Chuck, I like the singer, but would you really call the piano player essential? I mean, a prepared piano? Liz, what do you think?”

Cuomo (D)(1): “Exclusive: New York taps McKinsey to develop ‘Trump-proof’ economic reopening plan” [Reuters]. • Wowsers.

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“Wall Street Titans Finance Democratic Primary Challenger To Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” [The Intercept]. “WALL STREET TITANS are financing a direct challenge to firebrand progressive lawmaker Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York primary on June 23. Disclosures show that over four dozen finance industry professionals, including several prominent private equity executives and investment bankers, made early donations to Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC contributor who is challenging Ocasio-Cortez. Caruso-Cabrera was a registered Republican until a few years ago and authored a 2010 book advocating for several conservative positions, including an end to Medicare and Social Security, which she called ‘pyramid schemes.’ The donors include Glenn Hutchins, the billionaire co-founder of Silver Lake Partners; James Passin of Firebird Capital; Bruce Schnitzer of Wand Partners; Jeffrey Rosen of Lazard; and Bradley Seaman, managing partner of Parallel49 Equity. The chief executives of Goldman Sachs, PNC Bank, and Virtu Financial, are also among the Caruso-Cabera donors.” • Absolute genius to pick a hyphendated Latin name. And as I’ve said often, I hope AOC has her constituent services office running like a well-oiled machine.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Breaking the Grip of White Grievance” [The New Republic]. “With Biden’s success in the primaries, lines are drawn. The presidential election will likely pit the Democratic herald of a younger, more tolerant, multiracial America against a Republican tribune of white fear and grievance.” • Or would, if the Democrat Establishment hadn’t thrown Latins and youth (by which is meant under 50 (!)), under the bus on policy. Just a thought, but if the Liberal Democrats had greeted the decline of life expectancy in the heartland with anything other than malign neglect, they might have an easier time on the “grievance” front. Too late for tears! In any case, there will be plenty of money for the idpol grift, so look forward to a great wave of it.

“What Richard Hofstadter Got Wrong” [The New Republic]. “Hofstadter argued that the reformers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—Populist agitators, Progressive social planners, temperance and suffrage advocates—were engaged in a panicked bid to reclaim their diminishing status in public life. As the Protestant guardians of small-town America saw the forces of capitalist modernity overtake the world they knew, they lashed out, reasserting their waning power and prestige as defenders of an embattled cultural order. Amid the present academic boomlet in anti-populist jeremiads, Hofstadter’s reading of the American Populist movement as a bigoted, nativist, and anti-Semitic insurgency, steeped in “status anxiety,” is arguably more influential than ever, half a century after his death in 1970. But as is the case with many intellectual legacies, a great deal has been lost in translation: Hofstadter envisioned reform as a prolonged revolt against modernity—not a particularly useful framework for understanding today’s demagogues, who, instead of trafficking in grievances about the world they have lost, augur a bold new turn in plutocratic governance. Meanwhile, Hofstadter’s crudest simplifications have endured: His latter-day anti-populist apostles tend to fall back on his caricatured accounts of the backward masses and their motivations, pointedly ignoring the social-democratic cast of American Populism of the Gilded Age.” • Waiting for Thomas Frank’s book on populism to emerge…

“When Will The Riots Begin?” [Marginal Revolution]. ” From the point of view of the non-elites, the elites with their models and data and projections have shut the economy down. The news is full of pleas for New York, which always seemed like a suspicious den of urban inequity, but their hometown is doing fine. The church is closed, the bar is closed, the local plant is closed. Money is tight. Meanwhile the elites are laughing about binging Tiger King on Netflix. It doesn’t feel right. I can understand that or feel that I must try to understand that.” Keying off the following–

“Ohio Senate candidate attacks DeWine’s ‘tyranny’ in coronavirus response” [Columbus Dispatch]. “Republican Melissa Ackison was among about 100 protesters outside the Statehouse during DeWine’s appearance inside on Monday…. “‘The original model, along with the president’s condemnation of the World Health Organization’s handling this pandemic inappropriately, is all that the public needs to know,” she said. ‘We have children to feed, businesses to run, employees to pay, and Ohio must end this shutdown now. Those with high-risk categories and compromised immune systems can shelter safely at home while the rest of us can exercise our constitutional liberties to work and take care of our businesses and children.'” • A little odd that Marginal Revolution confuses a Republican candidate with some sort of organic movement (the “bourgeois riot” in Florida 2000 doesn’t count). But how could I have forgotten the Second-and-a-Half Amendment: “My profits being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of a business to infect others, shall not be infringed.”

UPDATE “The very American conflict between liberty and lockdown” [The Week]. “To recap: Demonstrators have hit the streets this week in Ohio, Kentucky, and North Carolina. On Wednesday, a protest in Michigan was dubbed “Operation Gridlock.” Despite the firearms and Confederate battle flags, the protesters’ demands might seem familiar, even sympathetic to most Americans. They want freedom — freedom to go shopping, freedom to open up their businesses, freedom to go sit in a restaurant and have dinner with friends, freedom merely to do what they were doing unencumbered two months ago. Don’t we all? ‘Quarantine is when you restrict movement of sick people,’ one of the Michigan organizers told Fox News. ‘Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people.'” • Wrong on the merits. Federalist 47: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” That said, this gentleman doesn’t seem to understand that the sick/healthy binary breaks down in the absence of testing and with asymptomatic transmission. And that’s before we get to the “Not us, me” mentality. Naturally, the press is treating these putatively spontaneous demonstrations as very serious and important, much as they treated Santelli’s rant against foreclosure relief in 2009.

“Vicious. Eternal. Deadly.” [Cthulhu for America]. From the “Meet Chtulhu” page: “Cthulhu’s spent Its entire career charging towards big challenges, garnering diverse support to carry out Its bidding, and achieving the impossible according to our primitive scientific understanding.” • OK, it’s a merch site. But still.

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.

Employment Situation: “11 April 2020 Initial Unemployment Claims 5,508,500 This Week” [Econintersect]. “The pandemic has so far caused a 22,034,000 job loss.” • And those are the ones who have been able to file, so the real figure is hire.

Employment Situation: “Jobless claims reach 22 million over four weeks” [Politico]. “The mass of jobless workers struggling to get through to state unemployment offices remained concentrated among lower-wage occupations, but it’s also starting to include middle and professional classes as quarantines and lockdowns spread economic misery upward…. This week’s report is the first to record some claims by self-employed workers, who were made temporarily eligible for jobless benefits under Congress’s $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. Many, however, were still waiting this week to have their claims processed as state unemployment offices struggled to update their systems.”

Manufacturing: “April 2020 Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Index Now Below Great Recession Lows” [Econintersect]. “Overall, this report was much worse than last month’s report with key elements declining and in contraction…. This is a very noisy index which readers should be reminded of is sentiment-based.”

* * *

Bailout: “Paycheck Protection Program out of money: Thousands of small businesses shut out” [CBS News]. “The U.S. Small Business Administration said Thursday morning the Paycheck Protection Program wouldn’t be accepting any more applications for the $349 billion program. The agency reported approving more than 1.6 million Paycheck Protection Program loan applications totaling more than $339 billion from over 4,900 lending institutions.” • That was fast. I’m betting Melissa Ackison’s “demonstration” above in “Realignment and Legitimacy” has something to do with this.

Retail: “Walmart To Customers: Get Stimulus Check Deposited In MoneyCard Account” [PYMNTS.COM]. “Walmart is hoping customers will sign up for its Walmart MoneyCard to create a direct deposit account to access the government stimulus payments being sent out this week, touting waived fees and quick access, according to an emailed press release…. The measure could be a boon for customers who don’t have traditional bank accounts and thus wouldn’t be eligible for the IRS’s standard measure of direct depositing the stimulus funds into those accounts. ‘We know getting immediate access to funds during this time of financial uncertainty is a priority for everyone — including the millions of customers who rely on our stores for essential financial services,’ said Janey Whiteside, executive vice president and chief customer officer for Walmart U.S., in the release. The offer is available to new MoneyCard customers who deposit $500 or more to their MoneyCard account. The company has waived maintenance fees for these customers through June 30.”

Retail: “Parts of the retail sector are starting to buckle under the coronavirus-driven upheaval in consumer markets. J.C. Penney Co. skipped a $12 million interest payment owed to bondholders, … making the embattled department store chain one of the first major retailers to show deeper signs of distress from the pandemic” [Wall Street Journal]. “J.C. Penney says it is evaluating strategic alternatives and other struggling chains, including Neiman Marcus Group Inc. and J.Crew Group Inc., have also been in negotiations with creditors this month. Government figures show U.S. retail sales crumbled in March, falling 8.7% in the biggest decline in records going back to 1992. The divide in retail business was stark: Grocery store sales soared nearly 27% from February to March while clothing sales tumbled 50.5%. Reports suggest some retailers are conserving cash by pulling back payments to suppliers, adding to stresses in supply chains.” • As we saw yesterday in retail sales.

Supply Chain: “The gap between industrial and consumer-focused supply chains has never been clearer. Shortages of consumer goods have been cropping up in stores even as farmers have been dumping milk and other foodstuffs, … highlighting the challenges suppliers face as they try to redirect goods to retail outlets” [Wall Street Journal]. “Experts say the frustration is the result of a divide between industrial and consumer distribution that grows larger at virtually every step of the supply chain, from contracting to packaging and shipping. Supermarket chains have to vet suppliers while wholesalers set up new distribution networks. Middlemen might repackage goods for consumer markets, but that may mean investing in new equipment with little prospect for a long-term return. Even donating agricultural excess to increasingly inundated food banks is proving tough on the fly since it means working out the logistics of transportation and cold storage.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 42 Fear (previous close: 41 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 42 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 16 at 12:41pm.

The Biosphere

“What If Houston Floods During The Pandemic?” [Houston Public Media]. “The spring rains are upon us in Southeast Texas, and hurricane season is less than two months away. And with Houston in the midst of a pandemic, some are already wondering what will happen if the region gets hit with the level of flooding it’s seen in recent years…. Elizabeth White-Olsen used to live in West Houston and worked at a literary non-profit. Then Hurricane Harvey upended her life: She and her husband were forced to evacuate and ultimately move to another part of town…. White-Olsen recounted the many steps it took to get her and her husband from their apartment to a place of safety during Harvey. From a canoe to a speedboat, then to a truck, and finally to a bus. And at each step, she was exposed to more people. ‘The first responders will need to be in protective gear, in my opinion, for people to be assured that they will be safe,’ White-Olsen said. ‘We were evacuated with neighbors. I would feel uncomfortable about that now.'”

Water

“Shrewd water use helped South America’s first empire thrive. So why did a drought destroy it?” [Science]. “But this time the Wari colonists did something unexpected. Rather than trying to seize the fertile valley floor, where people already lived, the newcomers occupied high, dry land that no one else had figured out how to use. They constructed their government and religious buildings on top of a high mesa, now called Cerro Baúl, and erected canals and aqueducts that carried water much farther than any previously attempted in the valley. They carved mountain slopes into agricultural terraces, which efficiently trapped and distributed water from rain and snowmelt to plots of maize, quinoa, and peppery berries called molle. People from several other regions moved to the new farms and towns, forming a powerful labor force that helped maintain the sprawling water infrastructure…. Archaeologist Patrick Ryan Williams of the Field Museum calls the Wari strategy ‘conquest by hydraulic superiority’… Those studying the Wari state’s rise and fall, however, confront a puzzle. Its end, about 1000 years ago, appears to have coincided with a severe drought…. Increasing factionalism and decreasing cooperation to maintain infrastructure ‘might mean this society is more vulnerable to even the beginnings of a changing climate,’ Williams says.”

“Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater. Now, the state hopes to refill its aquifers” [Science]. “Now, California has launched a landmark effort to save its groundwater. In 2014, deep in drought, the state passed a law to protect its aquifers; since then, local water managers have developed sustainability plans for those deemed the most imperiled. The plans for some particularly hard hit regions, just released for public comment, call for ending the groundwater deficit mainly by allowing precipitation to refill aquifers, but also by curtailing demand. The state is funding scientists to gather better data on the crisis; researchers estimate that in the Central Valley, half of the aquifers are dangerously depleted, but they don’t know the extent of the damage. Meanwhile, geologists are working to identify the best places to replenish aquifers by flooding farm fields, including some with especially permeable geology. Groundwater science is taking on a new urgency as California and other regions around the world face growing threats from drought—and are increasingly drilling wells to make up for missing rain and snow. Globally, aquifers are “highly stressed” in 17 countries that hold one-quarter of the world’s population, according to the World Resources Institute. Water and food supplies for billions of people are under threat. California is a case study in the challenges of protecting those resources.”

Health Care

“Researchers seek what weather can reveal about COVID-19’s future areas of highest risk” [Accuweather]. “The researchers who published an initial analysis in early March regarding the effect of temperature, humidity and latitude on the ability to predict the potential spread and seasonality of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are now working with a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to advance their research. The team’s particular focus is to see if its hypothesis can be validated in the United States, ‘which has vastly different climatological areas within the continental U.S.,’ Mohammad Sajadi, one of the initial study’s authors and an associate professor of medicine at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told AccuWeather.” • More natural experiments…..

Greatest health care system in the world:

And, of course, skewing the numbers down.

“Donald Trump’s Plan for Uninsured Coronavirus Patients Is Outflanking Joe Biden” [Jacobin]. “For most non-elderly people in the United States, insurance coverage is tied to employment, either their own or a family member’s. This presents an obvious problem when a recession hits — especially one wrapped up in a public health crisis…. For mainstream Democrats (and insurance companies), the default answer to this frightening maelstrom is to double down on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). … But this wouldn’t make COVID-19 treatment remotely affordable. A bronze plan with no premiums still carries an average deductible of $6,506. … Trump’s solution is to circumvent private insurance entirely and send money directly to providers to treat the uninsured, with no out-of-pocket costs for the patient.” • Clearly, we should have a means-tested program, for “heroes” only, with complex eligibility requirements, certainly with co-pays and deductibles, with payment by individuals structured as nudges for different tax brackets. Because that’s the American Way.

“A Failure, But Not Of Prediction” [Slate Star Codex]. “Predicting the coronavirus was equally hard, and the best institutions we had missed it. On February 20th, Tetlock’s superforecasters predicted only a 3% chance that there would be 200,000+ coronavirus cases a month later (there were). The stock market is a giant coordinated attempt to predict the economy, and it reached an all-time high on February 12, suggesting that analysts expected the economy to do great over the following few months. On February 20th it fell in a way that suggested a mild inconvenience to the economy, but it didn’t really start plummeting until mid-March – the same time the media finally got a clue. These aren’t empty suits on cable TV with no skin in the game. These are the best predictive institutions we have, and they got it wrong. I conclude that predicting the scale of coronavirus in mid-February – the time when we could have done something about it – was really hard.” • This is well worth a read, but I would expect some mention of the Precautionary Principle.

“How raw numbers mask the effects of COVID-19” [Wired Pen]. “COVID-19 raw numbers out of New York provide newsroom drama. Come with me to rural Georgia, where I will show you how the horror of this disease has been masked by standard news reporting. With a population of about 80,000, Albany is the eighth-largest city in the state and serves as the regional hub. This is where I was born and raised…. On Monday, 15 March, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the regional hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial, had 65 patients who had been either diagnosed with coronavirus or were waiting for confirmation. Another 115 were waiting at home for test results. Not quite a month ago, on day 54 since the first case of COVID-19 was identified, those 65 people represented a case rate of more than 700 per million. In my current home state, Washington’s 642 cases represented a case rate of only 8.4 per million. And Italy’s death rate, 29.9 per million. Albany’s cases were one order of magnitude smaller in numbers but almost two orders of magnitude larger, proportionally, than the situation in Washington. Gross numbers can mislead. A lot. (And we were still speaking in cases/million. Now it’s cases/100,000.)”

Self-deselection and contact tracing:

Guillotine Watch

“Carnival Executives Knew They Had a Virus Problem, But Kept the Party Going” [Bloomberg]. “In the view of the CDC, however, Carnival helped fuel the crisis. ‘Maybe that excuse flies after the Diamond Princess, or maybe after the Grand Princess,’ says Cindy Friedman, the experienced epidemiologist who leads the CDC’s cruise ship task force. ‘I have a hard time believing they’re just a victim of happenstance.’ While it would have been tough to get everyone aboard the ships back to their home ports without infecting more people, Friedman says several of the plagued Carnival ships didn’t even begin their voyages until well after the company knew it was risky to do so. She says its actions created a ‘huge strain’ on the country. ‘Nobody should be going on cruise ships during this pandemic, full stop,’ she says.”

Class Warfare

“Over 100 Hospitals Cut Staff as Pandemic Spreads” [Labor Notes]. “More than 100 hospitals in the U.S. have laid off workers since the pandemic began. Tens of thousands of medical workers are furloughed at the exact moment hospitals should be staffing up and training everyone in intensive care. Expecting a tidal wave of very sick patients, many of whom could be unemployed and uninsured, many hospitals have ended all elective procedures, one of their most lucrative sources of revenue. Since insurance in the United States is primarily tied to having a job, hospitals anticipate being left with egregious costs they have no hope of ever being able to recoup.”

“Pick of the coronavirus papers: Ski buffs helped to seed coronavirus in Iceland” [Nature]. “Holidaymakers returning from ski trips to the Alps helped to bring the coronavirus to Iceland…. The team sequenced viral RNA from people who tested positive and found that some of the strains had probably originated in Austria or Italy, which both have Alpine ski resorts.” • Exactly as in the American West (sorry, Wuk, it’s systemic, not personal).

Bourgeois feminist erases the entire working class:

Needless to say, “the economy” is not does not consist of, and is not composed of, businesses only.

News of the Wired

“10 pioneer-era apple types thought extinct found in US West” [Lowell Sun (anonymous)]. This is awesome:

A team of retirees that scours the remote ravines and windswept plains of the Pacific Northwest for long-forgotten pioneer orchards has rediscovered 10 apple varieties that were believed to be extinct — the largest number ever unearthed in a single season by the nonprofit Lost Apple Project.

The Vietnam veteran and former FBI agent who make up the nonprofit recently learned of their tally from last fall’s apple sleuthing from expert botanists at the Temperate Orchard Conservancy in Oregon, where all the apples are sent for study and identification. The apples positively identified as previously “lost” were among hundreds of fruits collected in October and November from 140-year-old orchards tucked into small canyons or hidden in forests that have since grown up around them in rural Idaho and Washington state.

“It was just one heck of a season. It was almost unbelievable. If we had found one apple or two apples a year in the past, we thought were were doing good. But we were getting one after another after another,” said EJ Brandt, who hunts for the apples along with fellow amateur botanist David Benscoter. “I don’t know how we’re going to keep up with that.”

When I say “citizen science,” this is what I mean. Not entering data into some effing app.

Kids these days:

Need to strap the kid into a chair and aim her head at the screen with clamps, Clockwork Orange-style. That’ll teach ’em.

“Hallucinogenic effects of LSD discovered” [This Day in History]. Albert Hoffman: “Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.” • When they intubate me, that’s what I want in my drip.

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Steve writes: “Phlox divaricata, Woodland Phlox Misty, Opelika, AL.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

140 comments

  1. Bill Carson

    WRT the Coronavirus Bailout, Dems are doing what Dems do, which is being horrible, trying to tie eligibility for financial relief to preferred status. This is no time to be SJW’s! C’mon, man, that’s what people hate about Schumer, Pelosi, and all of that—-the people of this country are in a huge bind and the Dem leadership wants to appear to be helping their favorite causes.

    “Democrats have insisted on attaching new restrictions to ensure the money flows to minority-owned businesses and other companies that are traditionally disadvantaged in the lending market. ”

    The $349 billion lending program for small businesses has run out of funds.

    Reply
    1. L

      Yes, they think this is a standard brand political messaging moment. Not an actual crisis. Even Hoyer says it isn’t an emergency.

      Reply
      1. L

        At the end of the day Donald Trump is dropping the ball but Joe Biden and the DNC don’t know how to pick it up.

        Reply
    2. WJ

      I can’t wait to learn the percentage of those original loans which went to big businesses “marketing” themselves as small businesses (as apparently was allowed) and hedge-fund investor types.

      Reply
      1. Tom Doak

        They started by calling it a “loan” program to scare away the smaller businesses who are afraid of not being able to pay back the debt, and wouldn’t read the fine print about how most of the loan will be “forgiven” by the SBA if you retain your employees.

        Then, to apply for it, you needed to be comfortable going to your bank and filling out the paperwork.

        The program is remarkably open to sole proprietors as well as small and medium-sized business owners — any company with 1-500 employees is considered “small” for that part of the bill. And the form is a lot easier to fill out than it is to apply for, say, food stamps. But they’ve still gotta make it complicated enough that lots of people won’t bother – because they only funded it for 1/3 of the businesses that might apply – and, of course, make the rules so that the little guy is least likely to make it through the process.

        Reply
        1. Fiery Hunt

          Any business with 0,1 or 2 employees will NOT have the loan forgiven unless 75% of the total borrowed goes to payroll (must be at least 75% for the loan to be forgiven). Rent, utilities, supplies, etc can’t be more than 25% of the spending…

          Reply
        2. ChiGal in Carolina

          the psychiatrist whose group practice I and four other LCSWs are in applied for something like $85,000 which is what we qualified for. We would have used it to pay rent and support staff.

          just got an email from her that despite acting quickly, we didn’t get a dime. she said they decided to process the larger loans first, meaning they handed out multiple millions of dollars a pop.

          no wonder they ran out quick.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            That’s just like bank cheque processing. I’ve noticed that the larger bills for any given day are processed first, and then the smaller, ranked in descending size. The explanation I’ve read about this posits that this guarantees that people with limited funds in their accounts will run into overdraft territory quicker, and also accrue more overdrafts since there are often more small bills than large ones, especially on credit card or debit card streams.
            So, my cynical ideation syndrome, (CIS, yes, I am a cis,) imagines that this “running out” of available funds before the smaller actors are taken care of is part of the design of the ‘bailout’ methodology. Everything to support the large players, and punishment for the smaller, because they can.
            Our society is unraveling before our eyes.

            Reply
      2. Oh

        The CARES legislation carefully spelled out that a small business is one with 500 employees or less!
        This is how they operate. When I was employed at a small business with less than 12 employees the project that were set aside for small businesses were by SIC (now NAIC) code which put is in the category of the 500 employee limit or annual revenues of $500 million depending on which SIC Code the procurement officer chose (or which large company they wanted to award it to). I called them and told them that we would like to be a small business with revenues of $500 milliion too!!! (family blogg)ers!

        Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      Hillary also called for the ACA exchanges to be opened on an emergency basis but if you lost your job, how can you pay for it? Or as Jimmy Dore put it-

      ‘The peasants have no bread!’

      ‘Let them buy cake.’

      Reply
  2. Wyoming

    Ok someone tell me what the heck happened.

    A few days ago I got on the computer and bought something and had it sent to my daughter. I used Amazon (which already had my credit card number as I have used them before). But maybe since I was sending it to a different address than mine or just who knows – they wanted my phone number. So I typed it into their box for the number.

    Several days later I go to pick up my phone and, besides it being almost out of battery power when I had just finished charging it 4 hours before, I get a warning on my phone that it has a critical memory shortage. So I investigate and sure enough there is like a few megs left out of 32 gig capacity. Hmm I say and start investigating. So I find in downloads a file which is from Amazon which is over 31 gigs in size. I automatically just deleted it.

    But now I am going wtf. Now the phone was sitting next to my computer and I assume (don’t know yet) that this was done over the wifi link. Hopefully not over the cell system as I only have a 2 gig a month plan as I don’t use it at all.

    So what happened. And why.

    Reply
    1. periol

      What kind of phone? Amazon is a pre-installed app on my phone, automatically updated if I don’t disable it (which I have done).

      Reply
      1. Wyoming

        Samsung android.

        There was never an Amazon app on the phone before as far as I know.

        I have had the phone for 6 years but I had never given the number out to Amazon before.

        Reply
        1. periol

          Just guessing, the file wasn’t from Amazon the company, but was probably downloaded from Amazon’s cloud, which is used by lots of companies/apps for things. 31GB is pretty big, but it could possibly be a system update that was stored on Amazon’s servers and downloaded without you knowing it. It’s happened a few times to me.

          Are you getting any update requests?

          Alternatively, I believe the Google Play store is set to automatically download app updates when you are connected to wifi. Could be something there. Worth going into settings and turning that off, anyways, if it’s on.

          Reply
  3. Glen

    Wow, 22 million lose jobs, but Steny Hoyer says Congress wont get back together (and they have no plans to do so) until “there is an emergency.”

    Somebody needs to start “None of the Above” as a political party.

    Reply
      1. JBird4049

        But she does plan to form a committee on the COVID19 virus when they come back next month.

        I swear it is like they are not even trying to hide their disdain for the unwashed or they are so disconnected from reality that nothing is real, or that they can’t see anything except their own class.

        Reply
      2. Oh

        Frozen ice cream could be an appropriate enema for dear Nancy. Here, Nancy, shove the ice cream bar up your a$$.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          This is a family blog. Try variations on “where the sun don’t shine,” like “shove the ice cream bar where the freezer don’t freeze,” say. Snowclones are fun!

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            Alas, Thought Leaders like Pelosi seem to actually believe that the sun doth shine from out of their “where the sun don’t shine”s. Mixed metaphors, I agree, but, with idpol, mixing is a good thing!

            Reply
  4. zagonostra

    >David Sirota – Tyranny of Decorum Hurt Bernie Sanders’s 2020 Prospects

    If anything Sirota’s piece in Jacobin validates accusations that Bernie’s campaign didn’t have what it takes to take on the establishment.

    Trump understands dirty politics and can mete it out. The Dem establishment understands dirty politics and practices it on its own when they don’t toe the line. It seems everyone understands dirty politics except the Bernie camp – it seems Bernie had the right policies but was the wrong candidate.

    After reading the article, I just wondered what the heck were they expecting? They should have known from 2016 and the WikLeak emails, nothing was off limits. Comity? Decorum? Please!

    Anytime Bernie so much as made a passing mention of one of Biden’s bad votes, there were overwrought accusations that Bernie was “going negative”…

    This transparent bullshit soon became attacks on staffers who dared to point out flaws in Biden’s record. Turner and press secretary Briahna Gray were routinely demonized on social media, and I myself was labeled a toxic “attack dog” for the high crime of periodically tweeting links to Biden speeches in the Congressional Record.

    But winning nomination contests without real vetting not only serves corporate power, it also jeopardizes that much-vaunted quality that parties claim to care so much about: general election “electability.”

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/04/david-sirota-bernie-sanders-2020-campaign

    Reply
  5. Bill Carson

    Am I the only person who kinda sorta hopes that those small business owners gobbling up PPP loans have as much difficulty qualifying for loan forgiveness as the student loan borrowers? My schadenfreude is showing.

    Reply
    1. BostonTom

      Canada has got a form of UBI up and running, Spain too.
      We don’t have enough discussion about that here in USA

      Reply
      1. Monty

        If you give money to everyone, that would include payments to “lazy” minorities.

        A large swaythe of Americans would rather see thousands of our elders die of this virus, than take that simple step.

        Reply
        1. MLTPB

          I think the reluctance also came from having a different option – job guarantee.

          Some have come around to embracing both.

          I still ran or run into those believing only in JG.

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            What jobs?

            Not many at the moment (22 million unemployed.)

            The two ideas are complementary, not mutually exclusive.

            Fiat money paid to everyone to get through the initial crisis, then maybe your JG.

            Reply
            1. Procopius

              This is when you need the government to hire 22 million people to lean on shovels at $20 an hour. I was born in 1937, so I didn’t actually see the worst of The Depression, but I’ve read a lot about it. There’s a waste of oxygen called Amity Shlaes (absolutely NOT Shales!!!) who tries to make the case that all the people working for WPO and CCC were actually not employed because everybody knows government employees don’t actually do anything. I expect it’s going to be at least two more months before they begin to realize the size of the problem. My favorite flame from alt.flame: “You couldn’t get a clue if you stripped naked, smeared your body with clue musk, and danced in a field full of clues during clue mating season.”

              Reply
        2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

          Lots of insintuations about Mexicans swarming the border to grab up free checks. Somehow. With no address and no taxpayer record of any kind. Clever those aliens.

          Reply
    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      Geez, don’t they even have the sense to offer a special medical-crisis price on DOCTOR Pepper?

      “For all you fans out there who’ve been nursing your supply. . . .”

      Reply
  6. Louis Fyne

    Neglected in the grocery store-restaurant food chain talk is the monopsy-likestranglehold of a company like restaurant supplier Sysco and the mega-grocers.

    Farmers who are locked into contracts with Sysco are locked out of contracts with Kroger or Walmart or Trader Joe or Whole Foods.

    And since much of the country has no independent wholesale grocery distribution (cuz there are no independent grocery stores), farmers have few places to sell their formerly restaurant-bound Sysco foodstuffs.

    Reply
      1. JBird4049

        If I understand this point right, people might go hungry, or if things become really dire face starvation, because food that is available will not be delivered, sold, and eaten because of a now pointless contract?

        Unbelievable.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          In this interconnected world, and I assume most farmers have some intertubes access, where is the app that lets people develop and operate their own informal networks for food distribution? CSAs already do something like this in a very oval scale, I understand. What are the impediments to making those connections?

          Cargo capacity of a Dodge Caravan is over a ton. Cargo capacity of my Ford Ranger truck is over a ton and a half. Not the same as the semi and box trailer carrying 20 tons of lettuce from the Central Valley to Chicago or New York, but then there is likely foodstuffs within range of even my Ranger. Just takes organizing, and masks and gloves, and a willingness to tell Sysco to F off. Sysco has really sharp lawyers drafting their adhesion contracts, but there must be force majeure or other clauses in them that would let people fearful of retribution out of their corporation-supplied straitjackets.

          Reply
          1. Oregoncharles

            How close to bankruptcy is Sysco? No restaurants, no business.

            Might be no need to worry about their lawyers.

            Reply
          2. John Anthony La Pietra

            From the Shameless Plugs Division at GreenTalk . . . one of the CSA- and farmers’-market-oriented farms in our area (south central MI) — named Green Gardens Farm — has started offering what they call a ToGo Box for drive-by if not drive-thru pick-up weekly. Their app is (IIRC) called FarmIGo.

            Reply
        2. hunkerdown

          That’s why restaurants are in fact essential businesses: easier to keep the commercial/institutional supply chain running as is than redirect it to household products and packaging. In that light, a relatively generous coronavirus benefit makes sense as a hands-off method to indirectly stimulate that distribution channel and take some pressure off of supermarkets and that.

          Citizen science, anecdata, call it what you will: My usual Mexican spot got humpin’ busy a couple of weeks ago, with typical 15 minute wait times at early dinner one day, closure “for an hour or so” to catch up a 2hr wait time two days later. Today, early dinner is at 25-30 minutes. My usual Thai spot, which was usually nicely busy, has been closed until further notice.

          Reply
    1. boydownthelane

      Food systems have been under the control of the oligarchs for a long time. Think Heinz and go from there. The centralization of food is under examination. I know of a former Coca-Cola marketing exec (think CIA) in Saco who, when not reading “The Red Book” on hs coffee table, was doing research about food chains in Southern Maine. Anything that isn’t homegrown up there or fished out fo the sea has to come over that bridge in Portsmouth.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Maybe we will see a resurgence of Robber Barons, in the original sense of the term? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robber_baron_(feudalism)

        I wonder how maintenance and repair or replacement of those roads and bridges, and dredging and marking of river and ocean channels, will be arranged… MMT is only going to work as long as there is a national “real economy” generating the real wealth that underwrites the “full faith and credit…”

        Reply
  7. scoff

    Increasing factionalism and decreasing cooperation

    Sounds oddly familiar.

    I conclude that predicting the scale of coronavirus in mid-February – the time when we could have done something about it – was really hard.

    Not that we would have been listened to, but some of us, even without the benefit of being a “superforecaster,” did predict the pandemic’s severity early on. For all the good it might have done.

    Lambert, let me take this opportunity to thank you, Yves, and the others (including the excellent commentariat) who make this site such a treasure.

    Reply
  8. Stephen V.

    So today we learn that our dear Lambert wants to go out like Aldous Huxley:
    On his deathbed, unable to speak owing to advanced laryngeal cancer, Huxley made a written request to his wife Laura for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular.” According to her account of his death[58] in This Timeless Moment, she obliged with an injection at 11:20 a.m. and a second dose an hour later; Huxley died aged 69, at 5:20 p.m. (Los Angeles time), on 22 November 1963.[59]

    Media coverage of Huxley’s death, along with that of fellow British author C. S. Lewis, was overshadowed by the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy on the same day, …(Wikipedia )

    Reply
  9. Toshiro_Mifune

    Cthulhu for President – You know, have to give it credit that this joke campaign has come about every 4 years since at least `96.

    Reply
      1. richard

        For a legendary actor, you sure know how burst a balloon of hope! I was looking forward to slavishly offering my vote to an entity that devoured me while barely acknowledging my puny existence.
        Haha, fill in your own damn joke, I haven’t the heart.

        Reply
        1. paintedjaguar

          “I was looking forward to slavishly offering my vote to an entity that devoured me while barely acknowledging my puny existence.”
          Just vote Blue then. Wish granted!

          Reply
      2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        I think Joe Walsh, Ted Nugent and Pat Paulson were still running then. And Dick Gregory?

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          Very good catch! How are Joe Biden and Donald Trump any different from Joe Walsh, Ted Nigent, or Pat Paulson? I can not think of any real differences between any of those five characters. Well, as a matter of fact, I can think of some differences. Joe Walsh and Ted Nugent are pretty good musicians and song writers. Pat Paulson was a good comic, not an easy gig by any means. Biden and Trump??? Dick Gregory can stand alone, on the outside looking in in bemusement. He has principles, strong ones. Not to say that Walsh, Nugent, or Paulson don’t. Biden or Trump? They wouldn’t know what to do with principles if a set of them bit them on their fundaments.
          Cthulhu is looking more and more mainstream with each successive election cycle.

          Reply
      1. Mel

        Given the leading role of money in U.S. electoral politics, any voter, however they vote, is voting for the lessor of two evils.

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          As above, so below.
          I wonder how one would go about valuing evil on one’s balance sheet?
          I used to think that the proper term to describe a group of Evils was : “A plethora of evils.” Now I know that the proper term of venery to describe a group of Evils is: “An incorporation of evils.”

          Reply
  10. Susan Mulloy

    Lambert, thank you for the link to the article about Richard Hofstadter and his views on populists of the early 20th century. A current historian writing about this era and more is Richard White of Stanford. I’m learning a lot from his recent essays and the YouTube videos of his presentations, interviews, etc. Here’s one worth your time:
    https://youtu.be/-YM7KE576K0

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      “The Republic for which It Stands” by Richard White is very good on the Gilded Age.
      Lawrence Goodwyn’s “The Populist Moment” really shows what a movement is like. It is one of those history books that are so good that they illuminate vast swaths of history and of now that would seem unconnected.
      One interesting point he makes is that contrary to the conventional notion that the Populists took over the (disgraced) Democratic Party in 1896, actually the faction of the Democrats that was backed by the silver mining interests took over the Populists. They did this by winning all the delegates from the states where the Populists were hopelessly weak. Sound familiar? Adding silver money to the gold standard was the Public Option of the day. The M4A of the day was close to modern monetary theory.

      Reply
  11. BostonTom

    Hudson’s extensive writing about debt jubilees, we need to have more discussion about that.
    The dems could run with that issue, as well as UBI and getting rid of student loans

    Reply
  12. BostonTom

    Regarding the origins of the virus, is any part of that discussion allowed?
    For example, is it permissible to review what gain-of-function research has been done and how that correlates with specific attributes of this virus?
    And how many of those attributes have been observed in bats out in nature?
    If a virus is studied in a lab, perhaps introduced to ferrets (have ACE2 receptor like people/cats) and a few generations of lab-ferrets naturally evolve successive generations of the virus, that would be natural, so the experts saying it is something in nature they would be perfectly truthful and correct.

    Reply
    1. Bsoder

      This is not a non-trivial issue you are trying to bring up, which I’ll get to. We already know CV19 is in a majority of bats and some other animals as well. It’s a fact. If one assumes for a moment that China is a begin entity then of course they’d be studying what is now called Covid-19. That fact they may have run a sloppy lab is not the same as saying the lab released anything into world.

      Now my colleague Dr. Kanta Subbarao from the Laboratory of Infectious Disease at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave an overview of the current scientific and technical approaches to the research on pandemic strains of influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses (CoV). As discussed in great detail many participants argued that the word choice of “gain-of-function” to describe the limited type of experiments covered by the U.S. deliberative process, particularly when coupled with a pause on even a smaller number of research projects, had generated concern that the policy would affect much broader areas of virology research. Changes need to be thought out.

      “gain-of-function” is not some magic incantation where all is discovered, it is a process/tool and like any tool it’s good for what it’s good for. Over time “gain-of-function”, results in a virus losing its ability to reproduce or a minimum significantly reduce it. Which isn’t always hepful, or helpful at all. Unless your a virologist or microbiologist this is way technical stuff and is neither here nor there in terms of the development of a vaccine or anti-virals for Covid-19.

      Reply
      1. notabanker

        “As discussed in great detail many participants argued that the word choice of “gain-of-function” to describe the limited type of experiments covered by the U.S. deliberative process, particularly when coupled with a pause on even a smaller number of research projects, had generated concern that the policy would affect much broader areas of virology research. Changes need to be thought out. ”

        Oh, do tell, please.

        Reply
        1. Jeotsu

          Studies, and inadvertent discoveries, about increasing pathogen lethality have been happening for 20+ years.

          From 2001:
          https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn311-killer-mousepox-virus-raises-bioterror-fears/

          Back around that time I was working at a Pharma company, and a visiting scientist commented on a Post-Doc application he’d recently received from a Russian fellow. His PhD project had been to aerosolise E coli. Only one reason you’d want to do that…. The visiting scientist did say the work the Russian fellow had done to produce that dangerous product was top notch.

          Back in the mid-90’s there was an article, maybe in New Scientist?, discussing how we were in a new age of “knowledge is dangerous.” Where once concepts like liberty and equality were hazardous to entrenched political systems, now the biotech sciences had opened a new dangerous door. As part of the article they discussed how to find, isolate, propagate, sporulate, and aerially disperse anthrax over the DC area — but they explicitly left multiple critical steps out of their description. The problem, as the article went on to discuss, is that the USA was then graduating 4-6k PhD’s a year with the knowledge and skills to fill in those missing steps.

          I tell myself that the many suppliers of oligonucleotides would notice if I started ordering the smallpox genome in little snippets form multiple sources. But that would imply having confidence in the FBI and DHS.

          Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      So I turned the TV on this morning (a few minutes ago) and there was already a campaign to be seen to make China come clean that they are responsible for this virus. Arrghhh! The DNA already says that it is a natural virus and has not been screwed around with. Can’t people recognize a psyops when they see one? There is less proof for this one than there was for Russiagate – which had none. Some idiot in Texas is suing China for $20 trillion for causing it and a think tank in the UK is suggesting a more modest $4 trillion.

      On the other side, China is noting that they had military games in Wuhan which the US attended. There is a conspiracy theory on their side that somebody from this team slipped a Fort Detrick cocktail at those wet markets and when you think of all the sanctions, military provocations, attacks and the like that Trump and his team have done against China, they have a much better case for their conspiracy theory than Trumps. If you like this ‘China didit’ theory so much, I have one to sell you that Assad gassed his own people when he was winning as well.

      Reply
  13. barefoot charley

    Dunno if this ever emerged from moderation this morning. The only actual evidentiary trail I’ve seen sourcing the Wuhan virus is this one. By an American long-term resident of Beijing, it documents a virology lab post-doc officially disappeared after contracting symptoms following an accident involving bat poo.

    The US has given this lab $2.7 million in recent years (so it’s not just a doomsday lab), and criticized its containment practices in 2015. This story should sprout legs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpQFCcSI0pU

    Reply
    1. BostonTom

      Interesting. I’ve seen some good videos in particular by JC on a Bike, he’s a bike commuter Univ Pitt [neuro] biologist who recently spent 4 years at a lab in Netherlands.
      He has reviewed lots of published work where each step of gain of function is developed.
      https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOQEt5OIWT_jUEBqfCAZiRXXj_3Oj1fS_

      Most of the unique features of covid19 are unique and have never been observed in nature.
      Nature is more like the raw materials and then they’ve developed many specific capabilities such as move the spike, use caged ferrets to breed some generations of new viruses, then select the ones with the desired attributes.
      Some of the research has been about making it virulently transmissible via aerosol airborne droplets. In 2015 there was quite a controversy when they achieved this. Critics said this could leak and could not be contained.
      More here (from January!)
      https://harvardtothebighouse.com/2020/01/31/logistical-and-technical-analysis-of-the-origins-of-the-wuhan-coronavirus-2019-ncov/

      Reply
    2. MLTPB

      Regarding the origin, I searchd using ‘China refuse us cdc,’ and got several articles from Feb. 2020.

      1. Feb 7, 2020, NY Times, CDC and WHO offers to help China have been ignored for weeks.

      2. Daily Beast, China shuns offers from WHO and CDC to help with Coronavirus.

      3. New York Post, Feb 3, 2020, China has yet to allow CDC in country to help with Coronavirus.

      Then in March, this from Reuters: Exclusive, US slashed CDC staff inside China prior to Coronavirus Outbreak.

      Was it because of non cooperation from Beijing? Why kept 100% people there when many were getting cooperation? I think I might have posted the same question then.

      In any case, I don’t know if the offers to help were accepted later.

      But, I understand, it’s critical to be on the scene early, in any investigation.

      Reply
      1. BostonTom

        There is lots of cooperation between the labs. Baric’s lab at UNC Chapel HIll has trained several key workers in Wuhan and they have ongoing collaboration with Harvard/Dana Farber in Boston. Nothing has been cut or curtailed there is much on-going work and they have not stopped the funding and daily work. If any politicians want to spout off about the lab they should just get in on the normal daily zoom meetings between the labs. We are not unfriendly with China we have an extensive ongoing virus research program in full speed ahead. Much published work showing each improvement to make a chimeric SARS+bat coronavirus, move the spike, run serially thru ferrets (ACE2 like people/cats) and see what develops, test in lung nose and determine the transmissibility, several pandemic epidemic virulent strains have been published about. It’s normal ongoing research. It’s nature at work. With some help from researchers.
        Thread (100 tweets) (scroll up/down)
        https://twitter.com/ThomasConnors/status/1247517901487321090

        Reply
      2. Darthbobber

        Agreement by China to a WHO team including 2 CDC people was reported by the Hill, among others, on February 3rd. That team didn’t actually arrive until the 16th. Why is unclear, but there were any number of kerfuffles, like the China travel ban and the preference of administration members for calling it the Wuhan virus, that had China and the US trading rants and accusations during the interim.

        Reply
    3. BostonTom

      You are right about the conditions of the labs, there have been a number of accidental releases from lab workers. I’ve seen photos and videos of people with lots of PPP but their wrists and neck might be exposed and when airborne the droplets go anyplace like the Air Conditioning ducts or clothing and then it gets carried out to home or the market. It’s just lab space it’s unusual to deal with such stuff you need to be extra careful but it’s just another day at work and people get lax. There is also a wide Chinese concept “good enough” which means passable so good enough lets not obsess about some shortcomings.

      Reply
  14. Wukchumni

    “Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater. Now, the state hopes to refill its aquifers”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    In the long drought, new wells kept going deeper to around 1,500 feet here, where they hit brackish water, as in that’s it.

    There’s slim chance any water from above will fill in that 1/3rd of a mile gap between ground and paydirt, as in none.

    That’s where subsidence comes into play, which has done quite a number on the Friant-Kern Canal, which will need a billion or so to fix.

    Reply
  15. Ralph Reed

    “When they intubate me, that’s what I want in my drip.”

    In the seventies and eighties when I used and sold LSD on occasion there was intensive pedagogy around potential dangers of use for mutual protection in the face of extremely draconian potential legal consequences. These “rules” centered around frequency, never more than twice a year, and quantity, never more than ten hits. Also “set and setting” advice included never asking for help from “uncool” adults unless absolutely unavoidable because hospitals were absolutely one of the surest places to make a bad trip worse.

    Reply
    1. jo6pac

      Also “set and setting” advice included never asking for help from “uncool” adults unless absolutely unavoidable because hospitals were absolutely one of the surest places to make a bad trip worse.

      Nailed it. I took LSD almost every day for almost 4 years. I end up moving so people couldn’t find me to help some one who wasn’t having a good time. It’s not for every one and haven’t taken in a very long time.

      Reply
    2. ewmayer

      If I were on my way out, and at all concerned about bad-trips or potential legal consequences for would-be-suppliers-of-lethal-LSD-dose amongst my friends or family, I would probably consider the alternative nitrogen-tent approach, since the human respiratory system is geared toward using e.g. high CO2 levels, rather than low O2 ones, as proxy indicators of hypoxia. Wikipedia:

      “Although nitrogen is non-toxic, when released into an enclosed space it can displace oxygen, and therefore presents an asphyxiation hazard. This may happen with few warning symptoms, since the human carotid body is a relatively poor and slow low-oxygen (hypoxia) sensing system. An example occurred shortly before the launch of the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981, when two technicians died from asphyxiation after they walked into a space located in the Shuttle’s Mobile Launcher Platform that was pressurised with pure nitrogen as a precaution against fire.”

      Reply
        1. ewmayer

          I (mis)took the several reader links – following up on the ‘discovery of LSD’ this-day-in-history link – as referring to the late Aldous Huxley as having had his wife administer a lethal dose to help speed his way. I wonder now if he was merely using it as a palliative, or if the wife also administered something else, e.g. a morphine overdose.

          Reply
  16. richard

    Looking at that uche blackstock tweet about patients not wanting to come in, and then seeing how much it was echoed (despite blackstock’s dismay at people waiting) in the responses, I was struck by how very much it reminded me of H.L. Mencken’s description of growing up in late 19th century Baltimore, and how terrified the poor were at the prospect of “recieving treatment” in hospitals, from which few ever returned.
    Take a second and let that sink in. Then think of how south korea is treating sick people, where it actually appears to be 2020. Think about that too.
    Then say your names like the 2nd daughter of Ned Stark, and knit yourself something.

    Reply
    1. chuck roast

      Yep, this is America…our motto…you’re on your own…and we all know it. And here is this PMC doctor shocked, shocked that the locals have figured out the American Public Health Care scam.

      So, Il Douche will declare this annoying emergency over in a week or two, and we can all climb back on the monthly payment dreadmill. As a geezer, I will find that extremely comforting inasmuch as there will no longer be any uncertainty about my near term health…I will be well and truly doomed. And will I be visiting Dr. Uche and his cohorts when I am drowning? Nah, that’s not the plan! Besides, when the post-pandemic CV tidal wave hits what’s left of the health care apparatus, who would want to be bothering the wretched, surviving nurses, PAs and docs?

      BTW Ralph Reed, barring a last trip on the on the LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular I.V., do you have any of those purple dots left?

      Reply
      1. richard

        Reading through that thread, the doctor seems to me more aware and responsible to me than the french guy in casablanca :)

        Reply
  17. shinola

    From The Intercept article “Wall Street Titans Finance Democratic Primary Challenger To Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez”

    “Freedom and democracy are best secured when banking secrecy and tax havens exist,” Caruso-Cabrera wrote.

    “Plutocratic Primary Challenger” would be more apropos.

    Reply
    1. edmondo

      MCC is married to a VC multi-millionaire. To have hubby’s business friends throw a couple hundred grand at her is unsurprising. It’s kind of like when your kid has to sell chocolate bars so the marching band to go to the Thanksgiving Day parade. I doubt she’ll get a thousand votes. It’s a lark and great fun to talk about over cocktails with the other Masters of the Universe.

      But then again Claire Booth Luce was a Congressperson but she had the good taste to run in Connecticut not the Bronx.

      Reply
  18. skk

    for US taxfilers should consider checking the status of their “economic impact payment” – at the IRS site:
    https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment

    I did and while it said that I was eligible they said they didn’t have my bank details to make the payment, which surprised me since I’d given them way back when certainly the 2018 refund dropped into the bank account.

    Anyway they have an online way to take one’s bank a/c details and I did that.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      The IRS seems to be one of the few government agencies with decent IT. I used their free filing program several years ago, but then found a commercial service that does mine for free, and only sends me two or three emails a year “reminding” me of their paid services (which I don’t need). If a decent person is ever elected President I hope they will find a way to overcome the massive opposition and vastly increase IRS’s staffing, especially the enforcement branch. Michigan’s election system IT is very good. I gather California’s unemployment system is terrible, as is New Jersey’s. Don’t know about New York. In general government IT systems are underpowered, obsolete, and burdened with stupid rules imposed by people who were computer illiterate.

      Reply
  19. Dalepues

    Those two Politico pieces, talking about AOC and Warren, share a serious tone during what is in no way a serious time for national politics. When I say serious I mean sane politics, where the candidates are sane people, whose minds are not seriously off kilter, like 1976 sane politics, Carter/Ford, and following, Reagan/Carter, Reagan/Mondale, Bush/Perot/Clinton, Clinton/Dole…..you know the thing. But now, now we have arrived at Crazy Pants Politics. That’s how I look at it anyway. We are being asked to choose between two crazy people, really crazy. Gone is the choice between the lesser of two evils, but between which candidate is less loony. First time in my lifetime.

    Reply
  20. BostonTom

    Check out how much Canada is getting via this UBI they’ve got up and running. Spain too
    https://twitter.com/ThomasConnors/status/1250482595382640641
    Check out how much Canadians are getting via UBI, set it up already. Spain too. Why can’t we?
    And then who would want to go back to so many things we should stop doing: cops and robbers, fossil fuels, student loans, multiple-payer health insurance…

    Canada, oh Canada – UBI sorta!!! 4 months, taxable so far & health insurance.
    “she’s received two payments from the federal government already: one $1,500 payment Tuesday (April 7) and one for $2,000 on Wednesday (April 8).”
    https://vicnews.com/news/canadians-awake-to-extra-covid-19-emergency-benefit-money-fear-its-a-mistake/

    Reply
    1. marieann

      Thank you for this, I missed this story…it’s getting so hard to keep up with so much stuff every day.

      I am happy to hear that those out of work will be getting more that they expected and I hope everyone gets enough income to keep going while we are in lockdown

      I am proud of how our government is handling this…

      Reply
  21. Wukchumni

    “10 pioneer-era apple types thought extinct found in US West” [Lowell Sun (anonymous)]. This is awesome:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Going up to check on a 130 year old apple orchard in a few days. It’s at around 4,500 feet and most of the main trunk of the the 40 or so trees have long since died, and there’s 30-40 foot tall 3-4 inch wide suckers emanating from the periphery of the expired member, but there are 6-10 apple trees where the main trunk is still alive and they should be in blossom now.

    NPS info says they are Malus Sylvestris, or European crab apples

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malus_sylvestris

    There’s another site about 1,000 feet lower and about 8 miles away that has an old apple orchard, i’ll need to investigate also.

    Reply
  22. FreeMarketApologist

    Thank you so much for the Flying Lizards video — they’re new to me, and lots of fun. Sadly, my mellow was promptly and severely harshed by the article that followed on Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. It does seem that in NY, the popular thing to do is switch parties and run for election. We New Yorkers are such suckers for this sort of thing – when will we ever learn? And how is it that the party is ok lending their name to these people? It’s not like they get royalties for selling out the use of the name.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Royalties come in the form of interconnected campaign contribution bribe networks. Just have to follow the money.

      Reply
    2. Jack Parsons

      The Flying Lizards came about when someone record industry guy said, “I want a band that is completely unlike every other band. Completely destroy all of the conventions.” in the late 70s. Prog was over, Punk flashed by, New Wave was on the rise. They did a bunch of songs from the time.

      If you like this kind of anti-cover, “The Better Beatles” (from Boise!) did a bunch of Beatles songs on the pretext of just buying the sheet music and trying to play it.

      Reply
  23. Trent

    Its funny, in 2008 and such nobody would dare utter the D word (depression), though many of us have been living in one since then and some could argue since 2000. Heck you couldn’t call it a depression, it was the “Great Recession”. Now they are throwing it around like its penny candy.

    Reply
    1. carl

      This is a true depression, because there is, and will be, a remarkable lack of money. You’re going to see the mother of all fire sales pretty soon as people’s money runs out. Likewise, businesses will drop their prices to survive, and people will soon figure out that it would be better to wait until tomorrow rather than spend money today.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        It’s gonna be one hellova ride, with competing hyperdeflation up against hyperinflation, with most of the latter coming in foodstuffs & critical imported goods.

        Used homes & cars fall into the hyperdeflation category and will be worth so little in a few years, and along the way there will be many a knife catcher thinking the market has bottomed, but not yet.

        Reply
    2. Darthbobber

      Depression itself first found favor as a euphemism among people who thought the earlier “panic” was too scary.

      Reply
  24. BostonTom

    There is lots of cooperation between the labs. Baric’s lab at UNC Chapel HIll has trained several key workers in Wuhan and they have ongoing collaboration with Harvard/Dana Farber in Boston. Nothing has been cut or curtailed there is much on-going work and they have not stopped the funding and daily work. If any politicians want to spout off about the lab they should just get in on the normal daily zoom meetings between the labs. We are not unfriendly with China we have an extensive ongoing virus research program in full speed ahead. Much published work showing each improvement to make a chimeric SARS+bat coronavirus, move the spike, run serially thru ferrets (ACE2 like people/cats) and see what develops, test in lung nose and determine the transmissibility, several pandemic epidemic virulent strains have been published about. It’s normal ongoing research. It’s nature at work. With some help from researchers.
    Thread (100 tweets) (scroll up/down)
    https://twitter.com/ThomasConnors/status/1247517901487321090

    Reply
  25. ewmayer

    “But the number of new cases in the state seems to have reached a plateau, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said, ‘I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart.'” [New York Times]. • This curve hasn’t gone flat though….

    Cuomo confuses an inflection point (topping-out of the number of *new* daily cases) with a maximum (plateau) – to use an analogy based on annual cycles, he confuses the spring equinox with the summer solstice. Whether one ends up planting one’s crops 3 months too soon, or relaxing one’s guard against the C-virus too early, innumeracy really does kill. Taleb has much more to say on the same theme in another of today’s NC articles.

    Reply
  26. boydownthelane

    Subliminal homonymic wit (or sarcasm):

    ““The pandemic has so far caused a 22,034,000 job loss.” • And those are the ones who have been able to file, so the real figure is hire.”

    Reply
    1. MLTPB

      Per the Hill, a few hours ago – Russia will ‘certainly accept’ Trump’s ‘kind’ offer of ventilators.

      Sometimes you help, and sometimes you are helped. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Tons of medical supplies to China in Feb,. reported only recently. Some or many criticized. Russia also helped Italy earlier.

      Maybe Putin wants this Gilead medicine, instead, or in addition

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I’ve been confused by that story of medical supplies to China. I’ve seen disconnected stories, one that a plane with twenty tons of “medical supplies” arrived in China, then another one that a plane with twenty tons of “medical supplies” arrived at New York from China, and just recently a story that we sent a bunch of “medical supplies” to Taiwan.

        Reply
    2. Daryl

      Remdesvir is apparently incredibly difficult to make in bulk. There was a paper published recently by some folks who had managed to make a gram of it.

      Reply
  27. curlydan

    To all articles titled along the lines of “Progressives are worried about [fill in blank] with Joe Biden’s [fill in blank]”:

    Why on earth are you asking me to worry? I’m old enough to know how this story ends. First of all, I’m a leftist, so stop calling me a “progressive” like that means I’m somehow special. Second and more importantly, Lucy still won’t let Charlie Brown kick the football. I’m not worried about Lucy’s or Charlie Brown’s fates, and I don’t give a rat’s butt what Biden will or won’t do. In the end, he’ll do a big fat nothing for me, so why worry?

    Sincerely,
    Curlydan

    Reply
    1. richard

      I hate progressive too.
      We have to have a name that the posers won’t steal; leftist is best. It’s what the right wing uses to describe liberals, and since liberals are such losers on purpose, they let that scare them. So we’ll continue to have it all to ourselves, for better or worse.
      Just make sure to educate the right wingers you know on its proper use.

      Reply
      1. Robert Gray

        Yes, but …

        What can you do with / about people who firmly believe that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, et al. are ‘far left’?!?

        Reply
        1. richard

          educate them a little if they’re willing
          on the difference between idpol “left”, used by the right to straw man for over a generation
          and the historically authentic definition of left, prioritizing the interests of workers
          I now see a big flaw in my reasoning however, and maybe your whole point
          the misidentification of the “left” is a strategy used by the right (in collusion with their liberal buddies) to divide and conquer – they are not benign actors, to say the least, and will not give up calling pelosi and obama “leftists”
          oh well, back to the drawing board

          Reply
  28. Dianne Shatin

    Class Warfare

    “Over 100 Hospitals Cut Staff as Pandemic Spreads” [Labor Notes]. “More than 100 hospitals in the U.S. have laid off workers since the pandemic began. Tens of thousands of medical workers are furloughed at the exact moment hospitals should be staffing up and training everyone in intensive care. Expecting a tidal wave of very sick patients, many of whom could be unemployed and uninsured, many hospitals have ended all elective procedures, one of their most lucrative sources of revenue. Since insurance in the United States is primarily tied to having a job, hospitals anticipate being left with egregious costs they have no hope of ever being able to recoup.” Private Equity Funds; the true enemy. Note, Hahenemann Hospital in Philadelphia; bought by a Private Equite Fund (one person) and then closed the over 120 yr. old Hospital in the heart of Philadelphia…. those who decide who lives and who dies… and who will be elected President….

    Reply
    1. MLTPB

      We read airlines stopping this or that many flights so often in the last few months. Then we read, before that, people had largely already stopped flying.

      Which came first?

      Did people stopping going to elective procedures first, or hospitals refusing to admit those wanting elective procedures?

      If the former, people have stopped going tp hospitals fearing being infected there first, then

      1. This is not about insurance or lack of.
      2. Doctors are better off being employed by the government and not by private equity funds. That is, government run public hospitals.

      I am for M4A.

      But we have 2 different issues here, if people fear going to a hospital because of Coronavirus.

      Reply
      1. BobW

        Good point. I cancelled my annual free MRI lung screening last month because I did not like the idea of sitting in a waiting room for any length of time.

        Reply
      2. marieann

        In Ontario Canada all elective surgery was cancelled at the beginning of the lockdown.

        I have heard that the ER’s are not as full because people don’t want to go to the hospital.

        My family doctor is doing phone medicine it works well for me as I usually just need medication and over the phone is easier than going to the office.

        Reply
  29. converger

    On an honest history of 19th century populism: gotcha covered. The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt, by Lawrence Goodwin. This is a condensed version of his book Democratic Promise, which is sadly out of print.

    Reply
  30. The Rev Kev

    “Carnival Executives Knew They Had a Virus Problem, But Kept the Party Going”

    There is still a whole fleet of ocean liners at sea at the moment with tens of thousands of passengers and crew stuck unable to get home. The main reason for this situation is that those cruise liners kept sending ship out when they knew that there was a pandemic on but hey, markets – amiright? And of course those very same companies are now saying that they want to start up those cruises in a few weeks more and will offer cheap fares (any takers here?). But all this may end up in tears anyway-

    https://theconversation.com/this-could-be-the-end-of-the-line-for-cruise-ships-135937

    Reply
    1. marieann

      I know this is mean spirited but I really do hope they fail and never sail again.

      I do feel sorry for crew’s stuck on the ships around the world.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I saw a story a few days ago that advance bookings for cruises next year (2021) are 40% higher than for last year (2019).

        Reply
  31. Fastball

    If I choose to sleep 12 hours or more, I can lucid dream. Most of the time these dreams are unpleasant. Sometimes, though, they can be optimistic and revealing. When I choose, the dreams come fast and furious.

    What I have discovered through my lucid dreaming is that my subconscious is more negative than I am (a huge accomplishment) and highly creative.

    I skip like a rock on the water of my subconscious when I am semi awake during these times.

    Reply
  32. Grumpy Engineer

    Cool map for the day: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/PMesx/2/

    Rockland County, NY has more than 2700 infections per 100000 residents.
    In my little portion of Appalachia, we have less than 20 infections per 100000 residents.

    When it comes to COVID-19 suppression policies, one size doesn’t fit all.

    Reply
  33. michael99

    Climate-Driven Megadrought Is Emerging in Western U.S., Says Study

    “Using rings from many thousands of trees, the researchers charted dozens of droughts across the region, starting in 800 AD. Four stand out as so-called megadroughts, with extreme aridity lasting decades: the late 800s, mid-1100s, the 1200s, and the late 1500s. After 1600, there were other droughts, but none on this scale.

    The team then compared the ancient megadroughts to soil moisture records calculated from observed weather in the 19 years from 2000 to 2018. Their conclusion: as measured against the worst 19-year increments within the previous episodes, the current drought is already outdoing the three earliest ones. The fourth, which spanned 1575 to 1603, may have been the worst of all — but the difference is slight enough to be within the range of uncertainty. Furthermore, the current drought is affecting wider areas more consistently than any of the earlier ones — a fingerprint of global warming, say the researchers. All of the ancient droughts lasted longer than 19 years — the one that started in the 1200s ran nearly a century — but all began on a similar path to to what is showing up now, they say.”

    “Tucked into the researchers’ data: the 20th century was the wettest century in the entire 1200-year record. It was during that time that population boomed, and that has continued. “The 20th century gave us an overly optimistic view of how much water is potentially available,” said Cook.”

    Reply

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