2:00PM Water Cooler 5/18/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

#COVID19

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

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

I though I’d look at countries. The United States is in good company: Brazil, Russia, India (three of four BRICs — Hi, Goldman Sacsh [waves]), Chile, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and of course, us.

* * *

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

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

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

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

Trade

“New U.S. trade actions against Huawei Technologies Co. could help redraw supply chains at the heart of the technology sector. The Trump administration will impose export restrictions designed to cut the Chinese telecom-equipment maker off from overseas semiconductor suppliers, adding to pressure on chip makers to set new operations isolated from China’s big electronics manufacturing field” [Wall Street Journal]. “The restrictions stop foreign semiconductor manufacturers that use U.S. software and technology from shipping to Huawei without first getting a license from U.S. officials, effectively giving American regulators a veto over the kinds of technology that Huawei can use. That’s a blow to the company since U.S. software and design figures prominently in semiconductors behind much of the world’s electronics. The actions could harm the U.S. industry, however, if foreign factories start favoring equipment made outside the U.S. because it comes with fewer strings attached.”

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

* * *

2020

UPDATE Biden (D)(1): “Seeking: Big Democratic Ideas That Make Everything Better” [New York Times]. “[T]here is more to come: Interviews with more than a dozen influential lawmakers, union leaders, think tank experts and advisers to Mr. Biden and other senior Democrats revealed an intensifying set of deliberations in the Zoom meetings of Mr. Biden’s campaign, the skeletally staffed offices of Capitol Hill, and a web of conference calls and email chains initiated by powerful Democratic interest groups [like….] . Across all of them, there is a sense that Democrats must use the next six months — with an unpredictable campaign still in progress — to prepare to act swiftly in case they get the chance. ‘There is a recognition [note lack of agency] that this event is more transformative than 2008, more transformative than 9/11, more transformative than the fall of the Berlin Wall,’ said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, a centrist Democrat…. But the Recovery Act has come to be seen by many Democrats as something of a cautionary tale about governing in a recession [It has? When did this happen? Did anybody talk about it?]: a law that stitched up a tattered economy but failed to spur a strong comeback, leading to deep electoral losses for the party. It is a scenario Democratic leaders are determined not to repeat, particularly progressives who have long faulted the Obama administration for paring back the stimulus in the hope of winning Republican support. ‘I think there was not the same recognition, 10 years ago [one can, after all, let a problem like that fester only so long], that there is today, that we’ve had 50 years of an economy that only works for people at the very top [thanks to whom?],’ Mr. Bennet said, adding with blunt impatience [!!] : “I think a decade of not achieving the stuff we need to achieve is probably enough [thanks Obama!].'” • It certainly is odd that this story emerges immediately after Pelosi stiffled a pitifully whimpering Progressive Caucus in the HEROES Act.

UPDATE Biden (D)(2): “Mike Bloomberg plots spending blitz to support Joe Biden’s run for president” [CNBC]. “illionaire and former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is plotting a massive spending blitz to back Joe Biden’s quest for the White House. The former New York mayor and his closest political advisors are discussing whether Bloomberg’s expenditures will include major donations to pro-Biden super PACs, Biden’s joint fundraising effort with the Democratic National Committee, or another independent group, according to people familiar with the conversations. These people declined to be named as the talks were private. There are at least three super PACs backing Biden that Bloomberg could give to: Unite the Country, Priorities USA and American Bridge.”

Biden (D)(3): “Biden’s Latino outreach is under fire: ‘I can’t tell what their strategy is'” [Politico]. “In interviews, more than 20 Latino political operatives, lawmakers, and activists said they don’t see a game plan from Biden to marshal Hispanic voters effectively in the fall. They said there’s little evidence the campaign is devoting the resources or hiring the staff that task will require — all the more crucial during a pandemic, when reaching and mobilizing Latino voters through in-person canvassing is nearly impossible.” • I would say there’s a fair amount of job-seeking and self-promotion there, but if none of them have jobs….

UPDATE (D)(4): Neera Tanden has a sad:

Sadistic “news man” though.

UPDATE Biden (D)(5): “Progressive Super PAC targets Sanders supporters, urges support of Biden in new memo” [NBC]. This is Weaver’s PAC: “‘Despite best intentions, the Biden campaign and the DNC are far behind on digital organizing, Latino outreach and progressive coalition building,’ former senior advisor Jeff Weaver wrote in the four-page document from his newly formed ‘America’s Promise’ PAC.” • For the millionth time, Obama didn’t stand up Biden to build up progressive coalitions.

Trump (R)(1): “Bobo The Clown’s Revenge? How The Media Is Reelecting Donald Trump” [Jonathan Turley]. “Trump has a curious record: He has been repeatedly (and correctly) chastised for untrue statements, and yet he has one of the best records for actually keeping campaign promises — the crackdown on immigration, building of the border wall, pro-life policies and appointments, selection of conservative jurists, tax cuts, regulation rollbacks, opening up areas to oil drilling. These and many other aspects of his administration are the most controversial but also are the long-held wish list of conservatives going back to Ronald Reagan…. [A]fter largely positive treatment of Clinton and correspondingly negative coverage of Trump, the election results [in 2016] stunned experts who predicted an easy win for Clinton — and why not? Voters had been exposed to unyielding, continual media conditioning against Trump. The conclusion of the media today appears to be that the scathing treatment in 2016 was not aggressive enough…. Thus, polls indicate that the unending attacks on Trump and his supporters in the media are not conditioning but, instead, are repelling voters. They are fulfilling his narrative that voters cannot trust the media. Many voters may still view both Trump and Biden as over-inflated clowns, but they resent being continually conditioned to hit one clown and hug the other. Indeed, if Trump is reelected, he may have the media to thank.”

Trump (R)(2): If Trump wants to hammer an enormous wedge between Red and Blue America, and shift the blame from himself to liberal Democrat Cuomo, he can show a map like this in the first debate, right after he asks Biden to draw a clock:

(From “Travel From New York City Seeded Wave of U.S. Outbreaks” [New York Times]. There is a much more pointed map showing air travel from New York to various cities — Miami was #1, so long Florida! — connected them with arrows, but this map will have to do. No doubt Brad Pasquale’s talented graphics department is working on a map like that as we speak.

Trump (R)(3): “What Liberals Don’t Get About Trump Supporters and Pop Culture” [Politico]. “hen President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, triumphantly invoked the ‘Star Wars’ universe to liken the president’s reelection effort to the ‘Death Star,’ all but ready to ‘start pressing FIRE,’ it was both a standard display of MAGA braggadocio and a brief respite from the unrelenting, bleak coronavirus discourse. Well-meaning liberals instantly took the bait and flooded Parscale’s replies to let him know he had, supposedly, missed the point — ‘Didn’t make it till the end of Star Wars, huh?’ tweeted the Daily Beast’s Molly Jong-Fast. … Implicit to those questions is the assertion that either the Trump campaign and its supporters are so oblivious to “Star Wars,” the most ubiquitous pop culture phenomenon of the past 50 years, that they don’t know how it ends, or so incomprehensibly illiterate as cultural consumers that they don’t understand George Lucas’ fictional Empire is meant to be the baddies. The real explanation is much simpler and more believable: When Parscale and his ilk approvingly identify themselves with pre-redemption Darth Vader, or Thanos, or even Dr. Evil, they surely understand those characters’ morality perfectly well. It’s not so much that Trump, et. al actively identify as “villains,” but that the behavior that makes one a “villain” in fiction—deceit, wanton rule-breaking, a willful disregard for collateral damage—is, in real life, more likely to get one branded a “winner,” provided one plays their cards right. Enron executives? Elizabeth Holmes? The steroid-juicing baseball heroes of the 1990s? Winners all—at least until they got caught.” • Hmm. “That makes me smart.”

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

Remember when people were naming their dogs after Mueller?

“How House Progressives’ #PutPeopleFirst Plan Fell Short” [Politico]. “Instead of organizing as a bloc to make coordinated demands or threatening to withhold votes, the progressive approach has been to meet with leadership individually with legislative wish lists, with the hope that working behind the scenes will influence the legislation…. That began to change when the Congressional Progressive Caucus had released, in late March, a list of ‘bold’ legislative priorities for the next coronavirus rescue package…. Outside progressive groups also roused from their slumber…. The coalition launched its push for influence on April 20 under the banner of #PutPeopleFirst, with CPC co-chairs Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., as well as all four members of the Squad, touting the campaign. The news conference was the first of its kind during the crisis…. Within days, it ran into trouble. On Friday evening, the House passed the HEROES Act by a vote of 208 to 199, without many of those priorities and with many of those progressive groups confused about what was going on inside Congress. Fourteen Democrats in the House voted no, with Jayapal the lone member of CPC to vote against the bill. Despite the public display of unity, according to sources involved with #PutPeopleFirst, there was never agreement on a real strategy between those on the inside and those on the outside.: • Man, if Indivisible is taking the hardest line here, I really don’t know what to say.

UPDATE “Good Policy Is Good Politics” [Saagar Enjeti, American Compass]. “In a surprise move, Gardner announced Thursday that he would sign on to Senator Josh Hawley’s ambitious plan for the federal government to pick up a portion of payroll cost for workers across America, in what amounts to the largest jobs program in American history. Gardner and Hawley’s audacious proposal lies in stark contrast to the “wait-and-see” approach led by Senate Republican leadership and much of the White House economic team as they struggle to take the reigns on handling the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. To the extent they have proposed policy at all, it has centered around payroll or capital gains tax cuts — a far cry from initial rumblings of a massive infrastructure program and industrial policy that were ultimately abandoned. The Senate GOP would risk being eclipsed be it not for the political ineptitude of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who explicitly chose not to cover payroll for American workers in her ridiculous 3 trillion dollar so-called “relief” bill. Pelosi has inadvertently given the GOP the opportunity for one of the easiest political layups in American history, which is being squandered in favor of the standard issue Republican policy playbook. Passage of the Gardner-Hawley plan would dramatically change political dynamics in Washington, quieting some popular resentment against stay-at-home orders and ensuring certainty both for workers and the financial system itself.

UPDATE “Crisis exposes how America has hollowed out its government” [Dan Balz, WaPo]. “Over these years, there have been a series of major government breakdowns that helped shake confidence in government’s competence. Some are relatively recent: the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005; the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; the crashing website for the Affordable Care Act in 2013.” • Refreshingly, this is not a deranged partisan screed, and it’s good to see Obama’s ACA website debacle on the list, but why on earth isn’t Obama’s miserably inadequate response to the last Crash on the list? Even leaving out the teeny stimulus package, the foreclosure crisis, which destroyed a generation of Black wealth, and HAMO, are surely easy layups. A cynic might think that since Balz has concluded that the same team that butchered handled the last Crash will butcher handle this one, there’s no point messing with them

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.

Consumption: “What Are Americans Consuming More Of?” [Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis]. “These numbers tell us that average consumers increased consumption across the board over the sample period and spent significantly more on durable goods in 2018 than they did in 2002.” But now the caveat: “It’s important to note that this analysis focuses only on the average U.S. consumer and does not consider the issue of income inequality. It is well documented that the benefits of economic growth have been distributed unevenly across the population during our sample period. Hence, relatively lower income households may not have experienced such gains in real consumption and may disproportionately suffer from the rapidly growing costs of some services, such as housing and health care.” It’s almost as if even the macro-economists are hearing, far off and faintly, the sound of blades being sharpened…

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Commodities: “The damage to American meat supply chains from the coronavirus could be long-lasting. The head of JBS USA Holdings Inc., the country’s largest beef producers, says new safety measures on production lines will slow production… hampering output for the next several months and potentially longer” [Wall Street Journal]. “The warning from JBS Chief Executive Andre Nogueira highlights the likely impact of changes in business processes as companies with heavily manual processes seek to resume operations. Mr. Nogueira says JBS will space workers farther apart and adding safety measures like air-purification systems. The company has reopened plants in several states, and those so far are operating at 70% to 95% of normal capacity.”

Retail: “Overall U.S. retail sales fell a record 16.4% from March to April… while sales in the category including online merchants jumped 8.4%” [Wall Street Journal]. “That gap should eventually close, but many retailers may not survive to see that happen.”

Retail: “Who knew real milk runs, the service offered decades-ago with drivers dropping off fresh dairy products, would return? Wade’s Dairy of Bridgeport, Conn., is resuming a home-delivery service it had shut down long ago… in an unlikely return to direct-to-consumer sales to replace business the company has lost under coronavirus lockdowns” [Wall Street Journal]. “The service is one of the creative distribution pivots industrial suppliers are making as their main markets have largely disappeared. That’s especially true in the food sector, where suppliers are trying to bring in cash while restaurants, schools and other big dining operations are shut down. Wade’s Dairy’s return to its roots is bringing in about $10,000 in sales a week, enough to justify the recent purchase of a new 14-foot truck especially for the operation.” • Cool!

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 39 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 44 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 18 at 12:10pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Earthquakes. “Nevada hit by the largest area quake in 65 years” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.

The Biosphere

“Horticultural Therapy to the Rescue” [Modern Farmer]. “Several studies have reported a wide range of positive impacts. Gardening can help reduce your blood pressure and improve sleep. Recent research from Princeton University found that the emotional well-being people were experiencing from gardening was similar to the fuzzy feelings you get from activities such as biking, walking or eating at a restaurant. It also showed that those who grew their own food, as opposed to ornamental gardens, expressed higher levels of happiness. The therapeutic benefits of being out in the garden have been documented for hundreds of years. American hospitals started using horticultural therapy to help patients rehabilitate in the 19th century. In 1812, a Pennsylvania physician called Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote about how his patients who worked in gardens would recover faster from manic syndrome. By 1879, the Friends Hospital in Philadelphia became the first hospital in the country to build a greenhouse used for patient rehabilitation. Today, the practice of horticultural therapy is widely employed across the US, and post-secondary institutions have offered education in the field since the 1970’s. Home gardening is only a small piece of horticulture therapy, but [Joel Flagler, a horticultural therapist and professor at Rutgers University] has a few tips for those looking to maximize on benefits. First, there is no formula for the right garden. Grow what you want, he says, and what appeals to you. Second, don’t be afraid to add additional features like a fountain or wind chimes to harness the wind, which will contribute to a multi-sensory experience, he says.” • I would say “plan to grow what you want, and start growing it” — “start growing” because the plants will show you want they want, and you may end up wanting new things. The plan doesn’t have to be large, but it does have to suit your patch, no matter how small or large.

Health Care

Sadly, no:

I hate that clapback trope with the hatred of a million burning suns, but… they’re right.

“SARS-CoV-2 Rates in BCG-Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Young Adults” [JAMA]. A natural experiment: “The BCG vaccine was routinely administered to all newborns in Israel as part of the national immunization program between 1955 and 1982. Overall, the vaccine acceptance rate in Israel is high, with greater than 90% coverage. Since 1982, the vaccine has been administered only to immigrants from countries with high prevalence of tuberculosis. This change allowed comparison of infection rates and proportions with severe COVID-19 disease in 2 similar populations with differing BCG status: individuals born during the 3 years before and 3 years after cessation of the universal BCG vaccine program.” n= 72,060. And the result: “There was no statistically significant difference in the proportion of positive test results in the BCG-vaccinated group (361 [11.7%]) vs the unvaccinated group (299 [10.4%]; difference, 1.3%; 95% CI, −0.3% to 2.9%; P = .09) or in positivity rates per 100 000 (121 in vaccinated group vs 100 in unvaccinated group; difference, 21 per 100 000; 95% CI, −10 to 50 per 100 000; P = .15).” • Dang.

“Convergent Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Convalescent Individuals” (preprint) [bioRxiv]. Carefully qualified: “[M]ost convalescent plasmas obtained from individuals who recover from COVID-19 without hospitalization do not contain high levels of neutralizing activity. Nevertheless, rare but recurring RBD-specific antibodies with potent antiviral activity were found in all individuals tested, suggesting that a vaccine designed to elicit such antibodies could be broadly effective.”

“‘This feels great'” [WaPo]. From Georgia: “Outside Urban Outfitters, Jennifer Kiernan was having a glass of wine as her daughter shopped inside. ‘Oh my God, this feels great — I love it,’ she said, explaining that she assumed that she and everyone around her was healthy. ‘I think people would not be out if they had been exposed to anyone with corona.'” • My Blue State, PMC-adjacent impulse to blame and shame really kicks in here. This attitude seems to me to be unfathomably stupid and irreponsible. (“American Roulette,” where asymptomatic carriers spin the barrel and point the gun at somebody else’s head. On the other hand, blaming and shaming hasn’t worked all that well tactically, has it?

“Number of Americans practicing social distancing drops significantly: poll” [The Hill]. “More Americans are leaving their homes than in recent weeks, becoming less likely to practice social distancing regardless of stay-at-home orders, according to a new Gallup poll released Friday. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. adults surveyed reported that they were either completely (17 percent) or mostly (41 percent) isolating themselves — a 17-point drop from a high of 75 percent during the week ending on April 5. The poll found that the declines in social distancing were not just limited to states loosening their stay-at-home orders that had been implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Among respondents who live in the 21 states that did not have stay-in-place orders as of May 4, 51 percent said they were either completely or mostly self-isolating. That’s a drop from 64 percent among people in the same group of states two weeks prior. In states with stay-at-home restrictions still in place — such as New York and California — respondents also reported less distancing. The rate fell 7 points from 71 percent in the week ending April 26 to 64 percent the week ending May 10.” • Still up on my high horse: Pandemics are hard schools, but fools will learn in no other.

“Variation in False-Negative Rate of Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction–Based SARS-CoV-2 Tests by Time Since Exposure” [Annals of Internal Medicine]. The conclusion: “Care must be taken in interpreting RT-PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 infection—particularly early in the course of infection—when using these results as a basis for removing precautions intended to prevent onward transmission. If clinical suspicion is high, infection should not be ruled out on the basis of RT-PCR alone, and the clinical and epidemiologic situation should be carefully considered.” • Yikes.

“US lockdown protests may have spread virus widely, cellphone data suggests” [Guardian]. “Cellphone location data suggests that demonstrators at anti-lockdown protests – some of which have been connected with Covid-19 cases – are often traveling hundreds of miles to events, returning to all parts of their states, and even crossing into neighboring ones…. One visualization shows that in Lansing, Michigan, after a 30 April protest in which armed protesters stormed the capitol building and state police were forced to physically block access to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, devices which had been present at the protest site can be seen returning to all parts of the state, from Detroit to remote towns in the state’s north…. In the 48 hours following a 19 April “Operation Gridlock” protest in Denver, devices reached the borders of neighboring states including Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah.” • Exactly as wealthy New Yorkers did who left for the Hamptons, Miami, Pioneer Valley, Cape Cod, or wherever. And exactly as delegates to either national convention will do. Of course, if we could get mask-wearing to 80%….

“Families of essential workers killed by COVID-19 face loss of health care” [Salon]. “Congress is considering several bills to help this workforce and their families, including a bipartisan measure to extend a legal presumption to first responders that their death from COVID19 was line of duty linked. Such a provision, should it be made law, would ensure their families could apply for compensation under the Department of Justice’s Public Safety Benefits Program.” • Gawd forbid we should consider universal benefits!

Failed State

“After arrest, gym owner defies California again to reopen” [ABC]. “[Lou] Uridel said he had no choice about reopening the gym. ‘We lost a third of our membership that took us a year and a half to get,’ Uridel said. ‘If we waited, with the bills mounting, we weren’t going to be able to recover.’ Uridel said he has taken every precaution so his customers feel safe. Large handwritten signs warn people no one is allowed in if they are coughing or show other symptoms, and that everyone must sign a waiver declaring they are not ill. It says all rules will be enforced, including no gym bags or showering at the gym, and members must wear masks and shirts at all times. Everyone must maintain 6 feet (1.8 meters) of space between each other, wipe down equipment after each use, and wash their hands before entering the gym and before leaving it. Uridel said he also closes the gym every 90 minutes for cleaning and sanitizing. … Gyms are not being allowed to reopen anywhere because they are considered a high-risk business due to people being indoors, sharing equipment and breathing hard as they exercise. Coughing, sneezing and even talking are ways the virus is spread through tiny water droplets.” • First, Uridel does have a choice: Perhaps he is in a bad business to be in. Second, if Uridel doesn’t know that covid spreads asymptomaticallly, he’s derelict in his duties. Third,

Screening Room

Where’s the lie:

Class Warfare

“From Black Death to fatal flu, past pandemics show why people on the margins suffer most” [Science]. “But careful archaeological and historical work at East Smithfield and elsewhere has revealed that intersecting social and economic inequalities shaped the course of the Black Death and other epidemics. “Bioarchaeology and other social sciences have repeatedly demonstrated that these kinds of crises play out along the preexisting fault lines of each society,” says Gwen Robbins Schug, a bioarchaeologist at Appalachian State University who studies health and inequality in ancient societies. The people at greatest risk were often those already marginalized—the poor and minorities who faced discrimination in ways that damaged their health or limited their access to medical care even in prepandemic times. In turn, the pandemics themselves affected societal inequality, by either undermining or reinforcing existing power structures… Household account books and records of payments to workers on English manors show that by 1290, 70% of English families were living at or below the poverty line, defined as being able to buy enough food and goods to not go hungry or be cold. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 3% of households received 15% of the national income.”

News of the Wired

“By visiting her partner my housemate is putting us all at risk” [Guardian]. “None of us wants to live in a police state, but relying on people to behave responsibly and unselfishly is not without challenges.” • British understatement….

Listen!

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AM write: “Forsythia and bare trees, Roger Williams Park.’ The cycle of spring flowers continues!

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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.

145 comments

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I know what you mean. I can’t really make this feeling precise, but the sense of re-opening ought to coincide with a sense of (more) freedom and (more) safety, and some sense of completion, but in fact none of that is happening, at least for me (unlike the lady asymptomatic carrier wine-sipper in Georgia]). My sense that the re-opening states have re-opened too early if public health is the priority isn’t helping here.

      I think there’s also a sense that the Republicans have a clear program that “the business of American is business,” and hence more important than life, where the Democrats have a vague program that “the business of America is business, but we’re going to set up some means-tested, not universal, complicated, and generally not adequate programs that remove suffering, but randomly, that we couldn’t sell as coherent policy even if we tried,” and yes, business is more important than life. Of course, under capitalism, business is more important than life. So there we are. Some accept that, some do not.

      It’s a weird sort of inter-regnum. Perhaps it’s the calm before the second wave.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I had to pick up a coffee machine Saturday because the coil burned out that morning, and I mean c’mon…I can understand Five Guys having people but effing subway…really? Where are the masks? The employees at the Best Buy were all covered up, but I mean the shopping center (there weren’t many people at all) the random customers were just out for summer time.

        Reply
        1. a different chris

          >I had to pick up a coffee machine Saturday because the coil burned out that morning

          Darn right. Sometimes you just *have* to venture outside…

          Reply
          1. none

            Jeezeless as they say on youtube. Put coffee in the filter basket as normal, then heat water on the stove and pour it over the grounds instead of having a machine do it. It’s called hand pourover and it’s easy to do. It just takes a couple minutes.

            Reply
              1. Left in Wisconsin

                My kid got me an electric hot water heater with a temperature setting and it really makes a difference. Usually, a bad pourover is because the water is too hot. I guess 190 degrees is ideal. I know that if I set the temp there, it makes a delicious cuppa joe. One pour to get the grounds wet – I guess it wakes them up – and then another pour to fill the mug.

                Reply
      2. jo6pac

        I won’t be out and about for a long time. I go to the store with mask on and I do food pickup at small places around me in rural Tracy area.
        Tomorrow is the post office early then to the bank to the night deposit and then to the store. I’ll be home by 9:00am

        Reply
      3. Lou Anton

        We had a moment when we could’ve gotten something right, and we blew it. In late March, people were more trusting of their government (and we learned our governors’ names even!) and we wanted to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. We needed a government response (federal level on down) that thanked us for halting our day to day lives and kept us whole. And we just didn’t get it. We got $1200 and thoughts and prayers.

        I think your unease is like mine- we just keep doing the wrong thing and every decision point. Late to close, didn’t keep people whole, early to open. We’re WORSE than broken clocks.

        Reply
        1. jsn

          “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

          It’s unclear who said that, but it does capture the recurring American problem of getting all the incompetents and scam artist out of the way when a crisis hits.

          Having deliberately hollowed out our own productive capacity, it will be interesting to see what is salvagable once the elite collapses far enough to actually encounter any residual competence, of which there’s still plenty, just carefully fenced off from power.

          Reply
        2. anon in so cal

          This is why I think California’s governor, Newsom, and LA’s mayor, Garcetti, have been doing well with the pandemic. Granted, they are both NeoLiberals and have questionable, if not terrible, track records (Garcetti turned over a charming neighborhood to rapacious developers). But they have had daily press conferences in which they explain the daily stats and stress the importance of masks, social distancing, etc.

          This needed to be done on the national / federal level.

          Reply
      4. HotFlash

        Don’t know what you are feeling, Lambert, but I feel abandoned, betrayed, powerless, hopeless. It’s the NOLA and Sandy treatment, but this time for the whole country, maybe the whole world. And we could have used this opportunity to stop global warming.

        I shouldn’t think on rainy days.

        Reply
        1. Tom Doak

          By miraculous coincidence, it will be safe to re-open parts of northern Michigan just in time for the Friday of Memorial Day weekend!

          Reply
          1. edmondo

            The New Jersey Shore just had an identical coincidence. Jesus must really love three-day-weekends. Now if we only had jobs to be away from for 3 days….

            Reply
          2. Phacops

            It doesn’t do much about downstaters, but vandalism of cars with out of state license plates is increasing in the NW LP.

            Reply
            1. anon in so cal

              My husband’s brother and family live in the NW LP. We spend a week with them every summer and were thinking our only option is to drive there….

              Reply
          3. The Rev Kev

            Will there be a Memorial Day weekend in several months time for those who died because they caught Coronavirus over the Memorial Day weekend?

            Reply
      5. Wyoming

        In our town yesterday is was almost impossible to find someone with a mask on. The streets and sidewalks were full with zero social distancing – we did not get out of the car. There were lines of people waiting to get in restaurants. The town square was chock full of people and dog walkers on the sidewalks and all over the lawn. It seemed as busy as a full summer weekend. The parking lots at places like Home Depot were full too.

        If there is not a surge of infections in 2-3 weeks across the county then the scientists will lost all credibility.

        We are treating the situation as even more dangerous than the last 6 weeks. But we have already seen the extra precautions at Costco and Fry’s sliding back towards normal – those are the only places we go and are at any real risk – so it is going at opening of business at Fry’s and about 2pm which is the slowest time at Costco. We never get near any one anywhere else and it is masks and gloves for us no matter what .

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > If there is not a surge of infections in 2-3 weeks across the county then the scientists will lost all credibility.

          Assuming we can trust the numbers. We’re also conducting a natural experiment in whether there are significant climactic effects.

          Reply
      6. albrt

        At first I read “asymptomatic carrier” as “asymptotic carrier.” Perhaps they are both accurate.

        Reply
      7. Carla

        So, I’ve had this great email friend for about 9 months. Although he lives only a mile-and-a-half from me, we’ve never met. He financially supported a local issue campaign that I was very involved with, and when he found out that at the end of the campaign (which we won spectacularly) I might still have to personally front a lot of money to make good the campaign finances, he reached out to me and offered — a lot of money. What a guy!

        Before he first donated to our campaign, I knew his name and a little bit about his political leanings (or thought I did) from Nextdoor. Turns out I was wrong about a lot. As we continued to be in touch via email, we each revealed more about ourselves (wittingly and otherwise). He’s a successful, self-made small business owner, and justifiably proud of it. Proud dad and grand-dad. Salt of the earth, for sure. We agreed on the ballot issue we were both supporting, and some other things. Disagreed on a number, too.

        Since the November election, when our issue won with a 66% “yes” vote, we’ve stayed in email touch sporadically — and intensely for the last couple of weeks of the Ohio lockdown — with which he is now fed up, and eager for re-opening.

        I just want to share with the NC Commentariat the content of the email my friend Jim send me last night, with the subject line: Thank You!

        “You have challenged me to reevaluate my understanding of our political and economic systems, and I appreciate that challenge. I don’t really care if people agree with me either, nor do I usually try to convince others to think like I do. I just try to relate how I see things, and I don’t assume I am always correct. So… thanks for the challenge.”

        I replied: “Likewise, Jim. Thank you!”

        Reply
      8. ChrisPacific

        One thing we’ve learned here (in New Zealand) is that it takes 1-2 weeks for the consequences of societal decisions on the COVID transmission rate to become apparent. We spent the first week of lockdown (one of the strictest imposed by any country anywhere) sitting at home and watching the infection numbers climb by 30% per day or more. It wasn’t until the second week that we started to see progress.

        Conversely I would expect states emerging from either strict or de facto lockdown to see case numbers stay low for a while, which might give people a bit of a false sense of security in the near term and cause a larger spike.

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          Yes, that’s a problem. I remember over the years I tried to quit smoking. Because I didn’t see any change in the first couple of days I always got discouraged. I was only able to quit finally (10 years ago) when the pain in my chest actually increased from a single half cigarette, and then eased after several hours without smoking. It’s the same with this situation. The lag between cause and effect is going to make many people claim the relationship isn’t there. I’m just hoping enough will make the connection to make a difference. On the other hand, maybe there won’t be a spike in new cases. And maybe the horse will learn to sing.

          Reply
    2. ambrit

      And I mean Yikes! The Dow is up a thousand points??!!?? Can there be any stronger indicator that the stock market now has no relationship to observable reality at all?
      I have heard such a move described as a “Dead Cat Bounce.” It’s more like a “Zombie Parade!”

      Reply
          1. MLTPB

            It’s like that Tai Ji symbol – it extracts from you, and you extract back from it…to complete the cycle.

            Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Dow Jonestown Cocktail:

        1 jigger of hopium mixed with cherry kool-aid, serve chilled.

        If the proles ever hear or read anything in a financial vein, it’ll be ‘in moderate trading, the Dow went up 234 points today’, and that’s pretty much it, they’ve reduced it to being a sports team, and we’re all cheerleaders, of sorts. Seems to have all the propriety of professional roller derby, no offense meant to skaters.

        Must keep up appearances if you know what I mean and I think you do. What other apparatus can they use to make things seem honky dory?

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          The essence of ‘Change you can believe in,’ is Smoke and Mirrors, LLC.
          I dimly remember when I did some small time stock market ‘investing.’ We always looked at the PE ratio. When that went the way of the Dodo, even I knew the game was rigged.
          My Dad’s biggest stock trading ‘score’ was based on a conversation overheard at a business cocktail party.
          All hail the Inside Dope. Everyone else are plain dopes.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            I have heard that the favourite booze of the Fed Repo window people is Everclear.
            Money, the universal solvent.

            Reply
  1. L

    RE: #PutPeopleFirst IMHO the plan also failed for exactly the same reason that the whole bill will go nowhere. They all had long lists of messaging priorities not one clear demand. As a consequence it is easy to divide. Mind you I agree with their priorities but if Pelosi et al. are failing to put one clear maker down, thus signaling they don’t believe it will go anywhere, perhaps the progressives should lead by example.

    Reply
      1. Wellstone's Ghost

        Jayapal should be commended for standing up to Pelosi regardless of how she played it. It was a principled stand that is so rare in our politics today.
        On a Bill going nowhere to boot.
        What will Pelosi’s revenge be for this mutinous behavior?
        The gallows I’m sure.
        For this reason alone, Jayapal will have my vote as long as she runs for office representing my district in Washington State.
        Any Bernie supporters out there who still have a dime in their pocket should consider sending a donation to Jayapal with a Thank You note since she obviously still feels the Bern better than Bernie does.

        Reply
        1. Carla

          You know what? I’m going to send a donation to Jayapal. She is the prime sponsor of NOT ONLY HR1384, “Medicare for All”, but ALSO, HJR-48, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only.”

          Both of those bills are about Systemic Change and as such, are very important. Rep. Jayapal knows what that means, and we need about 450 more people like her in the House, and about 75 more in Senate.

          Reply
      2. Tom Doak

        Actually, most of the Progressives voted to pass the legislation. The 14 Democrats who voted against were mostly Republican-lite (D) candidates in swing districts who just couldn’t be seen voting for Big Government when their seats are at stake in November!

        Reply
      3. Left in Wisconsin

        Mark Pocan is a good guy with good, if vague, politics but he is no leader of anything, certainly not a mutiny, or even a pushback, against the top D leadership. I give Jayapal credit on this one for going public with her displeasure, though my guess is that it was all scripted with Pelosi ahead of time.

        Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      I’ve got a modern ‘Anasazi flute’ around here somewhere-made of the same specifications of olde. Loved the story of how they came to be found…

      Here’s what it sounds like in the hands of someone capable of playing:

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

      The Anasazi flute is the name of a prehistoric end-blown flute replicated today from findings at a massive cave in Prayer Rock Valley in Arizona, United States by an archaeological expedition led by Earl H. Morris in 1931. The team excavated 15 caves and the largest among them had 16 dwellings and many artifacts including several wooden flutes, which gave the site its name, the Broken Flute Cave.

      The flutes found in the cave were dated between 620 and 670 AD. They were all made of Box elder, have six finger holes and are end-blown. It is similar in many respects to a Hopi flute, which has only five finger holes.

      A detailed analysis using radiocarbon dating techniques was published in 2007. The analysis included one item from a burial pit in the Broken Flute Cave. The dating placed the artifact in the range 599–769 AD.

      The Anasazi flute has in recent years been reproduced and restored to the catalog of World flutes. While difficult to play in many respects, it has a rich, warm voice that spans a little over one and a half octaves.

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

      Reply
      1. a different chris

        > It is similar in many respects to a Hopi flute, which has only five finger holes.

        What’s the Anasazi equivalent of a hard Cockney accent? “It goes to six”.

        Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        You have to wonder what music they played in those caves so long ago. And on a dark night around a fire with shadows playing on the cave walls, how did this music help shape the minds of the people themselves? Thank for the link.

        Reply
      1. ChrisPacific

        I got to see him live once. He put on a good show. Also featured possibly the world’s only bluegrass oboist (Paul somebody).

        Reply
        1. furies

          I’ve named more than one pet after him.

          I also saw him live (up close and personal) at the Strawberry Bluegrass Festival. He was playing with New Grass Revival then; Tim O’Brian, Sam Bush…you know, THE GUYS!

          The music was great but the people were from LA. :(

          Reply
      2. Phacops

        Finally saw him live. I don’t know if it was the sound system or if he was just going through the motions, but it seemed that he was just going through the motions of playing notes. The crisp, strong left-hand technique you can hear distinctly in his recordings was missing from thzt live performance. Sad if that playing was deliberate.

        Reply
    2. ambrit

      I can’t help but wonder if this is the basis of the Esoteric belief that the Egyptians moved the stones to build the pyramids using sound waves.
      Also, any possible connection to the Pythagorean ‘Music of the Spheres?’

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Perhaps you are reacting to the basic purpose of emojis; the manipulation of human reactions to communications.
        To me, emojis are the internet equivalent of ‘laugh tracks’ on video “comedy” shows. With both, to reinforce the point, the purpose is to manipulate the reaction of the ‘audience.’

        Reply
  2. dbk

    Illinois’ legislature is going back into session for the first time this week, and a “Fight for Freedom” demonstration is being promoted for outside the statehouse Wednesday morning.

    To date, two legislators have already tested positive for the virus and will not be attending session.

    -Still up on my high horse: Pandemics are hard schools, but fools will learn in no other.-

    I’m starting to think that’s true, but a whole lot of innocent people will have to suffer and die in order for them to get schooled.

    Reply
  3. Michael McK

    Did you edit Bloomberg into being an “ill-ionaire” on purpose? The illness of great wealth sickens the entire planet despite being a very rare condition.

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Indeed. Like the other addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, whatever, the need for that high clouds the judgement of the addict, rides roughshod over their conscience, hurts their friends and family, ruins their relationships, sacrifices honour, and poisons their dealings with the world. If he has any friends or family left who care at all about him, perhaps they would stage an intervention and persuade him to go to Billionaires Anonymous.

      Reply
  4. Bsoder

    Beware the New York Times. I read it daily, ‘cause I got to know what those I don’t agree with think, ususally it is content free. Lambert, that map you have included should be bi-directional, it’s not like ‘someone’ ordered infected people to go travel to these places. Biden drawing a clock. Tiresome, Dems as hopeless & Republicans as evil. And it not mattering because they protect our 536 billionaires and world wide 2053 (as if noon today), so their actions in all things are identical, in terms of outcomes – everything gets worse for most people. Ok, so now what? Even if it were 100% true which it isn’t. It’s all to simplistic. The discussion of it, by definition is so passive, it amounts to a kid complaining of bedtime. At least the somewhat deranged Kunstler via the Long Emergency, has a theory.

    As I go through the NIH data on Covid-19, something is bothering me, and this is pure speculation at the moment, but a lot of people are being exposed long enough to get infected and – nothing. Like they are bat-people (bats have up to 3,700 of these virus at one time and are no worse the wear), nothing happens. They don’t become asymptotic, symptomatic, develop no antibodies, have any viral load, nothing. This isn’t unprecedented but given the entirety of circumstances it is very odd. The next month will tell. There will be more infections, sickness & death, but to what amount?

    Good work as always, sometime we agree sometime not, but our belief in something better and how we get there is stronger that all that.

    Reply
    1. periol

      As I go through the NIH data on Covid-19, something is bothering me, and this is pure speculation at the moment, but a lot of people are being exposed long enough to get infected and – nothing. Like they are bat-people (bats have up to 3,700 of these virus at one time and are no worse the wear), nothing happens. They don’t become asymptotic, symptomatic, develop no antibodies, have any viral load, nothing. This isn’t unprecedented but given the entirety of circumstances it is very odd. The next month will tell. There will be more infections, sickness & death, but to what amount?

      That is an interesting speculation. When you say “exposed long enough to get infected”, my immediate question is “how were they exposed”? Mouth, eyes, nose, aerosol into the lungs? Could this have anything to do with the “viral load” theory?

      Final thought – possible immunity from having it already or, as speculated above, having had a cold recently?

      Anyways, thanks for sharing. Definitely food for thought.

      Reply
    2. MLTPB

      Bat people?

      People like Bat-Man, but do bats like Man-Bat?

      Is Man-Spider a super hero among spiders?

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Lambert, that map you have included should be bi-directional, it’s not like ‘someone’ ordered infected people to go travel to these places.

      New York is a hub ffs and a financial, media, and cultural center. Of course most of the flights start there. As the headline says.

      Reply
  5. Pat

    When people want to do something the truth is often discarded, along with logic and empathy.

    Let’s just go with sex. How many people have lied about their marital status, having been exposed to a std, gender preferences, ability to have children, etc? How many have told themselves it is just one time when choosing to go without condoms or other protective measures?

    Without even considering that people can be infected without showing symptoms, I don’t get trusting other people to act responsibly. Most might but there are always going to be some who won’t.

    And one of the few times I have been really shocked during this was the day I found out airlines were still flying passengers into and out of NY airports. I honestly thought activity was limited to mail, freight and refueling. It never should have been allowed.

    Reply
    1. Bsoder

      And why do we do this? These behaviors are those of children. Today, I’m as sad, angry, & crushed as I’ve been in awhile. I feel like the main character (Giebenrath) in Hesse’s Beneath the Wheel, a book devoted throughly to hopelessness.

      Reply
    2. ambrit

      I was always a contrarian, without the pseudo-philosophical rationalizations most develop.
      I was always somewhat pitied, reviled, and scorned for embracing the old fashioned virtue of fidelity. I’m no angel, but I have been able to control my “baser impulses” related to sex.
      A healthy disrespect for the law is an old English virtue. The same goes with social pressures. The trick is to recognize when one is being ‘pressured’ in one or another direction.
      Education of the self is key.

      Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Don’t ever call me English.” NSFW and lots of triggers, but Mamet would be proud.

          An entertaining though repellent interchange between “Malcolm Tucker” and “Tony Soprano.”

          (If I have the plot right, Tucker is helping to start a war with fake intelligence, and Soprano is trying to stop it (!!).)

          Reply
  6. fresno dan

    “Horticultural Therapy to the Rescue” [Modern Farmer].

    I bought a banana tree today. 6am Home Depot has less people than 6am Saturday Home Depot.
    I always wanted a banana tree, and they had one at home despot, so I decided this was my chance.

    It also showed that those who grew their own food, as opposed to ornamental gardens, expressed higher levels of happiness
    Unfortunately, no bananas grow on banana trees in Fresno, so all ornamental. However, with my canna lilies, and Hibiscus it will give a portion of the backyard a tropical air.
    If I hang a rope, I can swing and pretend to be tarzan – unfortunately, no Maureen O’Sullivan for me (although the woman swimming was Josephine McKim) – as I don’t have a pool, no swimming ;)
    actually, no swimming should be :(

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Pre Code Tarzan was so much fun. I have read that the underwater ‘ballet’ was filmed at one of the springs in central Florida. Knowing the economics of movie making of that time, I have my doubts. Nonetheless, I can attest to the fact that one can look forty or more feet down through that water at the bottom and think it is just below the surface.
      The Hays Office is but another example of the American Puritanical Code that declares: “We cannot have nice things.”

      Reply
      1. urblintz

        Silver, River, Silver Springs, FL:
        “Monkeyshines : Where’s Tarzan When Florida Really Needs Him?”

        Johnny Weismuller and the rest of the cast filmed the last Tarzan movie here 50 years ago, but they left behind some friends–a colony of monkeys, hardy little primates that grow to about 30 pounds.

        https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-09-14-mn-12428-story.html

        I tubed that river as a kid 45 years ago… the monkeys were there then and more-so now..

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          I went there as a kid too. Glass bottom boats. I believe Esther Williams also filmed some movie sequences there for MGM. Weismuller was of course an Olympic swimming champion.

          Reply
      2. fresno dan

        ambrit
        May 18, 2020 at 4:36 pm

        Maureen O’Sullivan, I saw in a documentary, didn’t to the neked swimming because she was shy, but she didn’t like to put her head underwater.
        Now, was she not wearing underroos? After long and hard viewing of the applicable scenes I can say maybe…

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          In one ‘memorable’ scene, she definitely was not. (The lions chasing her scene.)
          Pseudo NSFW (As in you have to stand on top of the dresser and look around the corner with a mirror to see the “shameless” neighbour unclothed in the window next door.) :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAJKHTRDc0o
          Tame by today’s standards, but out there back then.
          This was definitely not the version I saw as a kid on Saturday matinee television.

          Reply
    2. Tom

      I have a red leafed banana tree that is about five years old and deals with a long dry low light defoliating season indoors during Virginia winter.
      It is one of my favorite plants. It will never produce bananas. But so much food for the soul. Enjoy yours!

      Reply
      1. Left in Wisconsin

        My wife keeps one up here in Wisconsin in a big plastic pot. It loses most of its leaves during the 6 months of winter we have up here, when it “sleeps” in the basement. But come spring it is full of gorgeous new leaves. She’s just “transplanted” it outdoors (still in pot, pot buried in planter).

        Reply
  7. Henry Moon Pie

    To let Lambert know that he’s not the only one irritated by stupidity:

    To know without knowing is best.
    To not know without knowing it is sick.

    To be sick of sickness
    is the only cure.

    The wise aren’t sick.
    They’re sick of sickness
    so they’re well.

    Le Guin’s translation of Tao te Ching #71

    Reply
    1. MLTPB

      A lot of Chan, or Zen, comes from Dao.

      Here, I can imagine, for a person of Chan, to understand that, when one is beyond sickness, neither sick nor unsick, (in the style of Zhuangzi) one is unencumbered to traverse the cosmos.

      Reply
  8. occasional anonymous

    “What Liberals Don’t Get About Trump Supporters and Pop Culture” [Politico]

    I’m kind of past the point of trying to come up with more or less convoluted explanations for the behavior of Trump supporters. Many of them are just stupid, full stop (they aren’t uniquely stupid, of course; the Maddow loving, Russiagate believing Liberal is also a moron). How many people here have actually directly interacted with Trump voters? Many of these voters are simply dumb. I know one guy in particular who loves how Trump is always pissing people off on Twitter; that’s what he thinks of as good statesmanship. This guy has also gone from ‘this virus is just the flu’ to, about a 100k dead Americans later, ‘this thing is just made up by the Democrats so they have something to attack Trump over’, and him being ecstatic that the lockdowns are ending. He finds the story of the Texas salon owner who defied the orders to be inspirational. I genuinely don’t know what it will take to get through to him. Maybe his elderly sister dying from the virus, but possibly not even then.

    They are stupid, and enablers of further stupidity. Now they themselves won’t frame it as stupidity, they’ll say it’s actually intelligence and ‘common sense’, but that doesn’t change its nature.

    This pandemic should have completely demolished any illusions that there aren’t some percentage of Americans who aren’t simply utter morons.

    “On the other hand, blaming and shaming hasn’t worked all that well tactically, has it?”

    No, it hasn’t. But it seems to me that at a certain point we have to treat voters as adults. How is ‘liberals are smug and dismissive of me, therefore I’m going to keep voting to get my teeth kicked in’ any different than ‘a Bernie Bro was mean to me so I’m going to deny poor people healthcare’? If anything it’s worse.

    Reply
    1. Wyoming

      Well there are stupid people everywhere and I think we can agree on that. And your example of the stupid guy is pretty compelling that he is indeed pretty stupid.

      But make sure you don’t extrapolate from there into a belief that Trump got elected because he found more stupid people to vote for him than Hillary did. It is just not the case you know.

      While I am not a Trump admirer or voter I live deep in Trump country and a large dominant percentage of my neighbors are for Trump. Almost all of them are well educated and well off. Their primary motivation in supporting him now can be found by looking at the stock market indices. They are doing very well under him and you couple that with the conservative/libertarian ideology which dominates here in outlaw country (and I fully mean what that implies) and it is understandable. I don’t agree with them but I understand them pretty well. They are for themselves first and their ideology second. After that they will see what they can do. This seems harsh but it is not materially different from how the typical Democrat thinks (not Progressives of course as they are a different kettle of fish from a Democrat). So a pox on all Republicans and Democrats is what I say.

      If you are not a member of the 1% then the 1% is your enemy.

      Reply
      1. occasional anonymous

        “But make sure you don’t extrapolate from there into a belief that Trump got elected because he found more stupid people to vote for him than Hillary did. It is just not the case you know.”

        Trump won because half the country didn’t show up to vote at all because Clinton was so awful, which gave him the edge he needed to win the electoral college. So most people don’t buy his crap, but a significant enough percentage did to propel him to victory. And a significant number of those people are in turn willfully stupid.

        Stupidity isn’t incurable, it’s a habit enabled by propaganda. But I’m at a loss for how to punch through that propaganda. Because if tens of millions of people can convince themselves that Donald freaking Trump is a good person who is on their side, how the hell do you fight that?

        Reply
        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Don’t waste your time. As you noted half the country simply didn’t show up because Clinton was so awful. (and lets not forget the direct pain caused by the preceding Administrations and Congresses and broken promises). But even more importantly is the collapse in organizing efforts under Obama after he had what he wanted. When you consider the margins, there you go. Obviously winning Republicans in the Northern Virginia suburbs who largely have government related jobs didn’t help in the Midwest with similar Republicans (white flight moderates.).

          Given there was virtually no effort in 2006 and 2008 in the successful races to make Joe Scarborough feel good, perhaps the issue is not to worry about what Republicans think and worry about non -voters.

          And as far as Republicans not “believing” in science or whatever, everyone knows this or simply doesn’t care.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I think one thing that Sanders underestimated was how many people, who are not Trump lovers or Republicans, also hate Democrats, based on their long track record of betrayal. Some of the 2016 debacle was personal hatred of Clinton, but not all of it.

            Reply
    2. Carolinian

      Ya know, I don’t think they really care what you think. Sorry.

      It may be they are of the “if voting really mattered they wouldn’t let you do it” school and like Trump because he entertains them. This was always the Limbaugh line: all a big joke.

      Perhaps the left should spend less time feeling smug about the opposition and more time getting their act together. If the best they can come with against Trump is Biden then who are the dummies?

      Reply
      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        “….then who are the dummies?”

        People who claim “the left” came up with Biden.

        My only argument with occasional anonymous is that he misspelled “a**hat” as “stupid”. Jerks aren’t stupid. Not at all. They’re just people who value their own entertainment over the well-being of the nation and its citizens.

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          Touche. Although the left did support the guy who now endorses Biden.

          However I don’t really believe in calling people we don’t know dummies. Let’s just call some of their ideas dumb.

          Reply
    3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I’m coming to the conclusion that D is the more effective evil. R = “We are straight up 100% for big business and eventually that will be good for you because you will get some crumbs”. D = “We IS the people fighting big business except those baddies on the other side keep blocking all this good stuff we are trying to do for you. Except Um not really”.

      Reply
    4. False Solace

      Stupid? Ok. But stupidity is incurable so it leaves us with nothing. It’s the same as no answer.

      I attribute a lot to propaganda. Propaganda comes in red as well as blue flavors. They’re both known carcinogens, viciously capitalistic, and serve only the .1%.

      Reply
      1. polecat

        Purple. The propaganda has all morphed into a Bruising Royal Purple! .. as the Cares XXX CongressionalCorporate Porn Act has evidently proven out.

        Reply
    5. Nancy Boyd

      I think we have less a problem with stupidity than we do with personality disorders. A lot of Americans come off as “eternal puers:” they’re stuck in adolescence. And then a lot are classic narcissists — those are the successful ones. Why all this is, I can’t say. But I have no doubt it relates to the declining fortunes of the bottom 80% and the rapaciousness of those at the top along with the clarity that they will face no pushback, legal or extra-legal.

      There’s a term in domestic violence social work called DARVO. The abuser denies they’re abusing. Then they abuse. Then they reverse victim and offender, claiming that they’re the ones victimized by the situation, even when the true victim is beaten all to hell (or dying of coronavirus.)

      I see a lot of that in the yahoos of the right. (And also, it must be said, some on the left, most particularly around id pol.)

      Reply
    6. rowlf

      Ever wonder how many Trump voters were people who heard the media whining about how much they didn’t like Trump and said to themselves “Really? You smug SOBs. Is that where your goat is tied up at?” Was the 2016 vote more like a flip of the bird to pundit and political classes, who most people really don’t like?

      A lot of people miss the first law of venturing into the country: Don’t diss the locals – they’ll throw you in a big pot, shrink your head, and stick a bone through your nose.

      Reply
      1. occasional anonymous

        Sorry, but if someone thinks “shooting myself in the foot to own the libs” is a viable strategy, that person is an idiot.

        Reply
  9. Dr. John Carpenter

    I really needed a laugh today and that Stacey Abrams clip did the trick. Thanks for posting that. I had the best laugh I’ve had in a while.

    Reply
    1. richard

      I know! Cringy but good fun to see someone who desires power so intensely being toyed with and then deflated. And totally on purpose. I don’t neccessarily like Biden for doing it, but I got no problems with it either.

      Reply
      1. Pat

        I don’t think it was Biden doing the playing. For a lot of the same reasons I can’t believe anyone is voting for him.

        See I’m not sure he even realized how he, and Abrams were being set up. He just ran through his script about her. I bet someone had to explain it after the fact. Which would be even sadder for her, it didn’t even occur to him what was really being asked as it wasn’t something he had been coached about so not a factor in his brain where she was concerned.

        No the toying was done by whoever is the final say in the Biden campaign AND by the O’Donnell people (they choose to keep the camera on her.)

        Reply
        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Given how many state wide “centrists” there are, what does a state senator bring? She isn’t a moral or rhetorical leader. Her record is “working with Republicans’ to pursue GOP goals.

          I think she’s the darling of the chattering class that watches politics as a team sport and not much more. Beyond this, Abrams is more representative of the obvious problems with most “centrists” and a search for a “centrist” untouched by the inherent flaw of “centrists”. With Klob, Harris, Baldwin, Gillenbrand, etc being state wide office holders and holding similar values as such as they are to Biden, the whole Abrams thing is really just a bad joke.

          Reply
          1. Pat

            Id Pol at its finest.
            She does play well in front of friendly audiences. But so much of her “insurgent” campaign in Georgia was for the cameras. It always amused me that both Abrams and Harris used book tours to advance their unannounced campaigns.

            Reply
  10. Skip

    Re: “SARS-CoV-2 Rates in BCG-Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Young Adults” [JAMA]. A natural experiment…

    I’m hoping you landed a “dang” too soon, that there might still be a little room for optimism.

    “…the rates per 100 000 do not represent the positivity rate in the population, as persons tested were preselected based on reported symptoms.”

    So if I read the Discussion section correctly, big if, that could mean there were vaccinated individuals who might not have reported significant symptoms because they experienced enough of a mitigating benefit from the BCG vaccine to be unaware of an internal battle. Or that the virus simply didn’t catch hold of them despite exposure. Hence, such individuals didn’t figure into the study, causing such positive impacts to be missed (?).

    I hope that’s the case, we could use a break.

    Reply
  11. ChrisAtRU

    #WeaverPAC

    “For the millionth time, Obama didn’t stand up Biden to build up progressive coalitions.”

    It’s laughable, isn’t it? Can’t wait to see how much trail-stomping “RapRock” is gonna have to do to help #StromBroJoe … LOL

    Reply
  12. richard

    Hey, anybody who lives in WA should look at this (and others if interested of course) I copied it from the J. Hopkins data Lambert (glob bless him and all his works) provides above.
    It’s a graph showing new hospitalizations for Covid-19, averaged over a week. For WA it shows a continuous steep upward climb over the last 3-4 weeks. I checked a few other states, and it’s not like that anywhere else I saw.
    I’m wondering what could account for this. I’d heard that the east coast covid was (initially) the more virulent strain; I wonder if this might have a little to do with transmission of the more virulent strain to the west coast. I dunno, but it is a scary graph.
    (Late add: oops, I guess the graph goes back to default when I link it, which makes sense. Anyway, you’d have to check out New Hospitalizations for WA on your own, and then get ready to cover your eyes.)

    Reply
    1. kareninca

      Wow, that is distinctive. I just looked at all 50 states separately. That is the only state that has that sort of climb. What is up with that????? I hope it is some sort of graph typo.

      Reply
  13. Mikel

    “Still up on my high horse: Pandemics are hard schools, but fools will learn in no other.”

    Things are so polarized, I don’t know if they won’t still double down with people they know dropping dead around them.
    Time to start asking ourselves the possibility that it could be a tragedy akin to a cult mass suicide.
    It’s the system they HAVE TO BELIEVE IN or they do not recognize life nor imagine new ones in a different.
    Any other system has been programmed in them to mean “death.”
    They are choosing the way they want to die.
    Not defending anything, just musing over a possible outcome some don’t think could happen in this country.

    Reply
  14. The Rev Kev

    ‘There are at least three super PACs backing Biden that Bloomberg could give to: Unite the Country, Priorities USA and American Bridge.’

    I think that right now, political operatives are just making fun of voters. American Bridge? As in they have a bridge to sell you? And just whose Priorities exactly?

    Reply
  15. The Rev Kev

    ‘…and I don’t want to edit a snippet for Google.’

    Those snippets always seemed familiar to me and I think that I finally recognized them. In novels nowadays, each chapter will have a very brief title but in19th century novels, you would have almost a synopsis of the chapter full of teasers. Here is what is at the start of the first chapter for Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat”-

    ‘THREE INVALIDS. – SUFFERINGS OF GEORGE AND HARRIS. – A VICTIM TO ONE
    HUNDRED AND SEVEN FATAL MALADIES. – USEFUL PRESCRIPTIONS. – CURE FOR
    LIVER COMPLAINT IN CHILDREN. – WE AGREE THAT WE ARE OVERWORKED, AND NEED
    REST. – A WEEK ON THE ROLLING DEEP? – GEORGE SUGGESTS THE RIVER. –
    MONTMORENCY LODGES AN OBJECTION. – ORIGINAL MOTION CARRIED BY MAJORITY OF THREE TO ONE.’

    Reply
  16. JBird4049

    IIRC, Smallpox is highly infectious in the two weeks before symptoms appear and the more lethal strain was 30% fatal and that’s not mentioning the frequent, often massive, scarring and occasional blindness. Even the “mild” strain is more lethal than any flu and still scarred people.

    In this superficial, narcissistic, appearance obsessed society of ours, it would make a joke of all those morons ranting about freedom, the market, it won’t kill me, and best healthcare in world.

    With all the many, many dangerous, often lethal diseases that were rampant even a hundred years ago and the frequent quarantines, I am amazed that people not only had functioning societies but also cities, countries, kingdoms, and empires.

    Then again reading again and again about the often large numbers of dead sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters or the second and third spouse because the previous one died, often reported even in the 1% I wonder how they kept their sanity.

    Reply
  17. flora

    Covid-19, the govt, and the economy: What would Keynes do?

    Keynes and the Good Life. – by Jeff Sachs.

    Keynes today would address not only a searing health crisis and economic turmoil; he would instruct us on how the crisis lays bare the rot of our decayed public institutions, and he would bid us to pursue dazzling new solutions for our time.

    Therefore, trying to discern Keynes’s specific views—whether on trade, or money, or budget deficits, or public investments—almost surely misses the main point. Keynes did not give us a checklist of dos and don’ts other than general ones: Don’t waste human talents and physical resources through wanton unemployment, avoidable wars, or breakdowns of social and trade relations; don’t abuse power; don’t mistake wealth for happiness; and don’t tolerate the wanton suffering of others in the belief that all will be fine in the long run or that suffering is ordained and unavoidable. As the master of practical wisdom, Keynes honed solutions in the context in which crises arose.

    https://prospect.org/culture/books/keynes-and-the-good-life/

    Reply
  18. Stillfeelinthebern

    Commodities: “The damage to American meat supply chains from the coronavirus could be long-lasting. The head of JBS USA Holdings Inc.”

    I buy all my meat at a small locally owned grocery store that has their own butchers. It is great quality and always, ALWAYS cheaper than what is at the larger chain stores.

    Reply

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