2:00PM Water Cooler 5/22/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


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 linear scale as a default for US States and territories (see below).

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I changed the default from log to linear because of this post in today’s Links: “The public do not understand logarithmic graphs used to portray COVID-19“:

[W}e find that the group who read the information on a logarithmic scale has a much lower level of comprehension of the graph: only 40.66% of them could respond correctly to a basic question about the graph (whether there were more deaths in one week or another), contrasted to 83.79% of respondents on the linear scale. Moreover, people in the logarithmic group also proved to be worse at making predictions on the evolution of the pandemic: they predicted, on average, 71,250 deaths for a week after the experiment was taken, whereas the linear group predicted 63,429 (our ARIMA forecasting model indicated 55,791, and the actual number of deaths on that date was 54,256). Nevertheless, respondents in both groups stated a similar level of confidence in their answers.

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“‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?'” [The Atlantic]. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons. This is not merely a technical error. States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points…. Viral tests, taken by nose swab or saliva sample, look for direct evidence of a coronavirus infection. … Antibody tests, by contrast, use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past. A negative test result means something different for each test. If somebody tests negative on a viral test, a doctor can be relatively confident that they are not sick right now; if somebody tests negative on an antibody test, they have probably never been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus. (Or they may have been given a false result—antibody tests are notoriously less accurate on an individual level than viral tests.) The problem is that the CDC is clumping negative results from both tests together in its public reporting.” • Gaaah!!!


“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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Biden (D)(1): I kept making jokes during the electorally competive portion of the Democrat primary about “the Biden juggernaut,” but as it turned out, Biden had a good deal of good will on the balance sheet, despite virtually no investment in campaigning:

I wish I had some polling on Biden support and West Wing watching. I bet they correlate highly.

UPDATE Biden (D)(2): No words, as one says:

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “Biden: ‘If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black'” [Politico]. “The eyebrow-raising remarks from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee came during an at-times contentious interview on “The Breakfast Club” that aired Friday morning, during which co-host Charlamagne tha God challenged Biden over his decadeslong record on racial issues and current contemplation of a black, female running mate.” • Transcript:

“I’m not acknowledging anybody who is being considered, but I guarantee you, there are multiple black women being considered. Multiple,” Biden said of his search process for a vice presidential nominee.

It was then that an aide to the Biden campaign could be heard interjecting into the conversation, attempting to cut short the interview. “Thank you so much. That’s really our time. I apologize,” the aide said.

“You can’t do that to black media!” Charlamagne retored.

“I do that to white media and black media because my wife has to go on at 6 o’clock,” Biden shot back, apparently referring to a subsequent media appearance by Jill Biden. Glancing at his watch, he added: “Uh oh. I’m in trouble.”

“Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden,” Charlamagne said. “It’s a long way until November. We’ve got more questions.”

“You’ve got more questions?” Biden replied. “Well, I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

Biden’s thin skin gets him in trouble. And his staff has trouble controlling him:

UPDATE Biden (D)(4): “Nothing fundamental will change”:

UPDATE Biden (D)(5): “Tara Reade’s lawyer drops her as a client” [Politico]. “‘Our Firm no longer represents Tara Reade. Our decision, made on May 20, is by no means a reflection on whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted Ms. Reade,’ [Douglas] Wigdor wote. ‘On that point, our view — which is the same view held by the majority of Americans, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll — has not changed.'” • Oddly, either Wigdor didn’t explain his action, or Politico didn’t report on it.

UPDATE Biden (D)(6):

Cuomo (D)(1): “Why Does the Media Take the Onus Off Cuomo?” [The Cuomo Files]. “Right now, Cuomo commands the third largest budget in America, only behind what the State of California and the United States itself spends annually. With this budget comes the sort of power we can’t quite fathom—the ability to replenish or decimate school budgets, determine the fate of one of the world’s largest transit systems, or watch a bridge with your family’s name rise across a famous river. When there is success, no one takes more credit than Cuomo…. When there is failure, Cuomo disappears…. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided new opportunities for Cuomo to take credit and skirt blame…. For weeks, nursing home operators begged the state for more PPE and warned about the danger of readmitting sick residents into such a precarious environment. Rather than transfer nursing home residents to unused, makeshift hospital facilities that had sprung up across New York, Cuomo’s DOH forced patients back to their nursing homes to infect others…. On May 10, in a concession that his own policy was wrong, Cuomo announced a reversal: residents could only go back to their facilities if they tested negative for coronavirus. The most honest framing of this story would emphasize Cuomo created this policy, it was a disaster, and he had reversed course. With less popular and canny politicians (see de Blasio, Bill), this happens all the time. But look again at that Newsday front page: “NEW RULES ON NURSING HOMES. Cuomo: Hospitals Can’t Discharge Patients to Care Facilities Unless They Test Negative for Virus.” What’s missing here? Cuomo’s role in the catastrophe….. The second sentence in the headline implies, wrongly, hospitals were willingly dispatching nursing home residents who tested positive for coronavirus back to their nursing homes. Hospitals were being compelled to send them and nursing homes were ordered to take them. Who did the compelling and the ordering? Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, who controls the Department of Health.”

Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders, seeking peace with Joe Biden, asks his own delegates to turn down the volume” [WaPoi] (agreement). “‘Refrain from making negative statements about other candidates, party leaders, Campaigns, Campaign staffers, supporters, news organizations or journalists. This Campaign is about the issues and finding solutions to America’s problems,” said the social media policy sent to some delegates. ‘Our job is to differentiate the senator from his opponents on the issues — not through personal attacks.'” • If the Sanders campaign were entering the convention on a cresting wave of strikes that the Sanders “movement” had helped fund, nobody would be worrying about such trivialities…

Trump (R)(1): “COVID-19 continues spreading into counties with strong Trump support” [Brookings Institution]. “Now, for four weeks running, counties newly designated with a high prevalence of COVID-19 cases were more likely to have voted for Trump than for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, according to our analyses. In the latest week of this monitor, such counties favored Trump by a 12% margin in 2016, and, as in recent weeks, they are also much less urban and less racially diverse than places where the coronavirus was most prevalent in March and early April.” • Handy map:

It would be nice if there were some sort of semantic to the horrid color coding, but yellow is newest. The fulll fize version is available at the source.

UPDATE Trump (R)(2): “Divided by COVID-19: Democratic U.S. areas hit three times as hard as Republican ones” [Reuters]. “By Wednesday, U.S. counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election reported 39 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents, according to an analysis of demographic and public health data. In counties that voted for Republican Donald Trump, 13 of every 100,000 people had died from the virus. The uneven impact reflects the disproportionate toll the infectious disease has taken in densely packed Democratic-voting cities like New York. Rural areas and far-flung suburbs that typically back Republicans have not seen as direct an impact. The pattern holds beyond New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Democratic counties in 36 of the 50 U.S. states collectively reported higher death rates than Republican counties. In Maryland, where the disease has killed more than 2,000 people, the death rate in the Democratic suburbs of Washington is four times higher than in the conservative counties in the Appalachian panhandle.” • But how long will that last?

Health Care

One can’t help but wonder whether Acela corridor and a major media, political, and financial suffering its first wave of excess deaths — as opposed to falling life expectancy in flyover, deaths of despair, and the opioids epidemic — has anything to do with the differential coverage:

Granted, the excess deaths from ObamaCare don’t grow geometrically; they just chug along year after year. But is it possible that the system faces ruin, in Taleb’s sense, from this slow bleed as well? (Incidentally, I’m not sure that “the U.S.” can “impose” social distancing at the Federal level; most public health powers are at the state and local level. Cuomo could have, but didn’t.

Realignment and Legitimacy

But who gets the nukes:

“Columnist: ‘I Would Vote For Joe Biden If He Boiled Babies And Ate Them'” [Jonathan Turley]. “[Liberal Democrat support for Biden] has included statements from leading figures that they believe Biden did sexually assault Biden staffer Tara Reade but would still endorse him. None however have gone quite as far as Nation columnist Katha Pollitt who has declared that she would support Biden “if he boiled babies and ate them.” … Many Democratic politicians and commentators have struggled with the clearly hypocritical position of declaring Biden innocent while previously insisting that women “must be believed.” The problem is that, if you declare that no one has a right to be simply believed, it requires a full and fair investigation. However, Biden has refused to open up his records to look into any allegations of sexual harassment or sexual abuse by Reade or others. Thus, you can either declare Biden to be innocent without such a review of this papers as has Speaker Nancy Pelosi or you have to call for his records to be reviewed.”

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.

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 16 May 2020 – Biggest Weekly Decline Since 1988” [Econintersect]. “Intermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Whilst container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. continues to slow. The rate of growth of rail had been improving before the coronavirus (even though it was in contraction) – and now the coronavirus is driving rail deeper into contraction. The effects of coronavirus will continue to slow rail.”

Trucking: “Trucking Industry Growth Significantly Declines In April 2020 Due to Coronavirus Impact” [Econintersect].

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Commodities: “The pandemic is hitting seafood businesses even harder than the meat industry… crippling many of their key markets as fishermen and processors strain to redirect their highly perishable products. U.S. supermarket shoppers are buying more fish and shellfish to prepare at home during quarantine, but experts say 70% of seafood is consumed in restaurants and the sales to consumers aren’t offsetting the lost business” [Wall Street Journal]. “Fishermen across the country have docked vessels and distributors have rerouted what fresh fish they can towards groery stores and into freezers, while sometimes destroying the rest. Meanwhile, prices for many items have plummeted as costs climb for processors trying to prevent the virus from spreading in seafood plants as it has in slaughterhouses.”

Retail: “A long-running split in the retail sector is accelerating under the coronavirus pandemic. Department stores and apparel retailers along with the goods and services companies that supply them are staggering…while big-box chains such as Walmart Inc., Target Corp., Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos., are coping with sales surges”” [Wall Street Journal]. “The gap between the general-merchandise and hardware retailers and the department stores was growing even before the pandemic and economic crisis highlighted the fragile nature of traditional business models. Macy’s Inc., Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands Inc. and others reported steep sales declines last quarter, leaving them with mountains of excess inventory. ”

Shipping: “March 2020 U.S. Airline Cargo Data (Preliminary): International Cargo Weight Down 14%” [American Journal of Transportation]. “March 2020 would be the third consecutive month and the sixth month in the last seven that the total weight of cargo on U.S. airlines declined from the same month of the previous year. The 1.4% decrease from March 2019 was larger than the decreases from 2019 in both January (-0.5%) and February (-0.1%)…. March 2020 would be the fourth consecutive month that the weight of domestic cargo on U.S. airlines rose from the same month of the previous year.”

Shipping: “Amazon.com Inc. is opening its logistics operations more to third-party suppliers as it tries to get business moving normally again. The e-commerce behemoth has started allowing unlimited shipments of nonessential goods to warehouses… as part of a broader plan to resume pre-pandemic business operations” [Wall Street Journal]. “That includes pushing back its annual Prime Day shopping promotion until the fall, when the company’s leaders believe distribution networks will have regained their footing. Lifting the warehouse limits suggests Amazon can now process orders more quickly in its warehouses and handle more inventory after its shipping delivery times sank under a flood of orders driven by the coronavirus lockdowns. Retail competitors have stepped in with strong results in the meantime, in some cases claiming advantages in using their brick-and-mortar stores for fulfillment. Amazon’s shipping speeds have improved, but the company hasn’t reinstated one-day shipping for many Prime orders.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutra;) [CNN]. One week ago: 39 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 22 at 11:52am.

The Biosphere

Why I enjoy plants and find them hopeful:

“Tree Deaths in Urban Settings Are Linked to Leaks from Natural Gas Pipelines Below Streets” [Inside Climate News]. “Natural gas leaks from underground pipelines are killing trees in densely populated urban environments, a new study suggests, adding to concerns over such leaks fueling climate change and explosion hazards. The study, which took place in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a low-income immigrant community near Boston, also highlights the many interrelated environmental challenges in a city that faces high levels of air pollution, soaring summer temperatures and is now beset by one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the nation. Dead or dying trees were 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane in the soil surrounding their roots than healthy trees, according to the study published last month in the journal Environmental Pollution.”

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For dam faliure connoisseurs (remember Oroville?), “Michigan dam failure caught on video.” This was the first dam of two dams to go:

Here is a frame-by-frame explanation of that failure. Here is a photo gallery for all the failures. And here is a long thread of commentary by dam mavens:

“Dow in Midland: Flood water mixed with our containment ponds; no chemicals released” [Detroit Free Press]. “Dow announced on its Facebook and Twitter pages that flood waters began ‘commingling with on-site containment ponds’ at the Midland plant at about 10 a.m. The company then partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard to activate emergency flood preparedness plans. Later in the afternoon, company officials said the flood waters were mixing ‘with an on-site pond used for storm water and brine system / groundwater remediation,’ adding, ‘The material from the pond commingling with the flood waters does not create any threat to residents or environmental damage. There has been no reported product releases.'” • Raising the question of what, exactly, was being remediated…. And from fracking, I have a bad feeling about that word, “brine.” It’s not like ocean brine, at all.

“Dow critics skeptical of company’s claim floodwaters pose no threat of contamination” [MLive]. “Christy McGillivray, political and legislative director of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, said she does not trust Dow’s statement claiming that mixing of what is in the containment pond with floodwaters pose no threat to humans or the environment. ‘They have a long and very colorful history of harming public and human health and insisting that they’re not doing anything wrong,’ McGillivray said. She does not know of a case in which the company did not resist taking responsibility, she said, calling Dow’s corporate history related to the topic ‘egregious.’… [Allen Burton, who is a professor of environment and sustainability and of earth and environmental sciences, director of U-M’s Institute for Global Change Biology] also has concerns about the flood stirring up existing contaminants at the Superfund site. The rush of water could carry those substances downriver. ‘There’s a whole mishmash of pathogens and chemicals that are being introduced into the river, so there’s gonna have to be a lot of sampling downstream — not only in the river but obviously in the floodplain where this water has spread,’ Burton said.”


“America’s longest river was recently drier than during the Dust Bowl. And it’s bound to happen again.” [WaPo]. “For the first decade of the century, the Upper Missouri River Basin was the driest it’s been in 1,200 years, even more parched than during the disastrous Dust Bowl of the 1930s, a new study says. The drop in water level at the mouth of the Missouri — the country’s longest river — was due to rising temperatures linked to climate change that reduced the amount of snowfall in the Rocky Mountains in Montana and North Dakota, scientists found.”

Health Care

“Cluster of Coronavirus Disease Associated with Fitness Dance Classes, South Korea” [Centers for Disease Control, Emerging Infectious Diseases]. The abstract: “During 24 days in Cheonan, South Korea, 112 persons were infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 associated with fitness dance classes at 12 sports facilities. Intense physical exercise in densely populated sports facilities could increase risk for infection. Vigorous exercise in confined spaces should be minimized during outbreaks.” • Here is extremely handy diagram:

Note that the tweet both provides gym rats witih plausible guidlines for safety (no high intensity classes), and a plausible business model for gyms that want to open. (“High intensity” implies, I would imagine, heavy breathing, which correlates neatly with the discovery that shouting — much more so than talking, or simply breathing — is a likely transmission vector.) “Keep calm and carry on” would seem to apply in many ways!

“Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis” [The Lancet]. “We did a multinational registry analysis of the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19. The registry comprised data from 671 hospitals in six continents. We included patients hospitalised between Dec 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020, with a positive laboratory finding for SARS-CoV-2. Patients who received one of the treatments of interest within 48 h of diagnosis were included in one of four treatment groups (chloroquine alone, chloroquine with a macrolide, hydroxychloroquine alone, or hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide), and patients who received none of these treatments formed the control group…. We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, when used alone or with a macrolide, on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19. Each of these drug regimens was associated with decreased in-hospital survival and an increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used for treatment of COVID-19… To our knowledge, these findings provide the most comprehensive evidence of the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine (with or without a macrolide) for treatment of COVID-19.” • I don’t want to get cranky about this, but my understanding is that the strongest case for hydroxychloroquine is not in hospital, but as a preventative or at the first sign of symptoms, in combination with at least zinc (readers correct my faulty memory). So 671 drunks looking under the lamppost are no more likely to find the keys than one drunk.

“If 80% of Americans Wore Masks, COVID-19 Infections Would Plummet, New Study Says” [Vanity Fair]. I don’t believe we ever ran this link as a link. From May 5, still germane: “”One reason is that nearly everyone there is wearing a mask,” said De Kai, an American computer scientist with joint appointments at UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute and at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is also the chief architect of an in-depth study, set to be released in the coming days, that suggests that every one of us should be wearing a mask—whether surgical or homemade, scarf or bandana—like they do in Japan and other countries, mostly in East Asia. This formula applies to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (occasional mask refuseniks) as well as every other official who routinely interacts with people in public settings. Among the findings of their research paper, which the team plans to submit to a major journal: If 80% of a closed population were to don a mask, COVID-19 infection rates would statistically drop to approximately one twelfth the number of infections—compared to a live-virus population in which no one wore masks.” • Same for Hong Kong. I wonder if the same could be true fir Bangkok, Thailand, as well, because there, PM2.5 particulate matter from construction has been a known health risk for awhile, so mask-wearing was frequent, if by no means universal.

Mask wars:

“FDA names 28 antibody tests to be taken off the market” [Fierce Biotech]. “The FDA named more than two dozen coronavirus antibody diagnostics it says should be taken off the market weeks after the agency closed its open-door policy on COVID-19 blood tests and required developers to submit their products and data for review. The 28 serology tests, mostly manufactured overseas, include ones that were voluntarily withdrawn by their sponsors as well as those that neglected to pursue an official FDA Emergency Use Authorization. Under a policy in place from mid-March through early May, the agency allowed over 180 antibody blood tests to be sold and distributed in the U.S. without federal review but with certain conditions for manufacturers: They must notify the FDA of their plans, perform self-validation studies and carry a label saying the product is not authorized and incapable of diagnosing COVID-19 on its own.” • I wonder how that affects our already jumbled testing statistics…

“5 tips for supporting mental health during COVID-19” [World Economic Forum]. “Stress accelerates and reaches new peaks every day and threatening news continues to trigger uncertainty and anxiety. In fact, according to a recent survey published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of the people living in the United States feel the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. This is not something we anticipated and were prepared for and many of us feel lonely, helpless and are looking for much needed support in dealing with this life-changing crisis.” • Handy chart:

I suppose if I’m a Walmart executive I’ve seeing my market for charging by the minute for counselling expand. So there’s a bright side.

“Social determinants of health and survival in humans and other animals” [Science]. “Social scientists are motivated by an interest in contributing to policy that improves human health. Evolutionary biologists are interested in the origins of sociality and the determinants of Darwinian fitness. These research agendas have now converged to demonstrate strong parallels between the consequences of social adversity in human populations and in other social mammals, at least for the social processes that are most analogous between species. At the same time, recent studies in experimental animal models confirm that socially induced stress is, by itself, sufficient to negatively affect health and shorten life span. These findings suggest that some aspects of the social determinants of health—especially those that can be modeled through studies of direct social interaction in nonhuman animals—have deep evolutionary roots. They also present new opportunities for studying the emergence of social disparities in health and mortality risk.” • Social distancing, as a “new normal,” will have its own costs.

“It’s a good day.” [Zeldman on Web & Interaction Design]. “This is what recovery looks like for my family: an endless sleeping sickness. Every weekday I wake up energetic, convinced that I’m definitely getting better. Even with all the sleeping, I really am confident that I’m recovering. But how do I quantify that? People who care ask how I’m doing. It’s hard tell them. They want to hear I’m getting better. I try not to disappoint them. But I don’t lie. Things are about the same. And about the same. And about the same. Yes, I am getting better. No, nothing has really changed. Our fevers are long gone. We are not contagious. We wheeze and are exhausted. That’s what recovery looks like on weekdays. On weekends, I sleep all day.”

Failed State

“Coronavirus: Over 1,000 California pastors agree to defy state’s order, reopen churches on May 31” [ABC7]. “More than 1,200 pastors across California, including in the Southland, say they will defy the state’s stay-at-home order to resume in-person church services on May 31…. On Wednesday, attorney Robert Tyler said a large collective of pastors signed a letter pledging to resume services at the end of the month. The letter came one day after the U.S. Department of Justice sent Newsom a letter saying his order discriminates against churches.” • Gotta keep the collection plates overflowing…. (I’m betting these aren’t the storefront churches Chris Arnade writes about.)

Zeitgeist Watch

Via dk:

Class Warfare

“Why Our Economy May Be Headed for a Decade of Depression” (interview) [Nouriel Roubini, New York Magazine]. “In the short run, I expect a U-shaped recovery while the markets seem to be pricing in a V-shape recovery…. If you listen carefully to what Fed officials are saying — or even what JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are saying — initially they were all in the V camp, but now they’re all saying, well, maybe it’s going to be more of a U. The consensus is moving in a different direction…. You’re going to start having food riots soon enough. Look at the luxury stores in New York. They’ve either boarded them up or emptied their shelves, because they’re worried people are going to steal the Chanel bags. The few stores that are open, like my Whole Foods, have security guards both inside and outside. We are one step away from food riots. There are lines three miles long at food banks. That’s what’s happening in America. You’re telling me everything’s going to become normal in three months? That’s lunacy.” • Well, that’s bracing!

News of the Wired

Alert reader Ambrit mentioned Phillip Glass the other day; Glass did the soundtrack for Amazon’s (sigh) movie version of Simon Stalenhag’s Tales from the Loop:

“America’s most illegal record has been obliterated” [WhichCar]. “The Cannonball Run is a simple, and highly illegal, record that despite having no governing body, is infamous within car culture…. To set a Cannonball Run record, you must traditionally start at the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan, then traverse the entire United States of America as fast as possible to finish at the Portofini Inn in Redondo Beach, California… According to [Ed] Bolian, who has been in contact with the new record holders, the time to beat is now less than 26 hours. A sub 28-hour Cannonball Run was once unthinkable. While he has not disclosed the exact time, that frame of reference means the drivers would have had to achieve an average speed of at least 173km/h for the 4507km journey…. This new flurry of record attempts follows a team of drivers who took advantage of empty roads that had been created by the coronavirus lockdown to set a cross-country time of 26 hours and 38 minutes.” • So, optimism!

“Meta Blog” [Tim Bray]. Reflecting on hit count from his recent post on resigning from Amazon: “But aren’t blogs dead? · Um, nope. For every discipline-with-depth that I care about (software/Internet, politics, energy economics, physics), if you want to find out what’s happening and you want to find out from first-person practitioners, you end up reading a blog. … Dense information from real experts, delivered fast. Why would you want any other kind?”

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (AM):

AM writes: “The street outside the house on April 9th, in RI. Not sure if these are cherry or crabapple trees, but friends and family in Maine say cherry. I have decided to call them ‘snow blossoms’ and am very glad that I have flowers on the trees instead of the snow that fell on the same day in Maine!!” It is actually very important to look up at the sky in the early spring, and generally.

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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.


  1. Arizona Slim

    Shall we talk amongst ourselves?

    I’ll kick things off by noting the doves nesting in my front yard mesquite tree. While Mrs. Dove is constructing the nest, Mr. Dove is acting like a guy in the lumber section at Home Depot.

    He’s picking up twigs, dropping them, picking up different twigs, and, man, this is exhausting. Time for a rest.

    I can’t help thinking that this guy is married to the birdie equivalent of Martha Stewart. Because he can’t fly up to the nest with just any twig. It has to be the perfect twig.

    1. anon in so cal

      Sounds great! Both the Doves and the Mesquite tree! Are they White-winged Doves or Mourning?

      1. Arizona Slim

        White winged? As in, the ones with the racing stripes? If so, that’s what they are.

          1. ObjectiveFunction

            Wait, wait, let me guess. Sounds like she’s singing: Oo (baby)! Oo! Oooh!

  2. Jason Boxman

    “Tree Deaths in Urban Settings Are Linked to Leaks from Natural Gas Pipelines Below Streets”. My first thought is they should check out the dying trees lining the streets in Somerville, but then I read the next sentence. Oh, to live at an epicenter of so many things. What joy!

    I always thought it was water. How can a tree possibly get enough water? There is only like 1ft sq or less of exposed dirt around these trees. Hard to fathom they don’t die immediately. The ones at Seven Hill Park next to the Davis Sq subway keep falling over in windy storms. And they’re surrounded by grass! We’ve lost two in the past three years, and another lost a huge limb. And these trees must be 25? ft tall.

    1. Bsoder

      Ah, cities with forestry departments ususally make sure the grating around trees is enough to catch a sufficient amount of rain water. Trees with grass under them have the same problem you refer to. Second, the trees are ususally watered if the temperature gets to a certain set point. Third, special bags that release water as in a drip set are often attached to trees that look like they need it.

  3. howseth

    “It would be nice if there were some sort of semantic to the horrid color coding, but yellow is newest”

    Hey – that Covid-19 weekly spread map shown – to my eyes – is better color than most color coded charts. Why? I have ‘moderate’ red/green color blindness (a common male thing), and so many color charts are too subtle in the red/green and blue purple range. I often need to squint hard to make out the differences. Screw the aesthetics – I want to read the chart.

    1. S

      My guess is that the chart designer is leaving room at the red end of the spectrum for future developments, so that in a month, when the whole country is colored in, the newest counties (colored red) will correlated strongly with “red state America”.

    2. Bsoder

      I want highly contrasting colors horrid or otherwise, charts that use a color it’s gradients are for me very hard to process. 19 shades of red great. Be one thing to touch the graphic and the key light up but nah I got to work it but I don’t, life’s short and death forever. The NYT is the worst.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Since the colors represent a time sequence, the colors themselves should be sequenced in some way. The spectrum of, well, shades of blue to red suggests itself. That way, one doesn’t have to glance constantly back and forth from the key to the map.

      1. howseth

        There are other ways to sequence besides increasing subtle, and difficult to eyeball, variations in color tint – or in addition to color – adding lines and patterns.

        Also, like testing in other fields, do map designers – and commercial graphic artists – actually test their maps – and color signs with all kinds of real world people? Or just selected Japanese pearl divers, and sorters, and young female undergrad painting students with exquisite color vision?

  4. Big River Bandido

    A few days ago I asked the commentariat whether I should still vote for Sanders in the NYS Democrat primary. Some good arguments were raised about sticking it to them by still voting for Sanders. But if he’s not going to make any noise with the delegates he has, I’m not sure why I should bother.

    1. Pat

      Personally I would do it just to spit on Cuomo (and Obama). You know every vote for Sanders annoys them.

      And the more people who make it clear they will actively tell the Democratic leadership to stuff it…Well the more people who just might not go along in safe N.Y. could be the stuff of their nightmares. I just don’t think not voting does that in the current climate.

      Not that they will. Cuomo may be rightfully coming under fire for his so-called leadership in the last few days, but unfortunately the state will probably still blame Trump more.

      Still going to give them the middle finger.

      1. Eureka Springs

        How much more clear than what, 73 percent of the electorate not voting for them in ’16 do we have to be?

      2. Keith

        I am not so sure. A vote for Sanders will likely be assumed to be a vote for Biden later. No shows tend to be the wild card, hence the hub bub of the lack of black turn out for Clinton.

    2. ambrit

      Bother because there is a good chance that the Sanders Bloc will act independently of Sanders, as in, develop a mind of it’s own. Imagine an in person convention with a sizable self actualizing bloc of electors!
      If, however, the conventions go ‘virtual,’ I will be absolutely certain that the entire process will be rigged. In that case, how does one ‘demonstrate’ in a virtual setting? Employ a massive DDoS attack strategy? In that case, the ‘old’ Sanders Internet Campaign infrastructure had better get on it now, preparing to really f— with the Virtual Democrat Party this summer. I mean, that’s what hackers are for, right? (Virtual Democrat Party works so well on multiple levels.)[Puns intended.]

      1. polecat

        Well, no .. Cuz the next thing ya know, Nancy & her wrecking crew will demand they be sent to Assanges palatial digs, on spurious grounds, because She & them are corrupt, down to their grifting black hearts ten times too small!

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Employ a massive DDoS attack strategy?

        So I am not the only one to think of this! The Virtual Democratic Party vs. the Virtue Signaling Democrat Party. Brand confusion?

        1. ambrit

          No, not brand confusion. They are both wholly owned subsidiaries of the old Octopus Oligarchic Omniparty Organization LLC. Just like the ‘Republican Party’ and the ‘New Populist Republican Party and Casino Management Organization LLC.’

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I think you should go ahead and vote for Sanders. I believe in the present situation it remains the clearest none-of-the-above vote.

  5. christofay

    Biden’s policies are beginning to develop, anti-Palestinian cause they aren’t grownups, work the bureaucratic structure of Romney/Obama Care, telling black people they aren’t black. Is there a reason to vote for him?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          We’re about to have another wonderfully clarifying election! For a long time, “We’re not the other guys!” has been the baseline appeal for Democrat support, but we have never seen an election where that was the only appeal….

          1. ambrit

            I do not dwell in the ‘Land of Cable News,’ but I imagine that this election is where “We’re not the other guys!” is disproven.

    1. neo-realist

      In his own awkward way, Biden was reminding them of the anti-black attitudes of the Trump administration and its fans. I’m not a huge Biden fan by any stretch of the imagination, but the Republicans really go out of their way to crush Black Americans, e.g., voter suppression, anti-civil rights attitudes, and support and or tolerance of police and vigilante violence toward blacks. While the dems by and large don’t do a whole lot as far as positive institutional change for Black Americans – with the exception, I would argue, of the Federal Monitor Program for Police Departments, which was dismantled by those “equivalent equals” when it regained the white house – they don’t go out of their way to crush them like the republicans do, which would make one understand broad black support, even for a turnip like Biden.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Did African Americans need to be reminded about Trump? Do they need a white father to help them?

        1. neo-realist

          Some of them may require a less pernicious front man who will allow them to better exercise their rights and freedoms without proactively knocking them down.

          Besides, you know what happened to the real black leaders that tried to help them through structural change.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Ah…so you don’t see the problem with the old white guy and friend of Strom Thurmond determining who is black or not?

          2. anon in so cal

            More from Biden’s Breakfast Club interview:

            “Joe Biden says that anyone who goes to jail is there because they were “victims of abuse or their mother was,” “can’t read” and “they don’t have any job skills.”


            Black wealth and black homeownership declined under Obama’s tenure.


            1. JBird4049

              Wealth and homeownership has declined for all economic, social, and racial groups of the lower 90% of Americans over the past forty, which is why I get annoyed when I hear about racism is the cause for poverty. It’s not.

              That said, there is a strain of Americans who specifically target blacks for economic destruction either because they hate seeing economically successful non-whites or because blacks are more vulnerable to exploitation. Probably both at the same time.

              Every time I hear someone in the semiofficial Democratic Sphere bleat about how the Democrats do and have always supported minorities or how racist the Republicans/Americans/Fill-in-the-Blank, I start wondering if another political chevauchée is about to happen. But that’s also true of the semiofficial Republican Sphere.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                Ha ha! Wikipedia:

                A chevauchée (French pronunciation: ​[ʃəvoʃe], “promenade” or “horse charge”, depending on context) was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, primarily by burning and pillaging enemy territory in order to reduce the productivity of a region, as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest. The use of the chevauchée declined at the end of the 14th century as the focus of warfare turned to sieges.

                I suppose Sherman’s March to the Sea was a chevauchée. Turns out total war was not a Union invention?

                1. richard

                  Annibale of Radio War Nerd has taught me all about the chevauchee. I’d always assumed civilians didn’t start getting the worst of it in warfare until much later; how wrong I was.

                2. ObjectiveFunction

                  Cornwallis’ army ended up trapped at Yorktown after burning its way up from Charleston into Virginia. The Royal Navy was also sacking towns along the coast up to the very end of hostilities.

                  Eliminating an elusive enemy by starving them (together with their source populations) is as old as warfare itself. Vae victris. It was a generally accepted custom of war, especially against irregular fighters, into the early 20th century (Philippine insurrection, Boer War, etc.)

                  It is the only real way to ‘win’ in Afghanistan.

                  1. JBird4049

                    There’s also the fact that pre-modern armies always had supply problems especially with food. The solution was to take from the surrounding county, which was why the defenders would use “scorched earth” tactics including poisoning the water supplies leaving nothing for the attackers. The locals got it in the neck from both sides.

                    During the interminable peace talks in the Thirty Years War military commanders would plan their campaigns for areas that had not been pillaged before. So you had these large, wandering armies tens of thousands each stripping the country of everything. Kill or conscript the men, effectively enslave the women, maybe let the children live, eat their food, and burn everything else.

                    The rulers did not want to disband their armies because they would have to pay whatever backpay was owed and let loose hundreds of thousands of armed, hardened thieves, rapists, and murderers. And the peace talks went on for years. No wonder why Germany lost half of its male population. And that the Thirty Years War is considered a greater disaster for Germany than both world wars combined. All caused by what devolved into a giant series of raids or chevauchées all over the then Germanies. Ugh.

  6. WillyBgood

    Another Biden gaffe with many levels of unbelievable condescension. I’ve taken care of loved ones with dementia and the quick irrational anger is highly indicative:

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Another Biden gaffe with many levels of unbelievable condescension

      It’s almost like liberal Democrats think they, well, own the black vote.

      1. Librarian Guy

        Despite having pols like Biden and Bloomberg at one point credibly being their Presidential front runners!! (Okay, Bloomie didn’t really make it 20 yards past the starting line. Maybe having zero human charisma, + being horribly condescending towards the other candidates and voters, coz “I’m richer than all of you” were his stumbling blocks.)

        Obama owned the black vote and conditions for the black population grew so much worse during his admin, but since the corporate media doesn’t cover that fact, it seems to matter little.

        1. Carla

          “Obama owned the black vote and conditions for the black population grew so much worse during his admin, but since the corporate media doesn’t cover that fact, it seems to matter little.”

          All true. Yet I think is important to acknowledge that Obama’s presidency, while making the material conditions of African Americans’ lives by almost any measure worse, simultaneously made the psychological condition of MANY African Americans significantly, if immeasurably, BETTER.

          I almost never see references to the latter point.

          1. John k

            Good point.
            Sad, though, that expecting so little means they’re happy with a token, even a token that actively acts against their interests. The library is just the latest.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > simultaneously made the psychological condition of MANY African Americans significantly, if immeasurably, BETTER.

            Should this not be measurable?

            1. Basil Pesto

              good point by Carla that I hadn’t really considered before in quite those terms, and good rebuttal (?) by Lambert. I have nothing to add, but I think it merits further discussion. Particularly by those with more skin in the game, if you’ll excuse the pun. I suppose the figureheads of such a debate might be Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adolph Reed Jr, respectively.

    2. Bsoder

      ‘”quick irrational anger is highly indicative”, of what? As a board certified psychiatrist I want to know. The problem with dementia is your dividing by zero and what you get is irrational. Actual, it sounded like a classic Biden quip. Black people can speak for themselves as to its meaning if any. And that’s quip is right up there with trump saying even if it kills everyone there will be no more lockdowns. Why, I bet I’m wrong in thinking that there’s nothing similar about those guys at all.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > ”quick irrational anger is highly indicative”, of what?

        The commenter indicates “what”:

        I’ve taken care of loved ones with dementia and the quick irrational anger is highly indicative:

        (I think it would be quibbling to require “of dementia” after “highly indicative,” since it’s obvious from context.)

        From a cursory search:

        National Institute on Aging, under “Signs of Mild Alzheimer’s Disease”: “Increased anxiety and/or aggression.”

        Neurology Advisor: “Neuropsychiatric symptoms, specifically sleep behavior and irritability, are linked to metabolic dysfunction on specialized positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and may be an early noncognitive symptom of Alzheimer’s dementia, according to results published in Neurology.”

        Admittedly, I dislike armchair diagnosis; my medical concerns with Clinton were limited to her coumadin use, where I had family experience. But since it’s out there… And Trump will ask him to “draw a clock” in debate…

  7. Katiebird

    I had no idea that The Cannonball Run was a real thing! That is amazing — The speed those guys have to keep up. And the record broken 7 times in 5 weeks.

    (I just Read Lamberts introduction, now to read the article)

    1. Louis Fyne

      —the time to beat is now less than 26 hours. A sub 28-hour Cannonball Run was once unthinkable—

      These modern run records (imo) totally go against the spirit of the old Cannonball Runs and deserve an asterisk—-as they generally have teams of advance scouts with radios, radar detectors, 24-hr gas stations, etc.

      The old-timers had to deal with breakdowns, traffic, construction, closed gas stations, law enforcement, etc. all in cars with carburetors!

      then there are the obvious safety issues—-even if one navigates all traffic, hitting a deer at 110 mph probably ain’t fun.

      1. Katiebird

        Yeah, I can’t really see An all star movie being made out of racing on empty highways…..

        1. Bazarov

          A movie about the logistics of such a run–a movie emphasizing the team effort and planning–could be quite riveting. Also, the backdrop of the Pandemic would give it a lot of flavor.

      2. Bsoder

        Did you ever meet Brock Yates? One needed to check you still had your wallet after talking with him. Cheating has how you could even attempt it. I think old timers would be impressed with how it’s all worked out.

  8. Chris

    With all due respect to Matt Taibi, I think Joe Biden is in fine shape to steal victory from Joe Biden.

    “You ain’t black!”

    He really just can’t help himself. So glad he’s the best and will bring about the best cabinet with the best VP and we should vote for him because Trump is bad… :/

    1. Knifecatcher


      I mean, he has to pick a black female VP now, right?

      1. ambrit

        From the looks of things, if he makes it to the convention intact, and that is a very big if, (we consider the rate of politico inhabited small aircraft crashes,) Biden will have to pick an Evangelical Black Female. You gotta appeal to those suburban and increasingly ex-urban Republicans!

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        Are we sure? In one week, he’s humiliated a black woman and yelled at a black man. That video of old, white Joe yelling at a young black man is running on all the networks. Is Joe’s campaign making a play for a piece of Trump’s “core” vote?

      3. John k

        I think he’s just trolling them.
        How many black staffers does he have?
        My impression is he was buddies with racists not bc he liked everything else about them. Being from Maryland he had to be a bit more circumspect than his southern buddies.
        Anyway, it is and always has been the Klob… Stacy already knows, he told her in a publicly humiliating fashion

      1. Howard

        Obama Inc. did handle the 2008 crash well. My 401k recovered, my house appreciated in value, and my Wall Street job was made secure. Rinse/repeat for 2020.
        Wait, who are those people with pitchforks/guillotines at my door??

    2. richard

      yeah, i don’t see him doing anything but losing
      I mean, he might win
      but nothing in his track record indicates the political insticts or inclination to take advantage of:
      economic depression
      a president with no answers and no support for anyone
      Because (drum roll please) he has no answers or support for anyone either! He can’t, he’s a dem. But thanks for playing, bye now!

    3. Dr. John Carpenter

      What’s really interesting to me is if you put the whole thing in context, Biden wasn’t just presuming to define blackness to a black man, he was doing it because that black man dared to question Biden’s record with the African American community. And I think there are valid questions to be asked. If Biden is as good as he thinks, he shouldn’t have to resort to such an insensitive and insulting statement to shut down discussion. His record should speak for itself.
      It’s also worth noting this isn’t the first time this season he’s spoke about race in an entitled and condescending manner. Does he think people won’t notice that?

    4. Bazarov

      Biden, if the economy does not recover quickly, is likely to win, in my view. The polling seems to indicate he has real strength with the elderly (65+), one of Trump’s strongholds. And he seems to be running a campaign that jettisons identity politics–Me Too, kayfabe respect for black people, etc. Everyday voters hate the “official corporate diversity language” of identity politics. Biden’s style could (and honestly has in the primary) resonate broadly.

  9. Samuel Conner

    re: “‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’”

    Some weeks ago, the CSSE dashboard started reporting “# of tests administered” and at first it was in the 10s of thousands per day. Not long after this metric was added to the dashboard, I noticed that the daily rate increased a great deal, IIRC about a factor of 10. At the time, I reckoned that they must be including serological tests, since those are easier to implement at scale than RNA tests and there was a lot of talk about blood testing at the time. The thought did not occur to me that this would have public policy implications. “gah!” indeed.

    It has the “feel” of pubiic perceptions management. I wonder whether it may be that the CDC’s decision about blending the test capacity information was imposed, by fiat or pressure, on the CDC from higher-ups in the Executive Branch.

    “See! We lead the world in testing!”

    1. Oregoncharles

      CDC was directly responsible for the US not having tests available. They’re trying to cover for their own blunder, which is still having serious effects. So they didn’t really have to be TOLD to fake it.

  10. Duck1

    Not to minimize that there might be problems with the flooding at Dow in Midland, MI, but the outfit got it’s start pumping up brine and refining bromine for various chemical uses. So the brine ponds might be looked at as a raw material residue, rather than a chemical product.

  11. Hana M

    Why do I have to go to the National Review to read about a strategy that worked? Heaven forbid we should hear positive things said about a Republican governor! This interview with Ron DeSantis highlighted an early strategy prioritizing nursing homes that actually made sense:

    But the nursing homes represented a different level of risk. “It was clear to me,” says Mary Mayhew, “that there were much higher standards related to infection control being outlined by the federal CDC that well exceeded what our nursing homes traditionally have been expected to adhere to. So we never had false expectations.”

    Inspectors and assessment teams visited nursing homes. The state homed in on facilities where, Mayhew says, “we had historically cited around infection control. We used that to prioritize our visits to those facilities, understanding that the guidance from CDC was changing frequently. So our initial focus was to be an effective resource education to provide guidance to these facilities to make sure they understood how to request personal protective equipment from the state.”

    Florida, DeSantis notes, “required all staff and any worker that entered to be screened for COVID illness, temperature checks. Anybody that’s symptomatic would just simply not be allowed to go in.” And it required staff to wear PPE. “We put our money where our mouth is,” he continues. “We recognized that a lot of these facilities were just not prepared to deal with something like this. So we ended up sending a total of 10 million masks just to our long-term-care facilities, a million gloves, half a million face shields.”

    Florida fortified the hospitals with PPE, too, but DeSantis realized that it wouldn’t do the hospitals any good if infection in the nursing homes ran out of control : “If I can send PPE to the nursing homes, and they can prevent an outbreak there, that’s going to do more to lower the burden on hospitals than me just sending them another 500,000 N95 masks.”


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Still dubious about Spring Break, but as my link shows, Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes was a debacle, and DeSantis seems to have been better (the NR isn’t the only place I’ve read this). Thanks for the link.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Same happened in the UK where patients were sent to nursing homes to relieve the pressure on the hospitals but without testing these people first. So of course that set off mass infections in nursing homes with the arrival of infected people. So totally unnecessary this disaster within a disaster.

  12. boydownstream

    One has to wonder what parallels there are between the Michigan floods and the Johnstown, PA floods on May 31, 1889, after the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam, located on the south fork of the Little Conemaugh River, 14 miles (23 km) upstream of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

    1. JBird4049

      Sent without testing? Good grief, anyone with any sense would have known what was about to happen. I guess that they really did want that surplus population to go die.

  13. Swamp Yankee

    Re: Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan —

    In grad school (History) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of the requirements is a number of research seminars, in which you produce a research paper over the course of a semester (or longer, often) that could stand as a chapter of a dissertation and moves you towards that goal. I became increasingly interested in Michigan the longer I lived there, and about ten years ago I decided I’d write my paper on the development of the Saginaw Valley in the period 1800 – 1860.

    By Saginaw Valley, I meant all the land drained by the Saginaw River’s basin, which included its major tributaries, including the Tittabawassee River, which flows through Midland. Dow has a long history of dirty dealings with that stream, making it one of the most polluted in Michigan. The story that really said it all for me was this:

    Dow held a fish-fry for its employees at a park along the river in Midland. Families were encouraged to come and fish, but with major caveats — people were advised not to walk with bare feet on the river sand. And yes, people fished, enacting a cultural connection with the formerly bountiful natural resources of the region — but they were strictly advised not to eat what they caught. Instead, ocean-caught cod had been trucked in by Dow to take the place of the dioxin-infused fish caught in the Tittabawassee.

    But lest these local fish go to waste, what did Dow do? They gave them to a food pantry! No problem poisoning the poor!

    I think that episode says a tremendous amount about the relationship of industrial capitalists to the lands and waters and people they pillage.

    1. rowlf

      The http://www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish guide is handy to have. Think of it like an MSDS sheet for what you catch.

      I like the quiz.

      1. I only eat fish caught in Michigan a few times each year T/F?
      2. I’m 15 years old or older. T/F?
      3. I DON’T plan on having children in the next several years. T/F?
      4. I DON’T have health problems, like cancer or diabetes. T/F?
      5. I DON’T eat fish from a lake or river that has posted signs with “Do Not Eat” guidelines from MDCH. T/F?

      By choosing the right fish and then cleaning and cooking it the right way, you can reduce some of the chemicals in the fish by nearly half!


      1. carl

        Well hey, down here in Texas we’re advised not to eat any fish caught in the state’s rivers, because of the mercury from the coal-fired electrical plants, y’know.

  14. Copeland

    Today’s plant looks more like pear (ornamental, not the fruiting type) than either crab-apple or cherry.

      1. Wukchumni

        Pretty tree!

        We have an ornamental plum tree that came with the house, must be 20-25 years old, and about 7 years ago fruited for the first time-around 75 delicious plums and nothing since…

        …but there’s 30-40 tasty orbs on the tree now

  15. MLTPB

    Masks, 80%.

    This formula applies…to officials.

    Why? Top officials constitute less than 20% of us. The other 80% can wear. And the formula is still good.

    Just saw a picture of Xi at their Congress in Beijing. He didn’t wear one, in that photo, while everyone else (ie all I saw photoed in that picture) did.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Just saw a picture of Xi at their Congress in Beijing. He didn’t wear one, in that photo, while everyone else (ie all I saw photoed in that picture) did.

      The Great Helmsmen!

  16. MLTPB

    S Korea..fitness dance classes.


    We stopped going to our weekly class in late Jan, early Feb.

    My intuition then was I did not want to inhale that deeply in a small room with lots of people.

  17. Mark Gisleson

    Not to be overly cynical, but the churches reopening seem to the kinds of churches that get by not on tithing or from the collection plate, but through parishioner bequests.

    If their elderly parishioners die, they’ll reap a huge windfall. Not sure anyone really knows how much farmland is owned by churches now. A google search on this topic is always pretty frustrating but my family’s farm abuts at least one church-owned farm (not even locals always know who owns what after an old farmer dies).

    1. ambrit

      Hah! History goes round and round. One of the causes of the Reformation in Scotland was the fact that, by the time of the Reformation, the Catholic Church owned up to one half of the land in Scotland. Many of the parishes in Scotland, though Protestant, are based on older Catholic dioceses. All California needs to complete the analogy is the establishment of equivalents of the old Monastic Orders. The Fresno chapter of the Daughters of the Divine Pandemic anyone? (I can see the yearly May Day Parades with the contingents of the DDP marching along in their Pink Bunny Suits. So many Dispensationia and Mythoses to esoterically study!)

  18. occasional anonymous

    “I wish I had some polling on Biden support and West Wing watching. I bet they correlate highly.”

    Biden is awful even by the vapid PR and polling obsessed standards of the West Wing staffers. I know Sorkin hates women, but even he wouldn’t have written a probable rapist as a viable candidate.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Rob Lowe…he doubled teamed a couple of minors and then played a character in the first episode who is such a sexual dynamo that a prostitute uses him for sex. The prostitute is of course playing for law school, and Martin Sheen’s character always droned on about how wonderful Lowe’s character was…so yeah…Sorkin is pretty bad.

    2. Musicismath

      West Wing fandom always correlated with higher social class (PMCs and PMC wannabes). My assumption is that much of the show’s core demographic then would likely have been Warren supporters in 2019-20. And I bet plenty who liked the show in the early 2000s would be retrospectively shocked by some of the sexist attitudes if they rewatched, and would let you know about it.

      Finding things you once loved problematic now on retrospective moral grounds is a big thing with that demographic.

  19. MK

    As a horror film conisouior, Phillip Glass is a well known composer. My personal favourite is his score for Candyman. The film itself is a modern classic, but imnsho, Glass’s music is as much a part of what makes the movie great as the story or the actors.


      1. FreeMarketApologist

        Yes, yes, yes! Brilliant movie. Saw it, went back the next day saw it again, went back 2 days later w/ friends I rounded up. They went back the following day to see it again. If you ever get a chance to see it on a big screen, drop everything you’re doing and go.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        that was a masterpiece.
        first saw it at “Midnight Movies” when i was like 14 and able to finagle my way into going out with the older kids(me and my buddy spent the night at each others’ houses,lol). second time we had smoked pot…went for (dern! can’t remember the name…”i’m just a sweet transvestite…”)…and wandered into Koyanisqatsi(sp-2), and just stayed.
        I have all 3 on DVD in my Library.
        no one will watch them with me, though.

        1. ambrit

          The Midnight Matinees were the best. I remember going to the Sweet Transvestite Revue and being told to take some rice and toilet paper. D…it Janet! But that was fun! “It’s just a jump to the left!”
          I have lent out two copies of Koyannisquatsi and never seen them again. If I find a third copy in the thrift store, it will stay securely at home in my Critterdom Collection.
          The Time Warp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umj0gu5nEGs
          In reference to the Time Warp, it can be profitably observed that the present establishment’s reaction to the Pandemic and “shutdowns,” as in the entire ‘reopen now’ fiasco, is an example of Time Warp thinking. The “official” version is that the world will revert to the status quo ante. Such is ‘Magical Thinking’ at it’s best. The present group of savants and thought leaders guiding the nation today are really a very close fit to the guest list at the Frank-N-Furter Mansion.

          1. polecat

            Flesh Gordon was one of my uh, favorites – an X-rated(?)flick that actually Tried to entertain.. along with Dawn of the Dead (the original- I never looked at a shopping mall in quite the same light after that), A boy and his dog ..and of course .. Blue Velvet, with Frank huffing from the security of his unconnected oxygen mask. Oh Moma!
            Missed seeing Eraserhead. Tis the pity. Well, maybe not.

            1. polecat

              Also Barbarosa – featuring Willy Nelson, and a young Gary Busey. A damn good film!

              1. ambrit

                “Rancho Deluxe” with Sam Waterston and Jeff Bridges” was a good send up of westerns in general.
                “Hearts of the West” does a number on the intersection of Hollywood and The West.
                There are so many good “little” films out there.

      3. curlydan

        one of my favorite films ever, and what a soundtrack! It was Glass’s first soundtrack for film, and the director went to Glass to try to convince him to do the soundtrack by playing other Glass music over footage already shot.

        And then there’s his opera, “Einstein on the Beach.” Would love to see a live performance of this. The Brit music mag, NME, said the “album” was one of the “40 Albums That Changed Dance Music Forever”. https://www.nme.com/photos/40-albums-that-changed-dance-music-forever-1414085

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          “Is it frankie? could it be frankie? is it very fresh and clean?”

          Been 30 or more years since i heard all that.
          like a secret handshake for geeks and nerds when i was in high school.

          1. howseth

            Speaking of Phillip Glass. I had the honor of peeing in the urinal next to him on one occasion.. That’s all I got to say. (This want get past the mods, I suppose) ..
            Oh yeah, I liked the sound track to the “The Thin Blue Line” – and, also be careful when entering Dallas County, Texas. They got some mean DA’s there… and unreliable witnesses.

  20. albrt

    Thanks for switching the graph back to linear, at least on some days.

    I have long thought that the main purpose of the log scale graph is to obfuscate the inevitable, existential horror induced by exponential growth over any substantial time period.

    Perhaps those trained in reading log scale graphs find it useful to allow analogies between the behavior of small scale phenomena and large scale phenomena, but I have no confidence in such analogies for social sciences dealing with discrete behavioral units among humans.

  21. DJG

    Well, dubious thanks for the Angry Staffer / Anand Giridharadas tweet thread.

    As Giridharadas writes, early in his thread:
    “These are end-of-empire videos. If we somehow save ourselves and come back, they will be forgotten eventually. But if we continue to decay and fall, these will be studied in history classes in some society saner than ours.”

    Some questions: I notice that many of these white people like to refer to their civil liberties. I am not sure why they landed on that. True, civil liberties include freedom from unfair trials and incarceration, freedom from search and seizure, safety on one’s property. But why do I also have a feeling that civil liberties is the term being used because “civil rights” just sounds a tad too black to them?

    I couldn’t tell if the video “features” so many women because their behavior is so shocking or if the videographer had an agenda. But now that Tara Reade has been offed for reasons of state, female writers are Boiling Babies for Biden, good old gals are cussing out police officers they profess to love, and Madeline Albright is on the verge of subjecting us to another autobiog, I am wondering if U.S. feminism has foundered on U.S. class and racial inequality, which seems to be an intractable and, likely, fatal problem. Acting as if all citizens are equal is a difficult virtue to keep cultivating. I’m not sure that U.S. feminists have devoted enough time to simple cultivation of treating everyone as an equal. (Don’t shout at me: I have read my required ten gear-grindingly poor essays by Rebecca Solnit.)

    1. JBird4049

      The fight women’s rights and equality have always been weaken, sometimes deliberately, by unlinking it to civil rights and equality in general. The initial movement, the first organize, small steps in the United States started pre-civil war and both then and during Reconstruction/Jim Crow there were attempts to connect equality and equal rights for everyone especially women and blacks.

      However, the (usually upper class and female) leadership almost always blocked it despite many people pointing out the hypocrisy as well as the weakening of the movement(s) for equality or at reform of the racial, economic, and gender inequalities. To be fair, which I find it hard to be, the suffragettes often suffered brutal repression, which was not as deadly as what those fighting for racial or economic rights. Being beaten or imprisoned is not as bad as being shot or hung.

      So each of the four or five waves of the women’s rights movement has had attempts to make it broadly based on the belief that injustice and inequality is bad no matter who is suffering. Each time the attempts have been mostly successfully rebuffed with the CIA/FBI successfully using people like Gloria Steinem to split the lower classes in the 60s/70s with their demands for economic rights from the upper classes with their demands of social equality. So women have sorta won the right to be what they want to be, but not the right for the resources needed to do. Daycare, jobs, a living wage, truly affordable or free education. Equality of group identity and not equality of the individual.

  22. polecat

    ‘Boiling babies for Biden’…

    “We must save the EARTH – We must EAT the Babies”

    Humm ..There seems to be a connection there somewhere. Thing is .. one is parody, one is not!
    Choose which is witch.

  23. Bsoder

    “I wish I had some polling on Biden support and West Wing watching. I bet they correlate highly.” Wouldn’t that be the current DNC as well, which is to say here on the Water Cooler, ‘liberal’, which is to say, PMC, which is to useless in solving inequality & inequities. But wait for it… there is no difference I’ve been told between the Dems & Republicans so what does it matter if it correlates or not?. I bet there’s a correlation with buying oat bread too. Or being able to read.

    Not to fear, things can always get worse. Now that the Feds via CDC are no longer counting the dead, and no longer bothering to determine who is/was sick v. Infected, I bet that highly correlates to the fall of Rome, the Inca civilization, and the collapse of the Soviets. In having no core values, (we the people), and in the general inability to face up to reality. (See Jared Diamond) Governments at all levels are making stuff up, i.e., reality. No one gets sick in America or dies. Cool. That’s what the GVTs are saying.

    In today’s data at NIH I’m struck by the fact the that people who don’t get sick have some antibodies but not anywhere near enough to stop an a serious infection. Second verse, that the Chinese data shows that those that were sick produced many antibodies, enough that they are likely to be immune, but, month by month, the antibody count decreases. So no permant immunity, thus, that looks like a yearly shot. Or anti-viral like for HIV. No ‘forever’ vaccine. Now, we conducted a rough survey of a population segment we think is going to problematic. We found 20% of the population said they would not take the vaccine under any circumstances. Correlates highly with a death cult. Trump knows this, there his people. All they need to do is vote then die.

    In the same vane. Cuomo, Borris Johnson, no one has dealt with the nursing home problem correctly. In fact CV19 or not most nursing homes are a disgrace. It doesn’t help that we force people to go bankrupt to live in one. The science is straightforward, infections are to be avoided, above the age of 65 at all costs. Anyone testing positive needed to quarantined with others, not a hospital, or nursing home, but a separate facility for infected people only. No one did it. This all reads like a plot to kill elder folk.

    Lambert – “If the Sanders campaign were entering the convention on a cresting wave of strikes that the Sanders “movement” had helped fund, nobody would be worrying about such trivialities…” ⤹

    This theory is wonderful. But right here and now I have to ask, you do know that would kill people, right? Getting infected, passing it on? Sanders is entitled to a life, leave him alone. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. And is the reality of it all.

    Again, thanks for the very hard work in putting this together. You do an exceptional job.

    1. richard

      Good point about the antibody count. If it’s a yearly vaccine, then the importance of making it free can’t be overstated or overpushed. It should be a top tier issue.
      I don’t agree with you about the labor action. For many of the businesses where employees would strike in this hoped for coordinated effort, especially public service, this would mean less public transmission. If warehouses were closed and deliveries stopped, and if restaurants were closed and no burgers being made, and etc. Even if striking employees were gathering (hopefully safely) in public to support their strike, I still think there would less transmission than in the daily course of many of these jobs. And of course if they abandon the picket line and just “sick out” or stay home, then transmission rate would go way down.

  24. FreeMarketApologist

    What a week. I don’t know which is more offensive: Biden pimping out his dead son, or the ‘it’s a free country, so I don’t have to wear a mask’ crowd.

    Glad my computer has an off button, and I’m in quarantine, so I can limit my exposure to both.

  25. Synoia

    Chloroquine, brand name Avaclor, was used, with a once-a-week pill at Sunday Breakfast, as an anti-malarial drug in the mid 50’s.

    I believe it was provided by the US arm of a petroleum storage joint venture between BP and Texaco. Later broken up by US anti-trust actions. I was six or seven at the time, so my memory may not be accurate.

    1. It tasted revolting, and I refused to take it.
    2. When may parents took it, they passed out after Sunday Breakfast and looked bad at lunch.

    It was withdrawn, by whom I do not know, and replaced with another anti-malarial drug, Diaprim.

  26. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    Remember how everyone said, “How could an obvious bullshit artist like Donald Trump get elected? Well, now we’re asking how a semi-comatose drooling senile bullshit artist like Joe Biden could get elected. IN 2016 it was: “Hillary Clinton is a loathsome reptile with a foreign policy record akin to her best bud Henry Kissiniger’s. but she’ll totally annihilate a doofus like Trump”
    Now it’s “Trump is Orange Man Bad and like…Hitler incarnate…but how could someone who doesn’t know where he is or what his sister’s name is and routinely insults women and non-white people possibly beat the GOP machine?”
    Still think elections are anything but a sloppily managed farce?
    How does Biden poll better than a Hamster?

    1. albrt

      The day before the Arizona primary a group of friends came over and said (very earnestly in Stepford fashion) “we’ve concluded that we have to vote for Biden. What do you think?”

      I said I think Biden was stupid and corrupt even before he got dementia, and Donald Trump will destroy Biden in the general election. They were surprised and didn’t say much else, but I’m pretty sure they voted for Biden.

      Point being, this happened with people who are not connected to the Dem establishment. Hundredth monkey type of thing. They did not seem to have any expectation as to actual policy results, just a pure herd response. I think it was based in part on fear of Bernie spread by the legacy media, but I’m not sure.

    2. ambrit

      It depends on up whose bum the hamster has been.
      South Park did a send up of the Hamster Prince who had to escape from the leather bar patrons anus by going up the other way. It was done like a D&D role playing game, with helpful ‘advisors’ in incorporeal form and ‘dangers’ to be avoided and overcome.
      Now that Epstein is no more, who is available to assist the poor hamster which wishes to become ‘acquainted’ with the rich and powerful? (I know. Let’s call Bill! He’ll know for sure!)

  27. The Rev Kev

    “If 80% of Americans Wore Masks, COVID-19 Infections Would Plummet, New Study Says”

    Absolutely. And yet this morning I heard a federal health official in Australia recommending against the use of masks. What is wrong with these people? If people like this worked at the Pentagon, they would be recommending that body armour be withdrawn from troops as soldiers fiddle with them and maybe not wear them correctly and they probably don’t work in any case.

    Great clip on the regeneration of the Australian bush there, Lambert. Some plants here actually need fires sweeping through in order to thrive. I believe the term is Pyrophytic plants is used for them.

  28. VietnamVet

    Looking at the WaPo’s map of the risks of coronavirus across the nation, my suburb was identified as majority white with comorbidities. Wrong. It has been majority black for decades. How wrong could they be? I started googling for the R0 for Maryland. Instead found the Rt. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.

    Maryland is in sixth place at 0.96. Barely declining. Alaska at 0.63, Hawaii and Vermont at 0.64 are controlling the spread of the virus. Coronavirus infection will die out in these states unless transported there by outsiders. Alabama and Utah are at 1.0. Each infected person in these two states transmits it to another. Unless there is an intervention, the virus will continue to be endemic in the population forever. Maine and North Dakota have an increasing infection rate at 1.04. They need assistance. Strike teams to track down, trace and isolate outbreaks. Actually, 47 states need help to do this.

    The real question is how to get the federal government (both political parties) to do their job, face the truth, and spend the money to actually control the pandemic.

    1. ambrit

      I’m pretty much certain now that the western elites do not want to stop this pandemic.

  29. John Beech

    I wish I had some polling on Biden support and West Wing watching. I bet they correlate highly.

    And I bet you’re wrong Lambert. My wife and I love West Wing but we’re both Republican voters. With respect to voting for Joe Biden, speaking only for myself but I’d wager this is true for my wife as well, I will not vote for Biden. Not a chance.

    Do we wish for a candidate like Jeb Bartlett? Yes! But Joe Biden isn’t it.

    Last thing, have you ever watched West Wing? Even now (we’re semi-binge watching) a solid 5 years into the series, we still enjoy the episodes. Going to watch another tonight! You should try it.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Competent leadership that seems to have moral values. It’s something to pine for. It enjoyable television, but that’s all it is.

      I’m watching the Horatio Hornblower series recommended here, then probably a third watch of Altered Carbon.

  30. The Rev Kev

    “The Carl’s jr – Harde’s Line”

    the empire is too large to govern. perhaps both Warren and Klobuchar can be vice president, each assigned one half of the empire (split down the Mississippi). then they can each adopt successors as deputy vice president. not sure what happens from there but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

    No, no. Don’t do it! The Romans tried that with their Empire (which I bet you know). They split their Empire into two halves with each vice-Emperor getting half of each half who would be expected in time to take over the senior job and recruit their own vice. All that happened was that all sections ended up in a civil war free for all as each part tried to take over the other. Can you imagine the armies of Klobuchar and Warren battling it out down the Ohio valley? The staplers would be flying everywhere!

    1. John k

      Warren has no chance at all… besides Biden’s animosity, the banking donors won’t allow her anywhere near the top job or treasury.
      The Klob gets it bc first to endorse, actually won delegates, and brings a swing. Beyond that, who would trust warren with anything? She might lose reelection.
      The Klob is a dependable neo lib, will happily support the oligarchs.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Sorry to be so puerile, but this is the age of #TRUMP2020_THE_PIG_LIKES_IT

        …So the Dems managed to find us a smarmy wonderbread gay candidate whose name starts with “Butt.”

        …And now they’re selling a pushy, hard-faced woman technocrat (lawyer) with “Buch” in her name?

        BIDEN-KLOBUCHAR. Yeah, I really want that historical-trivia-question-to-be on my lawn.

        And at the right moment our Schoolyard Bully in Chief tags Amy with a precision guided nickname, as he did with “Sleepy” (tired, inattentive and rhymes with “Creepy”) Joe.

        “Angry Amy?” No, she might turn that around: a lot of swing voters are mad as hell, with reason.

        “Bitter Amy?” Something like that. Not sexist per se, but calls up the entire “B-word” thesaurus: nasty, vengeful, hectoring, temperamental, unstable. Shrewish, as it were.

        … Torpedo away, then watch her and the media flail and struggle to convince non-TDS voters that she isn’t all those things.

  31. John k

    HCL plus zinc should be tested as prophylactic, not treatment… yes.
    But so should zinc by itself, given it’s been shown to help fight the flu when taken early. So what would it hurt to suggest everybody take 15-25 mg/day? Pretty cheap, not much wasted if it doesn’t help.
    And add vit d, plus a little dab of selenium. At least one one a day for women has both elements.

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