2:00PM Water Cooler 9/28/2020

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I’m still struggling with the search function at Macauley, but sometimes you can spot an interesting call from the waveform alone!


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

Here are the United States regions:

If current trends continue, we could be where we were August 1 in 30 days — the election now being 40 days out. But now there’s some flattening. Perhaps school shutdowns?

Here are the Swing States as I conceive them (see below):

Both Wisconsin and North Carolina look worrisome now.

UPDATE MI: “One person tested positive for coronavirus after Saginaw-area Trump rally, state health officials say” [MLive]. “The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has been notified of one person who attended President Donald Trump’s Sept. 10 rally in Freeland who has since tested positive for COVID-19. ‘The department is unable to say whether this person already had COVID-19 prior to attending the rally or whether the individual contracted COVID-19 at the rally,’ said Public Information Officer Bob Wheaton.”

TX: “How a glitchy computer system skewed Texas’ coronavirus data and hampered its pandemic response” [Texas Tribune]. “A glitchy electronic system that state health officials had repeatedly warned was aging and at high risk of ‘critical failure’ has stymied efforts to track and manage the coronavirus in Texas and left policymakers with incomplete, and at times inaccurate, data about the pandemic’s spread. The state’s public health agency asked Texas lawmakers for money last year to improve a reporting system — the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System, or NEDSS — it said was several versions behind what other states used at the time. The work was months from being finished when the coronavirus pandemic struck. Local health officials were left to navigate a public health disaster using a system they describe as ‘cumbersome,’ ‘archaic’ and ‘really slow’ and which until August could not keep pace with the 60,000 or more coronavirus test results it received on many days. It was also not equipped to manage the massive undertaking of tracking and tracing coronavirus infections. The state hired a contractor to build a separate system that was not ready until late May and is still not widely used by local health departments.”


“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

The electoral map. July 17: Georgia, Ohio, ME-2 move from Leans Republican to Toss-up. Continued yikes. On July 7, the tossup were 86. Only July 17, they were 56. Now they are 91. This puts Biden at 278, i.e. over 270. August 18: Still no changes. August 31: Indiana moves from Likely to Safe Republican. September 9: No changes. September 14: No changes. September 21: No changes. September 22: Ohio moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican. Biden still at 278, Trump increases to 187, 73 are tossups. 187 + 73 = 260, so…. MI, WI, MN looking pretty tempting! For all the sturm and drang, and the polls, the consensus on the electoral college remains remarkably static: Biden ahead, Trump within striking distance. Of course, if Trump is still in striking distance on Election Day, that will count as a loss. Maybe.

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The election countdown:

Here is an early voting calendar. Maybe we’ll have a whole series of October surprises, since election day is gradually being devalued as an event.

And here are mail-in voting ruies, which naturally differ state by state.

NEW “2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics” [U.S. Elections Project (SlayTheSmaugs)].

“How to Vote in 2020: Everything You Need to Know” [Bloomberg]. “Casting a ballot in the U.S. isn’t always easy, with a complex web of varying state rules governing how and when you can vote. The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced even more complexity in 2020, as many states have made significant changes to allow for more early voting or voting by mail. More changes could come as lawsuits in several states wind their way through the courts. That’s why Bloomberg News is answering these critical questions so you’ll know what you need to do to make sure your vote is counted in the 2020 election.”

Here are is an enormous spreadsheet on voting equipment, so you can check your own jurisdiction (hat tip, UserFriendly. I should really aggregate these onto a map…).

* * *


Here is my list of Swing States, with votes in the Electoral College and selected ballot initiatives in parentheticals):

  • Arizona (11) (marijuana; taxes(=)
  • Colorado (9) (taxes, lottery, abortion, paid medical leave)
  • Florida (29) (minimum wage)
  • Georgia (16) (declaratory relief)
  • Iowa (6) (Constitional convention)
  • Maine-02 (1) (vax)
  • Michigan (16) (privacy)
  • Minnesota (10)
  • Nebraska-02 (1) (payday lending; gambling)
  • Nevada (6) (marriage)
  • New Hampshire (4)
  • North Carolina (15)
  • Ohio (18)
  • Pennsylvania (20)
  • Texas (38)
  • Wisconsin (10) (crime victims)

Inspired by the thread starting with Arizona Slim’s comment here, I went to Ballotpedia and added selected, hopefully hot button, ballot initiatives, because sometimes they affect turnout. If you live in a swing state, please comment if I got the hot buttons wrong!

* * *

Lots and lots of balloting issues, now. Good thing voting is now so complicated you have to have a plan to do it.

AZ: “Federal court says Arizona ‘ballot harvesting’ law discriminates against minority voters” [Arizona Central]. “Arizona violated the Voting Rights Act by barring voters from delivering the early ballots of neighbors, friends and others to polling places, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The policy against so-called “ballot harvesting” disproportionately affects American Indian, Hispanic and African American voters, a majority of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. Republicans who control the Legislature enacted the policy with the intent of suppressing turnout among voters from minority groups, the court decided. And in a victory for Democrats, who challenged the 2016 law, the court also said the state’s policy of discarding the provisional ballots of voters who turn up at the wrong precinct is illegal, too.”

AZ: “Judge is asked to let some disabled Arizonans vote by video conference” [Tucson.com]. “Maricopa County’s recorder wants a court to bless his practice of allowing some people to cast a ballot by video conference. In a lawsuit filed Friday, Recorder Adrian Fontes said state law provides for “special election boards” composed of one Republican and one Democrat to assist voters who are confined because of illness or disability. In general, they will go to where someone lives and help that person fill out the ballot. But Fontes said the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions may keep board members from entering these facilities. So he has developed — and used in the August primary election — a system that uses video technology.”

IA: “Iowa counties can begin opening absentee ballots early” [Des Moines Register]. “County election officials will have more time to begin opening absentee ballot envelopes ahead of Election Day this year under an emergency election directive approved Friday by Iowa legislators. The directive comes as Iowa election officials anticipate they will need to count large numbers of absentee ballots in a short window of time as more people vote absentee due to the coronavirus. The Legislative Council Friday afternoon unanimously approved Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s request to allow counties to begin the process of opening the outer absentee ballot envelopes on the Saturday before Election Day, rather than the traditional day before. The ballots themselves must remain in their secrecy envelopes and still cannot be counted before Nov. 2, the day before Election Day.”

UPDATE ME: “Ranked choice voting in Maine a go for presidential election” [Associated Press]. ” Ranked choice voting will be used for the first time in a presidential race in the U.S. under a ruling Tuesday by the Maine Supreme Court, which concluded that a GOP-led petition drive intended to prevent its use came up short. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded the Maine Republican Party failed to reach the threshold of signatures needed for a ‘People’s Veto’ referendum aimed at rejecting a state law that expands ranked choice voting to the presidential election. ‘This is a powerful moment for ranked choice voting supporters: Voters will, for the first time, use ranked choice voting to elect the highest office in the country,’ said Rob Richie, president and CEO of FairVote, which advocates for the voting reform. The court’s decision, just six weeks before the election, was issued after the state already began printing ballots using a grid-style for ranked elections.”

MN: “Project Veritas uncovers ‘ballot harvesting fraud’ in Minnesota: Devine” [New York Post]. “Under Minnesota law, no individual can be the ‘designated agent’ for more than three absentee voters.” • I’m running this because i have to, but Project Veritas and James O’Keefe have form, which includes deceptively edited videos.

OH: “Is Ohio, long a US bellwether, slipping out of play for Democrats?” [Agence France Presse]. “Four years after carrying bellwether Ohio and winning the US presidency, Donald Trump again needs the support of disenchanted Democrats in the critical state if he is to earn a second White House term…. Biden has run a strong campaign and courted Ohio voters with his economic revitalization plan, Betras said. But it might be too late in the Buckeye State, where many crossover voters continue to support Trump.”

TX: “The Race For an Obscure Texas Office Could Have a Lasting Impact on Climate Change” [Capital & Main]. “When asked how much sway one person on [the] three-person [Texas Railroad Commission] can hold over an industry that in 2019 paid a record $16.3 billion to the state in taxes and royalties, [Democrat Chrysta Castañeda] said, ‘a lot.’ The ‘number one job’ of the misleadingly named commission ‘has been for over 100 years to protect against the waste of natural resources.’ In fact, the commission could put an end to flaring tomorrow. ‘All we have to do is enforce the law,’ Castañeda said. ‘The only way flaring isn’t against the law is if [a driller] gets an exception permit.’ There were nearly 7,000 permits granted last year, all of them on a ‘consent’ agenda. ‘And consent,’ she said, ‘takes three people.'”

WI: “Appellate court halts Wisconsin ballot-counting extension” [Associated Press]. “A federal appeals court on Sunday temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Donald Trump in the key presidential battleground state. As it stands, ballots will now be due by 8 p.m. on Election Day. … U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled Sept. 21 that ballots that arrive up to six days after Election Day will count as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day. Sunday’s action puts Conley’s order on hold until the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court issues any further action.”

* * *

UPDATE Biden (D)(1): “More than 200 retired generals, admirals endorse Biden, including some who served under Trump” [NBC News]. • Making a coup even less likely. And a shooting war even more likely.

RE-UPPING Bloomberg (D)(1): “How Mike Bloomberg Managed To Shield His Personal Finances While Running For President” [Forbes]. “Of the 15 Democrats and 3 Republicans running for president when the calendar turned to 2020, only one refused to disclose his financial holdings to the public. And no, it was not Donald Trump. Despite refusing to release his tax returns, the president has filed a list of his assets and liabilities every year since 2015. The lone outlier, instead, was Michael Bloomberg, the richest presidential candidate in American history. Bloomberg never filed a financial disclosure report, and he never published his tax returns. Now that he is out of the race, it seems unlikely that he ever will.” • From March…

Trump (R)(1): “The Ordinary Taxpayer’s Guide To The Extraordinary Story Of Trump’s Tax Returns” [Forbes]. Lots of interesting information here, including this nugget: “I have, however, tweeted that ‘Tax returns (even officially filed ones) aren’t dispositive when it comes to wealth.’ I stand by that. One of the flaws of reviewing tax returns on their own is that they are not a reliable measure of a person’s net worth.”

Trump (R)(2): “Trump’s tax revelation could tarnish image that fueled rise” [Associated Press]. “Trump has worked for decades to build an image of himself as a hugely successful business mogul — even choosing that moniker as his Secret Service code name. But The New York Times on Sunday revealed that he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency, and in 2017, his first year in office. He paid no income taxes whatsoever in 10 of the previous 15 years, largely because he reported losing more money than he made, according to the Times, which obtained years’ worth of tax return data that the president had long fought to keep private.” • But see above.

I’m going to wait for word from NC sources knowledgeable in tax before commenting. Meanwhile, here are some suitably jaundiced tweets:

And from Yasha Levine, who knows an oligarchy when he sees one:

Yeah, this time we’ve got him for sure! And Stoller:

Stoller doesn’t say that he’s answering his own question. But:

“This is America, man!”

Trump (R)(3): “Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale hospitalized after he was armed and threatening to harm himself, Fort Lauderdale police say” [Sun-Sentinel]. “The police, called by his wife, went to the house in the Seven Isles community, an affluent area in which houses have access to the water. They made contact, “developed a rapport” and negotiated his exit from the house, the police said in a statement. He was taken to Broward Health Medical Center under the Baker Act, which provides for temporary involuntary commitment. Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Karen Dietrich said the encounter at the house was brief. ‘We went out and it was very short. We went and got him help.’ Dietrich said he didn’t threaten police and he went willingly under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows police to detain a person who is potentially a threat to himself or others.”

* * *

UPDATE “Breakingviews – U.S. election dispute may demand months of hedging” [Reuters]. “Using the 2000 battle as a roadmap of how markets may react downplays the risks. A recount in Florida left the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the Democrat who won the popular ballot but was four electoral-college votes behind, in limbo for five weeks. The S&P 500 Index fell about 8% during that period. A U.S. Supreme Court decision favored Bush, and Gore conceded on Dec. 13. The 1876 election dragged on much longer. Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote against Republican Rutherford Hayes, but electoral votes for Tilden in four states were disputed. Florida and two others submitted two results that declared both men winners. Congress set up a commission in January 1877 to resolve the matter amid worries there could be another civil war. A compromise declared Hayes the winner on March 2, mere days before the inauguration deadline back then, and the following day he was sworn in behind closed doors to avoid the risk of an uprising.” • The Compromise of 1877 has been my preferred trainwreck scenario. Intuitively, it’s the stupidest possible outcome short of a coup (a topic for another day), and therefore the most likely. More logically, I think that Chief Justice Roberts would conclude, rightly, that the Court would not survive a second Bush v. Gore, no matter the outcome, and would make his unwillingness known to Congress and the compaigns. Of course, Biden might win an overwhelming mandate, rendering the trainwreck scenario moot, but that doesn’t seem very likely.

UPDATE “Pelosi preparing for House to decide presidency if neither Trump or Biden win electoral college: report” [The Hill]. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is reportedly preparing lawmakers for the possibility of an Electoral College tie forcing the House to decide the presidential election, according to a Politico report published Sunday. Such a scenario would involve each of the 50 state delegations in the House having just one vote in the process, Pelosi reportedly warned House Democrats in a letter Sunday, and would force Democrats to shift their strategy ahead of November.” • This is a pretty stupid outcome too, but I think the Compromise of 1877 is even stupider.

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.

“The Week Ahead: Huge Economic Calendar” [Econintersect]. “All of the most important reports are on tap, with an emphasis on employment – the official employment situation report, the ADP private payrolls, and the weekly jobless claim data. We also get confidence data from the University of Michigan as well as the Conference Board. And that is just for starters! The ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing reports are important reads on the current month. Personal income and spending are good signs of consumer health and the accompanying PCE indicator is the Fed’s favorite inflation indicator. We should also not ignore construction spending and factory orders. They final estimate of Q2 GDP is not expected to change much, and it will be treated as ‘old news.’ Employment is the biggest news for most people, and this is the last report before the election. It will get even more attention than usual. The first Presidential debate is scheduled for Tuesday evening. It will command a lot of attention, but probably will not be a market-moving event.” • Hold onto your hats!

* * *

Commodities: “Natural rubber prices rose above 220 yen per kg at the end of September, the highest level since July 2019, bolstered by rising demand for protective rubber gloves due to the coronavirus outbreak and constrained supply. Thailand used to focus production on rubber sheet but shifted their output to latex, which is used to make rubber gloves” [Trading Economics]. “On the other hand, demand for automobiles is expected to remain subdued to the economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Prices have been further supported by optimism surrounding China’s economic recovery and expectations that a labor shortage in Thailand due to the pandemic could hit supply. The price of rubber reached an all-time low of $129 yen per kg back in April when several countries across the globe were under strict lockdown measures.”

Retail: “A new round of stockpiling of consumer goods is underway, this time at distribution centers. Supermarkets and food companies are already loading up groceries across the U.S. and storing them early to prepare for the fall and winter months… as they brace for another possible widespread outbreak of virus cases and new restrictions” [Wall Street Journal]. “They hope to avoid a repeat of last spring’s shortages and consumer hoarding of essential household items as the holidays drive seasonal spikes in demand for some foods. The Associated Food Stores cooperative chain says it recently started building ‘pandemic pallets’ of products so it always has some inventory in warehouses. Such aggressive risk-management has often led grocers to override conventional forecasting models and ordering algorithms.”

Constructiion: “Brightline shaves almost a year from Florida rail project using precast tunnel system” [Construction Dive]. “The $2.7 billion, 170-mile Brightline high-speed rail extension from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Orlando International Airport (OIA) will see the construction of a train tunnel in two weeks instead of almost one year thanks to an innovative box-jack system suggested by general contractor Granite Construction. This is the first time the box-jack system will be used for a train project outside of the Northeast United States. The developer of the box-jacking system, Italian company Petrucco, is using special hydraulic jacks to push two precast concrete boxes — one 146 feet long and the other 126 feet long and both with 42-foot-long sidewalls — under a roadway east of the airport while an excavator digs out a path from inside the box and from the opposite side.” • Maybe we can have the Italians build a new Amtrak tunnel under the Hudson for us. Since we can’t.

Shipping: “Rebound in Volumes Contributes to Port Congestion Concerns” [Maritime Executive]. “As ocean carriers and the shippers work to rebound from the economic effects of the pandemic, ports have been reporting steady, sometimes dramatic, increases in volumes in recent months. One of the downsides of the increases in traffic has also been reports of increased port congestion. Some of the congestion concerns have been due to operational issues in individual ports while others are attributed to volume increases… The downside of the rebound, according to PMSA has been a significant increase in the amount of time containers are in the terminal.”

Mr. Market: “It’s Back to Economic Reality After Post-Lockdown Surge” [Bloomberg]. “The economic rebound from the virus lockdowns proved much stronger than anticipated, with Citigroup Inc.’s surprise index soaring to record levels in the past few months. But as the third quarter ends, the pace is flagging, and better-than-expected data are becoming rarer. ‘We probably just saw the best economic data in terms of surprising on the upside that we’ll probably ever see in our lifetimes,’ Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management, said last week. ‘Now things are coming back down to Earth.'” • Too bad Congress blew town before passing another stimulus…..

Mr. Market: “The volatility wake-up call for investors” [Financial Times]. “The volatility of the past two weeks in financial markets should serve as a timely wake-up call to return-hungry investors who had driven stock valuations to record levels, comforted by ample and predictable central bank liquidity injections. Not only are the liquidity injections proving less potent in reliably overcoming a weakening economic recovery and less responsive fiscal policy support, but there are no easy ways to protect portfolios against major sell-offs. That is due to the deeply distorted nature of today’s markets. Government bonds and gold, the principal tools used for portfolio risk mitigation, have offered little protection recently to investors looking for diversification. The rollercoaster ride in stocks is combining with multiplying signals of future large fluctuations in derivatives markets to raise doubt about the future. It is no longer clear that this is a short-term ‘healthy correction’ that cleanses markets from excessive risk positioning and strengthens the foundation for further gains. More people are concerned that we may have started a more sinister adjustment process that pulls asset prices down closer to what the underlying economic and corporate fundamentals would support.” • Sinister…

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 28 at 12:07pm. Stuck in neutral!

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Earthquakes. “The lack of major quakes has downgraded this category.” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 181. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.)

The Biosphere

A thread with astonishing photographs of British rainforests (!). Why aren’t there more of them?


“The innovative Ice Stupas of Ladakh, solving water crisis in the Himalayas” [Times of India]. “Climate change is real and a number of places around the world are bearing the brunt of it; one among those is Ladakh. The glaciers in this Himalayan region shrunk and made rainfall and temperatures unpredictable. Because of this, farmers in the high altitude regions have to face difficulties beyond their imaginations. In fact, several picturesque villages in Ladakh turned into ghost towns due to the water crisis. Keeping in view the issues in farming, the famous Indian engineer and innovator Sonam Wangchuk invented the Ice Stupas (an artificial glacier created by piping mountain streams). In 2015, Wangchuk managed to raise $125,000 on crowdfunding and created a 64 ft ice stupa. The water freezes into a cone, which resembles a Buddhist shrine. The intelligent stupa is designed in a way that it remains frozen until the sun warms the fields during the springs, making irrigation and cultivation manageable for farmers in the village…. Today, the final results of the Gangles Ice-Valley Ice-Stupa Competition 2019-2020 were announced at Gangles, where 5 ice stupas were made that stored 10 million litres of water.”

Health Care

“Trump vs Biden on Health Care” [Larry Levitt, JAMA]. An excerpt:

Trump: He has supported failed Congressional proposals to repeal and replace the ACA with weakened protections for preexisting conditions, reduced premium assistance, elimination of the Medicaid expansion, and a cap on all federal funding for Medicaid. He supports a lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA in its entirety, and expanded the availability of short-term insurance plans that have lower premiums but can exclude coverage of preexisting conditions and ACA-required benefits. In addition, he ended cost-sharing subsidy payments to insurers, suggesting they would cause the ACA to be “dead” and “gone.” Insurers, however, largely offset the terminated federal payments by increasing premiums, which in turn increased federal premium subsidies. He also signed legislation to repeal the individual mandate penalty.

Biden: He proposes to build on the ACA by increasing premium assistance and creating a Medicare-like public option plan, which would be available to anyone and automatically cover people with low incomes in states that have not expanded Medicaid. He would also lower the age of eligibility for Medicare to 60 years, and supports increased federal funding to states for Medicaid during the economic crisis.

I feel like I’m trapped in an insane asylum. Obviously, Trump’s policies are, well, let’s not say crazed, but suboptimal. (To be fair, Trump axed ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which all the experts said was needed, and turned out not to be. Because I no longer had to pay a penalty for purchasing a high-deductible plan that put health care out of reach for me in any case, Trump saved me $1200 on my taxes over two years.) So, on the one hand we have Trump’s noisy gibbering, and on the other we have a smooth-talking professorial type in a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches proposing a “Medicare-like public option plan,” when (1) “-like’ is doing a lot of work there, (2) the public option is always a way of heading off #MedicareForAll and when its job is done it is discarded, (3) the public option does not “bend the cost curve” because it is not single payer, and adds to complexity, instead of reducing it, and (4) will hence always be vulnerable to cuts. (To be fair, protecting half-measures like ObamaCare from cuts does bring in a lot of money to Democrats.) Oh, and why on earth reduce Medicare eligibility to 60, and then set up a parallel, Medicare-like plan? Why not reduce Medicare eligibility to 55 for starters — as even Hillary Clinton wanted to do, before Biden trolled us all by making her proposal worse — and then keep on reducing it, 5 years at a time, until we reach the age of 0? And all these half-measures in the midst of a pandemic! Tell me who the psycho really is: The gibbering idiot, or leather elbow patches-dude?

People love their ObamaCare (1). A thread:

People love their ObamaCare (2):

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“‘This Does Feel Like A Different Moment”: As Public Support For Black Lives Matter Drops Off, Will Corporate America Stay The Course?” [Vanity Fair]. “Now, months after Floyd’s death, the number of people expressing opposition to BLM has risen to heights not seen in two years. Civiqs shows that BLM is now underwater with white people, with people over 65, and with men. In this renewed polarized environment, even modest expressions of support come with risks…. In theory, the increasing disharmony around Black Lives Matter would be enough to throttle corporate enthusiasm for social justice issues…. But below the surface, many businesses are still being pushed toward accountability. Rick Wade, the senior vice president of strategic alliances and outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told me that ‘this does feel like a different moment.” In addition to “the moral imperative…this is about the business case for racial equity,’ he said. Corporations now understand ‘that they have to be front and center on the issues of diversity and racial equality, because this is also about the market.’ Perhaps you might expect to hear sunny words from the Chamber of Commerce, but they are similar to comments from the social justice sector. Arisha Hatch, the chief of campaigns for Color of Change, told me that she has seen a ‘sea change’ in how companies are approaching issues of racial justice and a new sense of obligation to move beyond rhetoric.” • The funder and the the funded agree!

Groves of Academe

“The New Order” [Chronicle of Higher Education]. “Fueled by growing skepticism of higher education, board members at public colleges across the nation increasingly comport themselves more as watchdogs than as collective guardians of sacred trusts. Some appear willing to trade the sober work of high-level policy making for the adrenaline rush of a good culture war…. A Chronicle investigation, based on 75 interviews, reviews of more than 2,000 pages of public records, and an unprecedented analysis of appointments to public-university governing boards, reveals a system that is vulnerable to, if not explicitly designed for, an ideologically driven form of college governance rooted in political patronage and partisan fealty. Hundreds of sitting public-university board members govern 50 flagship universities across the nation. Of 411 board members appointed through a multistep political procedure, 285, or almost 70 percent, assumed their roles through an appointment and confirmation process controlled by a single political party. Just 93, or 22 percent, of politically appointed trustees navigated a confirmation process that included a meaningful bipartisan check. (The remainder have not yet been confirmed or, in two cases, a confirmation date could not be identified).”

Imperial Collapse Watch

No, corn dogs don’t count:

Class Warfare

“How Work Became an Inescapable Hellhole” [Wired]. “What these technologies do best is remind us of what we’re not doing: who’s hanging out without us, who’s working more than us, what news we’re not reading. They refuse to allow our consciousness off the hook, in order to do the essential, protective, regenerative work of sublimating and repressing. Instead, they provide the opposite: a nonstop barrage of notifications and reminders and interactions. They bring life to the forefront, constantly, so that we can’t ignore it. They’re not a respite from work—or, as promised, a way to optimize your work. They’re just more work. And six months into a society-throttling pandemic, they’re more inescapable than ever.” • And then there was slack. On the Mac, you can tell immediately that Notifications are a hell-mouth because the interface works like it was designed for iOS.

News of the Wired

An enormous thread on the best pen:

These are interesting lists, but Henry’s practice itself is a good one:

* * *

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 (cjmxc):

cjmxc writes: “‘Marsh Pond’ Proud Lake Recreation Area, Southeastern Michigan. Great discussion/topic. Thanks!” Thank you!

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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. michael hudson

    I mentioned earlier this morning that the real estate sector normally pays no income taxes, thanks to depreciation and the tax-deductibility of interest (which absorbs the rental income). (It does pay state and local tax). Here’s the chart that I’ve been making for the last 30 years:

    Figure 12. Real estate ebitda as percentage of national income (1930-2015)*


    Well, the reply box won’t copy my chart. But it’s in my Boeckler paper on the NC archive.
    So on tomorrow’s debate, Trump can simply say, “Wealthy people don’t pay taxes; only the little people do. How will Mr. Biden change that? I’m simply following IRS rules. I love depreciation.”

    1. Glen

      Mr. Hudson, thank you for this and all your other work.

      I used to jokingly tell my wife while doing our taxes that we should be able to depreciate our kids as they got older which always got me a hard bop on the head.

    2. Stephen V.

      Ah, nobody remembers the good old Reagan days. Pre-1986 Tax Reform er,, “investors” could ACCELERATE their real estate depreciation. I worked for an attorney that had amassed a nice little San Diego rental property empire– and then it came crashing back to earth.
      I think DJT’s main concern is people will finally learn that he is “rich” and not “wealthy:” hat tip to Chris Rock.
      And what’s up with the $79m refund? Methingks that someone is looking at a Net Operating Loss and mistaking that for money coming back. Just my speculation.

      1. Moe Knows

        It’s one thing not to pay taxes, it’s another to get a refund – based on wat? It would have to do either agaisnt taxes paid or a taxes credit(s) of some kind. Did trump sending a 1000 kinds to college or something?

    3. Noone from Nowheresville

      So on tomorrow’s debate, Trump can simply say, “Wealthy people don’t pay taxes; only the little people do. How will Mr. Biden change that? I’m simply following IRS rules. I love depreciation.”

      Yes, a 1,000, 100,000,000 times yes. I want that debate to happen.

      I’d also like it to make a real difference in well anything.

      1. anon

        He can ask Joe how much tax he avoided on millions in income using S-corps.
        Or why did he lie about not knowing about Hunter’s dealings with corrupt Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs while VP?. What was he trying to cover-up?

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Nothing to see here citizen, move along. We brought The Republic to its knees because of suspected Russian influence peddling, but this is different because A. Our Guy Is The One Doing It, and B. The evidence is clear and irrefutable, not just a concoction of complete lies, innuendos, and smears. Why burden the public with actual facts, now that we’ve gotten them to completely fall for any old thing we feel like telling them? War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Biden Doesn’t Dodge Taxes, Bloomberg Doesn’t Pay Convicted Felons To Vote, Obama Is Scandal-Free, and Trump Is The One Taking Money From Russia. Q: Have you taken your soma today, it’s got electrolytes!

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        If Joe fails too embarrassingly to spin away, gets dementy, etc. so that they have to elevate Harris to the Pres slot, that might clarify it enough for fresh millions to reject the Dem ticket.

    4. ewmayer

      Further, as MoA notes in a “Trump’s Tax Filings Do Not Reveal What Democrats Had Hoped For” post today, the NYT “paid only $750!” latest-bombshell-revelation-which-will-surely-send-Trump-to-prison and “years of tax avoidance” headlines are so misleading as to constitute a Big Lie:

      “However, down in paragraph 78(!) it reports:

      Mr. Trump was periodically required to pay a parallel income tax called the alternative minimum tax, created as a tripwire to prevent wealthy people from using huge deductions, including business losses, to entirely wipe out their tax liabilities.

      Mr. Trump paid alternative minimum tax in seven years between 2000 and 2017 — a total of $24.3 million, excluding refunds he received after filing.

      And another in-fact-crucial passage which the authors of the NYT piece buried so deep as to ensure that 99% of their ‘readers’ and social-media-headline-blarers will never see it:

      By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

      These vile propagandists so deserve another 4 years of Trump – the problem is that the rest of us don’t, but as with 2016, the 2 corrupt major parties offer us a non-choice between continued elite looting and imperial psychopathy via a smooth-talking empty-suit and a pro-wrasslin-heel incumbent. Given the dismal options, I wonder how many of the hoi polloi will vote for the Heel simply based on the entertainment value?

      1. Late Introvert

        Thanks for doing deep reading and reporting back. Good stuff. I’m the Late Introvert who is always commenting after it is too late.

        1. juliania

          I’m even later, thanks ewmayer for explaining that, and also Prof. Hudson and commentary in general here, and finally Lambert and Yves for keeping us informed and educated in these difficult times.

      2. skippy

        Thanks to Rachel, we now know why.

        “Donald Trump incurred most of his tax liability in 2005 from the Alternative Minimum Tax, a feature of the tax code that he has called to eliminate, according to a portion of his tax return for that year reported Tuesday night.

        In 2005, Trump earned $150 million and paid $38 million in federal income taxes, for an effective income tax rate of just above 25 percent, the White House said Tuesday night in anticipation of the president’s returns being disclosed by the media.”


        Kudos to Rachel for showing that Trump is just looking out for himself.


        Rim shot – ?????

    5. Mikel

      I don’t know, Mr. Hudson.
      If most of the debate is about taxes in any shape or form, Trump wins. Everybody is in their own information bubble and decades of painting the Democrats as “tax and spend” is a dogmatic mantra.
      Biden could say, “I’m closing down the IRS. No more taxes.” And, in the information bubbles, they would still paint him as a tax and spend Dem post debate and it would be believed.

  2. Wukchumni

    Ah dumplings…

    I grew up eating Bohemian fare and thought everybody must’ve eaten breaded plum dumplings which were prepared by being boiled in water for a spell, and when cooked just right then doused with the lightest amount of powdered sugar and served up to the family. There was never any leftovers.

    With veal dishes my mom would make a raw bread dumpling about 1/2 the size of a loaf of bread, and just like the aforementioned plum dumplings, boil it until cooked, and when it was done, she’d slice it with thread and served with sauce over meat and said dumplings, oh so good.

    Don’t think i’ve ever seen dumplings offered on a menu anywhere in my travels in these United States.

    1. SD

      Those both sound absolutely delicious.

      If there is a home-grown American filled dumpling, it’s probably Chef Boyardee canned beef ravioli. They’re not without their charms, especially for Gen-Xers like me who grew up eating them from time to time, but no one I think would ever seriously accuse them of being “delicious.”

      P.S. I’ve proudly supported NC and the Water Cooler with monthly subscription payments for a few years now. I’m fortunate enough to be able to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to supporting independent journalism. It’s probably the best money I spend every month!

    2. Terry Humphrey

      The late, great Bohemian Cafe in Omaha served the dumplings you describe. They also had a killer liver dumpling soup.

      1. RMO

        Burgoos, doughboys, a range of sweet baked dumplings (apple for example) and the pizza roll. I’m not even an foodie, let alone an foodie with extensive knowledge of American cuisine and even I knew those examples.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’ve never heard of any of those dumplings, and it isn’t as if i’ve led a sheltered food life.

          Burgoos appears to be some sort of stew, doughboys are somewhat Asian, and didn’t Jeno’s use to make pizza rolls, which were frozen?

      2. Moe Knows

        The doughnut fits the technical description and people them morning noon and night. I myself make and eat potstickers every week. (fried).

    3. ewmayer

      During past summertime visits to my Austrian relatives, I always eagerly anticipated Marillenknödel made with ripe apricots fresh-picked from one of the trees in their yard. (And yes, the Pflaumen variety were also delicious.)

    4. MichaelSF

      Have you never traveled in the south where chicken and dumplings are common? They were even available as far west as New Mexico at Furr’s Cafeterias when I was a wee lad, and I watched both my grandmother and great grandmother make them in Oklahoma.

      1. Wukchumni

        I must admit to seldom crossing the vertical mason-dixon line all that much-only a few times since the turn of the century, and was centered more towards out west eateries…

        …and doughnuts are honorary dumplings

    5. eg

      The first time I heard the word “dumpling” was in the Uncle Wiggly books my mother read to me as a child, But we never had them in our house.

      Aren’t pierogies dumplings?

  3. Alex Morfesis

    Parscale baker acting himself…best way to avoid answering questions under oath to a grand jury…one of the oldest tricks in the book…top insiders have used the crazy pants routine throughout history…could be real…except the easy cooperation part…if you are not crazy and soon to be maybe ex wife looking to work you over by setting you up…well why would you be cooperative ??

    Either way, page 27 under the fold on a friday in mid November…

  4. lakecabs

    I am a big fan of the Papermate Profile.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    I sent money to NC yesterday. You sometimes ask for money for Water Cooler

    Should I make another donation to NC or how do you break it down.

    I have been supporting both.

    1. Wukchumni

      Big longtime fan of the Papermate blue Flair felt pen, not red or black, has to be blue.

      About 20 years ago I was climbing Black Kaweah in Sequoia NP and it’s the most formidable of peaks in the southern Sierra, and was with 3 friends i’d known for a long time who were aware of my proclivity toward the pen, and when we reached the top, signed the circa 1924 peak register* with a blue Flair, my buddies laughing that i’d brought it along.

      * the best register on any of the 45 peaks i’ve been on top of by far, it only had about 100 entries and was a who’s who of famous climbers in the Sierra, with Norman Clyde, Jules Eichorn, Glen Dawson, and W. A. Starr (the latter written in blood, as he didn’t have a writing instrument) among the luminaries on high.

      Sadly, somebody made off with it about a decade ago.


    2. FriarTuck

      As to disposable pen, my vote is for the G10. They’re the only pens I’ve ever used to the point to depletion.

      For more long-use pens, I use the Cross ATX selectip with replaceable cartridges. They’re expensive, but I’ve been using the same pen bodies for 5 years now. Their writing is the smoothest, best experience I’ve ever had.

      I have a coworker that is a bit of a pen squirrel. He collects all kinds of expensive pens; his most expensive is a fountain calligraphy pen with a flexible point; I don’t personally like it, but he seems to carry it around with him everywhere.

      1. Diuretical

        I vote for the Lamy studio with refillable inkwell. Great pens (and if you drop it on the nib you can actually bend it back in shape with pliers…or a pill crusher.) I lasted two years at work with one which amounts to about 100 plastic pens I never bought…plus the smooth outside is easy to sanitize! When the hospital goes paperless I will miss it.

        1. RMO

          Diruetical: I was of the generation that just missed out on dip and fountain pens (though my elementary school desks still had holes in the top for inkwells) and I had been intimidated by fountain pens ever since, thinking they would be more difficult to use and easier to make a mess with. A couple of years back my wife inherited her Dad’s 1950’s Parker P51 and she told me to try it. I was amazed at how much nicer writing was with it that with any ballpoint pen I had ever tried. I got a couple of less expensive fountain pens that had built-in piston filling and haven’t looked back since. I write by hand a lot more now, my handwriting is a lot better and I no longer have to throw away cartridges. I also picked out a couple of inks I liked made by Pilot so I know I’ll likely always be able to get the same colour again in the future when the bottles run out.

          The closest thing to that revelation in writing gear was the day I discovered that there were mechanical pencils which weren’t utterly awful as all the cheap drugstore ones I had previously tried were to use.

      2. JWP

        Pilot pens were the currency of middle school. Lots more could be learned about the power dynamics of life through participation and observation of the intraclass pen trade than in class.

      1. Sailor Bud

        I’m on your team in the Pen Pennant. V5 is the most rapidograph-like of all the office-level choices out there, and all others are vastly inferior for my doodling appetites.

    3. Mark Gisleson

      Honestly don’t have any favorite pens anymore, but will argue relentlessly for the Kinesis Freestyle split keyboard that lets people with wide shoulders type comfortably.

      1. Sailor Bud

        Extra thumb buttons = ultra superior, tho I have a Kinesis Advantage myself. I type on it like a demon. Seriously the only super expensive product I’ve considered buying a backup of, just in case such a niche product gets discontinued or the business goes bust. Never did tho. Anyway, that’s now 2 products in a row I’ve shilled in these comments, and that’s well above my monthly allowance, so I’ll shup now.

    4. skk

      I use anything – I’ve got Marriott branded ‘biros’ to last a lifetime but gosh – I remember inkwells and dip pens/nib pens. that’s what I graduated to from pencils way back when way off somewhere.

    5. Lunker Walleye

      I remember when the wooden desks in school had ink wells;) Even we kids had to ask what they were for because they were no longer being used.

      Niji (Yasutomo) Stylists are hands down my fave pens for making sketches and notes. However, all good things must come to an end. Believe I bought some of the last made.

    6. dk

      I use pens for signing documents and similar, otherwise cheap mechanical pencils all the way. #2 0.7mm what’s not to like? Yeah, I know: plastic waste. But I don’t use them that much now we have computers, and the box of 40 I got 10 years ago still has about 15 left. Best thing about pencils: they don’t dry out! And if they skip it’s usually some quality of the paper, as may sometimes be the case with pens.

      I try to support NC and WC roughly equally … okay I favor Lambert a bit because he’s more of a solo operator and his output is prodigious. Been thin on donations recently due to declining means.

    7. Yves Smith

      Thanks! Lambert has a mini-fundraiser for Water Cooler in the spring. I also write him and Jerri big checks out of this fundraiser, so trust me, they will not be neglected.

  5. Michael Fiorillo

    See, I told you Trump would be taken down when his tax returns showed he’s owned by The Russia!

    Oh, wait, you mean he’s just another plutocrat tax chiseler?

    Score another own goal for the #McResistance TM…

    1. anon

      I have not read the NYT article, but read elsewhere that Trump paid about $24 million in taxes due to AMT. Can someone who understands taxes comment?

      1. Stephen V.

        The Dreaded Alt Min(imum) Tax, a 1986 Tax Reform artifact. Originally aimed at the upper income brackets, it now affects a lot of comfortable middle income folks. People much smarter than me refer to it as a “parallel universe of taxation.” Long calculation short–making a bunch of things non-deductible for AMT, your tax is recalculated. And you pay the higher amount. Congress has refused forever to re-index it upwards. Hope this helps.

        1. Leftcoastindie

          IIRC the AMT was ditched with Obama’s so called stimulus. He offered it as a compromise to the repubs so they might vote for his bill. HaHa.

      2. curlydan

        Probably not a surprise to learn that under Trump’s and the Republicans’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the AMT went from affecting 5.1M filers to only 244K. It was a total pain to calculate, but at least for many rich people, it was a total pain.

    2. Pavel

      Anyone else here old enough to remember how HRC was caught out for not declaring her “cattle futures earnings [cough]” on her tax return?

      If I had a dollar for every politician who cheated on taxes or simply exploited the rules written by, er, politicians, I’d be richer than Trump.

      And what about the insider trading they allowed themselves to do?

      A pox on all their houses.

      1. dave

        There is no indication that Trump cheated, exploited, or chiseled on his taxes, despite only owing $750. None at all.

        1. Jim Hannan

          I read the entire NY Times article. In fact, there are several items in the article that could be construed as Trump cheating, exploiting or chiseling on his taxes.

          The first and major area is the audit issue over his $72 million refund. The main issue is whether his 5% stake changed the terms of his abandonment of the asset.

          A second item revolves around the possible payment of outside consulting fees to his daughter Ivanka, an employee of the Trump organization.

          A third item involves the designation of the Trump family compound as a business entity, allowing deduction of property taxes beyond the caps imposed under the 2017 tax law.

          I’d recommend that all actually read the article in its entirety. I still believe that the main Trump source of income is Melania’s modeling royalties.

          1. km

            I thought those allegations, although very much “Inside Baseball for tax nerds”, were way more telling and way more interesting than the ZOMG headline.

  6. fresno dan

    So I really gave up fast food years ago, but every once in a while….
    So yesterday, not having been to Taco Bell in years (I have been to Del Taco every couple of months) I just had a craving for some tacos, and Del had a line from here to eternity. So I go to Taco Bell and order some tacos.
    And I get a bag full of tacos. I get home and I notice that the sack has a little sticker saying “Sealed for your protection”
    Really??? I guess the sack can be said to be “sealed’ due to the sticker. But I mean, how much danger are my tacos in after the person who tosses in the hamburger, cheese, and lettuce, wraps them in some paper, stuffs them into a sack and folds the sack, and hands them to the drive through person, maybe 15 feet away at the drive through window, and I guess puts the sticker on the sack, to hand to me?

    1. Wukchumni

      In a similar vein, watched a Biden tv commercial yesterday while watching football, and he’s masked up for 28 seconds in and around supporters, and then at the end, there is he sans mask way too close to somebody 20 years his senior, the kind of person most at risk from Covid-19.

      It struck me as all kinds of wrong, but as if Donkey Show apparatchiks do anything right?

      1. a different chris

        Where did Biden find somebody 20 years his senior!!??!!

        They were probably begging him to kill them off.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Health safety theatre. Like shedding your shoes for airport security. It’s all just branding, and most of us are suckers for it.

    3. Alfred

      I also wondered for a while about those stickers. I conclude that a fast-food place puts on these stickers under the assumption that the customer picking up an order at the window is not necessarily the person who will eat the food ordered. ‘Sealing’ the sack is supposed to re-assure the latter that no tampering (or pilferage), en route, has been effected by the former.

    4. Lee

      The only protective function of that little sticker I can think of is if it somehow prevented you from eating the contents of the bag.

    5. hunkerdown

      Seasoned ground beef, please. It wasn’t boiled in a bag for 25 minutes just to be called hamburger.

      The sticker seems to be a Doordash best practice or requriement, presumably to keep their runners from causing shrink in transit. The local Five Guys has their own and uses them exclusively on the DD orders. Yum! Brands or the TB franchisee might have chosen to burn through some bag seals for marketing purposes. There are still people in downriver Detroit who think Mexican food is edgy and I’m sure y’all got rednecks too.

    6. KevinD

      Gave it up as well – after reading the ingredients in a Chik-Fil-A spicy chicken sammich. Enough cancer causing ingredients to make the tobacco folks cough. Also, don’t read the ingredients on a Homey packet from Popeyes….

  7. dcrane

    Glad you pasted the Veritas story on alleged ballot harvesting. Veritas has put out some deceptive stuff in the past, but also some worthy stories like the ABC journo caught discussing how her network deep-sixed her Epstein coverage. Eric Weinstein interviewed O’Keefe a while back, fwiw.

    I watched the MN video and, while I would like to see the matter looked into, the format was choppy and difficult to follow so I really have to wonder if it’s being honest. A Part 2 is promised at the end.

    1. JTMcPhee

      We have a local bulletin board, an actual board with thumbtacks and all, for our little subdivision. A woman put up a sheet of paper where she offered a ride anyone who could not otherwise get to the polling place on Nov 3. No indication of party affiliation, just a citizen offering to help voters cast their ballots, and there are a lot of people in our subdivision who are disabled or do not have transportation readily available. Someone pulled the sheet out of the plastic sleeve the poster had put it up in, and added an anonymous threat to the effect that this was illegal ballot harvesting and said anonymous person was going to raise this conduct to the higher authorities for investigation and prosecution.

      Note that the original poster only offered to drive people to the polling place, not to collect their ballots and deliver them. The GOP which has made serious inroads into the electorate by various scams like stripping voting rights from people with names that sound “Democrat” has litigated the ballot harvesting issue, https://thepatriotjournal.com/florida-court-decision-democrats-harvesting/ . The Dems in FL have not done jack to enroll voters, so apparently do not give a toot about the problem. Over 100,000 ex-prisoners are barred from voting because they have not paid the poll tax of fines and fees and restitution ordered as part of their sentence, which our conservative courts liberally lay down on defendants. This despite a citizens initiative that directed ex-felons shall have the right to vote.

      Not that it matters much, having the “right to vote,” given what the Monoparty serves up ad the sh!t sandwich “alternatives” all up and down the ballot…

      What a fu**ed political economy we live in.

      1. Noone from Nowheresville

        That’s because voting is a privilege not a right. Besides which you are only voting in/for the leadership faces of the two public social club committees.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Actually there are a whole lot of issues and candidates on the ballot on Nov. 3, not just the choice of which color of processed American cheese slice we “prefer” on the shit sandwiches offered by those private corporations we call political parties. And is it worth arguing whether voting is a right or privilege, much less a duty or responsibility of citizenship? Feckless endeavor in this oligarchy at the very top, and quite a way down the ballot. But if there’s any hope of anything better, we should recall that the Reds own so much of the power in this country because they concentrated their efforts to fill in the many parts of local, state and federal government, one “race” at a time. Maybe people on the left do not have the necessary killer instinct to push the pendulum the other way?

  8. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Today’s earlier discussion about Trump’s taxes, the seriousness of the news, and what that means regarding the upcoming election

    I’ve been listening to Mike Duncan’s excellent podcast on the history of Rome which is absolutely tremendous and gives a historical perspective taking the views of the common people into account rather than being just a litany of battles and prominent men. I’m at the Augustan period where the Republic finally becomes the Empire after nearly a century of civil wars. The Roman Senate is extremely corrupt and the populus has been chafing under the rule of their grifting aristocracy for centuries. Duncan says this about Augustus’ ascent to absolute power, shortly after a grain shortage left the people hungry –

    “…the common citizens rioted, and called for Augustus to be named dictator. They had no faith that the Senate would be able to solve their problems – only the princeps could see them through the trouble.


    The incident highlights the counter-intuitive notion that when it came to Augustus’ relationship with common Romans, their problem with him was not that he had seized too much power, but that he had not seized enough.”

    The bit that includes the above quote starts around the 30:00 mark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4NtQOTsXIU

    Those who think anyone would be better than Trump should be very careful what they wish for, especially when that anyone is a doddering old corrupt senex and ex-Senator who has been sticking it to the populus for decades. Trump was US citizens’ first attempt to throw out corrupt rule and replace it with ‘anyone’. When going back to the corrupt status quo ante inevitably doesn’t fix things, just like it didn’t in Rome, the next president the people clamor for to ‘drain the swamp’ may turn out to be a lot more competent, like Augustus was, and then you can really kiss our Republic goodbye.

    In my opinion, it’s no longer a matter of if we lose our modern day Republic, but when.

    1. Wukchumni

      Roman legionaires were paid in silver Denarius coins, and from a monetary standpoint things really go to hell when high technology comes along and somebody figures out how to silver-wash bronze coins so as to give the appearance of the looking the part.

      It went from 25 Denarii equaling 1 gold Aureus, to over 3,000 of the newer Denarii equaling that same 1 Aureus (why do you think alchemy became such the rage, they’d essentially pulled it off with silver, you see) and the much reduced buying power that came with the territory for the said soldiers.

      We’ve had the same thing happen here, albeit with ‘Digital Denarii’ if you will.

      The ratio of bad money driving out good money reached 120x the previous standard in Roman times, we’re @ almost 100x the old standard now in these United states which existed from 1795-1933, for those playing along @ home.

    2. AnonyMouse

      Yes. This and Dan Carlin’s Death Throes of the Republic, also his audiobook “The Storm Before The Storm”, shows you essentially exactly what has happened + will continue to happen in the US…

    3. notabanker

      I guess that all depends on which definition of the term you want to use, but I would say “b” is already gone.

      1a(1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president
      (2) : a political unit (such as a nation) having such a form of government
      b(1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law
      (2) : a political unit (such as a nation) having such a form of government
      c : a usually specified republican government of a political unit

    4. neo-realist

      No, Trump wasn’t just anyone. He did a great job of pretending he was “anyone” then governed like a republican on steroids: Big tax cuts, big military spending, big deregulation and privatization, big cronyism, big time antagonism and voter suppression initiatives against POC. Not to mention threats to remove the left from the national scene using new wave S.A. street thugs, police power and government statutes (RICO and sedition).

      He brought in his unique brand of corrupt.

      If the doddering old man gets in, the left gets some space on the down tickets and the street to slow the decline.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Meantime, there are slips of the tongue. There are gaffes. There are oversights. There are little white lies told for innocent reasons. There are sins of omission. Then there are occasional actual lies. Then there are frequent lies.

        But I’m not sure we yet have a term for a person where every single last utterance seems to lack any speck of the critical truthiness ingredient:


  9. Hepativore

    Actually, the Democrats have been making noises about backing away from a public option AGAIN. Combine this with an Obama-Biden era “Grand Bargain” of possibly-retroactive cuts to Social Security and Medicare and a possible reinstatement of the individual tax mandate, Biden administration policies seem like they would be markedly worse in this area than Trump. At least with Trump, the damage to our already failed healthcare system has largely already been done

  10. none

    I can’t stand clickbait but I had to click to find out what the best pen was. I think the person is saying “Papermate Profile” but they might have meant “G2 10”. I like the Papermate Profile but it does dry out and stop working. The usual rejuvenation attempts (shaking, heating the cartridge tip with a heat gun) don’t help for more than a moment. I think I’ve tried the G2 10 but don’t remember specifics. Finding pens that don’t suck seems to be a hard problem. They exist, but as soon as you find a good one, they stop selling them.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I honestly don’t think it was clickbait. I started reading the thread and was amazed at the many, many favorites and the strongly held views. Of course, the act of writing with a pen is a personal, intimate one, much more than typing on a keyboard; it’s no wonder people feel strongly! (Also, pens seem not to be crapified, they have a real price range including cheap, and there is a great profusion of them. The market for pens seems to be functioning well. Why?

      1. hunkerdown

        You would be almost as amazed by r/mechanicalkeyboards. :) There is definitely a fandom for mechanical keyboards, where feel is quite customizable and indeed a very personal thing. Some hard core enthusiasts will rebuild individual keyswitches to optimize the force curves; usually these are the gamers or serious 150wpm+ typists. The less hard core enthusiasts will install sockets in their keyboards for their keyswitches so that they can evaluate different switch types in various positions; a lot of typists seeking endurance are found here. We relative muggles will buy or make a keyboard with our preferred feel of switches and simply enjoy the improved feel over the rubber baby buggy bumper switches of the $5 Amazon keyboard.

        Written on an 84-key mechanical keyboard with color code “blue” switches: high force, tactile, “clicky”, much like the venerable IBM model M keyboards. I’m a traditionalist, what can I say. I’m even replacing the switches with genuine Cherry switches as the imports fail, and so glad they’re still around after decades.

        1. Old Jake

          Writing this on a HyperX with Cherry Reds, but my more often used business keyboard is a Unicomp bending spring 102 key unit. Still the king. Unicomp is a Lexington Kentucky company that acquired the IBM patents for their legendary PC-AT keyboard, and even, I think, the production machinery, and produces them right there in Kentucky.

        2. eg

          This reminds me of how much I used to enjoy my old mechanical typewriter — writing on it had a rhythm and physicality (that slap-bang-chime! on the return!).

          Good times.

      2. Off The Street

        Papermate helped me close more smoothly a transaction, as the buyer liked the feel, or ‘hand’ of my pen. Blue ink, of course.

      3. LaRuse

        I am a Pilot G-2 10 fan all the way – blue for notarizations, black for everything else. I ask for them as a stocking stuffer every year. Just last week, I tried to notarize something for my boss, used an irregular pen, hated it so much I reprinted and we redid it with my G2. I know people get committed to their pens. I am one of them.

    2. nippersdad

      I would suggest a Cross. I have had two of them for over thirty years now and they still work perfectly/

      1. howseth

        I would suggest a ‘Pilot Precise V5’.
        Cheap. Don’t tend to skip….or dry out.
        No. I don’t get a commission on every pen sold.

        1. nippersdad

          My Dad and Wife (then girlfriend) gave me mine forty and thirty five years ago, respectively. Cheap is still not free, they last forever and you can get them fixed for the price of postage. Seriously, though, I think I bought some replacement cartridges for them about fifteen years ago. I still have three unused ink cartridges left, and they haven’t skipped a beat.

          Doing the Texas Instruments thing estimating the cost of the pens (and there were a lot of repeating decimals), I came out to less than a dollar per year inclusive of the cost of the cartridges.

          I just think that is unbeatable for cost effectiveness and efficiency over time. In much the same time period, for example, we have run through about twenty five dogs. If they made dogs as well as Cross pens we could have saved a lot on vet bills.

      2. Old Jake

        Cross went through a period about ten to fifteen years ago when their ball point cartridges left an un-inked line between two lines of ink, as if the ink was being pushed aside by the ball as it rode on the paper. I notice this with both black and blue medium points, and as I don’t really like the fine lines much, I set mine aside. Recently I reloaded one and used it again and it’s not giving the the issue, so they fixed something. The mechanism of the permanent part of the pen is without doubt very durable.

        I am partial to the old Waterman fountain pen I’ve had for years, but I don’t do much hand writing. It’s too slow and even I can’t read what I’ve written. Did I mention it’s slow?

  11. fresno dan

    When this 92 year old man who pays for his insulin by working as a snake frustrater at the snake pit was bitten by one of the snakes, this community came together to give him one dose of the antidote and get him back in the snake pit
    I shouldn’t ask this, but is there an actual job of snake frustrater – or is it just part of the parody of how rotten US health care is

    1. Lemmy Caution

      Get back in the snake pit. Pretty much sums up the elites’ attitude toward workers in our pandemic-ravaged economy, doesn’t it?

      1. RMO

        I think it’s a name used for a person who “milks” snakes for the venom which has to be collected in order to make antivenom.

  12. km

    I hate to nitpick Yasha Levine, but rich Malibu liberals’ avoidance of property tax has nothing to do with Trump’s position with regard to federal income tax.

    1. ChrisAtRU

      Actually, from a MMT perspective, it’s worse. Taxes at the federal level are not needed as revenue to pay for anything. At the state level, taxes are definitely required revenue to meet spending needs – states can’t issue/create US dollars ex nihilo. There’s little to excuse Trump for when he’s working within the guardrails permitted by an internal revenue system designed precisely to benefit people like him.

    2. Yves Smith

      I beg to differ. I never heard of any way to avoid property taxes. The most I’ve heard of is lower rates for seniors. By contrast, the Federal code is chock full of breaks. And since Trump’s income is presumably almost entirely business income as opposed to salary, the writeoff possibilities are vast.

  13. ShamanicFallout

    The British rainforest picture is truly beautiful. Looks like the rainforests here in Washington state. When I see these, I also think Tolkien. Very evocative

    1. rtah100

      I am pretty sure most of those pictures are Wistman’s Wood, which is a tiny gorge in the middle of Dartmoor national park. It’s a couple of miles’ walk from the A road crossing the moor, up a valley stream. There’s only a few acres of wood. It was long claimed to be a remnant of prehistoric forest but is now thought to be mostly younger but still impressively other worldly. You still find crisp packets and tin cans stuffed in the rocks by tourists though. :-(

      We took our young boys there last summer on a scorching hot day and the cool green was very welcome. They loved it but not the walk back through sheep grazed moorland. We had to put them on our shoulders (the boys, not the sheep). Stock can wander around the wood, they are not fenced out.

      That part of the moor gets 60″-72″ of rain a year so it is definitely a rainforest, just a rather cool one. Thanks, Atlantic weather fronts!

    2. The Rev Kev

      It is a haunting image that. Tony Robinson did a series about walking through Britain and in one part, he went into one of these old pockets of original woods and the difference was dramatic. With landscape like that, the tales of King Arthur become more understandable. Can you imagine what the British landscape was like 2,000 years ago?

    3. Conrad

      Italian tunnellers built the tailraces for the Manapouri Dam under the temperate rainforest down at the bottom of the South Island here in New Zealand back in the day. I guess there’s a lot of Italian tunnelling experience thanks to the Apennines and the Alps?

  14. Louis Fyne

    Biden has run a strong campaign in Ohio?

    his biggest event anywhere had 200 people, and I can’t recall him being in Ohio since at least Labor Day (but don’t hold me to that)

    1. curlydan

      Only if you call server-busting, robotic texting from ladies with somewhat seductive sounding names asking you to support Joe with a few more bucks before this crucial election a “strong campaign”, and please don’t (type) STOP!

  15. fresno dan

    UPDATE “Breakingviews – U.S. election dispute may demand months of hedging” [Reuters]
    Of course, Biden might win an overwhelming mandate, rendering the trainwreck scenario moot inevitable, but that doesn’t seem very likely.

      1. Wukchumni

        Isn’t the popcorn buying kind of prompted by the idea of using it as ersatz birdshot by hand cannon fanciers when the real ammo runs out?

      2. Paradan

        Make a vest that vents the hot gas from explosive reactive armor into a pouch filled with popcorn kernels. That way you can have both.

  16. antidlc

    “How a glitchy computer system skewed Texas’ coronavirus data and hampered its pandemic response”

    Thank you for this article.

    I was wondering about the reporting delays in Texas.

  17. divadab

    Re:British Rainforests – the main problem with reforestation of the native rainforest is that the terrain has been degraded for so long – about 5000 years ago (since the neolithic) was when the clearing of forests and grazing of sheep and cattle began in the UK – that people think the current degraded environment is natural. I remember hill-walking in the Highlands in the late 70’s with Scottish friends and they simply would not believe that the natural vegetation of the highlands was forest. They were so used to seeing grazed grassland and heather and peat, the environment they and the previous 100 generations had grown up with, they thought it was natural.

    Similarly – study the cedar on the flag of Lebanon – it’s a poor specimen, with multiple crowns and spindly crooked trunks – but it is representative of the remaining cedar forest of Lebanon. Because thousands of years of cutting down the best specimens for the ships of the Phoenicians and Pharoahs have degraded the breed to a pale shadow of its once magnificent extent of tall cedars, massive straight trunks and crowns reaching for the sky.

    of course, all this is curable with education and organized restoration work. Plenty of healthy jobs managing the forests of the planet without chemicals and with long-term sustainability as the primary goal.

    1. wilroncanada

      I played steel guitar back in the 50s when I was young. Quit in my mid teens after my father criticized me for finishing third in a music festival. Still intend to pick one up and try again.

  18. a different chris

    >went to the house in the Seven Isles community

    Yes and the police would have acted exactly the same way if he was some, uh, “blah guy” in Compton.


    And actually it is the worse case if you are black, but if you are as Scots-Irish as all get out and live in a trailer park your odds are not good, either.

  19. a different chris

    >— and then keep on reducing it, 5 years at a time, until we reach the age of 0?

    Let me chip in my plan again, along the same lines as yours *but* coverage grows from both directions!

    1) Drop Medicaid to 60, cover all kids until 5yrs old
    2) Drop Medicaid to 55, cover all kids until 10 years old

    And so on. I do prefer your immediate drop to 55, TBH. Hmmmm…I could rework my figures somewhat.

  20. Pavel

    Interesting theory re covid over at the excellent Automatic Earth:

    Vitamin D. 10,000 daily for the first week, 5,000 after that. Not much else matters. You sort of found your vaccine before it appeared.

    —Vitamin D

    Big Pharma is not amused.

  21. UserFriendly

    Ranked choice voting in Maine a go for presidential election

    lol That is interesting because RCV isn’t precinct summable and Maine does EC votes by congressional district. I bet they wrote the law that they just find the winner in each CD and then just add the votes together to find the winner state wide but with RCV that isn’t necessarily true. If the statewide race were close it is entirely possible that summing the CD’s separately first would give a different result than doing the state as a whole.

  22. Brindle

    Apparently there is no limit as to number of people to help someone with their ballot, Judd Legum is pretty credible in my book:

    …”1. A note on the Project Veritas story that is setting the right-wing on fire

    The only conduct the video provides actual evidence for is PERFECTLY LEGAL

    In Minnesota, you can help as many people as you want return a ballot”


    1. marym

      “O’Keefe alleges that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) employed individuals to “harvest ballots” in exchange for cash in her 2020 primary. The video shows Snapchat footage from a man named Liban Mohamed, who is not an Omar campaign employee, gloating about having picked up over 300 ballots in one day. In it, he is not picking up ballots for Omar.”

      Also mentions that “ballot harvesting” is legal in MN.


      I don’t know anything about the Daily Dot but they’ve been around since 2011. Here’s the Wiki

    1. ambrit

      Cambridge Analytica has a “data leak” that trashes Trump a month before the election. Very convenient timing.
      Is Steve Bannon twisting and turning in the wind?
      Didn’t Cambridge Analytica cease operations in 2018? If so, where did this trove of information come from?
      The gloves are coming off. Expect an ‘arms length’ smear campaign to the effect that Biden is senile and dangerous to the country in counter.

  23. CatmanPNW

    For a long time I thought the Papermate Profile and G2 were the best pens, but then I found the Uniball Eye F
    Fine. So good! Stainless steel tip, waterproof, fadeproof.

  24. UserFriendly

    “Pelosi preparing for House to decide presidency if neither Trump or Biden win electoral college: report” [The Hill]

    If you follow that through to the politico story its based off of it starts to get interesting.

    But it’s more than a math equation. If the House is asked to resolve an Electoral College stalemate, the country will be witnessing one of the harshest exercises of raw power in its history. If Democrats retain control of the House, they could opt against seating potential members whose elections remain contested, even if state officials say otherwise.

    Which is exactly what I suggested when Sabato’s Crystal ball ran that story 2 weeks ago. Keep in mind that it goes to the house in any case where no one gets 270 EV’s. So if there are disputed EC votes too…

  25. Wukchumni

    I’m shocked that housing bubble part 3 is in full swing, 30 million new unemployed people are suddenly inking deals on 30 year deals on the big house, makes no sense.

    Seeing as most Americans lucky enough to have assets are house rich and cash poor, if you were the powers that be preparing in essence for the buck to take a bath, that would only tend to increase the value of domiciles, so the proles would think they’re winning when in fact they’re just treading water or worse.

    Sound about right?

      1. Wukchumni

        A basic house in LA was $100k when interest rates were near 20% in 1980, now the very same tired home 40 years later is ‘worth’ $700k with that low 2% mortgage rate.

        It’d be like a 1973 AMC Matador that was worth $4k in 1980 is now valued @ $28k, despite having 186k miles on it (like that would have ever happen) and needs a lot of work.

  26. BoyDownTheLane

    With regard to ObamaCare and the guy in the snake pit, I wonder if the same thing would work for me — if people would come together and insure that I got proper care and reimbursement after I’d stopped at Dunkin Donuts and tried some of their new sugar-coated bacon strips….

  27. CanChemist

    “Coronavirus death rate dropping amid better ICU treatments”
    “Since the start of the pandemic, the death rate for ICU patients has dropped from an average of 60 per cent in early march to 42 per cent by the end of May, according to one study published in July that reviewed more than 10,000 cases from two dozen studies around the world. And some Canadian hospitals are reporting an ICU death rate of about 28 per cent.”

    “…In our study, we saw that sticking to the game plan and sticking to evidence-based practices in the ICU was associated with a survival benefit (of 15 per cent),” according to Janz, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care at University Medical Center New Orleans.

    What made the results especially notable was the very high rate of comorbidities — obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, etc. — among the patients in the study, said Janz.

    To date, those with comorbidities were considered at a higher risk of dying, but the study showed how better treatment protocols can mitigate these risks. Janz and his colleagues found the survival rate in patients treated with evidenced-based practices was almost the same as those in past ICU studies that examined disease processes.”

    1. Carolinian

      Here in SC our daily toll seems to be back to where it was at the beginning of the summer. Blame the second wave on Myrtle Beach?

      There is also an idea out there among some that the disease will run out of the likeliest victims and start to fade away–the implication being that there is a great deal of natural immunity already in existence despite the “novel” appellation. Here’s an article from a Swiss immunologist that strikes me as eminently logical if not scientifically proven. Could be worth a look.


      The argument is that some of the uncontested features of the disease such as the long incubation period and much diminished effect on the young provide circumstantial evidence that various natural systems are fighting it off despite its supposed uniqueness. By this argument the hardest hit victims and populations are those whose natural immune system has been weakened.

  28. Phil in KC

    I’m in agreement with Matt Stoller’s tweet regarding our gangster politicians. Seems like the last few elections have come down to who is more gentle when they slide the knife into you. This has become much more apparent in the last decade. The machinations of the rich and powerful no longer need to be hidden, but in some circles it is still impolite to bring up the subject. Large masses of people still root for one gang over another. It is soul crushing.

    One side will make you angry, and the other side will disappoint you.

  29. petal

    Putting in a vote for Zebra 301s. I like that they are refillable, they haven’t broken on me, and they’re not gloopy.

  30. Carolinian

    Re BLM–BLM yard signs seem to have disappeared from my neighborhood–often replaced with Biden signs. Unclear whether this is due to a change in sentiment or a notion that it would be bad politics to have the two parked next to each other. Perhaps in the AA neighborhoods the attitude is just the opposite.

    There was also supposed to be an “Occupy the White House” sit in for the month of October outside the White House. I wonder if that’s been put on the cancel list as well.

      1. Wukchumni

        A few months ago I was talking to somebody that worked for BLM, and he told me there was a miasma of misinformation in regards to whose who in a similar named acronym vein, and their office was fielding dozens of calls a day.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There was also supposed to be an “Occupy the White House” sit in for the month of October outside the White House. I wonder if that’s been put on the cancel list as well.

      Probably that got put on hold for the RBG riots. Oh, wait…

  31. Wukchumni

    So much bad news out there-and then there’s the Bills, with the right paw from Firebaugh lighting up the league. Josh Allen has got it all, poise, accuracy, occasionally a fearless rusher, with an assault rifle for an arm, and he’s only getting started.

      1. Wukchumni

        ‘Sportemkin Village’

        When you have a token amount of human fans in attendance @ an NFL game such as tonight’s contest, with the end zone stands about half filled filled with cash test dummies, so as to make them visible on scoring plays, which is only when the cameramen pan on them from a distance for a scintilla on TV.

        2, 4, 6, 8

        Always sublimate!

        Godot Team

        1. The Rev Kev

          Here in Oz they had the idea with our football to have fans upload images of themselves – and pay over $20 for the privilege – so that they could be printed on cardboard cut-outs which would be the audience in the stands. But then somebody spotted that one of the “people” in the stands was notorious serial killer Harold Shipman. Oops!


    1. Mikel

      It’s as funny as when I saw the headline describing drops/dips as “violent” pullbacks.
      Even though the pullbacks where still at astronomical prices (for their overweight tech indexes).

      It’s not about reality or analytics as much as they try to convince themselves. Right now it’s like a desperate show of financial power despite reality. Lots of desperation in these ATH. The higher it goes, the more fear I sense.

    2. Wukchumni

      Wow, “Sinister”… Really? Sinister?…

      P/E as a valuation yardstick is sinister?

      Perhaps, a left handed compliment?

    3. John k

      Sinister for prices to fall far enough to approach traditional valuations…
      Well, certainly sinister for the holder, especially if he bought it by borrowing.
      But would fed allow this? Might they be holding things together until the election?

  32. RMO

    “Yeah, this time we’ve got him for sure!”

    Trump has come back from what the pundit class have assured us is absolutely, positively his “death” more often that Jason Vorhees and Freddie Kreuger combined. I wouldn’t bet money on him winning this election but neither would I bet on him losing it. Considering the situation with Covid this is amazing. If the Dems had nominated a speak-your-weight machine with a wig on top it would have a clear, unassailable lead over Trump but they hadda go with old Gropy Jo the plagiarist.

  33. Darthbobber

    Project Veritas is running true to form. They “forget” to mention that the ballot harvesting law was set aside by an injunction before the primary, and that the Minnesota Supreme Court, on 11 September, ruled that the injunction would remain in place at least through the General Election.

    So the only part of the “expose” that bothers with any evidence is just the video of someone engaged in a perfectly legal practice. The other breathless innuendoes beyond that big scoop are all offered as bare assertions.

  34. John k

    If ev’s are tied, pres election goes to the house.
    Every state gets one vote, based on the majority of representatives from that state.
    I assume it’s current representatives, not the winners of this election, who won’t be seated until 2022, in which case it’s cut and dried.
    It takes 26/50 to win.
    So it seems clear trump wins with an EV tie. (269-269). Biden needs 270, trump needs 269.
    And the vp goes to the senate, so pence wins.
    And a fun story for the grandkids!

  35. ChiGal in Carolina

    1 million dead today, 9/28/20 as this pandemic is well on the way to blowing past everything since the 17thC save AIDS, the Third Plague, and the Spanish flu.

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