By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Patient readers, I’m going to be keeping Water Coolers shorter than usual through the New Year. In order to make the year turn toward the light more rapidly, I will make the proportion of frivolous material greater than usual. –lambert.
Bird Song of the Day
Not exactly holiday material, but it has to be done. Drops across the board, which I assume is entirely a holiday-driven reporting issue.
Case count by United States region:
An enormous holiday drop, far larger than Thanksgiving. I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?
Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:
Enormous drops, except in New York.
The test positivity, hospitalization, and case fatality graphs have moved or disappeared (plus all the other URLs changed), and I miss them. The change log doesn’t reflect this. I think this is a volunteer project, so I’m assuming I’m not getting it (but “Don’t make me think”) or that the charts are in a New Years’ shakedown phase.
“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
“Hawley to challenge Electoral College results in Senate” [The Hill]. “‘I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,’ Hawley said in a statement. ‘And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act,’ Hawley added.” • As I read this, Hawley will vote to certify after raising these issues, which deserve to be raised. The suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story “by mega corporations” was egregious. And I did scan the Republican lawsuits; they were dismissed because they were not filed in a timely manner (and because Republicans voted for some of the same legislative changes they later filed suit against). But substantively, the Republican argument on illegality did not strike me as prima facie cray cray. My general feeling is that States did what they had to do to get the vote done in the midst of a pandemic, and corners were cut. But praiseworthy actions in crises have a way of becoming norms.
Democrats en Deshabille
“Increasing Pentagon Spending When People Are Going Hungry Is Madness” [The Nation]. Sanders: “If McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve. Let’s do our job.”
— Adam Singer 🏴☠️🙃 (@TiMEoFPoSTiNG) December 29, 2020
The chart on the squad’s votes is very helpful.
Transition to Biden
“Joe Biden Is Turning Out to Be Exactly Who He Told Us He Was” [Jacobin]. “So I think, ultimately, what we need to be doing is figuring out ways where we can communicate directly with the public, with new constituencies and try to sell a new way of thinking about the world and about politics to them. That’s an organizational effort but, abstractly, it’s a creative project. And I think that we can learn from the conservative movements in that this is essentially the project that they themselves took up after Goldwater lost. They built all of these apparatuses, they built media organizations, they built think tanks, they built all kinds of things that were aimed at communicating directly with the public outside of the Republican Party that then came to bear on Republican Party politics.” • Funding?
“Biden Appointee Neera Tanden Spread the Conspiracy That Russian Hackers Changed Hillary’s 2016 Votes to Trump” [Glenn Greenwald]. “The list of sociopathic and even monstrous acts from Tanden is too long to list comprehensively.” • Yep.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Darwinizing the Federalist Papers” [The Evolution Institute]. “And evolutionary science can upgrade the old “society is an organism” metaphor invoked by great thinkers such as Hobbes and Aristotle. Today we know that human societies truly can qualify as organisms in the benign sense of cooperative wholes that are more than the sum of their parts (UNIONS) and that nurture their parts—but only under special conditions. Difficult? Of course. Possible? Yes, with the right toolkit. These short essays will lay out the history, principles, and applications of Socialist Darwinism’s toolkit. The Federalist Papers argued for the creation of a more perfect UNION based on Enlightenment values that predated Darwin. Here we add 200+ years of scientifically refined thought…. Socialist Darwinism is the idea that natural selection promotes societies that cooperate as moral communities. This concept actually predates Social Darwinism, which later emphasized competition and individualism. Socialists throughout the 1860s-70s praised Darwin’s theory as promoting progressive social change.” • Interesting. There seems also be a mini-trend of recuperating ideas and thinkers from the pre-Populist and Populist era, possibly sparked by The People, No.
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.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 57 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 28 at 11:57am
Our Famously Free Press
“1303 words” [Interfluidity]. A bit circuitous but a strong finish: “That people who love words love people who love words seems innocuous or even virtuous. But it is time, I think, to talk about love as systemic or structural or institutional. The social fissure, between people who become coded as “educated professionals” (whatever jobs we do or don’t have) and the great majority who don’t, may derive “naturally” from accidents of affinity. There is no study we can undertake, no book we can write, that will remedy it. But there are institutions that might. We could alter the landscape of material and social life so that we mix more, so that we are not as able or likely to segregate ourselves among ourselves, geographically, occupationally, digitally. Even those of us with overdeveloped insular cortices remain capable of affection beyond ourselves. We look upon ourselves, upon one another, as the civilized people. (We cosmopolitan liberals might resist putting it that way, we’d not want to imply that the people we condescend to are uncivilized.) But when the civilized self-segregate, should they be surprised that among the population they have fled emerges barbarism? We need to love more openly, more promiscuously, more forgivingly. We will fail if we treat this as a matter of personal virtue or obligation. . Love is downstream from politics. We have done our part, without intention or malice, to create this world we so lament. It is time for us to do our part to undo it.” • Not sure about that barbarism part (again, see this fascinating artice on gamers, or Chris Arnade’s Dignity). Nevertheless!
“Ulysses (Chap. 1 – Telemachus)” [Genius]. • Amazingly, somebody decided to use Genius’s lyric annotation platform to annotate the whole of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I applaud the effort!
This thread reminds me of MMT’s use of accounting identities:
Right, let’s do this.
Joan Robinson on investment and saving in 10 tweets or less. 1/ pic.twitter.com/Nv07oifWnh
— Jo Michell (@JoMicheII) December 29, 2020
Universal benefits vs. means-testing:
a “poorly targeted” (i.e. universal) benefits state is a positive good, not a thing to lament at any level. it’s the obligations state — the tax system — which should be targeted to discriminate by income. https://t.co/LubTpt06De
— Steve Randy Waldman (@interfluidity) December 30, 2020
I think Waldman gets the best of Levitz, here.
“Mississippi evictions never stopped despite federal moratorium and COVID-19 relief” [Mississippi Today]. “Jackson property owners filed evictions — just the first step in forcing a tenant out of their home — against more than 1,100 families between Sept. 4 to Nov. 30 while the federal eviction moratorium was in place, according to records Mississippi Today requested from the Hinds County Justice Court clerk. That amounts to nearly 13 families each day in that time period, compared to roughly ten per day in 2016, according to the Princeton University-based research group the Eviction Lab. The landlords also secured warrants of removal, one of the last steps in an eviction, against nearly 200 Jackson renters. It’s hard to say how many of these families overall were displaced, the way most people visualize an eviction, because data on actual evictions does not exist.” •
“Industrial Sprawl” [Home Signal]. “[W]arehousing and distribution are likely to become ever more visible presences in the cores of America’s cities in the coming years. What makes this trend remarkable, of course, is the degree to which it constitutes a dramatic movement against the past century’s currents in the geography of American goods. As is true for much else in America through those hundred years, the story of freight, warehousing, and industry has been one of dramatic (and destructive) sprawl — both within and between metropolitan areas. Take Chicago, for example. In 1947, about 75% of manufacturing employment in the region was located within the city limits of Chicago. Fifty years later, in 1997, that proportion had almost flipped — all while the Chicago region had lost more than half of its total manufacturing employment. Though certainly not without nuance (I think, for example, most would agree that moving more noxious industries away from people is a good thing), this transition has been a damaging one; industrial sprawl has done great damage to equity and the environment. This dramatic locative shift is one which thus should be central to our understanding of the postwar American city, and is one that I see as being an essential framing for discussions about freight movement.” • Well worth a read. This may also explain why Biden installed Mayo Pete at DOT: His job would be to make sure no second AOC gets in the way of an Amazon warehouse, ever again.
“Enemies of the people” (PDF) [Gerhard Toews, Pierre-Louis Vézina]. The abstract: “Enemies of the people were the millions of intellectuals, artists, businessmen, politicians, professors, landowners, scientists, and affluent peasants that were thought a threat to the Soviet regime and were sent to the Gulag, i.e. the system of forced labor camps throughout the Soviet Union. In this paper we look at the long-run consequences of this dark re-location episode. We show that areas around camps with a larger share of enemies among prisoners are more prosperous today, as captured by night lights per capita, firm productivity, wages, and education. Our results point in the direction of a long-run persistence of skills and a resulting positive effect on local economic outcomes via human capital channels.” • Natural experiments wherever you look….
“For Corrosive Inequality, Look to the Upper Middle Class” [Bloomberg]. “You can see this by looking at the U.S. Gini Index. The Gini is a traditional measure of inequality that isn’t very sensitive to what happens at the ends of the distribution. This makes it a reasonably good measure of inequality between the upper and lower middle class. It also measures income, which is more relevant to most people’s daily consumption habits and living standards than wealth. The Gini Index increased a lot in the 1980s, but by the mid-1990s it had stabilized at the new higher level…. The fact that the widening of inequality in the middle class happened decades in the past, and was largely complete by the mid-1990s, probably helps explain why it doesn’t get discussed much these days. But it’s a change that never reversed itself; It’s become a permanent feature of our economy, something we now just take for granted. And it may be having a long-term corrosive effect on American society and politics.” • Neoliberalism!
News of the Wired
Kill it with fire:
It's pretty awesome how dancing makes robots less intimidating. Looking forward to seeing more nontrivial Machine Learning on these robots. Credit: Boston Dynamics. pic.twitter.com/wnB2i9qhdQ
— Reza Zadeh (@Reza_Zadeh) December 29, 2020
It’s not like any one of these jigging entities couldn’t kill you at any moment.
Because I was checked out when trance music was a thing, I had no idea who DJ/Producer Armin van Buuren is:
Just as a concert experience, this seems pretty neat; certainly the audience looks happy. But when the “left/right” chant kicked in, I started to wonder (as with games) what would happen if this technology were politicized…..
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 (ChiGal):
ChiGal writes: “Not sure whether this is edible but it sure is beautiful!” Let’s assume it’s not, but beautiful it is. I love the slanting light.
I have enough plants in the inventory not to feel nervous now. Coral is an honorary plant, and some of you sent coral; lichen and fungi are also honorary plants, and I don’t have many of those, so it’s not too late to send them in. Thank you!
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!