2:00PM Water Cooler 1/05/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

More shortly. I got wrapped round the axle with the new Covid charts. –lambert UPDATE All done. Please see the material on Google under “Class Warfare”; it’s important.

Bird Song of the Day

The note is great: “Kree-urk and chip calls from a covey near the trail.”


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

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?

I finally cajoled the 91-DIVOC UC into giving me hospitalization, positivity, fatalities, and above all vaccination, besides caes count nationally and in the Big States. I’ll mess around with them during the week to improve them.

Vaccination by region:

Going down? WTF?

Case count by United States region:

Reporting is back to normal.

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:

Reporting is back to normal here, too.

Test positivity:

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


=Hospitalization is discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home. –>

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

That slow and steady rise in the fatality rate, is still troubling.


“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

Election Legitimacy



Trump and Roll Call are wrong U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2:

Clause 2. Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Clause 3. The Electors shall meet in their respective States and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted.

Each state certifies its own list of electors. The President of the Senate (that is, the Vice President or his nominee) has only role: to open the envelope with the list of electors inside, and count the list. The Vice President doesn’t certify anything.

As cray cray as Louise Mensch? It’s a tough call, but I say yes:

(Wood has been both a plaintiff and a litigant in several election lawsuits brought by Trump-affiliated entities.)

Democrats en deshabille


It will be interesting to see if anything Tea Party-esque happens at any town halls held before the 19th.

Corruption that looks like America:


GA: “What do the polls say about the runoff elections?” [New York Times]. “Not a single major telephone pollster conducted a survey in Georgia ahead of the election on Tuesday — partly out of exhaustion after the difficulties of 2020, and partly because of how dicey it always is to poll a runoff election, when turnout patterns become especially difficult to predict. Not one of the 16 pollsters that have conducted surveys in these races uses the kind of peer-reviewed methods and live-interviewer phone polling that the nation’s top outfits tend to rely upon. The only public poll by a traditional, reputable firm that had been planned got called off in the middle of the process. Still, based on what polling data is available, the averages suggest that the Democrats have a slight advantage.”

UPDATE GA: “Biden transition hoping for victory but bracing for defeat in Georgia” [Politico]. “Biden’s advisers are privately skeptical about Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s chances, Democrats say. And though confidants say that the incoming team’s core priorities for that 100-day agenda will remain the same regardless of the outcome — the pandemic, the recession, climate change and racial inequality — they concede that the scale of their plans could change dramatically come Tuesday evening.” And: “‘By electing Jon and the Reverend, you can make an immediate difference in your own lives, the lives of people all across the country, because their election will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check,’ Biden said at a rally in Atlanta. ‘That money will go out the door immediately.'” And: “Privately, Biden’s team does not expect to win the races, according to Democratic officials, but they are more optimistic about their chances than they were weeks ago. Though the president-elect narrowly won the state in November, they attribute that to a powerful anti-Trump sentiment that did not translate down the ballot. Perdue received about 88,000 more votes than Ossoff, and the top two Republicans combined got more than 636,000 votes than Warnock in the special election.” • That is a lot of ground to make up.

Transition to Biden

Preemptive strike:

The formula for Obama was “He’s only been President ___ months.” I think that one died out about six months in. Maybe before.

UPDATE “Kamala is roasted on Twitter for ‘plagiarizing’ anecdote from 1965 Playboy interview with Martin Luther King Jr about wanting ‘fweedom’ as a young child during civil rights movement” [Daily Mail]. “Harris told Elle that she fell out of a stroller during the march and was briefly left behind by her parents and uncle. When her mother came back to find her upset, she asked the young child what she wanted. ‘Fweedom,’ Harris is said to have responded. King (seen left in Birmingham in 1963) told a similar story of a young girl in Birmingham telling a white police officer that she wanted ‘Fee-dom’.” • Well, one more reason for Biden to pick her; they’re twin souls.


Too soon?

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE Electronic evidence is not evidence, but:

Why not spray paint on Pelosi’s brickwork?

UPDATE And Mitch:

The spraypainters hit the brickwork, but did they carefully lift the bow on the wreath before spraypainting under it? Not to be foily, but….

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.

Housing: “November 2020 CoreLogic Home Prices: Annual U.S. Home Price Appreciation Jumped to 8.2%” [Econintersect]. “CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (HPI) home prices for October 2020 increased 8.2% in November 2020, compared with November 2019, marking the largest annual appreciation since March 2014. On a month-over-month basis, home prices increased by 1.1% compared to October 2020…. ‘The demographic tailwind has arrived as Generation X and millennials drive housing demand,’ said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. ‘Lower-priced home values increased about one and a half times faster than higher-priced home values in November, as first-time buyers tend to seek out homes within the lower price ranges.'”

UPDATE Housing: “Home prices are rising faster in the middle of the U.S. as Covid drives people away from coasts” [CNBC]. “Home values have historically risen most sharply in large cities on the coasts, where supply is leaner and demand is stronger. That is no longer the case. Smaller metropolitan markets like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Boise, Idaho, Austin, Texas, and Memphis. Tennessee are seeing some of the strongest price gains in the nation now, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Prices in those cities are now at least 10% higher than with a year earlier. These have all been historically more affordable markets, and markets that generally have more inventory of homes available for sale. That makes the suddenly strong price growth in the middle of the country that much more striking.”

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Tech: “When Big Brands Stopped Spending On Digital Ads, Nothing Happened. Why?” [Forbes]. “When P&G turned off $200 million of their digital ad spending, they saw NO CHANGE in business outcomes [1]. When Chase reduced their programmatic reach from 400,000 sites showing its ads to 5,000 sites (a 99% decrease), they saw NO CHANGE in business outcomes [2]. When Uber turned off $120 million of their digital ad spending meant to drive more app installs, they saw NO CHANGE in the rate of app installs [3]. When big brands stopped spending on digital ads, nothing happened. Even further back in time, in 2012, eBay turned off their paid search ad spending, and saw NO CHANGE in sales coming from those sources [4]…. Chase did not need to show their ads on 400,000 websites, when showing ads to humans on 5,000 yielded the same outcomes. Small business owners did not need to buy millions of ad impressions, when buying 1/10 the quantity yielded more sales. Nowhere else is the phrase “you get what you pay for” more applicable than in digital marketing. If you are buying large numbers of low-cost ad impressions from programmatic channels, you’re likely getting ripped off instead of doing digital marketing. Run your own experiments — give your digital ad spending a “time out.” It’d be “fou” (“crazy”) if you don’t.”

Tech: “Ticketmaster to pay $10 million fine over hacking charges” [Associated Press]. “Court papers accused Ticketmaster of trying to infiltrate systems created by Songkick for artists that had hired the startup to help sell up to 10% of seats for U.S. tours directly through their fan clubs. The arrangement was seen as a way to reward loyal fans while thwarting scalpers — and also something that could cut into profits for the Ticketmaster empire. Ticketmaster employees ‘repeatedly — and illegally — accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect potential business intelligence,’ said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. A statement from Ticketmaster on Wednesday said that the conduct involved only two employees who were fired in 2017.”

Tech: “Apple pulls iPhone app promoting secret parties during the COVID-19 pandemic” [The Verge]. “Vybe Together’s now-removed FAQ page acknowledged the danger of the pandemic, but it said the app was designed to promote ‘small gatherings’ rather than ‘big parties.’ (Smaller gatherings of people from different households can still spread the coronavirus, creating chains of infection that extend far beyond the original event, putting people who didn’t attend the party at risk.)”

Travel: “Alaska Becomes First US Airline To Ban Emotional Support Animals” [One Mile at a Time]. “Alaska Airlines will be banning emotional support animals as of early 2021. This follows a recent ruling by the DOT giving airlines the right to do this. While I know many will celebrate this change, don’t get too excited — psychiatric service animals continue to be allowed, and that includes dogs. While this will lead to the end of animals other than dogs in airplane cabins, I wouldn’t expect a huge decrease in the number of travelers with dogs.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 5 at 12:26pm.

Health Care

“Why Isn’t New York Vaccinating More People?” [Ross Barkan, Political Currents]. This is a massive, and well-deserved takedown of Cuomo’s performance on Covid. “Last week, Cuomo threatened healthcare providers that commit “coronavirus vaccine fraud” with up to $1 million in fines. The fines will apply to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and any licensed healthcare professional…. The real problem with Cuomo dangling million dollar fines over providers for administering a vaccine to anyone who does not meet the state’s strict priority guidelines is that it will discourage mass vaccinations at a time when New York desperately needs them. This is dangerous, considering vaccines stored in deep freezers can expire when unused. Cuomo’s million-dollar hammer is one more manifestation of his authoritarian instincts…. Vaccination is the last chance for New York to be a national leader, to set a standard it has not come close to reaching throughout this crisis. If America is regarded, by so many liberals, as a failed state, then what is New York? The death toll hasn’t stopped climbing.”


“Dayton mayor unhappy as Gov. Mike DeWine signs ‘stand your ground’ legislation into law” [Columbus Dispatch]. “For more than a year, Gov. Mike DeWine warned GOP Ohio lawmakers: Don’t send me any gun bills until you deal with the plan I introduced after the Dayton mass shooting in August 2019. On Monday he caved. He signed into law a controversial “stand your ground” measure that the Republican-dominated legislature approved last month after declining to give the governor’s proposals serious consideration…. But the Ohio House added language expanding the locations where residents have no duty to attempt to retreat before using a firearm in self defense. ‘If a person is in danger of grievous bodily harm or worried about his or her life to the point where they need to use a firearm to defend themselves, very clearly this removes the duty to retreat, just as if you were in your home or in your car,’ Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, said during the floor debate on the legislation.”• “Worried.”

Our Famously Free Press

“What was blogging?” [An und für sich]. “Why can’t I just move on? Why this attachment to an outdated publication model, such that a website redesign can quite sincerely ruin my afternoon? It’s because blogging isn’t just another tool to me. It was my way out. It allowed me to build up a social network and a reputation that I never could have achieved otherwise. I realize that a big part of this was the dumb luck of getting into blogging just slightly before it hit the bigtime, but it also reflects a lot of hard work and energy on my part — not just writing, but recruiting other writers (and then writing even more to make sure the audience would be there whenever they decided to post), coming up with events and traditions (like Friday Afternoon Confessional) that made the blog feel like a real community, organizing book events and structured discussions (like the University Without Condition discussion of Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence”), etc., etc., etc.” • Reports of blogging’s death are greatly exaggerated; the growth of substack shows this; and I am continually running across good blogs. What has died — or rather, what has been killed — is the ability to find blogs.

Book Nook

“Tom Stoppard and the Last Crusade” [Kotke.org]. “Stoppard wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and served as an uncredited ghostwriter on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In fact, not only was Stoppard not credited, the lack of credit was actually given to a pseudonym, “Barry Watson.’ Everything suggests that Stoppard’s contributions to the film were substantial. In a brief oral history of The Last Crusade, now lost to linkrot but still preserved by the Wayback Machine, Spielberg says, ‘Tom is pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue.’ Last year, narrative analyst Mike Fitzgerald broke down in detail differences between a draft version of the screenplay by credited writer Jeffrey Boam and the published draft, including revisions by Spielberg and a heavy rewrite by Stoppard. (You can actually download both versions of the screenplay on Fitzgerald’s site.) Again, Stoppard contributed not just lines of dialogue, but new scenes, a new structure, and changes in characterization.” • There’s a great clip from The Last Crusade at the link. “Well, they don’t come any closer than that!” Any scriptwriters in the readership will enjoy this.

Xmas Postgame Analysis

“Pensioner reveals how she wraps her Christmas tree in CLING FILM with all the decorations still on to save time putting it away” [Daily Mail]. “The cling filmed tree is then put in the garage ready for use again in 11 months and [Larraine McDougall (71)] has been tidying her tree away using this method for the last four years.” • Seems obsessive. Why not just leave the tree up? Dust, you say? What’s that?

Class Warfare

“Here’s what we know about the Google union so far” [The Verge]. “On Monday, roughly 230 Google employees announced they were forming a union with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). It’s open to employees and contractors at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. As a minority union, it doesn’t need to go through a formal legal process in order to exist. It just needs to announce itself. That part is done. World, meet the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU)… As a minority union, or a solidarity union, AWU doesn’t need to go through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and hold a vote to convince the majority of employees to sign on. With the announcement, ‘Google workers are taking immediate advantage of the power of a union,’ according to Clarissa Redwine in Collective Action in Tech. This structure puts the emphasis on employee organizing, rather than politics and negotiations, which can come later. Workers told The New York Times that it was ‘primarily an effort to give structure and longevity to activism at Google, rather than to negotiate for a contract.’… The structure allows AWU to welcome Alphabet contractors as well as employees. At Google, temporary workers outnumber full-time staff but often receive just a small fraction of the benefits. AWU wants to unite the interests of janitors and cafeteria workers with those of engineers and product managers…. AWU hasn’t published a list of demands. As a democratic organization, it wants to hear from new members before deciding on major initiatives. But organizers have hinted that they’re not stopping at pay disparity. “Our goal with the union is to ensure that tech companies use their technology to make the world a better place,” says Alan Morales, a Google engineer and AWU organizer. Can a union with only a few hundred members be effective? The short answer is probably not — but AWU isn’t expecting to stay at just a few hundred. When the union went public, it had about 230 members. Less than 24 hours later, it has more than 400. Organizers anticipate the membership base will continue to swell.” • Creative thinking!

“Google workers organize innovative new type of union with CWA” [People’s World]. “They immediately instituted democratic elections and went beyond that, to ensure the most-exploited workers—women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, who are overrepresented among the non-full-timers—have their own voice on the job, too, and ‘can focus on specific issues important to them. The unit’s annual assembly will have “similar structures.’ So in general meetings, any idea the Alphabet Workers United board hasn’t considered can be brought up by a petition from 10% of the membership. And there are smaller subgroups within Alphabet Workers United for those often underrepresented groups of workers. The unit itself will be allied with CWA Local 1400. Shaw believes those features will attract more and more Google and Alphabet workers to the union. So does CWA.” • Interestingly, The Verge focuses on the “solidarity union” concept, where the former Daily Worker… doesn’t.

UPDATE “The ABC’s of Google’s New Union” [Collective Action in Tech]. “Workers can choose to go through those legal processes (such as through recognition from the NLRB in the US) down the road if they want, but even without formal recognition from an outside entity, there is no legal roadblock holding back a group of workers from being a powerful collective that functions as a union. Non-contract unions embody the idea that worker power does not come from legal processes, but rather through building power through solidarity….For US workers, forming a non-contract union is the original way to unionize. Our laboring forebears used this strategy before gaining enough power to pressure the government to create worker protections through labor law. The Alphabet Workers Union will be the first union open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company. A collective that unites workers across teams, roles, and locations is known as a wall to wall union. The structure of a non-contract union allows workers to organize a collective that makes sense to them and is not constrained by the rules of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Google organizers have invited a wide range of workers to join the union, including some workers who would not normally be eligible to join under NLRA guidelines. This includes contractors, non-office workers, and lower-level managers. For years, companies have creatively diminished worker power by decreasing unions’ headcount through increasing reliance on contract workers and by creating a sprawling layer of middle management. With a non-contract union, the workers of Google are in control of the union composition and can invite anyone they feel is aligned in a community of interest.” • Hot stuff.

“‘Lazy,’ ‘Money-Oriented,’ ‘Single Mother’: How Union-Busting Firms Compile Dossiers on Employees” [Vice]. “According to documents obtained by Motherboard, IRI union avoidance consultants regularly gathered information about 83 rank-and-file hospital employees’ personality, temperament, motivations, ethnicity, family background, spouses’ employment, finances, health issues, work ethic, job performance, disciplinary history, and involvement in union activity in the lead-up to a union election. Each employee was then given a rating for how likely the company believed they were to vote for the union. In the notes for one employee, IRI consultants wrote that they were ‘lazy,’ ‘money oriented,’ ‘aloof,’ ‘from Samoa,’ ‘tired of people on team and doesn’t want to assist them,’ and told managers that ‘the union is full of crap.’ Notes described another employee as a ‘follower,’ ‘impressionable,’ ‘a single mother,’ adding that their ‘rent [had] increased’ and they couldn’t ‘afford [union] dues’ and ‘will do whatever friends do.’ A source familiar with IRI’s practices told Motherboard that collecting detailed personal information on each rank-and-file employee in order to assess their union sympathies is standard practice for how IRI Consultants and other union avoidance firms conduct work for all of their clients.” • Google retained IRI in 2019.

From AWU:

Here is the AWU website.

Essential worker:

News of the Wired

“Conspiracy theorists share schematic for “5G chip” they claim is implanted in COVID-19 vaccines – only it’s actually for the Boss Metal Zone” [Guitar Zone]. “The notion that COVID-19 vaccines will be used by governments across the globe to track the human race’s every move has long been a topic of discussion among conspiracy theorists. But now, new ‘evidence’ has emerged from Italian proponents of the idea – only it would be evidence, were it not a reworked schematic for the Boss Metal Zone. The conspiracy theorists shared the schematic online, claiming it depicted the diagram for the supposed 5G chip. It features a section labelled “5G frequency” – clearly the source of many a theorist’s eureka moment – as well as terms guitarists will find familiar: ‘MT-2 Gain’, ‘Footswitch’ among the most recognizable.. ‘Here in Italy people started to share this figure claiming that this is the diagram of the 5G chip that has been inserted in the COVID vaccine,’ [Mario Fusco, a senior software engineer at Redhat] tweeted. “In reality it is the electric circuit of a guitar pedal.'” • Oh.

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WB writes: “Gnarly tree and smooth hedge, Boboli Gardens, Florence.”

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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.