2:00PM Water Cooler 1/06/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

My old iPad with the cracked screen finally failed today. I had kept on using it, and not the new one I bought after the first crack appeared, because I never updated the credit credit card number on it, and after a bank takeover, that card is no longer valid, I don’t remember the CSV, and Apple wouldn’t allow me to update to a new credit card without having the old one. So I put the new one away and kept using the old one, cracked screen and all. So today out of necessity I broke out the new one, and Apple is going to take 24 hours to authenticate me, even though I authenticated myself to them through phone and email. Who owns this machine, anyhow? Wait, don’t answer that. –lambert NOTE The iPad is very useful to me in photography, and it allows me to scoop up the news krill while lying in bed. So it’s important for two of my workflows. Apple is so prissy and controlling. Grrrr!

Bird Song of the Day

What a scold! (And not Wodehouse’s Scrub-Jay, sadly.)


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 UI into giving me hospitalization, positivity, fatalities, and above all vaccination, besides case count nationally and in the Big States. I’ll mess around more with them during the week to improve them. I think the new UI will allow me to integrate more data series legibly, especially vaccination.

Vaccination by region:

Case count by United States region:

I wonder if Christmas travel has caused all regions to correlate.

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):

Oh, California. Maybe we should put Abbot in charge of California, and Newsome in charge of Texas. And DIblasio in charge of New York, and Cuomo in charge of New Yorki.

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

UPDATE “Pence Said to Have Told Trump He Lacks Power to Change Election Result” [New York Times]. “Vice President Mike Pence told President Trump on Tuesday that he did not believe he had the power to block congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election despite Mr. Trump’s baseless insistence that he did, people briefed on the conversation said.” • Pence is correct. At the same time, I hate that new word “baseless,” that’s all over the media like kudzu. From the people who propagated RussiaGate!

UPDATE “Trump privately admits it’s over, but wants to brawl for attention” [Politico]. “But mostly, he is continuing his fight to subvert the election for a Trumpian reason: to keep the attention on himself and give his supporters what they want, according to the people who have spoken with him.” • Personally, I think Trump sees a money-making possibility, and a chance to retain some political power. That seems to me more sensible than armchair psychology.


GA: “Democrat Jon Ossoff Claims Victory Over David Perdue In Georgia Runoff” [NPR]. “Democrat Jon Ossoff — who as of 9 a.m. ET Wednesday leads Republican David Perdue by about 16,000 votes in the Georgia runoff that could give Democrats control of the U.S. Senate — claimed victory Wednesday. The Associated Press, which NPR relies on for its results, has not yet called the contest.” • Ossoff taking a leaf from Mayo Pete’s playbook.

UPDATE That’s quite an act. What do you call it?

The Democrats!

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From The Department of Counting Your Chickens Before They Are Hatched:

Hopefully (1):

Hopefully (2):

But wait:

Still, maybe:

If this happens, it will only have happened because of Sanders, and because Sanders reached out to Hawley. Yes, a one-time payment of $2000 is woefully inadequate by the standards of a civliized nations, but it’s still much better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I’ll cash it.

* * *

Moving on to the Acceptance stage, with not a little alacrity:

Note “ending fiscal austerity.” For myself, preserving our national sovereignty by axing TPP and thousands of dollars in my pocket because Trump cancelled the ObamaCare mandate, so I no longer had to pay a tax penalty for a defective product I could not have afforded to use. That’s not saying how things net out, of course.

UPDATE “The California 47th w/Special Guest Aaron Thorpe” (podcast) [The West Wing Thing]. “These politicians, we’re supposed to be yelling at them.” On the other hand–

UPDATE “#FarcetheVote and Beyond w/ Eric Levitz” (podcast) [Dead Pundits Society]. “My contention is that the left is at the end of the beginning. That is to say, we are just about ready to crawl out of the crib.” • Losing isn’t easy, and doesn’t bring out the best in most people.

Realignment and Legitimacy



“Rally” isn’t the same as “breach,” of course. We’ll have more in Links tomorrow. I did mention several times I thought capitol occupations by the right were possible, but I had in mind Oregon or Michigan. Nothing on this scale. It’s going to be a long two weeks until the inaugural.

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.

Employment Situation: “December 2020 ADP Employment Contracted” [Econintersect]. “ADP reported non-farm private jobs DECLINE of 123,000 which was massively below expectations. A quote from the ADP authors: The job losses were primarilly concentrated in retail and leisure and hospitality.” • Now that I think about it, for workers, it’s about somebody else’s leisure and hospitality.

Employment Situation: “Millions of Americans Are Calling In Sick, Stunting the Recovery” [Bloomberg]. “These lost days of work are sapping an economic recovery that’s been progressing in fits and starts for much of the past several months.” • Yeah, dammit. Why won’t they do their part? Handy chart:

I can’t help but think that the slow decline from the 70s is caused by the inability to call in sick, rather than the need or desire.

Manufacturing: “US factories grew in December at fastest pace since mid-2018” [Associated Press]. “American factories grew in December at the fastest pace in more than two years as manufacturing continued to weather the pandemic better than the battered services sector. The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that its gauge of manufacturing activity rose to 60.7% last month, the highest reading since it stood at 60.8 in August 2018. The gauge was up 3.2 percentage points from a November level of 57.5. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector. The U.S. economy collapsed from April through June but since that time manufacturing has posted solid gains, while the services sector, which includes restaurants, bars and the travel industry, has been harder hit.”

* * *

Commodities: “The Great Copper Boom Is Running on Scrap” [Bloomberg]. “Signs of ample scrap supply can be seen in the discount for so-called No. 2 copper, a grade of recycled metal, compared with the price for the primary metal. The discount widened to about 42¢ per pound, from less than 30¢ in July. Scrap wasn’t so common during past booms, says Meir. This time around, when Covid brought everything to a halt, the regular flow of secondary materials got temporarily bottled up.”

Real Estate: An extremely interesting thread on old and/or dead mall redevelopment (now that everybody’s moving out to flyover):

Makes me wonder whether mall HVAC is a plus or a minus when dealing with aerosols, as opposed to other available real estate.

Retail: “Amazon Banned From Using AWS Logo in China Trademark Ruling” [WSJ]. • Just the “AWS” text part, or the phallus part? Amazon has appealed.

Shipping: “Indian rice shipping delays come at bad time as consumer demand spikes” [Reuters]. “The global rice market is grappling with logistical disruptions at major supply ports caused by a lack of shipping containers at the same time a worldwide rush to stockpile food is spurring demand for the staple grain. The logistics difficulties illustrate the way the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the global trade in finished goods and raw commodities. As the pull of goods to Europe and the United States has left Asia short of the shipping containers needed to move materials, rice shipments from both India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, and Thailand, the world’s second-biggest supplier, are facing delays. In India, ships are waiting up to four weeks to load rice, according to a Singapore-based executive at one of the world’s leading rice trading companies. Thai exporters expect 2021 shipments should stay depressed after falling by 28% in the first 11 months of 2020 because of the container issues and the high price of Thai rice relative to other growers.”

Tech: “After spending over $57 million on Facebook ads, they kicked me and my pages off without warning or explanation” [Jordan Nabigon]. “Several pages that had 21 million fans had been unpublished, and Facebook had taken action against me, personally, that one assumes are reserved for the worst in our society — criminals, pedophiles and conspiracy theorists. “We’ve determined that you are not eligible to use Facebook. This decision is final. Unfortunately, for safety and security reasons, we can’t give you any additional information as to why your account was disabled. For more information about our policies, please review the Facebook terms,” read the message when I tried to login to my account. If you’ve ever read the Facebook terms, they are long and often ambiguous. A lot of what you see in the newsfeed is arguably against the terms and Facebook decides what is our isn’t. It’s their platform, I get it. But in this case, it was clear there had been a misunderstanding or error.” • A nightmare. But if your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business.

Tech: “The Tech Refugees Bringing Tesla Software Chops to Every Car” [Bloomberg]. “Where we think we are and where the industry is, it’s like 2008 and the iPhone launch. Steve Jobs made this amazing product, but I’m sure he couldn’t foresee several billion-dollar companies built on top of his platform. In the automotive industry, we feel like we are that iPhone. We are collecting the data, doing all the diagnostics that will enable a lot of other applications in the future, whether we create them or we work with partners to create them. We want to be on 100 million vehicles in the next four years and we want to grow beyond the auto industry — it could be a drone, it could be mining equipment, it could be industrial robots. The most complex use-case of all is the luxury sedan. Once we solve that, we’re fairly confident we can drop in to a number of other industries.” • Is the Trabant still being sold? The Dodge Dart?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 53 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 6 at 12:55pm. Instant reaction to Georgia?

Health Care

“SARS-CoV-2 is following the evolutionary rule book” [The Economist]. Deck: “Its new variants are optimised for spreading.” More: “[I]n two independent but coincidental events, [natural selection] has modified that virus still further, creating new variants which are displacing the original versions. It looks possible that one or other of these novel viruses will itself soon become a dominant form of sars-cov-2.” • IIRC, one of the inspirations behind Origin of Species was how humans adapted animals to their needs through breeding, i.e. selection. Hence, we should not forget that we humans, as part of “nature” played a part, whether large or small, in the emergence of these new adaptations.

The Biosphere

“Abandonment Issues” [Grist]. ” There were more than 50,000 wells on state cleanup lists across the country in 2018, and states estimated there were somewhere between 200,000 to 750,000 more abandoned wells that weren’t in their records. If you include wells that are “idle,” meaning they may still have an owner but haven’t produced any oil or gas in years — and are at risk of getting thrust into state hands if their owners go bankrupt — the count reaches around 2.1 million, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

“How Generation Z Can Help #BringBirdsBack” [BirdNote]. “Is there a bird you love, or that you saw once and thought was amazing, like the Snowy Owl, which is also in trouble because of global warming? You can post a pic on your Instagram story and add #BringBirdsBack. Let’s do this together. Through the #BringBirdsBack campaign, we can start to make a change and help save the Turtle Doves, hummingbirds, Snowy Owls, and so many more birds. Let’s show the world what we can do.” • Written by 17-year-old. I agree with the sentiment, but not the platform. Not Instagram. The Macaulay Library or eBird! (Macaulay Library is a super-interesting example of citizen science. It’s too bad there’s no Macaulay Library for abandoned oil wells, for example.

“House plants and indoor air quality” [CORSIAQ]. “What’s concerning about most research on houseplants is that the work is published without analysis of data relevant to actual buildings or insufficient data for building scientists to extract relevant parameters like clean air delivery rate (CADR) for the plant…. Any way you trim this (pun intended), using plants to reduce pollutant levels indoors is simply not practical. Appreciate plants for their beauty, but don’t ask them to perform miracles. Alas, it is time to go water my indoor plants.” • A meta-study, worth reading in full if this topic interests you. Also, remember that similar studies for Covid must scale to real buildings (which is why the epidemiological studies of buses, restaurants, churches, and hospitals are so impressive. They are done on the ground, not in the lab).

“The largest dam-removal in US history” [BBC]. “The dams built on the Klamath River have been identified as one cause of the drop in salmon numbers. Eight dams were built on the river between the early 1900s and 1962 to produce hydroelectric power. The presence of dams has been linked to marked changes in salmon populations on the Klamath and elsewhere…. Without flowing sediment, the river below the dams then becomes starved of it, leaving only larger rocks on the river bottom. These rocks are ideal for bristle worms, also known as polychaete worms, to cling onto. “Normally, the mobile bed of the river prevents colonies of these filter-feeding worms from taking over every square inch of the bottom of the river,” says Belchik. But now, “these worms have taken over everything”… Although not harmful in and of themselves, the worms are the secondary host for C. Shasta, a parasite to which juvenile chinook salmon have proven particularly vulnerable…. The reservoirs behind the dams are also responsible for a significant build-up of toxic algae… The solution that Yurok and a coalition of other tribes and environmental organisations have long advocated for is the removal of the lower four of the eight dams on the Klamath. After painstaking negotiations, this led to the signing of an agreement between PacifiCorp (which operates these dams) and 40 other signatories, including tribes and state governments in 2010. The simultaneous removal of the four dams, with a combined height of 411ft (125m), makes it the largest dam removal project in America’s history, according to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the nonprofit tasked with overseeing the dam removals. It is also set to be the most expensive, at a cost of almost $450m (£340m).” • Good! Addition by subtraction.

Groves of Academe

Premature opportunism?

Guillotine Watch

The gig economy:

Class Warfare

Means-testing working as designed:

I think the people who like means-testing are like the people who like the restaurant tipping system because it enables them to control and humiliate the servers.

“Will Google workers’ union create lasting change?” [HR Dive]. “Alphabet responded by saying it will continue to address employee concerns through direct communication, per a statement from Google’s director of people operations to CNN. According to an employment attorney who spoke with HR Dive, the company response is likely to involve public relations efforts as well as internal communications to assure employees of their policies, benefits and channels for support or internal feedback. ‘I think there’s probably a lot of frustrations,’ Cavaleri said. ‘I’m sure the people at Google are trying to figure out […] what could they have disclosed to make people understand that the issues that are being raised may not be issues’ that are strong enough to warrant the formation of a union.” • “Disclosed.” Translating, we’re about to have a vicious union-busting campaign, marked especially by propaganda in the press.

“Google Workers Have Formed The Company’s First-ever Union” [CBS Local]. “The work to build the union began in secret over a year ago, said Andrew Gainer-Dewar, a Google software engineer who helped lead the effort. ‘You have to organize one-to-one, in sort of a very cloak-and-dagger way,’ he told CNN Business, ‘meeting with people, broaching the subject carefully, being really thoughtful about who we tell what, when, and really only reaching out based on their personal relationships, the people that we see being publicly upset about issues.’ While the pandemic made it more challenging to hold those meetings face-to-face, he said, the shift to remote work, in some ways, made it easier to organize. ‘Video calls are a fantastic one-to-one mechanism,’ Gainer-Dewar said. ‘And the fact that we’re not having it in the office takes us out from under the all-seeing eye of a company like Google.'” • Maybe.

“Google workers have made organizing attempts in the past. Here’s why this one is more significant” [CNBC]. “Because Google’s culture is often replicated throughout the tech industry, the formation of a union there could influence workers at other tech companies…. Several Google employees say they’ve had interactions with Amazon and Microsoft workers where they’ve exchanged best practices and tips for organizing efforts in their respective workplaces, but those have largely been limited to text chains and social network groups.”

“Old Meets New: Google Employees Just Formed A Union.” [Forbes]. “According to the statements by the more than 400 founding members of the new Union, employees decided to join for a variety of reasons. However, putting a photo of your face together with your name, position and a statement seem to be a very brave move in a company that has had silenced and fired employees in the past for speaking up and against some of the policies and ways the organization chose to operate or the way they treated contractors and various employees….. This just goes to show, that perks and amazing facilities cannot compensate for the lack of the basics for decent working conditions, which are fairness, transparency, inclusion and accountability.”

“BAmazon Union: Anticipating the Battle in Bessemer, Alabama” [Labor Notes]. “Union drives in the South have often suffered from a perception that the union is a bunch of outside carpetbaggers from the North. However, this drive could have real local legs. RWDSU represents poultry processing facilities throughout the Southeast and has 7,500 poultry members in Alabama. Workers at nearby Koch Foods held a public protest on June 3 to force their employer to provide protective gear and safer conditions during the pandemic. That kind of visible public fight no doubt was an appeal to friends and family working at Amazon who are suffering from some of the same conditions, without an organization to fight back.”

“Augusto Graziani and the Marx-Schumpeter-Keynes ‘Cycle of Money Capital’: A Personal Look at the Early Italian Circuitism from an Insider” [Review of Political Economy]. • I saw this on Nathan Tankus’s feed, and if I could understand the abtract, I’d quote it. Anyhow, the word “circuitism” seemed worth filing away.

News of the Wired

The attention economy:

Lucien Freud, here we come:

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

TH writes: “Anthurium in the Tropical Conservatory at the Sherman Library and Gardens.”

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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.