2:00PM Water Cooler 4/7/2021 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

At reader request, Birds of Australia. Duet with an insect.

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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.

Vaccination by region:

That’s the stuff to give the troops. • Early in February, I said a simple way to compare Biden’s performance to Trump’s on vaccination would be to compare the curves. If Biden accelerated vaccine administration, the rate of vaccination post-Inaugural would kink upward, as the policies of a more effective administration took hold. They have not. The fragmented, Federalized, and profit-driven lumbering monstrosity that we laughingly call our “health care” “system” has not responded to “energy in the executive,” but has continued on its inertial path, albeit in an upward direction.

Case count by United States regions:

Long may the downward trend continue. It was caused by a drop in New York (see the chart of Big Sttates below). The Midwest is slowly rising, so see immediately below for a breakdown my state. All I can say is that if you have a system that has worked for you, keep at it. And avoid closed, crowded, close-contact settings, evem so-called outdoor dining. Don’t share air!

The Midwest in detail:

Michigan leads.

CT: “Experts: Increased restaurant capacity partly to blame for COVID surge in CT” [CTPost]. “Some health experts are concerned that loosening COVID restrictions, specifically restaurant capacity, has contributed to a new surge of cases in Connecticut. ‘Dine-in at restaurants is a risky activity because, by necessity, people can’t wear masks while eating, and most restaurants will not have the level of ventilation to make that indoors environment safe from airborne viral transmission,’ said Pedro Mendes, a researcher and professor in computational biology at UConn…. [T]he 5 percent daily COVID test positivity rate the state announced Tuesday follows a recent trend showing the continued spread of the coronavirus in the state.”

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

The big drop in New York, but flattening. Florida on the upswing.

Test positivity:


Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is dropping now, for some reason as unknown as why it rose.

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“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

Capitol Seizure

“‘I Fed Him To The People’: Trump Fan Indicted For Dragging Cop Into Capitol Mob By The Neck” [HuffPo]. • Well, that’s the sort of thing that happens in a riot.

Biden Administration

“‘A moment of peril’: Biden’s coronavirus response collides with case spikes” [WaPo]. “For the first two months, all the coronavirus numbers broke in the Biden administration’s favor…, But the Biden White House is seeing new infections climb on its own watch — a potential crisis that could erase many of the hard-won gains of the president’s first 75 days, should the numbers keep rising. After railing for a year about the last administration’s response and vowing a more muscular strategy, Biden is encountering the limits of his own authority. The president can help secure and distribute supplies and medicines, issue guidance and urge caution — but like Donald Trump before him, he has few tools when governors decide to lift coronavirus protections at the wrong moment, manufacturers botch vaccine production, or Americans refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated.” • Who knew? More: “After three coronavirus surges under Trump, most experts say a “fourth wave” is unlikely given the accelerating pace of vaccinations and the number of Americans who have acquired natural immunity after being infected by the virus. But the trends have alarmed some public health experts, who are calling on Biden to adopt strategies to speed up shots or take a harder line with states relaxing restrictions. On Tuesday, the president announced he was moving up the deadline for all adults to be eligible for vaccines to April 19, although that doesn’t guarantee they will be able to be inoculated right away.”

UPDATE Infrastructure (1):

Yglesias is, in fact, right. Isn’t the Obama Alumni Association supposed to know something about message discipline?

UPDATE Infrastructure (2):

I am actually here for Americana. For example, it would be a Good Thing if Roadside America had survived with government help. Surely we fund far less worthy endeavors?

UPDATE “Jill Biden announces plans to aid military families in next phase of her agenda” [USA Today]. “‘Just 1% of our country has shouldered the burden of 20 years of war,’ [Dr. Jill] Biden said, standing before stacks of video screens of faces in an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. ‘No one has more strength and grit and resilience than our military families but you can’t do this alone, we have to help you carry the weight.’” • No one? Really? During a pandemic? As I wrote:

I do not recall anybody in a position of authority — political class, business leaders, academia, the various churches — thanking the American people for their (touch wood) efforts in masking, social distancing, and all the other non-pharmaceutical efforts they did. We never did achieve the level of compliance that China, or Korea, or Taiwan, or New Zealand, or Australia did, but still we made enormous efforts, in the face of universal official incompetence and wretched messaging, and our collective efforts had good success, better IIRC than most of Europe, let alone Brazil.

And did anybody say thank you? I can’t recall a single one. All we get is shaming and scolding — those beach pictures — along with fear-mongering. And the elites wonder why their PR machine isn’t working as well as it once did.

Such a stupid, unimaginative project. By contrast (hat tip Steve):

Republican Funhouse

“The congressman and his wingman” [Politico]. “[Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican], a fierce Donald Trump ally who denies having sexual relations with a 17-year-old and prostitutes….” • Unlike Cuomo (or for that matter Biden (and Trump (and Clinton))) no accusers have come forward. What we do have is FBI leaks, which if you’re a good liberal who believes whatever the FBI says means everything’s jake with the angels. (To be clear, if Gaetz did have relations with a 17-year-old, that is a bad thing, but there no evidence of that has been shown to the public.)

AOC is correct, and good for her:

Clinton Legacy

“Chelsea Clinton podcast to launch April 13” [ABC]. “Chelsea Clinton will draw upon her background in politics, international relations and public health as she interviews guests ranging from Jane Fonda to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.” • Lol, iHeartMedia is a rebranding of the famously reactionary Clear Channel.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “The Great Protest Wave” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. “In 2019, the world exploded in protest. There were massive, prolonged demonstrations in Hong Kong, in Chile and Venezuela and Bolivia and Colombia and Ecuador, in Russia and Spain and France, in Iraq and Iran and Lebanon and Algeria, in Indonesia and Haiti…. Even the arrival of a once-in-a-century pandemic didn’t douse the flames of unrest for long. The U.S. saw the biggest eruption of protests in its history in the summer of 2020, and those demonstrations were echoed across much of the world. The people of Belarus and Myanmar have poured into the streets in existential struggles against their dictatorial governments. India has had two entirely separate massive waves of demonstrations.” • That’s the buildup. Then: “If I were forced to make a conjecture about the most important driver of unrest, my guess would be that it was the result of a general realization that bad people are running the world.” I’m with you so far. Then: “If we look at the global unrest as a general backlash against the encroachment of authoritarianism and unfreedom, we can see the protests as a sort of test of local regimes. Overall, liberal regimes are passing the test and illiberal regimes are failing it. It really does matter what kind of country you live in.” • What does “passing” mean? Xi (authoritarian) is more firmly in the saddle than ever. Ditto Modi. Isn’t that success? This piece is well worth a read as a starting point, but IMNSHO that’s all. For my money, the takeaway is that Gene Sharp’s framework has run its course, exactly because “bad people are running the world,” if the operational definition of “bad” is “lacking a conscience that can be appealed to. (This is why, dear readers, I keep focusing on Myanmar in links; it’s a natural experiment.)

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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Marketing: “Digital ad spend grew 12% in 2020 despite hit from pandemic” [CNBC]. “Despite an initial falloff due to the Covid pandemic, digital advertising spending grew 12.2% year over year in 2020, according to a new report commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and conducted by PwC. But the report also showed the largest players in the ecosystem further entrenched their hold on the U.S. digital ad market in 2020, commanding more share year over year.”

Retail (1): Kill it with fire:

Retail (2): Not that:

Real Estate: “Golf Courses Reborn as Warehouse Centers in E-Commerce Rush” [Bloomberg]. “Since the mid-2000s, golf has been suffering from fewer players and more course closures. The pandemic has giving the sport a boost because it offers both outdoor entertainment and social distancing. But as other leisure activities resume, many expect the sport’s headwinds to pick up again. That’s caught the attention of investors seeking to cash in on the warehouse boom. In New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and other states,warehouses are rising on parcels of land formerly occupied by golf courses. And among the tenants developers have drawn to these sites are Amazon and UPS. Online shopping during the pandemic has made warehouses one of the hottest corners of commercial real estate.”

Shipping: “Winners and Losers of the Suez Blockade” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “Moiris also noted that ‘even one week of blockage has had an impact in commodities trading, adding to the ton miles through the deviation of Cape of Good Hope for those vessels that decided to do so. Supply chain disruptions via delivery delays and increased congestion at discharging ports at a 2nd stage are expected to extend well beyond the next week. Finally, it is worth noting that such incident might put back into focus the importance of economies of scale of the larger vessel classes, particularly in an increased bunkers consumption context that might be triggered and the relevant asset value differences revisited’, he concluded.”

The Bezzle: “WeWork Or, Give People Money” [Yasmin Nair]. “WeWork was a venture built on a steamy, sliding, stinking pile of bullshit, but few were willing to call it out at the time, seduced by the promise of massive profits. It glorified the worst of neoliberal work conditions, and its gorgeous interiors and communal style workspaces helped mask the fact that nearly everyone in those airy, pretty spaces was chasing dreams bound to extinction before they started. Do you need a calm, nurturing environment in which to craft a hundred pitches to people who will never respond because those jobs have already gone to their cousins and classmates? Here you go, desks and free micro-roasted coffee, tea, and fruit water! Phone booths! Wi-Fi! Did we mention fruit water? Eventually, as these things must, WeWork melted into a puddle of financial incoherence and disaster but, of course, [Founder Adam] Neumann walked off with more than enough: $1.7 billion.” • Solid invective from beginning to end, well worth a read.

Travel: “Carnival considers shifting home ports if U.S. sailing ban not lifted-CEO” [Reuters]. “Advance bookings for 2022 are stronger than they had been for 2019, the company said. ‘Carnival’s 2022 bookings are currently ahead of pre-pandemic levels — proving that demand for cruising isn’t completely dead,’ Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Laura Hoy wrote in a note. ‘Now the group just has to stay afloat long enough to capture it.’” • Buff those Petri dishes!

The Fed; “U.S. jobs progress still far short of Fed’s ‘substantial’ tripwire” [Reuters]. “The U.S. job market may have picked up steam in March, but the improvement was only a small step towards the Federal Reserve’s threshold for considering reining in its massive support for the economy. That’s the signal from a broad index of labor market indicators developed by Cornerstone Macro economist Roberto Perli and which includes an array of statistics U.S. central bank officials have placed at the center of their analysis of the economy. Perli’s index, using data since 1990, improved following the addition of nearly a million jobs to U.S. payrolls in March. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate at 6% is more than 1.5 times above the low levels reached early last year. Other factors policymakers consider important in their analysis of the job market are even farther from their strongest readings. The March bump in jobs was ‘nice to see,’ Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said this week on CNBC. But ‘we need more of those kind of job reports coming out to actually make more progress than we’ve seen thus far … I think we need to be very deliberately patient in our approach to monetary policy.’”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 26 (Extreme Fear). Last updated Apr 7 at 12:23pm.

Health Care

“Outdoor transmission accounts for 0.1% of State’s Covid-19 cases” [Irish Times]. “Just one confirmed case of Covid-19 in every thousand is traced to outdoor transmission, new figures reveal. Of the 232,164 cases of Covid-19 recorded in the State up to March 24th this year, 262 were as a result of outdoor transmission, representing 0.1 per cent of the total. There were 42 outbreaks associated with outdoor gatherings, with one community outbreak accounting for seven cases. This involved an outdoor work activity which took place between two separate families, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) which monitors case numbers in the Republic.” • So please stop shaming people for open air activities:

I confess to the same feelings about maskless joggers earlier in the pandemic, when I didn’t understand about aerosols. The moral: Don’t shame people over “the science,” because they won’t forget it, and the science can change!

“Contextualizing the risks of indirect COVID-19 transmission in multi-unit residential buildings” [National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health]. The subheads: “Suspected causes of MURB [multi-unit residential buildings] outbreaks: Suspected causes of MURB outbreaks… Faulty ventilation systems…. Air leakage or unintentional air flows… Faulty plumbing stacks.” • Commentary:

The article and the thread are extremely important and interesting (and I’m sure that HVACers, and plumbers, and building mavens generally will really enjoy it.

“UK coronavirus variant now most common strain in US, CDC head says” [The Hill]. “‘Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,’ Walensky said at a White House press briefing. ‘The virus still has hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm’s way and we need to remain vigilant,” she added. ‘We need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts and to get vaccinated when we can.”” • Rachel Walensky, neo-liberal goon. I found the transcript, and of course Walensky is totally entrenched on suppressing and denying aerosol transmission, and butchering guidance generally:

[WALENSKY:] We have to recognize the high risk of infection in areas of high community transmission. I encourage communities to consider adjustments to meet their unique needs and circumstances. For example, in areas of substantial or high community transmission, CDC guidance specifically suggests refraining from youth sports that are not outside and cannot be conducted at least . Similarly, large events should also be deferred.

Six feet or three feet, Doctor? This after her own agency published (see yesterday’s Water Cooler) a fine study showing aerosol transmission.

The images were taken via electron microscopy and combined in post:

Impressive (and impressive PR by on-the-ropes AstraZenaca?)

We’re #1! We’re #1! (at least in body count):

“Reactogenicity Following Receipt of mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines” [JAMA]. Optimistic conclusion, but this is the method: “To facilitate rapid assessment of COVID-19 vaccines, in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established v-safe, a new active surveillance system for collecting near–real-time data from COVID-19 vaccine recipients in the US. V-safe participants voluntarily self-enroll and receive periodic smartphone text messages to initiate web-based health surveys from the day of vaccination (day 0) through 12 months after the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.6 From day 0 through day 7 after each vaccine dose, participants are asked questions about solicited local and systemic reactions (eg, injection site pain, fatigue, headache). These solicited reactions do not include allergic reactions or anaphylaxis; however, v-safe does allow participants to enter free-text information about their postvaccination experience and asks about adverse health events (eg, received medical care). Medically attended events are followed up on through active telephone outreach; future analyses will address these adverse vaccine experiences. This report describes information on solicited local and systemic reactogenicity reported to v-safe on days 0 to 7 after each dose of vaccine from December 14, 2020, through February 28, 2021. Responses were limited to individuals who were vaccinated by February 21, 2021, to allow a 7-day reporting period after the day of vaccination.” • I see the phrasing, “Medically attended events are followed up on through active telephone outreach,” but I don’t see how that works. If a subject stops answering the phone (say, because of a blood clot), then what exactly is the protocol for “active telephone outreach”? If every such case is not run down, then isn’t that a form of adverse selection? Nevertheless, kudos to CDC for at least setting up an ambitious system.

“U.S. Bet Big on Covid Vaccine Manufacturer Even as Problems Mounted” [New York Times]. “, the federal government invested in an insurance policy against vaccine shortages during a pandemic. It paid Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland biotech firm known for producing anthrax vaccines, to have a factory in Baltimore always at the ready. When the coronavirus pandemic arrived, the factory became the main U.S. location for manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, churning out about 150 million doses as of last week. But because regulators have not yet certified the factory to allow the vaccines to be distributed to the public. Last week, Emergent said it would destroy up to 15 million doses’ worth of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after contamination with the AstraZeneca vaccine was discovered. Emergent and government health officials have long touted their partnership as a success, but an examination by The New York Times of manufacturing practices at the Baltimore facility found serious problems, including a corporate culture that often ignored or deflected missteps and a government sponsor, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, that acted more as a partner than a policeman.” • BARDA had it’s problems when Trump arrived, but Trump certainly didn’t fix it; if anything, the reverse.

“A Cartoon Guide to Criticism: Scientist Edition” [Absolutely Maybe]. “Science is a profession where critique is integral to the work itself. So you might think we’d all have both criticizing, and handling being on the receiving end of it, down to a fine art. But you’d be wrong – as a rather spectacular recent blowout of norms by a prominent scientist [Ioannidis] reminded us. Sociologist Robert Merton pointed out in the 1960s that scientists also rely on the acceptance and recognition of their peers, so it’s no wonder things get heated…. I spent several years moderating a high-profile forum for scientific criticism, and my position about this is still broadly similar to the one I described in PLOS Medicine in 2014: I think we need a much stronger post-publication culture in science… Let’s get straight to my (rather wordy) cartoon guide to science criticism – and you can always just skip through the headings and cartoons…. Remember: just because you took it personally, it doesn’t mean it was personal. It gets harder if someone does make it personal (and that’s out of line), but try not to let their bad behavior get to you.” • With cartoons!

Under the Influence

“I Regret to Inform You I Have Once Again Written About The Baylor Influencer Twins” [Culture Study]. “Listen, there are people you encounter, however briefly, and end up living rent-free in your head for years. For me, that’s Brooklyn and Bailey, whose Instagram has become a rich text right at the intersection of Christian youth culture and influencer capitalism.” • Well worth a read.

“PIERS MORGAN: Khloé Kardashian’s horror at the public finding out how she really looks lays bare how her family have built a cynical multi-billion dollar empire from the exploitation of fake views” [Piers Morgan, Daily Mail]. “The photo of Khloé Kardashian in a leopard print bikini that’s gone viral this week is truly jaw-dropping. Because it’s real. No filters, no airbrushing, little make-up, hair scraped back in a ponytail – just a picture of how Ms Kardashian actually looks. By comparison to all her heavily enhanced, carefully-staged glamour publicity photos, her waistline is significantly less defined, her curves less dramatic and her skin not so impossibly smooth. It’s Khloé unvarnished, flaws and all….. An errant assistant – who I fear may now be resting in concrete under LA’s 405 freeway – accidentally posted the image, taken by Khloé’s grandmother during the family’s weekend Easter get-together, online.”

Our Famously Free Press

“Watch How 60 Minutes Deceptively Edited Ron DeSantis’s Full Answer on Publix Vaccinations” [National Review (Montana Maven)]. “CBS’s 60 Minutes alleged that Florida governor Ron DeSantis enlisted grocery chain Publix to help with coronavirus vaccine distribution because of a campaign contribution, but edited DeSantis’s full response to the allegation…. However, 60 Minutes omitted a key section of DeSantis’s response, in which he states that the first pharmacies to take charge of vaccine distribution were CVS and Walgreens, and were initially tasked with vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities.” • I hate this.

Class Warfare

“Wealth of world’s billionaires rose $5 trillion amid pandemic, Forbes list finds” [ABC]. • Everything’s going according to plan!

“Michael O Church’s Theory of 3 Class Ladders in America (Archive)” [Michael Church (km)]. The introduction: “Typical depictions of social class in the United States posit a linear, ordered hierarchy. I’ve actually come to the conclusion that there are 3 distinct ladders, with approximately four social classes on each. Additionally, there is an underclass of people not connected to any of the ladders, creating an unlucky 13th social class. I’ll attempt to explain how this three-ladder system works, what it means, and also why it is a source of conflict. The ladders I will assign the names Labor, Gentry, and Elite. My specific percentage estimates of each category are not derived from anything other than estimation based on what I’ve seen, and my limited understanding of the macroeconomics of income in the United States, so don’t take them for more than an approximation. I’ll assess the social role of each of these classes in order, from bottom to top. This is, one should note, an exposition of social class rather than income. Therefore, in many cases, precise income criteria cannot be defined, because there’s so much more involved. Class is more sociological in nature than wealth or income, and much harder to change. People can improve their incomes dramatically, but it’s rare for a person to move more than one or two rungs in a lifetime. Social class determines how a person is perceived, that person’s access to information, and what opportunities will be available to a person.” • I’m not sure I agree with the structure in detail. For example, I don’t think “gentry” has the right connotations for the PMC. (Gentry, for me, connotes locality, but locality is exactly what the cosmopolitan PMC have left behind; see Chris Arnade’s Dignity. As they say: “Why don’t you move?”) An update from Church here.

“Get Thee to a Phalanstery or, How Fourier Can Still Teach Us to Make Lemonade” [Public Domain Review]. “Fourier was insistent that we need not force a violent revolution in order to usher in a new age; we just need to rearrange some of our social mechanisms and better regulate our intimate relations. Everything else would follow smoothly and swiftly in its wake. Removing obstacles was paramount, and the main obstacles in Fourier’s eyes were what we today call compulsory monogamy, wage slavery, alienated labor, financial insecurity, and finance capitalism. (And also bread. Fourier was not a fan of bread.) By banishing monogamy, people would no longer be obliged to cheat, lie, and sneak. Love, whether spiritual or physical, would be allowed to flourish whenever and however it began to blossom, and bitterness and resentment would subsequently evaporate almost overnight. (Strangely, while Fourier had a great faith in the motivational spur of comradely rivalry, he had little trepidation about the dark power of jealousy as an entrenched human — perhaps even animal — trait.) Wages are, for Fourier, a scourge, and should be replaced by a dividend or share of profits, and no one should be obliged to toil for a pittance. Monotonous work is to immediately be replaced by many different tasks, all vital to the community, and all intimately connected to the sense of worth and accomplishment of the clan. (Or what he called a Series.) Fourier imagined vigorous and friendly competition between the pear-growers and the apple-growers, for instance. But even so, a pear-grower would perhaps move to the woodshop later in the afternoon, before attending a rehearsal of her new play a couple of hours after that, all in order to honor the papillonnage, or butterfly-like caprice, of human attention.” • So Fourier anticipated the attention economy? (I like the word papillonnage, an activity the platforms wish to pin in place.

News of the Wired

Trigger warning: Susan Saradon. Open for the punchline:

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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 (AP):

AP writes: “Magnolias bursting at Cincinnati’s Theodore Berry Friendship Park.”

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