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2:00PM Water Cooler 9/23/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Readers, I got a late start on Water Cooler for reasons that I assume are now obvious. (The Tip Jar is to your right). The politics section is almost devoid of content, which I will remedy shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done. There’s not as much state level material as I’d like, because I got sidetracked with punditry. A habit to break! Bird Song of the Day I have yet to master the search function at Macauley Library. I was hoping for your typical red robin, but I got one from Tanzania. Well, why not? Pretty to wake up to, though! #COVID19 At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Here are the United States regions: If current trends continue, we could be where we were August

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I got a late start on Water Cooler for reasons that I assume are now obvious. (The Tip Jar is to your right). The politics section is almost devoid of content, which I will remedy shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done. There’s not as much state level material as I’d like, because I got sidetracked with punditry. A habit to break!

Bird Song of the Day

I have yet to master the search function at Macauley Library. I was hoping for your typical red robin, but I got one from Tanzania. Well, why not? Pretty to wake up to, though!


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

Here are the United States regions:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/23/2020

If current trends continue, we could be where we were August 1 in 30 days — the election now being 42 days out.

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

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/23/2020

Sorry for all the states jammed together at the bottom of the chart, but if one of those states is yours, that’s good news, right? (I tried the log version, but it just doesn’t convey the spikiness visually, and the spikiness is the point. I also did not include a separate positivity chart, because it was unreadable.) As alert reader anon suggested yesterday, the Texas spike is indeed “a data reporting anomaly” (says the Times).


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

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

The election countdown:

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

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

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

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

  • Arizona (11) (marijuana; taxes(=)
  • Colorado (9) (taxes, lottery, abortion, paid medical leave)
  • Florida (29) (minimum wage)
  • Georgia (16) (declaratory relief)
  • Iowa (6) (Constitional convention)
  • Maine-02 (1) (vax)
  • Michigan (16) (privacy)
  • Minnesota (19)
  • Nebraska-02 (1) (payday lending; gambling)
  • Nevada (6) (marriage)
  • New Hampshire (4)
  • North Carolina (15)
  • Ohio (18)
  • Pennsylvania (20)
  • Texas (38)
  • Wisconsin (10) (crime victims)

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

FL: “What Miami’s vastly unequal zip codes reveal about the election fight in Florida” [Guardian]. “Miami-Dade county has the second-biggest gap between rich and poor of all large metro areas in the US, according to a 2019 report – only the New York metropolitan area is more unequal. The county’s 33109 zip code – which comprises Fisher Island’s 216 acres and its 800 residences – is the richest not just in the county but in the entire US, according to a Bloomberg analysis from last year. Zip code 33034, which covers parts of the rural but quickly developing cities of Homestead and Florida City, plus some unincorporated areas, is the county’s poorest, according to a Miami Herald analysis. For the 23,000 people in its 280 sq miles, the per-capita income is $10,608. Nevertheless, as the 2020 election looms, it’d be wrong to say that the poor will vote for Biden and the rich for Trump. As conversations with residents indicate the political fault lines are not quite so clear-cut.” • Interesting conversations with voters.

MN: A beautiful big tent:

See, it’s OK to love Trump when there are extenuating circumstances. Like your team jersey.

NC: “North Carolina refuses to disclose who programs their voting machines” [Bob Fitrakis, Columbus Free Press]. Refusing a public records request from Reverend Doctor T. Anthony Spearman. “Spearman thinks that the voting machine vendors have too much power over the election process. Boards of elections are dependent on the vendors to provide pollbooks, voting machines, tabulators, and software used, and often election officials don’t understand the technology. If the vendors don’t want their proprietary hardware and software information to be public, that means U.S. elections are not transparent. Transparency is important because it has been proven that computer voting machines and tabulators can be hacked, programmed to pick winners and losers, and are vulnerable to external tampering. Touchscreen electronic voting machines also cannot be audited because there is no voter-marked paper ballot to compare with the machine results.” • Odd!

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Biden (D)(1): “The Meatsack Candidacy and Theories of the Election” [Mike the Mad Biologist]. “Let’s suppose, for discussion’s sake, that Biden does win. What would this mean for the consulting class?… But Biden is essentially running a ‘meatsack candidacy.’ Trump is a historically unpopular figure, and has horrifically mismanaged both a pandemic response and the economic response to said pandemic. Biden’s strategy is essentially to fill a sack with meat, tie up the sack, paint “NOT TRUMP” on its side, and then count on enough people ranging from conservatives for whom abortion isn’t a strict litmus test (an unspoken, but defining characteristic of Never Trumpers) to leftists who oppose a second Trump term to vote out Trump…. So suppose Biden wins. What does this mean for how Democrats run campaigns?” • My answer to this has been that future Democrat campaigns will ignore policy, and be driven by team spirit (“party loyalty”), fear, and hate, reinforced by constant classlighting, amplified by Democrat control of the commanding heights in the press and the intelligence community, and all very much playing to the mass anxieties of “predatory precarity” in the Democrats’ PMC base. Oh, and identity politics — in essence, an offer for select “voices” to join the PMC, or at least aspire to — as outlined by Brooklyn persona non grata Adolph Reed. So if “the left” wishes to campaign using a different theory of change, there is a way forward. If they are allowed to take it. Or force open the path. Note that to the extend “the left” wishes to “push Biden left,” that is the power they must build. And it is precisely that power that liberal Democrats will never freely give them, as the 2016 and 2020 campaigns clearly show. So, optimism!

Biden (D)(2): “‘I beat the socialist’: Biden reminds voters ‘worried about socialism’ that he won the party nomination, not Bernie Sanders” [Business Insider]. • Certainly reinforces the “push Biden left” theory….

Sanders (D)(1): Well, so much for the “multiracial working class:

“Racial or ethnic?”

* * *

Ginsberg Replacement

UPDATE Why can’t liberal Democrats just say “We’re not voting for this nominee because we don’t agree with their judicial philosphy?” Stoller is correct:

Or why not “We’re not gonna vote for any member of the Federalist Society”?

UPDATE “Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up” [The Hill]. “Senate Democrats are limiting the ability to hold committee hearings in retaliation for Republicans’ decision to try to fill a Supreme Court seat in the middle of an election year, the first action in what is likely to be an increasingly combative battle over procedure in the Senate…. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tried to get an exception on Tuesday afternoon for the Senate Intelligence Committee to be able to meet at 2:30 p.m. with the director of national counterintelligence, where they were expected to discuss election security. But Schumer also objected to that.” • Good job, Chuck. You’re sending the message election security is just a theatrical scam by national security goons, and I am here for it.

UPDATE “Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Failure of Democratic Politics” [The New Republic]. “[There has been] a growing obsession with celebrity among Democrats, as if celebrity itself could somehow transcend the grubby business of politics. With figures like Ginsburg and Barack Obama, this thinking went, the party could win the day on the back of its leading lights. Those pleading for Ginsburg to retire were brushed off, or branded as sexists. Meanwhile, the conservative machine installed a bunch of young jurists to the Supreme Court who might not be famous but will be determining the fate of this country for years to come.” • Installed with the help of Democrats, one might add. Remember when Schumer waved through a bunch of Trump’s judges so the Senate could go on vacation?

UPDATE “Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court” [The Hill]. “The debate among Democrats about expanding the Supreme Court has risks for the party because it has quickly been picked up as a talking point by Republicans.” • Quelle horreur

The Debates

“First Trump-Biden debate to focus on Supreme Court, coronavirus and race” [CNN]. • Until Trump picks up a chair and hits a referee with it. Turning himself from a heel to a face, at least in the eyes of many.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “The men behind QAnon” [ABC]. “The two Americans most clearly associated with the author of thousands of ‘Q drops’ dating back to October 2017 are James Arthur Watkins, 56, who gained control in 2015 of the controversial anonymous message board 8chan, and his son, Ronald Watkins, former 8chan administrator and current administrator of its successor, the Watkins-owned 8kun. Since 2001, Watkins has been living in the Philippines, according to Philippines immigration records obtained by ABC News. ‘If he’s not ‘Q’ himself, he can find out who ‘Q’ is at any time,’ said Fredrick Brennan, the creator of 8chan and Watkins’ former business partner.” • But: “It remains unknown whether the ‘Q drops’ are authored by one or several people or whether they live within or outside the U.S., burnishing the mystique at the heart of the phenomenon.” • I so, so, so don’t want to get into straightening this out. (Oddly, the money involved seems to be trivial; the dude from New Jersey was pulling down three grand a month; a Watkins SuperPAC raised $4,000.) This is an extremely discursive post whose protagonists remind me of the bait shop guys in Arkansas who ignited the Lewinsky matter that caused Bill Clinton so much trouble; they have that kind of shiny aura. (See also this on the Reply All podcast.)

UPDATE “Are Red State Governors Getting Their People Killed to Help Donald Trump’s Re-Election Chances?” [Dean Baker, CEPR]. • No more than Andrew Cuomo got elders killed in nursing homes, or the political class is getting working class people in flyover killed by ignoring life falling expectancy and treating deaths of despair and the opioid crisis with malign neglect, or liberal Democrats are getting 68,000 people a year killed denying them #MedicareForAll. To be fair to Baker, who is generally sane, COVID-19, striking first as it did in Blue Cities, the Democrat base, may well have touched him personally in a way that all the other deaths — geographically and socially far away — did not. But there do seem to be rather a lot of people getting killed just now. Perhaps — hear me out — Red State Governors are not as central to the problem as Baker thinks they are?

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.

There are no statistics of note today.

* * *

Shipping: “Container rates are on fire. How can you invest in that?” [Freight Waves]. “Containers have wrestled the ocean-shipping headlines away from tankers and bulkers as stratospheric China-to-California box rates approach $4,000 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU). Container shipping, declares a glowing new report by Fearnleys Securities, is “The Unsung Hero.” How can investors expose themselves to this historic trans-Pacific rate spike? Can box stocks woo tanker and bulker shareowners? And what do the curiously low prices of some container equities say about sentiment toward a U.S. recovery? FreightWaves interviewed four shipping analysts to delve into these questions. Their responses highlight significant differences between investing in container shipping versus bulk commodity shipping.” • People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

Shipping: “The only money-making business for major passenger airlines these days is cargo. Just four of the world’s 30 largest passenger carriers by revenue reported profits in the second quarter… and all are based in export-heavy Asia markets that are seeing a surge in demand for electronic components and personal protective medical equipment” [Wall Street Journal]. “It’s a stark sign of the upheaval in the global airline industry, which has been staggered by the enormous downturn in travel under the coronavirus pandemic. The four profitable airlines last quarter were South Korea’s Korean Air and Asiana Airlines and Taiwan’s EVA Airways and China Airlines. They’re among many carriers that are flying passenger jets as virtual freighters.”

Shipping: “Cass sees freight trends accelerate sequentially in August” [Freignt Waves]. “Cass Information Systems’ (NASDAQ: CASS) August report showed further sequential gains in the freight markets with shipments increasing 8% and expenditures climbing 9.9% from July. Data for the month echoes other recent bullish trends and commentary from the trucking sector, showing that April was the bottom for volumes with continual improvement in freight demand since. Cass’ expenditures index shows freight payments troughed in May, improving each month after. ‘This supports what we have heard from public carriers across all modes, and we believe the trend of ‘better’ has continued here in September. Expect the Cass Index to move back closer to year-ago levels in the coming months, although we think it will stay in negative territory until 2021,’ commented the report’s author, Stifel Financial equity research analyst David Ross.”

Tech: Which face will Twitter choose as, er, representative, and which will it crop out?

There’s a ton of these floating out on the Twitter. Try it yourself!

Honey for the Bears: “One of the financial mechanisms that helps keep commodities shipments keep moving is seizing up. Companies are seeing a severe cutback in trade-credit insurance…. presenting a new challenge for metals suppliers even as they try to take advantage of recovering raw materials demand” [Wall Street Journal]. “Suppliers take out the insurance in case customers don’t pay, while banks use it to insure deals they finance. But insurers have become wary of metals because of challenges in sectors like the automotive and aviation industries that use the raw materials in factories. Credit insurance is less prevalent in the U.S. than in Europe, but some $600 billion in American sales were covered by credit insurance last year. Brokers say insurers now are turning down more requests while premiums are soaring and payouts are mounting in a strained economy.” • “Wary of… industries that use the raw materials in factories.” Oh.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 49 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 56 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 23 at 1:51pm. Mr. Market still on the couch.

The Biosphere

Quite right. Let no organic matter leave the property:

Health Care

“Covid-19: An open letter to the UK’s chief medical officers” [British Medical Journal]. “We write to express our grave concern about the emerging second wave of covid-19…. c) The goal of “herd immunity” rests on the unproven assumption that re-infection will not occur. We simply do not know whether immunity will wane over months or years in those who have had covid-19. d) Despite claims to the contrary from some quarters, there are no examples of a segmentation-and-shielding policy having worked in any country.Notwithstanding our opposition to a policy of segmentation-and-shielding, we strongly support measures that will provide additional protection to those in care homes and other vulnerable groups.” • There is a lot of food for thought in this letter; well worth a read.


“Erin Brockovich says US is now in a water crisis far worse than people realize” [The Hill]. “Instead, Brockovich has created a Community Healthbook to allow individuals and community groups to “report and review health related concerns and community environmental issues by geographic area and health related topic.” • Enabling citizen science! Super constructive!

Police State Watch

“‘It seems systematic’: Doctors group finds 115 cases of head injuries from crowd control weapons during nationwide protests” [USA Today]. “At least 115 people were injured this summer when police shot them in the head or neck with so-called “less-lethal” projectiles at protests over racial injustice and police brutality, according to a report published Monday… The sheer number of incidents in those two months was shocking, said Dr. Rohini Haar, the lead investigator for the analysis and an emergency physician in Oakland, California. ‘It seems systematic,’ Haar said. ‘It seems like there needs to be a reckoning with the use of force in protests.'” • Well, I should hope so. I mean, we don’t want cops shooting people in the head randomly….

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Entrenched racist culture at heart of Portsmouth’s police department, officers and former chief say” [Virginian-Pilot]. “Time and again a group of mostly white officers have pushed back against modernization, worked to oust chiefs, stifled the careers of minority and female officers and sought retribution on anyone seen as a threat to their “good-ol’-boy” system of racial intimidation, according to eight Black officers who recently spoke to The Virginian-Pilot. That view is shared by former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman, who also detailed numerous racist incidents that occurred while she was in charge…. Officers who talked with The Pilot, however, said the system has been kept in place with the help of some current and former city council members who wanted to stay in the good graces of the department’s Fraternal Order of Police, which, the officers said, consistently blocked change.” • Given what we know about Breonna Taylor, we should also be looking at property development…

“Officer involved in Breonna Taylor shooting sends email to colleagues ahead of expected announcement” [The Hill]. “‘DO NOT give the pencil pushers at the top, you know the ones who are too scared to hold the line, a reason to open investigations on you. The same ones that couldn’t make decisions to save their lives,’ [Jon Mattingly, one of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor] stated in the letter. ‘We need leaders that lead from the front and not in a room under a desk. Do what you need to do to go home you your family. Just do it with dignity and make sure you can justify your actions because everything down there is recorded.'” • Not a confidence builder….

UPDATE “1 officer indicted in Breonna Taylor case; not for her death” [Associated Press]. “A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday indicted a single former police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments but did not move forward with charges against any officers for their role in Breonna Taylor’s death. The jury announced that fired Officer Brett Hankison [not Mattingly, supra.] was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid of Taylor’s home on the night of March 13…. Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.” • The sort of thing that could happen to anyone….

Our Famously Free Press

“Matt Taibbi is a cancel culture hypocrite” [Yasha Levine, Immigrants as a Weapon]. (This preview has my token as a free newsletter subscriber, which is why you can see it at all. Levine is always worth reading.) “It was painful to watch Matt — the supposed heir to Hunter S. Thompson — groveling like this in real time. But I could sort of understand why he went that way.” • A distressing read, especially since I enjoy listening to Taibbi. Personally, I think cancel culture is turning into “I don’t like that tweet so I’m gonna call your boss and get you fired.” Like everything else idpol-related — #MeToo, especially — the rot sets in pretty fast…

Guillotine Watch

“The luxury air business is booming — as many Californians struggle to breathe” [Los Angeles Times]. “For buyers at the upper reaches of the real estate market, peace of mind can be purchased in the form of deluxe air filtration systems that keep the world at bay. Carl Gambino, a luxury real estate agent with Compass in Los Angeles, said that his clients had started bringing up clean air as a must-have amenity in the last year.” • Well, at least they’re not selling gulps of oxygen on the street. That was my picture.

Class Warfare

“Misery on Main Street: COVID-19 takes a grim toll on America’s small businesses” [NBC]. “[Small businesses] are vital to the American economy. They employ 60 million people, almost half the nation’s private-sector workforce, and create prosperity for U.S. families. They generate tax revenues that fund public safety, schools, parks and other municipal services and bring local color to their communities…. But misery has swept through Main Street, thanks to COVID, dealing body blows to owners, workers, landlords and town budgets. And although the Paycheck Protection Program supplied almost $700 billion to help small businesses crushed by COVID, many merchants’ operations — and futures — remain in peril. Even in late 2019, before the virus hit and when the economy was thriving, small businesses were ill-equipped to deal with setbacks. Federal Reserve Bank of New York research from April showed only one in five healthy small firms had sufficient cash reserves to continue normal operations if they experienced a two-month revenue loss. So it was no surprise that 1.4 million small businesses either closed or suspended operations in the three months that ended in June 2020, according to figures from Oxxford Information Technology Ltd. ” • It’s almost like under capitalism, there are meant to be only two classes, and small businesses on a human scale just aren’t meant to survive. Speaking of which–

“Stop Waiting for Capitalism to Cure Inequality” [Bloomberg]. “[C]apitalism’s invisible hand hasn’t made the market more efficient when it comes to eliminating racial barriers. Anyone who’d been paying attention was well aware that progress over the past few decades had been scant. White men still dominated the top jobs and made the most money, and Black workers in particular had been left behind.” • Yes, if only the “top jobs” “looked like America” “fundamentally, nothing would change.”

“Richest Farms Reap Bulk of U.S. Agriculture Aid, Study Shows” [Bloomberg]. “In the 2018-2019 crop years, more than half of about $23 billion in payments from the Market Facilitation Program went to the top 10% of farms, according to the Environmental Working Group, a critic of agribusiness subsidies. The funds are meant to offset harm from the U.S.-China trade war. ‘We aren’t really helping people who need the help,’ EWG analyst Anne Schechinger said in an interview. ‘Small farms don’t have a lot of assets to fall back on during hard times and then they are the ones most likely to actually go out of business.'” • In other words, a rake-off for the American gentry? I’d be shocked if that were true.

“Wokies are the establishment” [Redline]. “If you have managed to convince massive corporations that they should re-educate themselves and their staff, paint themselves rainbow, and cancel any dissenters when these same companies refuse to even pay their factory workers a living wage, you are not the oppressed one. I doubt very much if Marx would consider the validation of the identities of wealthy, university-educated, bourgeois brats a priority over the struggle of the proletariat.”

UPDATE “Nursing Homes Oust Unwanted Patients With Claims of Psychosis” [New York Times]. “Across the United States, nursing homes are looking to get rid of unprofitable patients — primarily those who are poor and require extra care — and pouncing on minor outbursts to justify evicting them to emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals. After the hospitals discharge the patients, often in a matter of hours, the nursing homes refuse them re-entry, according to court filings, government-funded watchdogs in 16 states, and more than 60 lawyers, nursing home employees and doctors.” • 

1619 project continues in the news:

See the thread for Hannah-Jones’ response…

News of the Wired

The world of fashion:

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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 (JM):

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/23/2020

JM writes: “Primrose moth (Schinia florida), resting in a wild Evening Primrose flower. This small moth, which has a wingspan of about 3 cm, does not pollinate the plant. It does drink the nectar of the Evening Primrose flower and lays its eggs on the plant. When the caterpillars are born, they feed on the plant.” Co-evolution!

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