2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, my weekend haul was unusually high on analysis, and unusually low on events. So I was slow going through it. I will have more shortly, especially in Health, and Politics.

Bird Song of the Day

Birds of Texas.


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?

Vaccination by region:

Big drop in the South no doubt storm-related.

Case count by United States region:

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

Big drop in the South no doubt storm-related.

Test positivity:

Regional averages approach 3%, which is what we want to see. (Alert reader TsWkr pointed out it’s time to update my test positivity comment, which I just did.)


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):

Once Ohio’s data is processed, an enormous drop (down to the peak of the first wave).


“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


“Why Didn’t Speaker Pelosi Want Witnesses?” [Ralph Nader, Counterpunch]. “For reasons yet to be divulged, the Democrats, as they did with the first impeachment of Trump, were unwilling to use the full evidence subpoena powers they possess. Trump can now run again, vitiating the rule of law and debasing our democratic institutions. As Republican strategist Kevin Philips noted years ago, The Republicans go for the jugular while the Democrats go for the capillaries.”

Biden Administration

“Biden seems set to pick fight over Rahm Emanuel” [The Hill]. “Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears poised to take on a high-profile ambassadorship for President Biden, a step likely to trigger contention with progressives who’ve balked at him taking a Cabinet role. Emanuel is the front-runner to be Biden’s nominee as ambassador to Japan, sources familiar with the matter told The Hill. He’s also being considered for the post in China, but sources said Japan is the more likely landing spot for former President Obama’s chief of staff. Former State Department official Nicholas Burns is the likely front-runner to end up in Beijing. The diplomatic role in Asia would mark a high-profile return to the federal government for Emanuel, who built a reputation as a brash but effective political tactician in the Democratic Party.” • Emmanuel ran a torture center at Homan Square when he was mayor of Chicago, so he should fit right in.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“US Crisis Monitor Releases Full Data for 2020” [Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)]. “Sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May, the latest wave of protests associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement accounts for 47% [10,330 at 2,730 locations] of all demonstrations in the US last year…. While the BLM movement accounts for the majority of demonstration activity in 2020, ACLED records an increase in right-wing demonstrations [2,350 at 1,070 locations] over the course of the year, and especially in the weeks following the election, with armed militia groups taking an enlarged role in right-wing mobilization ahead of the Capitol riot in January 2021…. The health crisis triggered substantial unrest amid the devastating economic downturn and deep political divisions over an appropriate response. Over 3,990 demonstrations directly related to the pandemic were recorded across more than 1,210 locations in all 50 states and Washington, DC States with the most events: California (708); New York (321); Florida (192); Texas (163); Pennsylvania (158).” • The number of Covid demonstrations is surprisinglly large, to me. Here is the dashboard, which I had a hard time making sense of. And here is a (relatively) handle map:

Big energy:

“People with extremist views less able to do complex mental tasks, research suggests” [Guardian] (original). “A key finding was that people with extremist attitudes tended to think about the world in black and white terms, and struggled with complex tasks that required intricate mental steps, said lead author Dr Leor Zmigrod at Cambridge’s department of psychology…. The study, which looked at 16 different ideological orientations, could have profound implications for identifying and supporting people most vulnerable to radicalisation across the political and religious spectrum. ‘What we found is that demographics don’t explain a whole lot; they only explain roughly 8% of the variance,’ said Zmigrod. ‘Whereas, actually, when we incorporate these cognitive and personality assessments as well, suddenly, our capacity to explain the variance of these ideological world-views jumps to 30% or 40%.’” • I’m not a social scientist, but doesn’t that mean that ideology doesn’t explain 60% of whatever it is they’re measuring? Anyhow, if a study saying non-PMCs were dumb used phrenology as a method, it would still get traction in the press; this sort of study is, in fact, a genre.

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.

Shipping: “Inside container economies” (PDF) [Berghahn Journals]. “This introduction proposes an anthropology of global cargo circulation by placing the maritime shipping industry at the center of global capitalism. With “container economies” we refer to the maritime global circulation of cargo that is sustained by an undervalued labor force, dependent upon unstable logistics infra- structures and driven by speculative capital. Container economies, we argue, are produced by adding, moving, and destroying value through the maritime supply chain. In this introduction, we reflect upon the implications of containerization and its wider consequences for logistics labor. We argue that maritime logistics and labor is best understood by taking into account their wider networks of de- pendency expressed through kinship relations, ethnicity and coexisting regimes of value.” • Fascinating stuff. The entire issue is devoted to supply chain economics, and all the article are free.

Tech: The grift that keeps on grifting:

Manufacturing: “Why Do Boeing 777 Engines Keep Exploding?” [MSN]. Not the sort of headline your PR department likes to see. “There was a fourth incident involving…. Patterns in aircraft accidents can be a sign of trouble. While one-off failures might be attributable to a freak coincidence or just bad luck, patterns suggest that a previously unsuspected danger is lurking…. In the case of the exploding 777 engines, the recurring problem does not come out of the blue. It’s well known that as aircraft and engines age, their mechanical parts are subjected to repeated stresses and strains that can lead to microscopic cracks that grow over time.” • Another case of no training and lots of overtime? Worth reading in full. Meanwhile, I had the 777 as the single item on my list of reliable Boeing aircraft. Guess I have to cross it off, or at least check the age of the plane the next time I do a long-haul. Ugh.

Manufacturing: “February 2021 Texas Manufacturing Index Improved” [Econintersect]. “Important subindices new orders significantly improved (remains in expansion) and unfilled orders also significantly improved (remains in expansion). This should be considered a much better report than last month. Data were collected Jan. 12-20.” • Oh. More: “Of the three Federal Reserve districts which have released their February manufacturing surveys – all are in expansion.”


Concentration: “The Government Needs to Find Big Tech a New Business Model” [The Atlantic]. “Facebook and Google occupy an unprecedented political role. The closest we’ve come in America is the telegraph monopoly in the late 19th century, when the Associated Press and Western Union joined forces to control both news and the network through which it traveled. Facebook and Google are each like that monopoly, but combined with the surveillance regimes of authoritarian states, and the addiction business model of cigarettes. Not only do they control discourse, surveil citizens, and make money from incentivizing paranoia, hatred, and lies; they also make money by keeping the public addicted to their services. Traditional news organizations are dependent on them, and their profit stream takes directly from those traditional organizations, which, if allowed to thrive, might provide a connective tissue of facts for democracy. And these tech companies lack democratic accountability: A few corporate CEOs decide the shape of modern thought and have become America’s de facto commissioners of information.” • When the platforms start censoring what liberal Democrats want them to censor, will the calls for breaking them up die away?

Tech: Unbundling Twitter:

I’m not sure I agree that Clubhouse “unbundles” the conversation part of Twitter. What it does do is create conversations that it’s difficult to link into or quote in text, making accountability and indeed news gathering even more crapified than they already are.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 22 at 11:59am. They explained to the intern how to run the meter.

CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 19 at 11:46am. New intern? —>

The Biosphere

Health Care

“Re: Immediate Action is Needed to Address SARS-CoV-2 Inhalation Exposure” (PDF) [Letter to Zients, Walensky, Fauci]. “For many months it has been clear that transmission through inhalation of small aerosol particles is an important and significant mode of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission. The gravity of this problem was emphasized this week by an editorial in the journal Nature [4]. Numerous studies have demonstrated that aerosols produced through breathing, talking, and singing are concentrated close to the infected person, can remain in air and viable for long periods of time and travel long distances within a room and sometimes farther [5–7]. Gatherings in indoor spaces without adequate ventilation place participants at particularly high risk, an important component of which is driven by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic viral shedding of infected individuals [8]. In October, the CDC recognized inhalation as a route of exposure that should be controlled to protect against COVID-19 [9], but most CDC guidance and recommendations have not yet been updated or strengthened to address and limit inhalation exposure to small aerosol particles. CDC continues to use the outdated and confusing term “respiratory droplets” to describe both larger propelled droplet sprays and smaller inhalable aerosol particles. It also confuses matters with “airborne transmission” to indicate inhalation exposure exclusively at long distances and does not consider inhalation exposure via the same aerosols at short distances. This artificial distinction needs to be replaced with up-to-date terminology [10], as advocated by the National Academies workshop on Airborne Transmission [11], focused on routes of exposure via a) touch, b) large droplets sprayed onto the body, and c) inhalation of small aerosol particles [12].” • See CDC School Reopening Guidance Suppresses Aerosols Based on Thin Evidence and Driven by Budgetary Concerns at NC.

“New CDC school opening guidelines fail to ‘follow the science’” [STAT]. This ran in Links, but I want to comment. Yes, but not for the reasons I give (above). “The two core pillars of the guidelines — that schools should decide whether to open based on community transmission and that students should strive to be spaced 6 feet apart — aren’t supported by science.” On the first: “To justify this tiered approach, the CDC guidelines cite a ‘likely association’ between community transmission levels and the risk of exposure in the schools. But the evidence for this is flimsy.” • I gave two examples (Montréal and the UK). On the second: “The CDC guidelines say that schools should try to keep kids 6 feet apart. This guidance, however, appears to be based on decades-old research on the travel distance of large respiratory droplets.” • The authors, however (a political scientist and a hematologist-oncologist) don’t seem to understand that aerosols will fill a room. They argue for reducing the six foot distance to three, but don’t argue for ventilation!

The ventilation and air filtration measures that CDC deemed not essential:

So it turns out the big domes at the National Academy of Sciences who were worried that budgetary “stakeholders” might balk at the cost of “updating aging facilities” didn’t do their due diligence.

Masks, one year ago (note the date):

Anybody who believes or worse, propagates the idea that the virtuous were all pushing masking from the very beginning is at best a food.

“The One Area Where the U.S. COVID-19 Strategy Seems to Be Working” [The Atlantic]. “lthough operation warp speed was successful, at least in comparison with Europe’s efforts, part of its victory came down to luck. If the vaccines that the U.S. scooped up so many doses of, by Moderna and Pfizer, had failed clinical trials, ‘the U.S. would look extraordinarily stupid right now,” [Scott Greer, a health-policy professor at the University of Michigan] says.’” • Contra Greer, there were eight companies developing vaccines, not two. There were also companies developing treatments (in my view, underfunded). Operation Warp’s parallel development architecture and guaranteed market turned out to be a good program design. Who knew, but there we are.

“Why Are Only 3.1 Percent of D.C. Residents Fully Vaccinated?” [Washington City Paper]. “Vaccine providers in the District have fully vaccinated 22,073 D.C. residents and 24,838 non-D.C. residents. Why is D.C. vaccinating so many non-D.C. residents? D.C., like every other state across the country, started vaccinating its health care workforce, which is 85,000 people. Perhaps unlike most other states, 75 percent of D.C.’s health care workers do not live in D.C. Vaccine providers are continuing to give shots to essential workers who are not D.C. residents like teachers, firefighters, and grocery store workers.” Then again: “As of Feb. 20, vaccine providers have administered 92,605 first doses of the 105,575 first doses delivered from the federal government, or 88 percent.”

Class Warfare

“Ice and blood in Texas” [Sick Note]. “The same ideology of bloody ignorance that led to the state’s power grid collapsing in the first place also gave us a country where access to mental healthcare is horribly difficult, even if you have insurance. It’s the same ideology that means the guy who lost his truck in Hurricane Harvey doesn’t get unemployment benefits. It’s the same ideology that says not everyone deserves to have any healthcare at all; that it’s fine if homeless people linger and starve under overpasses, or if people die for lack of insulin. It’s designed to be barer than the bare minimum, to keep you afraid of what could happen, working for a bad boss in case you lose your insurance or can’t make rent and end up living under the bridge. Death and suffering isn’t an accidental outcome or an oversight; it’s part of the plan.”

News of the Wired

Kill it with fire:

These are even creepier than the Boston Dynamics dogs.

“On missing a place while you’re in it” [Nisha’s Internet Tote Bag]. The deck: “I miss Manhattan.” “I miss rowdy bars in the East Village and dark little restaurants in the West Village. I miss the trendy but stupidly-expensive corridor of restaurants around 20th Street. I miss how when you walked around at nighttime it was dark but still incredibly bright from all the lights everywhere. I miss cocktail bars tucked away in hotels. I miss the crushing masses of humanity at the Union Square subway stop. I miss lingering in coffee shops and going to my favorite wine bar where I knew all the staff. I miss that rush you get when you arrive at the subway stop and your train pulls in at that exact moment and you realize you timed it perfectly. I miss. I actually miss the rush of Penn Station! And Times Square is annoying as hell, but walking through Times Square to get to a Broadway show while complaining about the slow-walking tourists is a pastime I realized I took for granted…. Manhattan was once a place I went to nearly every single day for seven years. It’s a whole part of my life that’s now missing, even though it’s still right there.”

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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: “Matilija Poppy buds at Heap’s Peak Arboretum in Skyforest, CA.” Lovely backlighting and depth of field.

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