2:00PM Water Cooler 4/16/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another shore-bird. Human conversation, too.

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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:

In a week or so, we’ll see what effect the J&J debacle has had, if any.

Case count by United States regions:

Gaaaaah! (I added blue lines to show the slops of the previous outbreaks. I hate that the direction is up, but there’s no denying the increase, so far, is not as vicious.) Yes, the rise is from the Midwest, but wouldn’t it be nice if the rise in the Midwest was cancelled out by decreases everywhere else.

The Midwest in detail:

MI: “Michigan at ‘record high’ for COVID-19 hospitalizations of children” [Free Press]. “Among the biggest drivers of coronavirus infections in the state, health officials have said, are outbreaks among youth athletes and those associated with K-12 schools. This week, the state reported 312 ongoing or new school outbreaks, which includes infections linked to classrooms, after-school activities and sports. Cases among kids ages 10-19 are at an all-time high, the state’s top epidemiologist, Sarah Lyon-Callo, reported last week, quadrupling from four weeks earlier. Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious disease research at Beaumont Health, said Michigan’s kids might be contracting the virus at a higher rate now than they did in previous surges because they’re able to socialize, attend in-person classes and continue to play sports now — spreading the virus during these activities — in a way that wasn’t possible during previous waves.” • Thanks CDC, good job. (To be fair, we don’t have epidemiological studies on transmission in Michigan.)

MI: “School kids are spreading COVID in northern Michigan” [Interlochen Public Radio]. “It appears that children are now responsible for many of the state’s new cases, as they return to sports, parties and classes. Across Michigan, cases in the 19 and younger group have more than doubled in the past month, while cases among children younger than nine have more than tripled, according to state data. That’s a significant departure from earlier in the pandemic when health departments said children, especially young children, were not playing a major role in transmitting the virus.”

MI: “Many Michigan schools lack air filters that would help fight COVID-19” [Chalkbeat]. “The districts shared information about their HVAC systems as part of a state program that offers guidance on using heating systems in schools to fight COVID-19. They have combined enrollments of 145,000, or nearly 10% of students in the state, almost half of whom were learning in-person at the time of the survey. In more than a quarter of the schools, HVAC systems hadn’t been updated in 20 years or more… The state doesn’t fund improvements to those systems, leaving districts to rely on tax revenue from local communities. Many districts haven’t been able to afford the HVAC upgrades that would have helped them reduce the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, although some have begun to make improvements with federal aid funds.” • HVAC is great, but you can still make a difference with open doors, open windows with fans, and box fans (too lazy to find the links just now, but I’ve given several from the aerosol community). Dilution works if filtration is not possible. Of course, you have to turn the fan on.

MI: “Experts say indoor air quality, ventilation is important amid COVID-19 pandemic” [WWMT]. From 2020: “Researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency said there was growing evidence that COVID-19 could remain airborne for longer times and further distances than originally thought. In addition to close contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces [fomites, now known to be unimportant[, there was a possibility that spread of COVID-19 could also occur via airborne particles in indoor environments.” • So the EPA was way ahead of the CDC, good job.

MI: A good thread on the physical plant in schools:

I hope there’s enough Federal aid, because raising property taxes is gonna be a problem.

MI: Meanwhile:

I love the guy half-heartedly pounding the door while he scans his phone.

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

Florida continues its slow climb, soon to pass New York. California starting to follow?

Test positivity:

Midwest increases.


Still heading down.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. I have added a black line to show our “new normal.” 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

Biden Administration

“Democrats agonize over game theory on Biden’s $2T-plus spending plan” [Politico]. “Democrats are clearly at a crossroads on the critical decision of whether or not to work with their GOP colleagues. And the clock is ticking. During private conversations with members of both parties in recent days, White House chief of staff Ron Klain has signaled that there’s still time to wait for Republican buy-in, but that the party shouldn’t take forever, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Members of the so-called G-20, a group of moderate senators in both parties, were divided over whether to work together on a smaller package during a call Thursday afternoon. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) expressed a desire to collaborate with Republicans but acknowledged that at some point Democrats might end up going their own way, according to a source familiar with the call. The group ended with no decision and plans to speak again next week. As committees begin to craft the language for the bill, Democrats say they’re looking for policies that have bipartisan support. But they’re also signaling that they’re ready to go at it alone if Republicans low-ball them or drag things out. ‘The wise thing to do is to work in two lanes. One is the reconciliation lane, which I don’t think would be wise to forgo, and the second is the bipartisan lane,’ said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).”

House Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion The Hill

Democrats en Deshabille

“Oregon lawmakers reach deal to end delay tactics slowing session” [Oregon Public Broadcasting]. “Legislative Democrats in Oregon have agreed to relinquish a powerful advantage in redrawing the state’s political districts for the next 10 years in exchange for a commitment from Republicans to stop blocking bills with delay tactics. The surprise deal, reached Wednesday evening after a weeks-long standoff that has brought legislative action to a trickle, fundamentally shifts the dynamics not only of the 2021 session, but of one of the most consequential actions lawmakers will take this year. With the agreement, Democrats, stymied so far despite holding supermajorities in both legislative chambers, appear to have gained a far easier path to passing much of the agenda they’ve queued up this year. But they’ve essentially granted veto power to Republicans, who can now block any map of legislative or congressional districts from passing.”


“The 8 states where the pandemic has shifted the balance of power” [The Fulcrum]. “Over the past year, states have issued hundreds of rule changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, covering issues from public health and safety to business protocols to election procedures. But one consequence of some of these emergency orders has been a shift in the balance of power at the state level. Ballotpedia reported Thursday that eight states have seen the governor’s authority weakened by Covid-related legislation. Governors generally have the authority to declare a state of emergency in cases of natural disasters, disease epidemics and other threats to public health. And in the early days of the pandemic, nearly all states issued lockdown or stay-at-home orders. But in the months following, some states saw conflict between the executive and legislative branches on how to proceed with the orders. Lawmakers introduced hundreds of bills to limit gubernatorial emergency powers, and ultimately 10 were enacted in eight states. Surprisingly, in most of those eight states, the same political party controlled the governorship and the legislature. Three were run by Republicans: Arkansas, Ohio and Utah. Two were Democratic: Colorado and New York. And the remaining three have Democratic governors and Republican-majority legislatures: Kansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Another view of precarity:

“When the right wing rallies” [Reuters]. Reuters examined data from the U.S. Crisis Monitor on political protests across the United States to provide a look at the spread of right-wing demonstrations in 2020. Our visualization shows how the incendiary concept of a stolen election brought together a disparate collection of anti-government militias, conspiracy theorists, white nationalist and ordinary Americans, and how those protests continue into 2021.” • Lots of diagrams…

“The Woke Semantics Project” [Carl Beijer]. “When most people hear about “woke” politics, what generally comes to mind is a very particular way of talking about identity, expressed in a very particular agenda and set of political concerns. For example, woke politics are not ordinarily understood to be focused on poverty in general, but only on the way it intersects with issues like racism, sexism, disability, and so on. Similarly, wokeness is also associated with the identitarian deference, practice that has emerged from a controversial interpretation of standpoint theory. These observations about the popular understanding of woke are just descriptive, not prescriptive; whatever one thinks wokeness ought to be or is in some ideal sense, this is how most people tend to understand and use the concept.”

Trump Legacy

Stats Watch

Imports: “March 2021 Sea Container Imports Again Significantly Improved Pointing To A Strong Economic Recovery” [Econintersect]. “The import container counts for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach rate of growth again jumped month-over-month partially due to the fact that the import data one year ago was impacted by the pandemic shutdown but still import container counts set a record for Marchs. Exports are having the worst year since 2009…. On top of a trade war and the world pandemic, import container counts continue to surge. There is chaos in container movements with containers in the wrong place and shortages of rail cars to move containers – however, the container situation again improved this month – but there continues a shortage of containers and unloading berths. This container shortage was exasperated by the Suez blockage.”

Housing: “March 2021 Residential Building Growth Improves” [Econintersect]. “Headline residential building permits improved and construction completions improved. The rolling averages improved for both permits and construction completions…. The backward revisions this month were small. It is always difficult to understand the trends as the backward revisions sometimes reverse trends month-to-month. The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month-to-month (mostly due to weather) so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series. The rolling averages say this sector is growing. We consider this report improve[d] relative to last month.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 10 April 2021 – Rail Shows Significant Gains Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has been mostly in contraction for over one year – and now surging as it is being compared to the pandemic lockdown period one year ago.”

Employment Situation: “Long-Term Unemployment Is Headed The Wrong Way” [Econintersect]. “We are witnessing a dramatic increase in the duration of unemployment spells. Part of this is due to the impact of Covid19 pandemic concentrated in specific sectors. Part of this is down to the generosity of unemployment benefits supplements and direct subsidies during the pandemic. Part of it is also down to the longer term changes in the U.S. labor markets and changes in households’ composition and investment/consumption patterns. Irrespective of the causes, the problem is obvious: the longer the person remains unemployed, the sharper is the depreciation of skills and their employability. If this (post-2008) experience is the ‘new normal’, America is developing a massive class of disillusioned and human capital poor workers.” Handy chart:

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Currency: So cash is no longer legal tender?

Does anyone believe the “conversion kiosks” will stay free?

Tech: “Big Tech Is Pushing States to Pass Privacy Laws, and Yes, You Should Be Suspicious” [The Markup]. “Concerned about growing momentum behind efforts to regulate the commercial use of personal data, Big Tech has begun seeding watered-down “privacy” legislation in states with the goal of preempting greater protections, experts say….. the small handful of bills that have not adhered to two key industry demands—that companies can’t be sued for violations and consumers would have to opt out of rather than into tracking—have quickly died in committee or been rewritten.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 57 Greed (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 16 at 12:17pm. This index is here by request, but perhaps it’s time has come and gone. Here is a discussion of its pros and cons. I personally like it not because I used it as an investment tool — I don’t play the ponies, and in any case NC does not give investment advice — but because I feel about Mr. Market the way that Canadians are said to feel about the United States: If it rolls over, I’ll get crushed. So when the Fear Index is at 3, or the Greed at 97, I take note. Readers?

Health Care


“Ten scientific reasons in support of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2” [The Lancet]. Why I keep hammering on this issue: “If an infectious virus spreads predominantly through large respiratory droplets that fall quickly, the key control measures are reducing direct contact, cleaning surfaces, physical barriers, physical distancing, use of masks within droplet distance, respiratory hygiene, and wearing high-grade protection only for so-called aerosol-generating health-care procedures. Such policies need not distinguish between indoors and outdoors, since a gravity-driven mechanism for transmission would be similar for both settings. But if an infectious virus is mainly airborne, an individual could potentially be infected when they inhale aerosols produced when an infected person exhales, speaks, shouts, sings, sneezes, or coughs. Reducing airborne transmission of virus requires measures to avoid inhalation of infectious aerosols, including ventilation, air filtration, reducing crowding and time spent indoors, use of masks whenever indoors, attention to mask quality and fit, and higher-grade protection for health-care staff and front-line workers.” • Well worth a read (and written in plain English).

“Indoor Air Changes and Potential Implications for SARS-CoV-2 Transmission” [JAMA]. “Controlling concentrations of indoor respiratory aerosols to reduce airborne transmission of infectious agents is critical and can be achieved through source control (masking, physical distancing) and engineering controls (ventilation and filtration).2 With respect to engineering controls, an important flaw exists in how most buildings operate in that the current standards for ventilation and filtration for indoor spaces, except for hospitals, are set for bare minimums and not designed for infection control. Several organizations and groups have called for increasing outdoor air ventilation rates, but, to date, there has been limited guidance on specific ventilation and filtration targets. This article describes the rationale for limiting far-field airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through increasing outdoor air ventilation and enhancing filtration, and provides suggested targets.”


I wonder if CDC will pay attention to any of this.

“Second S.Korean deal to produce Russia’s Sputnik V” [Reuters]. “South Korea’s Huons Global Co Ltd (084110.KQ) will lead a consortium to produce 100 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine per month, as Moscow seeks to increase production globally to meet rising demand.” • Stop them! Stop the Russians!

Department of Feline Felicity

“Why Bumblebees Love Cats and Other Beautiful Relationships” [Long Reads]. “Darwin writes: what animals could you imagine to be more distant from one another than a cat and a bumblebee? Yet the ties that bind these two animals, though at first glance nonexistent, are on the contrary so strict that were they to be modified, the consequences would be so numerous and profound as to be unimaginable. Mice, argues Darwin, are among the principal enemies of bumblebees. They eat their larvae and destroy their nests. On the other hand, as everyone knows, mice are the favorite prey of cats. One consequence of this is that, in proximity to those villages with the most cats, one finds fewer mice and more bumblebees. So far so clear?” More: “There is a famous story along these lines told for the first time by the German biologists Ernst Haeckel and Carl Vogt. As the story goes, the fortunes of England would seem to depend on cats. By nourishing themselves on mice, cats increase the chances of survival of bumblebees, which, in turn, pollinate shamrocks, which then nourish the beef cows that provide the meat to nourish British sailors, thus permitting the British navy—which, as we all know, is the mainstay of the empire—to develop all of its power. T. H. Huxley, expanding on the joke, added that the true force of the empire was not cats but the perseverant love of English spinsters for cats, which kept the cat population so high. In any event, underlying the joke is the simple truth that all living species are connected to one another in some way or other by relationships, visible or hidden, and that acting directly on one species, or simply altering its environment, can have totally unexpected consequences.” • This is why I’m leery of the concept of pricing ecological services. We don’t know enough to set any kind of price.

Police State Watch

“Police across U.S. respond to Derek Chauvin trial: ‘Our American way of policing is on trial” [NBC]. • No shit, Sherlock.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Inside BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ million-dollar real estate buying binge” [New York Post]. “Last year, Khan-Cullors and spouse Janaya Khan ventured to Georgia to acquire a fourth home — a “custom ranch” on 3.2 rural acres in Conyers featuring a private airplane hangar with a studio apartment above it, and the use of a 2,500-foot “paved/grass” community runway that can accommodate small airplanes. The three-bedroom, two-bath house, about 30 minutes from Atlanta, has an indoor swimming pool and a separate ‘RV shop’ that can accommodate the repair of a mobile home or small aircraft, according to the real estate listing. The Peach State retreat was purchased in January 2020 for $415,000, two years after the publication of Khan-Cullors’ best-selling memoir, ‘When They Call You a Terrorist.’ In October, the activist signed ‘a multi-platform’ deal with Warner Bros. Television Group to help produce content for ‘black voices who have been historically marginalized,‘ she said in a statement.” • Khan-Cullors is, in Adolph Reed’s terminology, a “voice.” Voices are well-paid. The exact same thing happened with Deray. I’ve seen complaints that Facebook won’t allow this story to be published. Has anyone tried? UPDATE

Class Warfare

“Shifting Balance of Power?” [Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture].

It may be too early to suggest that the power has shifted back to the labor side of the aisle, but it’s pretty clear that the world of the post-GFC 2020s is a different one that that of 1990s and pre-crisis 2000s:

-Fiscal stimulus now compliments monetary stimulus;

-White House focused shifts to middle class jobs from tax cuts for rich;

-Infrastructure plans neglected for decades are getting a serious push;

-Economic inequality and racial injustice are topics of discussion;

-Vaccinations have been made available to the entire country at no cost;

-Affordable Care Act is increasingly making heathcare available to the poorest Americans.

ll of the above suggests a return to the post-war, pre-Reagan era that was dominated by middle class policies creating jobs and rising standards of living.

I do not mean to suggest that a resurgent union movement or an ongoing expansion of the middle class will look exactly like the post war era; but there does appear to be increased appetite for an economic realignment. Not so much Bernie Sanders or AOC, but a traditional centrist – someone like Joe Biden – with more of a middle class focus and policy push.

Mlakes you wonder what would happen if union organizing (and co-op formation) got the same coverage that idpol groupuscules and fads get. That’s the biggest censorship story going, if you ask me. When Teen Vogue’s Labor Reporter is the go-to source….

“In My Hometown, Opioids Are Still Stealing Lives” [New York Times]. “HATBORO, Pa. — I’d almost lost my capacity to be shocked by drug overdose. At 28, I’m of Generation Opioid. During high school, prescription pills were as easy to abuse as a learner’s permit. Our reunions take place coffin-side and often…. By the time I graduated from high school 10 years ago, opiates were everywhere. Percocet and Vicodin became a regular presence at parties. Mixed with booze and some weed, pills were a new way to kick a Saturday night up a notch. Teenagers eager to get their paws on something stronger had no trouble finding OxyContin. Those pills were designed to mete out pain relief over 12 hours, but they could be crushed and snorted for immediate zombification. Addiction came quickly after. In 2010, when I was in 11th grade, Purdue Pharma tweaked OxyContin to make it uncrushable. But rather than deter my friends, this pushed classmates already keen for the high straight to heroin — why bother with a pesky pill that takes its time when a “stamp bag” of the real stuff could be had for cheap? The overdoses ramped up.” • I wonder what they do in prep schools.

News of the Wired

“A top audio engineer explains NPR’s signature sound” [Current]. “. The reason NPR came to this standard — and this was decades ago — was because most of our listeners are consuming in an automobile or with something else in the background. Back in the day, and even to some degree now, you roll down those windows and hear those low rumbling frequencies. We wanted our voices to get above that so that they could be clear, open and understandable to improve our storytelling. We came to that conclusion mostly because most of our consumers were listening to Morning Edition and All Things Considered in the automobile to and from work. And now, as more of our content is heard on headphones from iPhones and all the digital sides of that, we discovered that continuing with this is beneficial, because there is still that acoustic outside noise.” • Interesting for audio geeks and mic mavens!

“‘Whitest ever’ paint reflects 98% of sunlight” [BBC]. • Cancel it!

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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 (ML):

ML: “Timely. This flowering pear tree was the inspiration for the fledgling orchard we planted behind it.” Sadly, Maine’s FedCo will not be having its Annual Tree Sale this year. Perhaps your area is luckier.

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