2:00PM Water Cooler 4/15/2021 | naked capitalism

by nyljaouadi1
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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another shore-bird. Big snipe energy!

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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! 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:

Minnesota follows Michigan’s upward trend. Illinois emerging from the pack? Oddly, that almost-entirely-covered-over chartreuse (?) line is Nebraska, and it looks like they had an upward trend, and got it sorta under control.

MI: “The mystery of Michigan’s overwhelming Covid surge” [CNN]. “Speculation is in high gear regarding the simple question: why Michigan and why now? After all, the increase is not being seen in surrounding states (yet) with Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin each well below 200 new cases per 100,000 people….. The likeliest explanation for the Michigan surge is a mix of all of the above: a very transmissible viral variant is spreading one step ahead of the vaccination among those newly eligible for it, with some contribution from a premature, partial return to normal life. And this is where politics is rearing its ugliest head… Perhaps what sets Michigan apart cannot be fully explained by the B.1.1.7 viral variant or reopening schools or not getting vaccines yet to younger people. Rather, perhaps this is another consequence of the unthinkable threats to the governor. She has become more tentative about doing the necessary thing and locking down her state, knowing the personal risk it might invite. The Lansing rioters of last spring may have set out to liberate Michigan but in their blind rage may have succeeded only in encumbering it with the dizzying danger of a runaway pandemic.” • If so, the Biden Administration didn’t give her any backup. In fact, they cut her loose.

MI: “16 things to know from recent talk about Michigan COVID restrictions, workplace rules, vaccines” [Click on Detroit]. “Whitmer did ask residents to follow a few voluntary restrictions for two weeks, though they aren’t required. Her requests included high schools returning to remote learning, youth sports suspending activities and everyone avoiding indoor dining at restaurants and gathering with members of other households. Michigan’s COVID-19 emergency rules for the workplace were set to expire Wednesday (April 14), but MIOSHA issued a six-month extension on Tuesday. For now, those rules are in place until Oct. 14, 2021. The most significant rule is that employees who can feasibly do their job remotely are required to continue doing so. In-person work is allowed for jobs that cannot be done remotely.”

MI: “What’s going on with COVID-19 in Michigan? Here’s what we know.” [Chicago Tribune]. “At least four, and potentially more than eight, Michigan Republicans who attended a district meeting at a Portage restaurant on March 25 tested positive for COVID-19 afterward, according to GOP officials. Jason Watts, an Allegan County Republican and the treasurer for the 6th District Republican Committee, has been in the hospital for five days. He tested positive for COVID-19 on April 1 and is certain he was exposed to the virus at the regular meeting of the district organization, he said in a Tuesday phone interview from a hospital room in Grand Rapids. Watts said about 69 people attended the March 25 meeting and estimated that about three of them were wearing masks. From what he’s heard, he said he believes at least 10 people who were there later tested positive for COVID-19.” • Just like the CCP in Wuhan before the story broke, hilariously. Party of personal responsibility, good job.

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

Florida continues its slow climb. 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

“Biden Finally Got to Say No to the Generals” [The New Yorker]. • Trump concluded, and the United States signed, an agreement to withdraw by May 1. Apparently, the chain of command now depends on the man, not the office.

Democrats en Deshabille

“Pelosi says she won’t bring bill to expand Supreme Court to the floor” [The Hill]. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday she has ‘no plans’ to bring a Democratic-led bill to expand the Supreme Court to the House floor for a vote, while saying such an idea is ‘not out of the question.’ Pelosi was asked during a press briefing if she supported a bill brought forward by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to expand the Supreme Court by four seats and if she would bring it to the House floor. ‘No. I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal, but frankly I’m not — right now, we’re back, our members, our committees are working. We’re putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest,’ Pelosi said.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Spa Co-Owner & Victim of Ravi Zacharias Speaks: He Threatened to “Ruin” Me” [The Roys Report]. “Last May, Vicki Blue discovered through her husband that the famed apologist, Ravi Zacharias, had died. ‘I’m glad,’ Blue recalls saying. “Now he can’t hurt anyone anymore.’ Blue is one of several victims who spoke anonymously to Christianity Today (CT) for an article last fall exposing Zacharias’ sexual abuse and harassment of massage therapists at spas he co-owned. In an exclusive interview with The Roys Report, Blue for the first time revealed her identity for publication and shared her experience with Zacharias in detail in hopes of helping other abuse victims.’” • A Christian apologist owns a chain of massage parlors. Astarte would approve!

Trump Legacy

“Trump’s Power Won’t Peak for Another 20 Years” [The Atlantic]. “Measured solely by the number of judges he appointed, Donald Trump’s impact is staggering: 234 judges, including 54 powerful appellate judges, almost one out of every three. By comparison, President Barack Obama appointed 172 judges (30 of them appellate) in his first term, while George W. Bush managed 204 (35 appellate). But Trump will have an even greater influence than this measurement suggests. That is because his judges won’t reach the apogee of their power until the early 2040s, when Trump-appointed chief judges are on track to simultaneously sit atop nearly every appeals court in the country.”

Stats Watch

Retail: “Headline Retail Sales Skyrocket in March 2021” [Econintersect]. “Retail sales significantly improved according to US Census headline data – and was the best March ever. The three-month rolling average improved. Year-over-Year growth also significantly improved mostly due to comparison to the lockdown period one year ago…. Retail sales have fully recovered their pre-virus levels overall. There was an upward adjustment to last month’s data. The real test of strength is the rolling averages which were little changed. Overall, this report is considered weaker than last month.”

Employment Situation: “United States Jobless Claims 4-week Average” [Trading Economics]. “The 4-week moving average of US jobless claims, which removes week-to-week volatility, dropped to 683 thousand in the week ending April 10th, from a revised 730.25 thousand in the previous period. It was the lowest level since March 2020.”

Manufacturing: “March 2021 Headline Industrial Production Improves” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say seasonally adjusted Industrial Production (IP) improved month-over-month – and now is in expansion year-over-year due to comparision to the pandemic lockdown period one year ago. Our analysis shows the three-month rolling average improved.”

Manufacturing: “April 2021 Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Index Improvement Continues” [Econintersect]. “The Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey significantly improved. Overall, this report was better than last month but key elements improvement was mixed.” • Noisy, sentiment-based.

Manufacturing: “April 2021 Empire State Manufacturing Index Strongly Improves” [Econintersect]. “The Empire State Manufacturing Survey index improved and remained in expansion. Key elements are in positive territory and all improved. This report is considered better than last month.” • Ditto.

Inventories: “February 2021 Business Inventories Remain Normal For Times Of Economic Expansion” [Econintersect]. “Headlines say final business sales data (retail plus wholesale plus manufacturing) declined month-over-month. The rolling averages improved. Inventories are within normal ranges for times of economic expansion. This data is worse than the previous month. The previous month’s data was revised upward. Our primary monitoring tool – the 3-month rolling averages for sales – improved.”

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Shipping: “The container ship traffic jam in Southern California is thinning somewhat, even as the boxes keep pouring in. The Port of Los Angeles says the number of ships parked offshore has fallen by about half since February… in a sign that the gridlock that has snarled U.S. supply chains may have peaked” [Wall Street Journal]. “The flood of shipments isn’t slowing down, however. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handled a combined 898,287 loaded container imports in March, 65.1% more than the same month two years ago and nearly as many as they saw last November at the height of a frantic peak shipping season. The deluge is straining inbound supply chains, and the usual two-day wait for trains out of Los Angeles is now up to 11 days. With more freight arriving, the bigger bottleneck may soon be on land.”

Shipping: “U.S. trucking companies are racing to hire drivers as fast as shipping customers are booking freight. Several operators including truckload giant Knight-Swift Transportation are raising driver pay… and others are scrambling to fill seats as they ramp orders for big rigs” [Wall Street Journal]. “The hiring is aimed at meeting roaring demand in freight markets as consumers step up their purchases, factories boost production and the U.S. economy gains momentum. The drive to get goods to market is also coming at a higher cost because trucking capacity remains tight on the lingering impact of the coronavirus lockdowns last year that idled many drivers.”

Tech: “Coinbase listing marks latest step in crypto’s march to the mainstream” [Reuters]. “Coinbase Global Inc, the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, will list on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, marking a milestone in the journey of virtual currencies from niche technology to mainstream asset.”

The Bezzle: “The Mysterious Influencer Stock Market Worth $1 Billion” [New York Magazine]. “The basic idea behind BitClout is to create a token-based marketplace for shares in someone’s (or something’s) reputation and influence. Go viral on Instagram for something delightful? Bull run. Say something stupid on Twitter? Could be the start of a bear market. In theory, every public action and utterance from anyone becomes tradable by anyone else. The draw for those taking possession of their profiles at BitClout is about 10 percent of their own coins. But the question of what that virtual money is and what it’s worth is still an open one: BitClout accepts bitcoin — more than $225 million has flowed in so far — but it doesn’t have a mechanism yet for taking it out, creating a kind of crypto roach motel. And while cryptocurrency typically lives securely on a blockchain, BitClout’s holdings reside on its own server, making some people wonder who really owns the money. Perhaps the most suspicious part, though, to many outsiders, was the insistence by BitClout’s founders that they themselves remain anonymous — with the CEO answering only to “Diamondhands,” his moniker on the platform. It has all added up to a sense among many sophisticated tech observers that there is something — in the words of one venture capitalist who was pitched to by the founders — “borderline scammy” about BitClout.” • Scammy? In crypto? Surely not.

Tech: “Cohort IDs can be collected over time to create cross-site tracking IDs #100” [Github]. “In #99, it is stated that ‘FLoC is not useful for tracking.’ I don’t think that’s accurate. As far as I know, the user’s cohort will not be partitioned per first party site so multiple sites can observe the cohort ID in sync as it changes week after week. A hash of the cohorts seen so far will likely get more and more unique as the weeks go by…. To take this to the crowd metaphor: Before the pandemic and some time back, I attended a Mew concert, a Ghost concert, Disney on Ice, and a Def Leppard concert. At each of those events I was part of a large crowd. But I bet you I was the only one to attend all four.” • Nice try, Google, lol.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 50 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 42 (Fear). Last updated Apr 15 at 1:12pm.

The Biosphere

“The primitive brain of early Homo” [Science]. “Frontal lobe reorganization, once considered a hallmark of earliest Homo in Africa, thus evolved comparatively late, and long after Homo first dispersed from Africa.”

“Cicadas: ‘The other white meat’” [High Country News]. “Scientists say the periodic cicada broods emerge in such great numbers as a survival strategy called predator satiation. Even voracious predators can’t eat them all…. Picture it: 2004, late spring. Newly arrived in southern Ohio, I watched our mixed-breed dog, Delphine, slowly eating her way across our back yard like a cow methodically grazing in a field. ‘What is she eating?’ I wondered. I realized, with a combination of horror and fascination, that she was eating cicadas… For the Onondaga, eating cicadas is a sacred act, an important way to memorialize and honor their ancestors… With their crops and food destroyed [by George Washington’s Clinton-Sullivan Campaign], the Onondaga faced starvation. But an unlikely ally came to the rescue, the emergence of the 17-year periodical cicadas. ‘It was a terrible time for our people,’ [Betty Lyons, citizen of the Onondaga Nation] said. ‘Our ancestors ran into the forest in order to survive. But then they heard this beautiful humming noise. It was the children who said, ‘Listen, they’re telling us they’re here to save us.’ And it was the children who told the people to eat the cicadas.’”

Health Care

Vaccine hesitancy after the J&J “pause”:

We will see whether the polling is reflected in behavior.

“Many millions have been vaccinated against the coronavirus; 396 were later hospitalized with Covid-19” [CNN]. “About 5,800 people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus have become infected anyway, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells CNN. Some became seriously ill and 74 people died, the CDC said. It said 396 — 7% — of those who got infected after they were vaccinated required hospitalization. This is the CDC’s first public accounting of breakthrough cases, and the agency is searching for patterns based on patient age and gender, location, type of vaccine, variants and other factors.

“So far, about 5,800 breakthrough cases have been reported to CDC. To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC told CNN via email. About 77 million people in the US are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data. The CDC’s reports on breakthrough cases will lag day-to-day reports of vaccines given, so may not reflect the most current events. Breakthrough cases are expected. The vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infections and as 10s of millions of people are vaccinated, more and more such cases will be reported.”

“Medicaid and Medicare Drove Increases in Insurance” [People’s Policy Project]. “Between 2010 and 2019, the rate of uninsurance fell from 15.6 percent to 9.2 percent, a significant accomplishment. But this drop was almost entirely driven by expansions of Medicare and Medicaid. Expansions in non-group coverage (which is what the ACA exchanges are) only account for 9 percent of the insurance gains over the period…. In a sense, then, the Obamacare partisans that fixate on the ACA exchanges are engaged in a kind of fetishism that really has little to do with what Obamacare accomplished. Anyone looking clearly at Obamacare’s track record would conclude that it caused and coincided with a significant expansion of public health insurance that helped reduce uninsurance. If you were trying to build on actually-existing Obamacare, then you’d focus on its relatively successful legacy of expanding public health programs, not its relatively failed legacy of building an individual health insurance market.”

The Agony Column

“It Never Ends Like It Should” [Defector]. This is the sports magazine founded by the Deadspin expats. But they don’t “stick to sports.” “You might remember Iris from two stories I wrote for the old Deadspin. She was my elderly neighbor with ‘the only good NBA takes‘—someone who watched the league five nights a week, who delighted in Lance Stephenson joining the Lakers (‘I guess he’ll have more chances to blow in LeBron’s ear’), who could outflank any Pacers hipster (Vogel > McMillan, she believed, but Carlisle > both). After the first story, you readers overwhelmed Iris with kindness. They mailed her basketball cards and chipped in for a bigger TV, to help with her fading eyesight; one person bought her 10th-row tickets to a Pacers game, an unforgettable night I described in the second story. Even Mike Breen emailed to ask for Iris’s number. ‘We had a nice little chat,’ she told me. ‘He asked me if I liked the announcers, and I said I don’t really pay close attention to them. He got a good chuckle out of that.’” • RIP Iris.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Ferguson v. Brooklyn Heights:

I wonder how strong Brooklyn Heights’ tax base is, and whether they too practice law enforcement for profit.

“Let Go of the Idea of the ‘Strong Black Woman’” [Hood Communist]. “One of the biggest lies I ever believed was that Black girls were immune to depression. I believed that we all had some sort of superpower that allowed us to overcome sadness before it was turned into mental poison, a special bone in the body that prevented us from being subject to undesirable emotion. I had so desperately believed in the narrative of the strong Black woman because I wanted her to be real and for her to be me…. In Black communities, topics involving mental health are wrapped tightly in this idea of strength, something that disproportionately affects Black women. Too often, societal structures are founded and maintained on our backs. We are the pillars of home we hardly get to rest in. We are often reminded of our role as if it is something to be thankful for, something that our youth should aspire to be.”

“1619 Project lead writer Nikole Hannah-Jones paid $25,000 for virtual lecture” [WSWS]. I’m quoting a great slab because there’s rather a lot of material:

Hannah Jones argues that the overriding social category in the world is race. But being paid $25,000 for a lecture she did not even physically attend is a “privilege” that separates her from the majority of African Americans in the United States, who are overwhelmingly members of the working class. What Hannah-Jones can make in one lecture is almost the same as a worker making $15 an hour takes home in a year after taxes.

In a related development, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors purchased four high-end properties in the US worth $3.2 million, according to a recent report in the New York Post. She was also seen with her spouse in the Bahamas, viewing property at an exclusive resort where celebrities such as Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake own homes.

In 2016, Cullors married Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, and purchased a $510,000 home in a Los Angeles suburb. Two years later, Cullors purchased a four-bedroom home for $590,000 in southern Los Angeles. Last year, Cullors and her spouse acquired a “custom ranch” in Georgia featuring a private hangar and community runway for small airplanes.

In January, the pair got their hands on a $1.4 million homestead a short drive from Malibu, one of the most affluent communities in the US. The property was advertised as featuring bamboo floors and “soaring ceilings, skylights and plenty of windows” with canyon views. The 2,400-square-foot property includes a three-bedroom and two-bath main house and a separate one-bed/one-bath apartment for long-term guests.

Just three weeks ago, Samaria Rice and Lisa Simpson, respective mothers of Tamir Rice and Richard Rishner, accused Cullors of profiting from the deaths of their children and other black people murdered by police. The pair criticized BLM for raising over $90 million in 2020 but doing little to help families impacted by police violence.

Khan and Cullors created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since then, BLM has promoted racialist politics and raised substantial sums of money from large corporations like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. After BLM’s 2020 financial report was released, Cullors was accused of misappropriating funds by grassroots members of her organization.

In response to the allegations, she claimed that there were misunderstandings about BLM’s finances and that the organization was “scraping for money” in the past few years. If BLM truly was low on funds, Cullors purchasing luxury properties certainly did not help.

The wealth and privilege of the leading proponents of racialism demonstrate the reactionary character of identity politics. It is entirely divorced from the real concerns and experiences of the working class. Fearful of a unified workers’ movement, the ruling class seeks to sow artificial racial divisions among workers through the promotion of identity politics. Additionally, middle class layers seeking a bigger slice of the pie see identity as a means of advancing their own wealth and social position..

Sure is odd nobody’s reporting on this, though to be fair, the Times needs all the meal-tickets it can get these days, now that Trump is gone. (Sanders has houses, and Sanders wrote a best-seller. I’m not sure the cases are the same, since a Senator lives in two places. And he’s not making money on falsehoods, either.

Separate but equal affinity groups:

“Folx.” Singular “fol”?

“Loud and Proud: Shake Shack’s recipe for an inclusive workplace” [Reuters]. “With issues of race, gender and sexuality coming to the forefront of American life, the nation’s board rooms are scrambling to assemble that look more like the nation as a whole.” • Saving capitalism though diversity; the class consciousness of the PMC.

We have diverse management consultants too:

“Is “Asian-American” a viable category?” [Michelle Kuo and Albert Wu, Medium]. ” I’ve also come to understand growing up Asian in an Asian country was itself a form of privilege. I didn’t inherit the anxieties and fears of the minority obliged to perform under a proverbial “white gaze.” I didn’t notice the slights until Michelle pointed them out to me. I never felt an existential crisis about where I belonged. I knew where I belonged: in Taiwan.”

Our Famously Free Press

If only the platforms had not destroyed the blogosphere:

Class Warfare

“Endings and Beginnings in Bessemer” [Kim Kelly, Strike Wave]. “A lot of brilliant labor organizers have weighed in on what went wrong in Bessemer, but personally, I’m more interested in what went right, and what we can learn from the successes of this campaign—not just its failures. It may be cliche to fall back on the old entreaty of “don’t mourn, organize,” but I think there’s room for both right now.” • Yes, but I don’t see analysis of the successes in this article, either.

“Unions eye Brookings, Urban Institute as push to organize think tanks grows” [Politico]. “Workers at two of the largest, most influential think tanks in Washington, D.C. are forming a union, adding to a growing trend in white-collar collective bargaining. Staff at the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute on Tuesday asked their employers to grant them voluntary recognition… The labor movement’s efforts to organize think tanks — major players in influencing and informing the policy debate on Capitol Hill — is the latest white-collar sector to see a burst in collective bargaining.”

“A Hot New Restaurant Moved In. That Made Its Neighbors Nervous. A gentrification battle erupts in Ridgewood.” [New York Magazine]. “Along with the co-working space, 467 Woodward is also the headquarters for several companies, including Westergaard’s Hooper and Keap, a development and management company that gut-renovates, as well as a company called Valkyrie, a real-estate broker in which he is a minority stakeholder. Listings on Valkyrie’s website tout ‘Ridgewood’s exciting progressive retail scene’ and call the area ‘‘ Two spaces are advertised as benefiting from ‘one of NYC’s most rapid creative demographic shifts.’ Rental prices listed by Valkyrie can be twice or sometimes three times as much as other properties in the area, according to one survey by a group that was looking for a retail space in the neighborhood.” • The business names are like something out of a William Gibson novel. I underlined the language that made me go “ick.”

News of the Wired

“A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Indeterminate” (PDF) [Theodore Nelson, Association for Computing Machinery]. “The kinds of file structures required if we are to use the computer for personal files and as an adjunct to creativity are wholly different in character from those customary in business and scientific data processing. They need to provide the capacity for intricate and idiosyncratic arrangements, total modifiability, undecided alternatives, and thorough internal documentation.” • From 1965, still germane. How’d that work out for ya, Ted?

Precarity romanticized, glorified, commoditized:

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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 (maryann):

maryann writes: “This one I first noticed in bud maybe 6 weeks ago, and couldn’t for the life of me identify it. Went back last week and lo and behold: the Edgeworthia chrysanthia or Oriental Paper Bush. In all my previous 62 years don’t think I ever saw one before!”

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