2:00PM Water Cooler 6/18/2020 | naked capitalism

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. For a change, here are the world numbers (in log scale):

Our slope is increasing; new cases per day are going up. On the bright side, we’re doing OK by world standards!


“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

Since we’re getting closer to the election, maybe it’s time to start looking at the electoral map, updated June 17 and unchanged today:

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!

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UPDATE Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden, in latest visit to Pa., says Trump is ‘surrendering’ to coronavirus” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. “‘Donald Trump wants to style himself a wartime president against an invisible enemy, the coronavirus,’ Biden said during a speech in Darby Borough, Delaware County. ‘But unlike any other wartime leader, he takes no responsibility, he exercises no leadership, and now he’s surrendering the fight.’… His speech was carried live on cable news channels, including Fox News, which broke away from remarks Trump was giving at the same time [ouch!]. Biden has struggled to gain media attention during the pandemic, with traditional campaigning largely shut down. That appears to be changing ever so slightly as Biden ramps up his public appearances, with the campaign increasingly playing out in the medium of daily TV news coverage. Wednesday was Biden’s third visit to the Philadelphia region in three weeks and his first to Delaware County since declaring his candidacy. The county, in a critical swing state, has shifted more Democratic in recent years. The party took all five County Council seats last year in a Democratic wave that spread across Philadelphia’s collar counties. Just how blue the suburbs vote is could have a big impact on who wins the state in November…. A CNBC poll released Wednesday of voters in six battleground states, including Pennsylvania, found 54% of voters said Trump was “pushing states to reopen their economies too quickly in order to boost his own reelection chances.” All six states showed an increase from two weeks ago in voters’ concern that their states had opened up too quickly.” • “Biden: It Takes A Plague To Elect Him.” That said, I still think Biden is a terrible candidate and lousy on policy. That doesn’t mean his campaign is lousy; so far, Trump hasn’t laid a glove on him. Despite multiple, multiple blunders and mis-steps — and a technically excellent media operation.

Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders tests influence in House primaries for open seats” [MSN]. “Sen. Bernie Sanders is moving on from his presidential campaign, turning his attention to races further down the ballot. And he’s not just taking on Republicans or sitting Democrats who aren’t sufficiently liberal [sic]. The Vermont independent is also weighing in on crowded, open-seat primaries in Democratic territory in an effort to bring more progressives to the House. Primaries for two open seats next week around New York City could test whether his endorsement provides a last-minute boost in fundraising and energy that his favored candidates need to win…. Sanders endorsed in just two of 14 safe Democratic open seats in 2018. In the 2020 cycle, Sanders has endorsed candidates in four of the eight open-seat races in deep-blue territory.”

Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Sanders’ California forces want Ro Khanna — not Newsom — to lead state delegation” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters haven’t gone away just because Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Some of their top California supporters want to send a national message by electing Fremont Rep. Ro Khanna to lead the California delegation at the Democratic National Convention — even though Khanna supported Sanders and not Biden. Electing Khanna to a post that is largely ceremonial would be more than a symbolic gesture of unity, the Vermont senator’s supporters say — it would be a way for Sanders’ platform to live on into the convention. But it’s not without political complications. The job is typically given to the governor, meaning if Khanna won the post, Gov. Gavin Newsom wouldn’t. Newsom is frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate down the line, and party conventions are a showcase for those with national ambitions.” •

Trump (R)(1): “Following Trump’s Protest Antics, Young Voters Turn Hard Against Him, According To Exclusive New Poll” [Forbes]. “Last month’s installment of the Forbes Under 30 Survey, Powered by John Zogby Strategies—a recurring poll of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 29—showed a beleaguered President Trump floundering in the race against former vice president Joe Biden. Following his response to the recent Black Lives Matter protests, the president’s outlook is dimmer still. Since May, Trump’s share of likely voters has dropped from 34% to 31%, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden now polls with a two-to-one advantage against the sitting president. While Biden has long held an edge over his opponent within the Millennial and Gen Z cohort, this new lead—60%—is his largest yet. The uptick in support marks an increase of nearly ten percent since the Forbes Under 30 Voter Survey debuted in January.”

Trump (R)(2): “Exclusive: Trump plots virus-era, made-for-TV mass festival” [Axios]. “President Trump’s campaign plans to turn this weekend’s Tulsa rally into a massive pro-Trump festival complete with musical acts, and it’s flying in high-profile backers and camera crews to show the world the fervency of his supporters…. Temperature checks are being planned on site and masks and hand sanitizer were to be handed out, according to people familiar with the planning. The Trump campaign says 1 million people have signed up — a data grab for the campaign — and of those, tens of thousands are expected to attend. The Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Center, where the indoor event will be held, holds 19,000 people, and the area next to it where the second stage will be set up can hold tens of thousands more.”

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UPDATE “Democrat Facing Progressive Primary Challenge Signs Letter Supporting Cuts to Social Security — Then Quietly Walks It Back at Home” [The Intercept]. “Rep. Derek Kilmer, chair of the corporate-friendly New Democrat Coalition, was among the 30 House Democrats who joined Republicans in signing a letter calling for cuts to Social Security benefits earlier this month. … But Kilmer, who’s facing a primary challenge in August from progressive Rebecca Parson in Washington’s 6th Congressional District, which covers most of Tacoma, has been trying to walk back his support for the letter and the attack on Social Security in letters to constituents who had contacted him with concerns about the policy recommendation.” • No doubt!

UPDATE “Things Are Not Going Well for Amy McGrath” [New York Magazine]. • That’s a damn shame.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Opinion analysis: Court rejects Trump administration’s effort to end DACA” [SCOTUSblog]. “It has been eight years since the Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which allows undocumented young adults who came to the United States as children to apply for protection from deportation. In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would end the program, which it believed had been illegal in the first place. Today, by a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration acted improperly in terminating the program, and it sent the case back for the Department of Homeland Security to take another look. The ruling means that the DACA program will remain in place, at least for the foreseeable future.” • Reax (1):

Reax (2):

“Literally!” Leave that for Boehner ffs. (Good to quote the excellent SCOTUSblog though!)

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“In defense of Karen” [Matthew Walker, The Week]. “At the risk of outing myself as a hopeless contrarian, I would like to put in a good word for Karen.” • “Contrarian” seems to be the new word for “bad person.” More: “My misgivings began when I saw people asking what the male equivalent of a Karen was…. Instead of arguing that Karen is not real, which seems to me untenable (not least because, upon a moment’s reflection, I realize that she is my mother), I will not only accept the premise of her existence but do my best to paint a sympathetic picture of her, even though doing so requires painting with the same broad strokes as her critics…. Let’s talk about the manager and why Karen wants to speak with him. Karen has probably worked a terrible job before, or she might, in fact, have one now. She has always done the best she could at her job, not because it meant that she would be paid more or because she would win the esteem of her indifferent colleagues and superiors, but for purely abstract reasons. Karen does not like sloppiness. She is not okay with the old college try. She has been asked to do a great many difficult and not especially rewarding tasks both inside and outside the workplace, and if you ask her now, Karen will in fact disinterestedly apply herself to any tedious project, but she will expect the same from everyone else involved.”

UPDATE “The Rage Unifying Boomers and Gen Z” [Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic]. “The massive nationwide demonstrations since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis have provided a kind of culmination for these disparate strands of activism. The protests have been notable for the racial diversity of their crowds. A poll released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that while young people ages 18 to 29 account for 52 percent of all adults who have protested—more than double their share of the overall population—participants closely tracked the nation’s overall racial breakdown. ‘All of those things are coming together in this moment,’ Foy, a Pentecostal reverend, told me. “You have not just black people on the streets … You have all of diverse America on the streets.’” • Oddly, or not, the word “strike” does not appear in Brownstein’s article….

The CCP is trolling us:

“Exiting the Vampire Castle” [Mark Fisher, Exiting the Vampire Castle]. • Twitter seems to be a little dogpile-y lately; I recommend reading this classic essay in full as an antidote.

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.

Employment Situation: “13 June 2020 Initial Unemployment Claims 1,508,000 This Week” [Econintersect]. “According to the BLS: ‘The COVID-19 virus continues to impact the number of initial claims and insured unemployment. This report now includes information on claimants filing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims.’The pandemic has so far caused a 46,020,000 job loss.a portion of this number now have jobs.”

Manufacturing: “June 2020 Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Index Improves And Is Now In Expansion” [Econintersect]. “The Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey significantly improved and now is well into expansion…. Overall, this report was a much better than last month’s report with key elements significantly improving…. This is a very noisy index which readers should be reminded of is sentiment-based.”

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Cash: “US Casinos To Go Cashless, Citing Pandemic Fears” [PYMNTS.COM]. “The American Gaming Association (AGA), the Washington, D.C.-based trade group for the $261 billion sector, has issued “Payments Modernization Policy Principles” that they say will guide the industry into ePayments….. The group devised seven principles to educate regulators who are considering expanding payment choices, including: Equip customers with more tools to wager responsibly; Give customers payment choice and convenience; Ensure state laws enable a flexible regulatory approach, capable of keeping pace with evolving forms of digital payments; Address heightened customer public health concerns; Provide customers confidence in digital payment security; .” • Of course.” •

Retail: “Some of that stockpiled inventory might be with us for a while. Several clothing retailers are saying they may pack away a substantial share of inventory for later seasons, or even next year…. instead of pushing their goods into what’s likely to be a cutthroat period of post-pandemic markdowns” [Wall Street Journal]. “Companies across the retail sector are coping with bloated inventories after the coronavirus lockdowns kept consumers at home over much of the spring. The stockpiles are a major cloud over apparel retailers because sales are highly seasonal and styles can change drastically over the course of a year. But merchants hope to avoid deep sales discounting that is a drag on profits. Not everyone is following a “pack-away” strategy. Fast-fashion retailers are moving quickly to reduce inventory levels…”

UPDATE Retail: “Retail Sales Data Shows the CARES Act Is Working” [Josh Barro, New York Magazine]. “The retail sales report comes after the surprise jobs report showing 2.5 million jobs added in May — and just before a report showing rapidly rising sentiment among homebuilders. (Another sign Americans feel good about spending on homes: retail spending at building supply and garden stores was actually 16 percent higher this May than last May.) If epidemiological conditions materially worsen — and they have become more worrying in some states — that could knock both household confidence and economic activity off track. But so far, the stock market enthusiasm that seemed puzzling in May is increasingly getting backed up by data from the real economy. Consumers are coming back.” • This also contains a stirring defense of the CARES Act. It’s worth a read, though I’m dubious about the V-shaped recovery concept.

Shipping: “Alternative meats: a threat to the trucking industry?” (audio, graphics) [Freight Waves]. “Production centers are closer to consumer.” Alternative meats are manufactured, not farmed.

Manufacturing: “Tesla Inc. may be facing a demand problem just when the electric-car maker looks like it has solved its supply chain woes. Registrations of newly purchased Tesla vehicles plunged in California over the past two months…. signaling a new challenge in a critical market as Chief Executive Elon Musk tries to maintain investor enthusiasm” [Wall Street Journal]. “Tesla shares have soared recently, fueled in part by reports that the auto maker last month delivered a record 11,095 locally made Model 3 compact cars in China.

UPDATE The Fed: “If Zombie Companies Don’t Die, We’ll Pay a Price” [Bloomberg]. “The Federal Reserve is lending a lot of companies a lot of money…. But there’s a growing worry in some quarters that all of this lending will create a wave of zombie companies. Zombies are businesses that have to borrow to survive and don’t make enough profit to cover debt-service costs. The number of such companies has been increasing steadily in developed nations during the past 20 years. The reason, presumably, is low interest rates, which allow zombies to sustain themselves on borrowed money rather than exit the market…. In a healthy economy, bad companies die and good companies replace them and new industries rise while old ones fade. But if the Fed keeps all of the bad companies on life support, neither of those necessary processes can happen. If the moratorium on creative destruction lasts only a year, until Covid-19 is eliminated by treatments or vaccines, the amount of resource misallocation will probably not be too bad. The danger is if unprofitable companies are supported for years.” • Zombie companies are good for executives and management, though. So what’s the issue?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 55 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 17 at 12:42pm.

The Biosphere

“Can the World Get Along Without Natural Resources?” [Economics from the Top Down]. “From its outset, the field of political economy was not designed, in any meaningful sense, to understand resource flows. Instead, it was designed to explain class relations. The goal of early political economists was to justify the income of different classes (workers, landowners and capitalists). They choose to do so by rooting this income in the ‘production of wealth’. What followed from this original sin was centuries of conflating income with ‘production’. This conflation is what allowed Robert Solow to proclaim that the world could “get along without natural resources”. Let’s retrace this flawed thinking. It starts with a failure to understand property rights. Political economists largely understand property as a productive asset — a way of thinking that dates to the 17th-century work of John Locke (or perhaps earlier). Locke proclaimed that property rights stemmed from ‘natural law’…. Locke’s thinking became known as the ‘labor theory of property’. This theory (and it derivatives) is why political economists misunderstand the role of natural resources. Here’s what happens. If we accept Locke’s argument that you have a right to own what you produce, it follows that your wealth should stem from your output. Most political economists after Locke accepted this reasoning (at least in part). That meant that the debate was not about whether wealth was ‘produced’, but rather, about which ‘factors of production’ were ‘productive’. The physiocrats thought land alone was productive. Marx insisted that only labor was productive. Neoclassical economists proclaimed that, alongside labor, capital too was productive. The debate between these schools played out over centuries. The problem, though, is that it’s based on a flawed premise. The debate assumes that value is ‘produced’. (It’s not.) To see the consequences of this mistake, we need an actual scientific theory of property rights — a theory that explains why property exists, not why it ‘ought’ to exist. The most convincing theory of private property, in my opinion, comes from the work of Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler. To understand property, Nitzan and Bichler argue that we should turn Locke’s idea on its head. Property isn’t a ‘natural right’. It’s an act of power.” • Sorry for the length, but this is interesting…. A commenter — sorry, too long ago! — recommented Nitzan and Bichier’s book, Capital as Power. A Study of Order and Creorder and I got partly through it, but I’m allergic to neologisms that are not my own. Perhaps I should try again!

“Court tosses San Diego County climate plan, calls carbon-offset program ‘unlawful’” [Los Angeles Times]. “The county was relying on the offset program as part of an ongoing push to approve a slate of housing projects on undeveloped land throughout unincorporated territory… Last year, the county sought to approve eight new projects totaling about 10,000 new units, but nearly all have been derailed or delayed by lawsuits. Many of those projects have been individually challenged in court by environmental groups. Those groups point to the tail-pipe emissions that would be created by additional traffic. Also, nearly all of the projects are located in wildfire-prone areas.”

Health Care

UPDATE “Clinical and immunological assessment of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections” (PDF) [Nature]. “We studied 37 asymptomatic individuals in the Wanzhou District

who were diagnosed with RT–PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections but without any relevant clinical symptoms in the preceding 14 d and during hospitalization…. (interquartile range (IQR), 15–26 d). …. Increasing evidence has shown that asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus efficiently, and the emergence of these silent spreaders of SARS-CoV-2 has caused difficulties in the control of the epidemic…. Abnormal radiological findings confined to one lung were identified in 66.7% (14/21) of the asymptomatic individuals, whereas 33.3% (7/21) had abnormalities in both lungs.” • I don’t see how lung damage (if not pre-existing) can happen without any symptoms. No wheezing? No difficulty climbing stairs? Said to be “the first in-depth, dedicated, immunologic profile of people who had #COVID19 but never developed symptoms.”

UPDATE “Requiring masks ‘political hazard’ as COVID-19 surges in California breadbasket” [Reuters]. “The first wave of COVID-19 came slowly to San Joaquin County in the heart of California’s breadbasket, but the much-feared second surge is roaring through, sickening as many people in the two weeks since Memorial Day as in March and April combined.” • I dunno about “second,” but let that pass. More: “[W]hen Michael Tubbs, mayor of the county seat of Stockton, submitted an ordinance requiring residents to wear masks when they are in public, he did not get a single vote from the six other members of the city council. It is ‘a political hazard to act in the interest of public health,’ complained Tubbs, a liberal whose city has several conservatives on the council. The pushback Tubbs experienced – and the spike in cases the county’s health director says was exacerbated when people celebrated Mothers Day and Memorial Day without following physical distancing rules – offers a glimpse into the complicated politics around lifting coronavirus restrictions. Last week, after she issued an order to wear masks in public. , local media have reported as cases and deaths continue to rise in the state.” • Cancel culture, but from conservatives, and, as usual, more effective than whatever liberals do.

UPDATE “Hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 prevention trials incomplete: WHO” [Channel News Asia]. “‘As far as the use of hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis or prevention of COVID-19 – either before or after exposure – the last word is not yet out,’ WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a virtual press conference. ‘There are some good and big trials going on, and we hope those will be completed so that we have the kind of evidence that we need to make sure that patients receive the drugs which help – and do not receive drugs which do not help.’” • Prophylaxis is the only use case I care about!

Police State Watch

“LACSD deputy fatally shoots Robert Fuller’s half-brother in Kern County [updated]” [Antelope Valley News (PI)]. Local coverage: “A half-brother of Robert Fuller was shot to death by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Wednesday afternoon in Kern County, a Fuller family attorney confirmed…. Robert Fuller’s body was found with a rope around his neck around 3:40 a.m. June 10 in Poncitlan Square, across from Palmdale City Hall. Authorities initially said the death appeared to be a suicide, although an official cause of death has not been made.” • Curious timing, to say the least.

“Shooting charge dropped against suspected New Mexico shooter” [Reuters]. ” A New Mexico prosecutor on Wednesday dropped a shooting charge against an Albuquerque man suspected of shooting a protester and called for further investigations after allegations the protester was armed at the time he was shot…. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez said he had serious concerns an initial police investigation into the Monday shooting did not identify who owned multiple weapons collected at the scene, including knives, nor interview key bystanders and police.” Whoopsie. More: “Torrez filed four new charges against Baca for unlawful carrying of a firearm and battery for allegedly assaulting three women before the shooting.” • There’s a weird self-defense justification I can’t understand (“a person cannot claim self defense if they are the first aggressor”); maybe an Arizonan (?) reader can help.

“Protesters Filing First Wave of Police Brutality Lawsuits Against NYPD” [The City]. “So far, 18 notices of claim, the first step in filing a suit against the New York City, have been lodged with the city Comptroller’s Office alleging police abuses at the rallies, according to records obtained by THE CITY. Dozens more are expected to be submitted in the coming days.” • Lots of detail.

“As protests spread to small-town America, militia groups respond with armed intimidation and online threats” [WaPo]. “[T]he activists spearheading unlikely assemblies in rural and conservative corners of the country have faced fierce online backlash and armed intimidation, which in some places is unfolding with the apparent support of local law enforcement…. The armed mobilization sheds light on the growth of anti-government militia groups, whose efforts — often coordinated on Facebook and other online platforms — have expanded since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide outburst of protests for racial justice. Militia activity has marked recent protests in places across the country, often driven by false online alerts about infiltration by antifa and other left-wing militants.”

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“Epstein Case: Documentaries Won’t Touch Tales of Intel Ties” [Consortium News]. “Neither documentary [“Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?,” Investigation Discovery; “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” Netflix] deals at all with Epstein’s suspected ties to the world of intelligence. Absent from both are Maxwell’s reported links to Israeli intelligence through her father, Robert Maxwell, former owner of The New York Daily News and The Mirror newspaper in London. Maxwell essentially received a state funeral in Israel and was buried on the Mount of Olives after he mysteriously fell off his yacht in 1991 in the Atlantic Ocean.” • Oddly. Or not.

The Tube

From Sam Spade to Andy Sipowicz via Jack Webb; a thread:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

A good union:

But one union. Imagine if the longshoreman, teamsters, and airline attendants got together…

Zeitgeist Watch

But there are cash incentives!

Class Warfare


News of the Wired

Sunset of empire:

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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 (Stanley Dundee):

Mmmmm. Asparagus! And another garden (AM):

AM: “Enthroned rosemary. Directly across from the screen window. Aluminum back and base to reflect light.” (Taken with a very classic phone, hence the width I normally want. But the aluminum foil seems like a clever trick.)

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