2:00PM Water Cooler 10/16/2020

Unmistakable rise in all regions now, including the Northeast. Ugh. Super-ugh. Gonna be interesting to see what happens if the virus is really cranking in November or December, and the FDA says a vaccine is ready…

“U.S. Virus Cases Climb Toward a Third Peak” [New York Times]. • From earlier this week, but readers who follow these charts will remember that I’ve been remarking on this, in my quiet way, since the curves first turned upwards.

Unmistakable rise everywhere. Including Texas, in the past few days.

College: “Off-campus “super-spreader” event linked to 125 virus cases at Monmouth University” [CBS]. “Through extensive contact tracing, the rise in cases was linked to a single event held about two weeks ago, Monmouth president Patrick Leahy wrote Friday. This event was held off-campus, although school officials did not specify what kind of event it was, only calling it a ‘social gathering.’” • Which is ridiculous, since now we cannot add to our store of types of locations or social settings to avoid! College administrators are just the worst.

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

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

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

The electoral map. July 17: Georgia, Ohio, ME-2 move from Leans Republican to Toss-up. Continued yikes. On July 7, the tossup were 86. Only July 17, they were 56. Now they are 91. This puts Biden at 278, i.e. over 270. August 18: Still no changes. August 31: Indiana moves from Likely to Safe Republican. September 9: No changes. September 14: No changes. September 21: No changes. September 22: Ohio moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican. September 25: Ohio moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up. September 30: Iowa moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up. October 3: Indiana moves from Safe to Likely Republican; Iowa moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican. October 6: Arizona moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic; Iowa from Leans Republican to Toss-up; Indiana from Likely to Safe Republican; New Mexico from Likely to Safe Democratic. October 8: NE-2 moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. October 13: Indiana moves from Likely to Safe Republican. October 16: Indiana moves from Safe to Likely Republican.I would say the election is no longer static.

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

“2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics” [U.S. Elections Project (SlayTheSmaugs)].

“How to Vote in 2020: Everything You Need to Know” [Bloomberg]. “Casting a ballot in the U.S. isn’t always easy, with a complex web of varying state rules governing how and when you can vote. The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced even more complexity in 2020, as many states have made significant changes to allow for more early voting or voting by mail. More changes could come as lawsuits in several states wind their way through the courts. That’s why Bloomberg News is answering these critical questions so you’ll know what you need to do to make sure your vote is counted in the 2020 election.”

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

“California Ballots Mailed and Returned Tracker” [Political Data]. • California only, sadly.

“State Fact Sheets” [Georgetown Universitty]. “[F]act sheets for all 50 states explaining the laws barring unauthorized private militia groups and what to do if groups of armed individuals are near a polling place or voter registration drive.”

NEW “All the deadlines, rules, and voting hours to know when casting your ballot in the 2020 presidential election” [Business Insider]. “Here are 12 interactive graphics, charts, and maps Insider created to answer your most common questions about voting in 2020.”

Swing States

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

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

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

* * *

Buttigieg (D)(1): West Wing Brain:

Can’t do brunch if you’re feeling pressure! (Sad to say, I think a lot of voters find this pitch appealing; it’s connected to the liberal Democrat thirst for decorum.)

Trump (R)(1): “Trump rages at allies as potential October surprises fizzle” [CNN]. I’m not a mind-reader so I’ll leave the emotion out of it. Nevertheless: “The developments he not-so-secretly hoped might resuscitate his political chances — from a pre-election coronavirus vaccine to a damning trove of Justice Department findings to a massive new stimulus package complete with another round of checks emblazoned with his signature — have all faded in likelihood.” • Yep. “Once optimistic he could use the powers of his office to coerce well-timed wins, Trump now finds his efforts running up against political headwinds, regulatory burdens and plain reality. He is days away from reaching the last feasible point in his administration when promising something in “two weeks” will improve his electoral chances.”

* * *

“Review: ‘The West Wing’ reunion brings the fight to Trump. And it doesn’t even name him” [Los Angeles Times]. “Just after midnight Thursday, less than a month from election day, and with voting already underway across the country, HBO Max began streaming “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote,” a splendidly executed restaging of an old episode in support of Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan, nonprofit group dedicated to getting people to the polls.” • For those who are not already familiar with it, “West Wing Thing” is the podcast to listen to. It’s… acerbic, and many listeners haven’t even watched the show, so you don’t need to.

SC: Well known UI problem butchered by touch-screen vendor:

Needless to say, this doesn’t happen with paper ballots.

Obama Legacy

NY: “Ray McGuire to leave Citigroup to run for mayor of New York” [CNBC]. “Valerie Jarrett, a longtime close advisor to former President Barack Obama, will act as co-chair of McGuire’s campaign, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.” • Who doesn’t love a [x] Black banker?

Realignment and Legitimacy

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.

Retail: “Headline Retail Sales Again Improves in September 2020 – Almost Like The Pandemic Never Occurred” [Econintersect]. “Retail sales modestly improved according to US Census headline data. The three-month rolling average improved. There seems little overall impact from the coronavirus.” • (!!).

Retail: “U.S. Retail Spending Picked Up Strongly in September” [Wall Street Journal]. “Retail sales increased in September for the fifth month in a row, as consumers prepared for further months of working and studying from home by spending strongly on vehicles, sporting goods and at home-improvement stores. ‘Consumers are playing catch-up’ on spending, buying things that they didn’t purchase in the spring, said Calvin Schnure, senior economist at Nareit, a trade group that represents real-estate investment trusts. Friday’s report ‘shows that the consumer recovery remains on track as we head into the holiday season.’”

Inventories: “August 2020 Business Inventories Marginally Grow” [Econintersect]. “Headlines say final business sales data (retail plus wholesale plus manufacturing) improved month-over-month. The rolling averages improved. Inventories remain somewhat elevated.”

Industrial Production: “September 2020 Headline Industrial Production Declines And Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say seasonally adjusted Industrial Production (IP) declined month-over-month – and remains deep in contraction year-over-year. Our analysis shows the three-month rolling average improved…, Note that manufacturing is in contraction year-over-year – but capacity utilization is in expansion year-over-year.”

Consumer Sentiment: “Preliminary October 2020 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Improves” [Econintersect]. “Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin, makes the following comments: Slowing employment growth, the resurgence in covid-19 infections, and the absence of additional federal relief payments prompted consumers to become more concerned about the current economic conditions. Those concerns were largely offset by continued small gains in economic prospects for the year ahead. The Current Conditions Index recorded its second small reversal, the first being in June, but even at its best, it has never come close to its December peak, being still down by 26.5%.”

Leading Indicators: “09 October 2020 ECRI’s WLI Marginally Improved” [Econintersect]. “ECRI’s WLI Growth Index which forecasts economic growth six months forward marginally improved and remains in expansion…. In theory, this index is now indicating that in the second or third quarter of 2021 the economy should be in expansion year-over-year.”

* * *

Shipping: “Vast majority of air cargo companies are unprepared to transport Covid-19 vaccines” [STAT]. “As much of the world focuses on vaccine development to alleviate the pandemic, a new survey finds that just 28% of the air cargo companies that will play the highly crucial, behind-the-scenes role of transporting Covid-19 vaccines far and wide feel prepared for the job. At the same time, 19% of these companies report that they feel “very unprepared.” And only 54% of airfreight providers currently have some of the necessary equipment for handling vaccines, according to the survey, which was conducted by the International Air Cargo Association and Pharma.Aero, an organization of air cargo carriers that specialize in shipping pharmaceuticals.” • I can’t read farther than the paywall, but I would not expect all shipping companies to be able to handle refrigeration; the real issue is capacity.

Shipping: Destruction, presumably creative:

Travel: “New jets promise to revive supersonic travel” [BBC]. “Nearly two decades later the world is edging closer to again having passenger jets that can fly faster than the speed of sound. This month, Boom Supersonic rolled out its XB-1 supersonic test plane. It’s the first civilian supersonic aircraft since the Soviet Union’s Tupolev TU-144 in 1968. The skinny, sharply-pointed machine will allow Boom to confirm aspects of the design of its proposed Overture, a much more elegant delta-winged project that echoes Concorde. Overture is intended to carry between 65 and 88 passengers across oceanic routes, sparing human populations the supersonic boom generated by its Mach 2.2 speed. NASA has a more outlandish test aircraft in the wings, the spindly X-59. This will fly in 2022, chasing the prize of sustained supersonic flight overland. This means finding ways to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the supersonic boom. Then there’s Aerion, claiming its AS2 design will offer civil supersonic flight by the end of the decade. But with just 8-10 passengers the AS2 is aimed at an entirely new market, that for supersonic business travel.” • I think we should be slowing business travel down, not speeding it up…

* * *.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 57 Greed (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 15 at 11:55am

The Biosphere

“Prioritizing where to restore Earth’s ecosystems” [Nature]. “Ecosystem-restoration targets already feature prominently in global and national policy frameworks aimed at limiting ongoing biodiversity loss and climate change. These targets are set mainly in terms of the total area or percentage of land to be restored. But how can this restoration effort be best distributed spatially to maximize benefits for both biodiversity conservation and efforts to tackle climate change?… Strassburg and colleagues confront this daunting prioritization challenge head-on using a new multicriteria approach based on a mathematical technique called linear programming. This enabled them to optimize restoration outcomes that balance the benefits for biodiversity and climate-change mitigation, and the associated costs, in a variety of ways. The authors carried out their analysis using state-of-the-art data sets that describe the spatial distribution of: ecosystem types expected in the absence of major human activity; current land uses; the potential for carbon sequestration by living and dead organic matter; habitats of vertebrate species; and expected restoration costs. Strassburg et al. show that the benefits and costs of restoring a given total area of land depend very much on where this restoration is undertaken. Prioritizing the spatial distribution of restoration using a single criterion of benefit or cost generally performs poorly in achieving desirable outcomes for the other criteria. For example, restoring 15% of the world’s converted lands by focusing solely on maximizing benefits for climate-change mitigation would achieve only 65% of the gains potentially achievable for biodiversity (assessed as the resulting reduction in risk of species extinctions) if the restoration focused instead on maximizing biodiversity benefits. optimizing for all three criteria simultaneously yields a solution that would achieve 91% and 82% of potential gains for biodiversity and climate-change mitigation, respectively, while maximizing cost-effectiveness.” • Do we have any linear programming mavens in the commentariat?

Health Care

“Living with Covid19” [National Institute for Health Research]. “There is a widespread perception that people either die, get admitted to hospital or recover after two weeks. It is increasingly clear that for some people there is a distinct pathway of ongoing effects. … A major obstacle is the lack of consensus on diagnostic criteria for ongoing Covid19. … The fluctuating and multisystem symptoms need to be acknowledged. A common theme is that symptoms arise in one physiological system then abate only for symptoms to arise in a different system. There are significant psychological and social impacts that will have long-term consequences for individuals and for society if not well managed. The multisystem nature of ongoing Covid19 means that it needs to be considered holistically.” • Our health system does “holistic” really well, so not to worry.

“‘Long Covid’ symptoms can last for month” [Financial Times]. “Covid-19 has left many patients with debilitating, varied symptoms months after the initial infection has cleared, raising fears about the long-term health costs of the pandemic…. ‘A common theme is that symptoms arise in one physiological system then abate, only for symptoms to arise in a different system,’ the NIHR [above] report said. … A study in Italy found that 87 per cent of people discharged from a Rome hospital were still experiencing at least one symptom two months after the onset of Covid-19. At least 55 per cent had three or more symptoms including fatigue, breathing difficulties and pain in joints and chest.”

“Resources” [Long Covid Support]. • A links page.

“Scientists discover genetic and immunologic underpinnings of some cases of severe COVID-19” [National Institutes of Health]. “New findings by scientists at the National Institutes of Health and their collaborators help explain why some people with COVID-19 develop severe disease. The findings also may provide the first molecular explanation for why more men than women die from COVID-19. The researchers found that more than 10% of people who develop severe COVID-19 have misguided antibodies―autoantibodies―that attack the immune system rather than the virus that causes the disease. Another 3.5% or more of people who develop severe COVID-19 carry a specific kind of genetic mutation that impacts immunity. Consequently, both groups lack effective immune responses that depend on type I interferon, a set of 17 proteins crucial for protecting cells and the body from viruses. Whether these proteins have been neutralized by autoantibodies or―because of a faulty gene―were produced in insufficient amounts or induced an inadequate antiviral response, their absence appears to be a commonality among a subgroup of people who suffer from life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Happy John Brown Day!

Guillotine Watch

“In Bay Village, Someone Called Cops on a Sleeping Homeless Person. It was a Statue of Jesus.” [Cleveland Scene]. “Twenty minutes after a “homeless Jesus” sculpture was installed on the grounds of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village, someone called the cops. Created by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, the sculpture depicts Jesus as a homeless person lying on a bench covered in a blanket. It was purchased by the local Community West Foundation and has been traveling to churches and other religious organizations across the region since October, 2018.” Now, to be fair: “Bay Village police chief Kathy Leasure confirmed the Oct. 12 call to Scene and said that the caller had advised police dispatch that they were unsure if the homeless individual was a human being or a statue.” • But… perhaps approach the figure closely enough to tell?

Class Warfare

“Why Is So Much Redistribution In-Kind and Not in Cash? Evidence from a Survey Experiment” [SSRN]. From the abstract: “Our survey experiment offers a large, demographically representative sample of respondents a hypothetical choice between a cash transfer and a transfer that can only be spent on a bundle of “necessities.” We make three main points. First, survey respondents overwhelmingly preferred in-kind over cash transfers to the poor. The most important reason for this choice is paternalism: the belief that the poor will not spend cash on the right things. The preference for in-kind was common to a majority of virtually all segments of the general population, though not to a sample of intellectual elites. Second, stated preferences suggest that respondents are willing to redistribute considerably more in-kind than in cash. We also surveyed the poor, who preferred receiving cash, but not as strongly as the general population preferred redistributing in-kind. The modesty of this preference among the poor in part comes from a sizable minority that preferred in-kind redistribution, which many anticipated functioning as a self-control mechanism. Third, a randomized treatment explaining the value of choice significantly increased the preference for cash over in-kind, but it did not change the overall preference for in-kind.”

Surprise, unemployed people manage their money. Thread:

“It’s no wonder hundreds of millions have been spent on Prop. 22. A lot is at stake” [Los Angeles Times]. “California has never seen anything like this. Nor has any state — a record $200 million spent on a single ballot measure…. It’s Proposition 22, a ballot initiative bankrolled by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and the like to override a new state law that requires their ride-hailing and delivery drivers to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. If the drivers are reclassified as employees, their pay and benefits would increase. But the app-based gig companies say there’d be far fewer jobs because customer fares would rise and demand for rides would fall. The companies probably couldn’t even operate in California, they say.” • So, they should go. We did fine without them, and they’re parasites anyhow, as Huber Horan has exhaustively shown.

News of the Wired

“He Married a Sociopath: Me” [New York Times]. “Outside of my family, my loyalty to the truth is what has enabled me to connect with other people. As a doctor who specializes in the research of sociopathy, I prize credibility and integrity as my greatest asset.” • Interesting article.

“First room-temperature superconductor excites — and baffles — scientists” [Nature]. “Scientists have created a mystery material that seems to conduct electricity without any resistance at temperatures of up to about 15 °C. That’s a new record for superconductivity, a phenomenon usually associated with very cold temperatures. The material itself is poorly understood, but it shows the potential of a class of superconductors discovered in 2015. The superconductor has one serious limitation, however: it survives only under extremely high pressures, approaching those at the centre of Earth, meaning that it will not have any immediate practical applications. Still, physicists hope it could pave the way for the development of zero-resistance materials that can function at lower pressures.” • Dang!

* * *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 (CM):

CM writes again on primroses: “I think the dramatic differences in height are due to competition for sun. But their growth also seems to be erratic. And there is one rosette in that photo (foreground) that has produced no stalks, pods or blooms whatever — biennial feature?”

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