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2:00PM Water Cooler 11/10/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Patient readers, I have a pantry clear-out for the ages of election-related material, but I think I’m going to wander off for a late brunch; it’s been a rough few days. I’ll try catch up tomorrow. –lambert


Bird Song of the Day


#COVID19


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.


Case count by United States region:



Waiting for the line to go vertical…


Test positivity by region:



I don’t understand why the sudden dip around a week ago, in every region except the (organge) Northeast (and why does the Northeast keep being the exception?)


Case fatality rate by region:



The Northeast (orange) really stands out.


Hospitalization by region:



Again, the Northeast (green) stands out for its enormous spikes.


I keep hanging out, waiting for some kind of turn to call; it’s not happening…


Politics


“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



2020 Democrats in Disarray


“Can Joe Biden avoid Obama’s mistakes? He must – for the future of the party” [David Sirota, Guardian]. “To answer it, you must first appreciate how we arrived at this moment of peril. In this week’s election, Trump kept the race close by winning 82% of voters who listed the economy as their top concern, according to exit polls. He was able to do that amid an economic crisis because Democrats did not forcefully articulate an economic message. Instead, Biden cast his candidacy in gauzy platitudes about restoring the country to a pre-Trump status quo. That was enough to barely defeat Trump, who mismanaged the coronavirus response – but it was not enough to prevent Republican gains down ballot. Even more problematic, that much-glorified pre-Trump “normal” of crushing economic inequality is what originally created the conditions for Trumpism, and that larger ism probably isn’t going away. And so moving forward, the answer to Democrats’ “what do we do now?” question should be clear: a new Democratic White House must show it is using its power to deliver for the working class.” • Lol no.

“Manchin shoots down chance that Senate Democrats nix filibuster, expand court” [The Hill]. “Manchin, referring to chatter that Democrats could nix the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court, said he wanted to ‘rest those fears for you.’ ‘That won’t happen because I will not be the 50th Democrat voting to end that filibuster or to basically stack the court,’ Manchin said. Pressed if he was saying definitively that if Democratic leadership tried to use the nuclear option to nix the filibuster if he would vote against that, Manchin replied, ‘Absolutely. I will vote against that.’ … Manchin added that the ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘all this socialism’ was ‘not who we are as a Democratic Party.’ ‘We’ve been tagged if you’ve got a D by your name you must be for all the crazy stuff and I’m not,’ Manchin said, adding that Democrats should have a message that ‘didn’t scare the bejeezus out of people.’” • Im thinking that statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico isn’t in the cards either…


Biden Transition


“Obama Official Ben Rhodes Admits Biden Camp is Already Working With Foreign Leaders: Exactly What Flynn Did” [Glenn Greenwald]. “Any doubts about how customary it is for such calls to be made by transition officials were unintentionally obliterated on Monday night by former Obama national security official Ben Rhodes, who is almost certain to occupy a high-level national security position in a Biden administration. Speaking on MSNBC — of course — Rhodes, while amicably chatting with former Bush/Cheney Communications Director turned-beloved-by-liberals-MSNBC-host Nicolle Wallace, admitted in passing that ‘foreign leaders are already having phone calls with Joe Biden talking about the agenda they’re going to pursue January 20,’ all to ensure ‘as seamless a transition as possible,’ adding: ‘the center of political gravity in this country and the world is shifting to Joe Biden.’” • Presumably the FBI should be interrogating Rhodes about his guilty knowledge. Anyhoo, I’m so old I remember when IOKIYAR was current in the blogosphere: “It’s OK If You’re A Republican.” But now IOKIIOG: “It’s OK If It’s Our Guy.” Pleasant to see that Greenwald is still in excellent form, and worth a read for the exposition on the Flynn case.

“”Shredding The Fabric Of Our Democracy”: Biden Aide Signals Push For Greater Censorship On The Internet” [Jonathan Turley]. “[Bill Russo, a deputy communications director on Biden’s campaign press team,] tweeted that ‘If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after.’ Russo objected to the fact that, unlike Twitter, Facebook did not move against statements that he and the campaign viewed as ‘misleading.’ He concluded. ‘We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not. Our democracy is on the line. We need answers.’ For those of us in the free speech community, these threats are chilling. We saw incredible abuses before the election in Twitter barring access to a true story in the New York Post about Hunter Biden and his alleged global influence peddling scheme. Notably, no one in the Biden camp (including Biden himself) thought that it was a threat to our democracy to have Twitter block the story (while later admitting that it was a mistake).” • When you hear a liberal Democrat say “our democracy,” remember that they mean precisely that: Their democracy.

“The Web Inventor’s New Invention” [Protocol]. “Though much of the Biden transition team has yet to be announced (and rumors abound, like that one about Eric Schmidt becoming tech’s guy in the White House), we’ve already got three big names sliding in from Apple, Facebook and Twitter…. Jessica Hertz: The former Facebook attorney will manage the transition team’s ethics questions, which has already upset just about everyone who has ever said the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘ethics’ in the same sentence… Cynthia Hogan: Apple’s former chief lobbyist has been part of Biden’s orbit since she served as his chief legal counsel during his time as a senator, and then again when he became vice president…. Carlos Monje: Twitter’s public policy chief left his post to join the transition team, though it’s unclear what his role may be.”:

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“Candidate concessions have been colorful, funny — or absent” [Associated Press]. “Losing presidential candidates have conceded to their opponents in private chats, telegrams, phone calls and nationally televised speeches. Al Gore conceded twice in the same race. President Donald Trump isn’t expected to concede at all — not even with a tweet. There’s no law that says he has to concede, but if he doesn’t, Trump will be the first presidential candidate in modern times to ignore a tradition that has marked peaceful transitions throughout American history. Most concessions are gracious — less about the loser and more about closure for the country. Others have a little dry humor mixed in.”

“Why Trump won’t concede” [Popular Information]. “Trump isn’t devoting this new cash to fund his legal challenges to the election results, and it shows. Most of the lawsuits the campaign has filed have been dismissed by the courts. In one case in Michigan, lawyers representing Trump made basic errors in submitting their appeal. The filing was rejected as ‘defective.’” •

“Nevada whisleblower affidavit alleges disregard of mail-in signature verification” [Washington Examiner]. “‘I personally witnessed disregard of signature verification as well as other irregularities,’ the whistleblower said in the affidavit. ‘While working, I observed a significant number of signatures on mail-in ballots I believe did not match the name and should have been reviewed. When I asked the supervisors, [redacted] and others, about it, instead of taking the ballots to verify the signature in the electronic database, the supervisor told me to push the envelope through without verification.’” •  It’s frustrating to me that these cases aren’t being covered as a story, so I have to look for dribs and drabs on the Intertubes (and don’t have the time to assess them). Heck, if they’re so awful, why not aggregate them and show that? (I also find the prevasive huffiness about the integrity of our election system a little offputting, as anybody who’s watched the 2016 and 2020 Democrat primaries carefully would. For example: “Trump and Republican leadership have joined together in baselessly undermining public confidence in the integrity and transparency of U.S. elections.” Anybody remember the Iowa app that went belly up, and Buttigieg claiming victory when the official count was zero (0)? “Integrity and transparency” my Sweet Aunt Fanny.)

“Trump Campaign Has Been Fundraising Heavily Off of Election Lawsuits. Legal Experts Say Buyer Beware.” [Law & Crime]. A long post combining a review of the various Trump campaign cases, and the fundraising Trump is doing off them, bless his heart.


2020


“The Memo: Five key lessons from the 2020 exit polls” [The Hill]. “Attention is shifting to how and why Biden won. Exit polls provide the most reliable guide.” • Not to be cynical, but “most reliable” does not mean “reliable.” For myself, I’m going to wait for reporting from the ground to inform any interpretation of the polling I would make.

“How and when are election results finalized? (2020)” [Ballotpedia (DJG)]. The deadlines:

Election result certification deadlines are set in state law. Certification deadlines for the 2020 election are as follows:

  • The certification deadline in six states is within one week of the election.
  • In 26 states and the District of Columbia, the certification deadline is between November 10 and November 30.
  • In 14 states, the certification deadline is in December.
  • Four states (Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) do not have statutory deadlines for results certification.

And then there are recounts…. Worth bookmarking.

Covid


“Why Biden’s national mask mandate will be a national mask suggestion” [Vox]. Federalism. “There are varying schools of thought about whether the president has the authority to issue a national mask mandate, as many other countries have. Some attempts to do so at the state and local level have been met with lawsuits and refusals to comply, as masks have become an increasingly politicized and contentious issue. Biden has said he will issue an executive order requiring masks to be worn on federal property. Beyond that, Biden’s version of a national mask mandate, as spelled out in his new transition website, does not appear to come from him. Instead, he’s going to be “working with governors and mayors” to encourage them to issue their own mandates, as well as remind Americans to wear masks. While the majority of America’s governors have issued statewide mandates, 16 states have not — including Mississippi, which revoked its mask mandate in October (Gov. Tate Reeves is requiring masks in certain counties). Though it’s hard to see a reality where states and localities run by Republicans work hand in hand with a Democratic president these days — even in the face of a virus that infects people regardless of their political leanings — many firmly Republican state governments have issued mask mandates once their constituents began getting sick and dying, most recently Utah on Monday. Others still seem to take pride in their obstinance, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Even in that state, however, local governments are trying to issue their own orders.”


Our Famously Free Press


Millionaire fools:

No. 538 is the number of electors in the electoral college. Florida was decided by 537 votes. So an off-by-one error. Sorta.


Realignment and Legitimacy


“White Women’s Support for Trump Remains High in 2020 Election” [Teen Vogue]. And the deck: “White women have to answer for backing the Republican nominee yet again.” Finally sentence: “As Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, dressed in suffragist white, reminded us during her acceptance speech on Saturday, democracy ‘is not guaranteed.’” • Suffragist white, for those who know anything of the sad and tortured history, is just a little too on the nose.



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.


Small Business Optimism: “October 2020 Small Business Optimism Improves, Uncertainty Index Remains High” [Econintersect]. “The NFIB Optimism Index remained at 104.0 in October, unchanged from September and historically high reading. Four of the 10 components improved, 5 declined, and 1 was unchanged. Although all of the data was collected prior to Election Day, a 6-point increase in the NFIB Uncertainty Index to 98 was likely driven by the election and uncertain conditions in future months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and possible government-mandated shutdowns. The uncertainty reading was the highest reading since November 2016.”



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Shipping: “How vaccine and Biden victory will impact shipping” [Freight Waves]. “To the extent that nondomestic vaccine distribution (whether the Pfizer vaccine or another vaccine) takes up air-cargo space, it will push more cargo into ocean transport. That would be a plus for liner demand. But there’s a caveat. Analysts believe a shift in U.S. spending is driving record container volumes in the trans-Pacific market. Consumers are buying more goods as they spend less on travel, restaurants, bars and movie theaters. When vaccines return the world to normalcy, consumers will reallocate more spending to services. In addition, a resumption of passenger air travel will increase capacity for air cargo. That would shift some cargo back from ocean to air.” • And then there’s the results, if any, of Biden’s stimulus package, if any.


Manufacturing: “Bad software crashed Boeings. Now it appears the company lacked a singular software supremo” [The Register]. “Boeing has created a new role for a vice president of software engineering and filled it with a veteran of similar gigs at SpaceX, Tesla, and Google. The Register reports the new job because Boeing’s appointment announcement points out that it previously lacked such a role…. Who was brave enough to step into this gig? Meet Jinna Dylan Hossein, whose previous roles include veep of software engineering at SpaceX, interim veep of autopilot software at Tesla and director of software engineering at Google.”


Manufacturing: “American Airlines is quietly bringing back the 737 Max. Here’s why that’s disturbing” [ZD Net]. “[A]s the nation’s focus was on all things electoral, American Airlines quietly announced that it would return the Max to its schedule next month. European regulators have already declared the Max is safe to fly. What’s curious is that Boeing hasn’t yet made the software changes that European regulators insisted was necessary. In the US, the Max has passed its certification test flights. American, though, understands that passengers will be nervous. The airline is trying to entice passengers to take a tour of the plane at selected airports. This all exudes a quiet confidence. Yet it’s one thing to patch software. It’s quite another to ensure that those who operate it know all of its nuances. So this week I was a little disturbed to read: ‘Southwest, American pilots say new Boeing 737 Max manual may lead to errors in emergencies.’ The pilots are concerned that the Federal Aviation Authority’s manual for handling the new software in the event of an emergency is inadequate. They say there are simply too many steps to remember. This, they insist, has been proved in simulator flights. Yet the FAA is proposing pilot training every three years when the pilots believe it should be two.


The Fed: “How the Covid Crisis Calls for a Makeover at the Fed and ECB” [Bloomberg]. “In his first year in office U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has an opportunity to remake the leadership of the Federal Reserve: the current terms of Chairman Jerome Powell and both his two vice chairs expire by 2022. But what the Fed and other central banks need most in a post-Covid world is not new leadership, but a fresh understanding of what they were put on this Earth to do…. This reliance on monetary policy has had two related side effects: it has tested central bankers’ policy repertoire to the limit, and focused more attention on the way that monetary policy may have impacted income inequality and the efficiency of the economy. In thinking about how the standard toolkit could be expanded, recent official debates about the future of monetary policy have responded to the first of these. But the second set of issues is just as important — and arguably even more urgent.”


Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 30 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 10 at 12:03pm.



The Biosphere


“Could Listening to the Deep Sea Help Save It?” [New York Times]. “[A growing field of acousticians] believe that sound may be the quickest, cheapest way to monitor one of the most mysterious realms of the ocean. A database of deep-sea soundscapes could provide researchers with baseline understanding of healthy remote ecosystems, and singling out the sounds of communities or even individual species can inform scientists when populations are booming.” • I wonder where else this idea might apply.


Water


“China’s glaciers in retreat” [Reuters]. “The melting in the mountains could peak within a decade, after which snow melt would sharply decrease due to the smaller, fewer glaciers, China Academy of Sciences expert Shen Yongping said. That could bring water crises, he warned. The changes in Qilian reflect melting trends in other parts of the Tibetan plateau, the source of the Yangtze and other great Asian rivers, scientists say.” • Well-written and beautifully photographed. Worth reading in full.


Health Care


“What Pfizer’s landmark COVID vaccine results mean for the pandemic” [Nature]. • I read this twice. In contrast to Bloomberg’s coverage in this morning’s Links, there’s no sentence remotely similar to “The messenger RNA technology used in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has never been deployed in humans before.” The closest is “One key unanswered question is how long the vaccines’ effectiveness will last,” and that’s not very close.


Readers know I’m pro-vax as a public health measure. That’s not the same as saying I won’t try to exercise critical thinking on any particular vaccine. Yesterday, in Links, the commentariat had a long discussion about the difficulties of cold-chain distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine. Then, in Water Cooler, I pointed out an unsettling similarity between Gilead’s remdesivir, and Pfizer’s vaccine: The obvious possibility of stock ramping, leading to profit by insiders. And now we have (the now, and sadly, politicized) Nature airbrushing the risks to the population who will be injected with it, which comes perilously close to denying them informed consent. I’m reminded of this classic sketch, from back when Saturday Night Live was funny:



Maybe I’ve gone all counter-suggestible, but I’m queasy. And there are other vaccines in the works, too. In fact, it feels like Operation Warp Speed had more controls, amazingly enough.


“On the Effectiveness of Time Travel to Inject COVID-19 Alerts” (PDF) [Vincenzo Iovino, Serge Vaudenay, and Martin Vuagnoux (dk)]. The Abstract: “t. Digital contact tracing apps allow to alert people who have been in contact with people who may be contagious. The Apple/Google Exposure Notification (EN) system is based on Bluetooth proximity estimation. It has been adopted by many countries around the world. However, many possible attacks are known. The goal of some of them is to inject a false alert on someone else’s phone. This way, an adversary can eliminate a competitor in a sport event or a business in general. Political parties can also prevent people from voting. In this report, we review several methods to inject false alerts. One of them requires to corrupt the clock of the smartphone of the victim. For that, we build a time-traveling machine to be able to remotely set up the clock on a smartphone and experiment our attack. We show how easy this can be done. We successfully tested several smartphones with either the Swiss or the Italian app (SwissCovid or Immuni).” • BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA! Here’s hoping the Biden administration doesn’t turn to the developers of the Iowa Caucus app when it rolls out its contact tracing program…



News of the Wired


“Going Against the Decluttering Craze: The Book Hoarders Who Defy Marie Kondo” [Indepedent]. “Books are more than objects. They are filled with ideas, stories, versions of ourselves, memories. Bookshelves are like your wardrobe: they send a message. And the message these famous book-lovers shared with us is loud and clear: Books spark joy… My office is just books everywhere. There is no order. There is no rhyme or reason. They’re every which way. There are picture books, an old Scrabble board, cookbooks, typewriters, newspapers that have stories that I’m inspired by, fan art that I’ve framed, stickers and finger puppets that kids have given me. I’ve got Spider-Man toys given to me by Marvel, my own books. I should be more organised, but I’m not an organised person. It’s a good example of how my mind works. The only time I get rid of books is when I have multiples. I send them to schools and to people who need them.” • I have lost at least three book collections in my various moves. All in many, many boxes!


“NonViolent Compassionate Communication A Language of Life” (video) [Marshall Rosenberg. YouTube] 



This comes recommended, but it’s five hours long. Pack a lunch.


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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 (AM):



AM writes: “Gorse flowers in Scotland on October 16 – there was a bee busily working in them but it was camera-shy.”


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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:



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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!


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