2:00PM Water Cooler 10/14/2020

Patient readers, if u cm rd ths, my Internet has continued flaky. –lambert UPDATE I lost about an hour before I discovered that moving my desk had screwed up my signal. More soon. Sorry, Joe.

Sadly, there is no “ornithopterae herbertii” in the Macauley Library’s collection, so I cannot meet reader ambrit’s request. I substituted a falco sparverius paulus.

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…

“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. 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.

“2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics” [U.S. Election Project]. With handy map:

I marked the Swing States. Look at Florida!

“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.”

Riots and Protests


The account does not seem to be tendentious..

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Thousands of Mathematicians Join Boycott Against Police Collaboration” [Shadowproof]. “Over 2,000 mathematicians have signed a letter agreeing to boycott all collaboration with police, and insisting their colleagues do the same. They are organizing a wide base of mathematicians in the hopes of cutting off police technologies at their source. The letter’s authors cite ‘deep concerns over the use of machine learning, AI, and facial recognition technologies to justify and perpetuate oppression.’ Predictive policing is one key area where some mathematicians and scientists have enabled the racist algorithms now animating broken-windows policing, which tell cops to treat specific areas as “hotspots” for potential crime. Activists have long criticized the bias inherent in these practices. Algorithms trained on data produced by racist policing will reproduce that prejudice to ‘predict’ where crime will be committed and who is potentially criminal. ‘The data does not speak for itself, it’s not neutral,’ explains Brendan McQuade, author of Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision. Police data is ‘dirty data,’ because it does not represent crime, but policing and arrests. ‘So what are its predictions going to find? That police should deploy their resources in the same place police have traditionally deployed their resources.’”

“Why Nature supports Joe Biden for US president” [Nature]. • Now that Nature is in the political arena, I’m going to be dismayed and disappointed if — like Biden — they oppose #MedicareForAll. (I feel about electoral politics invading Nature the way I think Taibbi feels about the disappearance — slow degradation and then strangulation, rather — of the newsroom. Deep sadness and anger.)

“State Department to Call on American Think Tanks to Disclose Foreign Funding” [National Review]. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday will push American think tanks to disclose their foreign donors, signifying a crack down on the significant growth of foreign funding to the organizations in recent years, according to a new report. While disclosure is not legally required, the Department will ask think tanks to ‘disclose prominently on their websites’ funding they receive from foreign sources, according to a statement Pompeo is slated to make on Tuesday, first obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. ‘To protect the integrity of civil society institutions, the Department requests henceforth that think tanks and other foreign policy organizations that wish to engage with the Department disclose prominently on their websites funding they receive from foreign governments, including state-owned or state-operated subsidiary entities,’ Pompeo will say in a statement. Reports in recent years have shown how foreign funding has influenced a number of think tanks including the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Brookings Institute. Foreign governments and state-controlled enterprises have used their financial pull at the organizations to win positive news coverage and to reduce critical narratives.” • Not to mention Neera Tanden’s Center for American Progress, funded by the UAE, among others.

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.

Inflation: “September 2020 Producer Price Final Demand Year-over-Year Growth Now Slightly In Expansion” [Econintersect]. “Year-over-year inflation pressures remain soft as this index is barely in expansion… The PPI represents inflation pressure (or lack thereof) that migrates into consumer price.”

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Tech: “Save Money, Save the Environment and Help Local Restaurants. There’s an App for That.” [Wall Street Journal]. “I ate some odd meals last week: a turkey wrap for breakfast one day, cheddar cheese and chocolate cake for dinner the next. On a few occasions, I didn’t exactly know what the heck I was eating. But it was for a good cause. Not only was I saving the planet by reducing food waste—a cause I care about a little—I was eating cheap, a cause I care about a lot. I was using Too Good to Go, an app-based service just launched in New York City that lets you buy leftover prepared food from grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries that would otherwise hit the trash at the end of the day. The app lists the day’s options, which can be filtered by location, cuisine and pickup time. Customers reserve, pay in advance and then retrieve their order from the provider. Most options cost $3.99 or $4.99—a third of the menu price. Too Good to Go takes a $1.39 cut.” • That’s quite a cut. So how’s the economy doing?

Tech: “Mini apps could reinvent the way you use your iPhone. China led the way” [CNN]. “Instead of downloading an app, you can pull up just one part of it, saving valuable space on your phone. In China, that has long been the norm. Last month, the iPhone maker debuted “App Clips” as part of its latest operating system update. The new iOS 14, which has already rolled out on many current Apple devices, will almost certainly be featured on a slate of new phones the company is revealing Tuesday. The feature lets people launch just part of an app to complete quick, on-the-go tasks, such as ordering takeout from a restaurant or renting a bike. That means instead of downloading an entirely new app, users can launch a snippet by scanning a QR code, or by tapping a link shared via text or the Safari web browser. For some, the concept may sound familiar: In China, the ubiquitous app WeChat has offered something similar for years.” • So, this is another leftovers link?

Tech: “Yesterday’s corporate network design isn’t working for working from home” [Ars Technica]. “We’re 10 months into 2020, and businesses are still making adjustments to the new realities of large-scale telework (which, if you’re not in the IT biz, is just a fancy term for “working from not in the office”). In the Before Times, telework was an interesting idea that tech companies were just starting to seriously flirt with as a normal way of doing business—whereas now, most businesses large or small have a hefty fraction of their workforce staying home to work. Unfortunately, making such a sweeping change to office workflow doesn’t just disrupt policies and expectations—it requires important changes to the technical infrastructure as well… The most obvious problem that businesses have faced—and are continuing to face—with a greatly multiplied number of remote workers is the size of the company’s Internet connection. If you need a quarter—or half, or three quarters—of your workforce to remote in to work every day, you need enough bandwidth to accommodate them…. This changes dramatically once you have a substantial fraction of the workplace working remotely. Now, the office itself—and its domain, file, and application servers—are “the cloud” from the perspective of your workforce, and while their home Internet connections still make sense—10:1 biased toward download—the office is badly out of whack.”

Tech: “Google is Killing Unlimited Drive Storage for Non-Enterprise Users” [PetaPixel]. “According to the company’s list of plans, which you can view here, there is a limit of 2 TB for individual Business Standard users and 5 TB per person on its new Business Plus plan. To get more, you will have to go to the Enterprise level which Google says requires you to work directly with a Google sales representative (this appears to actually be the case), but Google does promise they can offer as much storage “as you need” in this category. That doesn’t explicitly say unlimited, but should realistically operate as such for now…. It seems that if you rely on Google for storage, you should start budgeting for a price hike in the near future as well as prepare for a transition to Workplace.” • A live salesperson? For a $20 a month service? Really?

The Bezzle: “UPDATED Coronavirus tracker: IBM Watson launching blockchain ‘health pass’ to return to public spaces” [Fierce Healthcare]. • Blockchain? Readers, have I misfiled you?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Neutral (previous close: 59 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 14 at 12:39pm.

The Biosphere

“Flies lead the way to a greener future” [Financial Times]. “For millions of years the humble fly has unwittingly held the secret to two of the modern world’s most pressing problems: how to produce less waste and more protein. With astonishing efficiency, flies convert organic waste into fast-growing, protein-rich larvae, which are happily gobbled up by chickens, fish and pigs. Humans are finally catching up with the trend and are pouring money into the construction of vast insect farms to industrialise this age-old natural process and sell the output to farmers.  This shift towards more sustainable sources of protein and growing investment in several other sectors, such as plant-based meats, robotics, and nanotechnology, has been hailed as the second agricultural revolution. With luck, it can play a vital part in helping to feed the additional 1bn people who will live on the planet by 2030 and combat catastrophic climate change.” • This actually sounds like good news. Better fly farms than plagues of locusts!

“Near-real-time monitoring of global CO2 emissions reveals the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic” [Nature]. “The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting human activities, and in turn energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Here we present daily estimates of country-level CO2 emissions for different sectors based on near-real-time activity data. The key result is an abrupt 8.8% decrease in global CO2 emissions (−1551 Mt CO2) in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The magnitude of this decrease is larger than during previous economic downturns or World War II. The timing of emissions decreases corresponds to lockdown measures in each country. By July 1st, the pandemic’s effects on global emissions diminished as lockdown restrictions relaxed and some economic activities restarted, especially in China and several European countries, but substantial differences persist between countries, with continuing emission declines in the U.S. where coronavirus cases are still increasing substantially.” • [Musical interlude…]

“Observed Ocean Bottom Temperature Variability at Four Sites in the Northwestern Argentine Basin: Evidence of Decadal Deep/Abyssal Warming Amidst Hourly to Interannual Variability During 2009–2019” [Geophysical Research Letters]. “Quantifying global temperature changes requires observations of the full atmosphere‐ocean system; however, long‐term, continuous observations of temperature deep within the ocean are exceedingly rare. This study presents several decade‐long records of hourly temperature measurements from moored sensors 1 m above the seafloor in the northwestern Argentine Basin within the western South Atlantic Ocean. These sites, which range in depth from 1,360 to 4,757 m, show energetic temperature variations on daily to interannual time scales. The intensity of these variations is higher at the two shallower sites than is observed at the two deeper sites. In addition to the daily to interannual variations, long‐term warming trends are also detected over the period 2009–2019 at all four sites.” From the Guardian summary: “‘If you think about how large the deep ocean is, it’s an enormous amount of heat,’ said Christopher Meinen, an oceanographer at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and lead author of the study.” • “Abyssal warming” sounds like something out of Lovecraft…

Health Care

“‘Patient zero displayed no symptoms:’ Hamilton’s SpinCo superspreader outbreak reaches 51 case” [Toronto Star]. “It is believed to be one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks at any fitness centre in Canada. More than 50 cases, all identified within a single week, all connected to a small, niche spinning studio in downtown Hamilton…. ‘This can happen at any gym,” [said Colin Furness, an infectious control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto] said. “This is not about how well the gym was run; this is about how COVID spreads. If you let people hangout together, without masks, sharing air, in the same space for a prolonged period of time … this was going to happen anyways.’” • Looks like another aerosol case. Here is a good thread on this case:

Now, I should say, although I stan for aerosols, I think the fomites have a role to play (that is, you should keep washing your hands and cleaning surfaces). After all, if somebody hawks a giant loogie of virus-laden mucus at you, that would seem to put you at risk! More concretely, there does seem to be a case for fecal transmission, as with original SARS, and in cases like bars, gyms, restaurants, and churches, where rest rooms are provisioned, it would behoove the paranoid epidemiologist to rule that pathway out. That said, I have seen good studies on aerosols. Amazingly, despite their paradigmatic dominance, I have seen none on fomite transmission (unless, I suppose, you consider children fomites; not unreasonable). If any readers can supply links, I’d be happy. Here is a link to the Montreal case–

“Karaoke bar blamed for spike in COVID-19 cases in Quebec City will remain closed until Sept. 10” [CBC]. “Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed on Tuesday that 12 more cases had been linked to Bar Kirouac, in the city’s Saint-Sauveur district….. ‘We’re talking about karaoke where people who think that, because they are friends who know each other well, they can let their guard down: take off the mask, pass the microphone, get close together to sing. This is all very nice, but we can’t do it anymore.’…. The first case connected to Bar Kirouac was reported to local public health authorities on Saturday morning. By Monday, 17 cases among clients and staff had been diagnosed. As of Tuesday evening, 31 cases have been linked to the bar.”

“Can New York Pass Single-Payer in 2021?” [Ross Barkan, New York Focus]. “n 2018, as State Senate Democrats across New York City and the surrounding suburbs stormed to victory, progressives were filled with great optimism. Long-stalled priorities in Albany, like stronger tenant protections and laws safeguarding reproductive health, were likely to become law, with Republicans chased from power. Another holy grail loomed: single-payer healthcare for New York State. The Democrat-controlled Assembly had passed the New York Health Act several times, but the bill had no chance in a chamber controlled by Republicans. Many of the winning Democrats, including moderates on Long Island, had pledged support for the legislation during their campaigns. But the 2019 legislative session, while full of progressive victories for the new Democratic majority, did not include passage of the New York Health Act, let alone a floor vote. Some of the moderates who backed the legislation during their campaigns refused to co-sponsor it once in office. Governor Andrew Cuomo, by far the state’s most powerful figure, continued to dismiss the idea of a statewide single-payer system, claiming support for a federal program would be less likely under a Donald Trump presidency.” • I have come to believe that “the Saskatchewan Strategy” is wrong; only the currency issuer can establish single payer; at the state level, it will be gutted by “how you gonna pay for it” reactionaries at the first downturn — and they’ll have a point!

Guillotine Watch


Class Warfare

Idpol power surge (“Amy Coney Barrett apologizes after a Democratic senator called her out for using the ‘offensive and outdated’ term ‘sexual preference’ to refer to LGBTQ people“):

If “dictionary-fluid” isn’t a phrase, it certainly ought to be. I do understand that Websters is descriptive, not prescriptive. But I don’t expect Websters content to be driven by a vocabulary controversy more appropriate for an ephemeral listicle in Teen Vogue (and I love Teen Vogue). I also expect Websters editorial standards to exhibit some consistency. Take latinx — please! (Usage examples: “Community members celebrated at the Latinx Pride Parade”, “As a first-generation Latinx, I struggled to reconcile my cultural and gender identities.”). From Pew: “However, for the population it is meant to describe, only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves…..For example, 12% of respondents who had heard of Latinx express disagreement or dislike of the term. Some described the term as an ‘anglicism’ of the Spanish language, while others say the term is ‘not representative of the larger Latino community.’” First, at 3% usage for self-description, should latinx be in Websters at all? Second, why are the “voices” of 12% of the Hispanic population to whom latinx is offensive being suppressed? One begins to suspect that Websters is, in fact, rather prescriptive than we think. Get offa my lawn!

“Inequality in America: Far Beyond Extreme” [Counterpunch]. “Of America’s inflation- and population-adjusted increase in wealth between 2006 and 2018, over 87 percent went to the top 10 percent. Over 60 percent went to the top 1 percent. The top .01 percent, a baseball-park-sized group of just 32,669 Americans, grabbed over 23 percent of the country’s increase in wealth. And nearly 10 percent of that increase went to the 400 wealthiest Americans. The 290 million or so unlucky souls who make up the so-called bottom 90 percent, meanwhile, saw just 13 percent of the nation’s wealth gains between 2006 and 2018, not much over half of what went to the top .01 percent. Our bottom 50 percent actually lost wealth over that 2006-2018 period.” • Thanks, Obama!

“Calls to Tax the Rich Abound. But What Exactly Does that Mean?” [The City]. “New numbers provided to THE CITY by the city Independent Budget Office show the number of ultra-rich New Yorkers on a rise pre-pandemic. The IBO counted 4,412 filers who earned $5 million plus in 2018 — up from 3,528 two years earlier…. In 2018, about 30,000 city income tax filers were in the elite club earning $1 million or more. In 2016, the last year for which details on taxes paid are available, the 25,000 earners at that level accounted for nearly $3.7 billion in city income taxes collected, or nearly 40% of the total… Some state lawmakers are hoping to add more brackets to income tax collection so those who earn more than $5 million pay increasingly more in taxes above that level… For the hundred-odd individuals whose income exceeds $100 million, the tax rate would rise to 11.85% [Under the proposal spearheaded by State Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) and co-sponsored by 21 other members mostly from the city].” • Pretty mild, compared to the Eisenhower era.

News of the Wired


Those small businesses look like they’re going to be there forever, don’t they?

* * *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 (JB):

JB writes from Banks, Oregon: “Love all the green :)” NC readers coming up big on trees and trails lately!

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