By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


#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.




Here again is the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin:



I left out positivity, becaue the chart becomes unreadable if I include it. Interesting spike in Missouri; I wonder if it’s a reporting problem at the state level, since they seem to be cropping up all over.


Illinois’s curve is really unique in this set of states. 91-DIVOC has prepared a chart specifically for Illinois:



Looks like two epidemics, not one.





CA: “Have L.A.’s homeless people dodged a COVID-19 catastrophe?” [Los Angeles Times]. “There has been little spread of the novel coronavirus in Los Angeles’ street encampments. Some shelters have had outbreaks, but most of those infected had no symptoms. Of the more than 1,300 cases among homeless people in L.A. County, fatalities at mid-August stood at 31, a mortality rate comparable to or better than that of the overall population…. But homeless people in the rest of California and across the nation have had a better-than-expected time of it as well. And one reason might be the environment where nearly three-quarters of L.A.’s homeless people live: outside…. The apparent resiliency of homeless people in the face of a pandemic has so confounded expectations that researchers are looking at disparate and sometimes far-fetched causes.”


NC: “UNC System president blames students for fall reopening failures at UNC and N.C. State” [The Daily Tar Heel]. “UNC has confirmed six clusters on campus in residence halls and off-campus student living since classes started last week…. [UNC System President Peter Hans] said the UNC System planned for reopening under the guidance of public health officials and considered the different situations at each university. ‘This hard work is being undermined by a very small number of students behaving irresponsibly off campus, which unfairly punishes the vast majority of their classmates who are following the rules,’ Hans stated….. ‘I don’t apologize for trying,’ Provost Bob Blouin responded Monday.”


Meatpacking: “Meatpacking Companies Dismissed Years of Warnings but Now Say Nobody Could Have Prepared for COVID-19” [ProPublica]. “[A] ProPublica investigation has found that for more than a dozen years, critical businesses like meatpackers have been warned that a pandemic was coming. With eerie prescience, infectious disease experts and emergency planners had modeled scenarios in which a highly contagious virus would cause rampant absenteeism at processing plants, leading to food shortages and potential closures. The experts had repeatedly urged companies and government agencies to prepare for exactly the things that Smithfield’s CEO now claims were unrealistic…. Instead, the industry repeatedly expressed confidence in its ability to handle a pandemic, and when asked to plan, relied on a wait-and-see approach, records and interviews show.”


Deaths: “Covid-19 deaths should start dropping across US by next week, CDC chief says” [CNN]. “Covid-19 deaths in the US should start dropping around parts of the country by next week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director said, as Americans stick to mitigation efforts that help curb the spread of the virus…. The daily average of new cases in the US has been on the decline for weeks. Redfield’s message comes as one Trump administration official said Covid-19 case trends are now ‘going in the right direction.’ But Redfield warned that while officials have observed cases fall across red zones in the country, cases in yellow zones across the heart of the US aren’t falling.”


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


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. (Last change August 10.)



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!


2020


Biden(D)(1): “With the Speech of His Life, Joe Biden Becomes the Man for This Moment” [Frank Bruni, New York Times]. “It was a forceful speech, above all because it was a direct one, not ornamented with oratorical curlicues but animated by his messy experience in this unpredictable world. It had enormous credibility because it had enormous heart — and because it came from someone who, emotionally, has suffered mightily and come out the other side…. It was a forceful speech, above all because it was a direct one, not ornamented with oratorical curlicues but animated by his messy experience in this unpredictable world. It had enormous credibility because it had enormous heart — and because it came from someone who, emotionally, has suffered mightily and come out the other side.” • Opioid epidemic, what? Life expectancy falling in flyover? No problemo. Lambert here:

Anyhow, I did read Biden’s speech, which really was excellent; definitely Nooners level. Just a few notes:

[BIDEN]: Here and now I give you my word. If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.

It’s time for us, for we, the people, to come together. And make no mistake. United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.

Who would have thought Biden’s speechwriters would channel Marianne Williamson? But here’s Biden on health care:

And the assault on the Affordable Care Act will continue until it’s destroyed, taking insurance away from more than 20 million people, including more than 15 million people on Medicaid and getting rid of the protections that President Obama worked so hard to get past for people who have 100 million more people who have pre-existing conditions. … [W]e’ll not only build back, we’ll build back better…. With a healthcare system that lowers premiums, deductibles, drug prices, by building on the Affordable Care Act he’s trying to rip away.

So Biden just heaved the public option over the side. Too radical for suburban Republicans, I suppose.

Biden (D)(2): “Over 70 former GOP national security officials endorse Biden” [The Hill]. “More than 70 former national security officials who served under Republican administrations have endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, joining a wave of GOP voices throwing their support behind the former vice president. The officials have served under President Trump and former Republican Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The group includes former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor, who has gained attention in recent days for going public with his accounts of his interactions with Trump, as well as former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.” • This means war!

Biden (D)(3): “The Democrats Screwed Up” [The New Republic]. “After former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero met with Joe Biden in 2010, two words stuck with him: tears and suffering. That’s according to Zapatero’s 2013 memoir, The Dilemma. The two met at the Prime Minister’s residence on the outskirts of Madrid. The meeting was intended as a show of gratitude from the United States about Spain’s involvement in Afghanistan. But the conversation quickly turned to the eurozone, as several countries dealt with the extended fallout of the global financial crisis. “In giving his opinion on the markets,” Zapatero wrote of Biden, “he told me, with a harshness that until then I had not heard, that the only way to gain their trust was by making decisions that made you suffer truly and thoroughly. That you are only credible in certain circumstances if you subject citizens to difficult tests, if the unions openly reject your policy, in short, if there are tears and suffering. I was struck by his message, for its frankness and its toughness. Tears and suffering.” • Torturers are plenty empathetic. How else do they know where to put the electrodes?


* * *

MA: “Pelosi endorses Kennedy over Markey in contentious primary” [Politico]. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed Rep. Joe Kennedy in his Senate challenge Thursday, a surprise move that could provide a significant boost over incumbent Democratic Sen. Ed Markey as the contentious Massachusetts race comes to a close in less than two weeks… ‘No one gets to complain about primary challenges again,’ Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.” • I’m so old I remember this: “DCCC Promises To Blacklist Firms That Work With Candidates Challenging Incumbents.



Democratic National Convention


Easter eggs (1):

Scattering clues like that master symbol manipulator, Q. Even more so:

Easter eggs (2):

“The Democrats pulled off a brilliant psychological maneuver at the convention” [Fast Company]. “So if these speakers aren’t literally chatting with us, why have the DNC speeches been so engrossing? Could there be some other element at play? The short answer is yes. As Hietanen explains, someone’s gaze still affects our thinking, even when it’s streamed one-way through a laptop or TV screen. Most importantly, gaze impacts our attention. If someone who is speaking looks right, you’ll naturally look to their right, too. In the case of the DNC, this unbroken eye contact draws our attention and likely makes it harder to ignore the speaker or look away from the screen. …. In this sense, the old DNC had an advantage that the new DNC loses in the age of COVID-19. You are no longer directed to look at that crowd of super fans full of positive emotions that infect you. “The phenomenon is called emotional contagion,” explains Hietanen. ‘Anybody’s speech elicits effective responses in other people, and I as a viewer see those other people’s affective reactions, they of course have an influence on my [feelings] as well.’ So this DNC offers something of a trade: We go all in with the speaker, at the expense of losing the contagious feelings of the audience.”


Realignment and Legitimacy


About that Big Tent (1):

Moulton is there to win Maine. But still.

About that Big Tent (2):

So I see the Biden GOTV effort is going well.

The Great Assimilation™:

“Chelsea and Me: On the politics—or non-politics or pseudo-politics—of engaging a power player on Twitter” [Corey Robin]. • I remember reading this when it was published (2017) but now I see how it confirms every word Thomas Frank wrote in Listen, Liberal!

I don’t like this timeline and I wish the showrunners would change it:




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.


Rail: “Rail Week Ending 15 August 2020 – Intermodal Remains In Expansion” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has two components – carloads and intermodal (containers or trailers on rail cars). Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. declined and remains deep in contraction. This week again intermodal was in expansion year-over-year. However, carloads remain deep in contraction.”


* * *

Retail: “Retailers are trying to ramp up their digital investments as fast as shoppers are moving online. Home Depot, Nestlé, AutoNation and others are accelerating their e-commerce efforts… setting up new technology and operations they expect to continue even once the pandemic subsides” [Wall Street Journal]. “E-commerce has been a bright spot amid the upheaval in the retail sector since the spring, and digital capabilities have marked the dividing between continuity and collapse for many merchants. U.S. e-commerce sales are forecast to grow 18% to $709.8 billion this year, representing a record 14.5% of total retail sales.”


The Bezzle: “NimbleRx and Uber Health Partner to Expand Accessibility to Prescription Delivery” (press release) [Associated Press (timotheus)]. ” NimbleRx, a platform providing independent pharmacies the ability to offer convenient, online delivery, today announced a partnership with Uber Health to offer safe, contactless prescription delivery from pharmacies in Seattle, WA and Dallas, TX, and soon, other parts of the country….. Built on Uber’s platform and part of Uber for Business’s suite of enterprise solutions, Uber Health is a HIPAA-secure solution that enables its various partners within the healthcare industry to request non-emergency medical transportation for patients and improve access to care for some of our most vulnerable populations including those on Medicaid and Medicare. Part of a larger initiative by Uber to provide access to on-demand and scheduled last-mile delivery solutions to consumers and businesses, prescription delivery provides a ripe opportunity to address the current and critical needs of Nimble customers.”


Tech: “Lightroom App Update Wipes Users’ Photos and Presets, Adobe Says they are ‘Not Recoverable’” [PetaPixel]. “This morning, multiple readers wrote in to alert us to a major Adobe gaffe. It seems the latest update to the Lightroom app for iPhone and iPad inadvertently wiped users’ photos and presets that were not already synced to the cloud. Adobe has confirmed that there is no way to get them back. The issue first cropped up on the Photoshop feedback forums two days ago, when the Lightroom app on iOS was updated to version 5.4. A user named Mohamad Alif Eqnur posted asking why all of his photos, presets, and watermark data had been removed after updating to the most recent version through the iOS app store.” • I’ll bet. Not a good look for iOS as a professional’s platform, either. Of course, I’m not delusional enough to use The Cloud, and a professional would have multiple off-site ballots anyhow, but still. Adobe is a monopoly, too.


Tech: “YouTube, Netflix and Gaming: A Look at What Kids Are Doing With Their Increased Screen Time” [Morning Consult]. “Most (60 percent) said that before the pandemic, their children’s screen time topped out at three hours. Respondents were asked to include time for education and school work in their estimates. Forty percent said their children had spent four or more hours a day with a device. But when asked how much time children were spending with devices in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority shifted: Most (70 percent) now said their kids were spending at least four hours each day with screens.”


* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 70 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 72 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 21 at 12:04pm.



Health Care


“US will allow pharmacists to administer vaccines to kids as vaccine rates drop during coronavirus pandemic” [ABC]. “Children in the United States will have expanded access to vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a directive issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Licensed pharmacists in all 50 states will now be able to administer vaccines to kids ages 3-18 provided they have completed the required hands-on injection training, according to HHS.” • Sensible.


“Humidity-Dependent Decay of Viruses, but Not Bacteria, in Aerosols and Droplets Follows Disinfection Kinetics” [Environmental Science and Technology]. From the discussion: “Our results show that the viability of bacteria and viruses in suspended aerosols and droplets is [Relative humidity (RH)] dependent, varying by over 3 orders of magnitude for bacteria and up to 2 orders of magnitude for viruses. These results suggest that environmental conditions have the potential to influence transmission of certain pathogens by affecting their viability while they are transmitting between hosts. While bacteria survived better at humid conditions than dry conditions, viruses survived best at both low and extremely high RHs while experiencing greater decay at intermediate RHs.” • Technical, but if you stan for aerosols, as do I, you will find this interesting.


“Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Proliferating Observational Treatment Assessments” [JAMA]. Terrific deck: “Observational Cacophony, Randomized Harmony.” More:


“[T]here is growing concern about whether attempts to infer causation about the benefits and risks of potential therapeutics from nonrandomized studies are providing insights that improve clinical knowledge and accelerate the search for needed answers, or whether these reports just add noise, confusion, and false confidence. Most of these studies include a caveat indicating that “randomized clinical trials are needed.” But disclaimers aside, does this approach help make the case for well-designed randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and accelerate their delivery?1 Or do observational studies reduce the likelihood of a properly designed trial being performed, thereby delaying the discovery of reliable truth?

Anxious, frightened patients, as well as clinicians and health systems with a strong desire to prevent morbidity and mortality, are all susceptible to cognitive biases. Furthermore, profit motives in the medical products industry, academic hubris, interests related to increasing the valuation of data platforms, and revenue generated by billing for these products in care delivery can all tempt investigators to make claims their methods cannot fully support, and these claims often are taken up by traditional media and further amplified on social media. Politicians have been directly involved in discourse about treatments they assert are effective. The natural desire of all elements of society to find effective therapies can obscure the difference between a proven fact and an exaggerated guess. Nefarious motives are not necessary for these problems to occur.

if leaders, commentators, academics, and clinicians cannot restrain the rush to judgment in the absence of reliable evidence, the proliferation of observational treatment comparisons will hinder the goal of finding effective treatments for COVID-19—and a great many other diseases.


I understand the argument, but if a clinician is getting good results for a course of treatment over a reasonably large (100?) number of patients, I, as another patient, want to know about that. I understand the concerns raised by the authors. Nevertheless, PMC gatekeeping has its own issues (most certainly including “profit motives”). Anyhow, when Fauci recommends a Big Pharma product based on a press release — oddly, not mentioned in the author’s parade of horribles — hasn’t the horse already left the barn?


“Does Parkinson’s Begin in the Gut?” [Scientific American]. “The microbiome, the totality of microorganisms in the human body, has spurred intense interest among Parkinson’s researchers. A number of reports have noted that individuals with the disease harbor a unique composition of gut microbes, and scientists have also found that transplanting fecal microbes from patients into rodents predisposed to develop Parkinson’s can worsen motor symptoms of the disease and increase alpha-synuclein aggregation in the brain.” • Read the article for nuance before going out and getting a transplant!


Police State Watch


“Chicago protests, looting may be contributing to police retiring at rapid rate, officers say” [ABC7]. “The recent unrest in Chicago may be one of the reasons police are retiring at a rapid rate. The policemen’s annuity and benefit fund says officers are leaving their jobs at double the rate than they were during this same time last year. Chicago police have been working 12 hours a day with vacation days canceled for much of the summer. They have been responding to protests, violence and widespread looting. While they are considered public servants, they are not feeling much appreciation from the public these days.” • War of attrition…




Class Warfare


“As Private Schools Set Up Outdoor Classrooms, Public Schools Hit Roadblocks’ [NY1]. “At the private Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, grassy lawns have been turned into outdoor classrooms, with chairs and desks under large tents. But public schools looking to move classrooms outdoors to protect students from the coronavirus are hitting roadblocks…. ‘Our schools may not have beautiful lawns and sports fields, but our streets near them are public streets. Just like we made them available for restaurants, we can make them available for schools,’ [Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander] said.”


“‘They deserve to be heard’: Sick and dying coal ash cleanup workers fight for their lives” [Southerly]. “For almost six years, he, along with roughly 900 others, helped clean up the nation’s largest coal ash spill an hour west of his doorstep. TVA’s own testing showed the utility knew the coal ash — waste material leftover from burning coal for electricity — contained toxic heavy metals like cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium, and radioactive materials, decades before the spill; an EPA pollution report from early 2009 shows TVA tested for radioactivity in ash and soil samples two weeks after the spill occurred and EPA found spikes in radiation above background levels. When reached for comment, TVA spokesperson Scott Brook stated, ‘The constituents of coal ash have been well-known for years, and TVA was transparent with this information throughout the Kingston recovery project.’ But an initial draft of the site safety plan made no mention of radioactive materials, and did not list heavy metals as constituents of fly ash aside from arsenic. Contractors working for the utility repeatedly assured cleanup workers that the ash, which floated in the air, coating their bare skin and lungs, was safe. Some workers testified the company refused to provide or allow for the use of protective suits or masks. ‘I was right proud of TVA until I went to work for them,’ Bledsoe said.”


“Giannulli sentenced to 5 months in college bribery scheme” [Associated Press]. • And the cops didn’t whack her when they picked her up, either.


“N.J. nursing homes got hundreds of millions of tax dollars to pay workers. So why are some cutting staff?” [NJ.com] • As the punchline goes: “Because they can.”


“What happened to American Protestantism?” [Alice Marshall, Medium]. “So what do I want from Protestant ministers? I am not sure. I certainly do not think that we should bring back the the stool of repentance. Nor do I think that using the pulpit to call for a political agenda will strengthen the spiritual life of the congregation. I certainly do NOT think that we should approach people during the after service coffee hour to berate them for their politics. Life is too short. So I don’t really know what our ministers should do, except somehow make clear that Christ really meant it, that we are called to follow the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, and while it is understandable that we fall short, we should not be content to earn our living by promoting endless war, pervasive surveillance, mass incarceration, for-profit health care, or environmental destruction.” • 



News of the Wired


“Development quotes of the week” [LWN.net]. “The software industry is currently going through the “disposable plastic” crisis the physical world went through in the mid-20th century (and is still paying down the debt for). You can run software from 1980 or 2005 on a modern desktop without too much hassle, but anything between there and 2-3 years ago? Black hole of fad frameworks and brittle dependencies. Computer Archaeology is going to become a full-time job.” • Leave those COBOL applications in place.


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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 (DK):



DK writes: “Prairie rose.”


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