2:00PM Water Cooler 11/22/2021 | naked capitalism

This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 1561 donors have already invested in our efforts to combat corruption and predatory conduct, particularly in the financial realm. Please join us and participate via our donation page, which shows how to give via check, credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Read about why we’re doing this fundraiser, what we’ve accomplished in the last year, and our current goal, more original reporting.

Patient readers, my review of Gabe Brown’s Dirt to Soil took longer than I expected, as happens when I get interested. So this Water Cooler will be shorter than usual. I’ll make it up to you tomorrow, I swear! –lambert

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

* * *


Since I decided to do regional case counts today, I eliminated some other charts, so Water Cooler wasn’t completely dominated by charts.

Vaccination by region:

Still chugging along. (I have also not said, because it’s too obvious, that if by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well on vax.)

59.1% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 21. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Panama in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). We are back to the stately 0.1% rise per day. I would bet that the stately rise = word of mouth from actual cases. However, as readers point out, every day those vaccinated become less protected, especially the earliest. So we are trying to outrun the virus…

Case count by United States regions:

A dip, fortunately. Let’s see if it was due to the weekend (although California is down and the South steadied), Here are regional breakdowns:

The West:

California way down, Arizona up, Colorado slowing. But Washington, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, and Nevada, having jumped, settle down.

The South:

The South, after a jump similar to the West’s, settles down.

The Midwest:

Holy moley, Michigan! Ohio and Wisconsin rising. Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri flatten.

The Northeast:

Ulp. New York jumps. Pennsylvania rising. Massachusetts flattens, but we seem to have a day of missing data. Maine up. New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Connecticut flatten.

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

* * *

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). “Here is today’s version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above. The last time CDC updated the data, oddly enough, is 11/6, i.e. before the jump in cases.

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. But maybe we’ll get lucky, and the problem, if indeed it is a problem, will go away before Thanksgiving travel begins.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Yikes. As I wrote: “It would be really bad if the case count jumped just as the students headed home for Thanksgiving.”

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

* * *


“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 Mice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“Biden nominates Jerome Powell for second term as Federal Reserve chairman” [NBC News]. “President Joe Biden on Monday renominated Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve chairman, ending months of speculation over who would run the central bank for the next four years, the White House announced in a statement. Powell had drawn ire from some progressives who have pushed the central bank to expand its dual mandate of keeping people at work and prices in check, and focus more on climate change and racial equity. Some Democrats also had argued that he has been too hands-off as a bank regulator. Fed governor Lael Brainard was nominated to serve as vice chair, the White House also announced.”

About Build Back Better’s childcare and pre-K provisions, which CAP structured a lot like the ObamaCare exchanges:

Obama Legacy


For what? Golf?

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index jumped to a 3-month high +0.76 in October of 2021 from -0.18 in September, pointing to a pickup in economic growth, led by improvements in production related indicators…, as industrial production surged 1.6%, rebounding from a 1.3% drop in the previous month.”

* * *

Inflation: “43 percent in new poll say Biden spending package will make inflation worse” [The Hill]. • Regardless of any actual inflation, the distinctly non-organic propaganda is having the desired effect.

Inflation: “Jason Furman on Red-Hot Inflation and What To Do About It” (podcast) [Odd Lots]. “Inflation is hot. You can debate why that is, or how long it will last, or who is to blame, or whether elevated inflation is a worthwhile price to pay for a fast recovery. But, regardless, it exists. So what now? Should the Fed pivot into inflation fighting mode? On this Odd Lots, we speak with Jason Furman, an economics professor at Harvard, and the former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama. He thinks inflation will come in hotter than expected next year, and that it’s time for the Fed to ease off the gas pedal somewhat. We talk about the issue, its causes, and his preferred policy path going forward.” • Since Furman is from Harvard, and former Chair of the CEA under Obama, obviously we should trust him as far as we could throw a concert grand piano. Furman also speaks with a smile in his voice, which is all the more reason to scream and run; what the heck does he have to smile about? However, I like Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway, and Weisenthal is an MMTer.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 67 Greed (previous close: 69 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 82 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 22 at 1:08pm. Mere greed now.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Oil Supply/Price. “Oil prices have declined in the past few weeks” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

The Biosphere

“Slime” [Granta]. “Some forms of matter seem to unite the properties of solids and liquids. For example, cats: which category do they fall into? The answer should be an easy one, physically speaking: solids retain their shape, while liquids fill their container. Cats seem unequivocally to be solids, until they demonstrate their aptitude for easily slipping into the smallest of gaps, almost flowing into them. The French physicist Marc-Antoine Fardin researched, tongue-in-cheek, the physical classification of cats between solid and liquid, touching on his specialist area of rheology, the study of the flow of matter. In 2017 he was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize, a not altogether serious award for suitably original research. Matter which exists somewhere between solid and liquid is not restricted to cats, though, and slime is its most important embodiment in nature. It is protean in its behaviour; it is the material of interfaces and has a unique place in our imaginations. We are all creatures of slime, but some of us are more creative than others: there is a menagerie of oozing organisms to be found in all the world’s habitats, frequently changing these environments to suit their needs – by leaving their glistening marks. It may also be a surprise to discover that microbes were not only the dominant, but also the only form of life on Earth for billions of years, with slime, as the éminence gluante, propping up their power and setting in motion processes across the globe which still shape it today. The long reign of slime concerns the supposedly boring stages of evolution which preceded the emergence of the first animals. Popular portrayals often neglect this seemingly endless span of time, but slime was paving the way for life on Earth then, particularly for higher organisms like us. It may even have facilitated our very existence. It is a legacy we humans prefer to ignore. Here, we benefit from slime’s hidden nature, with its visible manifestations banished inside our bodies. ”

Health Care

“Association of regional Covid-19 mortality with indicators of indoor ventilation, including temperature and wind: insights into the upcoming winter” (preprint) [ResearchGate]. “The local minimum of Covid-19 mortality at room temperature likely relates to window opening and less indoor crowding when it is comfortable outside. Below freezing, all windows are closed, and further cooling increases stack ventilation (secondary to indoor-outdoor temperature differences) and thereby decreases Covid-19 mortality. Opening windows and other tools for improving indoor ventilation may decrease the spread of Covid-19.” • Remember this for Thanksgiving! Here is a diagram of stack ventilation (“your house is a chimney”):

No doubt there are actual ventilation specialists who can correct me, but I think that in figuring out how to ventilate your Thanksgiving table, there are two considerations: (1) Maximize the vertical draft upward toward the ceiling (say, by opening a window on the second floor, or a vent in the roof, and (2) minimize cross-drafts across the table, because that means that one side of the table will be breathing the other side’s air. You can visualize the drafts by using a candle or a smoky incense stick (exactly as when you detect drafts when insulating the house). I also think that a Corsi box would not go amiss.

Thanksgiving Prep

“The extreme consequences of stuffing yourselves during the holidays” [Popular Science]. “Between ‘full’ and reflexive vomiting—the body’s final defensive strategy for overfullness—there is a lot of room for holiday overeating.” • News you can use!

Guillotine Watch

“Billionaire Economy Is Booming With Private Jets in Short Supply” [Bloomberg]. “The hunger for pricey jets is just the latest example of the booming billionaires economy, where demand for mansions, boats and many collectibles has surpassed pre-Covid levels. The number of superyachts sold this year through mid-October increased by about 60% to 523 from the same period last year, according to research from SuperYacht Times. More than a quarter of those purchases were for new vessels.” • Well, I’m sure all the interior appointments are vegan. Leather is so déclassé.

Class Warfare

“How Child Care Became the Most Broken Business in America” [Bloomberg]. And it’s a crowded field. “[C]hild care doesn’t work like a normal business. Looking after young children comes with a litany of regulations to ensure the programs are safe. There are square footage requirements, zoning restrictions, earthquake preparedness plans, fire safety codes, CPR certifications, nutritional guidelines, rules about parking and outdoor space, liability insurance. The priciest regulation is a child-to-staff ratio requiring one caregiver for every three or four infants, depending on the state. That’s a lot of employees, and it explains why quality care for one baby costs more than many families can afford. Cheaper options are often unlicensed and unregulated, and parents have no guarantee their kids are secure. Because babies are so expensive, a lot of businesses simply don’t accept them. Others charge less than it costs to look after them and load up on older children. According to child-care availability studies, almost 80% of spots are reserved for kids 3 years and older, because they’re subject to more lenient staffing requirements, making them cheaper to care for.”

News of the Wired

“An Archaeological Dig Reignites the Debate Over the Old Testament’s Historical Accuracy” [Smithsonian]. On King Solomon’s Mines: “But Ben-Yosef wondered why nomads 3,000 years ago would necessarily have been the same as modern Bedouin. There were other models for nomadic societies, such as the Mongols, who were organized and disciplined enough to conquer much of the known world. Perhaps the Edomites, Ben-Yosef speculated, simply moved around with the seasons, preferring tents to permanent homes and rendering themselves ‘archaeologically invisible.’ Invisible, that is, but for one fluke: Their kingdom happened to be sitting on a copper deposit. If they hadn’t run a mine, leaving traces of debris in the shafts and slag heaps, we’d have no physical evidence that they ever existed. Their mining operation, in Ben-Yosef’s interpretation, reveals the workings of an advanced society, despite the absence of permanent structures. That’s a significant conclusion in itself, but it becomes even more significant in biblical archaeology, because if that’s true of [Israel’s rival] Edom, it can also be true of the united monarchy of Israel.” • If any. Another field undergoing paradigm shifts. Or not! Very interesting!

“Chemical emitted by babies could make men more docile, women more aggressive” [Science]. “Scientists have argued for decades over whether humans have pheromones, chemical compounds that trigger aggression and mating in insects and other animals. Although the notion has great popular appeal—search Amazon for “pheromone” and you’ll get the idea—there’s scant evidence for this kind of signal in our species. A new study could change that. Researchers have identified an odorless compound emitted by people—and in particular babies—called hexadecanal, or HEX, that appears to foster aggressive behavior in women and blunt it in men. “We cannot say that this is a pheromone,” says study author Noam Sobel, a neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science. “But we can say that it’s a molecule expressed by the human body that influences human behavior, specifically aggressive behavior, in a predicted manner.” Humans emit HEX from their skin, saliva, and feces, and it’s among the most abundant molecules babies emit from their heads. When researchers isolated the odorless compound and piped it into mouse cages, it had a relaxing effect on the animals, says Sobel, who studies the role of scent in human interactions. To test how HEX affects people, Eva Mishor, who earned her Ph.D. in Sobel’s lab, created a series of computer games designed to evoke intense frustration—and a measurable response to it—in 126 human participants…. Sniffing HEX did not calm all the participants down, but had different impacts on men and women, the team reports today in Science Advances. Women exposed to the chemical behaved 19% more aggressively in the noise-blast task, whereas men were 18.5% less aggressive.” • So, is HEX… water-soluble?

* * *

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 (IM):

Looks like there ought to be a gnome sheltering under one of these mushrooms, smoking a pipe.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Source link