By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Back to our top five problem states: Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona, with New York for comparison:

This chart includes new cases and positivity. Positivity is concerning. In terms of undercounting as measured by positivity (higher is bad), the order from worst to best would be AZ, FL, GA, TX, CA, at 7.46%, is still too high by WHO standards (they want 5%). So all the states are making progress in testing, especially Arizona (20.2%) but all have a way to go.


“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. July 28: Still no changes.

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!


Biden (D)(1): The Biden ground operation, reported by alert reader km. Hoisted from comments:

I recently drove from North Dakota to central Michigan and back, passing through Minneapolis, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan (which is the second largest city in that state), as well as rural areas, suburbs, and smaller towns.

I saw quite a few Bernie bumper stickers.

I saw a metric crap-ton of Trump hats, shirts, flags, stickers, yard signs, tricks, trinkets, tchotchkes, and whatnot of every description. They probably sell Trump ladies’ underwear, if I knew where to look.

Apart from those, I also saw a lot of performatively “Guns God and Freedumb” patriotic displays that didn’t directly reference Trump, but left no mistake as to the owner’s sentiments. I also saw frequent references to supporting the Q cult. Not many Qultists are planning to vote for Biden, just saying.

I saw a total of one (1) Biden yard sign (in rural Indiana, albeit a heavily unionized part of Indiana). I did not see any Biden bumper stickers, etc.. I did see quite a few BLM and related yard signs, including in conservative western Michigan.

NOW: I am willing to believe that the polls are off, even if they are probably not as far off as some people claim. There probably are some “shy Trump voters” out there, but I’ll need to see some evidence before I believe that there are enough such people to give Trump the election.

That’s not why I’m writing. While nobody gets an extra vote just because they own a MAGA hat, if Trump loses, people who identify so strongly with Trump, people who wear Trump outfits head to toe, drive Trumpmobiles, festoon their yards with Trump flags and signs, get Trump tattoos and rename their kids “Don Jr.” “Ivanka” and “Barron” are not likely to say “Oh well, I guess we lost fair and square, then. Better luck in 2024!”

For that matter, many of the people who think that Trump has a direct line to Jesus are armed to the teeth.

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea to simultaneously deindustrialize the heartland and flood it with weapons.

Trump (R)(1):

I think anybody who looks seriously at our electoral system should have no confidence in it whatever, and that’s before COVID. Still, the date of the election was set in law in 1845. Come on, man.

Trump (R)(2): “Why Trump Might Quit” [Politico]. “The Trump-drops-out scenario hinges on the assumption that Trump is less concerned with wielding the levers of government than he is preserving his role as disrupter at large in American politics over the next decade. The latter might be much easier to maintain if he avoids being tattooed as loser in November—especially if the margin is larger than could be attributed, even by his most conspiracy-minded supporters, to media bias or vote-counting manipulation by Democrats. The scenario hinges also on an assumption that Trump’s political project is more weakened internally—in the psychological sense—than it is even in the external sense, as measured by polls and campaign coverage.” • Trump isn’t getting “earned media” these days, unlike 2016. Quite the reverse.

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About time:

Alert reader UserFriendly tells me this is very depressing. On the Lincoln Project:

Bitecofer is quite the self-promoter.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Near and Present Anarchy” [The Baffler]. • A helpful taxonomy:

In State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, Harvard’s Robert Rotberg writes that while every country is different, the signposts tend to be the same. It is worth attending to the characteristics he describes. They should sound familiar:

  • In a weak state, basic services such as education and health are privatized; public facilities decline. Infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, shows signs of neglect, particularly outside of major cities. Journalists and civil society activists are harassed. Tensions among ethnic, religious, or linguistic groups increase, but widespread violence does not erupt—yet.
  • In a failing state, a single leader gains control of the legislature, law enforcement, and the judiciary. The leader and his cronies are enriched while ordinary citizens are left without basic services.
  • In a failed state, living standards deteriorate rapidly. Citizens feel they exist only to satisfy the ruler’s greed and lust for power. The potential for violence increases as the state’s legitimacy crumbles.
  • Finally, in a collapsed state, warlords run the country. The market rules to the exclusion of any other concerns, while the social compact has been completely eroded. “The Id is unleashed.”

Intriguing, but where do the billionaires fit in?

“When conservatives become revolutionaries” [Damon Linker, The Week]. “Just how dark and desperate is the right becoming? So much so that it is now increasingly common to find conservative writers flirting openly with ideas that clearly point in the direction of outright political radicalism — including talk of civil war, permanently purging liberals from political office and positions of cultural influence, the need for revolutionary action, and hopes for a ‘refounding‘ of America using ‘regime-level power.’ This is how political actors talk when they have lost faith in the legitimacy of the political opposition and begin dreaming of overthrowing the system as a whole in favor of one that will be more inclined to place people like themselves in (potentially permanent) positions of power.” • “People like themselves….”

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.

GDP: “Advance Estimate 2Q2020 GDP Drops Deeper In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The advance estimate for second-quarter 2020 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a negative 32.9%.” Holy [family blog]. More: “This growth is a significant decline from the previous quarter’s decline of 5.0 % if one looks at quarter-over-quarter headline growth. The year-over-year rate of growth also significantly declined and now is deep in contraction. The coronavirus is the reason for the decline – and pushed GDP deeper into contraction. I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but my year-over-year preferred method showed a significant decline from last quarter.” • A pretty deep V, if indeed a V it is.

Employment Situation: “25 July 2020 Initial Unemployment Claims Increase To 1,434,000 This Week” [Econintersect]. “The pandemic has so far caused a 54,416,000 job loss. Likely more half of this number are now employed or have dropped out of the workforce as the continuing claims number is 17,018,000]. Of the 1,434,000 jobs lost this week, the BLS says 829,697 were due to the coronavirus (versus 936,073 last week)…. The four-week rolling average of initial claims is 540 % higher than one year ago (versus the 531 % higher last week).”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 25 July 2020 – Mixed Data But Still Deep In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “Intermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. declined, and remains deep in contraction.”

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Manufacturing: “COVID production rates ‘firm’ up” [Leeham News and Analysis]. “The 737 is muddled. Boeing will slow the ramp to 31/mo in 2022. The 450-470 stored 737s (the number varies depending on who is talking) must be delivered on top of the initial low-rate production. Based on information, the 737 is currently being produced at a rate of about 7/mo. Boeing expects to increase the production rate gradually in 2021. Boeing said it hopes to deliver the inventory within about a year. This equates to about 39/mo with 470 stored aircraft. This seems optimistic. Some of the storied aircraft are now white tails following canceled orders and the collapse of some airlines. Demand also doesn’t seem to support this delivery rate. Nor does it seem to support the delivery rate for the A320. Airbus has 145 airplanes in inventory now, produced for customers that can’t accept them.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 68 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 30 at 11:41am. Solid greed.

The Biosphere

Public service announcement from Swamp Yankee on the Chinese seeds, hoisted from comments yesterday. Besides not planting them:

If you don’t want them to germinate and grow, do not put them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Both systems have some “volunteer” seedling presentation. When I lived in New Orleans, the absolute biggest and best tomatoes I ever saw were growing in a spoil bank in the New Orleans Parish Waste Water Treatment plant which was at the parish line next to Jefferson Parish. These monster plants were growing out of a pile of sludge cleaned out of one of the settling ponds.

Mysterious seed packets from China isn’t a subplot I would have expected. Frankly, I think 2020’s showrunners have lost their minds.

Health Care

“Some scientists are taking a DIY coronavirus vaccine, and nobody knows if it’s legal or if it works” [Technology Review]. “[I]n what appears to be the first “citizen science” vaccine initiative, [Preston Estep] and at least 20 other researchers, technologists, or science enthusiasts, many connected to Harvard University and MIT, have volunteered as lab rats for a do-it-yourself inoculation against the coronavirus. They say it’s their only chance to become immune without waiting a year or more for a vaccine to be formally approved.” It’s a nasal vaccine, so at least the delivery mechanism is smart. More: “A vaccine delivered into the nose could create what’s called mucosal immunity, or immune cells present in the tissues of the airway. Such local immunity may be an important defense against SARS-CoV-2.” That makes sense: A recent study showed how the attack of the virus grows progressively weaker, from initial seeding in nasal tissues (very strong) down to the lungs (weaker). Of course, if the attack on the lungs succeeds, that’s very bad! More: “But unlike antibodies that appear in the blood, where they are easily detected, signs of mucosal immunity might require a biopsy to identify… So far, the group can’t say if their vaccine works or not. They haven’t published results showing that the vaccine leads to antibodies against the virus, which is a basic requirement for being taken seriously in the vaccine race. Church says some of those studies are now underway in his Harvard laboratory, and Estep is hoping mainstream immunologists will assist the group.” • Here is the RadVac Group’s white paper. I’m torn between liking the DIY ethos + skepticism of Big Pharma and Big Science vs. the possibilty that these people are arrogant [family blog]s high on their own supply, kinda like Elon Musk proposing tiny submarines to rescue the Thai cave boys.

“States are running out of doctors and nurses as COVID-19 surges” [Ars Technica]. “Researchers estimate that more than 100 percent of intensive care doctors [in Arizona and Texas] will be needed to care for COVID-19 patients alone in August. Eleven other states are facing staffing strain, the researchers also reported. That means more than 50 percent of the states’ intensive care doctors may be required to support COVID-19 patients in the coming months. ‘The news media [have] largely focused on hospitalizations and the danger of depleting the ICU bed supply, but staffing these beds may be an even greater problem,’ the researchers write in the report. ‘New beds can be set up in other hospital units, or even outside the hospital setting, but it takes time to find highly specialized ICU professionals.’ The report also noted that the pandemic will also stress current staff, who will have to work more and harder shifts to care for the influx in patients. That in turn could lead to more burnout and more infections among health care workers.”

“Six U.S. states see record COVID-19 deaths, Latinos hit hard in California” [Reuters]. • Deaths lag, as NC readers know.

“Confused Republican Louie Gohmert Wonders If Wearing a Mask Led to Positive COVID Test” [Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone].

“It is interesting,” Gohmert said, “and I don’t know about everybody, but when I have a mask on I’m moving it to make it comfortable, and I can’t help but wonder if that put some germs in the mask. Keep your hands off your mask? Anyway, who knows?”

Blaming his mask for his positive COVID test result probably doesn’t even crack the top five dumbest things he’s said since he joined Congress in 2005.

What’s really unfortunate about this piece has been that both the writer and the editor are too busy watching themselves in the mirror while they dunk on Gohmert to add an editorial note — just as a simple public health measure for the sake of dull normal readers — that fiddling with your mask is indeed bad. For example, you should remove your mask by the earpieces because if the mask is doing its job it might have trapped some SARS-COV-2 on the front (which is what Gohmert, in his crackpot way, is struggling to articulate). So who are the stupids, here? Anybody remember this series from back in the 90s?

Allard and Marshall should write a new book called “The Stupids Do Covid.” And it won’t feature only Republicans. It really would not have been hard to add that little editorial note.

Police State Watch

Cam tactics:

Not clear to me why the police are in essence publishing a How-To guide for taking out cams — and any professional would look to Hong Kong anyhow — or why the young lady wasn’t in bloc. There she is, right on camera!

“ICE Agents Complain About Nazi Comparisons, Say They’re Only Enforcing the Laws” [Newsweek]. • Too easy.


“Hundreds of Toxic Superfund Sites at Risk of Flooding, Study Finds” (video) [The Weather Channel (ambrit)]. “A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists warns that hundreds of toxic Superfund sites could flood in the next two decades and put the health of millions at risk.”


“Joe Rogan says grinding games is “a waste of time” for most people” [Dexterto]. “Joe Rogan, the immensely popular comedian and podcast host, described video games as a ‘waste of time’ for most people, during his episode with author, fitness guru and businessman Joe De Sena…. ‘Video games are a real problem,’ Rogan said. ‘They’re a real problem. You know why? Because they’re f**king fun. You do them, and they’re real exciting, but you don’t get anywhere.’ Rogan contrasted video games with Jujitsu, and stated that someone who put significant effort into running a martial arts school would likely be experiencing success after 3 years of grinding. In episode 1514 of JRE, He argued that someone who grinds video games for the same amount of time is still unlikely to be earning money from that particular pursuit.” • “Grinds”?

“Nintendo, Disney, and Cultural Determinism” [Matthew Ball]. “‘whale’ monetization is the core driver of mobile games today. Only 4% of Candy Crush players, for example, spend on the game. And 10% of this 4% (or 0.4% of users) generate 50% of revenue. As a result, even minor adjustments in whale optimization can devastate economics. According to WSJ, CyberAgent, the developer of the Nintendo-based mobile title Dragalia Lost, “slashed its fiscal-year earnings forecast for the first time in 17 years in January due in part to the game’s disappointing performance. While player numbers for the game have grown due to an aggressive advertising campaign, revenue from each player has fallen short of projections.” An anonymous official at CyberAgent told the Journal, “Nintendo is not interested in making a large amount of revenue from a single smartphone game… If we managed the game alone, we would have made a lot more.” Notably, Disney should share Nintendo’s brand concerns in mobile gaming. But this has not stopped the company from releasing basic games that generate billions from whale monetization. Its brand, albeit not one based in games, does not seem to have suffered. Nor has the Pokémon franchise in the years since the ultra-lucrative (and whale-supporting) Pokémon Go.” • A power curve with a long tail. Familiar!

“Watch Your Medicine: Video Game Therapy for Children With ADHD” [JAMA]. “The first video game therapy to treat children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was given a nod. Prescription-only EndeavorRx is indicated for children aged 8 to 12 years who have an attention issue.” • This seems little… circular.

Groves of Academe

“A three-year bachelor’s degree” [American Enterprise Institute]. “[I]f there is a benefit for higher education that can come from COVID-19, then it might just be some soul-searching and even repentance about what we have been buying with the second-highest expenditure per student in the world. College students, regardless of their majors or professional programs, need a rigorous liberal arts core curriculum. That curriculum must efficiently develop college-level skills and knowledge in the arts and sciences disciplines that are necessary for success in a dynamic and demanding workplace and for a lifetime of informed citizenship. Individual and national success will hinge on mathematical, scientific, economic, and historical literacy; excellent writing skills; and the ability to navigate foreign languages. Students also need a faster track for their undergraduate education that gets them into the workforce quickly and saddles them with less debt. That is why everyone, especially conservatives, should support reestablishing a solid core curriculum, taking an ax to the vast menu of distribution requirements and electives, and shortening the undergraduate degree from 120 credit hours to 90 credit hours—allowing determined students to graduate in three, rather than four, years. A good core curriculum should be built around requirements, not a cafeteria line of choices. It needs to include formal expository writing, literature, a college-level mathematics course, a natural science course, an economics course, a survey in US history or government, and three semesters of a foreign language.” • So long as the economics isn’t mainstream. We can talk about the canon later….

Class Warfare

“Two months since the riots, and still no ‘National Conversation’” [Michael Tracey, Medium]. “Yes, civil unrest has of course occurred before. But the riots of 2020 exhibited features which belie any easy historical parallel. For one thing, consider their enormous geographic scope. While the most extreme riots in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and particularly Minneapolis did receive considerable attention — however fleeting, incomplete, and unnecessarily inflected with knee-jerk partisanship — there were also smaller-scale riots in surprisingly far-flung places that you hardly would’ve known about unless you lived in the area, happened to visit, or intentionally sought out what remains of the bare-bones local media coverage. To take just a small sampling: Atlantic City, NJ, Fort Wayne, IN, Green Bay, WI, and Olympia, WA all underwent significant riots, at least per the normal expectations of life in these relatively low-key cities. Did you hear anything about them? Because I hadn’t, and I’m abnormally attuned to daily media coverage. Only because I personally visited did I learn of the damage…. Complicating matters is that the riots occurred in tandem with a protest movement now believed to be the largest ever in U.S. history — one which saw demonstrations, vigils, and general rancor extend even into the most unassuming expanses of suburban and rural America…. But it’s also clear that the severe ramifications of these riots have been widely ignored — if not consciously obfuscated — by a media class that was near-unanimous in its approval of the accompanying protest movement. That they could have so quickly ‘moved on,’ particularly from the wreckage of Minneapolis/St. Paul — where residents commonly told me that their lives are still in ‘agony’ — is galling.” • I know Tracey is a “contrarian” — that is a bad thing to be, now — but this article is well worth a read, and the cumulative effect of the photographs is impressive (like Chris Arnade). My intuition for some time has been that the riots and the protests are simultaneous only, and that the protests were also two factions operating in parallel: the anarchists and (for want of a better word) the reformers. I wish I knew the demographics of the “Wall of Moms.” I reacted badly to the leafblowers, remarkable though the spectacle was, because they struck me as a suburban marker. But perhaps my knew was jerking. Again, well worth a read.

News of the Wired

“Let’s Talk About Circus Peanut Jello Salad, One of the Weirdest Retro Recipes Out There” [Southern Living (DJG)]. “Of all the strawberry pretzel, tropical stained glass, Christmas cranberry, and tomato aspic gelatin salads we Southerners are used to having crash every family holiday celebration, there is one retro congealed salad that eludes even the most experienced of Jell-O mold eaters. For most, it might appear as only a distant memory, a flash of bright orange in a casserole dish, topped with a confusing peanut-shaped candy, no less. After all this time, who else is still hopelessly befuddled by Circus Peanut Jello Salad? This classic congealed salad recipe is made with the peanut-shaped, fluorescent orange marshmallow candies known as Circus Peanuts, which were made popular in the 19th century as penny candy. The reason why this particular jello salad confuses us more than any other mold—okay, maybe except jellied chicken salad—comes down to one thing: Circus Peanuts make absolutely no sense at all. Do they taste like peanuts? Absolutely not. Why are they banana-flavored? No clue. Is the obscenely neon orange color necessary? Heck no. But do we still succumb to the sentiment of this retro congealed salad made with canned pineapple and Cool Whip? Of course, you Negative Nancy.” • No, let’s not. I have always hated what I now understand are called “Circus Peaunts,” for the reasons given. Also, the article insists on repeating the phrase “congealed salad.” I wish they wouldn’t have.

They’re trying to send us a message:

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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: “From July 1 – this white bloom stalk came out overnight. Don’t know what it is, but the garden always has new flowers popping out as others, like the roses, fade away.” AM’s mother-in-law thinks it’s a yucca. I’m not so sure.

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