2:00PM Water Cooler 5/17/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Evening Grosbeak Week at Naked Capitalism. Apparently, there are four types of Evening Grosbreak; these are dawn “chatters” and “trills” from type four.

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Biden Adminstration

“FDA authorizes Pfizer Covid booster for children 5 to 11 years old” [NBC]. “The FDA’s decision will now go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will make a recommendation about how the boosters should be used for the age group. The CDC’s independent group of advisers, known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, is expected to discuss the booster during a scheduled meeting Thursday. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to issue a final recommendation following that meeting. Shots could begin as early as Friday…. [Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] said the additional dose in children should raise antibody levels enough to provide a high level of protection against mild disease for at least ‘a few months.'” • Oh.

“The federal government is offering another round of free COVID tests” [NPR]. “Americans can once again order free COVID-19 tests from the federal government by visiting COVIDtests.gov. In this round, the U.S. Postal Service will deliver eight free rapid antigen tests to any household in the U.S. that wants them, according to the website. That brings to sixteen the total tests offered per household so far. The site suddenly appeared active Monday to offer the third round of free tests without a prior announcement. The White House is expected to make it official Tuesday, but the site was fully functional and taking orders ahead of time.” • Certainly a first for the Biden Administration.

“US Set to Extend Covid-19 Public Health Emergency Past July” [Bloomberg]. “The US government will extend the Covid-19 public-health emergency past mid-July, continuing pandemic-era policies as the nearly 2 1/2-year outbreak drags on. The Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly renewed the public-health emergency since implementing it in January 2020. The declaration allows the US to grant emergency authorizations of drugs, vaccines and other medical countermeasures, as well as administer those products to millions of people at no out-of-pocket cost. It’s also enabled millions of Americans to get health coverage through Medicaid, among other benefits. On April 16, HHS extended the public-health emergency an additional 90 days through mid-July. The declaration will be extended beyond that period, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public. That means various measures to relax restrictions in how care is accessed across the health system will continue. An HHS spokesperson said the public-health emergency remains in effect, and the department will continue to provide a 60-day notice to states before any possible termination or expiration.”


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From back in February: “One eye on midterms, Dems ease up on approach to virus” [Associated Press]. While Omicron was falling, but had not reached its “valley,” which came in April (see the case chart). “Democrats are now increasingly supportive of easing mandates as they struggle to address voter frustration with the lingering pandemic. They’re hoping a shift in policy could serve to blunt incoming political attacks with the midterm elections — when control of Congress is at stake — now less than nine months away.” • And whaddaya know. We eased up too soon again, with results that were entirely predictable.

“Fight or find common ground? Oregon race a referendum on the direction of Democrats” [Los Angeles Times]. “Soon Democrats will decide a series of primary contests — in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere — that will gauge not just the strength of the political left but also what little remains of the vanishing center in Congress. After a series of elections in which beating Trump was the epoxy holding Democrats together, the party has splintered along familiar lines, between those saying it needs to appeal more to the middle and others arguing Democratic success lies in rallying the liberal base.” Yes, let’s just erase the working class entirely. More: “That fight over strategy and direction will have one of its first tests Tuesday, when Schrader faces a stiff challenge from Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an attorney and emergency-response expert running as a progressive alternative to the party-bucking incumbent — or, as she describes it, as a real Democrat…. But the angry mood of many Democrats has made Schrader’s talk of bipartisan cooperation a much tougher sell. In an unusual move, four of the six county Democratic parties in the district have endorsed McLeod-Skinner, changing their rules to do so.” More: “McLeod-Skinner also claims Schrader has lost touch. Although Schrader owns a farm in Clackamas County, McLeod-Skinner scoffed at a campaign mailer showing the lawmaker outside a red barn bucking hay barehanded. ‘I’ve shaken your hand. You have very soft hands,’ she said during a joint appearance before the Willamette Week editorial board, which turned to discussion of the weight of hay bales and the technique for wrangling them. ‘People in central Oregon are laughing at those photos.'” • That’s gotta sting!

NY: “Crypto industry wields its influence in Washington after pouring over $30 million into campaigns” [CNBC]. “U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., called on New Yorkers to support the cryptocurrency market in a March op-ed in the New York Daily News titled, ‘A liberal case for cryptocurrency.’ ‘With a multi-billion dollar market capitalization, crypto is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. New York City should and must embrace crypto if it is to remain the financial capital of the world,’ wrote Torres, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee. Torres failed to mention two upcoming fundraisers industry backers were throwing for him in April. Crypto investors Ben Horowitz, Anthony Albanese and Chris Dixon — leaders at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz — hosted the “Ritchie Torres Ethereum Fundraiser” at the swanky private nightclub Zero Bond in New York City on April 13, according to invitations viewed by CNBC. One of the invites promised ‘cocktails and conversation’ with Torres, asking donors to contribute between $500 and $5,800 to attend the event. Another invite suggested donors contribute in ether, a type of cryptocurrency that’s trading at around $2,000.” • That’s nice.

PA: “News of Fetterman’s Stroke Brought Out the Best in His Senate Rivals. Will it Last?” [Time]. “[M]ost of Fetterman’s rivals—on both sides of the political divide—put out seemingly sincere wishes for his fast return. This is not always the case…. Part of this is attributable to timing. The primary is Tuesday, and many votes have already been cast. It’s never a good look—although it can be an effective one—to kick an opponent while he’s recovering. The results at this point in the primary give Fetterman an advantage that almost nothing could shake, although Democrats are privately skeptical of the polling that portrays him as an unstoppable force.” • It will be interesting to see whether Democrat loyalists would rather see Fetterman lose, or would rather keep control of the Senate. At the very least, this will be a tough call for them.

PA: “‘He is unconventional’: John Fetterman’s unique persona is put to the test in Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary” [CNN]. “This is not Fetterman’s first run for Senate or the first time his uniqueness has been a question headed into an election day — he ran and lost in 2016 to Democrat Katie McGinty. McGinty’s primary campaign manager, Mike Mikus, said their focus groups at the time showed Fetterman’s style was both a clear strength and a nagging question. Mikus said multiple women would comment in these groups about how a woman candidate ‘could never get away with dressing like that.’ ‘That happens with candidates like him. There are people who are just a little more traditional. Even if they want to buck the system, they still want someone who looks that part,” he said. “With some voters, he will have some work to do and he will need to convince them just because of the way he dresses and the way he looks and the tattoos that he is serious.'”

PA: “Democrats are getting crushed in rural areas. John Fetterman hopes to change that” [Yahoo News]. “The slogan on Fetterman’s campaign signs reads, “Every county. Every vote.” In areas like this, those votes have become increasingly harder for Democrats to get in recent years, making Fetterman part of a growing effort trying to win back rural electorates and motivate existing Democrats in the parts of the country where opinion of the party has curdled.” • The vote, after all, is statewide. So why not get some margin from Republican counties?

PA: “Summer Lee Faces AIPAC Spending Onslaught in Final Days of Pennsylvania Primary” [The Intercept]. “At the end of March, EMILY’s List, the Democratic organization that backs women candidates who support abortion rights, commissioned a poll to test the state of the U.S. House race in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. What they found heartened them: The group’s pick, state Rep. Summer Lee, enjoyed a commanding 25-point lead over her closest competitor, attorney Steve Irwin, drawing 38 to his 13 percent…. In less than a month, the United Democracy Project — the political action committee for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC — poured more than $1 million into ads in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. The bulk of the messaging attacked Lee.” • Ugh. No data on how the polls shifted, though.

PA: “GOP blame game erupts in Pennsylvania governor’s race” [Politico]. “With far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano on the verge of capturing the Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nomination, Republicans are lashing out, furious that he could cost them a shot at a competitive race in the perennial swing state. Last-ditch efforts to stop Mastriano seemed doomed from the start. But the final blow likely came on Saturday, when former President Donald Trump threw his support behind Mastriano, who has been one of the chief boosters of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and was also at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Some prominent Pennsylvania Republican individuals and donors are even considering publicly supporting Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee, if Mastriano wins the primary, several party sources told POLITICO.” • What fun.


“Possible 2024 contender Nikki Haley returning to Iowa for Randy Feenstra fundraiser” [Des Moines Register]. “‘Randy Feenstra is a bold, conservative voice for rural America and hardworking Iowa families,’ Haley said in a statement. ‘Since day one, he’s delivered on his promises to uplift farmers and small business owners, and punch back against Pelosi’s socialist agenda. I’m proud to call Randy a friend and can’t wait to see everyone at the Feenstra Family picnic this June!'” • Pelosi’s socialist agenda… I wish! (So we are to assume the Iowa caucus will remain as first in the nation?)

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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“Lawyer Marc Elias takes center stage in Durham trial” [Washington Examiner]. How odd that there’s no detailed coverage like this in the Times or WaPo. “Marc Elias, the top lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is expected to testify today in special counsel John Durham’s case against Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann. Elias, who last year started the Elias Law Group, was the Clinton campaign’s general counsel and hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele in 2016. Elias testified he was aware of Fusion’s plans to have Steele brief reporters during the 2016 contest, met with Steele in 2016, and periodically briefed the campaign about the findings from Fusion and Steele. Elias coordinated closely with his former Perkins Coie law firm colleague Sussmann on anti-Trump research in 2016….. Sussmann was charged last year with concealing his clients, Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and ‘Tech Executive-1,’ known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe, from FBI general counsel James Baker when he presented debunked allegations suggesting a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank during a September 2016 meeting. Durham said members of the Clinton campaign, Fusion, and Perkins played a coordinated role in pushing collusion claims and that Elias was part of the ‘joint venture’ in 2016. Sussmann and Elias worked for Perkins at the time, and Fusion pushed Alfa-Bank claims, too.” • IANAL, but “joint venture” seems like a way to jackhammer apart the layers of indirection and cutouts that liberal Democrats typically surround themselves with.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“AP Exclusive: Black Lives Matter has $42 million in assets” [Associated Press]. “The foundation started by organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement is still worth tens of millions of dollars, after spending more than $37 million on grants, real estate, consultants, and other expenses, according to tax documents filed with the IRS. In a new, 63-page Form 990 shared exclusively with The Associated Press, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. reports that it invested $32 million in stocks from the $90 million it received as donations amid racial justice protests in 2020. That investment is expected to become an endowment to ensure the foundation’s work continues in the future, organizers say… The tax filing shows that nearly $6 million was spent on a Los Angeles-area compound. The Studio City property, which includes a home with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a soundstage and office space, was intended as a campus for a Black artists fellowship and is currently used for that purpose, the board member said…. For all the questions raised about its oversight, the BLM foundation’s tax filing shows its stewards haven’t squandered donations. Instead, it granted tens of millions of dollars to BLM chapters, Black-led grassroots organizations and families of police brutality victims, whose names rallied the larger movement. ‘This 990 reveals that (the BLM foundation) is the largest Black abolitionist nonprofit organization that has ever existed in the nation’s history. What we’re doing has never been done before,” said Shalomyah Bowers, who serves as the foundation’s board secretary.” • The house still looks bad. But that money is actually being disbursed is a positive note. Being skeptical, I would want more detail on who, exactly, these “Black-led grassroots organizations” are.


I’ve been treating the charts as topic areas and putting relevant snippets of content under them. But I’m afraid readers miss the snippets. So I decided to put bullets in front of the snippets in the #COVID19 section, as here:

• Maskstravaganza:

Propaganda works….

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Lambert here: I am but a humble tape-watcher, but if some trusting, non-realist soul tells you that “Covid is over,” you can tell them that cases are up, transmission is up, test positivity is up, hospitalization is up, rapid riser counties are up, and wastewater is up, too. And this is all from data designed to support the narrative that “Covid is over,” and gamed within an inch of its life. So, if signals like that are flashing red, consider what the real signal must be like. (Note also this is all with BA.2 only, and with what the establishment considers an “immune wall” made from vaccination and prior infection. Since semper aliquid novi Africam adferre, and we’ve let ‘er rip at the airports…. Well, I just hope we get lucky with BA.4 and BA.5. “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” –Otto von Bismarck.

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If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case count by United States regions:

The train is really rolling, now. Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out. Also remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. One source said they though cases might be undercounted by a factor of six. Gottlieb thinks we only pick up one in seven or eight. The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. The blue “Biden Line” shows what the case count would be if it were 91,000 * 6 = 546,000, i.e. not gamed.

• ”Why the fight against COVID appears to have stalled in the U.S” (interview) [Eric Topol, PBS].

So we have trouble right now. As you mentioned, we are seeing at least 600,000, 700,000 real cases a day, and, likely, it’s going to continue to increase in this country as we confront this so-called BA.2.12.1 variant, one of the several of the Omicron family.

So the flames are rising from Topol’s hair even more than they are from mine; his Biden Line would be even higher.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

Worth noting that cases have doubled tripled in four weeks.

• Like “Yankee candle reviews,” signaling loss of sense of smell:

Interesting anecdote. And can any readers, heaven forfend, confirm?

• “CDC to all domestic travelers: Test close as possible to departure time” [CNN]. “The agency now urges all domestic travelers to “consider getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than three days) before your trip,” according to its Covid-19 website updates this month.” • This is so pathetically weak (or functionally democidal, take your pick).

NOTE I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Commentary:

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

Going vertical?

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.

Cases lag wastewater data.

From Biobot Analytics:

The other thing I’m not liking is that big time lag with the variants. April 27? I want to know about BA.4 and BA.5 (dubbed “variants of concern” by The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week, but not WHO). This is the CDC’s readable report on variant proportions:

But as you can see, the most recent two weeks are based on CDC’s “Nowcast” model, and I don’t trust CDC models. There is a second report on variant proportions immediately below this one, which does not use the Nowcast model, but it’s incredibly poorly designed, and not readable. So, up your game, Biobot. (It has occurred to me that Biobot, as a very small company, is experiencing growing pains, and data is their last concern. It should not be!)

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

This map is bouncing around as badly as the hospitalization map! Now both the West Coast and the Northeast are worse! I’m not liking the increased sprinkles of red dots in the South, either.

The previous release:

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

The Northeast remains stubbornly and solidly red. Now California is red as well. The Upper Midwest is moving that way, too.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

This map is very dynamic! Now the orangization has bounced around down South. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,026,899 1,026,109. Still down and way too high. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Broadly down, but is that a data thing with Mexico? (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

Stats Watch

Retail: “U.S. Retail Sales” [Trading Economics]. “Retail sales in the US increased 0.9% mom in April of 2022, following an upwardly revised 1.4% surge in March and matching market forecasts. The reading showed American consumers continued to spend despite stubbornly high levels of inflation although it was the smallest gain in retail trade in four months.”

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial production in the United States rose 1.1 percent from a month earlier in April of 2022, marking the fourth consecutive month of gains of 0.8 percent or greater. It follows a 0.9 percent increase in March and compared with market expectations of a 0.5 percent rise. Manufacturing output advanced 0.8 percent, the same as in the prior month and above market expectations of 0.4 percent.”

Capacity: “United States Capacity Utilization” [Trading Economics]. “Capacity Utilization in the United States increased to 78.99 percent in April from 78.22 percent in March of 2022. It is the highest rate since December of 2018 and above market forecasts of 78.6 percent. Capacity utilization for manufacturing increased 0.6 percentage point to 79.2 percent, the highest level since April 2007.”

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Commodities: “Panic Grips Billion-Dollar Trade Over Russian Diamond Ban” [Bloomberg]. “Russian mining giant Alrosa PJSC supplies about a third of the world’s raw gems, and US sanctions against the company are causing panic in the industry. Firms from Tiffany & Co. to Signet Jewelers Ltd. have announced plans to suspend sales of Russian diamonds. With wedding season looming in America, desperate delegations have been seeking a workaround from India, the world’s largest exporter that cuts and polishes nine of 10 stones. The US relies on India for close to half its diamonds. That makes New Delhi an unmatched stakeholder in managing the fallout and keeping shops on Fifth Avenue stocked. Disruptions could crimp supplies across North America and cost India $2.5 billion this quarter, or nearly 10% of its annual sales. As pandemic restrictions ease, Signet and other jewelers expect 2.5 million weddings in the US this year, the highest number in four decades.” • More superspreading events….

The Bezzle: “Whereabouts of Terra’s Bitcoin Reserve a Mystery After Transfers” [Bloomberg]. “The $3.5 billion in Bitcoin purchased as a reserve by the foundation set up by the creators of the failed Terra blockchain became untraceable after it was moved to two cryptocurrency platforms, according to blockchain forensics firm Elliptic. What happened to the cryptocurrency held in reserve may become a key question if investors seek to recoup losses suffered in the wake of the collapse of the blockchain. ” • Commentary:

The Bezzle: “The feds finally caught someone trying to use crypto to escape sanctions” [Protocol]. “In a strongly worded ruling that suggested more than a passing familiarity with the caps-lock key, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui approved the first Justice Department criminal complaint against a U.S. citizen accused of using crypto in violation of sanctions Friday. The defendant, who remains unnamed, is accused of transferring $10 million in bitcoin to either Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Russia. ‘Issue One: virtual currency is untraceable? WRONG … Issue Two: sanctions do not apply to virtual currency? WRONG,’ the judge wrote in a nine-page opinion.” More: “Faruqui, a former prosecutor who pursued crypto and darknet cases, has opinions that map closely to the views of Web3 participants, reflecting a sophistication about decentralized technologies that’s still rare in legal and government circles. His opinion could bring further awareness to the issue, along with testimony from FinCEN and other crypto-savvy law enforcement agencies.” • Hmm.

The Bezzle: How’s that workin’ out for ya:

The Bezzle: “Goldman Agrees to Settle Suit Over 1MDB for $79.5 Million” [Bloomberg]. “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. agreed to a $79.5 million settlement with shareholders who blamed lax oversight by the bank for its costly involvement in the 1MDB bribery scandal…. The 1MDB scandal has already cost the bank more than $5 billion globally, including $2.9 billion paid to US regulators. In 2012, Goldman issued $6.5 billion worth of bonds to 1MDB, a Malaysian development company. The bonds were earmarked for redevelopment but all but $2 billion of the money was diverted to pay bribes to government officials, federal prosecutors said. In 2020, a Goldman unit admitted to conspiring to violate US anti-bribery laws. It was the first guilty plea ever for the 153-year-old firm.” • The “shareholders” seem to be the “Fulton County Employees’ Retirement System.” So, naturally.

Tech: “Musk: no spam account data, no Twitter deal” [Reuters]. ” Elon Musk says his Twitter takeover won’t move ahead until the social network can prove it has less than 5% spam accounts.” • Is this how deals work? Don’t you do your due diligence before making the deal?

Transportation: “The New Jet Set: How the COVID-driven boom in private jets is still flying high” [Reuters]. “A shift toward private flying that more wealthy Americans saw as a necessary luxury during COVID-19 is now showing signs of becoming something else: a pricey but sought-after alternative to a premium ticket on a commercial flight. Many stayed for the convenience, with analysts and industry executives saying they see both more first-time jet owners and families and even small- and medium businesses flying private. Airlines had an 80% share of premium travel in 2021, down from 90% before COVID-19, according to Alton Aviation Consultancy. Business jets were often associated with entertainers and top executives. They now account for a quarter of U.S. flights, roughly twice the pre-pandemic share, according to research and consultancy WINGX.”

Manufacturing: “China Southern says delivery timetable for Boeing 737 MAX jets not confirmed” [Reuters]. “Bloomberg, based on Ma’s comments, reported on Monday that the airline, Boeing’s biggest Chinese customer, has removed more than 100 of the MAX jets from its fleet.” • Oh good. After RyanAir’s blast: “There has been very poor delivery for the last two years, and we think they need management changes on the civilian aircraft side because the management team in Seattle is not delivering. It has not delivered for two years and they’re not up to the job…. Boeing keep missing delivery dates.”

Labor Market: Speaking of the labor force participation rate:

Greenhalgh asks a good question:

All? Except vaccination (Big Pharma) and “contactless services” (the banks)?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 15 Extreme Fear (previous close: 12 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 10 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 17 at 12:45 PM EDT. Mr. Bitcoin still sad?

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

Class Warfare

“Capitalism, not racism” (correspondence) [The Lancet]. “[T]he primary logic underpinning the western world order is not “that Black and Brown life is worth less”.1 The primary logic of the world order is that profit is valued more than human needs. Although racist ideologies can and did acquire considerable autonomy, they developed in large part to justify rampant capitalist exploitation and imperialism. Racist ideologies are more than ideological superstructures, but they can only be understood fully in the context of the political economy of the world system.”

News of the Wired

“Farm machinery exacting heavy toll on soil – study” [BBC]. “The weight of modern combine harvesters, tractors and other farm machinery risks compacting the soil, leading to flooding and poor harvests, according to researchers in Sweden….Thomas Keller, professor of soil management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden, says machinery should be designed not to exceed a certain load. ‘Compaction can happen within a few seconds when we drive on the soil, but it can take decades for that soil to recover,’ he said. However, the heft of modern harvesters is outweighed by long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs such as brontosaurus, which once roamed the Earth. This raises a conundrum: how did the extinct creatures thrive in the ecosystems they likely altered as they stomped across the ground? Prof Thomas Keller suggests the giant plant-eaters might have stuck to paths, using their long necks to reach out for nearby vegetation. ‘We think that maybe they didn’t just walk around randomly across the landscape,’ he explained.”

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) 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. From Angie Neer:

Angie Neer: “I believe this is an Alder, in the process of releasing its seeds, aided by Pacific northwest rain. Sorry about the shallow depth of focus, Lambert ;-)” This is lovely, including the bokeh :-)

Readers, I blew past actually including the image yesterday. Here it is!

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NOTE ON PAYPAL: As some readers may know, PayPal whacked Consortium News’s account, for no justification that I can see. It’s to be hoped that Consortium News has its account completely restored, and that NC doesn’t come under the same ban hammer. In the meantime, until I/we can come up with an alternative, I must continue to rely on PayPal (and rely I do). I will be cleaning out the account daily, and PayPal does give a heads-up, so your risk is minimal. Please carry on as before, or, if you feel you must, write me and I will send you directions for sending a check. Please put “PayPal” in the subject line. Thank you for your support! It is much appreciated, and helps me with responsibilities. –lambert

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Basil Pesto

      NB that China regularly, competently clears the pandemic-causing virus and requires none of those things to do so.

      In this pandemic, Topol has been the kind of fool who is always a day late and a dollar short.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > NB that China regularly, competently clears the pandemic-causing virus and requires none of those things to do so.

        First, China has a real problem with elder vaccination. That’s why the lockdowns (which I support BTW) are so hard. Further, nasal vaccines hold out the hope of being sterilizing, getting us out of the endless loop of “competently clearing.”

        Second, you are correct, NC readers have understood all the points Topol is making for some time. However, with respect to conventional wisdom, Topol is bleeding edge. So there is a place for him.

        1. Basil Pesto

          My concern with the nasal vaccines, although I have been hopeful about them for a while as you have (in fact, thanks to you!) is that two things will happen, somewhat related to each other: 1) it will kick the can down the road, the virus will spread around much of the rest of the world because there’s no way the whole world is getting vaccinated with the intranasal vax, and covid resurfaces as a problem 5-10 years down the road. The respite would be magnificent, but is ‘vax and done’ enough even with a largely effective sterilising vaccine? and 2) will any other disease control be undertaken to minimise the prevalence of SARS2 around the world once a sterilising intranasal vaccine has been introduced? GM has pointed out elsewhere that the smallpox vaccine alone was not enough to achieve eradication of smallpox and a lot of hard work in USSR and “3rd world” was done to really get on top of smallpox – and the smallpox vaccine was actually good! But that was a long time ago, in a different world, with different priorities. The tendency for magical thinking leaves me worried (when, it bears repeating, we already “have the tools” to definitively exit the pandemic, to coin a phrase, just not the political climate for doing so, or the realism reauired to understand the nature of the problem which, yes, as NC has been saying from the beginning, requires a total war-like social mobilisation with all the war-Keynesianism that that entails)

          It will, though, be interesting to see what will happen to China’s ‘dynamic zero’ policy if a capable intranasal/mucosal immunity vaccine is developed

  1. Carolinian

    Nikki Haley aieeee…. Just had to let that out.

    As Sarah Palin might say to her would be copycat: “how’s that 787 thing workin’ out for ya?”

    Nik probably thinks Miriam Adelson will buy her the nomination

    1. rowlf

      About five years ago some of the Russia adjacent bloggers were calling Haley The Rogue Waffle House Waitress after her statements in the UN on Syria didn’t match the State Department’s and the bloggers wondered who Haley was working for.

      After the antics of the Kagans, Haley, Vindman, Blinken etc (Lambert’s vicious toddlers) I am warming up to the theme of the Derp State in the US government.

  2. Cat Burglar

    I am in Central Oregon, and I am laughing at the hay bale ad. If you have a few animals, you might use little bales you can lift — horse hay often comes that way. But if you raise enough cows to make a living at it, you use big bales, lifted by tractor.

  3. Ranger Rick

    Had a bit of a chuckle last night. I had the occasion to look up the specifications for what the US government considered the “standard chocolate chip cookie” and wound up on NIST’s Standard Reference Materials page, which has the disclaimer that they are no longer shipping to Ukraine, Belarus or Russia. The global reach of US government institutions continually surprises me.

    (The answer I was looking for was credited to the USDA, where the “standard cookie” used for deriving nutrition information apparently weighs 1.33 ounces after baking.)

  4. Mildred Montana

    >Tech: “Musk: no spam account data, no Twitter deal” [Reuters]. ” Elon Musk says his Twitter takeover won’t move ahead until the social network can prove it has less than 5% spam accounts.” • Is this how deals work? Don’t you do your due diligence before making the deal?

    “Is this how deals work?” Yes, if it’s Elon Musk.
    “Don’t you do your due diligence before making the deal?” No, not if it’s Elon Musk.

    Used to be that stock manipulation was a crime. Not today, with the SEC senile, toothless, blind, and deaf. Musk must have a good laugh every day as he watches the stock prices of Tesla and Twitter gyrate in accordance with his puppeteering.

    1. GramSci

      My bet is that Biden, Blinken, or Blob told Elon’s banks to tell Elon that if he ever wants another U.S. contract, he should find a way to back out of the Twitter deal.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        Elon is the offspring of the Blob and the billionaires. He’s in perpetual “terrible twos.”

    2. wilroncanada

      Musk isn’t buying a house or even a Tesla, he’s buying the world. That kind of deal doesn’t require due diligence, father it requires a renegability clause. The effectiveness of the renegability clause depends on the relative power of the reneghead.

      1. orlbucfan

        Musk better make sure he cozies up to the Murdoch cabal. He’ll need the international PR. What a lowlife fruitcake he is!

    3. The Rev Kev

      Maybe Musk’s finances took a hit with that Crypto implosion recently so by this ploy of demanding spam account data, he is shifting attention to Twitter and not to him and his ability to finance such a buy out.

  5. Wukchumni

    Another invite suggested donors contribute in ether, a type of
    cryptocurrency that’s trading at around $2,000.” • That’s nice.

    So, this is what Y2K was all about?

    Book tip:

    My Adventures With Your Money written in 1913

    From the foreword:

    You are a member of a race of gamblers. The instinct to speculate dominates you. You feel that you simply must take a chance. You can’t win, yet you are going to speculate and to continue to speculate—and to lose. Lotteries, faro, roulette, and horse-race betting being illegal, you play the stock game. In the stock game the cards (quotations or market fluctuations) are shuffled and riffled and STACKED behind your back, AFTER the dealer (the manipulator) knows on what side you have placed your bet, and you haven’t got a chance. When you and your brother gamblers are long of stocks in thinly margined accounts with brokers, the market is manipulated down, and when you are short of them, the prices are manipulated up.


    1. Henry Moon Pie

      The deal is done so you slip right in.
      You got the deck, but you can’t win.
      The cards are cold, and the cut feels thin.
      You got the deck, but you can’t win.

      You must be crazy
      To gamble this way.
      Your kids are hungry,
      And your rent ain’t paid.
      Gamblin’ man, ramblin’ fool,
      I must be crazy to gamble on you.
      Gamblin’ man, you’re a ramblin’ fool.
      I must be crazy to gamble on you.

      “Gamblin’ Man” as covered by the great Ms. Bonnie Raitt

      The scariest thing is that it’s seems more and more like the people who rule our country are big on doubling down every time they screw up.

      1. Wukchumni

        The scariest thing is that it’s seems more and more like the people who rule our country are big on doubling down every time they screw up.

        Biggest mistake gamblers make is they bet too little when they’re winning and too much when losing, so that is par for our course.

        The story goes that Howard Hughes thought he could outlast the casinos when gambling on account of him being able to chase losses because of his extreme wealth, but saw the error of his ways and bought into casinos in Pavlovegas instead.

  6. antidlc

    RE: “The federal government is offering another round of free COVID tests”

    This comes as COVID cases in the U.S. have risen more than 60% in the past two weeks and hospitalizations have begun to climb again as well. “As the highly transmissible subvariants of Omicron drive a rise in cases in parts of the country, free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus,” explains a White House fact sheet.

    “Free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus.”

    Well, gee, maybe if you think real hard you can think of other measures that will help slow the spread.

  7. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – I still don’t see yesterdays picture you said you were including above.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      The AP article contains much if not all of the same information as the Examiner article, but frames it quite differently. To be polite, it seems to be going out of it’s way to cast Cullors, et. al. in the best possible light.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > BLM doled out millions to Patrisse Cullors’s family and friends, IRS filing shows

      That is why I wrote “Being skeptical, I would want more detail on who, exactly, these “Black-led grassroots organizations” are.”

  8. marym

    Some union news:

    Apple – 05/17/2022

    “Today we filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against @Apple
    for violating the NLRA by holding captive audience meetings to counter the ongoing union drive at the Cumberland Apple store in Atlanta.”

    “Apple retail employees in Atlanta are accusing the company of violating the National Labor Relations Act by holding captive audience meetings to counter an ongoing union drive at the site. The Communications Workers of America, which is working to organize the store, filed an unfair labor practice reporting the activity earlier today. Workers at the Cumberland Mall Apple store filed for a union election in April. They say that while they love the company, they want to have a bigger say in their compensation, benefits, and store health protocols.”

    Trader Joe’s – 05/14/2022

    Trader Joes United @TraderJoesUnite
    Today, we the crew of Trader Joe’s in Hadley MA announced our intent to form a union. Here is our open letter to CEO Dan Bane.

  9. LaRuse

    “Propaganda works….”
    Oh boy, does it. Last week, after my immune-comped, obese, and diabetic husband learned he had yet ANOTHER close contact COVID while he was unmasked indoors hanging out with friends, I suggested that maybe he reconsider masking again, numbers being what they are and all his high risk factors. He explained to me that “Actually, the science now shows that masks really don’t do anything to stop you from getting COVID. You might as well accept that you are going to get it eventually.” (2.5 years in and we haven’t caught it so far – why? Because we have worn masks since March 13, 2020 thanks to NC!) Even the fact that FINALLY the CDC “community tracker” has moved our county into Yellow from the Sea of Green means nothing to him because the website only says “talk to your doctor about whether you should wear a mask.”
    I have worked SO hard to keep him safe and now it is out of my hands. He chooses not to mask indoors anymore. He thinks I am “hysterical” for masking everywhere and that I would be better off just getting over with it and getting sick. That I love running and am fearful of Long Covid taking that outlet from me doesn’t cross his mind. “Just get it and be done with it!” Never mind that we know numerous people on their 3rd or 4th infections currently.
    It’s depressing that I cannot convince him to simply mask up – he went and got his fourth vax on Saturday and really believes that’s all he needs to stay well.
    The propaganda is the reason I will never vote for Biden or any of his ilk ever again. Not even Trump could make me pull the lever for Biden in 2024.

    1. The Rev Kev

      For what it is worth, I am truly sorry to hear the situation that you find yourself in with your husband. I can only hope that you keep yourself strong so to be there for him if he falls sick.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I have worked SO hard to keep him safe and now it is out of my hands. He chooses not to mask indoors anymore. He thinks I am “hysterical” for masking everywhere and that I would be better off just getting over with it and getting sick.

      CDC doing its job, eh?

      Sorry to hear about this. The only practical thing I can suggest is a Corsi-Rosenthal box indoors. Since he seems determined to get it, no doubt he will, but you don’t have to share his air.

    3. Basil Pesto

      very sorry about this :(

      alas, these interpersonal strains and difficulties are another severe negative “externality” of this ongoing disaster

  10. digi_owl

    Yeah that racism is a “smokescreen” there to keep the lower classes from ganging up on the higher ones, as lower outnumber higher massively.

    If one look into the history of colonial Africa one find the same thing, where the colonists fed the various tribes the idea of the others being of lesser birth and out to get them. This then getting the tribes to fight each other rather than join up to remove the colonists.

  11. Louis Fyne

    — “Retail sales in the US increased 0.9% mom in April of 2022, following an upwardly revised 1.4% surge in March and matching market forecasts. The reading showed American consumers continued to spend despite stubbornly high levels of inflation although it was the smallest gain in retail trade in four months.”—

    Or maybe CPI is under-estimating inflation? (as some corners of the economics blogosphere have been screaming for 15+ years).

    Just a thought.

    1. ambrit

      I have always wondered if the “Headline Figures” are adjusted for inflation or not, and, by which definition of ‘inflation.’ Since, if I remember correctly, retail sales are figured by dollar amount, undercounting the “official” inflation amount would tend to give a false reading of increased sales, no?
      Just asking for 330 million friends.
      Theoretical inflation versus experiential inflation.

    2. LifelongLib

      One possible clue: my late parents built their first (and only) home for $16k in 1960. According to the CPI calculator, that’s about $139k in 2020 dollars. Yet the same home sold in 2020 for $740k. Obviously its price didn’t just increase because of general inflation. So even if the CPI is accurate in some overall sense, just looking at that doesn’t tell anything like the whole story.

    3. LawnDart

      In comments this morning, a possible response to your question:

      Inflation is worse than it looks

      The government recently announced that the 12-month rise in the CPI slowed from 8.5% in March to 8.3% in April. But this is not good news, as inflation is actually getting worse.

      People have become used to thinking of inflation in a “let bygones be bygones” fashion. Don’t cry over spilled milk; let’s focus on the inflation rate going forward. That might be appropriate under the Fed’s old inflation targeting regime, but is not appropriate under average inflation targeting…


      1. Wukchumni

        A couple of volcanoes blowing up real good in Iceland in 1783 to 1785 so screwed up the supply chain on account of bad harvests bringing food inflation to the point where a days worth of bread cost 50% more than a day’s salary in France, leading to the ‘Let them eat cake’ quote.

        I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow, and wonder what went up 10% in a fortnight since I bought the same food item?

        In no way shape or form are incomes keeping up with inflation.

        1. HotFlash

          Sitrep from Toronto. I went grocery shopping today, for us and for a neighbour. I bring her the sale flyer (no longer delivered) and she often gets a few things on sale. Campbell’s soup, 1.29 — that’s the sale price. Kellogg’s corn flakes, — none on the shelf and none out back *and* cashier lady told me “we don’t do rein checks anymore b/c of the food shortages”. Similarly, some mixed nuts at a good price, nowhere to be found in the store and I bugged no less than four staff. I realize this must be difficult for store managers, but really, corn flakes!!!???

          Me? I just bought what they had at a good price and planted more potatoes, incl sweet potatoes (just found out they can be grown vertically, thank you youtube), peas, and beans. There may or may not be real food shortages, but there will definitely be higher prices.

  12. Pat

    I was stupid.

    I work closely with one other person, in my part time job. The space we work in is about eight hundred square feet with an eighty square foot bathroom. There are two large hepa air filters running 24/7 in the large space and one small one in the bathroom. He is usually in the office about an hour and a half every day I work. I mask everywhere except my home and that office.

    His neighbor went into the hospital for something not Covid related. I did not start masking. Like I said stupid. Last week he started complaining about a sore throat. And I started slamming extra zinc, d3, and either black seed oil or the drug that cannot be named. He let me know that he was positive on Sunday and he wouldn’t be around. I still went in, but got hit with massive fatigue. I didn’t test positive until yesterday. Today I have the sore throat from hell, nausea, fatigue and body aches. We will see what tomorrow brings.

    I love him but he is an older curmudgeon who despite knowing they are helpful hates masks. I shouldn’t have cared and should have masked up the moment I knew about the hospital, rather then depend on larger space and filtration systems.

    Don’t do what I did.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > should have masked up the moment I knew about the hospital, rather then depend on larger space and filtration systems

      Layered protection is where it’s at. Never rely on only one defense.

    2. ChiGal

      thanks for the PSA and be kind to yourself in every respect. sending good vibes for healing your way.

  13. haywood

    Re: Democrats are getting crushed in rural areas. John Fetterman hopes to change that

    I like the guy, but it’s not clear to me whether Fetterman is the kind of candidate who can pull in rural votes or whether Fetterman is the kind of candidate who Dem consultants think can pull in rural votes.

  14. Big River Bandido

    So we are to assume the Iowa caucus will remain as first in the nation?

    Iowa Democrats got pawned by their own national organization. Iowa Republicans probably won’t see that as a reason to sacrifice their first-in-the-nation status…especially since their caucus will likely be the only one that matters in 2024.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “Panic Grips Billion-Dollar Trade Over Russian Diamond Ban”

    Sanctions are for now. Diamonds are forever.

  16. JTMcPhee

    More business and private jets in US, now 20% of all flights. With what net carbon footprint?

    In other news:

    US sends thousands of shoulder-fired anti aircraft missiles (MANPADs) into soon to be former Ukraine, many already showing up in black markets (maybe in addition to “terrist” armories, to also become implements of corporate warfare?)

    What could possibly go wrong?

    And of course the Dark State would never use these unattributable devices in the creation of ever greater volumes of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, now would it?

    More stupid effing human tricks…

    1. Acacia

      > What could possibly go wrong?

      Indeed. For a little preview of what’s to come in Western Europe, try a Google image search of the following French words together: braquage convoyeur fourgon.

      Why would these guys waste a perfectly good shoulder mounted rocket launcher on a Russian tank when they could hit something much more profitable?

  17. Garden Breads

    Mexico COVID case drop may be due to Cinco de Mayo. I suspect everything stops there including testing and data recording.

    1. Greg

      We can deduce from that astounding choice of imagery that any azov members who are not returned via prisoner exchange have instead been raptured. The wolf’s angel is only worn by angels.

      1. MakeItMakeSense

        Reading the comments, it seems Pat Lang might need his stomach pumped after what appears to be a Koolaid overdose.

        1. doug

          He keeps standing in and replying in the comments. Dug in. And yes, the picture at the top was over the top.

        2. Procopius

          Bear in mind Pat Lang and TTG are two different people, whose opinions are not always the same.

  18. tegnost

    The management in Seattle… yeah let’s blame it on them…
    If it’s boeing I ain’t going…

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