2:00PM Water Cooler 6/16/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I wish I could add more orts and scraps on Covid, but I must hustle along and finish up a review of Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Ocellated Thrasher, Huahuapin, Oaxaca, Mexico. “General climate: DRY.”

* * *


“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration


I guess it’s time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Why Trump Did It” [Jack Shafer, Politico]. “Remember those guys in high school — it was almost always boys — who got a buzz from smashing windows, or sending firecrackers down flushing toilets, or throwing rocks at dogs and cats, and shoplifting for the pure rush of it? They didn’t have a reason for their vandalism or malice, they just lacked the “impulse control,” as the school shrinks liked to say, to inhibit whatever imagined mayhem or destructive mischief popped into their brain. Former President Donald Trump is that guy, six decades older, but still that guy. He thrill-seeks. He breaks the law for entertainment. He thinks the rules apply to other people, not him. Brawling with societal norms, he must believe, raises his status in the pecking order. Normally, teenagers grow out of this behavior and stop joy-riding in stolen cars, bullying the weak and generally acting like a juvenile delinquent. But the latest indictment shows, as if we needed convincing, that Grandpa Trump has only grown into the behavior. How else to explain his great classified document caper?” • Or “rational management of symbolic capital”?

“Karl Rove in Journal op-ed: Trump ‘will pay a high price’ in Mar-a-Lago case” [The Hill]. “‘Unlike Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s charges of falsifying business records, this indictment is devastating in its rigor of evidence and the seriousness of the alleged crimes,’ Rove wrote. ‘Even so, the case will further tear our country apart, as it has a heavy impact on the presidential campaign and—wrongly—undermines confidence in our justice system.’ ‘The blame for this calamity rests solely on Mr. Trump and his childish impulse to keep mementos from his time in the Oval Office, no matter what the law says,’ he added.” • Another way of saying this is that Trump could be an accelerationist. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. At all.

* * *

Meanwhile, Mayo Pete jets into Philly to check on the I-95 collapsed bridge:

* * *

“Cornel West Discusses His Presidential Campaign” (audio) [Black Agenda Report].

GP ballot access:

I was wrong to say that the GP solved West’s ballot access problem (which the People’s Party could never have done). But at least the GP has an apparatus for addressing it.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

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.

* * *

“The Label of ‘Extreme Right’ Has Become an Instrument to Repress Disagreements” (excerpt) [Glenn Greenwald]. “But look at what he actually said. Doing so will reveal how empty the phrases ‘left’ and ‘right’ have become in American discourse: just weapons for stigmatizing dissent. To label someone ‘far right’ now reveals almost nothing about one’s actual views or ideology. It is simply a means for maligning anyone who rejects the western neoliberal consensus and who questions U.S. institutions of power.” • Democrats never label anybody “extreme left” because they’ve done their job, and destroyed whatever left there is (at least in electoral politics).

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Election officials sound the alarm about violence against poll workers” [Politico]. “Seven battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — accounted for nearly 60 percent of all threats of physical violence that election workers reported to a federal task force on election threats. Of the more than 1,000 contacts reported as hostile or harassing by the election officials, approximately 11 percent of those contacts met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation.”

“Killing the Myth of The Guy You Want to Have a Beer With” [Dave Infante, Men Yell at Me]. “In 2009, then-President Barack Obama orchestrated a White House meeting between a Black Harvard professor and the white policeman who had, just a few weeks prior, wrongfully arrested him on his own property in Cambridge, Massachusetts…. [The White House] acceded to the Cambridge police department’s request to include then-VP Joe Biden in the meeting to make sure the white cop wouldn’t be outnumbered by Black men. Very cool and normal stuff! Also cool and normal, and relevant to our purpose: to consummate this neoliberal exercise in classless racial harmony, all four men drank a beer together…. 14 years later, Obama’s ‘beer summit,’ as the mainstream press breathlessly branded it at the time, has held up about as well as his track record of extrajudicial drone killings, environmental destruction, and corporate coziness. Which is to say: not well!” As for “the beer question”: “pundit-class consensus dates this particular mode of superficiality and juvenility at the ballot box to 2004, when George W. Bush won reelection against sentient Lincoln Log John Kerry. Even with ‘the fetid albatross of the Iraq War dangling from his neck,’ wrote Seth Stevenson for Slate in February 2016, Bush ascended because he seemed chill and down to earth.” More: “I want to highlight a less obvious shortcoming of the ‘beer-as-political barometer’ doctrine. Using the ‘guy I want to have a beer with’ test of a political candidate supplants adversarial scrutiny of that candidates’ actual politics with a sort of parasocial fandom willfully ignorant to this country’s deteriorating material conditions of existence. Politicians are not your friends! It’s weird to treat them like drinking buddies, celebrities, or—god forbid—sex symbols! They are supposed to be improving your life, not handing you a High Life!” • Well, yeah. That won’t stop our famously free press from repeating the trope, though! (Thanks for the reminder on “The Beer Summit.” What a farce that was!

“How key SBC decisions on abuse, women pastors raise fundamental questions on church identity” [The Tennessean]. “Local church autonomy is central to Southern Baptist identity. Unlike other denominations with a top-down hierarchy, the SBC believes national leaders can’t tell an individual Southern Baptist church what to do.” • Ah, “identity.”


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort.

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *


“Evaluation of Mask-Induced Cardiopulmonary Stress” (research letter) [JAMA]. N = 30. China. “Given that the N95 mask offers the highest level of protection against viruses such as COVID-19, we systematically evaluated the effects of extended use of the N95 mask during daily life…. With the use of stratified randomization, participants were randomly assigned to receive interventions with and without the N95 mask (9132; 3M) for 14 hours (8:00 to 22:00), during which they exercised for 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon using an ergometer at 40% (light intensity) and 20% (very light intensity) of their maximum oxygen consumption levels, respectively….. The findings contribute to existing literature by demonstrating that wearing the N95 mask for 14 hours significantly affected the physiological, biochemical, and perception parameters…. Although healthy individuals can compensate for this cardiopulmonary overload, other populations, such as elderly individuals, children, and those with cardiopulmonary diseases, may experience compromised compensation.” • I think I would want to see actual effects on the populations for which harm is suggested. Where’s the evidence that people do not, in fact, compensate successfully?

Testing and Tracking

“Study: At-home rapid COVID tests may miss many infections” (press release) [CalTech]. “New research conducted at Caltech suggests that in many cases, rapid tests that use a nasal swab provide false negatives—suggesting that a person is infection-free even though other parts of their respiratory tract are teeming with the virus. … Researchers in [Rustem] Ismagilov’s lab tracked viral loads in three places in the human body during the course of a COVID-19 infection: the nose, the throat, and the mouth. Because the nose, throat, and mouth are so closely connected, one might expect to see similar virus levels in those locations. That turns out not to be the case…. At the beginning of the pandemic, the gold standard for testing was the deep nasal swab (PCR test) administered by a medical professional, which is highly sensitive and accurate but uncomfortable for many people and slower to provide results. As the pandemic progressed, people more and more relied on at-home nasal rapid antigen tests, which can be performed without the assistance of a medical professional and provide results in as little as 15 minutes. However, in their study, the Caltech researchers found that most people showed a delay of several days between when the virus first appeared in the throat or saliva and when it appeared in the nose. Importantly, 15 of the 17 study participants had high and presumably infectious levels of virus for at least a day prior to getting a positive antigen test.” • Hmm. Everything I’ve read convinces me that the virus first lodges in the nasal tissues. So I presume the mouth/throat – nose sequence is an artifact of proessional swabbing vs. “lay” swabbing?

Scientific Communication

“Repeat the truth, don’t lead with a lie” [Teams Human]. “The ‘truth sandwich’ means leading with the facts and repeating the correct information. It’s probably the only way to debunk lies without helping to promote them…. Planck’s Principle isn’t the only route forward — progress does not depend solely on funerals or replacing all the pundits & public speakers — as Planck himself demonstrated, people are capable of change. And the ‘truth sandwich’ is a low effort and simple method that we can all use to avoid this common pitfall. And anyone can get familiar with other marketing and influence strategies. This is needed against a very cognitive savvy opposition. The big shots should especially consider it because of their own potential halo effect. And because the side of truth, science, equity, and salubrious ideals, really needs to do better — lives depend upon it.”


“‘We’re drowning and we’re alone’: a qualitative study of the lived experience of people experiencing persistent post-COVID-19 symptoms” [CMAJOpen]. N = 41. “Whereas policy and practice increasingly emphasize the importance of self-management within the context of post-COVID-19 symptoms, new investments that enhance services and support patient capacity are required to promote better outcomes for patients, the health care system and society. Pandemics leave ‘long tails’ in their wake — substantial numbers of survivors likely to experience high levels of symptom burden and disability, decreased quality of life, high rates of health care utilization, potentially reduced life expectancy and reduced economic productivity. … The personal, health care, economic and societal impacts resulting from post-COVID-19 symptoms will become increasingly apparent as the numbers of people affected rise. Disability is anticipated to account for most of COVID-19’s burden and to disproportionately affect women, especially those who were infected at a young age.”

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

Elite Maleficence

Just look at those smiles:

To answer the highlighted question, yes, we could, but then we wouldn’t have a functioning PMC. (Love the banner on the table, though. Certainly a “new era”!

“Pandemic Necropolitics: Vulnerability, Resilience, and the Crisis of Marginalization in the Liberal Democratic State” (forthcoming) [Stefania Achella & Chantal Marazia, ed., Vulnerability in Post-pandemic. Medicine, Politics, Humanities]. “Vulnerability, marginalization, and resilience in the pandemic and in an eventual “post-pandemic” state are examined through the lens of Achille Mbembe’s theory of necropolitics. The central claim made is that vulnerability and marginalization are products of a covert and intentional politics of death. It is also argued that for the vulnerable and marginalized, the pandemic does not demarcate between a previous normal and eventual normal state, but is rather, an escalation of a persistently abnormal state. A final claim is that reflection on the fate of the vulnerable and marginalized must resist a Kantian impulse to find and urge resilience and focus instead on a direct attack on the necropolitics that sustains suffering for this population.” • Might we look at necropolitic as “original accumulation” but from the human body?

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data from June 15:

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, June 10:

Lambert here: Looks to like XBB.1.16 and now XBB.1.16 are outcompeting XBB.1.9, but XBB.1.5 has really staying power. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell. Looks like the Walgreens variants page isn’t updating.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from June 10:

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, June 12:



Death rate (Our World in Data), from June 14:

Lambert here: Theatre of the absurd. I can believe that deaths are low; I cannot believe they are zero, and I cannot even believe that all doctors signing death certificates have agreed to make it so. Looks to me like some administrative minimizer at WHO put the worst intern in charge of the project. And thanks, Johns Hopkins of the $9.32 billion endowment, for abandoning this data feed and passing responsibility on to the clown car at WHO.

Total: 1,166,899 – 1,166,818 = 81 (81 * 365 = 18,250 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

Excess Deaths

Excess deaths (The Economist), published June 16:

Lambert here: Still some encouragement! Not sure why this was updated so rapidly. The little blip upward?

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

* * *

The Bezzle: “Music publishers accuse Twitter in $250M lawsuit of copyright infringement” [Axios]. “The National Music Publishers’ Association accused Twitter in a lawsuit Wednesday of repeatedly violating copyright law by allowing users to post music to Elon Musk’s platform without permission. ‘Twitter fuels its business with countless infringing copies of musical compositions, violating Publishers’ and others’ exclusive rights under copyright law,’ alleges the NMPA’s lawsuit, brought on behalf of 17 music publishers that represent some of the world’s biggest artists…. While platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have licensing deals, Twitter does not and this ‘breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators’ and gives it ‘a valuable and unfair advantage over its properly licensed competitors,’ according to the suit.”

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin climbs as BlackRock files for ETF backed by the cryptocurrency” [MarketWatch]. “Bitcoin rose Thursday afternoon as BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, filed an application for an exchange-traded fund backed by the cryptocurrency. The largest crypto gained over 2% over the past 24 hours to around $25,665 on Thursday, according to CoinDesk data. The coin rallied over 50% so far this year, but is still down about 60% from its all-time high in 2021.”

The Economy: “Machine Tool Orders Down Nearly 40%” [American Machinist]. “U.S. machine shops and manufacturers’ new orders for machine tools fell -38.7% from March to April, totaling $336.7 million in the latest monthly U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders report. That figure also represents a -34.4% drop from last April’s total, and brings year-to-date manufacturing technology orders to $1.72 billion, a -13.6% decrease from the January-April 2022 total. The USMTO is a monthly report by AMT – the Association for Manufacturing Technology, summarizing nationwide and regional demand for metal-cutting and metal-forming and -fabricating machinery. It is a forward-looking indicator of overall manufacturing activity, as machine shops and other manufacturers make capital investments in preparation for demand expected in the weeks and months ahead. ‘March has traditionally been one of the better months for manufacturing technology orders, so April is typically a ‘down month’; however, this April was disproportionately off,’ stated AMT president Douglas K. Woods.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 82 Extreme Greed (previous close: 81 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 77 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 16 at 1:04 PM ET.

Book Nook

“The Final Triumph of Cormac McCarthy (1933-2023)” [The Honest Broker]:

p>So why did the culture arbiters at legacy media give these books so little attention?

I could come up with many reasons:

  • A new book from an old dude (almost 90!) in New Mexico is not a cool, fashionable news story. Publishing, it seems, is also no country for old men.

  • McCarthy’s new books (like his previous ones) are brutal and unapologetic—and many readers will find them disturbing.

  • Cormac has always been a prickly recluse who doesn’t play the publicity game—and repeatedly refused to give interviews to the media outlets in question. So he drops to the bottom of their priority list.

  • He never networked with the influential people or glad-handed his way to the centers of power, and even now a price must be paid for this.

  • Etc.

This whole experience reminds me of why I rely so much on personal recommendations from trusted sources nowadays. These are simply more reliable—in books and music—than the resident pundits at the leading institutions. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it really is.

I could give other reasons for the puzzling media response to these brilliant books. But this is the place to explain that McCarthy, from the very start of his career, repeatedly faced indifference or hostility—and it lasted for decades.

Not to preen, but I cover the Covid beat and American electoral beats, so in my off-hours reading I don’t need any more “brutal and unapologetic” writing. P.G. Wodehouse for me, thank you very much.

Sports Desk

My goodness!

Jokić’s passing reminds me of the Bird-era Celtics.

The Gallery

“At a Post-Crypto-Crash Art Basel, Tech-Based Art Is Trying Hard to Blend in and Look Like… Painting?” [ArtNet]. “After the big busts of 2022, seemingly everyone buying and selling at the uber-chic Swiss fair Art Basel has closed their digital wallets. The NFT-based art that shot onto the scene in 2021 was a notable absence from the stalls of all but a few of the 284 exhibitors this year. And Tezos, once the crypto-currency darling of the art world, was also absent as an official partner at the marquee Swiss fair (unsurprising, since it has lost 56 percent of its value year-over-year).” • That’s because all the grifters have moved on to AI.

Class Warfare

“These millionaires want to tax the rich, and they’re lobbying working-class voters” [NPR]. • Shouldn’t they be lobbying each other?

* * *

I keep saying “portfolio”; this is why. I want to get away from aghastitude about individual cases and look at class: How the rich rule electoral politics (through the governing PMC). “Sociology is a martial art,” as Pierre Bourdieu says.

“Tax records reveal more contributions from Publix heiress to ‘dark money’ groups sponsoring Jan. 6 rally” [Open Secrets]. “Deposition transcripts, tax returns, corporate disclosures and other records reviewed by OpenSecrets reveal new details about the level of involvement one donor had in planning the rally in the leadup to the Capitol attack…. [Julia “Julie” Jenkins Fancelli, daughter of late Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins and an heir to his roughly $9 billion fortune, is currently the sole funder and president of the George Jenkins Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit that made a $1.3 million contribution to Moms for America — another dark money group that sponsored the Jan. 6 rally — in 2020, according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of charitable filings and tax documents. The contribution is previously unreported and was not discussed in Fancelli’s publicly-available Jan. 6 select committee testimony transcript. Previously reported contributions include $300,000 to Women for America First, $200,000 to State Tea Party Express, $150,000 to the Rule of Law Defense Fund and at least $1 million to Turning Point Action in late December 2020 — a little more than a week before the protests on Jan. 6. After revelations about Fancelli’s role in the rally emerged, Publix sought to distance itself from the heiress.” • So, those entities are items in Fancelli’s portfolio. Doubtless there are others we don’t know about.

“Koch Network Unleashes Early Attacks Against Trump” [CMD]. “Even before the Justice Department announced the federal indictment of former President Trump last week, the super PAC for Charles Koch’s political operation, Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action), had spent $347,022 in May to discredit his presidential bid in 2024. The group joins Club for Growth as the first right-wing super PACs to openly oppose Trump’s candidacy, according to The Washington Post.” • AFP being an item in the Koch portfolio.

News of the Wired

The treachery of public images:

“This Ancient Language Has the Only Grammar Based Entirely on the Human Body” [Scientific American]. This is a wonderful article, on a language of an isolated tribe in the Great Andaman Islands: “The lexicon consisted of two classes of words: free and bound. The free words were all nouns that referred to the environment and its denizens, such as ra for “pig.” They could occur alone. The bound words were nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that always existed with markers indicating a relation to other objects, events or states. The markers (specifically, a-; er-; ong-; ot-or ut-; e-or i-; ara-; and o-) derived from seven zones of the body and were attached to a root word, usually as a prefix, to describe concepts such as “inside,” “outside,” “upper” and “lower.” For example, the morpheme er-, which qualified most anything having to do with an outer body part, could be stuck to -cho to yield ercho, meaning “head.” A pig’s head was thus raercho….. Along with the genetic evidence, which indicates the Great Andamanese lived in isolation for tens of thousands of years, the grammar suggests that the language family originated very early—at a time when human beings conceptualized their world through their bodies. The structure alone provides a glimpse into an ancient worldview in which the macrocosm reflects the microcosm, and everything that is or that happens inextricably connects to everything else. • Well worth reading in full.

* * *

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 LL:

LL writes: “May Flowers. Apple blossoms and azaleas.” Apple blossoms on the sidewalk! (I don’t know whether this is the United States or Canada, but it’s certainly North American.

* * *

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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. Carolinian

    The case against Trump is really starting to smell after lying around in the sun for a few days.


    Maddow’s widely cited comment that Trump should trade not running for a dropped case suggests even she is starting to worry a bit about what this may do to the Dem brand. So if the Dems do put Trump in jail for life over BS offenses that have led to wrist slapping when Dem’s were the culprits how will the public react? The over the top attacks on Trump even give credibility to Trump’s unproven assertions that the last election was stolen. After all if Dominion made firing Carlson a condition for the Fox settlement does that mean that Dominion really is a Dem cat’s paw?

    As with almost everything coming out of the Biden administration poor judgment is at the bottom of this.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The Democrats could make it worse by negotiating an agreement to drop all charges if Trump agrees not to stand as President next year. No doubt there are people in the White House thinking along those lines but there would be no getting around that happening.

    2. Tom Stone

      If Trump keeps running while in Jail he will win by a landslide.
      Having him take the oath of office while wearing an orange jumpsuit would be hilarious.

      1. The Rev Kev

        In prison, they would have to clear out the entire prison itself to house his Secret Service detail along with all the White House staff as you would be talking about hundreds of people – all of whom would have to be individually screened each and every day. Visitors would have to be screened as well, including the leaders of foreign countries and big execs. No, he would have to be on day-release to go to the White House. With dispensation if there is a national emergency. Unless the easiest way would be to nominate the White House as a Federal penitentiary for his term in office. The whole thing has the makings of a hilarious film.

  2. Bsn

    Jokic is, in fact, off the chain. however, I’d propose that someone who grew up on the east coast would think Bird was the “best” passer. Ahem, remember Magic? ‘Nuf said ……. let the debate begin.

    1. ambrit

      Well, I remember seeing Bird do his thing, and it was a very good thing too.
      However, Jokic reminds me of the old Harlem Globetrotters, who I got to see several times as a kid. Jokic has that Globetrotters “aw shucks, tain’t nothin'” feel to him. It also helps that he is not afraid to let his teammates make points off of him. I wonder what Jokic’s “assist” stats add up to.

  3. Culp Creek Curmudgeon

    So most teenagers out grow “bullying the weak” but Trump hasn’t. Isn’t bullying the weak a prerequisite for obtaining power in this society? That and sucking up to the more powerful…

    1. The Rev Kev

      Biden’s whole career is a history of him using his power to punch down. The first example that pops in mind is when he went naked in his swimming pool just so that he could make the female members of his Secret Security detail squirm. Or the Crime Bill on a meta scale. Him sitting in a hot car wearing sunnies is him trying to give an image of the cool guy but he is much a thug as Zelensky is.

    2. Random

      Claiming that most people outgrow bullying the weak and other such impulses is a bit doubtful.
      Arguably most people just learn to control such desires because it might involve consequences.
      If there are no consequences…

      1. hunkerdown

        Or, more importantly, if those consequences help reproduce the capitalist order, they aren’t actually a “problem” from the counterfeit perspective of that order. All societies are created by choosing what forms of abuse to recode as care.

    3. chris

      What are you talking about? Bullying the weak how? This is a person who has been president and has negotiated for things worth millions and even billions of dollars. What does your comment even mean in that context?

      And, again, since we keep bringing this up in the context of presidential politics and Trump, whoever our next president is will inherit a position where the facts suggest we annihilated our allies’ energy security and did a tremendous amount of damage to the petro dollar while simultaneously attempting to start wars with Russia, China, and India… do you think a timid and polite person will be capable of negotiatingon behalf of the US successfully, given those circumstances? Do you think a nice polite person who is always agreeable and pleasant to be around has a chance arguing against the likes of Putin? Or even PM Sunak?? Please tell us which president since Washington hasn’t been a “bully”?

      Bullying. JFC. Next we’ll hear you reply that the federal government can’t issue it’s own currency to pay down debts dominated in dollars because of a “moral hazard”.

  4. Jeff W

    The “guy I want to have a beer with” test for electing politicians always struck me as one of the dopiest tropes imaginable. Aside from it being diversionary and irrelevant, apparently by design, it’s astonishingly condescending, in presenting this “mode of superficiality and juvenility” in the first place.

    1. Sean gorman

      I always thought you should vote for thebabysitter you left the kids with while you’re out drinking with liars and thieves.

    2. Pat

      I learned awhile ago that often some of the best people to socialize with are the last people you want to have to depend on for help. It always struck me as weird that other people hadn’t.

    3. Hepativore

      “The guy I want to have a beer with” in regards to most politicians is like the sleazy con artist you see in seedy bars who makes a living out of swindling people that are too half-in-the-bag to notice and has skipped town by the time that they do.

    4. chris

      It feels naive and provincial for me to say it, but in all honesty, I’ll take a complete bastard as president as long as they have my interests in mind when they’re being despicable. The problem we’ve had, IMO, is that we’ve had awful, venal, corrupt people in office at all levels, but they do not care at all about people. Or even humans. They just care about their crew.

  5. Screwball

    The Tweet about the people of East Palestine in congress makes me furious. They have totally ignored those people. IMO they have every right to be mad given what I have read about it.

    So they get pushed out the door. Shut up serf.

    I live in Ohio and I’m furious at DeWine too.

    Isn’t anyone watching? Isn’t this enough evidence to prove how little the powers that be and big money don’t give one good $hit about us?

    All the bad things we see going on are going to get worse, and then….tick, tick, tick.

    This could be a very interesting summer.

    1. Daryl

      Sure we live in a failing state where crumbling infrastructure and corporate rule are literally killing people — but haven’t you heard that Orange Man Bad?

      1. Tom Stone

        One thing I learned in Oakland is that when it is made brutally clear that you have no place in Society you will act like you have no stake in society.
        Which gets ugly, real quick.

    2. Randall Flagg

      Not that I would know anything about running a presidential campaign but honestly, Trump could go out there again to Ohio on a monthly basis and hammer away at the lack of federal response.
      Tie it into all of middle America:
      Have things gotten any better for your over the last few years?
      Look at how they are ignoring the damage caused by this derailment.
      You average Americans, not just here but all across this great land, don’t matter.
      To add insult to injury look how “Union Joe” screwed the railroad unions.
      The railroads are getting away with compromising your safety in your neighborhoods ( witness the almost daily derailments…)
      I’m the only one fighting for you( to use the Democrats favorite line), I’m not forgetting you, and all of you across this country.
      And now they’re trying to put me in jail for fighting for you
      If they’re coming for me just wait until Biden’s corporate masters and DoJ start coming for you for raising a stink about all of this.
      Biden thinks nothing about the borders of the USA, yet is willing to risk WW3 over the borders of Ukraine.
      Got your $600 bucks yet?
      And how would it be answered without sounding like the horse hockey that it would?
      With the right people on this they could have a field day.
      On and on. Haven’t even gotten started.
      I’m sure more clever minds could run with this.

      1. Tom Stone

        Mr Flagg, I hope you send this to the Trump campaign.
        It’s very hard to gauge how pissed off the population is due to our “Free and Fearless Press” discouraging Badthink but If I am any indication the answer is very pissed off indeed.

    3. Phenix

      Morgan and Morgan, RFK Jr’s law firm is working with East Palestine residents to sue Northfolk Southern. He is obviously not on the case but he has gone to the town to talk to residents.

      1. Objective Ace

        Speaking of RFK — he just did a Rogan podcast that was.. interesting. I believe he said its the first time anyone let him explain his vaccine skepticism in full. The negatives are certainly interesting and appear to be well sourced. However, I feel like he just waves away the benefits of vaccines because they have never been proven in an RCT

        Regardless, he certainly didnt sound like a loon, and it sounds like he generally cares for the American people

    4. Screwball


      Well said, and I agree. He is the only thing that seems to matter. Drives me nuts.


      You touched on the problem IMO. Yes, Trump could go there and make a big stink each and every month. Would that make a difference? I’m guessing so – but he didn’t.

      Neither did JD Vance (our Senator), DeWine (our governor), or Sherrod Brown (another Ohio Senator). I have tried to follow this story since I live about 2-3 hours away and as far as I can tell it is still a crime scene and a travesty in general. Unfortunately, I expected that (see more below). East Palestine is not the Lone Ranger when it comes to this stuff, but nothing ever seems to change.

      Seriously, what avenue do the people who live there have to get things changed/fixed? None – best I can tell. Which is why they probably did what they did in Congress today – only to get thrown out. Lawsuits are good but we know how much time that will take – and time is on the side of the railroads, not the people who are still living in a chemical wasteland.


      Best I can tell, anyone not happy with what $hit sandwich they are served today just needs to STFU – according to the powers that be.

      Sorry, this infuriates me.

      1. chris

        Don’t apologize for an infuriating circumstance. It’s disgraceful how our government ignores its citizens. This is just one more example of that.

  6. Pat

    For lovers of black humor today has had a plethora of possible highlights. For me though Karl Rove pontificating about Trump and decrying reckless behavior which will divide America after his gift of Bush and Cheney was the richest. Almost as good as Murdoch having to haul out Karl while Carlson is eating his lunch elsewhere.

    1. ThirtyOne

      Seeing the words ‘Karl Rove’ and ‘further tear our country apart’ in one paragraph seems about right.

  7. Tom Stone

    It strikes me that if Russia wanted to do “Tit for Tat” they could take out the Old River Control Structure with a string of barges.
    No Gunz or explosives needed.
    The sort of thing that would appeal to a Judoka…

  8. LawnDart

    This is for you, Screwball:

    (Almost) Daily Derailment(s):

    Train derails near Suncor Refinery

    DENVER (KDVR) — A train went off the tracks near the Suncor Refinery Friday morning, the Commerce City Police Department said.

    Due to, what CCPD said was a minor derailment, Brighton Boulevard was closed between East 56th Avenue and East 60th Avenue. The department said the tankers on the BNSF train were empty and there was no hazardous spill involved in the incident.


    A follow-up:


    East Palestine, OH, some residents are still recovering from the February train derailment and chemical fires. They traveled to Columbus this week, calling on Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) declare an emergency in their region before a July 3rd deadline to do so.

    In February, soon after the chemical explosion, farmer Dave Anderson of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, who lives about 4 miles from the derailment site, was worried about his cows and other animals. He had questions about which chemicals were in the plume of smoke.

    “What and how much? And what are the implications of that?” Anderson asked at the time. “That’s the information that we’d love to hear from them,”.

    But the EPA says “nothing to worry about.” So happily, the farmers can resume life as nothing ever happened.

    Remember this?

    EPA misleads on air quality after 9/11 attacks

    Days after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center towers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the air was safe to breathe, but that proved to be a dangerously optimistic assessment. Nearly two years later, EPA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported that the EPA “did not have sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement,” as “air monitoring data was lacking for several pollutants of concern.” The OIG also discovered that the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) significantly revised EPA press releases “to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones.” Samples showed asbestos levels between double and triple EPA’s danger limit, but CEQ edits defined the results as “slightly above” the limit.


    1. Screwball

      Thank you LawnDart.

      And thank you for all the other train disasters you have covered for us here.

      As I’ve said before, I live in Ohio, small town (15k – about 3 times the size of East Palestine) with a railroad though the town (2 tracks). I live about 3 blocks away and know many people who worked for the rail companies over the years. Some were my best friends. I also know a guy who worked for an environmental cleanup company (made gazillions of dollars – the company – not him).

      It was no secret even before PSR that Lambert has so well documented – the only thing that matters is getting the trains running again – no matter what happened. From the railroad guys telling me about how they got screwed and eventually eliminated (tower operators), reduce maintenance as a cost cutting priority, and eventually eliminating more workers (my maintainer buddy), to no cabooses, with more horror stories from the guy who then cleaned up the messes. Unreal.

      I’m 66, and I’ve witnessed 2 or 3 derailments over the years in my little town. Luckily, none had hazardous waste. One of them almost took out the tower where the railroad guy worked – one of the derailed cars (maybe 30 or so if I remember right) stopped three feet away. The guy working that night was my buddy – I was in his wedding – almost not.

      Our rail lines go over a river that eventually feeds lake Erie; one of the most beautiful parts of Ohio. Put-In-Bay, Kelley’s island, beaches on the North coast of the state. What happened in East Palestine could just as easily happen here. I have no idea what I would do.

      There are people in East Palestine right now who are in that very situation. Their world is a mess – and best I can tell – they have no help, and no hope for any. What a travesty. I have no words anymore – only contempt for the people who are responsible (FTR; I think most train derailments are preventable) – and the people who do nothing about it.

      My heart goes out to the people who are now paying the consequences for the years of neglect, incompetence, and greed that got us where we are today.


      1. LawnDart

        I know the East Palestine area. I used to camp, fish, hike about 10-15 miles from there, and much of this on the property of friends whose family has been farming there for well-over a hundred years– good, kind people who are hanging on, just getting by, probably like most in the region… flyover country.

          1. LawnDart

            Things are brighter elsewhere, Screwball. I got to see it and live it for a while. We’re just living in a dark patch or corner of what is a really big world: there’s hope. Maybe not for us, but it’s out there.

  9. kareninca

    I just got an indication of what the job market is like presently. An older lady in my (via zoom) church who lives in the Midwest is thrilled because her grandson just got a “good” job. Last week he graduated from an alternative high school, at which he had done very well academically. I have met him on zoom, and he seems to be as suited to college as pretty much any young person, but he doesn’t plan to go anytime soon if at all. So, he has just accepted a job at a very large factory that builds very important items. He is going to be a product safety inspector, and they will be providing training. I am guessing that it pays decently. They are lucky to get him since he is responsible and takes no drugs and does not drink alcohol (for real).

    Sounds great, right? Making America great, with a good factory job. But here’s the catch. He has been told that the job is 60 hours per week. Every week (except whatever vacation there is). That is not optional. It’s like what you would expect in a country that was preparing for a war. Or a country where most of the population had been disabled. Or both.

    His grandmother was taken aback by the hours. She has done factory work, and was a hairdresser as well, and is a “hard worker.” But she couldn’t see how her beloved grandson could have much of a life, right out of high school, with such hours. He isn’t happy about the hours either, but he is taking the job.

    Also, a guy in my (zoom) church who is from the South says that the construction company that he admins for can’t hire people who can actually do the work. They hire people who are technically qualified, they show up, but they literally can’t do what they have been hired to do. I told him about the post-covid spacial perception problem study done in Brazil (https://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-and-disorders/covid-19/2023/the-risks-of-even-mild-covid19-1-in-4-showing-cognitive-deficits-011723), and he thought might be it.

      1. kareninca

        I am going to bet that the kid ends up quitting. I don’t think he has the physical stamina for 60 hours a week. I don’t think anyone in his generation does at this point. These people running the show think that they are going to get “Road to Wigan Pier” coal-mining style labor out of a demographic that has had covid; good luck with that.

        1. rowlf

          Having worked such shifts (60 – 84 hours a week) that is asking for trouble, like falling asleep driving home. I have crashed vehicles or had near misses several times. My stupid record was 12 hours x 45 days, and it got flagged by a regulatory body.

          I often ride along with a friend who was a dump truck driver and we notice some construction projects look to be abandoned. We suspect the workers have been hired away.

  10. The Rev Kev

    “Music publishers accuse Twitter in $250M lawsuit of copyright infringement”

    That can only have been deliberate those infractions. A coupla time watching Alex Christoforou do his walk and talk, he has had to veer away from an area because some place was playing music loud that might earn him a strike by YouTube. So if a YouTuber knows the rules, then certainly a lawyered-up Twitter should.

  11. Will

    Musk’s layoffs at Twitter has been cited here as a signal to other tech companies of what’s possible. Well, here’s explicit acknowledgment of that by the CEO of Reddit.

    “And then I think one of the nonobvious things that Elon showed is what I was hoping would be true, which is: You can run a company with that many users in the ads business and break even with a lot fewer people,” Huffman said.


    Some other interesting quotes but Huffman clearly sees Musk as a business figure to emulate.

  12. Jason Boxman

    Fun times. The local tiny city finally got real mail trucks, for real. Carriers don’t have to use their cars anymore. About time.

    However, the existing mailboxes here are all on the left side. Have been for 40 years. The road on this mountain is now paved, for over a decade, with this reality in mind. The right side of the road has a drainage ditch, as is typical in a mountain neighborhood.

    So the post office has informed us via mail that we need to move our mailboxes to the right side of the road. All houses here have it on the left. There’s literally no practical way to move it. Can the carrier not, well, go in the other direction or something? It’s a loop. Worse, in the coming months some boxes might be on the left, others on the right. Talk about lack of forethought or executive agency. Sigh.

    Our government at work!

  13. LifelongLib

    As shown on the ballot access map, the Green Party is not on the ballot here in Hawaii, although it has been in several presidential elections. If I understand right according to the Office of Elections there is still time for the party to qualify for 2024. Hope to see them again or I may have to leave my presidential vote blank…

    1. Late Introvert

      The NC commentariat could provide regular updates on this, and also on laws concerning write-in candidates. Is there any evidence these every get counted? That would be the place to start.

  14. spud

    one hell of a article.

    extremely powerful and truthful article, one of the best i ever read.


    “Human rights campaigns have traditionally focused on negative rights–that is, the protection of people from repression and persecution. I believe that it is time we also campaign against individuals and institutions that violate the people’s positive rights. Neoliberal policies such as those that have been imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, institutionalized in the Philippine political economy, and rationalized by a succession of economic managers and economists have created massive poverty and inequality that have prevented millions of our fellow Filipinos over the last five decades from their full development as human beings because they have destroyed, disarticulated, and disintegrated the country’s base of physical survival, that is, the economy.

    That is a crime.Neoliberal policies are now discredited. The Washington Consensus is in the junk heap. No self-respecting economic manager, except perhaps in the Philippines, any longer invokes the “magic of the market” or the so-called benefits of free trade. Yet in so many countries, and not just in the Philippines, neoliberal policies continue to be the default mode, like the proverbial dead hand of the engineer on the throttle of a speeding train. They continue to inflict severe damage on the life chances of billions of people because they have been institutionalized.””It is high time we seek justice for economic crimes.

    It is high time we cease honoring such criminals with Nobel Prizes in Economics but bring them instead to the ICC. If the arraignment of such economic criminals cannot immediately be done owing to the need to amend the Rome statute, then let us at least establish a “Hall of Infamy” where we can enshrine such dead and living stars of neoliberalism as the Nobel Prize laureate Milton Friedman, the ideological soulmate of the General Augusto Pinochet; Michel Camdessus and Christine Legarde, the best known faces of IMF-imposed austerity; former World Bank President Robert McNamara, who conspired with the dictator Marcos to make the Philippines one of the guinea pigs of structural adjustment; and Pascal Lamy and Mike Moore, who spearheaded the drive to imprison the global South in the iron cage of free trade, the World Trade Organization.”

    “And, of course, one must not forget Cielito Habito, who as National Economic Development Authority chief almost singlehandedly wiped out Philippine manufacturing with his push to bring down average tariffs to 4-6 percent simply to prove that Filipinos could take economic pain better than Pinochet’s Chicago Boys in Chile, who did not allow tariffs to go below 11 percent. Nor must we overlook the WTO-USAID mercenary Ramon Clarete, who famously sought to sugarcoat the impending murder of our agricultural sector by claiming that Philippines’ joining the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture would result in 500,000 new jobs every year in the countryside!”

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