2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Stock Dove, Wieswald, Freising, Bayern, Germany. Lots going on, including a woodpecker.

* * *


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

Capitol Seizure

“Biden’s Valley Forge Theater and the Unraveling of Jan 6” [Declassified with Julie Kelly]. “[Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), chairman of a subcommittee of the House Administration Committee examining all things J6] said his staff is preparing a full account of January 6 including the involvement of paid agitators, law enforcement and intelligence failures, and the construction of the so-called ‘gallows’ that produced so many chilling optics from that day. ‘You’ve got the gallows, the famous gallows, that were erected on the west front of the Capitol that they love to portray in all of their committee hearings. As it turns out, those gallows were erected…at like 5:30 or 6 o’clock before the sun ever came up. Why were those gallows allowed to stay up all day?’ We, of course, know why: so Democrats and the media can pretend that white supremacists, summoning the days of slavery, planned to hang people that afternoon. In fact, Biden used a clip of the January 6 gallows in his new campaign ad as proof of an ‘extremist movement’ in America. Almost like the day was intended to fuel the ‘extremist’ narrative well into the 2024 election…” • Not buying the “allowed to stay up” rhetorical question (though it would be nice to know who put them and why). They remained up because the participants didn’t take them down. Surely Kelly didn’t expect the Capitol police to do that?

“Hundreds of convictions, but a major mystery is still unsolved 3 years after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot” [Associated Press]. “One of the biggest remaining mysteries surrounding the riot is the identity of the person who placed two pipe bombs outside the offices of the Republican and Democratic national committees the day before the Capitol attack. Last year, authorities increased the reward to up to $500,000 for information leading to the person’s arrest. It remains unclear whether there was a connection between the pipe bombs and the riot. Investigators have spent thousands of hours over the last three years doing interviews and combing through evidence and tips from the public, said David Sundberg, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office…. The explosive devices were placed outside the two buildings between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2021, but officers didn’t find them until the next day. Authorities were called to the Republican National Committee’s office around 12:45 p.m. on Jan. 6. Shortly after, a call came in for a similar explosive device found at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The bombs were rendered safe, and no one was hurt. Video released by the FBI shows a person in a gray hooded sweatshirt, a face mask and gloves appearing to place one of the explosives under a bench outside the DNC and separately shows the person walking in an alley near the RNC before the bomb was placed there. The person wore black and light gray Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers with a yellow logo.” • Odd. Reminds me of the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill after 9/11.

Biden Administration

“Scoop: Zients plans morale booster for White House staff” [Axios]. “White House chief of staff Jeff Zients is throwing an off-campus party for hundreds of Biden staffers to celebrate their last three years — and steel the team for the final sprint ahead of the election, Axios has learned….. After the first two years of COVID-19 precautions, Zients has moved to restore a sense of normalcy to the White House…. Zients has been pressing Cabinet secretaries to break their staffs’ stubborn work-from-home habits.” • “you ever just ‘there’s pizza in the break room’ your way out of genocide”

“SBF’s Victory From Behind Bars” [The Lever]. “The cryptocurrency industry landed one of its most desired prizes last month when regulators at a small but potentially pivotal federal agency allowed a little-known cryptocurrency company to oversee all aspects of brokering, facilitating, and clearing trades of its digital assets. Regulators and experts say the move, which came after millions were spent in lobbying in 2023 alone, could endanger customer assets and stifle competition, as well as set a dangerous precedent that could set up this and other financial markets for spectacular collapse. The Dec. 13 approval of the application from Bitnomial, a small Chicago-based crypto derivatives company, is the first time the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has approved any financial institution to vertically integrate as an exchange, broker, and clearinghouse, without doing so through company acquisitions. In most financial markets, the responsibilities for different functions are handled by separate entities to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure market stability. One entity runs the exchange where financial instruments are traded; another is a broker which performs transactions on behalf of clients; and another clears, or validates, the transactions before they go through. The approval of Bitnomial’s application comes after years of cryptocurrency interests — most prominently, convicted financial fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried — cozying up to CFTC regulators and pushing to ensure all federal crypto regulations are handled by the commission. The CFTC’s limited size and funding could lead to laxer oversight, compared to regulations from the much more aggressive and powerful Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

“Another political cover-up at Biden’s DOJ” [Washington Examiner]. “In December 2022, a federal grand jury returned indictments on several counts against Democratic megadonor and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Bankman-Fried. In addition to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, Bankman-Fried was also charged with conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission and commit campaign finance violations. During extradition proceedings, the Bahamas rejected the campaign finance charges against Bankman-Fried, and his defense attorney then filed a motion in federal court to remove them from the indictment since international law bars prosecution for crimes not approved of by countries that agree to extradite a suspect. Prosecutors went forward with the prosecution of the other charges, and Bankman-Fried was convicted on all counts in November. A new trial was scheduled to begin this March on the campaign finance charges, but in a letter dated Dec. 29, the Friday before New Year’s Day, President Joe Biden’s DOJ announced it was dropping the second trial. DOJ officials said there is a “strong public interest in prompt resolution of this matter” that would be undermined by waiting until March for a new trial. The agency said a second trial would not change Bankman-Fried’s punishment because U.S. sentencing guidelines allow judges to consider all conduct and evidence of the campaign finance charge was presented at the first trial.” • I would have thought there was a “strong public interest” in knowing the names of every member of the political class, including the press, that SBF bought. Guess nt!


Less than a year to go!

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“Trump’s Race for the White House Runs Through the Courtroom” [Bloomberg]. “Time and again, Trump has cast himself as a victim. And time and again, his supporters have responded with donations. Trump promptly raised $15.4 million after he was indicted in New York over payments to Stormy Daniels, the porn star; $4.5 million after he was indicted in Miami over withholding classified documents; and $7.1 million after he was arraigned in Georgia on charges related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.” • Handy chart:

Could be the same “Pied Piper” strategy as 2016, I suppose (and 2022 also, with a 53% success rate).

“Teamsters chief, Trump meet as union weighs 2024 presidential race” [Reuters]. “Donald Trump met with the head of the Teamsters on Wednesday and made plans to meet with rank-and-file members later this month as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, the former president and the union said in statements. Sean O’Brien, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Trump had ‘an in-depth and productive discussion on worker issues most important to the Teamsters Union,’the labor group, which represents 1.3 million workers from truckers and police to nurses and film crews, said in a post on the X social media platform.”

“Trump received millions of dollars from foreign governments while president, House Democrats allege” [USA Today]. “Former President Donald Trump unconstitutionally profited from the presidency during his tenure in the White House, reaping millions of dollars for his business empire from foreign governments, House Democrats allege in an extensive report. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee released a 156-page report Thursday morning accusing Trump of exploiting the presidency to financially benefit himself and members of his family. Trump’s businesses, according to the report, received at least $7.8 million from corrupt and authoritarian governments including China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The report is the culmination of a nearly seven-year investigation. It says records and documents obtained by House Oversight Democrats reveal ‘a stunning web of millions of dollars in payments made by foreign governments and their agents directly to Trump-owned businesses, while President Trump was in the White House.'” • When will Republicans understand that a layer of indirection solved everything? Set up a foundation!

* * *

“Joe Biden Makes Saving Democracy the Center of His Campaign” [The New Yorker]. “In a telephone call with reporters on January 2nd, the top officials in Biden’s reëlection campaign discussed their political strategy. They mentioned supporting abortion rights, mobilizing minority voters, and building an economy that benefits the middle class, but their overriding theme was that a Biden victory is essential to preserve American democracy…. Their argument is that the momentum will start to shift once voters are faced with a concrete choice between another four years of Biden and a second Trump Presidency in which the latter’s desire for revenge would be unleashed, and his control over the Republican Party in Congress would be virtually complete.” • I don’t think Trump or anybody with a voice can make this argument, but the Democrats are the voice of the PMC. None of the systems that the PMC are responsible for running are doing very well, at least if you’re a dull normal: Not healthcare, not higher education, not high school and grade school, not the law, not scientists, not management in general, not one. I’ve been hearing some horror stories on the healthcare system lately; I’d be very happy to take “revenge” on the people running it; in a way, that’s similar to the attack that the “gain of function” crowd are making, inchoate from a class perspective, sadly.

“Can Joe Biden Pull Off a Harry Truman?” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “Biden is coping with dissension in his party’s ranks but not the sort of formal crack-up that led to not one but two competing ex-Democratic presidential tickets in 1948: the States’ Rights Democratic (a.k.a. Dixiecrat) ticket led by Strom Thurmond, which attracted southern segregationists, and ex-Vice-President Henry Wallace’s left-bent Progressives. Biden also suffers from a dyspeptic post-pandemic public mood that is similar in some respects to the angst afflicting Americans after the euphoric unity of World War II. That’s bad for any incumbent president. But Truman had the additional handicap of his party having controlled the White House for 16 years, the longest stretch since the post–Civil War era of Republican dominance. Today, the United States is in an extended period of exceptional balance between the two major parties, which have each held the presidency for exactly half of the 21st century and shared control of Congress as often as not. But the most important difference between 1948 and 2024 is the identity of the likely Republican nominee. Yes, Dewey was a repeat nominee as Trump will be, having run a respectable if losing campaign against FDR in 1944. But Dewey, who was the governor of New York, was as remote from Trump in his temperament and ideological inclinations as is possible to imagine.” • The analogy seems fanciful to me. The America of 1948 is not the America of 2024.

“North Carolina goes all in with DNC in having Biden alone on primary ballot, flouting Democrat challengers” [FOX]. “North Carolina’s election board unanimously decided Tuesday to accept the state Democratic Party’s request to have President Biden as the lone Democrat presidential candidate. ” • “Our democracy.”

“Hunter Biden’s ‘sugar brother’ Kevin Morris plots gauzy documentary on first son” [New York Post]. “First son Hunter Biden’s so-called ‘sugar brother,’ Hollywood attorney Kevin Morris, is backing a soft-focus documentary on the disgraced and indicted presidential offspring…. A film crew has been trailing Hunter, 53, for years and was most recently spotted recording the first son publicly defying a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee to sit for a deposition Dec. 13. The Post has also noted the presence of cameras around the Biden scion, including when Hunter cozied up to one of our reporters at a December 2022 showing off his surprisingly pricey work at Soho’s Georges Berges gallery. The crew also popped up at the same gallery in the fall of 2021, at the very first public showing by the world’s most well-compensated amateur artist. Morris even took his cameras all the way to Serbia, where the crew crashed the set where filmmaker Phelim McAleer was shooting “My Son Hunter,” a flick mocking the Biden family that was distributed by Breitbart in September 2022. The Ireland-born McAleer told the LA Times he allowed Morris and his crew to film on their set for a few days and even went out to dinner with his adversary. At one point, the director said, Morris began asking him questions along the lines of ‘What was the history of the laptop? What did I know about the history of the laptop?’ ‘He was out there looking for information and evidence for his client while he was pretending to be something he was not,’ McAleer claimed.” • Why on earth do this? I mean, Hunter’s artwork is an obvious money laundering operation, but presumably that’s not on film. Right?

* * *

“Watch top moments in Nikki Haley’s Iowa town hall, from torching Trump to defending recent comments” [FOX]. “‘I defeat Biden by 17 points,’ Haley said, referencing one recent poll and noting it showed she would perform better than Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican candidate, in a hypothetical November contest against Biden. ‘If you win by double digits, you go into Washington with a mandate… It is time to move past President Trump.’ Haley argued that ‘chaos follows’ Trump and that she would be the generational leader ‘that leaves negativity and baggage behind.’ However, she later defended her intention to pardon Trump should he be convicted of any crime, and said some of the prosecutions the former president is currently facing in Georgia, Washington, D.C. and New York were ‘politically motivated.'”

“Ron DeSantis criticizes Nikki Haley as ‘phony’ in final days before Iowa caucuses” [Washington Times]. “[DeSantis] also sought to once again pressure Haley over whether she would accept Trump’s offer to be his running mate if he were to win the nomination. ‘She’s the darling of the Never Trumpers. And yet when she’s asked, ‘OK, will you just categorically put this to bed and say you will not accept the vice presidential nomination?’ She will not answer that question,’ DeSantis said. Haley’s campaign previously told the Washington Examiner that ‘Nikki has been very clear from day one, she doesn’t play for second.'”

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“World renowned humanitarian”:


I dunno; maybe RFK Jr. is on to something; see this wild speculation on “the grief system” here.

* * *

“Biden vs. Trump Is the Race Voters Want. Really.” [Washington Monthly]. “For months, headlines have told us that most Americans don’t want the 2024 presidential campaign to be a rematch of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. And yet both candidates are lapping their respective fields in primary polling…. Less than three weeks from now, after Iowa’s January 15 caucuses and New Hampshire’s January 23 primary, don’t be surprised if all significant challengers to Trump and Biden throw in the towel…. Why is this happening? Maybe it’s because Biden and Trump really are the candidates we’ve wanted all along…. This is for good reason. While the major parties are, as always, coalitions of interests with some diversity of views, Trump and Biden accurately reflect the sentiments of their parties…. In nearly every presidential election, most independent voters recognize that they are effectively faced with a binary choice between the Republican and Democratic candidates, even though neither perfectly aligns with their views. They may grouse about it, but most rebuff third-party choices for a good reason: Presidential binary choices are healthy for democracy. Voters should be able to articulate which general direction they want their country to go without having that choice confused by spoiler candidates.” • Just ask James Buchanan!

“The Unpredictable But Entirely Possible Events That Could Throw 2024 Into Turmoil” [Politico]. “global pandemic. A siege at the Capitol. A reality TV star in the White House. In just the last few years, we’ve watched the unthinkable become real. We think we have a firm grasp on what’s to come, in politics and beyond, and then something gigantic and unexpected happens. With that in mind, perhaps we need to deploy a tad more imagination before assuming we know what’s going to happen in 2024. It certainly looks like we’re headed toward a rematch of Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden and a bitterly contested, close general election. But, if recent history is a guide, something unexpected could be right around the corner.” I thought the first speculation was the most likely: “[E]fforts to subvert the election could be successful and could come from a variety of actors — from cyberattacks, deep fakes and disinformation, physical attacks on the election process and oversight, and/or mass unrest, violent intervention and even terrorism to disrupt voting on Nov. 5. There’s no more geopolitically significant target than the upcoming U.S. elections, which are vulnerable due to limited experience and resources focused on election security. I wasn’t worried about a coup back on Jan. 6, and I don’t see any way to overturn this coming year’s election either. But disrupting the 2024 U.S. election strikes me as plausible and deeply concerning.” • We tend to forget that even though Trump butchered his attempts to prove election theft in 2020, the system is quite vulnerable (and in my view, insider threats from either party or the spooks are far, far more likely than threats from Russia, Iran or North Korea).

* * *

Republican Funhouse

“Calmes: 2023 was the year of the do-nothing House Republicans. In 2024, they’ll do worse than nothing” [Jackie Calmes, Los Angeles Times]. “Repeatedly in 2023, we saw the dysfunction of the MAGA Republicans who narrowly took control of the House last January, making that chamber virtually ungovernable and yielding one of the least productive years in Congress’ history. Just a couple dozen mostly minor bills became law, a fraction of the usual number. The House and Senate broke for the holidays still bloodied from the unfinished sausage-making. To borrow another lawmaker metaphor, they kicked the can down the road — cans, plural — into 2024. Yet agreement on lingering issues — spending, Ukraine aid, immigration — hardly comes more easily in an election year; the distractions of the presidential primaries start this month, in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then there is the House Republicans’ greatest distraction of all: their top-priority push to impeach President Biden, on grounds still TBD. What we’re in for in 2024 is more of the misrule that results when one of our two major parties morphs from a small-government party into an unabashedly anti-government bloc.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

“Harry Dunn, Capitol Police officer on Jan. 6, announces run for Congress” [ABC]. “Harry Dunn, who struggled to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and has been one of the most outspoken members of law enforcement to condemn the attack, announced Friday that he is running for Congress. Dunn, who resigned as a Capitol Police officer last month, said he is running as a Democrat to represent Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes several Maryland counties outside Baltimore. He is running to replace Democrat Rep. John Sarbanes, who is not seeking reelection. Friday morning on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe,’ Dunn said he wants to ‘fight back and be able to push back against the people in Congress right now that I spent the last 15 years of my life protecting. And I want to serve as their equal, as their colleague I want a voice at the table.'” • Photo:

Furrowed brow, bald head: The Rock, totally. So why not?


“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; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); 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 (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Not just fashion, branding:

That obvious commercial possibilities like this were not seized upon shows how powerful the anti-mask taboo (?) has been…

Immune Dysregulation

I would really like some evidence from inside China on this, but it sure is interesting:

(Combine that with cleaning the air, and you might have something.) The whole thread is well worth a read.


“What a WoW virtual outbreak taught us about how humans behave in epidemics” [Ars Technica]. From 2020, still germane. “The Corrupted Blood outbreak was not intentional. In 2005, Blizzard Entertainment added a new dungeon called Zul’Gurub into World of Warcraft for highly advanced players, controlled by an “end boss” named Hakkar. Hakkar was a blood god known as the Soulflayer, who had, among his arsenal of weapons, a “debuff” spell called “Corrupted Blood.” Infected players would suffer damage at regular repeating intervals, draining away their “hit points” until their avatars exploded in a cloud of blood. The only cure was to kill Hakkar. Blizzard thought this would ensure the infection wouldn’t spread beyond that space. They were wrong. Rather than standing their ground, many infected players panicked, teleporting out of the dungeon before dying or killing Hakkar, and taking the disease with them. And lower ranking players, with fewer hit points, would “die” very quickly upon exposure. The biggest factor in the rapid spread of the disease was a glitch in the programming, such that non-playable animal companions also became infected. They didn’t show symptoms, but they were carriers and ended up spreading the disease even faster….. In the end, at least three servers were affected, and Blizzard had to reboot the entire game to correct the problem.” • If only we could reboot Planet Earth…


These numbers are… not good:

Elite Maleficence

Can any readers find the source for these extraordinarily frank remarks by Pfizer’s Angela Hwang?

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, January 5:

Lambert here: Still going up. As a totally “gut feel” tapewatcher, I would expect this peak to meet or exceed the two previous Biden peaks; after all, we haven’t really begun the next bout of holiday travel, or the next rounds of superspreading events celebrations. Plus students haven’t come from from school, and then returned. So a higher peak seems pretty much “baked in.” And that’s before we get to new variants, like JN.1. The real thing to watch is the slope of the curve. If it starts to go vertical, and if it keeps on doing so, then hold onto your hats.

Lambert here: Called it. Impressively, the Biden administration has now blown through all previous records, with the single exception of the Omicron, the top of the leaderboard, a record also set by itself. Congratulations to the Biden team! I know a lot of people think the peak will come in the next two weeks or so; I’d like to hear at least some anecdotal evidence of that beyond the models (because recall JN.1, whose peak this is, is extremely infectious).

Regional data:

Regional split continues. What’s more worrisome is that the slope of the curve in the Northeast got steeper (although, as ever, Biobot data is subject to backward revision).


From CDC, January 6:

Lambert here: JN.1 now dominates. That was fast.

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.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 30:

Lambert: Return to upward movement. Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator.

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. And of course, we’re not even getting into the quality of the wastewater sites that we have as a proxy for Covid infection overall.


Bellwether New York City, data as of January 4:

Lambert here: I still don’t like the slope of that curve, and notice we’re approaching previous peak levels (granted, not 2020 or 2022, but respectable).

Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 30:

Moving ahead briskly!

Lambert here: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?


Lambert here: Notice that for both Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic, that although the percentage of positives is stable, the absolute numbers have greatly increased; Walgreen’s doubled. This speaks well of people; they’re getting tested before the holidays (and in face of a shit*tstorm barrage of propaganda and peer pressure to minimize, too).

NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, January 2:

1.1%. Up. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, December 30:

Lambert here: Percentage plateaued. Absolute numbers steadily increasing.

• You, Cleveland Clinic:

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, December 11:

Turning down.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, December 4:

BA.2.86 back up, totally dominant. This would be a great early warning system, if the warning were in fact early, instead of weeks late, good job, CDC.


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 23:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the United States held at 3.7% in December 2023, unchanged from the previous month and slightly below the market consensus of 3.8%, influenced by a slowdown in new entries into the labor force.”

Services: “United States ISM Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI unexpectedly fell to 50.6 in December 2023, the lowest reading in seven months.”

* * *

Manufacturing: “Boeing wants FAA to exempt MAX 7 from safety rules to get it in the air” [Dominic Gates, Seattle Times]. “Little noticed, days before the holiday break, Boeing petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption from key safety standards for the 737 MAX 7 — the still-uncertified smallest member of its newest jet family. Since August, earlier models of the MAX currently flying passengers in the U.S. have had to limit use of the jet’s engine anti-ice system after Boeing discovered a defect in the system with potentially catastrophic consequences. The flaw could cause the inlet at the front end of the pod surrounding the engine — known as a nacelle — to break and fall off. In an August Airworthiness Directive, the FAA stated that debris from such a breakup could penetrate the fuselage, putting passengers seated at windows behind the wings in danger, and could damage the wing or tail of the plane, ‘which could result in loss of control of the airplane.”…. In its petition to the FAA, Boeing argues the breakup of the engine nacelle is ‘extremely improbable’ and that an exemption will not reduce safety…. [W]ithout an exemption from current safety regulations, the FAA cannot approve the final two MAX models, the MAX 7 and MAX 10, to fly passengers.” • Something for the new CEO to deal with? (It’s sort of amazing to see a national champion like Boeing in the process of destroying itself — and the nation, too.)

Tech: “Microsoft is adding a new key to PC keyboards for the first time since 1994” [Ars Technica]. “Microsoft pushed throughout 2023 to add generative AI capabilities to its software, even extending its new Copilot AI assistant to Windows 10 late last year. Now, those efforts to transform PCs at a software level is extending to the hardware: Microsoft is adding a dedicated Copilot key to PC keyboards, adjusting the standard Windows keyboard layout for the first time since the Windows key first appeared on its Natural Keyboard in 1994.” • What’s a the icon? A paperclip?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 74 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 5 at 1:46:57 PM ET.

The Gallery

“What Do You Do When Anything Goes?” [Artforum]. “We have moved from an art world in which it is simply impossible for a urinal to be art to an art world in which this particular urinal is art, and in which anything can be art. You can make sculpture out of fat and felt if you are Joseph Beuys. You can make Conceptual art out of a sentence typewritten on a piece of paper if you are Robert Barry. You can make art literally out of anything. …. When did this passage happen? How did it happen? Where are the art history books that tell that story? I haven’t found any. And yet the difference between an art world in which, in order for something to be art, it has to be a painting or a sculpture or a poem or a piece of music, etc., to an art world in which any material object, anything that has physical, sensory existence, can be promoted to art—that passage is as radical as the passage from a monarchy to a republic. (It’s an analogy.) How do you pass from a monarchy to a republic? Not by a monarchy morphing insensibly into a republic. That doesn’t work. There has to be a revolution or at least an abdication of the king or the queen, and one day you wake up a citizen and no longer a subject. It is as impossible to smoothly morph the Beaux-Arts system into the Art-in-General system as it is to smoothly morph a monarchy into a republic. Art history conceived as the history of styles and movements doesn’t account for a radical break of this kind. The break occurred, and it’s invisible, it’s not been recorded by art history books. Two chapters devoted to the invention of non-art address this issue and give an answer. Non-art is not Duchamp’s invention, nor is it the Dadaists’. It is a byproduct of the French Beaux-Arts system, which slowly emerged to the surface of consciousness like a photographic print in a bath of developer until, with Fountain, Duchamp registered the breakdown of the Beaux-Arts.” • Hmm.

Groves of Academe

Not really a joke:

Zeitgeist Watch

“If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right” (PDF) [Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert, Timothy D. Wilson]. “The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it. Drawing on empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material goods; (2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves; (3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones; (4) eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance; (5) delay consumption; (6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives; (7) beware of comparison shopping; and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others.” • Consumers, eh? What about the wealthy?

Class Warfare

“Marxist bros”:

News of the Wired

“A Compelling Theory to Explain a Key Trait of Modern Humans” [Resilience]. “Paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean has developed a comprehensive explanation based on a synthesis of research and archaeological evidence for what propelled H. sapiens to leave Africa about 70,000 years ago and colonize every part of the world, replacing other existing hominin populations. Key to the process is ‘hyperprosociality,’ by which Marean means the ability to cooperate with people who are not relatives. This in turn requires the use of symbolism in language and cultural communication, including art. Paradoxically, hyperprosociality produces cooperation among unrelated individuals at the same time that it fosters conflict to protect territory and food…. The on-the-ground evidence supports the emergence of hyperprosociality. The interaction of bands of people can be inferred from technologically advanced dating methods that can track the movements of an individual, group, or artifact from its place of origin to another location. Other techniques, such as chemical analysis of materials and tools in distant areas, suggest evidence of a network of groups that collaborated. ‘The evidence in Eurasia for such structures and networks,’ Marean writes, ‘is present only after the dispersal of modern humans.’ The adaptive shift to hyperprosociality as a trait occurred in Africa as groups began making use of ‘dense and predictable resources,’ Marean says. Along with this improved diet came the setting of territorial borders to secure the resources, and the consequent conflict with rivals for the food supply. The necessary cooperation with non-kinfolk for defense purposes led, in turn, to conditions that favored strong evolutionary ‘selection for hyperprosocial proclivities,’ he writes. Cooperation between bands of people evolved into the first ‘ethnolinguistic’ groups.” • Perhaps SARS-CoV-2 is leveraging our “hyperprosociality”?

* * *

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 TH:

TH writes: “This is Parry’s Phacelia, a species of Forget-Me-Not unique to California and Baja California, or so I’ve read.”

• Kind readers, I still not completely comfortable that I have enough plants in the queue. Snow-covered trees! Icy flowers! The fall harvest! Autumn leaves! Last year’s wildflowers! Also, of course, honorary plants like fungi and lichen! Algae! Pots on your kitchen windowsill

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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. Tom Stone

    Inflation report from Sonoma County.
    Extra virgin olive oil at trader Joe’s was $8.99 per quart last week, now $12.99, Skirt steak at Fircrest in Sebastopol on sale at $15.99 per Lb, smallest chunk 4.25 Lbs.
    Gas still hovering around $5 per gallon.
    Is it time to start wearing my “Whip Inflation Now” button again?

    1. steppenwolf fetchit

      I remember back during the Ford Administration, when someone asked why inflation hasn’t been whipped yet, that somebody-or-other said, if you turn the WIN button upside down it says NIM. Which stands for No Immediate Miracles.

      When olive oil costs like that, I eat the price along with the olive oil. I WILL have my olive oil. But prices like that for certain meats send me down the hedonic ladder to soup bones and chicken feet.

      1. Trump Landslide Ahead

        March 9, 2022:

        “This is a step that we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin, but there will be costs as well here in the United States,” Biden said as he announced a ban on Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports, as well as Russian grain, fertilizer, uranium, metals, and machine tools. “I said I would level with the American people from the beginning. And when I first spoke to this, I said defending freedom is going to cost.

        Who is We in “we’re?”

        Joe, F* you and the Democratic Jackass you rode in on!

        A president navigates how to ask for painful sacrifices from Americans for Ukraine


    2. Lena

      I was informed by my landlord in December that my rent would increase by $400 a month starting January 1, 2024. He said that is “market value”. In January 2023, it went up by $200 a month. I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’m looking for affordable housing but it is nowhere to found in my area. Homelessness may be in my near future. Happy New Year.

      1. The Rev Kev

        An increase of $400 a month? That’s an extra $5,200 a year. Are there people lining up to pay such rental prices? Or is this an effect of private equity companies buy up housing stock en masse.

        1. Lena

          There is a great deal of income inequality in my area. There are people here who can and are paying those high rental prices for existing properties. Many new rental properties are also being built and they are not affordable either. Homelessness is increasing rapidly for those of us who don’t have that kind of money. I’ve been in shock since I got the news about the increase in December. I’ve barely been able to sleep, I am so worried about my future. I could scarcely afford my rent before the increase.

          1. The Rev Kev

            So sorry to hear about this, Lena. You will get through this all but it is going to be a right royal pain to do so. It sounds like that you are going to have to move from your area altogether as it sounds like things will not be getting any better. Either that or buy a van. But I think that you will be able to figure something out. Just don’t forget to get proper meals and proper sleep or it will lessen your ability to adapt which I am sure that you will.

          2. ChiGal

            in many places, sometimes unknown to landlords, there is a limit on how much of a percentage raise can be levied in a single year.

            check the statutes in your area to see if that may be the case for you.

            I know for me as a former landlord in Chicago and a friend renting in Eugene this was the case.

            Good luck!

      2. LawnDart

        “Market-value…” Nice. That gleam of gold in their eyes ought to be removed, with a fork.

    3. kareninca

      There is an olive oil shortage due to the drought in Europe; TJs gets most of its olive oil from Spain and Italy: “Why You may Have trouble finding Olive Oil at Trader Joe’s” (https://parade.com/food/trader-joes-olive-oil-shortage). For the past couple of weeks the Silicon Valley Trader Joe’s where I shop has had almost no olive oil; just the crazy-expensive versions. The lady who checked me out last night told me that they would be raising olive oil prices in response to this.

      I’m not sure what to use as a substitute, if it comes to that.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        If you have Middle Eastern food stores within reach, you may be able to find brands like Feyrouz, Sultan, etc.

        The owners of Greek or Italian restaurants may have advice on where to get olive oil from places other than Trader Joe’s. Or Greek or Italian oriented stores may have some.

        I really don’t think there is a substitute for olive oil. Other oils will have other tastes suited for other kinds of cooking or other use. Perhaps a twice-as-expensive kind of olive oil would taste twice as good as the normal, and then one could use half-as-much per use? Fancy-poo places like Fustini’s get fancy-poo olive oil at fancy-poo prices. https://www.fustinis.com/#

        1. kareninca

          I don’t have a way to know if other stores are selling the real thing, or if they are storing it properly. I think there is going to be a lot of old olive oil sold, and a lot of diluted olive oil, and a lot of simply fake olive oil.

          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            I remember years ago a pharmacist from Lebanon who worked in my department. One day we talked about olive oil, and he raised the issue of common widespread fakery. He said a university project given to a class he was part of was to analyze some different olive oils for non-olive components. I asked if any passed as undiluted un-fake olive oil. He said Colavita was discovered to be non-adulterated at that time. Nowadays? One can hope without really knowing. It is a mid-range mid-price e.v. olive oil.

            I am no professional. How can I think I can tell? I know and remember what the most basic grocery store olive oils taste like from memory . . . oils like Pompeiian. I know some oils recently which taste better or far better than that. I know that there are ethnic-based stores which sell to their own ethnic-based constituency and also to other random customers. I have to trust that the ethnic-based constituency knows its own culture-based olive oil well enough to know which is real, which is fake. I have to trust that this ethnic customer base keeps the stores selling to its members honest and will passively punish fake or even real-but-not-good olive oil by not buying it. So I sometimes buy what they buy where they buy it and trust it is real.

            And I compare this oil to ” seemingly real” oil from other types of stores and if it seems good, even if good in a different way, I will buy it. If you are going to buy it, you eventually have to go on trust because you will never know how they store it, is it adulterated, etc.

            If you remember what the oil you get at Trader Joes tastes like, you can use that as a benchmark for oils from elsewhere. If you can’t trust oils from elsewhere, then why did you ever trust and ever buy oil from Trader Joes to begin with? Depending on how you answer that question, you will either decide to look through other stores and try their oils, or you will never buy olive oil from Trader Joes or anywhere else ever ever again.

            About price . . . food co-ops sometimes carry olive oil. Ours in Ann Arbor does. One brand they carry is Bragg e.v. olive oil. Bragg is an old legacy health food name from decades ago. Normally it costs $27 per 1 liter bottle. Sometimes it goes on sale at $17.00 per 1 liter bottle. This may be older oil being cleared to make room for the next shipment. It still seems pretty okay to me. Our co-op has consistently put coupons in our local “free” arts-and-culture little magazine. The coupons are ” $15.00 off any purchase of $75.00 or more.” If you get 4 bottles at $17 per bottle, you spend $68.00. If you get a 5th such bottle, you spend $85. They take off $15 as per the coupon. So you actually spent $70 for 5 liter bottles of Bragg olive oil. That comes to $14 per liter.
            And keep them in the fridge till you are ready to take one out and use it.

            If there is a co-op near you which carries olive oil, sometimes puts it on sale, and gives out coupons, you can make that process work for you. Unless you don’t trust the oil in question, in which case, you won’t buy it no matter how low-priced and couponed.

  2. antidlc

    Nearly half of every dollar spent by Medicare drug plans goes to private health insurers’ pharmacy benefit managers and wholesalers

    As Ge Bai, Ph.D., CPA, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and professor of accounting at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, explained in a recent episode of the excellent Relentless Health Value podcast, PBMs take far more money out of the supply chain than any other entity, including the drug makers.

    Bai told podcast host Stacey Richter that researchers at Hopkins and the University of Utah looked at the 45 most commonly used generic medications taken by patients enrolled in a Medicare Part D pharmacy plan in 2021. They found that for every $100 spent by the Part D plans, $41 went to the PBMs, $30 to the manufacturers, $17 to the pharmacies that dispense the drugs, and $12 to the wholesalers.

  3. petal

    Just a reminder, don’t forget the Liz Cheney talk today from 4-5pm EST(US). “An Oath to Defend Democracy”. Streaming live here. I will not be attending or be able to watch, so…

  4. Glen

    Here’s an update from Juan Brown (blancoliro) on the Haneda accident:

    Haneda Collision UPDATE 4 Jan 2024

    It looks like the stop bar lights (traffic lights) for the taxi way which provide further information to the pilots whether to enter the runway or hold short on the taxiway were down.

    So far it seems the composite structure of the airplane actually burned slower than an aluminum one does. These structures are designed and tested to meet the requirements for crash worthiness in the event of an accident BUT even meeting those requirements, there is very little time to get off the aircraft.

  5. upstater

    Covid is spiking again in Syracuse hospitals, but that’s the new normal, doc says

    Covid cases in local hospitals are at a seasonal high, reaching numbers similar to the worst spikes throughout the pandemic.

    It’s a new normal, where Covid-19 is lumped in with flu, RSV and other similar respiratory diseases, collectively called influenza-like illnesses, Alexander said.

    The “doc” is with the county health department. No advice to the public to wear masks! The only mention of masking is the (full) hospitals all reinstated their mask requirements.

    On another note, 2 brothers’ families all got COVID, one at Christmas and the other right after new years from his partying daughter.

    1. ChiGal

      so glad I have a place to share the bullsh*t I just read in todays CIDRAP:

      For COVID, wastewater levels and test positivity are tracking higher than at the same time last year, 27% and 17%, respectively. However, the CDC said illnesses needing medical attention are lower this year, 21% less than a year ago.

      Maybe because of the millions of people who no longer have health insurance due to being kicked off the Medicaid rolls because “the pandemic is over”?

  6. steppenwolf fetchit

    If happiness costs a dollar and all you have is a dime, your dime will not buy you happiness no matter how you spend it.

    And most of us don’t have enough money to do all the things which the ” money and happiness?” article recommends . . . such as buying high-priced experiences.

    Considering that most people are near the bottom of the ladder, and remembering that every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat, what if the near-the-bottom majority shared a common culture of revenge against those higher up the ladder, and could align their two hundred million separate targeted-spending decision matrices around the common cultural goal of getting revenge on those higher up the ladder? Either active revenge or passive revenge? Even if that wouldn’t buy them happiness, it might buy them some satisfaction and vindication.

  7. digi_owl

    I have over the years seen the Boeing purchase of MD referred to as a reverse takeover, as supposedly afterwards Boeing started adopting MD’s management behavior.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Unbelievable that with the reputation of Boeing’s 737 MAX being on a knife edge, that the FAA wants to give them a pass on a problem that in air could lead to a catastrophe. Shows that nothing has changed at the FAA since those two 737 MAXs augured in. Be interesting when it comes to getting them certified for other countries.

      1. Glen

        A “plugged door” on a relatively new Alaska Air 737-9 MAX failed in flight. The airplane turned back around and landed at PDX, nobody was hurt (but [family blog]!):

        Window section blows out of plane, forces Alaska Airlines flight back to PDX

        Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX exit door separates in flight

        The longer fuselages of the 737-900 and the 737-9 MAX have an optional door which is only required when the airplane is max’ed out in configured seats so on most airplanes it is fitted with a plug (with a window) and bolted shut. These should never fail like this (plugged doors have been used on the 737-900ER since 2006) especially not on an airplane that was delivered for service just last November.

        Boeing needed a quiet year, but I think that may be gone (subscription required!):

        Outlook 2024: Boeing needs a boring year in 2024

        1. Acacia

          The seat directly next to the exit was empty, and the guy sitting in the middle had his shirt sucked off when the door blew out. Seems miraculous that nobody was decompressed out of the plane.

          And, wow, it was practically new:

          N704AL (MSN 67501) was delivered to Alaska new from Boeing on 31 October 2023. It entered commercial service on 11 November 2023 and has accumulated 145 flights since then (including the incident flight).

          Seems like the entire fleet of 737-9 MAX planes should be grounded and inspected after this kind of incident, but given it’s the US, I’d be surprised if that actually happened.

  8. Carolinian

    Re Haley–sounds like she got the word that Trump–who affectionately refers to her as “birdbrain” (we just learn)–isn’t going to pick her for VP. After all, two loose cannons might start shooting each other and she’s a lot looser than him.

    Haley seems to think her schtick of being a kinder, gentler trash talking warmonger is the key to the oval but it just makes her look inauthentic while appealing to her funders who love inauthentic. She’s a colorblind chameleon.

    We hope. Doesn’t sound like there’s much chance of her turning it around anyway. If she won here in SC that would be a shocker.

  9. Feral Finster

    Concerning art, or rather, Art, I have struggled to understand why the Mona Lisa is priceless, while an otherwise identical-looking painting is a kitschy joke?

    For that matter, what it it turned out that the Da Vinci now hanging in the Louvre were in fact a cheap modern-day knockoff, or perhaps a copy of a lost Da Vinci original, made by an apprentice of The Master? Would that change anything about the painting? What would that change in the viewers that once were convinced that they had a profound experience? Would that experience now be less earth-shattering?


    1. nippersdad

      Just my two cents: I bought an antique Russian icon of the Salvator Mundi last year (which I love) for around a hundred bucks. Da Vinci’s “lost” Salvator Mundi went for around four hundred fifty million. Art doesn’t have to be priceless, or even old, to move you. The main value for old Masters, to me, is their research value, and those are about the only times that I value the opinions of aesthetes.

      They are great for helping you to identify all the little animistic deities on your new thangka, but otherwise they just exist to make you feel like you cannot find beauty in things unless they are unapproachable. That is not a “value” worth cultivating, IMHO.

    2. Acacia

      Regarding Thierry de Duve’s claim in “What Do You Do When Anything Goes?” [Artforum], concerning the passage from Beaux-Arts to Art-in-General:

      When did this passage happen? How did it happen? Where are the art history books that tell that story? I haven’t found any.

      It sounds like he’s talking his new book — or perhaps his specific claim that it happens in the 1880s, not the 1960s —, because this passage has been explored by various critics, e.g., Buchloh’s Formalism and Historicity: Models and Methods in Twentieth-Century Art, which includes essays from the 1980s like “Readymade, Objet Trouvé, Idée Reçue,” and “Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions.”

      There’s been a lot written on Duchamp, so it’s a little unclear to me what De Duve is so fired up about.

      1. Bugs

        Arthur C. Danto spent plenty of ink on the subject as well. I was sort of astounded that this was in Art Forum but I cancelled my subscription 2 years ago anyway because of similar revisionism and sidelining of artists due to their gender or color.

  10. FreeMarketApologist

    Re: “Another political cover-up at Biden’s DOJ“:

    I wonder if there were technical reasons for the Bahamas’ rejection of the campaign finance charges as a reason for extradition? Or, perhaps like US politicians, they didn’t want names named?

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide what the reason and timeline will be for the implosion of BitNomial. The only potential good of that event might be that the CFTC doesn’t recover from the resulting blowback, thus vindicating Gary Gensler’s view of crypto, and then bringing the CFTC under the SEC. (although the haters are having their moment with the SEC, we can at least dream…)

  11. ron paul rEVOLution

    Re: Tech: “Microsoft is adding a new key to PC keyboards for the first time since 1994”

    So now we can get a Tux sticker to go over the Windows key and a wooden sabot sticker to go over the Copilot key.

    1. Acacia

      Yeah, sounds like a lame-o ploy to push people to buy new hardware, just to get the stupid Copilot key.

      Micro$oft has sold their own branded keyboards, though now they are focusing on Surface accessories.

    1. lambert strether

      Filling Hunter Thompson’s shoes? Would be nice… And especially nice if the Iowa material weren’t paywalled….

      1. flora

        Blogs have advertisers. Substack writers have subscribers. Different business models. I’m happy to read whatever isn’t paywalled.

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          If blog-readers read the advertisements then the blogs can sell advertising space for more money. Readers who can’t contribute money can contribute time reading more advertisements which helps the blog raise more money by selling ad space for more money.

          Stuff gots to be paid for one way or another.

          1. flora

            Yep. It’s a business model. TANSTAAFL. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Robert Heinline created the acronym in his book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

            1. steppenwolf fetchit

              I always thought an economist first created it.

              Actually, if by “free” we mean strictly ” not paid for with money”, there are lunches which can be paid for with time, effort and attention involving no money at all.

              Life itself is driven by free uncharged-for energy from the sun, moon, deep space and the earth-core itself. And all we have to pay is attention. Unless toll-gaters have put themselves between us and the free energy. Then we have to pay the toll-gaters for the free energy lunch from the sun, etc.

  12. lyman alpha blob

    RE: “The Unpredictable But Entirely Possible Events That Could Throw 2024 Into Turmoil” [Politico]

    Bust out the smelling salts and the fainting couch, Politico has the vapours again.

    “global pandemic. A siege at the Capitol. A reality TV star in the White House. In just the last few years, we’ve watched the unthinkable become real.”

    On that third example especially, I would argue that not only was a TV star becoming president not unthinkable, it was inevitable given our current system. I’m so old I remember Ronald Reagan, what he did for a living before becoming governor and later president, and what he never stopped doing – acting.

    Get rid of the Fairness Doctrine, remove control of debates from the League of Women Voters and hand it off to political corporations, and have the media cover politics like a dog and pony show, fomenting disagreement and deliberately pitting one side against the other rather then focusing on anything remotely substantive whatsoever, and really what else did they expect?

    1. Carolinian

      I’ll see your TV star and raise with “TV star runs for president against impeached ex-president’s wife.” Why didn’t Nancy Reagan think of that?

      Of course Hillary had that Yale sheepskin so that’s ok then and the way she tells it she was the brains all along with Bill the mere appendage with emphasis on appendage. Plus the nepotism barrier–in decline since the 19th century–had already been broken when George H.W. Bush’s least promising son became prez in 2000. And that worked out so well.

      We even had a previous TV star not so long ago. Perhaps that’s when things really started to go off the rails.

  13. ChrisFromGA

    Ahoy, mates! REIT-wreck dead ahead, turn the ship hard to the starboard side!

    Medical Properties Trust craters -29%; one of their main tenants is a hospital that hasn’t paid the rent for quite some time, and now finally the market sniffed it out or MPW simply ran out of accounting gimmicks:


    Another sign of CRE apocalypse, 2024. The year the can kicks back!

    1. Wukchumni

      Commercial real estate dying on the vine wasn’t how I figured housing bubble numero dos would crap out, but it is taking the lead over single family dwellings in a race to the bottom.

  14. Pat

    Not buying the “allowed to stay up” rhetorical question (though it would be nice to know who put them and why). They remained up because the participants didn’t take them down. Surely Kelly didn’t expect the Capitol police to do that?

    I am going to disagree with this. First it is important to remember we don’t know who put it up. So there should be no assumption that “participants” were responsible for the removal. Unless you don’t mean participants to be limited to the protesters, but to be everyone active that day. IOW if it was put up by some higher up at the Capital you might have a point. And while I agree that the physical removal was not the job of the Capital Police, they and various other Capital personnel should have made arrangements for the removal of a contentious unauthorized installation ASAP. Do you think if someone dropped a dump truck of plastic outside the Capital to protest pollution it would remain there for half a day, even if a protest was permitted and happening at the Mall? I don’t.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Agree completely.

      What kind of “security” do they have at the Capitol that a bunch of nobodies can build a “gallows” on the lawn capable of “hanging” mike pence and let it sit there all day without anyone saying a thing–a contingent of Sgt. Schultzs???

      Give us all a break.

    2. notabanker

      Yes, this. I am quite sure if me and a handful of my closest friends took a trip to DC and started erecting gallows in front of the White House, or Mall or basically anywhere in DC proper, we’d have to work pretty fast to get them up, we’d still be in the clink within 15 minutes and whatever we managed to erect wouldn’t be there longer than it would take a truck full of spooks to take them down.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > So there should be no assumption that “participants” were responsible for the removal.

      I don’t see why not. Whatever was doing on, it was certainly a demonstration. It’s hard to imagine a demonstration, of any sort, leaving an artifact in its midst that contradicted its message.

      1. Pat

        If, as per the original news reports, the gallows was assembled and erected during the storming of the Capitol I might agree with you. But this version has the gallows going up hours earlier, hours before even the participants of the rally were assembling at a different location awaiting the speakers, especially Trump. Long before they marched to the Capitol. Unless there was a splinter group of demonstrators protesting at the Capitol before and during the rally, that gallows was on its own not part of a demonstration.

        If there is actual proof that the gallows was erected long before the protestors arrived from the rally, and there were no early protests there, that raises a lot of questions, but not the least of which is why it was not noticed and removed. And without active demonstrators for those five or six hours, it certainly would not be up to the demonstrators blocks away to remove it.

        But there is much about that day that doesn’t make sense to me, so just chalk it up to that

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > But there is much about that day that doesn’t make sense to me, so just chalk it up to that

          One of these days, when I have a free eight or sixteen hours, I’d like to sit down with a timeline and see what I see (and I’d trust the House Democrat timeline as far as I could throw it, seeing that the use to which it has been put was doubtless the use for which it was designed; the “insurrection” talk started instantly, even before Podium Man had put his haul up on eBay).

          1. Pat

            I’m not sure that even sixteen hours would be enough. And forget the waders I think a full hazmat suit would be necessary. Even the contemporaneous reports were slanted. Not that it even had to be intended although that would be giving our mass media too much credit probably.

  15. Wukchumni

    “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right”
    Just back from 9 blissful days over New Years @ Saline hot springs in Death Valley NP.

    I’m a long distance soaker and put in at least 6 hours in the soup everyday we’re there. Hiked out to petroglyph sites and saw some spectacular ones, the 3 condors in particular. One of the petroglyphs is about 5 feet across in width on a condor!


    There were perhaps a hundred so soakers assembled in both the lower & upper hot springs, and not one ¢ was exchanged between anybody during our stay there. Now in regards to alcohol & Rx, lots of exchanging going on there.

    It comes with an air show, we had about 25 low passes @ 400-500 mph from 150 to 300 feet above the ground by F-18’s, F-35’s & Harrier jets, along with dogfights overhead. We guestimated the expense to be $25k per minute on a 5 minute dogfight in particular, so figure we got $125k worth, and the other quick passes probably amounted to $375k, so half a million was spent overhead in overhead.

    Anything of note happen in my absence?

    1. ChrisFromGA

      Welcome back! Nothing notable from my place in the cheap seats. Well, there was a hilarious “12 Days of Christmas” spoof from Antifa. And, as noted by my comment above, seems like 2024 might be the year the wheels finally fall off the bus of the office REITs.

      Glad you got the chance to kick back and enjoy some time in the soaker. We still have one more day of Orthodox Xmas, so, song lyrics on that theme are fair game, I think.

      1. Wukchumni

        Xmas never really seems to be over, and they’ll only be happy when decorations for the event start appearing in stores in January.

      2. Dezert Dog, Rex

        Saline hot springs was just SO much nicer before the Park took it over. Actually I really liked the upper third spring where the burrows watered but didn’t mind me camping there. No rules back then and long term camping was ok anywhere.

        1. Wukchumni

          If I walked out to the Sherman Tree in my birthday suit in Sequoia NP, they’d lock me up.

          Nobody cares what you don’t wear @ Saline, in another National Park.

  16. petal

    Was waiting for the bus outside the grocery store on way home and one of those box trucks with the video screen sides drove by. The back said how 22000+ Palestinians have been killed, one side said $3.9b given to Israel, another side said something about the Liberty, and I think the org was “IfAmericansKnew.org”. Surprised to see one of those driving around here, esp in support of Palestinians and against Israel.

  17. JBird4049

    >>>None of the systems that the PMC are responsible for running are doing very well, at least if you’re a dull normal: Not healthcare, not higher education, not high school and grade school, not the law, not scientists, not management in general, not one.

    I would also have to add that this includes everyone regardless of their putative political ideology including conservatives, leftists, liberals, and libertarians. Most of it is just camouflage for the grift anyways.

    All the noise from everyone and everything is essentially just to hide this as if this was really understood by the population that our entire system was competent only in stealing from the bottom 90% it would collapse the whole system.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The Jackpot is a decades-long process. It’s mistake to think it’s like night and day, that you wake up one morning and everything has changed. This from 2020 in Medium (login required) is really insightful; Collapse Takes A Lifetime. America Is Just Getting Started. Sadly I can’t get Medium to vouchsafe the entire article, so this will have to do:

        I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

        This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die*, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

        I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks.

        Today I’m like, “Did we live like this?” But we did. I mean, I did. Was I a rich Colombo fuckboi while poorer people died, especially minorities? Well, yes. I wrote about it, but who cares.

        The real question is, who are you? I mean, you’re reading this. You have the leisure to ponder American collapse like it’s even a question. The people really experiencing it already know.

        As someone who’s already experienced societal breakdown, here’s the truth: America has already collapsed. What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse.

        None of this causes me despair; I am a “Give to me straight, doc” kind of guy. I do feel I am in a position to warn other people, help them understand, maybe just help them with what I am good at doing.** Collapse, after all, is not unknown throughout history. I also feel that for this collapse there will be a reckoning for those who brought it about, and I’m not talking about “consumers.” At some point, things snap back; the dull normals will start pouring pesticide down the vents of the squillionaire’s bunkers… “The Hamptons is not a defensible position,” as Mark Blythe once said. Nor Idaho, given a level of effort.

        NOTE * Don’t feel guilt, this is how stochastic eugenicism works; there are tranches of mortality layered one on top of the other: Covid, oxycontin, “deaths of despair,” High Fructose Corn Syrup, cigarettes… The bodies have been piling up for a lifetime… But in the midst of all that, good can still be done!

        NOTE ** So is the author of this article, if it comes to that.


        “Lead your life!” <-- except without ignorance and denial, and some minimal recognition of the reality of other minds....

        1. caucus99percenter

          When I was in school in the 1950s, there was this patriotic propaganda film we all were made to watch, about “freedom” versus “ism.” Under “ism,” the politician character — tellingly for the period, a Southern senator stereotype — is reduced to the role of a phonograph playing a broken record — “Everything is fine … everything is fine …”


          I find it deeply unsettling that currently, in both the U.S. and Germany, it seems to be right-wing populists (Trump, the AfD) pointing out that the Jackpot is occurring (however wrong they may be about causes and how to stop it).

          While on the other hand, it’s the centrist-left(-ish)-Green united front “against the Right” that — give or take a few top-down tweaks to promote DEI and address climate change — is claiming “Everything is fine” including wealth concentration, total surveillance, censorship, mass migration, wars, and genocide.

        2. Acacia

          I remember that article (probably read it thanks to Lambert).

          Actually, there were several in a series. That quotation is from the first (de-paywalled):

          I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There

    1. flora

      Good. This whole “lets try to throw GOP pols off the ballot” is getting way out of hand. Trying to disqualify Iowa’s Sen. Chuck Grassley? That’s just crazy.

      1. hk

        And the flippant definition of “insurrection,” which can, conceivably used to arbitrarily tar and feather, eh, practically anyone. If the Dems do something absurd, expect the Republicans to make an actual serious use of it.

        The idea of gumming up judicial nominations was concocted by Democratic legal scholars as a sort of “guerrilla tactic” after W was about to become president. Dems did use this trick to some degree, but the Republicans went full bore with it in their turn. The idea of abolishung the supermajority requirement for cloture in the Senate was always a Democratic idea, for decades, but after Dems partially removed it, Republicans extended it to the logical next step. The only thing that keeps these things in place is not legal technicalities, but a whole set of “handshake agreemennts,” and these things are only as good as the trust among the participants in the process. Unilaterally abrogating them on the basis of convenient legalobabble is one heck of a way to destroy that trust. Trying to bar a major presidential candidate with more than realistic chance of winning on the basis of legalobabble is more dangerous than a dozen thermonuclear warheads.

        1. flora

          Yep. The whole “everybody knows he’s guilty” babble from the Maine gal Shenna Bellows sounds exactly like a lynch party talk.

  18. JM

    That ArtForum quote is kind of shocking to me. I’m no art historian, but I took several courses years ago and have read a number of books, most were concerned about the names and dates aspect, or specific movements/artists. So this is going from foggy memory, but this person is completely missing the introduction of fine art photography which elicited much of the same reaction as the readymade did – that the piece was not art, that no real effort or creativity was used in the making, etc. So, much of the battle had already been fought and Duchamp was as much a reductio ad absurdum as anything; attacking the last artificial barriers propping up old orders. And it was not this immediate switch that he seems to be taking it as, especially if you consider photography as a forerunner.

    The idea that the acceptance of Dada and later abstract Contemporary art is completely undocumented is unbelievable to me. I can’t even wrap my head around what I’ve read, including the Beaux-Arts thread; is he talking about the only movement with that name, which is Architecture? Or is he jazzing up a reference to Classical/Neo-Classical painting (Fine Art)?

    I’m going to try reading all the way through this, but I can already feel my eyes threatening to roll out of their sockets.

      1. JM

        Maybe I’m over-egging, but I feel like there’s still a current of discontent over photography as “Fine Art” that isn’t there for the other things he mentions; even though photography has clearly won that battle. So in a way it’s not surprising to me that the photo gets into a strange in-between space.

    1. Acacia

      This is my reaction too (sorry, I commented above and it went into mod).

      Only thing I can figure is that Thierry de Duve is talking his book.

      1. JM

        Absolutely, but it seems to me that it would backfire on him. But I suppose selective excerpts, and the pressure to conform, which seems strong in the ArtForum reading world might remove that risk.

  19. The Rev Kev

    ” Hunter Biden’s ‘sugar brother’ Kevin Morris plots gauzy documentary on first son ”

    Hopefully we will be able to see the version that has the ‘R’ rating. Will there be a special release ‘X’ version?

  20. Jake

    I’m glad I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read the Associate Dean’s xitter handle, @ass_deans

  21. Tom Stone

    If you think of Hunter’s laptop as a choke collar the behavior of the FBI and DoJ makes some kind of sense.
    The Feebs knew that it was genuine Months before the election and there are still no FARA charges despite the evidence that the dear boy was acting as a foreign agent being beyond dispute.
    Absent a terrorist attack Brandon is toast, and given the efficiency of the US Surveillance State any conspiracy involving more than three people is simply not possible unless it was allowed for the greater good.

  22. flora

    Jimmy Dore. Pretty interesting about Google and data collection and elections. Interesting just on the data collection information even if you don’t care about the election stuff. utube. ~1 hour.

    “Proof Google Is STEALING Elections!” Says Dr. Robert Epstein


    Time to rein in the big tech companies. Make their public platforms regulated utilities. / my 2 cents.

  23. ambrit

    The comment under the screen shot of the ex-Capitol policeman running for Congress about the “Rock” look made me stop and wonder; why not Dwayne Johnson as Trump’s Veep?

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