2:00PM Water Cooler 3/26/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Red-winged Blackbird (Red-winged), Stauffer’s Marsh, Berkeley, West Virginia, United States. “Male Red-winged Blackbird calling and singing very close to recordist. One example of high-pitched call that is not clipped.”

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Patient readers, this is a travel day for me. If you are reading this sentence, I am having connectivity issues, so please talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi, lichen, 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 GC54:

GC54 writes: “Misty Feb am over UNC arboretum.”

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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. Wukchumni

    Naked truth, reliance a piece of work cold-blooded perusal all’s well that ends well, dwindle, vanish into thin air-what’s done is done, champion too much of a good thing.

  2. antidlc

    Clearing the Air

    Long COVID sufferers advocate for a healthier world.

    To the Texans suffering from long COVID—or “long-haulers” as they’re sometimes called—it can seem like the world has moved on and forgotten them. Discussions of COVID mitigation—beyond periodic reminders to get booster shots—have all but disappeared from most public health discussions, and even many medical professionals no longer wear masks after CDC guidelines on masking began to ease in late 2021 and 2022.

    Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and development at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ St. Louis Healthcare System and clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, stressed that masks were always meant to be a “stopgap measure” until we developed more sustainable ways of protecting people from getting sick.

    “We lifted the stopgap, and we didn’t develop the permanent solutions, and I think that’s really one of the major failures of the pandemic,” Al-Aly said.

    From 2022:
    Fire Jeff Zients

    Biden’s COVID czar has gone from ‘Mr. Fix-It’ to grim reaper, steering the administration’s pandemic response to catastrophic lows.

    1. The Rev Kev

      It occurs to me that it would be good as a painting and some of those trees already look like they have been painted.

  3. mrsyk

    Loads of questions concerning the DoT dumpster fire called Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore.
    The governor says the ship, the Dali, was moving at 8 knots, roughly 9mph (15km/h), which he says was “very, very rapid”, bbc. Is that fast?
    I don’t see any tugboats in the video. I’d think that would be regulation going under that bridge.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      But mrsyk, to provide backups like tugs would end up costing our dear billionaires a penny or two per container on that ship. We can’t have that. Remember the goal of the system is to pump as much money as possible to them. Everything else is secondary, if considered at all.

      1. mrsyk

        This is a regulatory debacle. Heads should roll from the top down. A nationally critical piece of infrastructure is rendered useless in an epic own-goal. Mine is not a serious country.

        1. Samuel Conner

          > not a serious country

          well, not serious about things like “public weal”. Indeed, the very existence of an entity corresponding to the expression “the public” is disputed.

          But I think that our rulers are deadly serious about the things that do matter to them. It’s that that those things are not us,

          1. mrsyk

            I’m pretty sure having the Port of Baltimore fully functioning is in the interest of some rather wealthy and influential people.

      2. Not Qualified to Comment

        I’ve heard there was a Pilot on the ship. While the Master remains ultimately responsible for the passage and profitability of the ship the Pilot’s concern is for its safety and the safety and passage of other vessels in the vicinity, not the owner’s profits.

        The Master can overrule the Pilot but he puts his ticket and career on the line if he does so, and he’d be a fool to do so to make a few more bucks for the temporary charterers (whoever they were) if he costs its permanent owner (Mersk, I believe) their ship.

        Things can go wrong and greed isn’t always the cause.

    2. Big River Bandido

      It is fast over water, yes. OTOH, water craft are easier to maneuver at higher speeds (helm responds very slowly at slower speeds).

      1. gk

        I don’t know if this was intentional but the Guardian has an article on the bridge right next to one on Dali’s (the other one) contributions to the storyboards for Spellbound

          1. Lena

            “Spellbound” is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. “Marnie”, no.

            Interesting about the Guardian articles.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      I have to go over a big mile-long drawbridge every day (I looked both ways before crossing this morning!). I know there are tugs at least sometimes accompanying the large ships that go underneath, but not sure what the official regulations are.

      And is the Francis Scott Key bridge one that ships are supposed to go under? It doesn’t appear to be a drawbridge, and from the short video I saw it didn’t look like there was enough clearance for a ship that size to go under, but kind of hard to tell just from video….

    4. ChrisFromGA

      Seems that nothing will be getting in or out of Baltimore Harbor for a while. I wonder, when combined with the Houthis successful blockade of the Red Sea for non-Russian or Chinese ships, what kind of mark this will leave on global shipping rates, and consequently drop a big Baby Ruth in the rate-cut punchbowl.

      Need for shipping speed
      Meets Houthis and the slow fish
      Higher for longer!

      1. Wukchumni

        Ah, excuse me
        Oh, will you excuse me
        I’m just trying to find the bridge
        Has anybody seen the bridge?
        (Have you seen the bridge?)
        I ain’t seen the bridge
        (Where’s that confounded bridge?)

    5. griffen

      Wasn’t that in the opening scene from the Netflix movie late last year? “Leave the World Behind”

      Just occurred to me. Either that beached tanker scene, or instead the scene in Forrest Gump where he sees Lt Dan on the pier…and his shrimp boat runs aground…

    6. digi_owl

      The story i have seen is that they lost all power a minute or so before impact, and had barely got things back up and running again, with the motors going full reverse, at time of impact. Likely the ship has gone in and out of that harbor for years with no incident and no need for tugs. But when Murphy strikes he strikes with vengeance.

      1. clarky90

        Earth hit by radiation from rare ‘double’ X-class solar flare, triggering most powerful geomagnetic storm in 6 years

        Could the cause of, “they lost all power a minute or so before impact,…” be explained by the CME (coronal mass ejection) that struck Earth that very same day?


        “… The sun has just bombarded Earth with the most powerful geomagnetic storm our planet has seen in more than six years. The massive storm occurred after an eruption from an extremely rare “double” X-class flare disturbed Earth’s magnetic field, lighting up the skies across the globe with vibrant auroras and other luminous phenomena.

        The explosive event is another clear sign that the sun has likely reached the fiery peak of its roughly 11-year cycle of activity, known as solar maximum….”

        1. clarky90

          Rivers are particularly conductive, and accumulative, of electricity directed at our Earth, by the Sun’s shenanigans.

    7. scott s.

      Can’t imagine any scenario where you would have tugs there. Do you also want them to go under the Bay Bridge? Don’t have any experience going above Yorktown in the Bay, but I would think a 2/3rds (10 kt) bell would be typical there.

      Coast Guard yard at Curtis Bay is now cut off, but since the Coasties are now Homeland Security I guess it isn’t a problem for Pete.

    1. Randall Flagg

      Amazing at the end of that clip
      how many ships are backed up outside of that downed bridge. Obviously not all are going into that area but here comes another supply chain interruption.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        Baltimore is a big auto roll on/roll off terminal and those autos will need to be diverted to Philly, Norfolk, or NYC.

        The question is how much capacity they have to pick up the slack. Labor is one issue; another is how many cars they’re already handling and whether they can divert to other ports. Be certain that the usual suspects are all telling the press: ’tis but a flesh wound! Gotta keep the Dow Jones jacked up like a meth-addict hopped up on a particularly good batch.

        If it were me and I needed a vehicle, I’d be accelerating my plans to buy before we get 2021 all over again. The used car market got so distorted that it was cheaper to buy new, when factoring in depreciation and risk of hidden damages.

        Another thing I read is that the Bridge was Hazmat certified and now those cargoes will need to be diverted. The other two routes nearby are tunnels and are a no-go for hazardous materials, without a waiver and considerable bureaucratic delay.

        Not sure what the ramifications of that are. Hazmat I think can still go via the western bypass (I-695) unless there are restrictions there.

      1. hk

        I suppose this is a strange and uncharitable reaction on my part, but one thing that I kept thinking was “so this is what we’d been trying to do the Russians at Kerch Bridge?”

    2. Displaced Platitudes

      I appreciate you linking this gentleman, Flora. Like MentourNow for aviation-related information, he is a reasoned observer. In fact, his was the first report I searched for on news of the disaster.
      From what I understand, vessels that size have the equivalent of “Black Boxes”, so we should have all the data necessary to understand what caused this in due time. There would have been a harbor pilot on board as well as a captain to ensure knowledge of the peculiarities of that passage; in fact, the harbor pilot would have overall responsibility for everything until they depart the ship.
      Preliminary suppositions were complete loss of navigation followed by at least one attempt to restart engines (when you see black smoke from the stack). Restart did not appear to succeed and according to reports the starboard anchor was dropped to try to avoid the pier by pulling the boat to the left. There are reports of wind across the bow from the left side, which might have, due to lack of power or rudder, caused the vessel to drift right. The ship issued maydays which may have saved many lives, but not those of the maintenance workers on the span.
      I understand that, thankfully, loss of power when navigating harbors is very unusual. What a horror for all concerned, especially those who may have tried valiantly to avoid it, and now must live with the aftermath.

    3. VietnamVet

      A chain of events led to the destruction of the Key Bridge and the closure of the Port of Baltimore. This is similar to why were four bolts not reinstalled when repairing the 737 Max door plug. Besides the causes of the loss of power and control of the ship, who made the cost saving decision to release the tugs before, not after, passing safely under the bridge. The answer is who got a cut of the money saved by cost cutting. Since it is the system that is at fault, it is likely we will never know the specifics.

      1. Glenn Olson

        I’m amazed at how few seconds it took for the bridge to collapse into the water and how many pieces it broke into. As an engineer I’m at a loss to understand the tradeoffs that were made in the design such that loss of one support resulted in so many shear points and total loss of the center span. It’s almost like it was made of glass and shattered at the first impact. Steel designs should not do that.

  4. antidlc


    This New Lawsuit Could Rescind Your Health Care Benefits

    Right-wing federal appeal judges signal they support repeal of the no-cost preventive care mandate, all but guaranteeing a Supreme Court showdown.

    Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit signaled it will affirm a lower-court ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s requirement that private insurance plans cover preventive services at no cost to patients. Once the Fifth Circuit issues its expected ruling, the Supreme Court will get another chance to strike a grievous blow to the public’s health.

    In September 2022, Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas (the court where many anti-ACA rulings originate) declared that the executive branch could not use the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to determine which services would be covered by the mandate. The 2010 ACA said all services given an “A” or “B” rating by the task force must be covered without copays or deductibles. After the ruling, the government appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

    Looks like Obamacare hell will get even worse.

  5. Martin Oline

    There is still hope department:

    Texas voters could get the chance to cast their ballots for a man named ‘Literally Anybody Else’ this November, if his long-shot scheme to protest the US’ two-party system is successful.

    Math teacher and military veteran Dustin Ebey formally changed his name to ‘Literally Anybody Else’ earlier this month, and is now scrambling to gather the 113,151 signatures required to appear on Texas ballots as an independent candidate, WFAA News reported on Friday.

    1. Zar

      Campaign slogan:

      A vote for Literally Anybody Else is a vote for figuratively anybody else (and literally Literally Anybody Else)!

  6. jo6pac

    Not to worry about the bridge because uncle joe b. said the feds would pay and mayor pete will be there a soon as we fine him to get the job done;-)

    Thanks flora

    1. Randall Flagg

      I’m sure at a follow up press conference Biden will be sure to mention the time he took a detour on his way back to Delaware on the Amtrak train crossing that bridge on the way to a meeting with Francis Scott Key to collaborate on writing the National Anthem. And if those nasty republicans would get out of his way he could spend even more on infrastructure. And the new bridge will be a “green bridge”. With solar panels.
      And charging stations.
      Hey, where’s my ice cream.

      1. scott s.

        The Harbor and Ft McHenry tunnels have cargo restrictions, so routing around the bridge is not so easy. Maybe go through Delaware on the 13/301 to the Bay Bridge?

  7. lyman alpha blob

    A little exercise, since we’re talking amongst ourselves today – I tried to find a clip of Nuland’s recent quote about nasty surprises being in store for Russia, since my Putin-deranged acquaintance who will only listen to corporate media told me earlier that not only did he not hear that quote, he’d never heard of Nuland. This is someone who listens to a lot of news on a daily basis, even if it is MSM.

    I searched youtube for “Victoria Nuland nasty surprise for Russia” and got some hits, including her “F the EU” classic, but not this recent one. Could be I didn’t enter good enough search terms (although I’m not sure how I could be more specific), so wondering if anyone else can find it.

    It does seem like youtube is making it difficult to find even though I’ve seen it many, many times in various non-corporate media outlets.

    1. JustAnotherVolunteer

      C-span had the clip and the transcript. Full quote for context:



          1. The Rev Kev

            That’s more an Israeli thing. The Ukrainians do like hitting markets when they are crowded though.

            1. Glenn Olson

              Speaking of crowded, just a note from the way back machine, the Twin Towers were hit before most people started work. That took planning. Think about it.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Thanks to both of you above. We will see if this is a cure for the Putin Derangement Syndrome….

      1. Feral Finster

        Don’t bet on it. There are serious personal and professional consequences from straying from the accepted groupthink, especially for members of the PMC (who hold their positions largely because they can be relied upon to accept and internalize the current platitudes).

        The rich live off capital, which is indifferent to what its beneficiary does with the dividend checks. Nobody cares what the working class do on their off-hours, as long as they clock in on time the next day. However, the PMC hold their sinecures by virtue of who they are and the hoops that they jumped through, and hence they are the least free of any of us, always afraid that some overly loose utterance or some style transgression will land them on the Naughty List.

        BTW, this is the principal value of the MSM to the PMC and why they follow it so religiously – it is not so much a source of factual information, so much as it tells them what the Received Wisdom on a given issue is at the moment.

        1. Lena

          But it’s gotten so hard to know how to think when Rachel is only on MSDNC one night a week. Where else to turn? Hillary on X?

          1. Randall Flagg

            Who to turn to? NPR of course and the daily line up. Here and Now. 1A. Take your pick. It’s comical to listen to them go on about Trump and disinformation when they are conveniently forgetting how many hours, and hours, and hours, they got out of the whole Russiagate/ Steele Dossier and all. And the jabs were going to save the world. Damn it you that didn’t take it… Oh, and we have to save that shining democracy of western Europe, Ukraine.
            You too, can add your voice to the conversation, provided it fits the narrative the day.

  8. Wukchumni

    In Collapse of Complex Societies, author Joseph Tainter gives a list of 11 reasons for collapse of past empires, how many pertain to pretty much the whole world now?

    Resource depletion
    New resources
    Insufficient response to circumstances
    Other complex societies
    Social dysfunction
    Mystical factors
    Chance concatenation of events
    Economic explanations

  9. barncat

    Here’s a long read on the tricksy mechanics of the current financial system: “https://thegreattaking.com/read-online-or-download”> What about it?

  10. Skip Intro

    The LLMentalist Effect: how chat-based Large Language Models replicate the mechanisms of a psychic’s con

    The field of AI research has a reputation for disregarding the value of other fields, so I’m certain that this reimplementation of a psychic’s con is entirely accidental. It’s likely that, being unaware of much of the research in psychology on cognitive biases or how a psychic’s con works, they stumbled into a mechanism and made chatbots that fooled many of the chatbot makers themselves.
    Remember what I wrote above about psychics frequently having conned themselves, that many of them aren’t even aware of their own scam?
    The same applies here. I think this is an industry that didn’t understand what it was doing and, now, doesn’t understand what it did.
    That’s why so many people in tech are completely and utterly convinced that they have created the first spark of true Artificial General Intelligence.

  11. Feral Finster

    Well, isn’t that just special?

    The unexpected death of Brigadier General Adam Marczak has been reported by the Polish Armed Forces Command.

    ▪️Some Western and Russian sources link the General’s death with the information that appeared on the Internet about the attack on the buried command post in Chasov Yar.

    “We regret to inform you that on Tuesday, 26 March 2024, Brigadier General Adam Marczak, Chief of Staff of the EU Operational Command Althea in Mons, passed away,” said the Operational Command of the Polish Armed Forces.

    ▪️It specified that the death was unexpected but “due to natural causes, in his free time”.

    “Fighting someone else’s war has its consequences,” foreigners who don’t believe in natural causes wrote in the comments.


    N.b. other Telegram channels also note this.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Does having a building fall on his head count as ‘natural causes’? The thing to watch for is if he is given a medal. You don’t get one for dying of natural causes but you do for foreign service. But as they say, play stupid games and win stupid prizes.

    2. scott s.

      I suppose it could be a cover story, but interesting if the COS for the NATO command overseeing Bosnia located in Mons would just be “not around HQ for months”?

    1. ChrisFromGA

      This caught my eye:

      Who pays for those damages? Under ancient maritime law called “General Average” it’s not the ship owner that pays, but the companies with cargo on the ship. That means that if you have even a single container onboard, you have to split the damages pro rata with all the other companies with cargo on board.

      So liability is with the shipping companies, not the ship owner. If they had no insurance …

      1. LifelongLib

        With the usual caveat that I Am Not A Lawyer, the link below makes me question whether “General Average” applies here. General Average appears to apply in situations where e.g. cargo is deliberately dumped to prevent the loss of the whole ship, not to accidents like hitting a bridge. I welcome correction.


  12. Pat

    Whoa is Nicole Shanahan shady, or is it just me? ( And I don’t just mean her incredibly bad faste in men).

    1. Lena

      Her background seems, um, “interesting”. She might help RFK Jr in California, maybe (or not). I don’t see her playing well in the Midwest or anywhere else.


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