2:00PM Water Cooler 4/17/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bull Rock Road, Essex, New York, United States.

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In Case You Might Miss…

(1) Mayorkas impeachement articles delivered to Senate.

(2) Tesla halts delivery of those stupid-looking trucks.

(3) Wastewater testing expands its scope (but mostly in wealthier countries).


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

* * *

The Constitutional Order (Insurrection)

“Prosecutions of Fake Electors for Trump Gain Ground in Swing States” [New York Times]. “The chairman of the Nevada Republican Party has been indicted. So has the former chairman of the Georgia G.O.P. In Michigan, a former co-chairwoman of the state party is facing charges. As Donald J. Trump goes on trial in the New York criminal case, other investigations and prosecutions in five crucial swing states are continuing to scrutinize the steps that he and his allies took in trying to circumvent the will of voters after the 2020 election. The investigations focus largely on the plan to deploy fake electors in states that Mr. Trump lost. Documents emerging from the state cases highlight divisions among Trump advisers after the 2020 election about whether to use hedging language in the phony certificates that they sent to Washington purporting to designate electoral votes for Mr. Trump. They also undercut claims by some Trump aides that they played little role in the fake-electors plan. Georgia, Michigan and Nevada have already brought charges against a total of 25 fake electors, including current and former Republican Party leaders in those states. ”


Less than a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, April 5

Here this Friday’s RCP poll. Trump is still up in all the Swing States (more here), leading with one exception: PA. I’ve highlighted it again, (1) because BIden is now up there, and (2) it’s an outlier, has been for weeks. Why isn’t Trump doing well there? (I’ll work out a better way to do this, but for now: Blue dot = move toward Biden; red dot = move toward Trump. No dot = no change (presumably because state polls are not that numerous so far from election day).

* * *

Trump (R) (Bragg): “Trump’s False Records Case Teeters on a Fragile Tax Platform” [Bloomberg Law]. “Bragg apparently is pursuing [state] tax charges against Trump based on a fragile, interlocking triad of criminal statutes. To be successful, he’ll have to prove each element of each alleged crime, including Trump’s personal involvement and intent at every synapse of a complicated scheme, where the underlying alleged tax fraud is itself subject to at least some debate…. Bragg appears to be alleging that Trump schemed with the Trump Organization to falsify its business records and file false instruments with New York’s tax authorities so that he might secure, indirectly, an otherwise impermissible personal tax deduction. Trump could argue in response that he was entitled to take the deduction. Although it’s difficult for most individual taxpayers to argue that they’re engaged in a trade or business, he presents an unusual case: Much of his income reportedly relates to licensing his name. Query whether the Trump brand is a trade or business, in which case a payment to avoid brand-tarnishing publicity could arguably be a legitimate business expense. Although the government could respond that he was really acting to protect his candidacy rather than his personal brand, parsing the distinction could get awkward.” • I’m not a tax maven, so perhaps one such will chime in. (As I explain here, Bragg can elevate Trump’s alleged business records misdemeanors to felonies if he can show they were falsified in furtherance of “other crime(s).” One such crime might be state tax violations (“might” because Bragg, amazingly to me, doesn’t specify the “other crimes” in his indictment).

Trump (R) (Bragg): “Alvin Bragg Struggles to Convince People Donald Trump’s Guilty” [Newsweek]. “In total, 35 percent of Americans believe Trump acted illegally in this case, while 31 percent said they believed he acted unethically, but not necessarily illegally. Fourteen percent said he did nothing wrong, while 19 percent said they do not know enough about the case to make a decision. It remains to be seen whether more Americans will change their mind about whether Trump is guilty as the case heads to trial in the coming weeks when prosecutors will make their case to a jury about the alleged crimes.” • I don’t think enough Americans will have understood the case enough to know what Trump is guilty of — something, of course — especially since Bragg has not yet explained what “other crimes” raise the business records misdemeanor charges to felonies. (Another reason why the “hush money” framing is so damaging; it does nothing to promote understanding of the case.)

Trump (R): “Trump faces contempt motion after social media posts about New York trial” [Guardian]. “The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, filed a motion in papers made public on Tuesday to hold Trump in contempt of court for violating a partial gag order in the case. Prosecutors said that Trump had already violated his gag order three times, posting about the witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels on social media. They asked the judge to fine Trump $3,000 for the violation. Merchan said he will hold a hearing on the alleged violations on 23 April…. Though Merchan subjected Trump to a gag order before the trial began, it only extends to prosecutors other than Bragg, witnesses, court employees, jurors and their families. Trump is free to criticize Merchan himself, though it will probably not help Trump win the favor over the judge, who will decide on Trump’s sentence if the jury finds him guilty. Before the trial, Merchan extended the gag order to cover his family and Bragg’s family after Trump posted about Merchan’s daughter, who worked for a company that helped Democratic candidates with digital campaigns. Trump and his lawyers have twice tried to get Merchan recused from the case, to no avail.” • Merchan’s daughter didn’t “work for” Authentic Campaigns; she was the firm’s President (!). “Authentic Campaigns’ website features a list of clients, which includes Biden and Harris’ 2020 campaigns. Federal records indicate that Harris’ campaign paid the firm more than $7.5 million in 2019 for digital consulting and acquiring contact lists, and that Biden’s campaign paid the firm more than $2.1 million in 2020 for digital advertising and creative consulting.”

Trump (R): “Who is Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg? Prosecutor has battled Donald Trump in court before” [USA Today]. “In 2022, Bragg’s office won convictions against two parts of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer. Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty to 15 charges in a scheme to avoid taxes. Two Trump corporations were fined a combined $1.6 million for convictions of 17 felonies…. Bragg has said he sued Trump more than 100 times when he worked in the state Attorney General’s office, including successfully targeting the Trump Foundation for misuse of charitable funds for personal and political purposes.” • So Bragg knows the terrain. It may be he’s got something up his sleeve on “other crimes.” Let’s wait and see.

Trump (R): “Littwin: As Trump’s criminal trial begins, it may take more than a verdict to determine whether Trump wins or loses” [Colorado Sun]. “If Trump didn’t lose in 2016 when Access Hollywood was fresh in voters’ minds, why would listening to a prosecutor read from the transcript — Judge Juan Merchan ruled that actually showing the video might be prejudicial — change anything today?” • No, but that isn’t what the trial is about (unless the press decides that it is).

* * *

Biden (D): “Biden visits his Pennsylvania hometown to call for more taxes on the rich and cast Trump as elitist” [Associated Press]. “President Joe Biden made a nostalgic return to the house where he grew up in working-class Scranton on Tuesday, kicking off three days of campaigning across Pennsylvania by calling for higher taxes on the rich and casting Donald Trump as an out-of-touch elitist. When the Democratic president wasn’t trying to blunt the populist appeal of his Republican predecessor’s comeback bid, he appeared to savor his trip down memory lane. He lingered longer than expected at his childhood home, where an American flag [no doubt] waved softly in the wind [of course] on the front porch [pure poetry] and neighbors crowded the sidewalk under flowering trees and a pale blue sky. The president later posed for photos with children, some wearing school uniforms, in the backyard.” • Did he sniff any of them?

Biden (D): “In surprise, Biden faces real threat from Trump with Hispanic voters” [The Hill]. “Biden’s support among Hispanics — particularly young Latino men — is lukewarm. And in some cases, polls show he is losing support among the key Democratic voting bloc. At the same time, Trump appears to be gaining support from Hispanics. A New York Times/Siena College survey out this week showed Biden with 50 percent support among Hispanics — which is historically low for a Democrat. Meanwhile, Trump’s support among Hispanics has grown to 41 percent, which is on the higher end for a Republican. Last week, an Axios/Ipsos survey showed Biden’s support among Hispanics dropping by 12 points from 53 percent to 41 percent over the last three years. And while support for Trump is still low at 32 percent, the former president has gained about 8 points with Hispanic voters since the 2021 poll.”

Biden (D): “Impeachment ‘Whistleblower’ Was in the Loop of Biden-Ukraine Affairs That Trump Wanted Probed” [RealClearInvestigations]. “The ‘whistleblower’ who sparked Donald Trump’s first impeachment was deeply involved in the political maneuverings behind Biden-family business schemes in Ukraine that Trump wanted probed, newly obtained emails from former Vice President Joe Biden’s office reveal. In 2019, then-National Intelligence Council analyst Eric Ciaramella touched off a political firestorm when he anonymously accused Trump of linking military aid for Ukraine to a demand for an investigation into alleged Biden corruption in that country. But four years earlier, while working as a national security analyst attached to then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office, Ciaramella was a close adviser when Biden threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Ukraine unless it fired its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Ukraine-based Burisma Holdings. At the time, the corruption-riddled energy giant was paying Biden’s son Hunter millions of dollars. Those payments – along with other evidence tying Joe Biden to his family’s business dealings – received little attention in 2019 as Ciaramella accused Trump of a corrupt quid pro quo. Neither did subsequent evidence indicating that Hunter Biden’s associates had identified Shokin as a ‘key target.’ These matters are now part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Biden. ‘It now seems there was material evidence that would have been used at the impeachment trial [to exonerate Trump],’ said George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who has testified as an expert witness in the ongoing Biden impeachment inquiry. ‘Trump was alleging there was a conflict of interest with the Bidens, and the evidence could have challenged Biden’s account and established his son’s interest in the Shokin firing.’… Camella’s role – including high-level discussions with top Biden aides and Ukrainian prosecutors – is only now coming to light thanks to the recent release of White House emails and photos from the National Archives….. Yet there is no evidence Ciaramella raised alarms about the questionable Biden business activities he witnessed firsthand, which is in sharp contrast to 2019. In that instance, he was galvanized into action after being told by White House colleague Alexander Vindman of an “improper” phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the call, Trump solicited Zelensky’s help in investigating Burisma and Hunter Biden’s role in the company.” • Unsurprising.

* * *

MI: “Michigan Democrats win special elections, regain full control of state government” [MarketWatch]. “Democrats won back a majority in the Michigan House and restored their party’s full control of state government Tuesday thanks to victories in two special elections. Mai Xiong won the special election in the 13th District, which covers Warren and part of Detroit, while Peter Herzberg won in the 25th District, which contains the cities of Wayne and Westland. Both candidates were favorites in the heavily Democratic districts.”

MI: “Dearborn ‘Uncommitteds’ plan to make ‘example’ of Biden, turn party against Jewish state” [FOX]. “‘Biden is the example,’ Lexis Zeidan, one of the lead organizers and the spokesperson for Listen to Michigan, told Fox News Digital. ‘Telling the Democratic Party, putting them on notice that even for down ballot elections, for those congresspeople that are not pro-Palestinian and calling for ceasefires, their positions are at stake.’ The comments come as Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, has become a key center of resistance to Biden’s bid for re-election. During last month’s Michigan primary, more than 100,000 voters marked ‘uncommitted’ on their ballots instead of supporting Biden as the Democratic nominee, a number Zeidan said far exceeded her organization’s expectations. ‘We went into the primaries expecting or aiming to get 10,000 uncommitted votes, which was Trump’s margin of victory in 2016,’ Zeidan said. ‘And we ended up with over 101,000 uncommitted votes, where we also landed two delegates in district 12, in district six who will be headed to the national convention.'”

* * *

“Paul Krugman Is Right About the Economy, and the Polls Are Wrong” [Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine]. “The trouble here is that polling finds plenty of public optimism about the economy in contexts other than asking people how the American economy is doing. An Axios poll earlier this year found 63 percent of Americans rate their personal financial situation as ‘good,’ a figure in line with historical levels. That is also reflected in people’s spending practices — they are behaving as though the economy were booming, even if they don’t think it is. A Wall Street Journal poll last month of seven swing states found a gigantic disconnect between the public’s view of economic conditions in their own state and in the country as a whole. Fifty-four percent of respondents believe economic conditions in their state are excellent or good. But only 36 percent of respondents said the same of economic conditions in the country…. What this suggests to me is that public assessment of the economy reflects something other than an objective assessment of economic conditions. People think they are doing well and their state is doing well but the country is doing horribly. Must we assume some deep wisdom underlies these seemingly irreconcilable beliefs? Sometimes people, even with the benefit of close personal experience, just believe things that aren’t true.” • “Would it not be be simpler, If the government simply dissolved the people And elected another?” –Bertolt Brecht

Republican Funhouse

“Combatting cannibalism and jailing librarians: Idaho Democrats see opportunity in extreme GOP agenda” [Politico]. “Democrat Loree Peery knows she’s a long-shot candidate for the Idaho Legislature. But when her state House representative introduced a bill in February expanding an anti-cannibalism law — action prompted by a prank video — Peery decided she had to try to oust the far-right incumbent, Heather Scott.” • Will somebody please forward this classic video on to Scott:

This one’s pretty good too:

Perhaps it was the “prank video”?

Democrats en Déshabillé

“H.Res.863 – Impeaching Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, for high crimes and misdemeanors” [Congress.gov]. • “The Border.” How come nobody from either party talks about solving this labor market issue at the firm?

“Senate leaders haggle over Mayorkas impeachment deal as trial begins” [Politico]. “While many senators expected Democratic leadership would quickly dispose of the trial through a motion to table or dismissal, which only require a simple majority to pass, a number of vulnerable Senate Democrats haven’t publicly committed to supporting those options. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has been the most watched vote on the matter, as he insists he needs to review the articles before he makes a decision after previously saying he’d support a motion to dismiss…. Senators will reconvene Wednesday afternoon and be sworn in as jurors — and that’s when parliamentary shenanigans could ensue. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has repeatedly declined to publicly share his plans for the trial aside from wanting to deal with it ‘expeditiously.'”

“Exclusive: Mayorkas’ newest weapon against the explosion of online child sex exploitation” [USA Today] • When they say it’s about the children, it’s never about the children.


“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

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Covid 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!

* * *

Testing and Tracking

“What toilets can reveal about COVID, cancer and other health threats” [Nature]. “There are currently more than 4,600 sites around the world where wastewater is being collected for SARS-CoV-2 testing, and some of the research teams involved are investigating other potential applications, such as tracking illicit drug use and even the prevalence of cancer. But whether this has the potential to be an effective public-health strategy is still a matter of debate. Leo Poon, a colleague of [Tong] Zhang’s at HKU’s School of Public Health, says that more research should be done before health agencies expand their sewage testing programmes and make this surveillance part of their routine budgets. ‘There’s still a lot unknown,’ he says, particularly in terms of testing for pathogens besides SARS-CoV-2. ‘I think there’s a steep learning curve at the moment: when we detect something, what does it mean?’ … Inspired by case studies such as these, the field has grown drastically over the past 4 years, with hundreds of research teams now testing in 72 countries, according to the COVIDPoops19 dashboard maintained by environmental engineer Colleen Naughton and her colleagues at the University of California, Merced (see ‘Uneven coverage’).”


“Sustained Human Outbreak of a New MPXV Clade I Lineage in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo” (preprint) [medRxiv]. From the Abstract: “The Kamituga mpox outbreak spread rapidly, with 241 suspected cases reported within 5 months of the first reported case. Of 108 confirmed cases, 29% were sex workers, highlighting sexual contact as a key mode of infection. Genomic analysis revealed a distinct MPXV Clade Ib lineage, divergent from previously sequenced Clade I strains in DRC. Predominance of APOBEC3-type mutations and estimated time of emergence around mid-September 2023 suggest recent human-to-human transmission. Urgent measures, including reinforced, expanded surveillance, contact tracing, case management support, and targeted vaccination are needed to contain this new pandemicpotential Clade Ib outbreak.” And: “These patients were from rural areas and were temporally and geographically distinct, with no epidemiological linkage. Therefore, it is likely that these cases arose from zoonotic spillover, suggesting that this lineage is endemic in regionally based animal reservoir(s). And: “Frequent travel occurs between Kamituga and the nearby city of Bukavu, with subsequent movement to neighboring countries such as Rwanda and Burundi. Moreover, a considerable number of sex workers operating in Kamituga are foreigners and frequently return to their countries of origin, although at present, there is no evidence of wider dissemination of the outbreak. The highly mobile nature of this mining population poses a substantial risk of outbreak escalation beyond the current area and across borders.” Finally: “Without intervention, this localized Kamituga outbreak harbors the potential to spread nationally and internationally. Urgent measures must be implemented, including intensifying local surveillance, enhancing referral systems and case management, and implementing targeted mpox vaccination for individuals at high-risk, such as contacts of index cases, HCWs, sex workers, and men who have sex with men. 20 Given the recent history of mpox outbreaks in DRC, we advocate for swift action by endemic countries and the international community to avert another global mpox outbreak.” • I always like to link to the original article when I can, so kudos to The Telegraph for the link.

Sequelae: Covid

“Pathophysiological Mechanisms in Long COVID: A Mixed Method Systematic Review” [Environmental Research and Public Health]. Mixed-methods systematic review. From the Abstract: “Overall, the quality of reporting across the studies included in this second review was moderate to poor. The pathophysiological mechanisms with strong evidence were immune system dysregulation, cerebral hypoperfusion, and impaired gas transfer in the lungs. Other mechanisms with moderate to weak evidence were endothelial damage and hypercoagulation, mast cell activation, and auto-immunity to vascular receptors. Conclusions: LC is a complex condition affecting multiple organs with diverse clinical presentations (or traits) underpinned by multiple pathophysiological mechanisms. A ‘treatable trait’ approach may help identify certain groups and target specific interventions. Future research must include understanding the response to intervention based on these mechanism-based traits.” • With this handy diagram:

Figure 3. Proposal causal network map for LC. Red for mechanisms well supported in this review and elsewhere, black for less strong evidence. Symptoms in green.

Elite Maleficence

“The dairy industry really, really doesn’t want you to say “bird flu in cows”” [Vox]. “The current, highly virulent strain of avian flu had already been ripping through chicken and turkey farms over the past two years. Since it jumped to US dairy cows for the first time last month, it’s infected more than 20 dairy herds across eight states, raising alarms among public health authorities about possible spread to humans and potential impacts on the food supply. One Texas dairy worker contracted a mild case of bird flu from one of the impacted farms — the second such case ever recorded in the US (though one of hundreds worldwide over the past two decades, most of them fatal).” Oh. More: “But the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP), an organization of beef and dairy veterinarians, declared in a statement (condemned by public health experts) last week that it doesn’t believe bird flu in cows should be considered bird flu at all. ‘The AABP will call this disease Bovine Influenza A Virus (BIAV),’ the association’s executive director K. Fred Gingrich II and president Michael Capel said in a statement, encouraging federal and state regulators to do the same…. Naming infectious diseases is always political. In this case, the cattle industry appears desperate to distance itself from the bird flu news cycle and avoid the perception that it’s contributing to human disease risk. But animal agriculture is one of the top drivers of zoonotic diseases — and growing global demand for meat, dairy, and eggs may be putting us at ever-greater risk of new outbreaks… As long as global meat production expands… both low-density and factory farm-style animal agriculture trap us with rising disease risk.” • Worth a read.

* * *

TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

National[1] Biobot April 15: Regional[2] Biobot April 15:
Variants[3] CDC April 13 Emergency Room Visits[4] CDC March 23
New York[5] New York State, data April 16: National [6] CDC April 6:
National[7] Walgreens April 15: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic April 6:
Travelers Data
Positivity[9] CDC March 25: Variants[10] CDC March 25:
Weekly deaths New York Times March 16: Percent of deaths due to Covid-19 New York Times March 16:


1) for charts new today; all others are not updated.

2) For a full-size/full-resolution image, Command-click (MacOS) or right-click (Windows) on the chart thumbnail and “open image in new tab.”


[1] (Biobot) Our curve has now flattened out at a level far above valleys under Trump. Not a great victory. Note also the area “under the curve,” besides looking at peaks. That area is larger under Biden than under Trump, and it seems to be rising steadily if unevenly.

[2] (Biobot) No backward revisons….

[3] (CDC Variants) 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.

[4] (ER) CDC seems to have killed this off, since the link is broken, I think in favor of this thing. I will try to confirm. UPDATE Yes, leave it to CDC to kill a page, and then announce it was archived a day later. And heaven forfend CDC should explain where to go to get equivalent data, if any. I liked the ER data, because it seemed really hard to game.

[5] (Hospitalization: NY) Flattening out to a non-zero baseline. I suppose to a tame epidemiologist it looks like “endemicity,” but to me it looks like another tranche of lethality.

[6] (Hospitalization: CDC) Still down. “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†”.

[7] (Walgreens) Leveling out.

[8] (Cleveland) Flattening.

[9] (Travelers: Posivitity) Still down.

[10] (Travelers: Variants) JN.1 dominates utterly.

[11] Looks like the Times isn’t reporting death data any more? Maybe I need to go back to The Economist….

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

Tech: “It’s not just you: Reddit is taking over Google” [Business Insider]. “Last August, Google rolled out a big update to Search that seemed to kick this into action. Reddit, Quora, and other forum sites started getting more visibility in Google, both within the traditional links and within a new “discussions and forums” section, which you may have spotted if you’re US-based. The timing of this Reddit bump has led to some conspiracy theories. In February, Google and Reddit announced a blockbuster deal that would let Google train its AI models on Reddit content. Google said the deal, reportedly worth $60 million, would ‘facilitate more content-forward displays of Reddit information,’ leading to some speculation that Google promised Reddit better visibility in exchange for the valuable training data. A few weeks later, Reddit also went public. A Google spokesperson told BI: ‘Our agreement with Reddit absolutely did not include ranking its content higher on Search.'” • So it did, then?

Manufacturing: “Tesla reportedly halts ALL Cybertruck deliveries due to fatal flaw that causes EV to accelerate to top speeds” [Daily Mail]. Tesla has reportedly halted all Cybertruck deliveries due to a potentially fatal flaw that causes the accelerator pedal to become stuck. Many customers claimed to have received messages from Tesla and car dealerships, notifying them that their delivery appointment had been canceled, with some messages saying shipments will not commence until after April 20. Dan Ives, managing director at New York’s Wedbush Securities, told DailyMail.com ‘We are not confident this will be resolved the next few weeks.’ The recall comes after a new Tesla owner shared the design flaw in a video, claiming the pedal cover slipped forward and wedged the accelerator under the interior that was held down 100 percent. It is more misery for Tesla as 1,400 employees were laid off, many of whom work at the Texas Gigafactory where the Cybertruck is produced. ”

Manufacturing: A hellish workplace produces hellish airplanes:

“I would have killed someone.” Hmm. “Will no one rid me of this turbulent quality control engineer?”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 17 at 1:29:46 PM ET.

News of the Wired

“PHYS771 Lecture 9: Quantum” [Scott Aaronson]. • I got lost early on, but only because I was too rushed take it all in. What do readers think?

Magritte would be proud:

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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 JG:

JG writes: “Hi Lambert, here is an old photo. Perhaps the chocolate pepper is too dark to show up well. I no longer have photoshop. Once we had adequate sun in a small part of the yard where my mate grew beautiful peppers and tomatoes. Alas, grandma’s cobalt bowl is long gone. I took this many years ago with a Canon Powershot.” Gorgeous color!

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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. flora

    re: ‘“The Border.” How come nobody from either party talks about solving this labor market issue at the firm?’

    And how come T is gaining ground with Latino/Hispanic voters? It’s a mystery. / ;)

    1. jsn

      I’ve been reading Malcolm Harris’ “Palo Alto” and got to the part about Amazon Taylorizing it’s workflows to the point it can throw any labor at it that can be hired, digesting the typical employee and excreting them in an average of eight months.

      The border situation seems tailor made for the needs of a certain individual who owns the Washington Post.

      1. digi_owl


        Love how that simple word can be an epic double entendre regarding business management.

    2. Feral Finster

      I read an interesting and unsentimental take from a former white nationalist on the subject. Presented for discussion and not necessarily for truth:

      To paraphrase – after the 2012 electoral fiasco, Team R took a hard look at itself and decided that it would never win over Latino votes, as long as it was seen as being against immigration. Team D took Latino votes for granted.

      Both parties were wrong.

      Turns out that Latinos will vote Team R, but not so that Mitt Romney can hire his day laborers for cheaper. Rather, Latino voters will vote for a Team R led by Trump, who is not unlike the caudillos they know from political movements back home. Even the uglier and more racist aspects of trumpism won’t necessarily turn all Latino voters off, if the Latin American racial caste system is taken into account.

      1. Vicky Cookies

        Someone I know who has extensive recent experience in Latin America tells me that an under-considered reason for some American Latino support for Republicans is what they see as the extreme right wing views of Spanish language news. Telemundo, and especially Spanish language CNN, according to this person, are more extreme than their English language equivalents. Not being fluent, I wouldn’t be able to judge; it’s worth looking into with respect to recent immigrant populations and how they see their new country.

  2. Mark K

    Lambert’s invocation of Magritte in regard to the comedian joke brought to mind my favorite Magritte painting, “The Promenades of Euclid.” The tower and the receding road form a pun on perspective. Never mind the interplay of the easel and the window.

    Here’s the painting.

  3. griffen

    3 pm on the east coast and all goes well I suppose?!? Seems awful quiet today!

    Damn shame about the glitch on the latest Tesla offering…no cybertruck racing series at the raceway near to Austin is gonna happen in Nascar I’ll presume!

    1. Wukchumni

      I keep seeing them on the road, they kind of resemble a 1974 Dale that had relations with a rolling pyramid scheme,

  4. Lambert Strether Post author

    I added orts and scraps, some important: A outbreak of a new monkeypox clade, a lucid explanation of Bragg’s difficulties proving New York state tax law is the site of Trump’s “other crimes,” and Biden’s syrupy return to Scranton.

  5. flora

    Headlines from Taibbi’s latest, mostly paywalled article. 4th Amendment.

    Can the “Everyone is a Spy” Bill Be Stopped?
    A seemingly minor provision in the FISA reauthorization bill has the potential to bring about a major leap forward toward a complete surveillance state.


    One para from the longer article:

    If you’re sensing a theme, it’s that opponents of the bill believe the maximalist interpretation of this law would mean literally anyone could be compelled or “conscripted” to help give the NSA or FBI access to your data.

    1. Ranger Rick

      Sooner or later someone is going to come up with a serious challenge to the Third Party Doctrine. Then we’ll really see the mailed fist.

    2. Feral Finster

      I thought the lead comment most instructive: “Nobody ever voted their way out of tyranny.”

      1. Screwball

        What are you going to do about it? Doesn’t matter anyway, this is all just BS. They already know everything about us serfs. That horse left the barn years ago.

  6. digi_owl

    Supposedly for some time now the best way to get a useful search result was to append url:reddit.com. Otherwise one would get inundated with SEO sites meant to show ads, not solutions.

  7. barefoot charley

    Seymour Hersh seems to pay for his occasional illuminating military info-dumps with compensatory glorifications of all that his sources may do right. This story explains that the Pentagon got Russia to get Iran to do its face-saving (but totally failed!) missile attack on Israel with 6 nations alerted to shoot them down, in exchange for our promise that Israel wouldn’t react. Genocide Joe wasn’t included in the discussions–he didn’t need to know. The bombed airbase runways and secret station hit in the Golan don’t appear in this rah-rah account of pretty much what flak-catcher Kirby at State has said, which is whatever Israel says: we got 99 percent of them, don’t do the math. Hersh is becoming a very mixed, not to say mixed-up bag, still worth subscribing to:


    1. Jeff V

      That’s the beauty of having so many competing organs of government. Everything is progressing according to somebody’s plan.

  8. roxan

    If the economy is ‘good’ why are there thousands of homeless? And thousands of boarded up downtowns? If large numbers can’t afford housing or medical care, who exactly is the economy ‘good’ for?

    1. chris

      You misunderstand. The economy is Good(tm)*.

      *: Individuals experiencing Good(tm) may be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure of assets, loss of rights and privileges, inability to afford essential requirements for life, and are not guaranteed positive investment results. Individuals living in Good(tm) economic conditions may also encounter carcinogens or pathogens, without their prior knowledge or consent, as the price of their interacting with a Good(tm) economy. Good(tm) economies reserve the right to offer different experiences to different parties based on the subscription model a party of individual can afford. Premium Good(tm) experiences begin at a minimum subscription level of 600,000 US$ per year. Individuals capable of affording a subscription level of more than 1.0 million US$ per year can upgrade to a Great(tm) economy experience. Parties and individuals using the Good(tm) service who cannot afford the 600,000 US$ subscription level may experience our Meh(tm) service at random times and dates, including at critical times such as when medical services are required or children require education. Parties and individuals whose subscription service is not consistent and cannot approach the 600,000 US$ level will experience intermittent Phucked(tm) service. Individuals who are Phucked(tm) will become economically, politically, and physically invisible to those experiencing the Good(tm) and Great(tm) levels of service. Individuals and parties experiencing Phucked(tm) service will be offered immigrants, sexual deviants, or other exciting minority group members to verbally and economically abuse upon request. Individuals experiencing Great(tm), Good(tm), Meh(tm), and Phucked(tm) service levels are not permitted to criticize the subscription service system.

      1. Cassandra

        Chris, thank you for the most excellent explanation. It all makes sense now! May I share with others?

    2. digi_owl

      Congress and the rest that hold securities.

      It was with mixed emotions i read about Copenhagen’s old stock exchange burning down, as while losing a historic building like that is sad it also seemed deeply symbolic of something many of us would love to see happen the world over.

  9. Samuel Conner

    re: arguing for quantum “OS” for physics from first principles.

    Lazy reader here, but I think this is very nice. Decades ago I learned QM the traditional way and it definitely did have a kind of kludgey character to it, with the justification for the unfamiliar theoretical constructs being that they work so well as a description of observed phenomena.

    I never got further than the prolegomena to the quantization of field theories, which seemed extremely intimidating to me. I think I never really “got” QM, only learned how to apply the procedures to solve problems; perhaps Prof. Aaronson’s approach can help learners to shed their “1-norm”-based intuitions at an earlier stage of their learning.

  10. Tom Stone

    Here in Sonoma County Rivian Pick up trucks and SUV’s are becoming common, they look like ICE pick ups and SUV’s and the bed and tailgate on the PU are usable.
    I have now seen 5 Tesla Pick up trucks, not only are they ugly ( They look like something from the cover of a Sci Fi mag circa 1955) the tailgate and bed don’t look usable.
    Buying one now, taking the battery out so it doesn’t catch fire and storing it for a few decades might be a good investment.
    If I had stupid money to pay for a car it would be a ’39 Lincoln Zephyr convertible, not something that screams $ + bad taste.

  11. chris

    This is perhaps something that others in the Commentariat already knew… but I was shocked to see that the US does not know if the site that Israel hit in Damascus, which has escalated the current conflict between Israel and the entire Middle East, was a consulate or not! An acquaintance and I slightly brushed up against the topic and I was surprised to hear them say no one was certain if Israel hit the Iranian embassy in Syria or not. I thought that was the worst kind of equivocation from the bowels of some echo chamber, but no!, it is the official US position!

    Matt Lee and Matthew Miller have apparently been sparring over that topic in daily briefings too.

    We have fallen so far so quickly it is incredibly frightening.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The US knows. That line is to give the propagandized an out. It’s simply anot her occasion where Biden needed to .act like he was worried. The Iranians waited a week and told everyone what they were doing. Biden had plenty of time to deescalate. This lie is for the Morning Joe dead enders and Daily Kos twerps.

      1. digi_owl

        The problem is that while it is about saving face for USA and Iran, for Bibi it may be about personal survival as all of this distracts from his attempted supreme court muzzling.

    1. The Rev Kev

      It might be a more of a matter that our complex society is generating problems faster than it can solve them. You see this with people too and I would say that people are more satisfied if they can solve the problems in their lives as fast as they come up. Too many problems and they get overwhelmed.

      1. flora

        Greed ruling at the top will do that. Neoliberalism’s chickens are coming home to roost. See Boeing, for one example. / ;)

    2. Steve H.

      All love, flora, but I need to rip this article. It’s a Gish Gallop of papers, an accretion without a critical core. What it calls a Model is actually a Metaphor (ants caught in a scent loop). This renders its proscriptions to fantasy.

      Consider that it identifies Inequality as a primary marker/driver of decline.

      > As Perret et al. (2020): 1 state: “The fate of states, companies and organizations are shaped by their decisions. It is then surprising that only a minority of individuals are involved in the decision-making process.” This would suggest that a rigorous change in the way societal decisions are made may be an important point to intervene…


      > Interventions should be rigorously tested with randomized controlled trials for effectiveness and then audited for their implementation success.

      as though power would not only concede but fund its own demise.

      > In short, our review, synthesizing research from several fields, indicates that next to turnaround leadership and building resilient communities, using compassion, avoiding a blame culture and strengthening of democracy may help. Ideally, governments, companies, all relevant stakeholders as well as individuals should collaborate toward the goals of a healthier and happier future for all.

      So, Kumbaya is the method prescribed.

      There’s no inequality amongst the ants in the death spiral.

      1. digi_owl

        I must admit, that it came out of sociology was enough of a red flag for me. I have yet to see anything useful come out of that “science”, but plenty of wasteful hot air and posturing.

      2. flora

        The subset of ants in the death spiral have lost contact with the larger group. What does neoliberalism posit but that all businesses should focus laser-like on profits only. “There is no society, there are only individuals.” No connecting to a greater community, if you like, of being part of a country or society or any sense of mutual obligations, or even offering a good product if offering an inferior product makes more money… for a while, running on brand fumes.

        1. Steve H.

          I agree with you, and I agree with the words presented in the conclusion.

          I vehemently disagree with the method the authors council. Stakeholder meetings that the decision maker can boycott sounds like committee hell. Running RCT’s is absurd. The world is not a controlled trial. How’s the implementation audit going for stopping a genocide?

          The method sanctions letting people die while testing answers that may not work. It is a reactionary stance in regards to the Precautionary Principle. I’m grabbing the parachute.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The New York Times is just lying. A coupla days ago in an article they argued that if Country A attacked a Consulate of Country B in Country C, then it was legal. Yeah, right. Israeli was deliberately using this attack in order to get the US involved in a general war in the Middle East on their side, no matter how many tens of thousands of Americans would have died as a result. Just so Bibi could stay out of the prison cell awaiting him. Listen to Lord Cameron explaining the UK’s position-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up5IGZtUJaQ (the first 35 secs)

      1. Jeff V

        “Listen to Lord Cameron explaining the UK’s position”

        One of the few Brexit benefits was never having to listen to that man again. You want to take that away from me as well?

    2. flora

      NPR’s new CEO gave a TED talk. Perfect WEF young global leader product. Also, a board member at Signal, banking manager at HSBC, a member of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board (FAPB) at the State Department, and a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. Can’t get more WEF than that. Now, CEO at Nat Prop Radio. / ;)

      NPR’s CEO Katherine Maher on the truth:

      “Our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that’s getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done.”


      So Israel is… uh… correct(?) by their system of beliefs (instead of facts). / heh

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