2:00PM Water Cooler 4/5/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

House Wren (Northern). Frog Hollow, Walla Walla, Washington, United States. “This bird was singing every morning before dawn, outside my home.”

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In Case You Might Miss…

(1) Swing states update.

(2) Bird flu and the CDC; Mandy bobbing and weaving.

(3) Employment situation.

(4) Crocheting and knitting, with musical accompaniments.


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

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Biden Administration

“The Only U.S. Lawmaker Born in Ukraine Is Now Skeptical of More Aid” [Wall Street Journal]. “Rep. Victoria Spartz speaks in highly personal terms about the horrors that her friends and family in Ukraine have witnessed since Russia invaded her home country more than two years ago. Her 95-year-old grandmother died several months after a bomb blew out the windows in her apartment. ‘The stress was hard on her,’ she said. But when it comes to the U.S. sending billions in more aid to the beleaguered country, Spartz is skeptical…. In a series of interviews, Spartz, 45 years old, said she wants a clearer strategy from President Biden on U.S. involvement in the war and a closer eye on how aid is spent. She also wants any aid sent to Ukraine to be offered as a loan, and for the administration to pay more attention to issues closer to home. ‘I understand the importance of this battle and the implications if Russia is going to prevail, but I’m also not very naive. If we don’t have proper oversight, we are not going to achieve our goals,’ she said. ‘We cannot have these never-ending wars.’ Voters in Spartz’s suburban Indianapolis district are opposed to Ukraine aid for many of the same reasons, she said, mirroring nationwide pressures on incumbent Republicans.” • Hmm. That may change, of course, if and when Republicans control the executive branch again.


Less than a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, April 5

Here is Friday’s RCP poll. Trump is still up in all the Swing States (more here), but still 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 statistical signficance to any of it, and state polls are bad anyhow!)

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Trump (R): “When Trump needs cash, a California bank and one of its top shareholders have come to the rescue” [Associated Press]. Don Hankey and Axos bank once more. “Over the past two years, Axos Bank, as well as its largest individual shareholder, California billionaire Don Hankey, have collectively extended more than $500 million in financing that has benefited Trump, records show. The cash influx has helped Trump to pay off debts and pocket a tidy profit while escaping from a lease on his money-losing former hotel in Washington. It also covered a $175 million down payment he made this week on an eye-popping civil fraud penalty. Axos Bank officials as well as Hankey have said that the deals offer them a financial upside. But as Trump again pursues the White House, ethics and legal experts question what the lenders may ask in return if there’s a future Trump presidency, considering even small regulatory changes can translate into millions of dollars in earnings.” • As usual Trump deals direct, instead of working through straws….

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Trump (R): “‘The nuclear button’: Special counsel could seek removal of judge in Trump classified docs case, attorneys warn” [NBC]. “Special counsel Jack Smith could soon seek to have the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case recused, prosecutors and defense attorneys warn, describing Smith as being pressed to the ‘breaking point’ over arguments his office said could taint a trial irrevocably. Smith faulted Judge Aileen Cannon in a scathing rebuke for seeming to take at face value Trump’s ‘fundamentally flawed’ claim around a president’s official and personal records when she asked both sides to put forth competing versions of instructions for jurors in the case and said her request would ‘distort’ the trial. Smith indicated in that filing that if Cannon ruled against federal prosecutors, this could be a trigger for an appeal to the 11th Circuit that could remove her from the case. ‘He is close to pushing the nuclear button,’ said Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg. ‘It is a high burden to reach, and it is rarely done, but her proposed jury instructions may have pushed him to the breaking point.'” • Another way of saying “breaking point” is “over-reach,” as Smith did when trying McAuliffe. (And since when does a prosector determine what does and does not “distort” a trial?)

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Trump (R): “1 in 5 GOP primary voters keep bucking Trump. What does it mean?” [WaPo]. “Nearly 1 in 5 GOP primary voters across four contests Tuesday voted for an option other than the presumptive nominee. That’s about the same proportion that voted against him on the last big primary day, March 19…. If you exclude low-turnout caucuses and deep-red Southern states, Trump is ceding an average of 20 percent since Super Tuesday.” • Handy map (the states are laid out as they would be on a map of the United States, though it takes a minute to see that):

I have highlighted the swing states in yellow. I don’t think people who don’t vote for the Republican on primary day necessarily vote Republican on election day, but if I were the Trump campaign, I’d be concerned about MI (32% (!!)), and NC (26%). PA and NV are yet to come.

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Biden (D): “The Economy Is OK. Biden’s Economy, Not So Much” [The American Prospect]. “By a 20-point margin (54 percent to 34 percent), the [Wall Street Journal] swing-staters [polled] preferred Trump to Biden on the question of handling the economy. Where this really becomes interesting, though, is in their responses to their own states’ economies. Asked to assess the condition of the economy in their own state and then in the nation as a whole, respondents in each of the seven states replied that their own state’s economy was in far better shape than the nation’s. Those who rated their own state’s economy as “not so good” or “poor” did so at rates that ranged from 11 points to 33 points lower than their assessments of the nation’s overall economy. At one level, this shouldn’t come as a surprise: It somewhat echoes other recent polls in which Americans have rated their own families’ economic condition to be notably better than the nation’s. Neither the swing states’ actual economic conditions nor the partisan makeup of state government seems to have had much effect on the respondents’ answers. … But when all that discounting is done, it’s still apparent that the association of Biden with economic conditions brings down the assessment of those conditions. Biden may yet be able to mitigate this by stressing his support for popular progressive economic policies, and the continuation of the recovery (in which his actual record is nothing short of stellar) may help some, too. But looking at this polling suggests that if he’s to defeat Trump, abortion and Trump himself are the themes he most needs to sound.”

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PA: “Democrats should be jittery about Pennsylvania voter registration trends” [Washington Examiner]. “Blue-collar voters became willing to leave the party altogether, especially after Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA) made it efficient when he implemented a new measure that allowed residents getting driver’s licenses and ID cards to be opted into their voter registration. Despite Republican lawmakers bellyaching about Shapiro’s move, in the first month alone, 3,194 Democrats, 4,052 independents, and a whopping 7,657 Republicans have registered. If you are doing the math, as many Republicans registered in the state as Democrats and independents together, and even independent registration outpaced the Democrats by nearly 900. In July of last year, Democrats held a 480,000 voter registration advantage over Republicans, but by Oct. 10, that margin had fallen to 446,467. And the trend has continued in the six months since then.”

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“No Labels officially drops out of the 2024 race. The truth is they were never in it.” [USA Today]. “No Labels dropped plans Thursday for a so-called unity ticket, which was expected to be a moderate Republican running for president with an equally moderate Democrat as vice president.” That’s a damn shame. More: “The animosity for No Labels was often rooted in the group’s secrecy, operating as a nonprofit with millions of dollars from donors it refused to identify.” • Maybe the names of the donors are in the pocket of Joe Lieberman’s funeral suit, in his coffin. Still, they kept the grift going for fourteen years, and that’s something. Anyhow, they are said to have ballot access in 21 states, and now all that’s all wasted. Sad.

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“Inside a G.O.P. Plan to Encourage Early Voting Despite Trump’s Attacks” [New York Times]. “Inside a sprawling compound in Phoenix, leaders of the influential conservative group Turning Point Action were hatching plans to fix what they see as a mortal threat to the Republican Party: its voters’ avoidance of early voting, especially by mail, since the 2020 election.” • IMNSHO, “early voting” is wrong for three reasons: (1) It reinforces party loyalty, the last thing we need; (2) it makes it impossible for voters to change their minds having voted early, in response to a gaffe, a policy change, or “events, dear boy, events”; (3) in principle, the entire electorate should vote based on the same set of information, and that’s only possible when the vote takes place at one time.

Our Famously Free Press

“The Washington press corps doesn’t have a freaking clue” [Dan Froomkin, Press Watch]. “Being the lead writer for the New York Time’s signature On Politics newsletter is one of the most influential jobs in the industry these days, and the email that popped up in my inbox announcing the latest hire for that job – a Boston Globe reporter named Jess Bidgood who had previously worked for the Times — made it painfully clear that she is absolutely clueless about the topic she is now covering, and intentionally so. Offered an opportunity to explain what she found particularly compelling about the coming election, Bidgood didn’t talk about how the Republican Party has succumbed to the extreme Christian far-right. She didn’t talk about how Trump was a hateful, dangerous demagogue. She didn’t even mention the fate of democracy or the rule of law. Let me be very clear here: Whether or not the country succumbs to fascism is a helluva political story no matter how you feel about it. A Trump victory would profoundly change how government and justice are practiced. If you don’t understand that, you are a wildly incompetent political reporter.” • Froomkin was one of the original bloggers at WaPo, back in the day, and they dinged him for it, so I’m reluctant to just utterly trash the guy. But I don’t see how anyone can look at the Censorship Industrial Complex and not see elements of fascism. Fascism is not noted for ideological consistency; rather, it is an enormous smorgasbord of badness, from which both parties can pick and choose (I don’t much like threatening election workers, for example). It’s also perfectly reasonable to see the post-Reconstruction South as fascist — the Nazis came to study Jim Crow, after all — or, for that matter, some of the nastier elements of the Wilson Administration (like, say, the Espionage Act). This vision is, in fact, bleaker than the view that electing one party solves the problem.


“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!

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Bird Flu

“Bird flu dairy cow outbreak widens in Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico” [Reuters]. ” Bird flu has infected a dairy herd in Ohio for the first time and was detected in additional herds in Kansas and New Mexico, according to the U.S. government, expanding an outbreak in cows that has raised concerns about possible risks to humans…. The spread to an increasing number of species and its widening geographic reach have raised the risks of humans being infected, the head of the World Organization for Animal Health said on Thursday. Texas officials reported on Monday that a farm worker tested positive, and the only symptom was eye inflammation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk of bird flu for humans to be low.” • I don’t enjoy this, and I hope it sputters out. That said, we’re dealing with the CDC here, which emerged from Covid the same, or worse, as it went in to Covid. No presumption of competence or honesty is reasonable. Moreover, the functioning of public health has been greatly degraded, worldwide, not only by the performance of public health bodies like CDC and WHO, but by an enormously successful propaganda campaign against non-pharmaceutical interventions, with libertarians and conservatives taking point for a capital-friendly agenda. Finally, crowding, air travel, and population movements generally remain the same (with work-from-home the single and laudatory exception). All of which to say is that the kindling has already been laid for another pandemic, and sooner rather than later. Maybe H5N1, maybe not. And speaking of capital-friendly:

Yep. Egg producers are accustomed to culling all their stock; chickens are cheap. Cows are not cheap ($2500 apiece, IIRC). So look for beef producers to limit the cull, first resisting it entirely, then resisting it for mild cases, then resisting it for asymptomatic cases, etc.

“Tests confirm avian flu on New Mexico dairy farm; probe finds cats positive” [Center for Infectious Disease Reseach and Policy]. “Following yesterday’s announcement of the first human H5N1 infection linked to dairy cow exposure, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a health alert that urged health providers to be vigilant for people with symptoms from H5N1, especially those who have had contact with potentially infected animals. It also noted that in March, investigators collected samples from several animals in Texas and Kansas. Wild birds, cats, and dairy cows were tested because they showed illness signs. ‘Further testing of these samples indicated the presence of avian influenza A(H5N1),’ the TDSHS said. A press officer from the TDSHS confirmed in an e-mail that sick cats tested positive for the virus. The Texas Animal Health Commission said in an e-mail that it has received lab confirmation of HPAI for three cats. Wild birds on affected farms had earlier tested positive for H5N1, and evidence is growing that the virus may be spreading cow to cow. Investigations are still underway to sort out how the virus is spreading on farms, which includes identifying the extent of virus circulation in other animals or wildlife. Cats are among the mammals previously known be contract H5N1, with infections reported in the United States, Poland, and South Korea.” • Three cats, not, as rumor has it 50 (more on cats from Flu Trackers). What interests me is the easy spread between species. I haven’t seen anybody say this, so take it with a truckload of salts — plus, you know my priors — but that makes me think of airborne spread. Readers, links?

“What the CDC is doing to monitor and protect against bird flu” (interview) [Mandy Cohen, NPR]. “One is obviously working very closely to make sure we’re understanding the extent of the spread, how many cattle and farm[s] are involved, and then obviously looking for any humans that are in contact with cattle or sick birds, and testing folks that have symptoms, and making sure that we’re understanding if it has spread to other folks. So far, there’s only been one case in Texas. The person had very mild symptoms[1]. They’re recovering well. But we want to make sure, again, that we are testing folks who may have been in contact[2].” So, the paradigm that brought about mass infection with Covid is still firmly in place: [1] asymptomatic transmission is not important, and [2] “contact,” a vague term that isn’t really a mode of transmission, like fomites, but most definitely is not airborne. Both those claims may be true. Are we sure that they are? On testing: “So we’re trying to talk folks [yech] through it and build trust, and folks have really been receptive [vibes]. We’ve been particularly working with a lot of the veterinarians[3] that are part of the farms that have been impacted. So far, all working well together.” [3] I would want to know more about the incentives (and the ideological and ontological commitments) of these veterinarians. To a question on vaccines: “[T]he good news is the United States has been preparing for avian flu outbreaks for more than 20 years. We’ve invested in our ability to test for this, to prevent it and to treat it. And we know that the strain we’re seeing right now is the same strain we have seen before. And we believe from all of our laboratory testing that our test will pick this up. Our treatment, which is Tamiflu, which we have both doses in stockpile and around the country, works. And we even have vaccine candidates that are ready to go. So it’s very different than what we experienced, for example, at the beginning of COVID, when we’re seeing a brand new novel virus where we didn’t have tests, we didn’t have treatment and we didn’t have vaccine.” Note that Tamiflu is treatment, not vaccination, so Mandy dodged the question. Her interlocutor asks about vaccines again. Mandy answers: “We have never seen a transmission from a human-to-human. That is something we are watching for very closely. And so there may be trigger points where we would move to thinking about scaling up vaccine[4]. But remember, there’s always a tradeoff there – if we move to manufacturing one type of vaccine, it may be at the expense of being able to manufacture that vaccine for the seasonal flu. Again, something that also impacts us.” After Operation Warp Speed and three years of the adults in the room, we’ve got capacity problems?!? More: “So, we have the ability to scale up if we need to.” She just said we don’t.” More: “And again, we’ve already started down that process and we’ll keep monitoring to see if we need to trigger and do that.” You don’t “start down” a “process”; you start down a “road” or a “path.” A little harm to the linguistic centers acquired during Mandy’s mysterious two-week silence over the New Year? Also [4] really? Starting from scratch? Really? Efficacy? Safety? Breakthrough infections? Really? In contrast to Mandy’s blithe assurance–

“Why a leading bird flu expert isn’t convinced that the risk H5N1 poses to people has declined” (interview) [Ron Fouchier, STAT].

[FOUCHIER:] We have never seen this scale of infections in mammals, and in such diversity of mammals. We have now seen more than 40 species of mammals infected during the last outbreaks, which is unprecedented. We know that flu is unpredictable. But we also know that adaptation of virus to mammals is not a good thing.


[FOUCHIER:] [I]f there are infections in cows, we can offer personal protective equipment to the milkers and we can offer antiviral drugs to people who start to develop symptoms or conjunctivitis. But when tens of thousands of seals wash up on your shore, what are you going to do? And how are you going to prevent onward spread?

And these are the animals that we see. What about the animals that we don’t see so easily, like rats or mice? What’s happening? The large species we now know get infected easily. But the small species, we don’t even know.

And so the high presence in nature, and the large number of infections I find concerning, despite the fact that we think current zoonotic risk is low. And that’s because these viruses are changing. And we have no experience [of how H5 behaves] in all these species. We can’t predict what’s going to happen.

Well worth a read, and some useful speculation on epidemiology as well; a useful antidote to Mandy’s soothing nostrums.

“Current U.S. Bird Flu Situation in Humans” [CDC]. Handy diagram of transmission:


[1] Scope is “backyard poultry,” not an industrial operation;

[2] Droplet dogma;

[3] Note that according to CDC, the virus does not spread as an aerosol of the chicken breathes or squawks. (It looks to me like CDC “ported” the model of spreading pathogens from shaking bedsheets in hospitals to poultry.) Of course, CDC may be right! But they have been horribly, grievously wrong using exactly this paradigm before.

Sequelae: Covid

“Symptoms before and after COVID-19: a population and case-control study using prospective data” [European Respiratory Journal]. From the Abstract: ” Individuals reporting baseline symptoms had longer post-COVID symptom duration (from 10 to 15 days) with baseline fatigue nearly doubling duration. Two-thirds (910 of 1350 [67.4%]) of individuals with long illness were asymptomatic beforehand. However, 440 (32.6%) had baseline symptoms, versus 255 (18.9%) of 1350 individuals with short illness (p<0.0001). Baseline symptoms increased the odds ratio for long illness (2.14 [CI: 1.78; 2.57]). Prior comorbidities were more common in individuals with long versus short illness. In individuals with long illness, baseline symptomatic (versus asymptomatic) individuals were more likely to be female, younger, and have prior comorbidities; and baseline and post-acute symptoms and symptom burden correlated strongly.

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TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

National[1] Biobot April 1: Regional[2] Biobot April 1:
Variants[3] CDC March 30 Emergency Room Visits[4] CDC March 23
New York[5] New York State, data April 4: National [6] CDC March 23:
National[7] Walgreens April 1: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic March 30:

Travelers Data
Positivity[9] CDC March 18: Variants[10] CDC March 18:
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 the level of previous Trump peaks. 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) Backward revisions, I hate them.

[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) Looks like a very gradual leveling off to a non-zero baseline, to me.

[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) Now up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

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

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the United States dipped to 3.8% in March 2024 from the previous month’s two-year high of 3.9% and surprising market expectations, which had forecasted the rate to remain unchanged. The number of unemployed individuals decreased by 29,000 to 6.4 million, while employment levels saw a significant surge, rising by 498,000 to reach 161.5 million. Additionally, the labor force participation rate increased to 62.7% from a near one-year low of 62.5% in the preceding periods, and the employment-population ratio climbed to 60.3% from 60.1%. Despite recent policy tightening measures by the Federal Reserve, the unemployment rate has remained within a narrow range of 3.7% to 3.9% since August 2023, suggesting the labor market remains strong.”

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Finance: “A Lego Model of Financial Capitalism” [ASOMOCO]. “This type of exchange, in which we exchange money for promises-for-future-money, is called financial exchange, and the financial markets are where it happens.” Final paragraph: “Mix it all up! Perhaps that investment bank can take the other side of that credit default swap, and place it – alongside other CDS contracts – into a new offshore vehicle. Now they can sell the tranches of that new SYNTHETIC CDO! This is highly recommended if you wish to trigger a global financial crisis.” • I reall wanted more Lego, and the post is really above my paygrade. But the last paragraph gives me some confidence. Readers?

Tech: “Inside Big Tech’s underground race to buy AI training data” [Reuters]. “Tech giants like Google (GOOGL.O), opens new tab, Meta (META.O), opens new tab and Microsoft-backed (MSFT.O), opens new tab OpenAI initially used reams of data scraped from the internet for free [stolen] to train generative AI models like ChatGPT that can mimic human creativity. They have said that doing so is both legal and ethical, though they face lawsuits from a string of copyright holders over the practice…. Reuters spoke to more than 30 people with knowledge of AI data deals, including current and former executives at companies involved, lawyers and consultants, to provide the first in-depth exploration of this fledgling market – detailing the types of content being bought, the prices materializing, plus emerging concerns about the risk of personal data making its way into AI models without people’s knowledge or explicit consent.” • What risk? Why not just legalize it?

Tech: “Microsoft blamed for “a cascade of security failures” in Exchange breach report” [Ars Technica]. “A federal Cyber Safety Review Board has issued its report on what led to last summer’s capture of hundreds of thousands of emails by Chinese hackers from cloud customers, including federal agencies. It cites “a cascade of security failures at Microsoft” and finds that “Microsoft’s security culture was inadequate” and needs to adjust to a ‘new normal’ of cloud provider targeting…. ‘Throughout this review, the board identified a series of Microsoft operational and strategic decisions that collectively points to a corporate culture that deprioritized both enterprise security investments and rigorous risk management,’ the report reads.” • What is it with these Seattle firms…..

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 5 at 1:38:51 PM ET.

Book Nook

“Is the Bible a Great Book?” [Great Books Journal]. “In Can We Trust the Gospels, Peter J. Williams makes his case for the reliability of the Gospels… [T]he question is not so much whether the authors [of the Gospels] had an agenda but whether they reported accurately or not. In his opinion, there are many reasons to believe that the Gospels are accurate.” For example: “The testimony of women did not have much credibility in the ancient world…. The most important miracle in the Gospels is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To maximize the credibility of this claim, an author who was fabricating a document would certainly not have opted to make women the first to find an empty tomb and to witness the risen Jesus. Yet that is precisely what the Gospel accounts tell us. Of course, this does not and cannot ever prove the resurrection, but it does show that the authors of the Gospel included a detail that was very likely to make their case seem far weaker than if men had discovered the empty tomb and were the first to interact with the risen Jesus. For example, it would have been easy to claim that Peter, the designated leader of the Church, was the first to bear witness to these momentous events. But the apostles had to wait for some time before witnessing this miracle. They were not chosen to be the first witnesses. Mary Magdalene, who was not only a woman but known to be a former sinner, has that place of honor in the Gospels.”

Class Warfare

“MacKenzie Scott’s game-changing philanthropy still mystifies nonprofits: ‘Her gifts are super generous, but unfortunately, they don’t provide long term sustainability'” [Fortune]. “Organizations working on ‘race and ethnicity’ and ‘youth development’ were the two largest categories according to the database of gifts on her Yield Giving website. Generally, Scott has given the most grants to organizations in the U.S. South, while in the latest round, California and New York were the states with the largest number of recipient nonprofits.” • In other words, anything to create verticals that divide the working class, the historic mission of NGOs.

“One-third of ride-share drivers have had a crash on the job, survey finds” (press release) [University of Chicago]. “While all drivers are at higher risk of a crash when driving while distracted or tired, ride-share drivers are uniquely susceptible to these conditions, the researchers said. They use their cellphones to get information about new passengers, for example, and they are often driving as a second job, which makes them more likely to be tired on the road. But a bigger distraction for these drivers may be their customers, said coauthor Lee Friedman, a research professor in the School of Public Health. ‘You’ve got a stranger entering your vehicle. They may be unruly. They may be drunk,’ he said. Not only can something go wrong — the driver can crash or the passenger might get sick vomit in the backseat — but the driver likely is driving their personal car. This and other factors may add even more stress and distraction while driving.'” • Travis, and the venture capital community: Take a bow!

News of the Wired

A propos of H5N1:

“Making crochet cacti” [Julia Evans]. “I’ve been modifying all of the patterns I make in a somewhat chaotic way, often just because I made a mistake somewhere along the way and then decide to move forward and change the pattern to adjust for the mistake instead of undoing my work.” • Hmm. Is this a typical procedure?

“The Sound of Knitting” [Kottke.org]. “In addition to featuring knitting-friendly music, the video includes a tour of the Norwegian municipality of Selbu, famous for its gorgeous mittens, as well as a virtual class on how to knit those mittens. It all seems lovely, although I confess I was slightly disappointed that ‘the sound of knitting’ wasn’t an ASMR video of needles clicking, although I’m sure that’s out there, too. I mean, I know it is because I’ve seen it. Plus, as a recent NY Times story outlined, handwork is good for the brain.”

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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 TH:

TH writes: “You may have noticed that the last few photos that I have sent were from my early January morning at the Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar (a division of Newport Beach), California. I’m always surprised at the large variety of flowers blooming in January. Yes, even though I’m a native of the state and should be used to it. I didn’t see any identification signs on most of the plants there, but I think this one is Cowslip.” Readers? (Wow, that blue!)

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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. Socal Rhino

    Issues with No Labels… I have had the same thoughts regarding Mcgregor’s Our Country Our Choice: No transparency about funding. The latter strikes me not as moderates, and more like Maga minus Trump.

    1. Ranger Rick

      Secretive about funding? They were likely techbros. Probably crypto-financed techbros of the SBF variety. And they folded not long after SBF got his prison sentence. Hmm…

  2. griffen

    Regarding the payrolls and the jobs numbers today. I have not verified this on a personal level, but in the 2pm Eastern hour on the CNBC channel there are various comments about much of this job growth being more growth in the part time employment than actual full time employment.

    Something to chew over, for certain. I think it’s an incredible, bulletin board in Big Font headline for the incumbent administration seeking a second term, and working vigorously at defending the economic record since January 2021. Once more with feeling…

  3. Wukchumni

    After over four decades in business, 99 Cents Only Stores will close all its doors permanently.

    The retail chain, once known for its below $1 prices, announced the closure of all 371 locations on Thursday.


    Kind of an important story, 99 Cent Only stores served a big part in being a cheap alternative to other stores, and unlike Dollar General, wasn’t there as a spendy mo-bigger 7-11.

    1. griffen

      Retailing dustbin of history, make way for a new entry. Woolworth’s, Montgomery Ward, Sears + K-Mart…Circuit City too. Well it’s not a short list.

      Makes a cynical person think though, what if they had chosen the right industry that requires a lifeblood of support from government regulatory help and perhaps highly valued industry knowledge or possibly defense contracts. Boeing…Boeing…Citigroup…Citigroup…

      1. Wukchumni

        When I was a kid growing up in LA there was a department store chain that sounded more like a white supremacist to the right of right hangout, and was named ‘White Front’, long since departed the scene along with Pup ‘n Taco.

        1. wol

          Back in the day my fam would vacation in Venice, FL, when they had a Dog & Suds (hot dogs and root beer) which my sis and I called the Arf & Barf.

      2. Lena

        Montgomery Ward still has a catalog that offers a variety of department store type merchandise. I got one in the mail several months ago. Was very surprised that they still exist. Made me think of Christmas time as a child, when getting the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs was very exciting.

        1. Wukchumni

          We’d get the Sears Christmas wish book in the summer and it’d be dog-eared by December, not that we shopped at Sears all that much (we were quite loyal K-Mart shoppers) but you were so starved for pictures to compliment your desires. They had a Sears version of a Honda Trail 50 or 70 mini-bike, which every 10 year old boy wanted, but usually didn’t get-yours truly being no exception }rosebud}

          Every item in the sporting goods dept was Ted Williams authorized it seemed, even the badminton & croquet sets.

        2. Dr. John Carpenter

          For what it’s worth, current day Montgomery Ward is a ghost brand with no connection to the old store. When it went under, someone bought the name and slapped it on their catalog to ride what little name value it has left. There’s a lot of old brands that still technically exist, though they are just a label owned by an IP collector. Some include RCA, Polaroid, Bell & Howell, Philco, Etc.

      3. Pat

        A week ago a confused friend asked me where Bed Bath and Beyond was now. I had to explain to them that they were going to have to go to Macys for their replacement coffee maker. They missed the bankruptcy and sales for their last purchase there – a heater. They were very upset that such a useful store no longer existed. They aren’t big on internet shopping.

        I still miss KMart…among other stores.

        1. Lena

          I still miss Sears and Penneys. When I was growing up, both stores were on our courthouse square downtown. My mother and I would shop there of a Saturday, then go to Woolworth’s lunch counter for hamburgers and cherry Cokes (the kind with the real cherry syrup from the counter’s fountain). Tasted so good. The benches around the courthouse were usually occupied by elderly WWl veterans who gathered together to share their memories. Lots of farm families would come into town to shop on Saturday, too, so it was very busy. Just a typical Midwestern childhood from that era.

        2. Lena

          We don’t even have a Macy’s anymore. All that we have are Target and Walmart. Those stores are gigantic and the merchandise is mostly poorly made. I hate shopping at either one. Really miss Kmart, Penneys and Sears. I still have some nice Martha Stewart household items from Kmart. They are at least 20 years old.

          1. Pat

            If it weren’t the flagship store and the parade, I’m not sure we would have one anymore either.
            And I cannot really complain about Target, it has some of the cheapest groceries in Midtown/Downtown NYC. I fully admit to taking advantage of their pickup service for it, but for canned goods and staples it is about the best in my neighborhood along with Trader Joe’s.

          2. Carolinian

            Penneys is still around out here in the boonies. However as a connoisseur of discount stores I can’t share the enthusiasm for Kmart. Martha came along late in the game as a Hail Mary pass against Walmart. Walton won because he knew his peeps better than Kmart knew his peeps.

            1. Lena

              I also liked Kmart’s Jaclyn Smith clothing. I had a pair of classic black crepe pants from her line that were very well made. They gave me a professional look when I was at work. I didn’t have the money to shop at higher end clothing stores. I haven’t found anything comparable at Walmart.

            2. Pat

              KMart had the best prices on the cat food I needed. And wandering through their store to get it meant I found decent dish towels, Christmas decorations, sales on dvds, even baking supplies. Oh and they had the best twill pants for work and summer tees and camp shirts. The pants I now have to get were ten dollars more expensive on sale versus the practically identical K Mart version even at the time. I will cut them a break and say the current much higher price is that plus inflation.
              Penney’s was hit and miss, but worth checking. Sears, well I wish my entire tool chest was Craftsman made prior to 2000, but honestly it was not a factor for me for probably two decades before it died as I didn’t really have access to it.

              1. Lena

                Penneys had the absolute best lingerie department with sales women who were knowledgeable and helpful. Older ladies who knew about bras! Try to find that at Target or Walmart.

    2. John D

      it appears that the 99 cent stores were purchased by Aries Mgt in 2011. Not clear if they are still the owners. And, somewhere, Iread that 14,000 jobs will be lost. The clearance sales start today and are bing handled by a frim that specilizs in that activity.

      Web search states that the company was formally founded in 1985 and sold to PE in 2011.

      So it goes.

      1. Wukchumni

        My dad was really into stocks and liked the cut of the 99 Cents Only jib and bought a fair swag, and invited me to my 1 and only ever public stockholders meeting in Monterey Park sometime in the 90’s.

        The CEO at the time related that they thought they might run out of product, but just the opposite was occurring in that they were being offered almost more than they could handle, and keep in mind this was before the rest of the $ store chains got going.

        Grab bags with a dozen different 99C items were given to every attendee, along with a 4 pack of Zagorka Bulgarian beer.

      1. Wukchumni

        There was a longtime Cadillac dealership on Whittier Blvd in Whittier, Ca. that became the storefront for one of their operations.

        I enjoyed the symmetry of going from one of the most expensive cars to the least expensive anything under new ownership.

  4. Screwball

    Today was the monthly job report. The market is up big after yesterdays sell-off. The U-6 is at 7.6% while the headline number is 3.8%. Twitter is full of democrats blowing the great economy horn. At the same time, traveling around the net and social media, the narrative of the people is quite different. Seems many are struggling, which I have also read on these very pages.

    My PMC friends are convinced the economy is as great as ever and are so happy to have Biden finding all these new ways to help the American’s. They think he has the election in the bag because Trump…He has also put Bibi in his place by the phone call, so he’s done a great job there too. Guy is simply amazing.

    On the other hand, other than the PMC worshipers, many others feel the complete opposite – about almost everything.

    We have a country who live in two separate worlds of perception. It is quite something to watch. As an example, everything that comes out of Trump, the right wing media, alt-media (such as Taibbi, Greenwald, Mate, Ritter, etc.) is all fake news and not to be believed. Whatever comes out of Biden’s mouth, the press-secretary, Kirby, Blinken, NYT, WaPo, CNN & MSNBC is real truth and journalism.

    What a crazy world. It’s so hard to keep up.

    1. Glen

      ShadowStats has Unemployment at about 25%. I would provide a link, but there are hotlink restrictions. Just search ShadowStat and look under the Alternate Data tab.

      To me, one important indicator is the amazing amount of news stories on the homeless, people living in cars, people living in vans. I used to drive past rows of bashed up RVs being used for housing on my way to work, and it just keeps getting worse and worse. (I’ve watched it grow for at least a decade, but it really started with Obama’s handling of the GFC. It will be getting much worse as the non-eviction effort stops.) But just do a search on YT, the local news channels reporting on this are from everywhere in the country.

      Homelessness is always considered to be a “local” problem which is complete denial. It is a national problem, and requires a national solution.

      1. JBird4049

        Aside from the vampiric investment firms destroying everything for profit, it seems suspicious that all the department store chains have gone away at the same time when the middle class is shrinking and the homeless population is growing. Then there is Walmart’s deliberate destruction of the business districts of most of the small and medium sized towns and cities.

        Don’t forget that most of these chains like Sears, Macy’s, JCPenneys, and Montgomery Wards were meant to serve a large, prosperous middle class or at least the formerly large, prosperous working class right below it. All those businesses, their employees and the former customers were deliberately economically destroyed. But Big Finance keeps rolling along.

      1. JTMcPhee

        What song do you think of when you see Vladimir Putin on the TV? Or Xi Jin Ping?

        I’ve been encouraging a young man of my acquaintance to learn Russian and think about what part of the world has the best prospects, “going forward.” I live in Florida, 17.85 feet above sea level according to the lying liars of Google Earth. The NOAA models say that a Cat II heading up Tampa Bay will have us, at the best, sitting on the roof waiting for those kindly guys from the LA bayous to show up with their jon boats. Looks like there’s a good chance the new realities of hurricane dynamics might give us a chance to see how that all works. Along with a whole lot of other balls currently in the air. Everywhere on the planet.

        And I’d second the observation about “unhoused” and “inadequately sheltered” and all the other oh-pshaw PMC euphemisms for “kicked out of Our Society.” We have little plots of scrub that have not yet felt the bootprint of the God of Development and the Chamber of Commerce in my immediate environs, and there are plenty of “rough sleepers” as the Brits call them, within earshot and “eyesore.” What, as they say, is to be done? I guess we may soon find out, as the contradictions get ever more finely sharpened and honed.

        1. Martin Oline

          I don’t see either on TV as they are not broadcast in America. I have seen Putin interviewed twice on EweTube, Stone did a good job, Carlson not so much, but no melodies come to mind for him. Maybe Xi Xi Rider?
          Tampa hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since 1921 so perhaps you are overdue. I’m at 12 foot and have been through two in seven years.
          When my father lived in Naples their euphemism was ‘woodsies’. I haven’t heard that term in Lee county since I’ve been here.

    2. Ann Uumelmahaye

      I reread Nineteen Eighty-four a few days ago, and all I could think afterwards was that in several ways, Winston Smith had it better than many of the Americans I see daily:

      – He had dental care (tells Julia that nearly all his teeth are false; get poor enough in the US and you cannot even get falsies, or any dental care).

      – He had a guaranteed job (US employment and econ numbers always make me think of Oceania’s chocolate ration numbers).

      – He had living quarters.

      – He had guaranteed food (not enough, but he did), tobacco, gin, and clothing.

      Where I live, the homeless have none of this security, and they live hunter-gatherer lifestyles in a concrete jungle. They can’t even become old-school hunter-gatherers, because American wilderness is all owned and closed off with barbed wire and ‘POSTED: No Trespassing’ signs. Such incredible freedom in capitalism, of course.

      At least we don’t live in a surveillance state! Er…darn.

  5. Cassandra

    The gorgeous plantidote looks like English primrose, Primula vulgaris. Beautiful perennial, an early spring treat.

  6. jsn

    Froomkin: and with the Hunter/Donald yin and yang of judicial politicization out there, we’re clearly well into an era of lawless power where lawfare, like legislative policy for the last several decades, goes to the highest bidder.

    The Duopoly has degenerated into a kind of “Iron Man” competition of institutional legitimacy demolition.

      1. ambrit

        More like Actuaries of Evil, consumer.
        “We can count on you to vote early and vote often, right?”

    1. pjay

      I literally laughed out loud at that Froomkin piece. I mean, how utterly, absurdly, absolutely clueless does Froomkin have to be to rip the “Washington press corp” because they are *insufficiently critical* of the fascist Trump??

      As Lambert points out, these bubblistas constantly screech about the fascist specks in the Trumpsters’ eyes while ignoring the fascist logs in their own. If *one* member of “the corp” forgets to screech loudly enough one time, it’s a direct threat to “democracy” and “the rule of law”!

      One minor disagreement with Lambert’s comment: guys like this deserve to be utterly trashed – with no guilt. They are a big reason why the Trump Monster exists. And they don’t even realize that ridiculous tripe like this just feeds the Monster and makes him stronger!

      1. JBird4049

        They, whoever they are, always feel righteous when they go after the enemy du jour.

        In the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, it was the unionists, anarchists, socialists, communists, reformers of all types. Political assassinations, false arrests, violence, mass arrests and deportations, and censorship of all kinds. Both by the corporations and by the government. Hell, the Ku Klux Klan was at it biggest and the Nadir or when Blacks were oppressed the most, which included a lot of lynching, was during the same period.

        Same with the 1950s and 1960s

        And it looks like the 2020s to ?

        But they always say that it is to protect us, society, civilization, Mom, God, and apple pie when they do these things and often against the vulnerable and weak. And the repression always grows to other undesirable. Such as gays and lesbians during the McCarthy Era. Even during the hunt for Soviet spies they would switch to or add them to the list.

        But they are always the heroes in their own mind while their victims were scum.

        1. The Rev Kev

          ‘But they are always the heroes in their own mind’

          And there is the key statement right there.

      2. Jason Boxman

        Remember when Trump was president and we had death squads whacking suspected drug users?

        Wait, that was the Philippines. These people are all high on their own sh*t.

      3. Carolinian

        Well the D in TDS is for “derangement.” Froomkin is like a historical figure at this point but if memory serves he was the WaPo web guy back when their MSM fingers were still mostly ink stained. Is he climbing out of the memory hole where we forgot him?

  7. mrsyk

    Not much institutional legitimacy left to demolish. Lets see, the FTC and the NTSB makes two….

    1. jsn

      Mayo Pete’s got a stake to NTSBs heart, maybe 2.0rump can pound it in.

      That leaves FTC which 2.0rump no doubt has plans for.

    1. aletheia33

      i did check out bird flu. it is very scary.
      thank you lambert for catching and reporting on the situation, today, instead of waiting and seeing and stenographing (?) mindlessly on it, as so many others will continue to do.

    2. Lena

      Thank you, Lambert. I did look into the bird flu story even before you added more information. I am particularly concerned about the outbreak among Ohio dairy cows. In Ohio, it appears (?) that bird flu (thus far) has been found at only one dairy farm in Wood County (the Bowling Green area) where some dairy cows from Texas were recently brought. But who knows how reliable the official information is? I hope you will continue to keep us informed on the situation. The transfer of bird flu in Texas from infected cows (or possibly other farm animals, I’m thinking barn cats) to a farm worker is very troubling.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The transfer of bird flu in Texas from infected cows (or possibly other farm animals, I’m thinking barn cats) to a farm worker is very troubling.

        It troubles me. I’d love to be wrong. In the part of Mandy’s* interview with NPR, she says that the public health establishment was been preparing for a bird flu epidemic for twenty years, and that this is different from Covid, for which they were not prepared. Alrighty then.

        NOTE * I use the insultingly familiar first name to be nice, as with Rochelle. If I really really wanted to insult them, I’d go a lot further.

        1. Pat

          That doesn’t reassure me at all, and not just because their Covid response was so heavily weighted to protect corporate interests over human ones (which is already scary enough). There was no excuse not to have some plans there was as much evidence out there that SARS could and mutate and that it could be more virulent than earlier versions than 19. And that doesn’t even take into account the bioweaponization studies they had to know about.

            1. Pat

              True for you, but not for Mandy. Sorry should have made my agreement with you and the target of my huh, what who’re you kidding!?! clearer.

  8. Wukchumni

    Scotty, if you could feed some de-riskium crystals to NC, that’d be great for it’s long term sustainability of being a wi-fi in the ointment.

    “MacKenzie Scott’s game-changing philanthropy still mystifies nonprofits: ‘Her gifts are super generous, but unfortunately, they don’t provide long term sustainability’”

    1. Wukchumni


      A Scott-like well heeled benefactor gave $40 million to build NPS employee lodging @ Yellowstone NP, and we could sorely use a similar donation here, as things are woefully inadequate around these parts-case in point.

      We eased our way up to the park entrance and I was at stage 1 alert only to get to a stage 3 in a hurry (damned prostrate!) with the promised land being the Ash Mountain visitors center a few miles up the road and I may have set a new land speed record for the course in getting there. I practically exited the truck while it was still moving and did one of those jaunty walks that isn’t running, but are in a bigger rush than a strident traipse and thankfully the toilet was unoccupied and crisis averted and man is NPS toilet paper wafer thin, but that’s grist for another mill. I exit and go to wash my hands and there is a glad bag over the 1 urinal, I nabbed the only game in town, for half of the 2 million visitors each year.

      The Superintendent and various NPS higher ups for Sequoia NP gave a talk at a public meeting this past Monday, and related that they couldn’t fill 39% of the permanent jobs in the park, as there is no place for them to live locally, as all of the domiciles park employees used to rent by the month are short term vacation rentals now, and the employee housing in the park is as inadequate as the toilets I mentioned above.

      Sad to say, but Congress has been actively defending NPS, with a $150 million cut this annum from last year’s budget.

      A go-fund me campaign is our best hope!

      1. Carolinian

        It was Bradleys for Ukraine or taking care of our parks so something had to go. Zelenski probably gets the good toilet paper as well.

        Although in fairness I believe every campground I’ve been in has the low maintenance, stingy tp dispensers.

      2. ambrit

        Think like a Glorious Founding Person! Those Park Rangers should enter into the spirit of the job and live in tents! (And the attendants at the ski slopes can build igloos!) I don’t know what the personnel at the public beaches could do. Sleep under the piers?

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Congress has been actively defending NPS,

        Defunding, I think. Step 1 of the neoliberal playbook. Step 2 is decline in service, and step 3 is privatization….

    1. Pat

      One of the biggest boondoggles for business is the notion that the C Suite holds no responsibility for business failure only for success. And that they get paid extravagantly either way. The real trick is to not totally destroy it before you get out. (In a world with responsibility all wages and bonuses above a certain amount, say max 2 million, should be kept in a five year escrow account subject to clawback for all business downturns. Oh and they would have the same benefits (health, retirement and severance) as their workers so no golden parachute.)

  9. Amfortas the Hippie

    been busy farmerin…so just getting into h2o cooler.
    but in my catching up with all these open tabs, there’s this, from St Mary(whom is one of the erstwhile “conservative” thinkers out there who has a standing invite to sit around my fire):https://unherd.com/2024/02/the-dawn-of-americas-monarchy/?=refinnar

    aside from the hyperbolic headline, theres lots to chew upon…around said fire.
    if yall linked it whenever, sorry…this is my busiest time of year.

  10. IM Doc

    They were not chosen to be the first witnesses. Mary Magdalene, who was not only a woman but known to be a former sinner, has that place of honor in the Gospels.”

    First of all – one of the overarching messages of the Gospels for those who can read is that WE ARE ALL SINNERS – Every one of us is “known to be a former sinner.”

    Let’s say a few brief words about Mary Magdalene.

    I am by no means an expert – but I do have a lifetime of reading koine Greek, Latin and a degree in classical history. It has served me well in pursuits in medical history, but also with a much deeper understanding of the canonical Gospels.

    In our world today after millenia of interpretation and re-interpretation, Mary Magdalene is thought of as a reformed prostitute, a particularly close disciple, and actually one of the few who were part of the inner circle. She is often ascribed as being the woman who anointed Jesus head with oil during the last hours. Some see her as the adultress in the “throw the first stone discourse” and then in our more modern culture, authors like Dan Brown have taken her to a whole new level – being the actual wife of Jesus, the mother of His child. There are also the aprocyphal books of the early church where she comes in and out of gnosis. Entire films, for example The Last Temptation of Christ” and “The Passion of the Christ” have taken these myths and suppositions and ran with them – often creating whole new narratives completely divorced from the actual Gospels.

    However, when we look at the actual texts of the Gospels, and not the legends, traditions, marginalia, and comic book tropes that have built up over the centuries, the actual words “Mary Magdalene” appear in the totality of the Gospels ONE TIME ONLY outside of the events of the Resurrection. ONE TIME. (None of the above modern characterizations are stated in these Resurrection passages – NONE). And the actual ONE TIME earlier in the narrative is basically a very slight pass where she is described with her fellow travelers Joanna and Susanna, travelling with Jesus on the preacher’s path and bankrolling his ministry to some degree. That is it. The end.

    It is like medical reporting the past 4 years. When someone writes a piece like this and engages in glossing over these false characterizations as the “Gospel truth” – ie “former sinner” or “prostitute” verbiage etc., it is now nigh on to impossible for me to take the rest of their entire piece seriously. This has become so common in our discourse today. The aspects of my life and my education – medicine, history, classical languages and medieval thought are very easy for me to instantly realize who is “out in left field” in articles and pieces in those fields. Knowing this sloppiness and misinformation is so common in my own areas makes me very wary of reporting in areas like Ukraine and Palestine and economics where I just know in my heart the same thing is going on. Trying to “educate yourself” on issues may be possible if we had 50 hours a day.

    I feel like we are all in a Hall of Mirrors – it is impossible to know what to believe….

    I am beginning to understand the entire concept of The Tower of Babel more clearly every day. Not only do we all have different languages, we all have different realities. A true “Land of Confusion”.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Thanks for that, and all the other wealth you contribute to the people who tune in here. Churches could be one “institution” that could build in some resilience in the political economy. But of course the power seeker charlatans always spoil that, playing the card labeled “The lord has laid it on mah heart that “ whatever “Gospel-Based” he or she is saying has to be done or believed. One Really Big Lie is the whole “inerrancy of scripture.” Every denomination I have sampled makes the claim, and all the Protestant ones seem for some reason to find most inspirations for homilies and sermons in some heroic fable out of the Old Testament.

      “ The Sea of Faith
      Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
      Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
      But now I only hear
      Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
      Retreating, to the breath
      Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
      And naked shingles of the world.

      Ah, love, let us be true
      To one another! for the world, which seems
      To lie before us like a land of dreams,
      So various, so beautiful, so new,
      Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
      Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
      And we are here as on a darkling plain
      Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
      Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

      Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach,” composed between 1851 and 1867. At a time when other empires were building toward their apexes.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Then again:

        To have been brought
        All the way down from London, and then be addressed
        As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
        Is really tough on a girl

        (See IM Doc’s comment on Mary Magdalene above; the poem says as much about the protagonist as it does about is ostensible subject, I think.)

    2. JohnA

      With regard to we are all sinners, Professor Hudson rightly notes that the word for sin is also the word for debt in many languages.

      Correspondingly, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us, relates to the necessary forgiveness of debts every so often, to bring society back on an even keel again.
      Not sure how this would apply to Mary Magdalene as a sinner, as I am not a bible scholar, but I imagine everyone is in debt to someone else at some point in life.

  11. Leftry Godot

    In Can We Trust the Gospels, Peter J. Williams makes his case for the reliability of the Gospels… [T]he question is not so much whether the authors [of the Gospels] had an agenda but whether they reported accurately or not. In his opinion, there are many reasons to believe that the Gospels are accurate.

    The Gospels that were included in the canon were chosen in part for their consistency with one another, and yet were still full of inconsistencies. John almost didn’t make the cut due to its differences. They may be accurate at transmitting what some of the previous oral accounts were saying, but that doesn’t say much for their overall accuracy as historical documents. The whole “passion narrative” (the lengthy part of the story starting from the arrest of Jesus through his execution and burial) seems suspiciously like it came from a play or other dramatic re-enactment that the Gospel writers had seen and remembered details of imperfectly, especially in the way scenes are recounted which no living adherent of the cult could have witnessed. And the way later scribes could have “improved” the text in their copying of it (e.g., the ending tacked onto Mark) muddies the water about whose “accurate” account you’re reading.

  12. IM Doc

    Just FYI, a brief follow up for those interested regarding the “Paxlovid doesn’t work” article in the Links yesterday –

    I just noticed this today. It is a very subtle thing but important nonetheless. I went to the NEJM website to print out my CME articles for the weekend. CME is “continuing medical education”. Physicians must complete these hours to maintain their licensure and hospital credentials. And the articles selected for CME are going to be very widely read and will have a lot of physician discussion and “lounge buzz”.

    So, one instantly notices that the Paxlovid article was not a CME article. That designation is given to the articles that the editors think are most important. It also means that it will be completely ignored by a huge percentage of the reading physicians – who for time reasons only look at the articles that will give them credit.

    This seems subtle but is actually very important.

    The vast majority of the time in NEJM, articles for CME are those which have large impacts on everyone in society. They usually pass over for CME designation the articles for niche or uncommon diagnoses or treatments. It is obvious they feel we do not need to highlight the possible failure of a drug for a condition which has affected each and every soul in this world.

    We did however deem the articles introducing these triumphs of medicine as CME credit.

    That is where we are in medicine today.

    You just cannot make this stuff up.

  13. steppenwolf fetchit

    Here’s an interesting video from the TikTokCringe subreddit, titled ” There’s No Life Behind The Eyes”.
    Its a video with a concurrent occasional little talking head in the lower right corner who sometimes breaks in to say something about the main video. What he is saying is stuff about how to tell that the main video is an AI generated video. By extension, one might be able to use his advice to tell other AI generated deeply fakey videos. Here is the link.

  14. steppenwolf fetchit

    What? Another link? So soon?
    Well, yes . . .

    Trump apparently decides to accuse Biden of using cocaine . . . ” Trump accuses Biden of using cocaine, demands ‘ Drug Test ‘ before he’ll debate . . . we’ve hit rock bottom”. That’s the title of this WhitePeopleTwitter item. Here is the link.

    When Trump says something like this about someone . . . anyone . . . . that someone/ anyone should just say ” Trashy Trump is trashy. This isn’t new. This should surprise anyone.”

    Also, and separately, as Morpheus once said to Neo in a movie . . . ” There is no bottom”.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I would want to see a transcript. Trump is always misquoted, often with glee.

      That said (1) did anyone ever track down how that bag of cocaine appeared in the White House? (2) I think it’s safe to say that Biden is juiced up with something. Does it matter that much what?

      1. Randall Flagg

        And did they ever track down who leaked the Supreme Court decision striking down Roe V Wade?
        They can’t find who left a bag of coke in the WH, fingerprints, DNA etc., in what should be one of the most secure locations in exixtence,yet they can track down whatever halfway around the Earth back to the perpetrator. Oh, and the Boeing whistleblower suicide?

  15. Pat

    I do have to give kudos to Lambert. I have gotten the giggles a couple of times at the idea of Lieberman dooming No Labels by taking the names of the anonymous donors to the grave. It works on so many levels. Not that I don’t think it wouldn’t be resurrected again in a couple of years if a populist candidate arose. Kneecapping anyone like that early on was its largest purpose. I am still agog that they did the work to get a line on 21 ballots.

  16. flora

    The coming WHO pandemic treaty is not your friend. The MSM is quiet about this, too quiet. From Meryl Nass’s substack.

    Thou SHALL obey the WHO. The new treaty includes “Shall” 164 times. The IHR amendments 168 times. You bet the WHO wants to order 194 countries around.


    I remember how well the WHO handled the C-19 pandemic: Very very badly. Let’s give them more power. Not.

  17. Jason Boxman

    LoL shame Axos didn’t use that money on its IT backend. Slowest bank web site I’ve ever used in my life. It’s like a joke.

  18. Jason Boxman

    Lambert is too kind. I’m assuming this is airborne until proven otherwise and that CDC is lying or likely doesn’t care to know if it’s airborne. I’d act accordingly. Aren’t existing flu strains airborne? Why would this not be? We have to assume malicious intent by default. Biden has already killed over 700k people and destroyed public health.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Lambert is too kind.

      I try to hold the line against my worst tendencies.

      CDC and FDA are, so far as I can tell, following a well-worn, even proven, playbook for CAFO diseases (chickens, dairy cattle). Hence, disinfecting wherever sh*t is, etc. I’ve seen the argument made that H5N1 is transmitted by the cups attached to the udders of cows to milk them (i.e., fomite transmission). That’s a plausble mechanism, argument, and gives an account for the fact or claim that there’s no transmission in beef cattle operations. That said, the STAT article I posted also points out that a lot of aerosol is also generated during milking, so….

      Since I haven’t seen any serious epidemiology on this — it may well exist, I just haven’t seen it — I’m just blue-skying, but I don’t like what I see in the paradigm I see being applied:

      1) Focus on the visible and the tangible (sh*t, dust, equipment) as if cleaning were the same thing as preventing infection (handwashing is the most visible consequence of this paradigm, but it also applies to cleaning surfaces, etc.)

      2) Airborne transmission is ruled out a priori. That makes no sense to me (though I could be argued out of it with some genuine epidemiology). To this layperson, airborne transmission gives a good account of rapid transmission across species (because IIRC, not all the cross-species transmission occurs in CAFOs (or can be accounted for with bird sh*t)).

      3) One possible lesson we might consider taking away from Covid is that SARS-CoV-2 rapidly evolved and adapted to take advantage of human weakness at the social level (for example, asymptomatic transmission takes advantage of the human tendency to socialize, dysregulating risk assessment functions in the brain takes advantage of laziness, greed, recklessness, exeuberance, curiosity, and so forth). H5N1 evolves rapidly as well, and so it might expect it to evolve to adapt to human weakness at the social level as well. The (hypothesized) CDC/FDA playbook would not, by definition, cover either such adaptations, or, at a higher level, the nature of such adaptations.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Autonomous driving on its way out it seems

      We can’t make robot cars work. And we’re going to make AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) work? I don’t think so (though AI may end up “succeeding” in that it inserts itself into every interaction, crapifies it, yet generates rent).

  19. NYT_Memes

    What is it with these Seattle firms….

    It’s like there is some kind of corporate identity ingrained in communities.
    Think community standards. Think of the original Seattle engineering firm: Boeing

  20. Ben Panga

    The decades long Tory plan to defund then privatise the NHS continues apace. Instead of waiting 12 hours for an ambulance, you can pay these guys £99 for instant service:


    The NHS is pretty much the only good thing about Britain. I didn’t really appreciate it until I lived abroad and suddenly had to pay (directly) for treatment.

    The destruction of the NHS makes me so sad and angry. Privatisation is opposed by a huge majority of voters and seems designed purely to enrich the already wealthy. I was a student nurse in the 1990s and even then the cracks were showing, but care was (mostly) still delivered well. These days it feels like the whole system is collapsing. I have a lot of relatives who worked their whole careers in the NHS and have a strong belief in its duty of care to the nation. They are kinda heartbroken.

    Still, at least a few billionaires will get more billionaired.

    1. Carolinian

      We Yanks love us some Doc Martin. That show is now over too–like the NHS apparently.

      Here in the provincial US the (now) monopoly hospital system is the biggest thing going in my small city. There’s just so much money sloshing around in the medical/industrial complex. Guess the Brit elites couldn’t resist.

      1. Ben Panga

        If you’re a Tory MP, what’s not to like? You screw over the poor, sell off all that is good to VC, and then when you leave parliament get a very well paid job with those same VC firms.

        They’ve been doing it since Thatcher’s time. These days they don’t even bother with the figleaf of “competition leads to efficiency”. Just straight kleptocracy.

        I recently spent a couple of years in Kentucky, so I know what a medical hellscape looks like. I still owe a Louisville hospital the $3k I was billed for a few x-rays after an accident there.

  21. Devil's Advocate

    “The question is not so much whether the authors [of the Gospels] had an agenda but whether they reported accurately or not.”

    Accurately? The first Gospel, Mark’s’ is in respected circles believed to have been written no earlier than 75CE and possibly up to a decade later. So it is relating events that occured 40 or so years earlier and Mark himself certainly wasn’t an eye-witness to the events he relates, and the inconsistencies* and contradictions in the Gospels are obvious to anyone with eyes to see and three brain-cells to think with.

    But even on this specific claim, that the whole thing must be accurate because women rather than men discovered the empty tomb, Mark himself (16:8) tells us that “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” But if that is accurate it obviously isn’t as they must have told someone for the story to have reached Mark.

    (*ie Mark 14: 32-42. Jesus in Gethsmane, and the Gospel tells us ‘accurately’ what he said and did when he had gone off alone, and everyone else (we are told accurately) was asleep.)

    1. Lefty Godot

      I entered a comment similar to yours yesterday, but it apparently got deleted. But, yes, the whole “passion narrative” (the portions of the Gospel starting just before the arrest of Jesus and through the point of his burial) only make sense as a description of a play or other dramatic re-enactment, where the Gospel writers or their primary sources would have been among the audience on the other side of the “fourth wall”. And they obviously each remembered that drama slightly differently, which causes them to write up their versions differently. But recounting dialog and events for which there were no witness available to the writer can’t be viewed as having any historical value.

  22. Daniil Adamov

    While anti-Putin, Spartz was always (or at least, since the start of the SMO) very critical of Zelensky and Ukrainian corruption, perhaps because it’s hard to overlook the latter when you have any actual familiarity with the country. IIRC she criticised aid from that angle before as well.

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