2:00PM Water Cooler 5/16/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Orchard Oriole (Orchard), Hamilton–Royal Botanical Gardens (Princess Point), Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “Young male, photographed, audio recorded. Continuing.” Highway roar, I think, but a pretty song.

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In Case You Might Miss…

(1) North Carolina legislature bails for the weekend without passing the anti-masking bill, so there’s still time to call.

(2) New Cohen’s testimony in the Bragg trial, plus theories of the case.

(3) Biden and Trump debate.

(4) The Impressionists and the Paris Commune.

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“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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Less than a half a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, May 10:

National results now moving Trump’s way. All of the Swing States (more here) are now in Trump’s column, including Michigan and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania leans more Trump this week than last. Of course, it goes without saying that these are all state polls, therefore bad, and most of the results are within the margin of error. Now, if either candidate starts breaking away in points, instead of tenths of a point…. NOTE I changed the notation: Up and down arrows for increases or decreases over last week, circles for no change. Red = Trump. Blue would be Biden if he were leading anywhere, but he isn’t.

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Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Michael Cohen pressed on his crimes and lies as defense attacks key Trump hush money trial witness” [Associated Press]. “Cohen is prosecutors’ final witness — at least for now — as they try to prove Trump schemed to suppress a damaging story he feared would torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign and then falsified business records to cover it up.” Scheming to “suppress a damaging story” is not per se illegal, and is standard fare in any campaign; certainly this is not the object offense. More: “Over several days on the witness stand, Cohen placed Trump directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid.” Ditto. More: ” Trump’s tone changed when, months later, Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign-finance charges and implicated him in the hush money scheme. Trump was not charged with a crime related to the federal investigation.” • Cohen’s guilty plea to federal campaign charges seems to be the only untethered crime floating about, so possbily Bragg intends to make that the object offense that converts the putative business records violations into felonies. If so, (a) does a state really get to enforce Federal law, (b) why on earth didn’t the Feds charge Trump when they had the chance, and (c) the business records violations tool place after the campaign finance violations, so isn’t this theory a reversal of cause and effect? Seems like Bragg is reaching.

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Trump New York hush-money trial is far from a slam dunk” [BBC]. From April: “Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign violations as part of the alleged cover-up, which he said was directed by Mr Trump.” • As above, but note this helpfully erases the timeline (point (c)).

Trump (R): (Bragg/Merchan): “Almost end times for Trump trial spectacle but there’s still room for fireworks: 3 things to watch” [Andrew McCarthy, FOX]. “It is undoubtedly true that, to convict Trump, the jury must believe Cohen’s uncorroborated testimony that Trump knew – from the Trump Organization’s then-CFO, Allen Weisselberg – the details of how Cohen was going to be paid. Prosecutors have projected the illusion that they’ve offered tons of evidence to corroborate Cohen. But they have only corroborated elements of the story that are not incriminating and not in (much) dispute. On the disputed issue of Trump’s state of mind, there is no support for the key Weisselberg story. It’s just Cohen’s word.” And, oddly, the prosecution has not called Weisselberg. On the business records offense: “Retainers* do not have to be in writing, so the fact that there isn’t a written retainer does . Cohen was holding himself out as Trump’s lawyer throughout 2017, he was available to work for Trump whenever asked, and he did in fact do lawyer work for him in 2017-18. And the Trump Organization knew it was paying for more than the Stormy Daniels NDA. So how could it be fraudulently false for the Trump org CFO to refer to payments to Cohen as pursuant to a retainer? Cohen did the things a retained lawyer does.” A defense case? “Costello is a savvy New York defense lawyer who represented Cohen at the start of the federal investigation. He has been released from his attorney-client confidentiality obligation (because Cohen waived confidentiality when he told the feds about his discussions with Costello). On Tuesday, Costello testified before a House committee, asserting that Cohen’s testimony was rife with lies – a claim Costellos says he can back up with emails, texts, etc. Costello also testified to that effect in the grand jury. I expect Blanche will use Costello’s House and grand jury testimony in attacking Cohen on cross-examination.” In addition, Costello might testify. Federal Campaign Finance. “Team Trump should renew its request to call former FEC official Bradley Smith as an expert witness in the defense case to explain why NDAs are not actionable campaign expenditures under federal law. Judge Merchan has previously indicated he would not permit such expert testimony, rationalizing that only the court should instruct the jury on the law. But Merchan has let Cohen and David Pecker explain to the jury that they believed the NDAs violated federal law. Especially given that Bragg has no authority to enforce federal law, and Merchan has no expertise in it, shouldn’t the jury hear from at least one person who actually knows something about the subject?” • More to come! NOTE * This is presumably the answer to an argument that “Cohen was not a Trump’s lawyer because he wasn’t on retainer,” which, if present in the coverage, I missed.

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Could Manhattan court acquit Trump?” [Washington Times]. “Having served on three Manhattan juries, I would not be surprised if the 12 men and women hearing New York v. Donald J. Trump acquit him of all charges. In two civil actions and one criminal case, my fellow jurors were serious, professional, and movingly civic-minded. A quiet, solemn patriotism infused our deliberations. Several jurors said that we should respect the justice system because we might need it to respect us someday… With 48% of registered voters telling Reuters-Ipsos last month that Mr. Trump’s Kafkaesque cases are “excessive and politically motivated” (41% disagree), even a Manhattan jury could scrap Mr. Bragg’s contraption. If just one juror agrees, this case will end with a hung jury. And if ‘lurid but legal’ reflects the opinions of 12 of my fellow Manhattanites — who tend to be tough but fair — then former President Donald Trump will be acquitted on all 34 charges and go back where he belongs: the campaign trail.” Would certainly be true if the defendant were anybody but Donald Trump. Oh, and this snark is pretty good: “Mr. Trump faces 34 counts of alleged falsification of business records because his bookkeepers posted ledger entries for checks to Mr. Cohen as ‘legal expenses.’ Would Mr. Bragg prefer false descriptions like ‘plumbing supplies’ or ‘marble tiles’? Mr. Trump faces prison for reporting legal expenses as ‘legal expenses,’ which is legal.”

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Biden (D) Abortion:

If only the Democrats had codified Roe, instead of fundraising of it.

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“Biden and Trump Are Set to Debate—For Now” [NBC]. “Two years ago, former President Donald Trump bullied the Republican National Committee into passing a resolution declaring zero cooperation with the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates. Trump was convinced the group that has run the events since 1988 was stacked against him. He also wanted the debates to start sooner, well before the early-vote window opened. Trump insisted to anyone who would listen that he was far from afraid of sharing a stage with President Joe Biden, and would welcome as many as 20 such encounters. Well, the double-digit double dates remains a long shot, but it looks like the ex-President is getting much of what he wanted in facing the current one. Wednesday morning, Biden and his campaign issued their own terms for a pair of one-on-one debates, and most of them matched up nicely with Trump’s red-line demands. The Commission on Presidential Debates is left out in the cold, the first session could come as early as next month, and the whole thing would be captured for a national television audience.” More drama to come: “[E]ven in accepting Biden’s topline terms, Trump was still holding out hopes that there would be an audience, something the Biden proposal explicitly excluded. ‘I would strongly recommend more than two debates and, for excitement purposes, a very large venue,’ Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social. Trump is also likely to raise objections to Biden’s term that would mute a candidate’s microphone when it is not their turn—essentially silencing Trump’s constant interjections that, four years ago, resulted in an exasperated Biden muttering with disdain: ‘Will you shut up, man?’ And no one has yet said where, physically, the TBD host would stage these events, regardless of whether megadonors and hardcore activists are in the room or not.”

“Jake Tapper and Dana Bash tapped to moderate CNN debate” [The Hill]. “CNN has selected anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash to moderate the first presidential debate of the 2024 cycle between President Biden and former President Trump. The June 27 debate, which will be broadcast live, will take place at CNN’s Atlanta studios and won’t feature a studio audience. CNN’s is the first of two debates Biden and Trump agreed to Wednesday, with a second planned for September, hosted by ABC. ABC has yet to announce moderators for the September debate.”

“Why Biden did the debate throwdown, Trump agreed, and the risks for each side” [Howard Kurtz, FOX]. “Candidates debate when they have to debate. That’s why Donald Trump didn’t during the primaries. That’s why Joe Biden, battling abysmal poll numbers, surprised everyone yesterday by agreeing to two debates. And why Trump, who’s been demanding a side-by-side comparison… immediately accepted.” And: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of these two events, which more than any debate since Ronald Reagan told Jimmy Carter in 1980 ‘there you go again,’ could decide the election. Biden was on track to lose the election. He’s been shielded and hardly making any news, even before Trump’s hush money trial began. His team must belatedly recognize this. Joe had to do something to shake things up. The Biden camp believes that his superior knowledge will become evident in no-frills debates. There’s also a conviction that the more the public sees of Trump, who’s been cooped up in a Manhattan courthouse, the better it is for the president. On the other hand, Trump’s sheer physical presence, and bombastic style, will present a favorable contrast to Biden’s elderly mien and thin voice (though they’re only 3-½ years apart). And trust me, as someone who’s sat down with Donald for an hour-long interview, he can focus and exercise discipline when he wants to.” • See the RCP chart I run each Friday; the race is very close. Both candidates can be excused for taking whichever side of “half empty or half full” they take. It seems the candidates themselves each decided to break a stalemate and inject volatility into the race themselves (without waiting for events). However, I would speculate that, just as in the markets, volatility most favors those with the deepest pockets, and Biden has more money than Trump. OTOH, a Trump dollar goes farther than a Biden dollar. So… let’s wait and see.

“Scripps News Exclusive: Trump willing to include Kennedy in debates with Biden” [WKBW]. “In an exclusive interview with Scripps News on Thursday, former President Donald Trump said he would have ‘no problem’ sharing the debate stage with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. if the independent presidential candidate met the polling threshold… ‘I would have no problem if he got whatever the threshold is,’ Trump told Benson. ‘But he’s very low and seems to be heading in the other direction, in the wrong direction.'”

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Kennedy (I): “R.F.K. Jr. Isn’t a Spoiler Now, Poll Suggests, but He Could Be in November” [New York Times]. “Mr. Kennedy draws disproportionately from voters who usually back Democrats but have defected to Mr. Trump. In fact, Mr. Kennedy actually takes more Biden 2020 voters than Trump ’20 voters, even though Mr. Kennedy draws more Trump ’24 voters than Biden ’24 voters. He drew 8 percent of Mr. Biden’s 2020 supporters to 6 percent of those who backed Mr. Trump, even though more of his supporters would back Mr. Trump today. Similarly, Mr. Kennedy drew 7 percent of self-identified Democrats, compared with 4 percent of Republicans. And he drew 8 percent of those who backed Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in the four states where we asked about them, compared with 6 percent of those who backed the Republican candidate. It might seem confusing that Mr. Kennedy is disproportionately strong among the sliver of Trump voters who usually vote Democratic, but it makes a lot of sense. The polls show many disengaged young and nonwhite voters who usually lean Democratic, but have soured so much on Mr. Biden that they backed Mr. Trump in the polls. But it’s not as if they love Mr. Trump. They voted against him last time, after all, and they usually vote Democratic. So it’s easy to see why these voters would prefer Mr. Kennedy to Mr. Trump. All of this adds up to an unusual takeaway: Mr. Kennedy may be winning over voters whom Mr. Biden may need in order to win, even if those voters have soured on him so much that they wouldn’t vote for him even if Mr. Kennedy weren’t on the ballot. He may not be a spoiler now, but perhaps he could be if Mr. Biden’s standing improved.” • I would bet it’s not only “disengaged young and nonwhite voters.”

Kennedy (I): On not ‘specially reliable authority:

I can’t find this confirmed anywhere, and I don’t see anything on this in Kennedy’s feed. Of course, the Democrats would, but that doesn’t mean that they did. Readers?

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PA: “Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr. make the ballot in Pennsylvania?” [Inquirer]. “Independent candidates and third-party nominees must file petitions for ballot access by August 1. As an independent, Kennedy Jr., needs to file 5,000 signatures of registered voters and pay the state $200. That’s a relatively low threshold in the nation’s sixth most populous state. Delaware, which has a fraction of Pennsylvania’s population, sets a signature threshold of 1% of registered voters — which for this election is more than 7,600. Missouri, which has roughly half of Pennsylvania’s population, has a threshold of 10,000. The petition signers can be from anywhere in Pennsylvania, belong to a political party, or be unaffiliated. A spokesperson for Kennedy’s campaign said volunteers will soon begin collecting signatures in Pennsylvania. Campaigns could start filling them out in mid-February…. Kennedy’s petition signatures in Pennsylvania will need to survive expected legal challenges from the Democratic National Committee or outside groups. The DNC has launched an offensive against Kennedy, deploying mobile billboards to areas where he is campaigning that blast Kennedy for receiving donations from Trump donors.”

Spook Country

“US intel chief warns of increasing threats to 2024 election” [Agence France Presse]. • Because of course they are. This is so, so stupid. Electoral politics is a rough game and a difficult business. Even the best of consultants, operatives, campaigners miss the mark, after spending enormous amounts of money and effort. Do we really believe some Russki influencers, no matter how dastardly — are going to be able to affect this process — digitally! — to the slightest degree? It’s demented, like imagining a mouse can assault an elephant. The real agenda here, I would submit, is ending up with a system whereby the spooks certify elections as being “clean.” No doubt that’s what the spooks want, but do we? Anyhow, here we go again:


The Wizard of Kalorama™

“Obama will headline fundraiser to boost Democratic Senate candidates” [NBC]. “The June 5 event in Potomac, Maryland, will feature Obama and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the state’s junior senator, discussing ‘the importance of protecting Democrats’ Senate majority and the stakes of the election,’ a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aide said. Longtime Democratic donors Jeffrey and Lora Drezner are hosting the evening fundraiser, according to a copy of the invitation.” • The Drezners are not AIPAC. But they are Sidwell Friends! So a nice tight little community.


“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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“North Carolina Senate panel advances anti-mask bill” [WRAL]. “Senate Judiciary Committee Republican voted in a voice vote with Democrats objecting to advance a law to enhance penalties for people who wear masks while committing another crime or for those who block traffic. House Bill 237 now moves to another Senate committee. But the bill also removes a provision that exempts people who wear masks for health and safety reasons that was added in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“North Carolina House Bill 237” [LegisScan]. Here in relevant part is the text:

Senator Buck Newton: “The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson County, said the bill is not intended to “prosecute granny for wearing a mask in the Walmart — unless she was sticking steaks in her bag.” • What a knuckle-dragger. If what he says is true, then why delete section 6? Let Granny wear her mask and then prosecute her for shoplifting, which is already illegal, mask or no. Here is what HB237 outlaws:

However, the bill has not yet passed:

(For numbers to call, see yesterday’s post here.)

Meanwhile, Maskless Mandy — quondam Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services — will be in-state shortly; I wonder if she’ll have anything to say:

Sequelae: Covid

“”Spanish flu,” encephalitis lethargica, and COVID-19: Progress made, lessons learned, and directions for future research” [European Journal of Neurology]. “The so-called “Spanish flu” was the first globally documented viral pandemic and was active mostly between 1917 and 1920 in Europe, the USA, and other countries. It differed from other globally prevalent and active diseases such as polio or measles insofar as its infectious spread was in distinct waves that resulted in a high mortality of children and adults. It killed >20 million people worldwide, more than had died during the first World War. It incapacitated large areas of urban living and led to the closing of schools, universities, and other institutions. Public transportation was affected, as was any kind of public communication. Although the mode of transmission by air was eventually identified as the most likely mode of transmission, protection from being afflicted was not clear when the pandemic hit initially. It brought along a widespread fear of contagion. Wearing of masks, hand hygiene, avoiding public gatherings, and isolation of the diseased in special hospital wards were the main measures of protection for individuals. Approximately 2-3 million people developed an acute neurological disorder named ‘encephalitis lethargica,’ which had a high mortality of approximately 40%, receded only slowly, and in the mid-1920s had almost disappeared. Late, chronic forms persisted and occurred up to the late 1930s, and severe cases were mostly treated in psychiatric institutions. Some patients also developed a postencephalitic parkinsonism (PEP). In stark contrast to the memorials for the fallen soldiers of the recent war, almost no memorials were set up in remembrance of this deadly pandemic, which speaks of a remarkable repression in the public awareness of this deadly disease.” • Looks like we dodged a bullet on an encephalitis lethargica equivalent; Long Covid is bad, but doesn’t have a mortality rate of 40%. Other than that, we don’t seem to have learned much. And given our Covid experience, the “repression in the public awareness” doesn’t seem “remarkable” at all, but rather the norm.

Origins Debate

“HHS suspends federal funding for EcoHealth Alliance” [STAT]. “The Biden administration has suspended federal grants issued to EcoHealth Alliance, the infectious disease research group caught up in a controversy over its work in China, and plans to bar it from receiving future funding. The Health and Human Services Department dispatched its decision in a letter Tuesday, two weeks after House lawmakers grilled EcoHealth President Peter Daszak on the nonprofit’s research, oversight, and safety measures, particularly its work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and contentious infectious disease studies known as gain-of-function research.” • Should have been done long ago, even leaving Wuhan and possible gain-of-function research aside; EcoHealth was clearly on omnishambles (Vanity Fair, 2022). Although one might indeed question whether omnishambularity served other purposes….

Elite Maleficence

First, this atrocity:

(The drawing style at top left is pervasive — note the extremely harmless and tentative half-smile — and it makes my back teeth itch.)

Now, this atrocity:

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Lambert here: Patient readers, I’m going to have to rethink this beautifully formatted table. Looks like Biobot data still functions, CDC variant data functions, ER visits are dead, New York hospitalization seems to be dead since 5/1 [No, it’s alive!], when CDC stopped mandatory hospital data collection, Walgreens functions, Cleveland Clinic functions, CDC traveler’s data functions, New York Times death data has stopped. (Note that the two metrics the hospital-centric CDC cared about, hospitalization and deaths, have both gone down). Ideally I would replace hospitalization and death data, but I’m not sure how. I might also expand the wastewater section to include (yech) Verily data, H5N1 if I can get it. Suggestions and sources welcome.

TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

National[1] Biobot May 13: Regional[2] Biobot May 13:
Variants[3] CDC May 11 Emergency Room Visits[4] CDC March 23
New York State, data May 15: National [6] CDC May 4:
National[7] Walgreens May 13: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic May 4:
Travelers Data
Positivity[9] CDC April 22: Variants[10] CDC April 22:
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) Slight upward movement, supported by yesterday’s Walgreen’s positivity.

[2] (Biobot) No backward revisons….

[3] (CDC Variants) FWIW, given that the model completely missed KP.2.

[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) The data is now updating again. 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) Slight uptick.

[8] (Cleveland) Leveling out.

[9] (Travelers: Posivitity) Flattens.

[10] (Travelers: Variants) JN.1 dominates utterly. Still no mention of KP.2

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

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the US fell by 10,000 to 222,000 on the week ending May 11th, less than market expectations of 220,000. It was the third-highest reading this year, keeping the claims well above the last 9 months’ average, and pointing to the weakening labor market in the US.”

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial production in the US was little changed in April, following a 0.1% increase in March and missing market expectations of a 0.1% growth. Manufacturing output, which makes up 78% of total production, decreased 0.3 percent, compared with market forecast of 0.1% increase. Also, mining output decreased 0.6 percent, largely because of an 18.1 percent decline in the index for coal mining. On the other hand, the output of utilities increased 2.8 percent.”

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US remained positive but dropped 11 points to 4.5 in May 2024, from a two-year high of 15.5 in April, below market expectations of 8.”

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US rose 5.7% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 1.36 million in April 2024, reversing from a downwardly revised 1.287 million level in March. Figures came once again below forecasts of 1.42 million, as high rates and home prices continue to weigh on home builders.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “The hunt for rare bitcoin is nearing an end” [Ars Technica]. “In the same way a dollar is made up of 100 cents, one bitcoin is composed of 100 million satoshis—or sats, for short. But not all sats are made equal. Those produced in the year bitcoin was created are considered vintage, like a fine wine. Other coveted sats were part of transactions made by bitcoin’s inventor. Some correspond with a particular transaction milestone. These and various other properties make some sats more scarce than others—and therefore more valuable. The very rarest can sell for tens of millions of times their face value; in April, a single sat, normally worth $0.0006, sold for $2.1 million. [Billy] Restey is part of a small, tight-knit band of hunters trying to root out these rare sats, which are scattered across the bitcoin network. They do this by depositing batches of bitcoin with a crypto exchange, then withdrawing the same amount—a little like depositing cash with a bank teller and immediately taking it out again from the ATM outside. The coins they receive in return are not the same they deposited, giving them a fresh stash through which to sift. They rinse and repeat.” • Totally productive activity, well worth the energy expended.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 46 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 16 at 3:18:03 PM ET

Zeitgeist Watch

“Always Angry? How Pent-Up Fury Sabotages the Body” [Inside Hook]. “Uncontrolled anger has a long list of unsavory side effects. Think: headaches, indigestion, insomnia, eczema and muscular tension (especially in the neck and shoulders). Chronic anger can even affect entire systems in the body — a study published in Immunology demonstrated that unchecked anger can even suppress the immune system, which makes you more susceptible to infections and illnesses. This line really stuck out to me: ‘Individuals with below average levels of anger control were shown to heal significantly slower than subjects less disposed to this emotion.’ The key word there is ‘control.’ It would be ridiculous to suggest that anger isn’t a real and valuable emotion in the human arsenal; the same study discusses anger’s advantageous role for our ancestors, priming their bodies before a fight. But we live in a different age — and slamming your hand against a laptop is not the same as battling a beast in the jungle. When you’re angry, your blood pressure, heart rate and adrenaline levels are all elevated. This puts a massive strain on the body, and especially on the cardiovascular system. Angry brains are swimming in way too much cortisol, all the time. This can impact your sense of memory, concentration and decision-making…and perhaps compel you to do angry little things (like getting embroiled in a road rage incident), feeding a self-defeatist cycle.” • Various strategies suggested, including physical activity, deep breathing, talking it out, timeouts, and “experiment” [lambert bangs head on desk].

The Gallery

Not hard to answer, but what lovely paintings:

“‘A Plaything for Rich People and Fancy Museums’? Reevaluating Impressionism at 150” [Artnet]. “Context, in short, is key. ‘Many of the artists are responding to the traumatized citizens of Paris after ‘l’année terrible’ [“the terrible year,” as Victor Hugo called the violent series of conflicts rocking Paris from 1870-1871], and you cannot have what people think of as Impressionism… without considering what happened three years earlier in the capital, which was horrific,’ said [Mary Morton of the National Gallery]. As a result, the Impressionists felt a ‘need to move forward, to forge a new path, and not be mired in the past, to move beyond all the trauma,’ added [Kimberly Jones at the NGA in Washington]. ‘We’re presenting this so people understand what they’ve lived through, and why this art is forward-thinking, and why there is a degree of optimism in this.’…. As the world they knew shifted beneath them, the Impressionists, aware that all could have been lost in the recent destruction, took a leap and began showing the poetry and significance of a fleeting moment. Their rapid painting technique was ideally suited for this, allowing them to seize an ephemeral impression of light, or any simple act of daily life. This was indeed radical, and far from frivolous. It was life-affirming, and, for some, a mechanism for survival.” • I’m not sure the subtext on the Paris Commune is correct, here (I mean, “all could have been lost.” What would be wrong with losing Adolph Thiers?) I’m not sure about “art as a response to trauma” either. Have we seen any of that from Covid? I mean, apart from Taylor Swift’s tour?

Class Warfare

On “techno-feudalism,” so-called:

If any reader has time on their hands, perhaps they could grab a cup of coffee and see how Varoufakis’s thesis holds together.

Asking for my vote:

News of the Wired

“I Don’t Want To Spend My One Wild And Precious Life Dealing With Google’s AI Search” [Aftermath]. Excellent rant: “Google’s AI search has arrived, uninvited, to my browser, and I cannot make it leave. It isn’t just that it serves me crap whenever I enter a question into my search bar, but that I have to wait for all the crap I don’t want in the first place. Let me tell you a story from my day: I was paying invoices, and I wanted to doublecheck that the number of episodes of our podcast, Aftermath Hours, squared with what our producers had billed for. I typed “Aftermath hours spotify” into my browser window, which–depending when I’ve last cleared my history–either autofills the URL for the podcast on Spotify or takes me to Google search results, where our Spotify page is the top result. But now, when I get Google, I have to wait through a nearly three-second pause before AI information about the podcast appears at the top of the page, followed by a link to Spotify and other results. While I appreciate that, in this instance, the AI-generated information about the podcast is correct, this information is not what I’m looking for, and I have to wait three seconds for it to show up just so I can ignore it. These three seconds are wrecking me. I’m not one of those lifehacking types who wants to optimize every bit of their day, but that three second wait is just enough friction that I notice it every time. It’s a small annoyance in the moment, but over the course of a day’s queries–any writer or editor can tell you that the number of weird searches you do adds up–that friction starts to build into a drag. I feel like I’m losing chunks of my one and only life waiting for bullshit I didn’t ask for and don’t want to load onto my screen so I can scroll past it. That’s something I already deal with when visiting the ad-laden websites Google search brings up; I don’t need a preview! It makes the already unpleasant experience of Google search even worse than it already is. Before some stray AI evangelist leaps into the comments to promise the tech will get better, I want to be clear that even if it were instantaneous, I still wouldn’t want it. I didn’t ask for results from the plagiarism machine!” • I can’t wait….

I really like the Midwest Modern account (having grown up in the Midwest):

* * *

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: “So our drive from Westminster California to Trona, California always includes a long stretch of highway 395. There’s nothing along the route for many miles—I’m going to say take a stab and say 20 (give or take), but I’m never paying close attention. On that same note, I never think about what city I’m in, but according to my phone, this is Helendale. We just had to stop for the rainbow, and happily, my iPhone is smart enough to tell me where I am. I have to look this city up and see if anything exists in Helendale besides desert flora and fauna. I’m afraid I do not know what the yellow or purple wildflowers are.” Well, this is absurdly beautiful! I hope it’s a portent!

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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

    Uh, is it just me, or does this look like a repeat of this morning’s Links?
    Hard for me to keep up these days. / ;)

  2. antidlc

    As a Nightmare Brews on Wall Street for CVS, Executives Scramble to Quell Investors

    I wrote Monday about how the additional Medicare claims CVS/Aetna paid during the first three months of this year prompted a massive selloff of the company’s shares, sending the stock price to a 15-year low. During CVS’s May 1 call with investors, CEO Karen Lynch and CFO Thomas Cowhey assured them the company had already begun taking action to avoid paying more for care in the future than Wall Street found acceptable.

    Among the solutions they mentioned: Ratcheting up the process called prior authorization that results in delays and denials of coverage requests from physicians and hospitals; kicking doctors and hospitals out of its provider networks; hiking premiums; slashing benefits; and abandoning neighborhoods where the company can’t make as much money as investors demand.

    1. flora

      Thanks for the link. Having dealt with CVS through my uni’s health insurance plan I do think Mr. Wendell Potter’s assessment is right. And it’s not just retiree Medicare patient customers who suffer, imo. See also: Pharmacy Benefit Managers. (my comment about the business model of PBM’s isn’t fit for publishing on a family friendly blog. / ;)

      1. flora

        adding: Wall St punishes insurance companies for providing more health care reimbursments to their insurance enrollees than Wall St accepts as a profitable business model.
        Well. OK then. Got it.
        (And just what is the Wall St. business model?)

        1. jo6pac

          (And just what is the Wall St. business model?)

          Mucho Profit for us and death for you because you cost to much;-)

    2. Avalon Sparks

      So that’s why the one near me merged with one farther away last month, and they haven’t had a medicine I take in stock since.

      Also received a letter last week that they will no longer cover one of my medications as cheaper alternatives are available. (CVS Caremark is my employers only pharm plan choice). Can really complain because it is a good plan and I’m lucky.

      But as long as the shareholders and the executive staff don’t have to suffer from cuts.

      Oh Family Blog Them!

  3. Justaguy

    RFK gave some details on the NY ballot firm working for the DNC on a podcast Matt & Shanes secret podcast. If you were looking for a source.

  4. GF

    Being economic disadvantaged (NC definitely has increased my knowledge) I still need someone to explain the government inflation numbers. 3.4% over the same month last year – what does that really translate too in total inflation since Jan 1? Would that mean we add together each of the monthly increases and get an actual inflation amount of 12%+ for the first 4 months of the year? How much is the total inflation increase since April 2023? Thanks for an explanation.

    1. Bsn

      GF, here’s a link to a short video on inflation. Part of a series that is a very good way to learn some fundamentals of economy: Crash Course: Chapter 10 – Inflation by Chris Martenson
      Since inflation can grow exponentially, if it stayed at 3%, where Biden says it is, eventually no one will be able to afford anything. The above course is quite good – we learned a lot about basic concepts such as “what is money”, “what is inflation/deflation”, “what are assets”, good, basics and highly recommended.

      1. GF

        Thanks Bsn for the link to the interesting video. It doesn’t answer my main question – which I may not have articulated well. What is the % inflation number, measured using current government tools for making the determination, for the past 12 months? Thanks again for any response.

        1. dao

          The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates several CPI figures, the most important of which is the CPI-W 1984=100, which are the figures Social Security uses to determine COLAs. It’s based on a basket of goods which cost $100 in 1984.

          The April reading was 307.811. The figure for April 2023 was 297.730.

          307.811/297.730 = 1.034. Therefore, total inflation over the last year has been 3.4%.


        2. ChrisFromGA

          If I may try to help, let me introduce you to Wolf Richter, a former Wall St. guy who writes one of the best (IMO) blogs on this sort of stuff.


          Monthly numbers are notoriously volatile so Wolf helpfully graphs out the 3 and 6-month averages, which are smoothed out and show the trend much better.

          Scroll down to the 2nd and 3rd charts on the link above and you’ll find both.

          If I were to answer your question I would say take the 6-month average to get an idea of what the inflation % number has been over the past 6 months, That is around 4.0 % for “core” CPI which ignores food and energy. I know, that seems deeply wrong to ignore those two.

          Overall CPI has been running at around 3.5% for the better part of the last year. This was a drop from 2022 when it peaked around 9%. But the damage is cumulative – smaller increases on top of a base of larger increases show that inflation is still going up, but not accelerating. Recently a lot of liars and charlatans have claimed that it is still going down, but they are either ignorant or flat-out fraudsters trying to pump stocks. (Some of these fraudsters own the stocks they’re pumping, making it fraud in the inducement. Too bad we don’t have more SEC enforcement. But I digress.)

          If you look at the first chart, (wrong dates on x-axis) then you can see that core CPI is “stuck” at 3-4% for the past 10 or so data points so it is neither accelerating nor decelerating. That number seems to be in rough agreement w. what Dao just replied (3.4%.)

  5. rrrrrrrrrr

    On RFK and the signature gathering firm:

    He mentioned it in a podcast with Shane Gillis and Matt McCusker that came out a day ago. Hardly confirmation but it was the first I’d heard of it. I listened to the episode as far as they started talking about Palestine and then shut it off, his views on the conflict are quite ordinary for a US politician in that they are abhorrent. Some outsider.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > On RFK and the signature gathering firm:

      Thanks! No tweets, though. That should really happen. Remember that NYT story a week or so ago, where Kennedy signature gatherers were allegedly folding over the top of the petition so the signer couldn’t see it was for Kennedy? The people who complained about it…. seemed extremely, er, qualified.

  6. Screwball

    I don’t know how this will link, but a Tweet from Biden;

    President Biden

    The text is as follows;

    Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.

    So today, the @TheJusticeDept is taking the next step to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug under federal law.

    Here’s what that means:

    Right now, marijuana has a higher-level classification than fentanyl and methamphetamine – the two drugs driving America’s overdose epidemic.

    That just doesn’t add up. At my request, and guided by science and evidence, HHS and DOJ have studied the drug’s medical use and abuse and dependency potential and are recommending rescheduling – concluding reclassification would remove barriers to critical research.

    No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.

    Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana.

    I’m committed to writing those historic wrongs. You have my word.

    Behind in the polls would be my first thought. My second, if rescheduled to a III, what does that mean? I think you still need a prescription?

    1. Feral Finster

      “Behind in the polls would be my first thought.”

      Of course. Biden is basically trying to buy youth votes.

      1. hunkerdown

        How is Schedule III going to buy more youth votes than state adult-use regimes? The youth already know what they have. It’s an appeal for more Puritan domination dressed up to look like a grant of freedom.

    2. IMOR

      What’s the grand total of those incarcerated today or eve 20 years ago for FEDERAL simple possession of marijuana? My guess: it ain’t large. Also, will the resheduling indirectly halt fedetal funding for propaganda and put-up job research into its oh-so-harmful ‘effects’?
      As always, doing the bare minimum decades late and inflating it into an ‘achievemen’- which will be rolled back sveral years hence anyway.

      1. Feral Finster

        “What’s the grand total of those incarcerated today or eve 20 years ago for FEDERAL simple possession of marijuana?”

        Relatively few, but that isn’t the point. The target is kids who want to be able to smoke pot, not persons currently in prison for same.

    3. steppenwolf fetchit

      As I understand it, these are the Controlled Drug rankings and what they mean.

      Schedule 1: totally banned and utterly illegal.
      Schedule 2: Just barely legal for very narrowly defined and limited uses and through doctor-to-pharmacy
      channels only, totally banned and utterly illegal for everyone and everything else.
      Schedule 3: Somewhat legal for a wider range of uses, legally available from doctor-through-pharmacy
      pathway, otherwise very very illegal.
      Schedule 4: Fairly legal for an even wider range of uses, legally available from doctor-through-pharmacy
      pathway, otherwise illegal but not so very savagely persecuted.

      So Biden perhaps wants to buy favor with young people and hopes they don’t know the difference between Schedule Three and Not Controlled At All. It is an effort to make “legal marijuana” and especially purified or synthesized drugs based on it into a federally protected Big Pharma Monopoly and maintain the current savage persecution regime against it for anyone and anything else. It is a duplicitous trick.

      Perhaps a future better candidate will run on removing it from the Federal Schedule entirely and reverting all the way back to Status Quo Ante the Anslinger anti-cannabis persecution movement.

    4. Daryl

      It looks pretty awful that they are rolling out the smallest of things which they could have done at any time, including when Biden took office, to try to cover up a genocide.

  7. Feral Finster

    Apparently the government is concerned that Trump might well win in November, hence the russiagate conspiracy theory revival.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        It seems to me that Democrats and their hangers-on in media and academia aren’t gaming much beyond the next poll results. Observing the behavior of the hosts and guests of “Morning Joe,” I can’t imagine any of them holding up well enough to report on the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2025. They’ll all have strokes, leave the country or stay drunk or high 24/7.

        Now as for the Brennans and Cheneys and Clappers, maybe they have plans, but of what effect? None of them have power now aside from what the Democrats give them. If they’re known by the public, they’re disliked. As for the deepest parts of the Deep State and the billionaires, most of them are getting used to the idea of Trump again.

      2. Feral Finster

        I dunno, in 2016 Team D used Trump as a grandiose fundraising opportunity.

        Today, I suspect that many a goodthink PMC liberal who spent the last few months staring at his shoes and pretending not to notice what was happening in Gaza would suddenly rediscover his inner militant, the moment that war became Donald Trump’s war.

        At the same time, he’d be howling that Trump was a traitor for not pushing The Button right this very instant over Ukraine.

        Humans are first and foremost, tribal animals.

      3. steppenwolf fetchit

        By the same token, given the view of Biden to which Republicans are wholly committed, how can they possibly let him take office? No doubt they themselves are gaming out their improved lessons-learned-post-Capitol Riot /Election SetAside response somewhere themselves.

        Is there any reason to doubt it?

    1. begob

      Christopher Steele recently resurfaced on Times Radio, just a 5 minute slot at the end of a youtube video a few days ago, with the usual Putin-Trump connection.

      While failing to find the link, I noticed that outfit seems to pump out a video on the hour every day – who’s paying the bills?

  8. Laughingsong

    “If only the Democrats had codified Roe, instead of fundraising of it.”

    This should be a billboard, everywhere.

  9. LifelongLib

    In spite of knowing next to nothing about the subject matter, I’ll start the ball rolling on the Yanis Varoufakis video.

    I take his point about the techno-feudalists now being in a position to extract huge rents from the economic system.

    As a minor MMT fan, I get a little edgy when someone talks of governments “printing money” or of the need to finance government deficits (if you can create money without borrowing, why do you owe anything to anybody else?).

    About balance of trade I know nothing.

    The ball’s in somebody else’s court…

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      I’m still listening to it and enjoying it. His point that we’ve reverted to feudalism, but with what’s stored in the cloud in the place of land, makes a lot of sense.

      When he was talking about how product reviews build the cloud capital of Amazon, my first thought was DailyKos.

      When he talked about only the US and China have cloud capital, it helped me understand the outrage of the behind the politicians’ eagerness to demand the sale of Tik Tok to us ‘Murcans:

      Hey, we invented the way of charging you rent for what you helped to create. We got a patent on that. You can’t make money that way.

  10. pjay

    “Jake Tapper and Dana Bash tapped to moderate CNN debate” [The Hill]

    Tapper and Bash? Really? Maybe CNN is trying to get Trump to back out by choosing two of the most obnoxious “moderators” possible. I could see those two baiting him into all sorts of angry reactions, which could look bad with no audience to cheer him on.

    Last time I saw Bash in a news clip she was explaining to me how pro-Palestinian demonstrators were equivalent to Nazi brown-shirts. I suppose that issue is moot with regard to Trump, at least. And Tapper… too many examples to choose one.

      1. pjay

        In fairness, Tapper did call out Israel’s massive destruction and civilian casualties in Gaza a few months ago. I remember it surprised a lot of people. I’m not sure what his position on the campus protests would be. Bash’s piece was one of the most disgusting segments I’ve ever seen on CNN – and that’s saying a lot!

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Biden flipping is interesting. It’s the sort of thing they’d have him say if it had been decided to swap out candidates before then, and it’s also the kind of thing they’d have him say if they wanted a really good excuse to 25th Amendment him. If the latter, they’ll just reduce his meds and let the drool speak for itself; if the former that would suggest they have someone on tap who debates better than Gavin Newsom.

  11. antidlc

    NPR All Things Considered

    A bird flu outbreak among dairy cows sparks new warnings about unpasteurized milk

    EISNER: You’re right, Ailsa, it would really help to know if and how much virus is out there in the raw milk supply being sold now to people. But testing doesn’t seem to be happening regularly, and that data is really hard to come by. That’s why we tried to find our own. But when I brought raw milk that I bought from those four Texas farms to one of the few labs authorized by the USDA to test milk for bird flu, the lab insisted on calling each of the four farms first for permission, though the USDA has confirmed the agency doesn’t require permission from farms to perform the test.

    None of the farms gave the lab permission to run the tests. They told the lab they were aware of what a non-negative result would do for their business. So the lab refused to test our samples. That means we weren’t able to find out how much virus was in the raw milk being sold now in Texas, and probably it’s very difficult for other members of the public to do that, too.

    1. lambert strether

      If all firms can do what these neanderthals in Texas can do, there will be no testing at all. And why did the gutless wonders the lab require their permission?

      1. Lee

        On behalf of the 2.07% of my genome derived from Neanderthal ancestors, and being from California, I strenuously object to my Neanderthal forbears being compared to Texans. With the exception of Amfortas the Hippie of course.

      2. herman_sampson

        How could they deny testing samples that Eisner bought and owned (or did he only lease the samples from the dairies)? What other consumer products can manufacturers deny testing purchased items?
        As we would say in the lab, “if you don’t want to know the answer, then don’t ask the question.”

  12. outside observer

    Re: Turns out uninsured Americans won’t be able to get free COVID shots from
    @CDCgov this fall

    I’ve become so cynical my first thought is if they won’t give it to the poor for free maybe it actually works.

  13. Sub-Boreal

    Although Canada has quite enough homegrown ghouls to occupy my attention, thank you, I did note today that this Australian mining magnate has now branched out into art gallery management.

    Alas, not content with digging up her homeland, Ms. Rinehart has designs on Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Front Range: ‘One Hell of a Fight’: Coal Miners Again Target Alberta’s Rockies.

    Even for Alberta, this is one fossil fuel atrocity too many, and the crackpot MAGA-wannabe provincial government has encountered an unexpected public backlash that is seriously testing its capacity for obfuscation and deceit.

    1. The Rev Kev

      It would be Gina Rinehart of course. She is a billionaires because of her smart decision in being born the only child of one of Australia’s richest mining magnates. As such, she believes in things like wanting a special economic zone where her mines are so that she doesn’t have to pay tax and likes Donald Trump. She is quite capable of turning the Rocky Mountains region into an open pit wasteland because she does not have enough billions yet. And watch out that Trudeau does not pull any back deals as he is so shifty.

  14. ChrisPacific

    The three second delay on Google search (and how annoying it is) was interesting.

    When Google was in its infancy, one of the things that led to it grabbing market share so rapidly was the simplicity of the experience, and a big part of that was an emphasis on speed. The home page was just the masthead and search bar, with as little clutter as possible, and when you clicked search, the results popped up instantly – or as near as made no difference. It was simple, easy, fast, and it gave you what you wanted.

    I wonder how many of those things are still true today.

    1. flora

      and going out on a limb, knowingly,
      I do not think my failure to buy your young, grade school or younger woke LGBT stuff merch here means I’m against anything, except this one thing:
      I am entirely against you sexualizing pre-teens for profits. Leave the kids alone. Leave the young kids alone. Do I need to put several exclamation points here? / oy.

      1. ambrit

        Make the sentence for paedophilia what the Ancient Greeks had. Reaming out of the perpetrator’s ‘fundament’ with a radish, in public.
        Sexualizing pre-teens for any reason is reprehensible. But powerful people just “have to” display their “superiority” to others. This, if anything, is a true case of a R2P imperative.

      2. The Rev Kev

        That’s why the Russians have their laws on the books that you don’t touch the kids with LGBT propaganda, don’t hand out but plugs to little kids and not bring in drag queens for reading hours. And when those kids are 18, they have their own right to choose which way they want to go as they are adults now.

  15. Mark Gisleson

    I can’t verify the Patrick Webb tweet about RFK Jr getting tammanied in the Empire State but for me the key word was “hired.” You don’t take out the King with mercenaries and an excellent reputation among signature gathering firms usually means you haven’t been caught yet. God forbid this was a rec from a family member.

    You gather your own signatures and you really need to have a handle on who your volunteers are and they need to be well supervised by which I mean you need some labor goons in each crew just in case not that anything ever would but yeah.

  16. ambrit

    “I’m not sure about “art as a response to trauma” either. Have we seen any of that from Covid? I mean, apart from Taylor Swift’s tour?”
    One could make the argument that Mz. Swift’s tour is a trauma in itself, on many levels. As a series of superspreader events, it promotes and potentiates the Coronavirus Pandemic. That’s trauma enough for me.

    1. Lunker Walleye

      Were the Impressionists responding to trauma? I don’t know but reading that Artnet paragraph made me want to drink a Communard.

      1. ambrit

        How about an ice cold Baricade Beer Comrade?
        It is hard enough to make one’s way in the art world as it is. To suffer through a revolutionary period as well? No wonder the early Soviet “Official” art was so stiff and polemicized. The “real” artists had been ‘liquidated’ or starved to death by the travails of the Revolution and the Civil War that followed.
        The ‘curious’ Russian artists from the early Soviet period I remember were often physically distanced from the battle fields. Many went to Paris. Some went East.
        Where is America’s cutting edge, but technically proficient and “good” art today? An old saying goes: “To break the rules, one has to understand them first.” I’m thinking that Silicon Valley fails that test. AI will never replace Terran human artists. Drive them into the wastelands, yes, but never replace them.

        1. Lunker Walleye

          Instead of a resounding, “yes, artists suffer”, I was my flip self. Spending time under grade school desks in fear of nuclear holocaust, having nightmares about the last judgement because of religious indoctrination, witnessing a coup and other assassinations , not to mention loss of family members including fentanyl overdoses, might lead to some original art. Any cash return can’t compare to the hours spent trying to “get there”. Anyhow, I keep trying in my eighth decade, without the use of AI.

    2. Robert Gray

      re: ‘art as a response to trauma’

      It might be interesting to consider in that light the fact that for centuries the best — and in some cases the only — payday for an artist came from the Church, with much of the work now universally agreed as great.

  17. kareninca

    I care about marijuana legalization because my 99 year old father in law needs marijuana gummies to be able to tolerate his agonizing compression fractures (opioids are useless, and he can only safely take a limited amount of acetaminophen). He is a WWII vet, and although he currently lives with us (eight years with us so far), he would like the option of staying in a VA facility. However, marijuana is absolutely illegal in VA facilities; I checked with his VA doctor (whom he rarely sees; we mostly use a different health system for him). The doctor was mortified to have to tell my father in law that that was the case, as well she should have been.

  18. Jason Boxman

    Auto insurance fallout continues:

    According to Wednesday’s CPI reading, the cost of car insurance is up 22.6% during the past year, the biggest jump by far across the 28 major spending categories Yahoo Finance has been tracking since 2021. During the last four years, car insurance has soared by 57% to an average annual premium of nearly $2,300, according to Bankrate.

    Yet there’s no profit windfall like those energy companies enjoy when the price of gasoline skyrockets. Instead, US auto insurers have endured three consecutive years of underwriting losses, which means they paid out more in claims and expenses than they took in through the premiums we pay.

    Car insurance costs are surging — but it’s not because of price gouging

  19. skippy

    Per the Yanis Varoufakis link.

    By chance I was watching a Alexander Mercouris YT update on the Ukraine/Russia thingy and next in queue was Yanis Varoufakis’ Address to the National Press Club of Australia from 2 months ago – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AI8RG6nMGg

    I would note that the National Press Club of Australia is a bit of a big deal, lots of big topics are trotted out by camps for the jurnos across the spectrum to respond too. Especially the Q&A afterwards and not to forget the response of the audience to the speaker is something to note as its a test of the wet finger in the political winds.

    Anywho … Its an interesting theory and not a bad unpacking of what lead up too, not only the GFC, its fix, and its resulting dynamic which he calls techno feudalism – basically Cloud Capital owners of which only America and China are dominate owners of.

    Albeit there are huge differences in how both nations administrate its use and the ownership of it. American is purely private with clashes between East Coast financial aka Wall St and West Coast Silicon Valley sorts. Additionally the State or Political admin is forbidden from interceding on the matter for any public reasons – full stop.

    China on the other hand is State run for national reasons whilst still focused on providing a function for trade with out so much middle men or bottle neck financial extraction by banks et al. Case in point, WeChat is a free international payment system. I was talking to my eldest son that is a federal industrial relations sort and he informed me that many Chinese, and others, in his line of work get payed this way here in Australia. Many times the owners of the businesses they work for are back in China and never meet them, everything is done by Wechat. Yanis even notes that many traders in the West use it when conducting business in China use it because its a much simpler means to conduct trade in real time.

    Lastly I would say Yanis has become a polished public speaker and the audience responded to it positively. Especially when when banging on about, as a Australian passport holder about just doing what America wants when its against our long term national interests. I was actually surprised at the audiences response considering the life I have lived here since the mid 90s. There is a public change in perception that harks on older Australian views I find refreshing.

  20. ambrit

    Uh, I spy an example of cognitive decline in plain sight today.
    Re: ““The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the US fell by 10,000 to 222,000 on the week ending May 11th, less than market expectations of 220,000.”
    So, follow me here, according to these solons, 222,000 is less than 220,000.
    Welcome to Bizzaro World.

    1. ambrit

      Will miss your acerbic wit, plus ‘offbeat’ comments.
      Good luck on your next phase.

          1. skippy

            Whats your opinion on my response to what I post above about Yanis and your past ideas about the IS-LM.

            1. ambrit

              My problem here is that I never developed a sufficiently rigorous manner of thinking. Consider me, if you will, as a classic Humanities Major type. [My Dad could never forgive me for not mastering the Calculus. He and his brothers were very good at maths. Uncle Terry said that Dad taught himself the Calculus from a textbook when he was twelve or thirteen. I take after my Mom. Typical family dynamics.]
              Still, as I see it, the IS-LM function is a tool for describing a perceived economic situation. It’s too simplistic. It “assumes” too many can openers. It can be “gamed” too easily so as to shill for a pre-ordained policy action.
              “Great Googly Moogly! The ‘core’ inflation rate has stayed high! We must “Do Something”(TM) to ‘correct’ that and thus save the Economy for Right-thinkers everywhere!” {One can sense a certain degree of cynicism here, no doubt.}
              As for your comments on the Varoufakis presentation, I can hear a bit of hope in your comments. “Doom and gloom” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Finding a balance between “Doom and Gloom” and “Hope and Change” is the optimal solution. That, as I have to relearn every few years, is a choice. It’s not easy, but, as Phyl sometimes asks me: “Who ever told you that life would be easy?”
              Perhaps you have made the right choice in your final Homeland after all. From the few Australians I have met and spoken with over the years, they struck me as a quite self-assured and “active” lot. Despite your travails of late, you appear to be among a good bunch, in a good place.
              So, be of good cheer. You deserve it.
              I have not watched the Varoufakis video yet. Time to get cracking.
              Felicitations from the North American Deep South. (Ye NADS.)

              1. skippy

                No … its only bad all the way down and even he is promoting digital ID and Money in some fantastic world where Gov does the right thing for the unwashed mate.

                1. ambrit

                  Ouch. I just watched the video and I see what you mean. The resort to “The Cult of Science” is inherent in his ideas.
                  “We’re from the Government. We’re here to help.” That old wheeze.
                  The Chinese app does fulfil the definition of “Techno Free.” ‘If the product is free, then you are the product.’ I keep remembering that Microsoft did much of the initial computer design for the Great Firewall of China. I agree that Social Credit Scores have gone mainstream, and personal finance is following close behind. Social Security in America has outsourced their identification process to one of the Credit Score companies. I found that out when I tried to gain acces to my Social Security account and discovered I could not because the Credit Score company had put a hold on my Credit Score account for some arcane reason. Thus, Social Security would not recognize me as a “real” person. What a mess, and unnecessary as well. So, yes, having one’s finances fully digital leaves the door open for all manner of mischief.
                  Becoming a “Non-person” is as easy as a stroke of a keyboard.
                  Where will the future Gulags of America be? Iowa? West Virginia? A chain of FEMA camps?
                  Oh well. I’m certain that I would not ‘pass muster’ today if I had to go back to work.

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