2:00PM Water Cooler 5/20/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this is a little truncated, for now, because I allowed my iPad, which is also my alarm clock, to run out of power, so I didn’t wake up on time. Nevertheless, there is already material of interest…. More soon! –lambert.

Bird Song of the Day

Eastern Meadowlark (Eastern), Rio Hondo; Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. “Courtship, display, or copulation.”

* * *

In Case You Might Miss…

(1) New Biobot, we hardly knew ye.

(2) New Cohen stole $30,000 from Trump.

(3) Kennedy voters interviewed.

(4) Small beer.

* * *


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

* * *


Less than a half a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, May 10:

National results static, but most of the Swing States (more here) are incrementally, but steadily, moving Trump’s way. 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.

* * *

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Michael Cohen Cops to Stealing $30,000 From Trump” [Daily Beast]. “The testimony from the Manhattan district attorney’s lead witness against Donald Trump took a dive Monday morning, when the ex-president’s former consigliere got cornered during cross-examination and forced to acknowledge that he overbilled the Trump Organization by $30,000. In a heated exchange, defense lawyer Todd Blanche flipped a switch and went back to his days as a federal prosecutor—grilling Cohen on the way he’d gotten away with a crime. ‘And you told multiple prosecutors in the district attorney’s office that story, right?’ Blanche asked. ‘Yes, sir,’ Cohen responded. ‘Did you ever have to plead guilty to larceny?’ Blanche continued. ‘No, sir.’ ‘Did you ever pay back the Trump Organization for the money you stole from them?’ ‘No, sir.’ In just a few minutes, Trump’s lead defense lawyer managed to show jurors that a trial about Trump’s alleged business fraud relies on the truthful testimony of a man who was engaged in fraud of his own.” • A convoluted story involving reimbursement (!) to an IT firm called Red Finch….

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “The Latest | Trump’s criminal trial set to enter final stretch as cross-examination of Cohen resumes” [Associated Press]. “The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial declined Monday to broaden the scope of testimony that the defense can elicit from a potential expert witness, Bradley A. Smith, a former Bill Clinton-appointed Republican Federal Election Commission member. Judge Juan M. Merchan echoed his pretrial ruling that, if called, Smith can give general background on the FEC — its purpose, background and the laws it enforces — and the definitions of such terms as ‘campaign contribution.’ Merchan rejected the defense’s renewed efforts to have Smith define three terms in federal election law, saying it would breach rules preventing expert witnesses from interpreting the law. Nor can Smith opine on whether the former president’s alleged actions violate those laws, Merchan said. If Smith were to testify about those issues, Merchan said, the prosecution would then be permitted to call an expert of its own. That would result in a ‘battle of the experts,’ the judge said, ‘which would only serve to confuse and not assist the jury.'” • Since a campaign finance violation could be the as-yet-unrevealed object offense that converts Trump’s alleged business records violations into felonies, I think Smith’s testimony should be narrow, not broad. If I wanted to claim bias by Merchan, this is IMNSHO the strongest example.

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Opinion: I changed my mind about the strength of the prosecution’s case against Donald Trump. Here’s why” [CNN]. “What the prosecution left out of its case, however, is a second key witness to establish that Trump intended to falsify his business records to cover up another crime. Cohen’s testimony so far served to prove the elements of the alleged “other crime” [object offense] that the hush money payments resulted from a conspiracy to commit [a] campaign interference or to make an [b] illegal campaign contribution.” As readers know, I don’t buy [a] because nobody ever cites to a statute that distinguishes campaign interference from mere campaigning (see McCarthy immediately below), and [b] is regulated by Federal law, so I don’t think a state should be involved. Making the defense attorney author’s perspective on the first crime, the business records crime, all the more interesting: “But the DA also must prove the actual business records crime, for which Trump has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. (He pleaded not guilty). How I see it, Cohen’s testimony only satisfied half the equation beyond a reasonable doubt. According to Cohen’s testimony, there were three people in the room at the Trump Tower meeting after the 2016 election to discuss his expected reimbursement for Daniels’ payment: Cohen, Trump and Allen Weisselberg, then-chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Given Cohen’s credibility problems, it would make a stronger case for the DA’s office to call a second witness to back up his claims….. Weisselberg could be the linchpin to validate Cohen’s claims about Trump agreeing to reimburse him through Trump Organization, as a business expense…. But the prosecutors have a problem. Weisselberg also has credibility issues… [T]he safest thing for [the prosecution] to do is not call Weisselberg at all. It leaves a hole in the prosecution’s case, and that also could leave room for reasonable doubt…. It’s unlikely we will ever see Trump take the stand to explain his version. … While Cohen did an efficient job testifying about the first half of the scheme, to influence the election by buying Daniels’ story and keeping it quiet, he doesn’t know what happened when the business records that are the subject of the 34-count indictment were created. He wasn’t working for the Trump Organization in 2017 when the reimbursements began. He was a lawyer and not a bookkeeper. If one juror has uncertainty about whether Trump was involved with how Cohen’s payback was recorded on the records and by whom, there will be a hung jury and Trump will walk free. Madeleine Westerhout, Trump’s personal secretary in the Oval Office, gave the defense team its biggest gift: She testified that Trump sometimes multitasked and that she had seen him sign a bunch of checks while on the phone or engaging in other activities. The defense can easily argue that Trump was running the presidency in DC and no longer micromanaging what was going on in New York at the Trump Organization. If he signed checks put in front of him, they could have easily been part of a busy work pile to be FedExed back to the company with Trump barely paying attention. If so, there would have been no intent to falsify the business records.”

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Alvin Bragg’s Outrageous Conspiracy Theory” [Andrew McCarthy, National Review]. “Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s elected progressive Democratic district attorney, is trying to hoodwink the jury into believing that (a) it is a crime for a candidate for public office to conspire with others to suppress politically damaging information, and (b) that Donald Trump was charged with such a conspiracy in the indictment that has resulted in the ongoing trial. In point of fact, there is no such information-suppression conspiracy crime in the law and the indictment against Trump does not charge a conspiracy — it charges 34 counts of falsifying business records with fraudulent intent to commit or conceal another crime.” • Worth a read, because it’s all still true, even after a month of trial.

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “A Trump Conviction Depends on Proving More Than a Hush-Money Coverup” [Wall Street Journal]. “Manhattan prosecutors have framed their case against Donald Trump as a simple story about the criminal coverup of a sex scandal. But to win a conviction, they would have to convince jurors that Trump orchestrated the coverup with the intent of concealing another crime. Jury deliberations in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president could begin as early as this week. Closing arguments will be the prosecution’s last chance to spell out the alleged second crime [which was not done in the indictment, note well] and convince jurors that Trump intended to commit it.” And: ” Falsifying business records is a felony in New York only if it is done to conceal or commit another crime. Bragg’s indictment didn’t say what that other crime was. And prosecutors still haven’t identified the specific offense to jurors.” Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.” I just don’t see how a misdemeanor can be converted into a felony by presenting the object offense that does so in closing arguments. That should have been in the indictment. More: “A conviction requires proof of Trump’s criminal intent. That could mean proving that when Trump was in the White House and signing checks made out to Cohen, he was intending to defraud the voting public. And it also means proving that Trump knew Cohen’s arrangement with [Stormy] Daniels violated campaign finance rules but approved it anyway. Some legal observers following the case have said the evidence of Trump’s intent is thin. ‘I’m really having a problem getting around who was intended to be defrauded by internal records that weren’t being used to anyone’s advantage or disadvantage,’ said [Michael Scotto, a New York-area defense lawyer and former longtime prosecutor. More: “Prosecutors say that payment—from Cohen’s own pocket and approved by the former president—amounted to an illegal campaign contribution to Trump that violated federal election law because it was well over what was then the $2,700 limit on individual donations to a presidential candidate. And that, in turn, constituted a conspiracy under state election law.” Which would explain why the Feds never charged him. Oh, wait… More: “Whether federal campaign finance rules apply to the hush money Cohen paid is a contested area of law.” • Grounds for appeal?

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Will Trump Run as a Felon? A Big 2024 Question Will Soon Be Answered” [New York Times]. “In Trumpian shorthand, based on his previous statements, it will be a “total exoneration” if not guilty and “election interference” if convicted.” Where’s the lie? More: “But the Trump campaign, with a flair for the dramatic — and a limited travel schedule, owing to the trial — has scheduled a large rally in the Bronx on Thursday, the same day it is possible a jury could deliver a verdict, which could create a combustible situation for a country where violence has become an ugly part of the political landscape.” • Watch out for agent provocateurs. Frankly, I hope they put Trump in jail. He’d gain ten points.

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Trump (R): “Donald Trump slams teleprompter blunder in Minnesota speech plagued by issues” [Daily Express]. “Donald Trump brutally mocked Joe Biden after a technical error at the start of his speech in Minnesota. The former President put his day off from his hush money trial to good use, attending son Barron’s high high school graduation in Florida before attending a Republican fundraiser. Trump headlined the state GOP’s annual Lincoln Reagan dinner in St. Paul, which coincides with the party’s state convention, in the traditionally Democratic state. After getting up on stage in Minnesota at 9pm EST, Trump confessed that there was a behind-the-scenes issue that could have caused chaos. ‘Before I got up the teleprompter fell down,’ he stated, before joking: ‘Well done fellas. Then they wanna knw why I don’t pay the bill.’ Trump then used the opportunity to mock Biden, who he will debate one-on-one next month, after his rival was led off stage at the White House on Monday after making ‘brief, incoherent marks’ following a speech on Monday. He continued: “Suppose that happened to Biden. He’d go like this – ‘bye’. He’d leave. ‘l’ll stay with you for an hour, we’ll have some fun.’… Later on, Trump pointed out that the stage kept tilting to the left, then shouted: ‘This place is falling apart. What a c—-y contractor.’ ‘This sucker is really tenuous. I’ve never had this before, that a podium is falling down.'” • Hmm. Anti-union subtext? (Nevertheless, hard to imagine another candidate riffing like that.) The “led off stage” part seems to be from Sky News; here’s the video, FWIW (I don’t think much).

Trump (R): “Trump agrees to third debate as NBC scrambles to catch up with rivals” [Semafor]. “But on Friday, the former president announced on Truth Social that he had agreed to participate in an additional debate, this one hosted by NBC News and Spanish-language network Telemundo. The third proposed debate caught the Biden campaign by surprise, and was the result of behind-the-scenes discussions between the Trump campaign and NBC News without the Biden team’s participation.” • The League of Women Voters should give the Trump campaign a call. Trump could accept and put Biden in the position of turning them down!

Trump (R): “Donald Trump’s 7 Debate Demands Revealed” [Babylon Bee]. “1. Benny Hill music must be played whenever Biden wanders around the stage.”

* * *

Biden (D): “Biden Says He Was Still VP During COVID and Obama Sent Him to ‘Fix It'” [Daily Beast]. “President Joe Biden erroneously claimed on Sunday he was still serving as vice president during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a dinner for the NAACP in Detroit, Michigan, Biden went on a tangent proclaiming he was on the ground in the state to help out as the virus raged on, at the request of former President Barack Obama. ‘And when I was vice president, things were kind of bad during the pandemic,’ Biden said. ‘And what happened was, Barack said to me, ‘Go to Detroit, and help fix it.’ Well the poor mayor, he spent more time with me than he thought he was ever going to have to. God love you.'” • Wowers. Biden erases Omicron (although you’d never know it from CDC’s charts, see below).

Biden (D): “Biden Trips on Stage at Fallen Officer’s Event” [Newsweek]. “President Joe Biden appeared to trip on stage on Wednesday while attending an event in Washington, D.C., to honor fallen officers. The video, taken from a distance, shows the president heading to the stage at the event commemorating National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which honors law enforcement officials who died in the line of duty, and slightly stumbling as he walks up one of the stairs. A photograph taken close to the stage as Biden walked up the stairs in front of the U.S. Capitol building appeared to show the stumble, as well.”

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Biden (D): “OK, Now What?” [Brian Beutler, Off Message]. “But then [Biden’s] progress [after the successful State of the Union speech] stalled. In most averages, he still trails, to say nothing of enjoying a two- or three-point lead with favorables trending in the right direction…. I do think it will soon be time to revive the alternate-ticket conversation in some form…. There’s obviously a level of underperformance that would make resolute Biden supporters admit he’s not the ideal candidate. What if Democrats mount a new offensive, try a bunch of different things to upend the race, and they all fail? What if Trump opens up a three point lead? Five points? If Biden were down by an unbeatable margin on the eve of the convention, would all of his ride-or-die supporters really have full confidence that he should remain the nominee?… I’d make it someone’s job, both on the campaign and in the White House, to keep a daily-updated menu of free-media ideas that I and my surrogates could execute quickly, so that the overwhelming majority of information people were hearing about me wasn’t coming from Donald Trump and his army of propagandists.” • Rather a damp squib.

Biden (D): “Clyburn seeking to bolster Biden support among Black voters with swing-state tour” [The Hill]. • Yeah, that should do it.

* * *

Kennedy (I):

Clever, given that there’s overlap between Trump’s base and Kennedy’s on both anti-vax and “non-compliance” generally (which seems to be conservative-speak for refusing non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking and quarantines. “Infect thy neighbor as thyself,” as Jesus said). Kennedy has found a wedge issue, in that Trump’s Operation Warp Speed (OWS) produced the vaccines that Biden based his Covid policy on (while never crediting Trump). It will be interesting to see how Kennedy continues to exploit this issue, and how Trump and Biden respond. (Personally, I regard OWS as one of the few unequivocally good deeds Trump has ever done in his life, and a seperate issue from the mandates, which Trump should never have imposed.)

Kennedy (I): “RFK Jr.’s fight for presidential debate seat shows the two-party system ‘is not working'” [FOX]. “In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on ‘Sunday Morning Futures,’ RFK went on to say that he predicts he will qualify for the 270 electoral votes’ threshold to get onto the 2024 presidential election ballot.” • Could be, with luck. RFK’s ballot effort has been surprisingly canny and effective so far. Commentary:

Kennedy (I): “RFK Jr. supporters: from Trump deserters to ex-Democrats, they’re hungry for change” [Reuters]. “Republicans paint independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr as a radical liberal, and Democrats say he is being financed and manipulated by right-wing donors to hurt U.S. President Joe Biden’s reelection bid. But interviews with Kennedy supporters show they are not interested in labels, especially those prescribed by the major political parties they have left behind. Kennedy is drawing supporters from both sides of the political divide. Some voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump in the last two elections but are now backing Kennedy. Others are disillusioned progressives ready to cast aside Biden, the incumbent. Most see Kennedy, a scion of the famed Democratic family, much as he portrays himself – a rare truth-teller committed to tackling corruption and powerful lobbying groups in Washington.” Interviews with Kennedy supporters (good!). Former Trump supporter: “RFK Jr is a better Trump without all the chaos that comes with it. He doesn’t need to go on social media crying all day. (Trump has) pride, narcissism, pettiness, infighting with good, strong conservatives. When I saw Ron DeSantis and RFK Jr, I said, ‘In a perfect world, these two will be a team together.’ I still would have voted for RFK Jr even if he had a ‘D’ (Democrat) to his name, because I don’t care about the titles.” Former Biden supporter: “He points to this corrupt system that we have where the pharmaceutical industry runs the regulatory agencies that are supposed to be regulating them…. The (Democratic National Committee) has become a party of pro-war, pro-censorship, elitism. It’s more interested in protecting the interest of corporations and corporate donors.” • Very interesting and well worth a read.


“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!

* * *


WHO promotes baggy blues [bangs head on desk]:

Testing and Tracking

“From Raw Data to Actionable Insights: Biobot’s Evolution of Public Data Sharing” [Biobot Analytics]. “With the abundance of publicly available wastewater data and our shift to contextualized respiratory risk reports, we are sunsetting our public data visualization platform (www.biobot.io/data). This evolution represents Biobot’s commitment to maximizing the value of wastewater data. We believe that by adding context and expert analysis, we can empower individuals, communities, and public health officials to take proactive steps towards a healthier future.” • I understand the business decision, given CDC’s choice of Alphabet’s Verily as a preferred vendor, but it still hurts. Most unfortunate:

Biobot data was the only source of consistent data for the entire pandemic. Now we don’t have a baseline anymore (at least that’s what I’ll be looking for the in two alternatives below). Their chart was also very simple to use and easy to understand, unlike Verily’s abomination. Good work, CDC. The baseline:

Alternative visualizations (1):

Alternative visualizations (2):

Here is CDC’s miserably inadequate visualization:

Note that “All Results” begin in 2022, conveniently erasing Biden’s Omicron spike. Again, we have no baseline.

And CDC’s miserably inadequate map:

“High” levels compared to what? Again, we have no baseline, so it’s impossible to say. Also, Biobot had data down to the wasterwater plant (county) level, which was actually useful to people. If CDC does, this ain’t it.

* * *

Lambert here: Patient readers, I’m going to have to rethink this beautifully formatted table. Biobot data is gone, 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[5] New York State, data May 17: National [6] CDC May 11:
National[7] Walgreens May 20: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic May 16:
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) Another one bites the dust.

[2] (Biobot) Ditto.

[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) Flat. 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) Up and down.

[10] (Travelers: Variants) KP.2 enters the chat, as does B.1.1.529 (with backward revision).

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

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle: “Craig Wright Lied About Creating Bitcoin And Faked Evidence, Judge Rules” [Wired]. “A judge in the UK High Court has ruled that computer scientist Craig Wright lied ‘extensively and repeatedly,’ and committed forgery ‘on a grand scale’ in aid of a years-long quest to prove he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. In a written judgment published on May 20, Justice James Mellor ruled that Wright forged reams of documents in service of his charade. ‘It is clear that Dr Wright engaged in the deliberate production of false documents to support false claims and use the Courts as a vehicle for fraud,’ he wrote. ‘I am entirely satisfied that Dr Wright lied to the Court extensively and repeatedly. All his lies and forged documents were in support of his biggest lie: his claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto.’ ‘Dr Wright presents himself as an extremely clever person,’ Mellor added. ‘However, in my judgment, he is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is.’ The judgment—the culmination of a six-week trial held earlier in the year—marks the end of a civil lawsuit launched by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a nonprofit consortium of crypto companies, against Wright. The organization asked the court to declare that Wright is not the creator of Bitcoin, to prevent him from carrying forward multiple separate lawsuits against Bitcoin developers and other parties founded on the claim.” •

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 20 at 1:49:52 PM ET

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) • Bird flu not a concern, apparently. And I hate even to go here, but the “Tribulation Temple” category is a mere 3. If Tribulation Temple = Third Temple = whatever temple it is that the Red Heifer loons want to build, then the Rapture Index made the right call, amazingly enough. It said: “Don’t worry about the Red Heifers.”

The Gallery

Not, I think, the typical Rousseau:

Guillotine Watch

“$400 for one pineapple: The rise of luxury fruit” [CNN]. “The Rubyglow pineapple –— bred for its distinctive red exterior and its sweetness — costs $395.99 at Melissa’s Produce, a California-based seller of specialty fruit and veggies. It took Del Monte, a wholesaler which sells a variety of produce but specializes in pineapple, a decade and a half to develop the red-hued fruit. A limited crop was first available in China early this year. Recently, Del Monte decided to see how the item would fare in the United States, and Melissa’s starting selling it at the astronomical price… The pitch has had limited success. Melissa’s started with 50 pineapples, according to Robert Schueller, director of public relations at Melissa’s Produce. So far, it has sold about half that number over the course of a month, including to restaurants in Las Vegas and Southern California, which he said are using the fruit in displays…. ‘I think charcuterie boards this Christmas, Thanksgiving — you’re going to see this Rubyglow as a centerpiece, especially in an affluent house,’ he said. In other words, people may not spend for the taste of the pineapple, but just to show off that they have it.”

News of the Wired

“The myth of Medieval Small Beer” [Ian Visits]. “There is a story repeated so often that it has become a truth — that medieval folk drank weak beer to avoid the perils of drinking water — but it’s a myth. A myth that I also for many years repeated unthinkingly, until I got thinking, about how accurate it is. The evidence is in fact, often in plain sight, but overlooked. The folk in olden times who could afford it would pay for good clean water. For example, the construction of the Great Conduit in 1237 carried spring water from Tyburn to the city, and on a larger scale, so did the New River, opened in 1613. Within the city, a waterwheel was once attached to London Bridge to pump Thames water around the city. So medieval folk not only drank water, but put in place the substantial infrastructure to supply it to the populace. There were also ‘masters of the conduits’ who looked after the pipes, and more importantly ensured those who used the water paid for what they took. The rich could have their own pipes, while most people bought buckets of water supplied by water carriers (cobs). Why do we think of people drinking small beer? Calories and hydration pure and simple. … If you are living at a time when most labour was manual and intensive, you needed to consume a lot of calories. A typical male working the fields in the summer months was burning an average of 3,000 calories per day. You also needed to replenish lost fluids from sweating. As it happens, small beer is really quite effective at delivering both calories and fluids. Small beer was also cheap, often being made from the third runnings of the mash from brewing ales, with the strong and common ales first, then the small beer last…. People didn’t drink small beer to stay healthy — they drank small beer to give them energy. As far as medieval man was concerned, there wasn’t anything wrong with plain water — small beer was, put simply, the Red Bull of its time.”

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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: “I love the symmetry of this huge agave and how it reminds me of an octopus. It is another image taken in the desert section of the Sherman Library and Gardens.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Tom Stone

    Joe’s memory is as good as that Democratic Party Hero Ronald Reagan’s was in his second term.
    And who can forget his courageous action in shielding Hillary’s body with his own when they came under sniper fire on that trip to Sarajevo?

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      Was that before or after he and President MyBoss rescued his uncle from a pack of hungry cannibals?

  2. FreeMarketApologist

    Ivan Boesky, poster boy for an earlier period of greed and insider trading, is dead at 87.

    (not one of the people I’ll apologize for)

    1. jsn

      “Some people bring happiness wherever they go. Others, whenever they go!”
      O. Wilde

    2. Jokerstein

      “I was eating cookies with Milken and drinking whisky with Boesky.”

      That Guy

  3. jsn

    “Biden (D): “Biden Says He Was Still VP During COVID and Obama Sent Him to ‘Fix It'”

    So, Sleepy Joe sees the four years of the Trump Presidency as a third term for “The Wizard of Kalorama”, by whom he was sent to “Fix It”, which could refer either to Covid or Trump. And, of course, to date he’s fixed neither. With no “up” left to fall, it’s no wonder he keeps falling down.

    Given whom most of the agents of the Blob were clearly working in that period, it’s easy to see how he gets confused now.

    1. fjallstrom

      I think Biden is mixing up the crisis of the car manufacturers with covid. Though I would not be surprised if he didn’t go to Detroit then either. Biden’s memory is clearly slipping but people can retain core skills with barely any memory. Look at Diane Feinstein in the “just say aye” video. She doesn’t know what she is doing, but she starts giving a speech on why the proposal should be passed. She retained that skill.

      Biden’s core skills are plagiarism and faking a folksy sincerity. Unfortunately for him, both those are undermined when he can’t remember what he was supposed to plagiarize.

    2. The Rev Kev

      If he does get re-elected this November, then perhaps it would be a good idea to take away from him the nuclear football. Just sayin’.

    3. Big River Bandido

      With no “up” left to [fail to], it’s no wonder he keeps falling down.

      Pretty sure that was a typo. Nevertheless, it’s brilliant. Stealing that.

  4. Lee

    Nasal Vaccines

    Could Vaccines Of The Future Be Made With Nanoparticles? Science Friday

    11 minute listen, with transcript to follow in the near term indefinite future.

    Dr. Balaji Narasimhan, distinguished professor and director of the Nanovaccine Institute at Iowa State University, joins Ira Flatow onstage in Ames, Iowa, to talk about how his lab is using nanotechnology to develop the next generation of vaccines, and how they could be more effective than current vaccines in the face of the next pandemic.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Science is popping on nasal vaccines. Maybe some day one will make it to market (in retrospect, I’m not quite sure the case could have been made by the time Trump’s Operation Warp Speed began. Though the case certainly was by the time Biden took office).

    2. britzklieg

      I totally support the development of nasal vaccines and find it appalling that it’s taking so long to produce one but there is much literature, pre-covid, about the dangers of nanoparticles and the warnings have been out there for many years. Personally the first warnings I remember seeing were about their use in cosmetics (skin creams in particular) and I have kept an eye on the issue since :


      https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)60538-8/fulltext The Risks of nanotechnology for human health

      https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-023-15958-4 Human and environmental impact of nanoparticles: a scoping review of the current literature

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7305518/ Nanomaterials and Their Negative Effects on Human Health





      To be fair there has been pushback about how best to assess the danger of nanomaterials by those hopeful for benefits of their use:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-020-0658-9 The risks of nanomaterial risk assessment

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          We could already be said to have an accidental infestation of unwanted nanoparticles. I suspect that some of the particles of degraded plastic called “microplastic” are really small enough that they could be called ” nanoplastic” without sacrificing any accuracy in terms of size of the particle. ( If I am wrong about that, hopefully someone will correct me.)

          Perhaps nanoplastics are the gray goo of which we were once warned. Or maybe bright-colored goo, but goo nonetheless.

    3. Jeff W

      Wait…isn’t Novavax’s NVX-CoV2373 vaccine already made with nanoparticles?

      The Novavax vaccine might not be room temperature-stable—the NYT says “NVX-CoV2373 can stay stable for up to three months in a refrigerator” so it doesn’t need to be kept as cold as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines—and it’s not delivered nasally but it’s still a vaccine made with nanoparticles. The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines use “lipid nanoparticles” in their delivery systems but those LNPs don’t give rise to their immunogenicity, as far as I know. (In fact, Dr. Drew Weissman, co-developer of the mRNA vaccine, says that it’s the LNP, not the spike protein, that causes adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccination—flu-like symptoms, arm pain, etc.)

      I’m not knocking whatever advances Dr. Balaji Narasimhan and his team have made or are planning to make but I think it would have been good for him to acknowledge the Novavax vaccine as a way of giving a fuller picture of the technology (and, perhaps, offering a better comparison) in terms of the use of nanoparticles in vaccines.

    4. Lee

      I should have added a shout out to Iowa Sate, which is a small state institution in fly over country.

      1. flora

        Thank goodness Hills only referred to us as ‘deplorables’ and not ‘disposables’. / heh

    5. flora

      If you know Iowa State Uni then I hope you’ve read the book titled “Moo” by Jane Smaley. Hilarious cause it’s true, as they say. / ;)

  5. Wukchumni

    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto

    You’re wondering who I am (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    Peer-to-peer mannequin? (Secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    With Bitcoin made in Japan (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    I am thee modern man

    I’ve got a secret, I’ve been hiding under my skin
    My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain blockchain
    So if you see me acting strangely, don’t be surprised
    I’m just a man who needed somewhere to hide money to Martingale
    Just keep me alive, somewhere to hide money to Martingale

    I’m not a neo-numismatist without emotions, I’m not what you see
    I’ve come to help you with your problems so we can be free
    I’m not a hero, I’m not the saviour, forget what you know
    I’m just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control
    Beyond my control, we all need control
    I need control, we all need control

    I am thee modern manna (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    Who hides behind a nom doubloon (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    So no one else can see (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    My true identity

    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうも (どうも)
    どうも (どうも)
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうも (どうも)
    どうも (どうも)
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    どうもありがと Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto

    Thank you very much, Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    For doing the FOMO that nobody wants to give a miss
    And thank you very much, Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto
    For helping the Dollars escape, when they needed an assist
    Thank you, thank you, thank you
    I want to thank you
    Please, thank you, oh-oh-oh, yeah

    The problem’s plain to see
    Too much technology
    Machines to save our lives
    Machines dehumanize

    The time has come at last (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    To throw away this mask (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    Now everyone can see (secret, secret, I’ve got a secret)
    My true identity

    I’m Electricity. Electricity, Electricity, Electricity

    Mr. Roboto by Styx


  6. FreeMarketApologist

    Re: Pricey pineapples: “…people may not spend for the taste of the pineapple, but just to show off that they have it.

    And so history repeats itself, again. When pineapples were first available in England, they were used only as centerpieces on the table, as a show of your connections to explorers who were bringing them back, and/or your wealth that permitted you to have one.

    cf: The Dunmore Pineapple:

  7. Thistlebreath

    Re: bricking the ipad. Rejoice, at least you weren’t driving a Chevy Bolt just ahead of a high ballin’ Mexican semi southbound on the 405 when, as the GM memo eventually warned “….propulsion may unexpectedly cease.”

    And if one left it charging in one’s garage, apparently the vehicle had the unpleasant tendency to self-ignite and torch said garage. But hey, early to the market for….wait for it….Shareholder Value!

    Yes, we survived one for 3 years. We still like some EV’s, despite all. Still waiting for bi directional chargers to move from vapor ware to reality.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Re: bricking the ipad. Rejoice, at least you weren’t driving a Chevy Bolt just ahead of a high ballin’ Mexican semi southbound on the 405 when, as the GM memo eventually warned “….propulsion may unexpectedly cease.”


      I didn’t brick it; I just didn’t recharge it.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Investigator: ‘So Mr. Thistlebreath. How did you feel when you realized when you were driving a Chevy Bolt just ahead of a high ballin’ Mexican semi southbound on the 405 that you received the warning “….propulsion may unexpectedly cease.”

      Thistlebreath: ‘Apprehensive, sir. Distinctly apprehensive.’

      Glad to hear that you made it out of that freaking situation.

  8. Ranger Rick

    If I was 11th dimensional chess minded, I’d say Cohen engineered that $30k payday as a deliberate trap for any case relying on his testimony. But Hanlon’s Razor applies here; he was just that dumbgreedy.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I had a vague idea that the so-called reimburements for Daniels would somehow be mixed up with this but couldn’t make it work.

      Anyhow, reimbursement, shreimbursment; a legal fee is what you pay a lawyer to do….

  9. John k

    Was Bragg really thinking he could put trump on jail, or was all the law fare just to force trump to spend vast amounts of time and money on defense? Or just an Hail Mary? Above polls don’t seem to be encouraging regardless of intent.
    Imo Biden’s only hope is jfk ends up taking more from trump, but doesn’t seem likely. Wonder if both fight jfk debate inclusion, or if just one doesn’t.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > just to force trump to spend vast amounts of time and money on defense

      And to keep him off the campaign trail as well.

      So far, it’s not working very well.

  10. rowlf

    The League of Women Voters should give the Trump campaign a call. Trump could accept and put Biden in the position of turning them down!

    When my wife naturalized a few years ago the The League of Women Voters were there at the INS building to register new voters. (It was a fun time and a lot of energy in the air.) I mentioned I really would like their group to get back into the business of running presidential debates.

    Blank stares.

  11. rowlf

    Why am I looking at Teen Vogue for news?

    Morehouse Students Turn Their Backs, Walk Out of Graduation as Joe Biden Gives Speech

    While President Joe Biden gave a commencement address (and received an honorary degree) from Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday, May 19, several students staged pro-Palestine protests — some turning their backs and others walking out. The students who protested cited the president’s ongoing policy decisions in Israel’s war on Gaza.

    Before Biden took the stage for his address, Morehouse valedictorian DeAngelo Fletcher gave a rousing speech calling for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza strip,” and was met with applause from both the crowd and Biden, who also shook Fletcher’s hand. “From the comfort of our homes, we watch an unprecedented number of civilians mourn the loss of men, women and children, while calling for the release of all hostages,” Fletcher said.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Why am I looking at Teen Vogue for news?

      Teen Vogue covers labor (Kim Kelly), although not with a full-time beat reporter, which would be remarkable. I think Teen Vogue is great!

  12. Wukchumni

    A good many Houstonians will be sans power for a week or more, is the claim…

    I’d guess its likely that gun ownership is much more common in Texas than other places, and much of the demand is unbased fear of things that will never happen, but lookie here in that over the course of a dozen years, the real fear was being without electricity-not a bad guy with a gun.

    A gun, holster & ample amount of ammo would set you back around $666, here’s what you could have spent it on instead:

    10×7 gallon water containers, to keep 70 gallons on hand

    1x Coleman 2 burner stove & 10x 1 pound propane canisters

    2x Hot water bottles

    20x Freeze dried meals & coffee, lots of coffee.

    2x Headlamps (much more useful than flashlights, as you’re hands free)

    1x Multi-band am/fm weather radio dual battery/hand crank powered

    2x Battery powered lanterns

    5x Bic lighters

    1x Box of 300 matches

    1. kareninca

      The usual quip is that by using your $666 gun you could obtain all of those other goods (and more) from the person who bought them in preference to a gun. It’s not all that funny but there is alas some truth to it.

      1. Lefty Godot

        You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun. (Al Capone)

      2. Wukchumni

        I looked in the Houston fishwrap for armed robbery of water et al on account of desperation by the perps having spent money on something they didn’t need, and came up empty.

        1. kareninca

          What we might infer from that is that anyone who can and does afford a gun or obtains it in some other way, can afford the other things he needs. Or chooses to go without. But this seems unlikely. I think it is more probable that it just takes a few days for those sorts of crimes to start up, especially in an area where a perp will assume that others are armed.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Safer than many of the alternatives….

      I would bet that the problem is that marijuana today is much, much stronger than the marijuana of the 1960s and 1970s, when the “seniors” last partook. I have heard that you don’t smoke a joint, now; you take one toke.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Ever since the 70s there was an arms race between the growers and law enforcement. The growers bred stronger and stronger cannabis to grow commercially relevant amounts of it in smaller and smaller spaces needing less and less electricity. And law enforcement became better and better at looking at a finer and finer grained level for smaller and smaller grows with smaller and smaller traces of their existence.

        And so . . . ” its not your Grandfather’s marijuana”.

  13. flora

    er…um.. you do not think an Henri Rousseau (died 1910) painting (so called) would include electric street lights? / heh

    1. LifelongLib

      I’m wondering if those might be telegraph wires. There’s a lamp to the left that could be gas.

      Painting is 1903. IIRC many places didn’t get electricity or telephones until a lot later.

  14. Lee

    I was talking to a stranger today, but in intimate circumstances. He’s an orthopedist whose services I require. After we talked a lot about my medical condition, which is limiting but not fatal, as is the case with a variety of other aches, pains, and ailments associated with extended time spent here on this planet, the conversation for reasons unknown veered into the realm of politics. I shared with him my concern with Biden’s gait as it reminded me of my mother’s way of walking after she had had a series of minor strokes that ultimately presented as dementia. So it came to pass in my conversation with the doctor that it was indeed a crazy circumstance that the choice of the lesser of two weevils might also be accurately described as a choice between a supreme leader who is either suffering from dementia or demented.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Singapore’s government is closely tracking a new wave of Covid-19 infections in the island-nation after the estimated count of weekly cases nearly doubled in the week ended May 11.
      The government “is closely tracking the trajectory of this wave,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Saturday. It said the estimated number of Covid-19 cases nearly doubled to 25,900 in the week of May 5 to 11, compared with 13,700 in the prior period.

      Always amusing that Bloomberg is so rich he could make COVID coverage free, forever. And the whole story is only 4 small paragraphs.

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