2:00PM Water Cooler 5/22/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Peruvian Meadowlark, Guayaquil – Engunga Hills, Guayas, Ecuador. “Short grass and bushes doing flight display, and at dusk with 2 Lesser Nighthawks in flight at end.” Includes mosquito! And a bee. Grantchester Meadows feeling here…

* * *

In Case You Might Miss…

(1) Trump’s New York trial moves to charging instructions.

(2) Stefanik files ethics complaint against Merchan.

(3) Trisha Greenhalgh publishes enormous mask/respirator study, stomping anti-maskers.

(4) “Trust your immune system.”

* * *


“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.

* * *

Lambert here: The charging instructions session is too much for me to digest today. All I can do is give some highlights, and promise I’ll put my yellow waders on before closing arguments begin next Tuesday:

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): On the Heisenbergian object offense (1): “Prosecutors and Trump’s Lawyers Will Jockey for an Edge With Jurors” [New York Times]. “Jury instructions are typically meant to translate legal treatises into something intelligible to the 12 laypeople who will decide the case. The instructions provide jurors with a road map to help them apply the law to the facts they have gleaned from the witnesses, documents and other evidence that has been presented to them…. The prosecutors’ proposed instructions, among other things, ask the judge to give the jury what legal experts said was unusual flexibility in determining whether Mr. Trump had a role in the creation of the false records at the center of the charges. Prosecutors argue that even if Mr. Trump did not create the records himself, the jury can find him responsible if the creation of the false records was ‘a reasonably foreseeable consequence of his conduct.’… To convict Mr. Trump of the felonies he is charged with, prosecutors must show that he falsified business records in order to commit or conceal another crime. The prosecution’s proposed instructions say that other crime is the violation of an election law statue that makes it illegal to conspire to promote or prevent a candidate’s election by ‘unlawful means.’ But what are those unlawful means? Prosecutors want the judge to instruct the jurors that they can choose any of three options: a federal election law violation; the falsification of other business records; or a tax crime. The jurors must unanimously agree that Mr. Trump conspired to promote his own election by unlawful means. But prosecutors are asking the judge to instruct jurors that they do not need to reach a unanimous conclusion about what the unlawful means were.”

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): On the Heisenbergian object offense (2):

Post by @ecmclaughlin
View on Threads

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan): “Prosecution and defense debate jury instructions in Trump’s criminal trial” [ABC]. “Trump lawyer Emil Bove asked for a jury instruction that would get at, as he put it, ‘the fact that this entire trial was based on the word of an attorney who worked for President Trump, and he was entitled to draw some inferences from that’ about the legality of various things. However, the argument presented a problem: the defense said months ago that it wasn’t going to use what’s known as an advice-of-counsel defense — that a defendant’s conduct was guided by a lawyer’s OK. By deciding against it, the defense didn’t have to waive Trump’s attorney-client privilege or turn over various documents, Judge Juan M. Merchan noted. But, he complained, the defense has since tried to invoke the advice-of-counsel concept under different names, such as ‘presence of counsel’ or ‘involvement of counsel.’ ‘My answer hasn’t changed, and honestly, I find it disingenuous for you to make the argument at this point,” he told Bove, who started to rise to respond.”

Trump (R) (Bragg/Merchan: Stefanik files ethics complaint against Merchan (nice timing):

Here is section 100.3(E)(1)(d)(iii):

IANAL, but given that Merchan’s daughter is a Democrat consultant, I’d say Stefanik has a prima facie case.

* * *

Trump (R): “Trump’s trials may help, not hurt, his shot at the White House” [The Hill]. “New polling by our firm, Schoen Cooperman Research, indicates that thus far, the ongoing trials have had virtually no impact on the former president’s standing with voters nationally. Even if Trump were forced to spend the majority of his time between now and election day off the campaign trail and in courtrooms, only 22 percent of registered voters say they would be less likely to vote for the former president, while one-quarter of voters actually said they would be more likely to vote for Trump should he be forced to spend much of his time in court. Notably, a 53 percent majority is unmoved by the Trump trials, underscoring that keeping Trump in court and off the trail likely will not be the decisive factor some had presumed. In that same vein, Schoen Cooperman Research’s poll underscores the very real chance that the indictments against Trump actually benefit the former president by allowing him to reprise a role that he thrives in — playing a political martyr. Indeed, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether or not the indictments facing Trump are legitimate or are politically motivated. A 47 percent plurality of voters say the indictments are legally sound, yet a sizable 40 percent say they are political persecution. A similar 48 percent say that Trump did something wrong and he should be prosecuted, while 39 percent say that either Trump did something wrong but should not be prosecuted (13 percent) or that Trump did nothing wrong (26 percent). However, one-half (50 percent) of voters agree that “The indictments against Donald Trump are a form of election interference, being carried out by liberal prosecutors, the Biden administration, and the Justice Department.” • Schoen’s career trajectoy is… interesting.

Trump (R): “No, Biden Did Not Order the FBI to Assassinate Trump at Mar-a-Lago” [Rolling Stone (Furzy Mouse)]. “Documents unsealed Tuesday revealed that more classified material was found at the former president’s Palm Beach estate after the FBI’s August 2022 raid. Republicans, however, have zeroed in on standard language in FBI search warrants authorizing the use of deadly force in appropriate circumstances, claiming Biden and the DOJ wanted Trump dead — even though he wasn’t even present on the property that day. ‘WOW! I just came out of the Biden Witch Hunt Trial in Manhattan, the ‘Icebox,’ and was shown Reports that Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ, in their Illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE,’ Trump wrote Tuesday of the FBI’s boilerplate authorization to use deadly force. “NOW WE KNOW, FOR SURE, THAT JOE BIDEN IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. HE IS MENTALLY UNFIT TO HOLD OFFICE — 25TH AMENDMENT!” In a campaign fundraising email, Trump further claimed that he ‘nearly escaped death’ and that Biden was ‘locked & loaded ready to take me out!'” • In fact, the FBI warrants did authorize deadly force — it’s boilerplate language. That said, the liberal Democrats currently orchestrating a dogpile on this are unlikely to have had family members whacked by cops, or doors busted down by SWAT teams deployed to the wrong address, or stopped and then assaulted for putative tail-light violations, or experienced asset seizure when carrying cash. Those delectations are reserved for (fractions of) the working class, to whom Trump is trying to appeal. So turn the record* over and play the other side. NOTE * A vinyl recording medium, for those who came in late.

* * *

Trump (R): “Meet Trump’s ‘Human Printer'” [The Bulwark]. “Whenever Donald Trump brandishes a stack of papers or reads a printout of a social media post, he’s relying on the work of Natalie Harp. Harp, 32, occupies a unique role in the history of presidential campaigns: aide who travels with a portable printer (plus paper and rechargeable batteries in a large bag) whose job is to feed Trump a steady stream of information on 8.5×11″ pieces of paper. That way, the 77-year-old doesn’t have to strain his eyes on a smartphone to read all the news that’s fit to print in MAGAville. Harp’s nickname on the campaign—’the human printer’—underplays her importance. That’s because in Trump’s orbit [or any powerful person’s], proximity to the principal is power. And with her portable printer at the ready, Harp is constantly around Trump—whether she’s sitting close to the defense table in the Manhattan courthouse on weekdays or riding the links with Trump on Sundays in Florida. Perhaps more than anyone else, Harp gatekeeps much of what Trump sees on social media and reads in the news. ‘If you want the President to see something, the best route is Natalie,’ says a knowledgeable source who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal workings of Trump’s inner team and who has passed information to the candidate via Harp. ‘Don’t underestimate her importance.’ It’s been an interesting journey for Harp. She comes from a conservative Christian family in California and graduated from Liberty University in 2015.” • Once we had “body men.” Now we have “human printers”!

* * *

Biden (D): “Liberals sound the alarm: Biden is losing” [Washington Examiner]. “President Joe Biden is trailing, and liberal pundits are increasingly saying he has mainly himself to blame… [I]t is a trend in elite Democratic and liberal opinion that should worry the Biden camp. If this is what people are willing to contemplate with Trump ahead by 1.1 points nationally in the RealClearPolitics polling average, what happens if the Democrats lose ground? Or if Trump gets a mistrial, or even an acquittal bounce, should he not be convicted in the New York hush money trial? The Biden campaign would like Democrats to be patient. Trump’s polling lead isn’t that big. The polls arguably understated Democratic support in the midterm elections and some special elections. Team Biden believes it has the better ground game. The decision to debate suggests Bidenworld has some sense that the incumbent is losing, but outside allies see a five-alarm fire.” • Events, dear boy, events. Biden’s election prospects would also seem to depend greatly on actions by Putin, Zelensky, Netanyahu, and Xi, none of whom are under Biden’s control.

* * *

NH: “Shock Poll: Trump Tied With Biden in Blue New Hampshire” [NH Journal]. “Democrats have all but owned the Granite State’s four Electoral College votes, winning seven of the past eight presidential contests – including Joe Biden’s eight-point victory over President Donald Trump in 2020. But the latest NHJournal/Praecones Analytica poll finds Biden tied with Trump in New Hampshire, putting him at risk of becoming the first Democrat to lose the state since Al Gore in 2000.”

* * *

“Scoop: Senate Democrats plot reproductive-rights blitz” [Axios]. “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to zero in on reproductive rights next month — potentially forcing Republicans to take tough votes on issues such as contraception and in vitro fertilization…. The move is meant to tap into the potency of abortion rights as a voter-turnout generator for Democrats five months from Election Day. It’s timed to roughly coincide with the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, on June 24…. November ballot measures seeking to guarantee abortion rights are either locked in or under consideration in several states — including Arizona*, Montana, Nevada* and Florida — that also are home to Senate races that could be pivotal in determining control of the chamber next year.” • NOTE * Swing states.

“Biden Is Counting on Abortion to Help Him Win. That’s Risky” [MSN]. “It may feel like Dobbs has increased public support for abortion, but three major polls don’t register much change in opinion. Gallup has run the same abortion poll around once a year for decades—in which a majority of respondents, since 1989, said they thought Roe should not be overturned. As for support for legal abortion, in May 2023, Gallup found that 34 percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in any circumstances. In May 2022, it was 35 percent; in 2021, 32 percent. Pew has found similar numbers over the years, with an increase of just a few points in support for abortion being legal in most cases since Dobbs and a slight decrease in those who want abortion to be legal in all cases. Overall, Dobbs appears not to have significantly changed people’s views on whether abortion should be legal. A few findings in the 2024 Pew poll further complicate the image of abortion as a broadly popular get-out-the-vote issue. About six in 10 respondents (58 percent) said it would be easy for someone to get an abortion in the area where they live, and only 31 percent of respondents said it should be easier. (It’s not immediately clear how those groups overlap.) Among Democrats specifically, only 48 percent wanted obtaining an abortion to be easier. This suggests that while a majority of people in the United States think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, about just as many think it’s easy to get one, and some people don’t think it needs to be any easier—including many Democrats.”

“Trump says he will ‘never advocate’ for contraception restrictions after earlier saying he’s ‘looking at’ them” [Politico]. “Donald Trump insisted in a social media post Tuesday that he has ‘never, and will never advocate imposing restrictions on birth control or other contraceptives,’ after an interview released hours earlier included Trump saying he’s ‘looking at’ restrictions on contraception. The post came after Trump said in an interview with a local TV station in Pittsburgh that he plans to share a policy on contraception ‘very shortly,’ without providing details. ‘We’re looking at that, and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly and I think it’s something that you’ll find interesting,’ Trump told KDKA political analyst Jon Delano when asked if he supported any restrictions on a person’s right to contraception.” • Well done Susie Wiles.

“Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoes a bill that would protect access to contraception” [USA Today]. “Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed a series of bills passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly Friday, including one that was aimed at protecting contraception access…. The bill that Youngkin vetoed stated that a person ‘shall have the right to obtain contraceptives and to engage in contraception’ and that no commonwealth or locality should implement any rule that ‘prohibits or restricts the sale, provision, or use of any contraceptives,’ among other requirements…. Youngkin argued in a veto statement that the bill ‘creates an overly broad cause of action against political subdivisions and parents, as well as medical professionals’ and ‘undermines the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning their children’s upbringing and care.'”

Republican Funhouse

“Mike Johnson loses trio of key policy aides” [Punchbowl News]. “Three leading members of Speaker Mike Johnson’s policy team are leaving his office by the end of May, robbing the House’s top Republican of a critical core of experienced aides. Brittan Specht, Jason Yaworske and Preston Hill — all of whom also worked for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy — are heading to Michael Best Strategies, a lobbying firm with offices in D.C. and around the country. The departure, which is striking in size and in experience, strips Johnson of a significant amount of expertise in his domestic policy shop. Specht was McCarthy’s policy director and was key in crafting the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which raised the debt limit and set budget levels for two years. Yaworske is a well-respected adviser to the speaker on the appropriations and budget matters. As the House Appropriations Committee begins marking up the FY2025 spending bills, Yaworske’s expertise on government spending is in demand. And Hill, a longtime figure in GOP leadership, was in charge of overseeing House Republican policy in burgeoning policy areas such as cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence as well as Education and the Workforce and Financial Services. Another common thread here is that all three have been at the table during high-stakes negotiations — something that is a rarity at the top levels of the Republican leadership.” • If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.


“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

* * *

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!

* * *


“Masks and respirators for prevention of respiratory infections: a state of the science review” [Trisha Greenhalgh, C. Raina MacIntyre et al’, Clinical Microbiology Review]. Important. Magisterial. Quoting the Abstract in its entirety:

This narrative review and meta-analysis summarizes a broad evidence base on the benefits—and also the practicalities, disbenefits, harms and personal, sociocultural and environmental impacts—of masks and masking. Our synthesis of evidence from over 100 published reviews and selected primary studies, including re-analyzing contested meta-analyses of key clinical trials, produced seven key findings. First, there is strong and consistent evidence for airborne transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory pathogens. Second, masks are, if correctly and consistently worn, effective in reducing transmission of respiratory diseases and show a dose-response effect. Third, respirators are significantly more effective than medical or cloth masks. Fourth, mask mandates are, overall, effective in reducing community transmission of respiratory pathogens. Fifth, masks are important sociocultural symbols; non-adherence to masking is sometimes linked to political and ideological beliefs and to widely circulated mis- or disinformation. Sixth, while there is much evidence that masks are not generally harmful to the general population, masking may be relatively contraindicated in individuals with certain medical conditions, who may require exemption. Furthermore, certain groups (notably D/deaf people) are disadvantaged when others are masked. Finally, there are risks to the environment from single-use masks and respirators. We propose an agenda for future research, including improved characterization of the situations in which masking should be recommended or mandated; attention to comfort and acceptability; generalized and disability-focused communication support in settings where masks are worn; and development and testing of novel materials and designs for improved filtration, breathability, and environmental impact.

I must hustle along so that there’s some on the 2024 elections, so in a bit I will circle back here and include Greenhalgh’s entertainly brutal stomping of droplet dogmatists and, as a double bonus, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC/IC infesting HICPAC, among other places).

And now the thread (here is the ThreadReader version):

On [genuflects] RCTs:

On the one decent RCT, which HICPAC suppressed:

On [genuflects] IC/IPC (Infection Control/Infection Prevention and Control):

On the stupidest of the many stupid anti-masker talking points:

All of which explains why this Brownnose Institute weasel instantly slithered out of his scrimy burrow to defend the discredited anti-mask Cochrane study:

Note that the Cochrane study was funded, at one remove, by Brownstone Institute dark money, as I show here, and Brownstone also snuck one of their creatures, Carl Heneghan, into the study as an unlisted author but without credit, violating Cochrane’s putatively rigorous standards.

Denial and Cope

(1) “Trust your immune system”:

(2) “Trust your immune system”:

(3) “Trust your immune system”:

(4) “Trust your immune system”:

I don’t understand the mentality behind this oft-repeated piece of folk wisdom at all. I trust my eyes, but I wear glasses. I trust my feet, but I wear shoes. “Experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions,” as Madison put it. But not all agree–

(5) “Trust your immune system”:

(6) “Trust your immune system”…. A-a-a-a-n-d this Brownnose Institute weasel crawls out of his hole again:

Read that carefully. It’s the subtlest justification for mass murder I’ve ever seen.

Transmission: Monkeypox

“CDC issues stark warning on rapid spread of deadlier Mpox strain” [FOX32]. “he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a stark warning to Americans this week regarding the rapid spread of a deadlier form of Mpox currently sweeping through the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the outbreak has yet to reach the shores of the United States, the CDC has intensified surveillance measures as a precautionary measure. In response to the escalating situation, the CDC and health officials advised individuals at high risk to get vaccinated and take necessary precautions. This recommendation is particularly pertinent for those with weakened immune systems.” • And what would those “precautions” be? Anything non-pharmaceutical?


“Could Putting Neosporin in Your Nose Fend Off COVID?” [Scientific American]. We linked to this PNAS study back in April. “”This is a research study—it’s not a clinical study, and it’s certainly not intended for people to go out there and start using Neosporin every day,’ says Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University and a co-author of the new research. ‘It’s just an initial pilot study.’ Iwasaki hadn’t heard about the interest in nasal Neosporin early in the pandemic, but she is working to find new uses for widely available products, and the popular ointment fits that bill. Intriguingly, one of the three antibiotics it contains is neomycin, which is an aminoglycoside compound—a group of chemicals that she and other researchers had, in 2018, determined increased resistance to a range of viruses in mice. When an aminoglycoside encounters a bacterium and acts as an antibiotic, the compound interferes with the microbe’s ability to make proteins. But that’s not how Neosporin might fight off viruses. Instead neomycin appears to rev up the innate immune system in this case. That system recognizes foreign substances in general, in contrast to the adaptive immune system, which recognizes and attacks specific foreign materials it has encountered before. Specifically, neomycin appears to trigger the expression of what scientists call interferon-stimulated genes: a set of hundreds of genes—perhaps even one tenth of a human’s genes—that appear to play a role in the innate immune system. During an infection, the body produces a compound called interferon that binds to these genes and dials up the innate immune system. Neomycin appears to accomplish the same result, although the scientists aren’t sure exactly how. ‘It’s basically tricking the host into thinking there’s a viral infection and inducing these protective genes,’ Iwasaki says. In the new research, she and her colleagues tested neomycin in a handful of different experiments. In one, they treated mice nasally with concentrated neomycin, then gave them the virus that causes COVID (also via a nasal route). Treated mice lost less weight and were less likely to die from the infection. In a separate experiment, the researchers gave already infected mice neomycin, and the effect was similar. The findings suggest that neomycin both protected the mice from infection and helped them fight it off.” • Seems like this is low cost, low risk, very high gain?

* * *

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, CDC stopped mandatory hospital data collection, New York Times death data has stopped. (Note that the two metrics the hospital-centric CDC cared about, hospitalization and deaths, have both gone dark). 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. UPDATE I replaced the Times death data with CDC data. Amusingly, the URL doesn’t include parameters to construct the tables; one must reconstruct then manually each time. Caltrops abound.

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 20: ❌ National [6] CDC May 11:
National[7] Walgreens May 20: Ohio[8] Cleveland Clinic May 18:
Travelers Data
Positivity[9] CDC April 29: Variants[10] CDC April 29:
Weekly Deaths vs. % Positivity CDC May 11: Weekly Deaths vs. ED Visits CDC May 11:


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) Dead.

[2] (Biobot) Dead.

[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) Slightly, but distinctly up. The New York city area has form; in 2020, as the home of two international airports (JFK and EWR) it was an important entry point for the virus into the country (and from thence up the Hudson River valley, as the rich sought to escape, and around the country through air travel). So my natural inclination is to see how wastewater at JFK and EWR is doing. CDC, before it decided to butcher wastewater visualization, provided data down to the sewage treatment plant level, so I could check the Brooklyn plant for JFK (and also the Brooklyn plant for LGA). Well, that’s no longer possible, but the Verily [vomits quietly] wastewater site — Biobot being kaput — provides data on EWR. Here it is:

So, New York City Hospitalization up, Covid from air travel up. Make of that what you will. Covid is also up in Singapore and France, you will recall.

[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] CDC’s data and visualization, still being updated.

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Existing Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “Existing home sales in the US declined 1.9% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.14 million units in April 2024, the lowest in three months, compared to an upwardly revised 4.22 million in March and forecasts of 4.21 million. “Home sales changed little overall, but the upper-end market is experiencing a sizable gain due to more supply coming onto the market,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. Sales declined in the four major US regions.”

* * *

Tech: “OpenAI No Longer Takes Safety Seriously” [Lawfare] “For top-tier AI researchers who, like Sustskever and Leike, are seriously concerned about AI risk, OpenAI is arguably the best place in the world to work. It is the leading lab pursuing AGI. It currently has the best AI systems—crucial objects of study for safety work. It has top-notch talent and immense resources. For an engineer hoping to help solve the alignment problem and ensure that advanced AI benefits, rather than harms, humans, a job at OpenAI is hard to beat. It is also arguably the place to be for someone who hopes to be well-positioned to sound the alarm if and when a truly dangerous AI system arrives. Thus, if Leike, Kokotajlo, and O’Keefe are being honest when they say that AI risk is deadly serious, then their departures should themselves constitute alarm bells. By leaving OpenAI, they are foregoing perhaps the best opportunity to make substantive progress on the problem that, by their lights, is the most important. The only reason for them to leave would be if it were clear that OpenAI really had abandoned its commitment to supporting safety work.” • Note the source, and note the images here. So, hmm.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 62 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 22 at 1:21:43 PM ET.

The Gallery

Speaking of waves:

Given Courbet’s “complex” political views, perhaps there’s a subtext here.

News of the Wired

I am not feeling wired today (or all too wired, I’m not sure).

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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 GS:

GS writes: “Fern Trees, Flecker Gardens, Cairns QLD Australia.” Looks like a dinosair’s crudité!

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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. Lambert Strether Post author

    Patient readers, I’m sorry to be slow. Too many breaking stories today! Which for me very much includes the publication of Trisha Greenhalgh’s mask/respirator study. More to come, as the Johnny Carson commercial break cards used to say:

    1. Samuel Conner

      I love the new “trust your immune system” meme. I’ll be sure to take comfort in this when I face a cancer diagnosis. Who am I gonna believe, my immune system memes or my lying oncologist?

      (BTW, (3) and (4) of the TYIS sequence appear to be the same. Not objecting, but hoping that there is an additional giggle that got left behind when (3) was duplicated as (4) ).

      1. britzklieg

        To be clear, I fully support masks. I was literally screaming about them (all caps) in the comments, early in the pandemic, when so many others were telling us they didn’t work.

        And yet, “neomycin appears to rev up the innate immune system” which, if proven true, might explain why an antibacterial would be effective against a virus, the notion of which was dismissed, indeed ridiculed (“horse paste”), by those who scoffed at IVM as a helpful treatment against covid.

        Which isn’t to say that I believe “natural immunity” follows from constant exposure to any pathogen (my partner died of AIDS so I am very familiar with the importance of minimizing one’s “viral load”) but it does, imho, indicate that there’s still a lot to learn about how the human body responds to ill health and its causes. With so much still to be learned, it makes victory laps taken by absolutists seem overplayed.

        1. jsn

          The Greenhalgh tweets are all identical while your headings suggest there’s more than one.

  2. flora

    re: Peruvian Meadowlark

    Peru has Meadowlarks? This makes me unaccountably happy. I recognize their different-but-like song to the North American Meadowlark families. Thanks.

  3. griffen

    OpenAI article…was it really ever thus to start with ? By and large the innovative tech firms out there are moving fast breaking a whole lotta eggs in the making a viable product or service for their commercial overlords. Silicon Valley, where corporate ingenuity thrives and all the rest is mere suggestion…

    Corporate mottos and themes of altruism or greater benefit to human kind, statements that aged poorly for $200…

    1. Mikel

      SillyCon is throwing down the gauntlet and saying there is no such thing as “the indomitable human spirit.”
      (And I don’t mean “spirit” in the supernatural sense).

      It either will show itself or there will be the corporate, surveillance void.

      1. flora

        re: “SillyCon is throwing down the gauntlet and saying there is no such thing as “the indomitable human spirit.”

        This only means SillyCon hasn’t found a way to mathematically measure it, because it is not mathematically measurable. / ;)

      2. griffen

        OpenAI seems likely to project the underlying theme of the initial entries in the Alien film franchise. I can’t help but reflect on how they really capture the evil darkness of a corporation in the space travels of the future. Or a counter would be the Terminator film franchise.

        “… it’s a perfect organism…no delusions of morality…”

        1. ambrit

          Hmmm… I thought that the Romulans developed the ‘Disruptor.’ Those pesky Zeta Reticulan governors of the Terran Mandate are allied with the Romulans now?

  4. flora

    re: antidote du jour.

    Fern fiddleheads are a tasty meal, steam cooked and eaten with butter like asparagus, provided they haven’t been sprayed with herbicides or some such, as is often done on roadside tracts to keep down the “weeds”. / ;)

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      Wash very well in lots of clean running water, and consider boiling for a while – they grow in pretty mucky places, amongst lots of not-so-good bacteria. Some versions also contain toxins, so don’t overindulge.

      Or just #TrustYourDigestiveSystem (ha ha).

    1. britzklieg

      And if the trials prove that not to be the case in regards to the nose, as seems a possibility, then the website would be inaccurate, yes?

      Wouldn’t be the first time.

    2. B Flat

      Reading up on neomycin, it is a generic that is also available in pill form. A nasal decongestant called Alaska has neomycin as it’s active ingredient but it doesn’t appear to be available in the US…

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > We do not advise

      Not quite the same as saying “Never do this, it’s harmful….” Though I don’t know whether whatever gunk delivers the active ingredient interferes with nasal sprays or not.

      Might be worth considering as an extra layer of protection for a long-haul flight, say. Not sure I’d use it daily.

    4. JTMcPhee

      Isn’t there something about profligate use of antibiotics that somehow produces “antibiotic resistant” and “antibiotic-proof” pathogens? Even the Effing CDC recognizes this as a thing: https://www.cdc.gov/antimicrobial-resistance/about/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about/how-resistance-happens.html

      I’d be real careful about smearing “antibiotic creams” up my mucous membranes, in the hope that they might improve the trustworthiness of my immune system.

      1. Samuel Conner

        I have wondered about this — topical antibiotic creams are available in US over-the-counter, no prescription needed. It does seem a recipe for selection of resistant skin bacteria.

  5. Screwball

    The hot PMC topic today is the economy. They are mad at the media who is lying to everyone and not reporting how good the economy is. They are mad there are no fact checkers to tell these lying news sites they are wrong. For those blaming Biden, if they would have swapped him out the media would still be blaming the dems because they are lying about the economy.

    I guess they don’t know many of these economic reports have plenty of data to prove what is going on with the economy. This data can be twisted to create whatever narrative you want, which many news sources do. But to think the media is out to get Biden is really a stretch IMO. Especially the media bubble the PMC live in.

    The numbers I read sure don’t show how great it is, but I guess that’s how it rolls in Excuses Я Usville.

    1. polar donkey

      I have gone to a couple of fast casual restaurants chains during normally busy times the last week. Besides being taken back by my bill, they were both dead. Hardly any customers. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next year a few big chains may go the way of red lobster.

    2. Mikel

      Stocks are up 12% this year, but nearly half of Americans think they’re down. What’s going on?


      They didn’t ask the people being polled if they had an investment portfolio and how much up or down is THEIR “101k” for the year. The masses of people aren’t putting 5 figures or more each year into a portfolio.

    3. griffen

      Kinda like the discussion yesterday about that now laid off Tesla employee, sleeping in his car as a matter of preference to being I dunno, on the street in a tent. We don’t see homeless people….hey it’s a Sixth Sense sorta themed suggestion.

      Oh and for added grist to the millstone… inflation is still a dang problem for many, but I just don’t believe what my eyes are telling me I guess.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        my chicken meat making process(egg to bird to plate to compost pile) isnt fully up and running as yet…and mom likes chicken…even if it that watery tyson stuff.
        so in my all day driving miss daisy exercise, today…one of the stops was heb.
        i only went in to stick a great big bundle of bunghole fodder and some allergy meds in her basket(my “fare”, in our thoroughly neoliberalised, hypertransactional world)…and went bck to wait in her spaceship.
        she reported, however, that the chix prices were through the roof…as was beef(which has been out of me and the boys reach for a year)…pork was still reasonable.
        but i guess meat is still too volatile to be included in the economic figures.

        lamb was $10+ per #…which is actually kinda low from what i remember of that store, through the years.(and this lamb was, of course, from australia…not from the hundred sheep herds we drove past getting home.)
        we then went and picked up the 3 sheep i had taken to the custom butcher 2 weeks ago….about $3/#…for a variety of cuts…about 150 #.

        of course, its a lot cheaper than that when i do it…but they have better tools, and mom wanted to try them out.

        1. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

          I became vegan partly to save money. It worked.

          To be honest, I have ducks, and I eat their eggs. However, I don’t think it causes any suffering to do so (no drakes).

          na-mo a-mi-tuo fo

  6. polar donkey

    A friend who works at a high school, said their school yearbook has been delayed. The company that makes yearbooks moved it’s printing facilities to Mexico.

  7. Wukchumni

    … The path of Dark Brandon is beset on all sides
    By the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men
    Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will
    Shepherds the weak and/or Hunter into the valley of darkness
    For he is truly Netanyahu’s keeper and the killer of lost children
    And I will strike down upon thee
    With great vengeance and furious anger
    Those who attempt to poison and destroy my reputation
    And you will know my name is the game
    When I lay my vengeance upon thee
    Nobody (family blogs) with a Biden!

    (bang-bang shoot-shoot)

  8. Ranger Rick

    A Bloomberg piece on social engineering just hit my local paper. But has been out for a few weeks now.

    “But as climate solutions become increasingly politicized, institutions are keen to avoid framing individual changes as sacrifices. Forcing or even just telling people to reduce their meat consumption for the sake of the planet is still something of a third rail. The same goes for taxing environmentally unfriendly foods — an effective tool but one that remains politically fraught. Nudges, on the other hand, can be rolled out without any vote, any debate or even much attention.”

    Enshittification hits the food scene. If people weren’t paranoid before, this is only going to erode trust faster.

    1. Wukchumni

      Who’s the leader of the club that’s made protein for you and me?

      M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

  9. KLG

    FWIW I have just downloaded the Greenhalgh review on masks and magisterial is a good description after a quick scan.

  10. JBird4049

    >>>Furthermore, certain groups (notably D/deaf people) are disadvantaged when others are masked.

    As someone wearing hearing aids who depends on clear pronunciation and does some lip reading especially when people mumble, masks really are annoying. Not that I am against masking as death can be more annoying.

    And on the whole “trusting your immune system” shtick, are they high or mental? Up until about fifty years ago, mass illness, injury, and death from infectious disease was normal. It is the reason why I wear two hearing aids as that particular vaccine didn’t quite get into mass distribution in time for me.

    Oh, well.

    1. none

      I’ve seen audiologists wearing masks that had a clear vinyl panel over the mouth area, to assist lip readers.

  11. Wukchumni

    Relatives of 17 children killed and two kids injured in Texas’ deadliest school shooting are suing Texas Department of Public Safety officers who were among hundreds of law enforcement that waited 77 minutes to confront the gunman at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary, lawyers announced Wednesday.

    “Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom,” Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter Jailah and nephew Jayce were killed, said in a statement.

    The legal action against 92 DPS officers comes days before the two-year anniversary of the shooting in which an 18-year-old used an AR-15 to kill 19 students and two teachers in two adjoining fourth-grade classrooms.


    There’s yellow cops in Texas that did nothing in Uvalde
    Nothing could be done, to stop a murder spree
    Parents cried when their children died, it likely broke their heart
    And sadly they will forever remain apart

    They’re the yellowest cops that Texas ever knew
    Armed and dangerous, they just sat there as time flew
    You may talk about your Texas Rangers and sing of the Alamo siege
    But the yellow cops of Texas put on a show for all to see

    Where the mass murderer is going, out of their sight
    He walks along the classrooms with all his assault rifle might
    I know that families in Uvalde parted long ago
    The yellow cops promised to serve and protect and didn’t do so

    They were the sweetest little rosebuds that Texas ever knew
    Cut down in elementary school, it wasn’t as if the police had a clue
    You may talk about your Texas Rangers and sing of the Alamo siege
    But the yellow cops of Texas put on a show for all to see

    Oh, now we find out how incompetent they were, hearts are full of woe
    Families can’t do the things together like they did so long ago
    They’ll play taps daily, nothing is like before
    And the yellow cops of Texas shall be remembered forevermore

    They were the sweetest little rosebuds that Texas ever knew
    Cut down in elementary school, it wasn’t as if the police had a clue
    You may talk about your Texas Rangers and sing of the Alamo siege
    But the yellow cops of Texas put on a show for all to see

    1. The Rev Kev

      I hope that those relatives nail those cop’s hide to the wall. But if found guilty. I would expect that it would be up the the local government to make any payouts with no punishments for either those cops or the council that has been protecting them. And it’s not like those cops had a SWAT unit that they could have sent in. Oh wait, they did have one – probably lavishly equipped and trained.

  12. chris

    I don’t know what to file this note under. Maybe, “they’ve got one tool…”?

    Why is it that there appears to be no consideration, in the media or by our august financial gurus, that the reason why inflation has not gone to the level they want to see is because the factors creating the current bout of inflation have nothing to do with interest rates? Raising interest rates won’t make corporations seek lower profits. Raising interest rates won’t fix supply chain issues. Raising interest rates won’t create more workers. Since we know that at least those three factors are part of the current inflation, why is it that no one wants to address them?

    I know the answer. It’s because they don’t like the answer to that question. And they know that raising interest rates won’t help the situation. But it will make lots of poor people miserable. It will also benefit savers and it will definitely strengthen the dollar relative to a lot of other currencies.

    I assume we’ll see more rate hikes after this.

    1. Sub-Boreal

      Rather like the ancient medical practice of bleeding the patient as a treatment for just about everything?

      1. JTMcPhee

        Often with the same result, death by exsanguination. And with the same intent — the practitioners were called “leeches,” and charged a premium price for their “expertise.”

        Effing stupid humans.

        And I went shopping yesterday. A “half gallon” of branded orange juice is 52 ounces, and it’s $7.49 a bottle. And Nabisco Graham crackers are half an inch narrower, slightly thinner, and a quarter inch shorter than five years ago, with lots of headspace in the box, obscured by “generous” wrappers of nine crackers. Lots more examples on offer on the shelves of Publix. So greedflation and shrinkflation are well established in consumerland.

  13. none

    Greenhalgh tweet “We did NOT assume that all RCT evidence was “gold standard”, nor that all non-RCT evidence was “low-quality”” is repeated several times. I hope a fix is coming?

  14. Wukchumni

    The Wayfarers Chapel is probably the house of worship i’ve most frequented, it was a few mile walk from the trailhead on Crenshaw…

    In the late 1940s, Lloyd Wright—son of famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright—drew up plans for a striking chapel made of glass, wood and stone. Crews finished building the chapel in 1951 beneath a canopy of redwood trees on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, a coastal city south of Los Angeles.

    For the last 73 years, the glass-enclosed chapel has attracted architecture aficionados, wedding parties, photographers and worshippers affiliated with the Swedenborgian Church of North America. But the ground beneath the beloved structure is shifting because of a recently activated landslide, which is twisting and cracking the chapel’s delicate components. Without intervention, the chapel is at risk of “irrevocable damage,” according to its website.

    To save the structure, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in December, authorities have decided to carefully take it apart piece by piece. They’re searching for a new, more stable location and, once they find one, they plan to reconstruct the chapel.

    Chapel leaders hope to rebuild somewhere else on the same property. But, if that’s not possible, they’re open to a similar site in Rancho Palos Verdes.


  15. The Rev Kev

    ‘Jeffrey A Tucker
    The first version of this meta analysis of physical interventions to stop virus spread came out in 2006. It has been updated ever since. The conclusion: they don’t work. Everyone knew this in 2020.’

    People like this are always ready with helpful advice. Don’t wear masks in a pandemic spread by aerosols. Maybe N95 masks are the same as those blue masks. Hand washing might help. Make sure to get the candy before you climb into the windowless van.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Good memory! It resurfaced on Twitter, I recognized it as being posted here earlier this year, after I posted it and reread it.

  16. ChrisPacific

    I’m sure it’s yet another Trump pile-on, but I find the idea that the FBI get an authorization for deadly force as boilerplate language on every warrant to be pretty disturbing, if not all that surprising.

  17. fjallstrom

    “Tech: “OpenAI No Longer Takes Safety Seriously””

    Open AI never took safety seriously. What it did was include the “Rationalists”/Effective Alturists that wants to prevent Terminator / Matrix and thinks – for essentially religious reasons – that the large autocompletes will evolve into Terminator / Matrix and the only way to prevent that is that they control the Terminator / Matrix machine gods that will rise.

    They apparently are no longer useful, with the bubble in full swing there isn’t a need to pretend that large autocompletes will evolve into Terminator / Matrix in order to boost its pretended usefulness. So the “Rationalists”/Effective Alturists are kicked aside. They might still have usefulness if placed in regulatory bodies, in order to prevent ssaid bodies from focusing on actual, existing problems.

    The people who were complaining about real problems like crap-production, misinformation, Kafka-esque systems, automatic discrimination and so forth, were tossed aside years ago.

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