2:00PM Water Cooler 3/20/2024 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Sadly, Cornell Ornithology Lab’s “planned outage” continue through tomorrow. No bird song today. Here, however, is one of their cams, for Red-tailed Hawks:

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In Case You Might Miss…

(1) John Barnett’s stepson (possibly) speaks.

(2) Hitchhiking

(3) Trump to unload Trump Tower?


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

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The Constitutional Order (Insurrection)

“Trump, GOP-led states argue presidential immunity claim to Supreme Court” [NC Newsline]. “As a deadline loomed for briefs in the case, 18 Republican-led states filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging the Supreme Court to reverse the lower courts and grant Trump blanket immunity. Oral arguments before the high court on the immunity question are scheduled for April 25, and federal district court proceedings have been halted until the Supreme Court issues a ruling. Trump’s lawyers, led by D. John Sauer of St. Louis, in a 52-page brief argued that a strong executive with virtually no criminal liability from the judicial system was intended by the framers of the Constitution and part of a ‘234-year unbroken tradition’ of not prosecuting presidents for action taken while in office…. ‘The President cannot function, and the Presidency itself cannot retain its vital independence, if the President faces criminal prosecution for official acts once he leaves office,’ the attorneys wrote in the brief’s opening paragraph. That view is in line with how framers of the Constitution saw the presidency, they said. ‘Even if some level of Presidential malfeasance, not present in this case at all, were to escape punishment, that risk is inherent in the Constitution’s design,’ Trump’s attorneys wrote. ‘The Founders viewed protecting the independence of the Presidency as well worth the risk that some Presidents might evade punishment in marginal cases. They were unwilling to burn the Presidency itself to the ground to get at every single alleged malefactor.’ The only exception to absolute immunity is a president who is impeached by the House and convicted in the Senate, Trump’s lawyers said.” And: “They asked the court to reject an argument that another exception to presidential immunity could be made for criminal charges stemming from a president’s desire to stay in power. ‘Because virtually all first-term Presidents’ official actions carry some, at least partial, motivation to be re-elected, this exception to immunity would swiftly engulf the rule,’ they wrote. Prosecuting or not prosecuting a president is inherently a political act, Trump’s attorneys said. ‘This observation applies to former Presidents as well — and it applies most of all to a former President who is the leading candidate to replace the incumbent who is prosecuting him,’ they wrote.” • Leave it to Trump to find the edge case for any system he’s involved with.


Less than a year to go!

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Trump (R): “Donald Trump may not pay bond — and instead let Letitia James seize Trump Tower: insiders” [New York Post]. “As Donald Trump faces a Monday deadline to post a $454 million bond in the civil fraud case against him in New York, insiders said he may be weighing a little-discussed option: Doing nothing…. While some reports have raised speculation that Trump may ‘go nuclear’ with a Chapter 11 filing to protect his prize real estate assets across Manhattan, experts said bankruptcy would create unwelcome complications as the 2024 election season comes to a head. A third possibility, however, is to let the deadline pass, leaving it to New York Attorney General Letitia James to seize Trump’s bank accounts or buildings — including Trump Tower, from which he declared his 2016 presidential run, and which famously includes his personal penthouse. It’s an option Trump appears to have considered – partly because he believes the chances are good that he could recover the assets on appeal, even if he is forced to take his case to the US Supreme Court, according to friends. ‘Even if there is a taking, it doesn’t mean he can’t take it back later,’ a source close to Trump told The Post. A decision to do nothing poses risks of its own — among them that the New York AG’s Office has the right to sell off any properties it confiscates in order to recover the cash penalties it is owed.” • No mention, however, of the Eighth Amendment.

Trump (R): “Judge grants Trump permission to appeal Fani Willis ruling” [Axios]. “The judge overseeing former President Trump’s Georgia election subversion case granted a pathway Wednesday for Trump to appeal his decision to allow Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain at the helm of the prosecution. By granting a ‘certificate of immediate review,’ Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee enabled Trump’s lawyers to appeal the decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals before the start of a trial…. While McAfee granted the defense’s request for a review, he noted in the court filing that other matters related to the case will go forward as planned, pending the review.” • Here is the “certificate”:

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Trump (R): “Trump suggests 15-week abortion ban is ‘very reasonable’” [Axios]. “Trump during an interview with conservative radio host Sid Rosenberg on WABC Tuesday repeated his boasts about helping to overturn Roe v. Wade by nominating three conservative Supreme Court justices. The court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in 2022 made abortion policy a state-level issue. ‘The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15, and I’m thinking in terms of that, and it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable,’ Trump said. He added that he would make an announcement on what limits he officially supports ‘at the appropriate time.’ He called views that have led Republicans to lose at the ballot box ‘impractical.’ After tentatively supporting the idea of a federal ban, Trump claimed that ‘everybody agrees’ that it should be a state issue. ‘It shouldn’t be a federal issue, it’s a state issue,’ he said.” And: “He emphasized during a radio interview on Tuesday that he supports “exceptions,” increasingly part of the GOP playbook, for rape, incest or life of the mother.”

Trump (R): “Let the Presidential Election Mudslinging Begin!” [Jeet Heer, The Nation]. “Analysis suggests that the first order of business for Biden is to return Trump to his former status as the most unpopular figure in American politics. In other words: Let the mudslinging begin. Biden and those around him seem to have drawn this obvious lesson. A recent New Yorker report on the Biden White House quoted Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Like many, Whitehouse is supporting Biden more out of resignation than enthusiasm. Whitehouse told The New Yorker that while Biden was ‘not the only option that we had…once he’d made the decision to go, he became the only option that we have.’ Given this reality, Whitehouse advocates a ‘Biden plus offense’ based on the fact that when people are ‘frightened or angry, you need to convince them that you, too, are equally concerned and you’re willing to throw punches and pick fights. Whitehouse added, ‘If you’ve got your sleeves rolled up and you’re waist-deep fighting alligators in the swamp, then nobody’s really thinking about your age.’”

Trump (R): Missed this one:

And see Kennedy below.

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Biden (D): “Biden ices a controversial donor” [Politico]. “The Biden campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are freezing hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations made by a businessman accused of fraudulently pretending to be associated with the CIA. A Biden campaign official told West Wing Playbook they were putting a $50,000 donation made to the Biden Victory Fund last April by GAURAV SRIVASTAVA into escrow after concerns were raised about the source and legality of the donation. A spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which received almost $290,000 last year from a man identifying as Srivastava, said that group, too, has set aside the money for the ‘foreseeable future’ out of an abundance of caution. The decisions to freeze the money come in the wake of recent reporting around Srivastava’s business dealings and philanthropic giving. A Los Angeles-based businessman, he has been involved in a variety of causes through a family foundation. But he was also the subject of an unflattering profile by Project Brazen, a news outlet founded by two former Wall Street Journal reporters, that suggested misconduct on his part, including fake ties to the CIA. POLITICO Influence reported last month that the Atlantic Council had terminated its donor relationship with Srivastava after they couldn’t confirm important details of his background.” And this glorious sentence: “All of it has raised the question of who, exactly, Srivastava is.”

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Kennedy (I):

West (I):

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Democrats en Déshabillé

“Democrats are hemorrhaging support with voters of color” [Nate Silver]. [John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times] “notes that the problems are particularly bad for Democrats among working-class voters of color, and younger ones.” Controversy ensued. But: “Adam Carlson has been performing an invaluable service by aggregating the results of different polls together, which at least solves the sample size problem. And he’s finding that Joe Biden’s share of the vote has dropped dramatically among Black and Hispanic voters as compared with an average reliable estimates of the 2020 vote.” Handy chart:

More: “As you can see, Biden’s margin against Donald Trump has basically not moved an inch among white voters; he’s losing them by 12 percentage points, as he did in 2020. However, Biden is now only winning Hispanics by 7 percentage points — down from 24 points in 2020 — and Black voters by “only” 55 points, as compared with 83 points in 2020.”

“Mystery among the vines: Why is the FBI probing some of Napa Valley’s fanciest wineries?” [LA Times]. This is very detailed and dense, and gets wilder as it goes in, culminating in a landfill scandal (“An Odor of Mendacity”). “Why have so many of the fancy wineries along this road — and their rich and powerful owners — been named in federal subpoenas that were served late last year on Napa County?…. The subpoena seeking records on the wineries and their owners, dated Dec. 14, 2023, is filed under the name of Patrick Robbins, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. It also references an FBI agent, Katherine Ferrato, who has experience working on complex financial crimes.” Oddly, however, the names in the article are all locals. Not A-listers. Not Black female executives. Not Gavin Newsom or his Getty friends. And certainly not Nancy Pelosi.

“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Partners With Anti-Porn Lobby NCOSE” [XBIZ]. ” Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez issued a press statement last week prominently highlighting her partnership with religiously-inspired anti-porn lobby NCOSE, an organization that seeks to criminalize all sex work and eradicate adult content, and that has an extensive, well-documented history of championing state censorship and opposing LGBTQ+ rights. The statement released by Ocasio-Cortez’s office celebrates her introduction of the Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits Act of 2024 (DEFIANCE Act), which proposes to create a federal civil right of action for victims of deepfakes…. XBIZ contacted Ocasio-Cortez’s office and her Communications Director Sidney Johnson, for comment on whether the congressperson is aware of NCOSE’s history, past stances against free speech, promotion of censorship and opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. XBIZ also asked Ocasio-Cortez to comment on her partnership with Hawkins, a religious conservative activist who has spoken extensively about the Mormon roots of her War on Porn crusades and her efforts to rebrand Morality in Media as the more secular-sounding NCOSE. After this story’s publication, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Mike Casca, contacted XBIZ via X offering as the office’s official statement the following: ‘Bullshit. It’s not a partnership. She has a bipartisan bill to stop nonconsensual deepfake pornography that centers survivors’ civil right of action. Orgs left, right and center support it. Bipartisanship is how bills become law in a divided congress.’” And: “Earlier this week, Christopher Kane from LGBTQ+ politics site the Washington Blade also noted the peculiar alliance between NCOSE — which generally partners with religious Republicans for its campaigns — and Ocasio-Cortez, a notably progressive [snort] New York representative and member of ‘The Squad.’”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Right to Vote” [Teri Kanefield]. “You don’t have an affirmative Constitutional right to vote. (Did you know that?) The right to vote was not (affirmatively) included in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, or any of the other Amendments…. None of this gives anyone an affirmative right to vote. The Supreme Court views the omission of an affirmative right to vote from the Constitution to mean that voting is a privilege that states may administer or infringe as they see fit—as long as the limits and infringement does not discriminate based on race, color, or gender…. So if a state wants to deny the right to vote to anyone who has been convicted of a felony, the state can do so. If a state wants to deny the right to vote by mail, the state can do that as well. The only thing states can’t do (under the law as it now stands) is pass laws that deny the vote based on race, gender, or a suspect classification like religion or national origin. A government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ raises a question: Who is included? Who are the people? It is obvious that if you can’t vote, you are not one of the ‘people’ in “We the People.’”


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“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

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC (wastewater); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Alexis, anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Tom B., Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Testing and Tracking

Yesterday, New York. Today, Philly:

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TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts


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

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


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

[2] (Biobot) Midwest ticks up.

[3] (CDC Variants) As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

[4] (ER) “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.”

[5] (Hospitalization: NY) Looks like a very gradual leveling off to a non-zero baseline, to me.

[6] (Hospitalization: CDC) Still down. “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”.

[7] (Walgreens) Leveling out.

[8] (Cleveland) Flattening.

[9] (Travelers: Posivitity) Now up, albeit in the rear view mirror.

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

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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Tech: “Google’s Woke AI Wasn’t a Mistake. We Know. We Were There” [The Free Press]. “These ex-Googlers, as they’re called, said that they were discouraged from hiring white, male employees; that DEI ‘is part of every single thing’ in the company; and that engineers even had to list the ‘DEI impact’ for the tiniest of software fixes. All of them agreed that the Silicon Valley giant entered the artificial intelligence race with an upper hand but has squandered it by cowing to an activist faction in the company that’s more committed to advancing social justice than making world-class products.” • Like the 1619 Project, except completely out in the open and a million times worse:

Dudes (dudettes (duderinos)), come on. Although I suppose it’s re-assuring, in a way, to know that anybody can grow up to be a Nazi. NOTE The caption to the photo doesn’t show the prompt. But I’ve seen plenty of other examples.

Manufacturing: “Another Boeing emergency: Delta Airlines 737 plane makes emergency landing after one of the engines caught fire moments after taking off in Aruba” [Daily Mail]. “A Boeing-made Delta Airlines flight out of Aruba and bound for Atlanta was forced to turn back and make an emergency landing after an engine blow out on take-off.” • Whoops.

Manufacturing: “Boeing burns more cash than expected as it limits 737 production” [Reuters]. “Boeing opens new tab’s MAX safety crisis is causing it to burn more cash than expected, its finance chief said on Wednesday, meaning the U.S. planemaker will need more time to hit a key financial target for coming years. The company is trying to get control of safety issues following a Jan. 5 mid-flight panel blowout on a 737 MAX 9 aircraft that has placed it under the watchful eye of U.S. regulators – and frustrated airlines already struggling with delivery delays from both Boeing and its rival Airbus. CFO Brian West told a Bank of America conference that Boeing’s cash burn in the first quarter will be somewhere between $4 billion and $4.5 billion, higher than they planned back in January. The order backlogs are frustrating airline executives, who have started to cut routes and are trying to acquire additional aircraft to meet demand. Michael O’Leary, CEO of key European Boeing customer Ryanair (RYA.I), opens new tab, told Reuters he is meeting with senior company executives on Wednesday in Dublin to discuss prolonged delivery delays. Boeing declined comment on the visit.

U.S. regulators have limited Boeing’s 737 production to 38 a month – but West said Boeing is producing fewer than that allowable amount, though did not elaborate.” • Whoops.

Manufacturing: I wouldn’t call this exactly authenticated, but:

Manufacturing: “Understanding the Boeing Mess” [Wall Street Journal]. “Rather than surfacing Boeing’s deeply hidden problems, it seems the second [737 MCAS] crash gave birth to them. The subsequent 20-month grounding and production shutdown, combined with Covid, cost Boeing thousands of skilled workers. The pressure of its duopoly competition with Airbus plus customers clamoring for their backordered planes made management unwisely desperate to restart production. January’s nonfatal door-plug blowout of an Alaska Airlines 737 appears to have been a one-off when Boeing workers failed to reinstall the plug properly after removing it to fix faulty fuselage rivets. Not a one-off, apparently, are faulty rivets as Boeing has strained to hire new staff and resume production of half-finished planes. Boeing will sort out its troubles eventually by applying the oldest of manufacturing insights: Training, repetition, standardization and careful documentation are the way to error-free complex manufacturing.” I bet this guy thinks that the biggest problem with the pandemic was being deprived of the Mozzarella sticks at Applebee’s; he’s certainly capable of that level of denial and cope. Stoller’s perspective is IMNSHO correct:

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Manufacturing: “TSMC, Intel suppliers delay U.S. plants on surging costs, labor crunch” [Nikkei Asia]. “Chemical and material makers LCY Chemical, Solvay, Chang Chun Group, KPPC Advanced Chemicals (Kanto-PPC) and Topco Scientific all announced plans and bought land to build facilities in Arizona after the world’s two top chipmakers, TSMC and Intel, rolled out their own multi-billion-dollar investments in the state. But construction of these facilities — which are vital for building a complete chip supply chain — has been put on hold or significantly scaled back, multiple chip industry executives briefed on the matter told Nikkei Asia. In some cases the delays are expected to be temporary, while in others the projects will be subject to later review, with no clear timeframe on when they might be reactivated. Most of those affected attribute the postponements to surging costs for building materials and labor, as well as a shortage of construction workers. A flood of investment into the state for a wide range of sectors, including chips and automobiles, has squeezed the building sector. The suppliers also cited slower-than-expected progress on Intel’s and TSMC’s expansions for the postponements.

The fact that multiple suppliers are slowing their projects indicates the issue is not down to one or two individual companies but is more structural.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 70 Greed (previous close: 70 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 20 at 1:23:00 PM ET.

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

“United States of America” [HitchWiki]. Overview of hitchhiking laws by state:

Relative Ease of Hitchhiking Each State of America (based on a survey of hitchhikers with 114,000 miles cumulative experience.).

Green: Easy

Yellow: Average

Red: Difficult

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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 RH:

RH writes: “Spring peeper in the mint.” Mint is invasive! So I like mint.

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