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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, various forms of administrivia kept interrupting my preparations for Water Cooler, so this is a bit scattered. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

American Goldfinch, Round Valley Recreation Area, Hunterdon, New Jersey, United States.

* * *

In Case You Might Miss…

(1) Shanahan at the border.

(2) H5N1 testing needs improvement.

(3) Warrantless surveillance FTW.

(4) FDR’s fireside chats.

Politics

“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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2024

Less than a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, April 5

Here this Friday’s RCP poll. Trump is still up in all the Swing States (more here), leading with one exception: PA. I’ve highlighted it again, (1) because BIden is now up there, and (2) it’s an outlier, has been for weeks. Why isn’t Trump doing well there? (I’ll work out a better way to do this, but for now: Blue dot = move toward Biden; red dot = move toward Trump. No dot = no change (presumably because state polls are not that numerous so far from election day).

* * *

Trump (R): “America is bored of Trump. He won’t win the election” [Isaac Schorr, The Telegraph]. ” Trump may have an advantage on substance, but it is a certainty that he lacks the discipline necessary to capitalise fully on that advantage and quite possible that he is lacking enough in that department to blow it entirely. Worst of all for the presumptive Republican nominee, he is not some new figure voters can project their hopes onto while hand-waving away the lunacy. His antics are no longer a bizarrely refreshing taste of something new, they’ve become a part of America’s stale political culture.” • I dunno. Trump can read a room and he’s highly adaptive. I say more Chick-Fil-A visits! (The East Palestine visit, let us remember, was not just good media, it signaled a turnaround. So what you will about Trump’s campaign team in 2016, he was out there, meeting people, practicing his riffs, doing his A/B testing. If Trump’s current professional team isn’t scheduling that kind of thing for him, it should.)

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Kennedy (I): Shanahan visits the border (i.e., one of the items in Harris’s portfolio):

She’s not wearing Nina McLemor. On the other hand, she’s not wearing Nina McLemor.

Kennedy (I):

“Election spoiler? How President Biden’s allies hope to stop Robert F. Kennedy Jr.” [USA Today]. “Kennedy’s current double-digit standing is more than enough to swing outcomes in battleground states…. ‘If I were a Democrat, I’d vote for RFK Jr. every single time over Biden because he’s frankly more in line with Democrats,’ Trump said in a video released by his campaign Thursday. ‘I do believe that RFK Jr. will do very well, and I do believe he’s going to take a lot of votes away from crooked Joe Biden.’” • Hmm.

Kennedy (I): Hotez throws down the gauntlet:


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Spook Country

“A Terrorist Warning From the FBI” [Wall Street Journal]. • What a surprise.

“House finally passes surveillance bill after three stumbles” [Politico]. “Another dramatic turn came just ahead of the bill’s final passage, with a proposal to require warrants when searching foreign data collected by the surveillance program for information related to Americans failed on 212-212 tie. The Biden administration and members of the Intelligence Committee waged an intense lobbying effort ahead of the vote; Attorney General Merrick Garland was calling members on Friday to urge their support, according to a person familiar with the conversations who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.” Always good to see liberal Democrats extend the right hand of good fellowship to Republicans when the object is gutting the Fouth Amendment. More: “In a bid to get his holdouts on board, Johnson shortened the reauthorization period for the program from five years to two years — which caused heartburn in some corners of the Biden administration and would put the next wiretapping fight in a potential second Trump term, if the GOP’s standard-bearer wins in November…. Johnson, a former member of the Judiciary Committee, has defended his switch, saying he’s had access to more intelligence information since becoming speaker late last year.” • Yeah, that’s how they suck you in.

Democrats en Déshabillé

I found this transcript of one of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” (i.e, radio, then a new mass medium). From September 6, 1936:

I have been on a journey of husbandry…. I saw drought devastation in nine states.

I talked with families who had lost their wheat crop, lost their corn crop, lost their livestock, lost the water in their well, lost their garden and come through to the end of the summer without one dollar of cash resources, facing a winter without feed or food—facing a planting season without seed to put in the ground.

I shall never forget the fields of wheat so blasted by heat that they cannot be harvested. I shall never forget field after field of corn stunted, earless and stripped of leaves, for what the sun left the grasshoppers took. I saw brown pastures which would not keep a cow on fifty acres.

But at the end he empowers his listeners:

In the drought area people are not afraid to use new methods to meet changes in Nature, and to correct mistakes of the past. If overgrazing has injured range lands, they are willing to reduce the grazing. If certain wheat lands should be returned to pasture they are willing to cooperate. If trees should be planted as windbreaks or to stop erosion they will work with us. If terracing or summer fallowing or crop rotation is called for, they will carry them out. They stand ready to fit, and not to fight, the ways of Nature.

This is so lucid, humane, and — dare I say — empathetic (with not a trace of schmaltz. He understands their situation). It’s hard to imagine a politician of ant party delivering a series of speeches like this today — and having people believe them; indeed, look forward to them, and listen avidly.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Why No Labels Didn’t Stick” [Slate]. “No Labels was merely the latest iteration of a Beltway parlor trick that’s as old as time. In 2012 it was called Americans Elect, and in 2008 it was Unity08. The core is a kind of institutional McCainism: the idea that Democrats and Republicans are too extreme and that what the country needs is a third party that represents centrism, bipartisanship, and compromise. And on a certain level you can understand the thinking; Americans continue to express abstract support for bipartisanship even as the country has descended into elite-driven gridlock and resentment. … A long-running Gallup survey [shows] that the majority of Americans would prefer that politicians compromise rather than ‘sticking to their beliefs.’…. The trouble with these kinds of survey results is that they are extremely soft and often do not survive contact with real-world situations. Telling a pollster that you support compromise in the abstract is easy, but most voters don’t want it to be their own side doing the giving. The actual demand side of the equation for institutional bipartisanship is therefore pretty small. The other problem with the No Labels operation is that . For better or for worse, that party continues to be the home of nearly all of the remaining ‘institutionalists’ in U.S. politics, and party leadership has repeatedly, over the past decade, passed up opportunities to engage in retaliatory procedural maneuvering in response to GOP constitutional hardball, preferring instead to stand up for a long-vanished consensus politics that has virtually no support on the other side of the aisle. President Joe Biden not only leads that institutionalist party, but he is also its most vocal and successful backer of bipartisanship as a governing and political philosophy.”

Pandemics

“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!

* * *

Airborne Transmission: Covid

“Ventilation during COVID-19 in a school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities” [PLOS One]. From the Abstract: “There was a statistically significant correlation between the total time of room CO2 concentrations ≥1,000 and SARS-CoV-2 cases in an IDD school. Merv-13 filters appear to decrease the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.” • Good to have CO2 concentration reinforced as a proxy for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 as well.

Testing and TrackingL H5N1

Hopefully the tests at least work:

From the same thread:

Since CDC hasn’t learned any lessons from Covid except how to evade responsibility and stonewall aerosol science, it would be unreasonable to expect APHIS to learn anything from them; after all HHS and USDA might as well be on different continents! Still, “sentinel surveillance” reminds me of airport testing, so obviously we should do it. Also, asymptomatic infection doens’t necessarily mean asymptomatic infection, but we should act as if it does. And yes, the USDA map is lousy.

Transmission: H5N1

Carrying fomite transmission a little too far:

Why chop trees down when you could just wash them?

“States begin to restrict cattle imports from those with influenza cases” [American Veterinary Medical Association]. “In an effort to prevent domestic cattle from being exposed to highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAI, more specifically avian influenza Type A H5N1), 17 states have restricted cattle importations from states where the virus is known to have infected dairy cows: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will not be issuing federal quarantine orders at this time, nor is the agency recommending any state quarantines or official hold orders on cattle, the agency announced April 2. ‘However, we strongly recommend minimizing movement of cattle as much as possible, with special attention to evaluating risk and factoring that risk into movement decisions. Do not move sick or exposed animals.’”

“Is the Cattle Complex Ready to Move Past the Influenza A Scare?” [Progressive Farmer]. “Right when the market was in the middle of what seemed to be a strong early spring rally, fear and nervousness stole the cattle complex’s thunder even though no beef cattle have the illness, no dairy cows have died from being affected by the illness, and no dairy herds have been depopulated. … But, thankfully, given the market’s closes early this week, it seems as though traders are ready to put their fear regarding the flu behind them. I would hate to jinx our luck and see the market turn lower again this week, but it does seem as though the market has turned a new page and it’s ready to refocus on its fundamentals.”

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TABLE 1: Daily Covid Charts

LEGEND

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.”

NOTES

[1] (Biobot) Our curve has now flattened out at a level far above valleys under Trump. 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) No backward revisons….

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

[4] (ER) CDC seems to have killed this off, since the link is broken, I think in favor of this thing. I will try to confirm. UPDATE Yes, leave it to CDC to kill a page, and then announce it was archived a day later. And heaven forfend CDC should explain where to go to get equivalent data, if any. I liked the ER data, because it seemed really hard to game.

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

[8] (Cleveland) Flattening.

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

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

[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.

* * *

Tech: “Why I Lost Faith in Kagi” [d-shoot]. “Between the absolute blase attitude towards privacy, the 100% dedication to AI being the future of search, and the completely misguided use of the company’s limited funds, I honestly can’t see Kagi as something I could ever recommend to people. Is the search good? I mean…it’s not really much better than any other search, it heavily leverages Bing like DDG and the other indie search platforms do, the only real killer feature it has to me is the ability to block domains from your results, which I can currently only do in other search engines via a user script that doesn’t help me on mobile. But what good is filtering out all of the AI generated spamblogs on a search platform that wants to spit more AI generated bullshit at me directly?” • Quite a rant, but I can’t evaluate one way or the other. Readers?

Tech: “Google drafts search engine to ‘ground’ AI results in truth” [Axios]. “The tendency of large language models to hallucinate, or make things up, is a key hurdle to broader business adoption of generative AI.” Yeah, whoops, how come that wasn’t in the deck. More: “Google says that by integrating Google search into Vertex, its AI offering for businesses, it can give users access to more recent information and citations indicating the sources for key data.” • I don’t see how this works. How is the citation linked to the text? The LLM can’t do it, it’s got hullabaloocinations. But all search can do is bolt on a search result to the LLM’s output; it’s entirely parallel to what the LLM does. Anyhow, using a crapified tool to straighten out a bullshit machines hallucinations seems like a doomed endeavor.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 46 Neutral (previous close: 58 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 12 at 1:48:00 PM ET.

Our Famously Free Press

Their template got away from them!

This even happens to the great ones….

News of the Wired

“First languages of North America traced back to two very different language groups from Siberia” [PNAS]. “Nichols’ techniques involve the use of linguistic typology, a field that involves comparing languages and organizing them based on shared criteria. To learn more about early North American languages, she compiled lists of language characteristics and applied them to all known languages. She then scored each of the languages based on the revealed qualities. This allowed her to compare the languages as a way to find resemblances among them and spot patterns. Nichols found that she could trace the languages spoken in early North America back to just two lineages, both of which originated in Siberia. They came, she notes, with the people who made their way across land bridges during Ice Age glaciation events. Those two main groups she found evolved into different languages as people moved to different regions—she focused most specifically on 60 of them. She found that many of those languages were also impacted by multiple waves of Siberians arriving in North America. She concludes that some of the characteristics of the original languages have been retained through the years and are now in the current linguistic population.”

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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: “This Bodhi tree lives at the Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona Del Mar/Newport Beach, California).”

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