By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

House Wren (Northern). Frog Hollow, Walla Walla, Washington, United States. “This bird was singing every morning before dawn, outside my home.”

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In Case You Might Miss…

(1) Swing states update.

(2) employment situation.

(3) Crocheting and knitting, with musical accompaniments.


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

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Less than a year to go!

RCP Poll Averages, April 5

Here is Friday’s RCP poll. Trump is still up in all the Swing States (more here), but still 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 statistical signficance to any of it, and state polls are bad anyhow!

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Trump (R): “When Trump needs cash, a California bank and one of its top shareholders have come to the rescue” [Associated Press]. Don Hankey and Axos bank once more. “Over the past two years, Axos Bank, as well as its largest individual shareholder, California billionaire Don Hankey, have collectively extended more than $500 million in financing that has benefited Trump, records show. The cash influx has helped Trump to pay off debts and pocket a tidy profit while escaping from a lease on his money-losing former hotel in Washington. It also covered a $175 million down payment he made this week on an eye-popping civil fraud penalty. Axos Bank officials as well as Hankey have said that the deals offer them a financial upside. But as Trump again pursues the White House, ethics and legal experts question what the lenders may ask in return if there’s a future Trump presidency, considering even small regulatory changes can translate into millions of dollars in earnings.” • As usual Trump deals direct, instead of working through straws….

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Trump (R): “‘The nuclear button’: Special counsel could seek removal of judge in Trump classified docs case, attorneys warn” [NBC]. “Special counsel Jack Smith could soon seek to have the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case recused, prosecutors and defense attorneys warn, describing Smith as being pressed to the ‘breaking point’ over arguments his office said could taint a trial irrevocably. Smith faulted Judge Aileen Cannon in a scathing rebuke for seeming to take at face value Trump’s ‘fundamentally flawed’ claim around a president’s official and personal records when she asked both sides to put forth competing versions of instructions for jurors in the case and said her request would ‘distort’ the trial. Smith indicated in that filing that if Cannon ruled against federal prosecutors, this could be a trigger for an appeal to the 11th Circuit that could remove her from the case. ‘He is close to pushing the nuclear button,’ said Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg. ‘It is a high burden to reach, and it is rarely done, but her proposed jury instructions may have pushed him to the breaking point.’” • Another way of saying “breaking point” is “over-reach,” as Smith did when trying McAuliffe. (And since when does a prosector determine what does and does not “distort” a trial?)

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Trump (R): “1 in 5 GOP primary voters keep bucking Trump. What does it mean?” [WaPo]. “Nearly 1 in 5 GOP primary voters across four contests Tuesday voted for an option other than the presumptive nominee. That’s about the same proportion that voted against him on the last big primary day, March 19…. If you exclude low-turnout caucuses and deep-red Southern states, Trump is ceding an average of 20 percent since Super Tuesday.” • Handy map (the states are laid out as they would be on a map of the United States, though it takes a minute to see that):

I have highlighted the swing states in yellow. I don’t think people who don’t vote for the Republican on primary day necessarily vote Republican on election day, but if I were the Trump campaign, I’d be concerned about MI (32% (!!)), and NC (26%). PA and NV are yet to come.

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Biden (D): “The Economy Is OK. Biden’s Economy, Not So Much” [The American Prospect]. “By a 20-point margin (54 percent to 34 percent), the [Wall Street Journal] swing-staters [polled] preferred Trump to Biden on the question of handling the economy. Where this really becomes interesting, though, is in their responses to their own states’ economies. Asked to assess the condition of the economy in their own state and then in the nation as a whole, respondents in each of the seven states replied that their own state’s economy was in far better shape than the nation’s. Those who rated their own state’s economy as “not so good” or “poor” did so at rates that ranged from 11 points to 33 points lower than their assessments of the nation’s overall economy. At one level, this shouldn’t come as a surprise: It somewhat echoes other recent polls in which Americans have rated their own families’ economic condition to be notably better than the nation’s. Neither the swing states’ actual economic conditions nor the partisan makeup of state government seems to have had much effect on the respondents’ answers. … But when all that discounting is done, it’s still apparent that the association of Biden with economic conditions brings down the assessment of those conditions. Biden may yet be able to mitigate this by stressing his support for popular progressive economic policies, and the continuation of the recovery (in which his actual record is nothing short of stellar) may help some, too. But looking at this polling suggests that if he’s to defeat Trump, abortion and Trump himself are the themes he most needs to sound.”

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PA: “Democrats should be jittery about Pennsylvania voter registration trends” [Washington Examiner]. “Blue-collar voters became willing to leave the party altogether, especially after Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA) made it efficient when he implemented a new measure that allowed residents getting driver’s licenses and ID cards to be opted into their voter registration. Despite Republican lawmakers bellyaching about Shapiro’s move, in the first month alone, 3,194 Democrats, 4,052 independents, and a whopping 7,657 Republicans have registered. If you are doing the math, as many Republicans registered in the state as Democrats and independents together, and even independent registration outpaced the Democrats by nearly 900. In July of last year, Democrats held a 480,000 voter registration advantage over Republicans, but by Oct. 10, that margin had fallen to 446,467. And the trend has continued in the six months since then.”

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“No Labels officially drops out of the 2024 race. The truth is they were never in it.” [USA Today]. “No Labels dropped plans Thursday for a so-called unity ticket, which was expected to be a moderate Republican running for president with an equally moderate Democrat as vice president.” That’s a damn shame. More: “The animosity for No Labels was often rooted in the group’s secrecy, operating as a nonprofit with millions of dollars from donors it refused to identify.” • Maybe the names of the donors are in the pocket of Joe Lieberman’s funeral suit, in his coffin. Still, they kept the grift going for fourteen years, and that’s something. Anyhow, they are said to have ballot access in 21 states, and now all that’s all wasted. Sad.

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“Inside a G.O.P. Plan to Encourage Early Voting Despite Trump’s Attacks” [New York Times]. “Inside a sprawling compound in Phoenix, leaders of the influential conservative group Turning Point Action were hatching plans to fix what they see as a mortal threat to the Republican Party: its voters’ avoidance of early voting, especially by mail, since the 2020 election.” • IMNSHO, “early voting” is wrong for three reasons: (1) It reinforces party loyalty, the last thing we need; (2) it makes it impossible for voters to change their minds having voted early, in response to a gaffe, a policy change, or “events, dear boy, events”; (3) in principle, the entire electorate should vote based on the same set of information, and that’s only possible when the vote takes place at one time.

Our Famously Free Press

“The Washington press corps doesn’t have a freaking clue” [Dan Froomkin, Press Watch]. “Being the lead writer for the New York Time’s signature On Politics newsletter is one of the most influential jobs in the industry these days, and the email that popped up in my inbox announcing the latest hire for that job – a Boston Globe reporter named Jess Bidgood who had previously worked for the Times — made it painfully clear that she is absolutely clueless about the topic she is now covering, and intentionally so. Offered an opportunity to explain what she found particularly compelling about the coming election, Bidgood didn’t talk about how the Republican Party has succumbed to the extreme Christian far-right. She didn’t talk about how Trump was a hateful, dangerous demagogue. She didn’t even mention the fate of democracy or the rule of law. Let me be very clear here: Whether or not the country succumbs to fascism is a helluva political story no matter how you feel about it. A Trump victory would profoundly change how government and justice are practiced. If you don’t understand that, you are a wildly incompetent political reporter.” • Froomkin was one of the original bloggers at WaPo, back in the day, and they dinged him for it, so I’m reluctant to just utterly trash the guy. But I don’t see how anyone can look at the Censorship Industrial Complex and not see elements of fascism. Fascism is not noted for ideological consistency; rather, it is an enormous smorgasbord of badness, from which both parties can pick and choose (I don’t much like threatening election workers, for example). It’s also perfectly reasonable to see the post-Reconstruction South as fascist — the Nazis came to study Jim Crow, after all — or, for that matter, some of the nastier elements of the Wilson Administration (like, say, the Espionage Act). This vision is, in fact, bleaker than the view that electing one party solves the problem.


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe out there!

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“Bird flu dairy cow outbreak widens in Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico” [Reuters]. ” Bird flu has infected a dairy herd in Ohio for the first time and was detected in additional herds in Kansas and New Mexico, according to the U.S. government, expanding an outbreak in cows that has raised concerns about possible risks to humans…. The spread to an increasing number of species and its widening geographic reach have raised the risks of humans being infected, the head of the World Organization for Animal Health said on Thursday. Texas officials reported on Monday that a farm worker tested positive, and the only symptom was eye inflammation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk of bird flu for humans to be low.” • I don’t enjoy this, and I hope it sputters out. That said, we’re dealing with the CDC here, which emerged from Covid the same, or worse, as it went in to Covid. No presumption of competence or honesty is reasonble.

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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) Backward revisions, I hate them.

[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.

[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

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the United States dipped to 3.8% in March 2024 from the previous month’s two-year high of 3.9% and surprising market expectations, which had forecasted the rate to remain unchanged. The number of unemployed individuals decreased by 29,000 to 6.4 million, while employment levels saw a significant surge, rising by 498,000 to reach 161.5 million. Additionally, the labor force participation rate increased to 62.7% from a near one-year low of 62.5% in the preceding periods, and the employment-population ratio climbed to 60.3% from 60.1%. Despite recent policy tightening measures by the Federal Reserve, the unemployment rate has remained within a narrow range of 3.7% to 3.9% since August 2023, suggesting the labor market remains strong.”

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Finance: “A Lego Model of Financial Capitalism” [ASOMOCO]. “This type of exchange, in which we exchange money for promises-for-future-money, is called financial exchange, and the financial markets are where it happens.” Final paragraph: “Mix it all up! Perhaps that investment bank can take the other side of that credit default swap, and place it – alongside other CDS contracts – into a new offshore vehicle. Now they can sell the tranches of that new SYNTHETIC CDO! This is highly recommended if you wish to trigger a global financial crisis.” • I reall wanted more Lego, and the post is really above my paygrade. But the last paragraph gives me some confidence. Readers?

Tech: “Inside Big Tech’s underground race to buy AI training data” [Reuters]. “Tech giants like Google (GOOGL.O), opens new tab, Meta (META.O), opens new tab and Microsoft-backed (MSFT.O), opens new tab OpenAI initially used reams of data scraped from the internet for free [stolen] to train generative AI models like ChatGPT that can mimic human creativity. They have said that doing so is both legal and ethical, though they face lawsuits from a string of copyright holders over the practice…. Reuters spoke to more than 30 people with knowledge of AI data deals, including current and former executives at companies involved, lawyers and consultants, to provide the first in-depth exploration of this fledgling market – detailing the types of content being bought, the prices materializing, plus emerging concerns about the risk of personal data making its way into AI models without people’s knowledge or explicit consent.” • What risk? Why not just legalize it?

Tech: “Microsoft blamed for “a cascade of security failures” in Exchange breach report” [Ars Technica]. “A federal Cyber Safety Review Board has issued its report on what led to last summer’s capture of hundreds of thousands of emails by Chinese hackers from cloud customers, including federal agencies. It cites “a cascade of security failures at Microsoft” and finds that “Microsoft’s security culture was inadequate” and needs to adjust to a ‘new normal’ of cloud provider targeting…. ‘Throughout this review, the board identified a series of Microsoft operational and strategic decisions that collectively points to a corporate culture that deprioritized both enterprise security investments and rigorous risk management,’ the report reads.” • What is it with these Seattle firms…..

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 5 at 1:38:51 PM ET.

News of the Wired

A propos of H5N1:

“Making crochet cacti” [Julia Evans]. “I’ve been modifying all of the patterns I make in a somewhat chaotic way, often just because I made a mistake somewhere along the way and then decide to move forward and change the pattern to adjust for the mistake instead of undoing my work.” • Hmm. Is this a typical procedure?

“The Sound of Knitting” [Kottke.org]. “In addition to featuring knitting-friendly music, the video includes a tour of the Norwegian municipality of Selbu, famous for its gorgeous mittens, as well as a virtual class on how to knit those mittens. It all seems lovely, although I confess I was slightly disappointed that ‘the sound of knitting’ wasn’t an ASMR video of needles clicking, although I’m sure that’s out there, too. I mean, I know it is because I’ve seen it. Plus, as a recent NY Times story outlined, handwork is good for the brain.”

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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: “You may have noticed that the last few photos that I have sent were from my early January morning at the Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar (a division of Newport Beach), California. I’m always surprised at the large variety of flowers blooming in January. Yes, even though I’m a native of the state and should be used to it. I didn’t see any identification signs on most of the plants there, but I think this one is Cowslip.” Readers? (Wow, that blue!)

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals

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