2:00PM Water Cooler 3/7/2024 | naked capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, Biden’s SOTU is at 9:00pm. A live blog post goes up at 8:30pm, at which point this link will work.

Bird Song of the Day

River Warbler, Boetelerveld, Overijssel, Netherlands. Like chamber music.

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Some readers asked for something table of contents-like, so here are a few highlights amidst the density:

Bright Shiny Objects

(1) A hard-core originalist looks at Anderson.

(2) Super Tuesday wrap-up from Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

(3) Much well-meant advice for Biden.

(4) A fine rant on “our democracy” considered institutionally.

(5) LSD gets “breakthrough status” at FDA.


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

The Constitutional Order (Insurrection)

“The Originalist Disaster in Trump v. Anderson” [The Originalism Blog]. “The Supreme Court opinion says that nothing in the Constitution delegates to the states the power to disqualify federal candidates. But this is obviously mistaken under the original meaning. The Constitution says that ‘each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.’ This provision allocates to the states the power how to run their presidential elections. State legislatures could decide not to hold elections at all but could assign their electoral votes to the candidate of their choosing. States have broad authority to structure their presidential elections. While this authority might be subject to other constitutional limitations, the Court does not point to any such limitation here…. It is true that presidential elections have come to be viewed as national elections. This view has led many people to view the electoral college as inconsistent with such national elections and to argue for a national popular vote method instead. But that is not the system that the Constitution establishes. Instead, the Constitution grants significant authority to states over presidential elections. That is the original meaning.”

Biden Administration


Less than a year to go!

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Super Tuesday: “What Stood Out from Super Tuesday” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. ” If Trump’s weaker areas were bluer, higher-education bastions, indicating his ongoing problems within his own party with more moderate white collar voters, Biden’s weaker places were a mix of different kinds of places. While Biden won 85% in Texas, for instance, his shares were much weaker in South Texas, a traditionally Democratic area that swung hard to Trump in 2020. In North Carolina, “no preference” got 37%, its highest county-level share, in Robeson County, an Obama-to-Trump area that we have previously profiled in the Crystal Ball. These are places where the national Democratic brand has weakened among more conservative Democratic voters, some of whom (like in North Carolina, a party registration state) are registered Democrats who vote Republican in general elections (Biden still got 87% statewide). Biden also saw some protest votes presumably on his left, like in Minnesota, where Biden only got about 70% statewide, and “uncommitted” got about a quarter of the vote in Ramsey and Hennepin, the core, dark blue Twin Cities counties. All that said, and as we wrote last week, there probably is a bit too much straining going on to use primary results as predictors of the fall. While one can find weak points for both Biden and Trump, these were generally dominant performances befitting of an actual incumbent lacking a major challenger and a quasi-incumbent whose lone remaining rival, Haley, just has not shown much appeal to the core of the GOP.” • Knowledgeable, perceptive, granular, as befits Sabato. So sad that Amy Walter paywalled everything at Cook Political Report, the other font of non-hysterical wisdom….

Super Tuesday: “Biden and Trump? What a waste of the Super Tuesday primaries” [Los Angeles Times]. “Super Tuesday became a thing in 1988 in part because Walter Mondale had gotten trounced by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Democrats in the South wanted a stronger say in the primary, to balance out the influence of the earliest standalone contests with a cluster of votes on the same day. Democratic Party leaders were not immediately swayed; they put up Massachusetts’ own Michael Dukakis in 1988, who proceeded to get thumped by George H.W. Bush. What the back-to-back shellacking represented was growing pains. Finally, in 1992, Super Tuesday delivered on its promise, when Bill Clinton emerged victorious — after getting off to a rough start in Iowa and New Hampshire — by learning how to craft a message of coalition building. That’s how he won support of Black voters and the LGBTQ+ community. That’s how he won over the white working class as well. The same for Barack Obama, whose primary with Hillary Clinton produced vigorous debates about foreign and domestic policy leading into their Super Tuesday matchup. Voters in Democratic primaries had a real say that year about what they wanted the nation to look like. Tight control by timid parties saps all the democracy out of the democratic process.”

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Trump (R): “Trump calls for debate with Biden” [Anadolu Agency]. “Former US President Donald Trump challenged President Joe Biden to a debate, saying Wednesday that he is ready to face off against him ‘anytime.’” And even better: “Trump said he would be doing a live, ‘Play by Play, of Crooked Joe Biden’s State of the Union.’” • That’s original!

Trump (R): “Trump is rolling. But here are the 4 potholes still ahead” [Politico]. “Here are four major landmines that await him.. [(1)] Trump’s conglomerate of political groups collectively spent more than they raised in 2023, blowing through tens of millions of dollars on legal bills rather than accumulating cash in an off year. The former president still had $30 million in his campaign account as of Jan. 31, according to his most recent report with the Federal Election Commission. But that is far less than the $92.6 million he had at this time in 2020 and puts him at a considerable disadvantage compared to Biden, who had $56 million in his campaign account.” So lawfare works. More: “[(2)] Trump’s calendar in his criminal cases is in disarray, creating logistical challenges for his campaign…. Depending on how other cases shape up, Trump could end up spending considerable more time in courtrooms following the GOP convention in July. But if other cases continue to be delayed — something he’s benefited from as of late — Trump may not spend a single day torn between the campaign and his trials. It will be weeks or months before there is any clarity.” I would imagine better “in disarray” than all being tried at the same time? And: “[(3)] Trump will continue to face pressure to outline his position on abortion, which has become kryptonite for Republicans in recent elections. The former president has so far avoided articulating in public whether or not he supports a national abortion ban, something that Democrats have vowed to campaign against in the upcoming election.” Finally: “[(4)] After a bruising primary, Trump could face challenges in wooing the suburbanite voters who backed Haley.” • College-educated suburbanites, too….

Trump (R): “Trump Never Lost Control of GOP. He Only Tightened His Grasp” [Philip Wegmann, RealClearPolitics]. “The vanguard of Trump 2.0, Greene came into Congress pledging fealty to the former president. ‘They tried to call me fringe,’ recalled the Georgia Republican who began her time in office right after his exit and then achieved her own celebrity in the wake of Jan. 6 as ‘the RINOs reared their ugly head and tried to regain control.’ But the insurgency was short lived, and soon during his exile, colleagues started asking her for selfies. And then advice. ‘Now they come up and ask,’ she reported, ”how do I get ahold of Trump? Do you know who I should contact on his team? I’d really like to go down to Mar-a-Lago to endorse him.” Greene, perhaps the most loyal MAGA lieutenant in Congress, finds the ordeal understandable but ‘pathetic.’ As Trump continued his march through the early states, more and more members of the House GOP caucus ‘are bending the knee trying to make amends.’” • “Reported”?

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Biden (D): “Biden Can Still Win — If He Runs Like Harry Truman” [Politico]. “Several months earlier, Clark Clifford, a West Wing aide, and Jim Rowe, who formerly worked in FDR’s White House, drafted a 47-page memo that provided the framework for Truman’s comeback campaign. They recognized that the Democratic coalition was a messy collection of ethnic and interest groups, including Jews and Catholics, Southern white supremacists and African Americans, white ethnic union members and farmers. They observed that with the decline of urban and statewide machines, it would be increasingly difficult to glue the constituent parts together — but it could be done. Truman would have to offer something for everyone: Civil rights for Black Americans, recognition of Israel for Jews, strong union protections for urban workers and federal grain storage programs for farmers — an issue that seems niche to the modern eye but was of primary importance to the farm belt in 1948. They also encouraged Truman to play mean — against the Republicans, to be sure, but also against former Vice President Henry Wallace, who was running to his left on the Progressive party ticket. Their memo offers a surpassingly relevant playbook for Biden today.” • Biden’s not going on any whistlestop tour, though, nor delivering hundreds of speeches….

Biden (D): “Bernie Sanders’s private warning to Biden about the 2024 campaign” [WaPo]. “In the roughly hour-long meeting, Sanders urged Biden to affirm the public’s frustration over the economy and focus on identifying the political opposition to enacting the president’s agenda — such as big businesses and pharmaceutical firms — rather than convince the public they should be pleased with current circumstances. Sanders also quoted to Biden a line from a 1937 address by Roosevelt, still two years from the end of the Great Depression: ‘I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.’ Sanders has personally reiterated the message multiple times since then, including in another meeting at the White House with top officials last week, the people said.”

Biden (D): “Biden’s 2024 advantage: An alliance of elites rigging the game” [New York Post]. “Unlike Carter, who really was the Democratic front man, Biden is a sock puppet for an institutional conglomerate that exercises enormous influence over our national politics, our government, and our culture. The elites who inhabit these institutions like to speak of the arrangement as ‘Our Democracy,’ which roughly translates into ‘given our obvious moral and intellectual superiority, we must be allowed to govern in perpetuity.’” Readers will recall that I’ve been muttering about “our democracy” for some time. This is the first full-throttled assault on the term that I can recall. More: “They have the tools to make it happen, too — wearing the appropriate masks and disguises, they often impersonate the popular will…. The options available to Our Democracy are, in reality, far more tentacular and oppressive than crude ballot-stuffing. It can, for example, take a lie and make it echo and thunder for years, like the half-million news articles published about Trump’s supposed criminal collusion with Russia. Or it can take the truth and bury it so deep that it has suffocated to death by the time some determined soul unearths it — think Hunter Biden. How is this done?” Good question! The Answer: “Well, here is a partial roster of the institutions Our Democracy controls at the moment: the White House, half of Congress, the federal bureaucracy, the scientific establishment and expert class in general, the old prestige media, the new digital media (minus Twitter/X), the universities, the arts and entertainment world, and famous corporations from Coca-Cola to Nike.” • The New York Post, of all people, left out the spooks?! (Granted, “partial roster,” but come on.

Biden (D): “It’s Not Just That Biden Is Old” [The Atlantic]. The deck: “It’s that he’s being reckless.” And: “Even many of Biden’s biggest defenders say privately that they didn’t expect him to run again. Biden himself suggested as much. ‘Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,’ Biden said at a March 2020 campaign rally in Detroit. He called himself a ‘transition candidate.’ Sarah Longwell, the Bulwark publisher who has conducted focus groups across the political spectrum, told me last September: ‘It seems pretty implicit in the way voters talk that they didn’t expect him to be a two-term president.’ I’m struck when I speak with exasperated Biden voters by how often they bring up the ‘bridge’ quote and the ‘transition candidate’ line. This suggests that they viewed their past support for Biden as an emergency proposition—and that his ongoing presence violates an implied bargain. Sure, politicians are always trying to keep their options open. But you can understand how voters might feel bait-and-switched by Biden’s refusal to go away. It’s easy to sympathize with an old-timer reluctant to give up something he loves. In Biden’s case, though, the stakes are potentially catastrophic.” • I guess I was never a “Biden voter.” It never occurred to me that he’d foreclose a run at a second term.

Biden (D): “Emails show ‘access’ to Biden family reason for Chinese business partnership with Hunter Biden” [Just the News]. “In late February, impeachment witness Jason Galanis—one of Hunter Biden’s partners in the Burnham venture—told Congress the firm served as place to integrate the ‘Biden Family Office’ with a ‘large-scale financial company.’ Galanis gave his testimony to Congress from inside federal prison where he is serving a sentence for a conviction related to a fraudulent tribal bonds scheme he carried out alongside Hunter Biden partner Devon Archer. ‘The entire value-add of Hunter Biden to our business was his family name and his access to his father, Vice President Joe Biden,’ he said in his opening statement to congressional investigators, Just the News previously reported. Emails recently obtained by Just the News show Henry Zhao—owner of Harvest Fund Management, which would partner with Burnham and Hunter Biden—was interested in the partnership because of the ‘access’ the firm could provide him, rather than primary financial concerns…. ‘[During] yesterday’s meeting Hunter underlined the value of being cautiously conservative in valuation as Henry believes in this first and foremost as an access vehicle with potential for future growth,’ one employee said.” • As we know, Democrats are big on “access”; it’s not surprising that they would view “access to Biden” as something to sell. (Also, “Biden Family Office,” is mere self-aggrandizement; billionaires have family offices (see NC here), and the Bidens are hardly billionaires. But even if having a family office is a stretch goal, it still shows the Biden clan’s ambition to slither up the greasy pole!

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Palmer (D): “Who is Jason Palmer? A previously unknown Democrat beats Biden in American Samoa’s Democratic caucus” [Associated Press]. “Out of 91 ballots cast in the territory’s caucus, Palmer won 51 and Biden won 40, according to the local party. ‘I found out that I had won because my phone started blowing up with friends and campaign staffers texting me,’ Palmer said in an interview late Tuesday. Palmer, 52, said he never visited the territory before the caucus. ‘I have been campaigning remotely, doing Zoom town halls, talking to people, listening to them about their concerns and what matters to them,’ he said.” And: “On the day before the caucus, Palmer posted on X that ;Washington D.C. is long overdue for a president who will be an advocate for American Samoa.’ His account includes pictures of young people holding homemade campaign signs.” • But what did Palmer actually say? There’s no reporting here. The Guardian is better–

Palmer (D): “Zoom meetings and beach clean-ups: how unknown Jason Palmer upset Biden in the American Samoa primary” [Guardian]. “On Wednesday, the chairman of the American Samoa Democratic Party, Ti’a Reid, congratulated the Palmer campaign on its victory and explained that a focus on local issues secured the outsiders victory…. “The Palmer campaign invested in local organisers and digital ad buys, which I believe assisted in their registration and turnout results,’ Reid says. Palmer’s ads were blazoned across local social media and homemade banners could be seen hanging from cars and in front of family homes…. Palmer was likely the only Democratic candidate to campaign in the territory…. Palmer’s campaign manager, Mario Arias, told The Washington Post that they had employed one staffer [(!!)] on the ground who helped organise local events like a beach clean-up day. ‘From what I’m gathering from the community there, ,’ Arias said… ‘When presidential campaigns invest in our territory locally, that is not only an advantage for their respective campaigns but it also promotes community awareness of our Caucus and event,” Reid says. Super Tuesday is not a popular event in the territory, and Reid says the highlight for him was ‘the level of youth engagement and awareness. A majority of our caucus attendees that stayed throughout the day were students from high schools. If each of them left with a better understanding of what happens in caucuses and primaries in the lead-up to our general elections in November, that is a success for me.’” • Fascinating. Encouraging, although not on a very large scale! And who among us doesn’t want to be heard?

Palmer (D): “Joe Biden Lost The Weirdest Democratic Primary Of 2024” [HuffPo]. “Palmer, a venture capitalist who has previously worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and for the test prep company Kaplan, has generated far less attention than other Democratic challengers…. Palmer follows former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an unexpected winner of the caucuses. Bloomberg won them in 2020, the only contest he won despite spending more than $1 billion over the course of his four-month campaign.” • Then we are also seeing extremely sloppy staffwork by the Biden campaign; they had a precedent to look at.

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Whitmer (D): “The FBI’s Double Agent” [The Intercept]. “A month before the 2020 presidential election, the Justice Department announced that the FBI had foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose pandemic lockdown measures drew harsh criticism from President Donald Trump and his supporters. The alleged plot coincided with growing concern about far-right political violence in America. But the FBI quickly realized it had a problem: A key informant in the case, a career snitch with a long rap sheet, had helped to orchestrate the kidnapping plot. During the undercover sting, the FBI ignored crimes that the informant, Stephen Robeson, appeared to have committed, including fraud and illegal possession of a sniper rifle. The Whitmer kidnapping case followed a pattern familiar from hundreds of previous FBI counterterrorism stings that have targeted Muslims in the post-9/11 era. Those cases too raised questions about whether the crimes could have happened at all without the prodding of undercover agents and informants.” • I’ve gotta ask, Why Whitmer? Clearly, the entire episode would have the effect of boosting her stature, should she run for even higher office. I mean, do random FBI offices really arrange to kidnap Governors without checking in with the higher-ups? And what did the higher-ups hope to gain? Whitmer as an asset? But how would that work? The whole episode could dovetail very neatly with Democrat J6 hysteria, making this factoid even more odd: “Steven D’Antuono, the head of the FBI field office in Detroit during the time of the so-called Whitmer kidnapping plot, was promoted in October 2020 to lead the DC field office, a coveted post in the bureau, just before the Jan. 6 riot took place [a]ccording to Deadline Detroit….”

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“The six swing states that will decide the US presidential race” [Financial Times]. Interesting wrap-up with 2016 and 2020 results, subheads showing (claiming) key issues in each state: Arizona (11): immigration; Georgia (16): election interference; Michigan (15): Israel and green energy; Nevada (6): unemployment and the economy; Pennsylvania (19): rust-belt rejuvenation; Wisconsin (10): abortion. On Pennsylvania, because its the tighest race: “Biden makes much of his working-class roots in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But he will have to strike a careful balance as he tries to hold on to the state in November. He will need to court both climate-conscious voters and progressives in cities such as Philadelphia, as well as workers in western Pennsylvania’s rust belt and the state’s vast shale gas fracking industry. Unions and even some members of Biden’s Democratic party have been critical of the White House move this year to halt new exports of liquefied natural gas, saying it could hurt local industry. Trump has touted American oil and gas while criticising Biden’s green policies — part of his pitch to states such as Pennsylvania. The fate of the state’s electoral college votes could be decided by which comes out on top: Pennsylvania’s more urban voters in the east, or its blue-collar rural voters in the west.” • The FT left out Pittburgh….

“Big Mysteries Surround the Predictable Presidential Rematch” [RealClearPolitics]. About the psychodrama; fun and worth reading in full. On Biden: “What they didn’t count on was Biden’s heroic self-image. His multiple plagiarism scandals reveal his rare ability to convince himself that other people’s ideas are really his own. Despite all evidence, he believes he is the smartest guy in the room. His insistence on repeating false stories – on everything from the deaths of his first wife and his son Beau, to his trips on Amtrak and his handling of classified documents – suggests he lives in a fantasy world where his tall tales are true. Democratic leaders are going to have a hard time convincing the president, who apparently believes he is leading the race, to stand down. The people love me, man.”

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Republican Funhouse

“Fact Focus: Claims Biden administration is secretly flying migrants into the country are unfounded” [Associated Press]. “Under a Biden policy in effect since January 2023, up to 30,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela can enter the country monthly if they apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive at a specified airport, paying their own way. Biden exercised his ‘parole’ authority, which, under a 1952 law, allows him to admit people ‘only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or .” Whatever that means. And: ‘Each month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection discloses how many people from these four countries were allowed to enter the country. On Jan. 26, the agency reported 327,000 were vetted and authorized for travel. There were more than 67,000 Cubans, 126,000 Haitians, 53,000 Nicaraguans and 81,000 Venezuelans.” But: “[P]eople admitted into the country under parole have no path to citizenship. They can obtain work permits for a limited time but voters must be U.S. citizens.” • Speculating freely: “Financial sponsor” and “paying their own way” screams gusano to me. Just what the country needs: More Juan Greedos.

Democrats en Déshabillé

“Democrats’ latest problem: 1 in 5 Latino voters are considering switching parties” [Vox]. “Some 19.4 percent, or about one in five Latino voters, say they have considered changing their political affiliation either by switching parties or becoming independents, according to a national survey released by Florida International University (FIU) and the marketing firm Adsmovil. A majority of those wavering voters (61.1 percent) say they’d be open to leaving the Democratic Party and a plurality of those Democratic waverers (38.1 percent) would become Republicans. Though that’s a small share of all Latino voters, that’s still a significant number for a demographic group whose loyalty to Democrats has been eroding since Donald Trump’s presidency. ‘We used to say in political science that party [identification] was one of the most stable things that we could use to study,’ Eduardo Gamarra, the co-director of FIU’s Latino Public Opinion Forum and the author of this study, told me. ‘It was generational. You could go back three or four generations of voters and [party ID] would remain stable. Now, all of that is changing, and especially so among Hispanics.’” • Hmm.

2020 Post Mortem

“ABC reprimands producer for giving data to Trump campaign” [Politico]. “ABC News said it has reprimanded its top producer for investigative reporting for giving Donald Trump’s presidential campaign proprietary exit polling data on election night 2016…. In their new book ‘Let Trump Be Trump,’ campaign insiders Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie wrote that Chris Vlasto — then-executive producer of ‘Good Morning America’ and now senior executive producer for investigative reporting — called Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, at 5:01 p.m. on election night with information being shared within a consortium of The Associated Press and the major TV networks. ‘Vlasto had the early exit numbers that the consortium of news networks — the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News — had collected,’ Lewandowski and Bossie wrote. ‘The consortium followed eleven battleground states, including Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Trump was down in eight of the eleven states by five to eight points. The news was devastating. A kill shot.’ … Bossie had known Vlasto for decades, going back to when Bossie was a Republican House investigator in the 1990s and Vlasto was covering the Clinton Whitewater investigations, according to the book. before pulling himself out of consideration.” • Break out the yarn?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Goodbye America! A quarter of US adults want their state to secede – Texans, Californians, and New Yorkers are closest to the exit, but can YOU guess which state wants out the most?” [Daily Mail]. YouGov poll. Handy map:

It’s bipartisan!

I wonder what Stoller’s reading list looks like these days….


“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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Covid is Airborne

“Impacts of lid closure during toilet flushing and of toilet bowl cleaning on viral contamination of surfaces in United States restrooms” [American Journal of Infection Control]. “These results demonstrate that closing the toilet lid prior to flushing does not mitigate the risk of contaminating bathroom surfaces and that disinfection of all restroom surfaces (ie, toilet rim, floors) may be necessary after flushing or after toilet brush used for the reduction of virus cross-contamination.”


Meeting people where they are”:

N95s are good for PM2.5 and wildfire smoke, too….

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Just in case you’re inclined to believe a word of what Biden says in the SOTU:


“Long-term findings on working memory neural dynamics in healthcare workers after mild COVID-19” [Clinical Neurophysiology]. N = 77. From the Abstract: “COVID-19 participants exhibited a distinct neural pattern with lower parieto-occipital N1 amplitudes and higher frontal P2 amplitudes as compared to non-infected healthcare workers. We found no behavioural differences (reaction times and error rates) in working memory functioning between groups…. The current findings point out that ERPs could serve as valuable neural indices for detecting distinctive patterns in working memory functioning of COVID-19 participants, even in mild cases. However, further research is required to precisely ascertain the long-term cognitive effects of COVID-19 beyond one-year post-infection.” • So, a pattern but no behavioural difference. I suppose that’s encouraging…

Elite Maleficence

If I were working out how best of perform a serial passage experiment on the entire American population, I’d want some “sweet treats” too!

Mandy is so, so much worse than Rochelle….

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More lethal advice from CDC. Handwashing does not prevent airborne transmission:

More lethal advice from CDC. Covid is far more deadly than the flu:

Something about that style of artwork — the friendly, soft-edged, above all harmless look — raises my hackles. Just like smiling, maskless nurses or doctors, there’s nothing harmless about it at all; instead, it’s manipulative and controlling, and to no good end.

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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) Biobot drops, conformant to Walgreen positivity data (if that is indeed not a data artifact). Note, however, 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) Regional separation re-emerges.

[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) Does not support Biobot data. “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.”

[5] (Hospitalization: NY) Not flattening. (I’m assuming that the 2/28 date for the data is a glitch.)

[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) That’s a big drop! It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow. UPDATE Given the extraordinary and sudden drop-off, I thought I’d check to see if the population being tested changed in some way. Here are the absolute numbers on February 14, at the edge of the cliff:

And here are the absolute numbers on March 3:

As you can see, there’s an order of magnitude decrease in those testing between those two dates. Was there an event on or about February 14 that is a candidate suggesting an account of this massive shift in behavior? Why yes, yes there is:

“CDC plans to drop five-day covid isolation guidelines” [WaPo] (February 13, 2024).

[8] (Cleveland) Flattening, consistent with Biobot data.

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

[10] (Travelers: Variants) Backward revisions remove NV.1 data. JN.1 dominates utterly.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the US was 217K in the week ended March 2, 2024, unchanged from the previous week’s revised level and above market expectations of 215K.”

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Tech: “Want to Steal a Tesla? Try Using a Flipper Zero” [Gizmodo]. “Security researchers report they uncovered a design flaw that let them hijack a Tesla using a Flipper Zero, a controversial $169 hacking tool. Partners Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry of Mysk Inc. said the attack is as simple as swiping a Tesla owner’s login information, opening the Tesla app, and driving away. The victim would have no idea they lost their $40,000 vehicle. Mysk said the exploit takes minutes, and to prove it all works, he stole his own car. The issue isn’t ‘hacking’ in the sense of breaking into software, it’s a social engineering attack that fools a user into handing over their information. Using a Flipper, the researchers set up a WiFi network called ‘Tesla Guest,’ the name Tesla uses for its guest networks at service centers. Mysk then created a website that looks like Tesla’s login page. The process is simple. In this scenario, hackers could broadcast the network near a charging station, where a bored driver might be looking for entertainment. The victim connects to the WiFi network and enters their username and password on the fake Tesla website. The hacker then uses the credentials to log in to the real Tesla app, which triggers a two-factor authentication code. The victim enters that code into the fake website, and the thief gains access to their account. Once you’re logged into the Tesla app, you can set up a ‘phone key’ which lets you unlock and control the car over Bluetooth with a smartphone. From there, the car is yours.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 75 Extreme Greed (previous close: 73 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 76 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 7 at 1:27:46 PM ET.

Photo Book

“Jennifer Croft on photography as an unexpected writing tool” (email) [Literary Hub]. “Depth of field is also called ‘the zone of sharpness.’ Deciding on your depth of field means deciding how much environmental context you want to give your reader in your story. You can reduce distraction by blurring or omitting the things that aren’t directly related to your subject. Or you can do the reverse: You can celebrate your subject’s whole vast network by depicting as many connections as you can fit into your frame, creating not so much a portrait as a landscape.” • Ulysses, for example, would be ƒ/64. Can’t think of a story with, say, ƒ/2.8. Readers?


“Fasting-mimicking diet causes hepatic and blood markers changes indicating reduced biological age and disease risk” [Nature]. “Based on a validated measure of biological age predictive of morbidity and mortality, 3 FMD cycles were associated with a decrease of 2.5 years in median biological age, independent of weight loss. Nearly identical findings resulted from a second clinical study (NCT04150159). Together these results provide initial support for beneficial effects of the FMD on multiple cardiometabolic risk factors and biomarkers of biological age.” FMD: “The periodic use of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD; a plant-based, low-calorie and low-protein 5-day lasting dietary intervention) followed by a normal diet has positive effects on both cellular function and healthspan.” • Not usually a fan of diets, but since it’s in Nature….

News of the Wired

“Single dose of LSD provides immediate and lasting relief from anxiety, study says” [CNN]. “A clinical trial’s encouraging results won US Food and Drug Administration breakthrough therapy status for an LSD formulation to treat generalized anxiety disorder, Mind Medicine Inc. announced Thursday. The biopharmaceutical company is developing the drug…. The designation, however, ‘is an offer from the agency to engage more closely in drug development,’ Karlin said. ‘It affects timelines of response and our ability to get more interactions with the agency so that we can be sure that we’re in lockstep agreement as we move forward.’ Two other companies have also received FDA breakthrough therapy status: psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and to MDMA, (3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine) commonly known as ecstasy or molly, for post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.” • My, er, understanding is that set and setting are critical to having a good trip. So I’m wondering how the trial handled that.

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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 Xihuitl:

Xihuitl writes: “Leaves on a Seattle sidewalk after a storm.”

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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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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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