2:00PM Water Cooler 2/17/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 2/17/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Biden Adminstration

“Biden to recast and road-test economic message before State of the Union” [NBC]. “The White House is crafting a plan to refocus President Joe Biden’s economic message so that in next month’s State of the Union address he emphasizes more of what officials view as his best political asset and weapon against Americans’ angst: empathy. The still-evolving plan, according to administration officials, is for Biden to stress that he understands the economic pain many Americans are experiencing, particularly because of inflation, in an attempt to balance out his recent efforts to get credit for policy prescriptions the White House believes have been successes. The shift reflects a recognition by Biden and his aides that Americans aren’t in the mood to reward him for his signature achievements, such as the bipartisan infrastructure law, if they aren’t convinced he understands their day-to-day struggles, officials said.” • Biden does empathu well, it’s true; more important, the press believes it. Biden still owes me six hundred bucks, though. The best way to show me empathy would be writing that check.

“Biden is winning the war against covid. Is anyone noticing?” [Jennifer Rubin, WaPo]. “The White House has good reason to be wary of premature declarations of victory. It’s still possible that another dangerous variant emerges in the future, and the administration must remain prepared to respond quickly. Nevertheless, Biden should be able to claim credit for a public health triumph. Victory is tempered by the stunning, heartbreaking loss of 900,000 lives to covid over the past two years. But when the pandemic recedes, deaths diminish, life returns to normal and prices recalibrate, there will be plenty to celebrate.” • I’ll write that in my diary tonight.

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

“Climate Catastrophism Is a Loser” [Ruy Teixeira, The Liberal Patriot]. “In the latest Gallup “most important problem” poll, climate change comes in at a whopping 2 percent (open-ended response). A new Pew survey asked the public about a lengthy series of policy priorities and whether they should be a “top priority” to address in the coming year. The result: climate change came in way behind strengthening the economy, reducing health care costs, dealing with the coronavirus, improving education, defending against terrorism, improving the political system, reducing crime and improving the job situation and also behind dealing with immigration, reducing the deficit, addressing the criminal justice system and dealing with the problems of poor people (whew). That’s 13 issues in front of climate change! The Pew report breaks down these ratings by education. Interestingly, among working class (noncollege) respondents climate change repeats its dismal 14th place finish in the policy priorities parade. But among the college-educated, climate change does much better, going up to 6th on the list. Hmm. Surveys have repeatedly showed that, while the public mostly acknowledges climate change is ongoing and they are at least somewhat concerned about it, the issue is not so salient that they are willing to sacrifice much to combat it.” • As with so much else, propaganda works.

“What AOC Learned From Trump” [Politico]. On AOC’s New Yorker profile: “What divides AOC and her allies from others in the party is above all a theory of power: How to gain it, how to use it, how to keep it. It is a difference grounded in a cultural mindset about how politics should look, sound and feel. It is a difference grounded much less in ideology than meets the eye…. The lesson many Democrats have learned from watching two previous Republican presidents — Donald Trump and George W. Bush, both of whom took office under disputed circumstances with a minority of the popular vote — is that political realities can be shaped by self-confident proclamation. Power can be seized by equally self-confident assertion. They did it on behalf of what the left saw as a benighted agenda that favored racists and the wealthy. No reason progressives can’t do it on behalf of an enlightened agenda — and awaken a robust majority that would be there if only people were presented sharp choices rather than blurry ones. Meanwhile, these same people see the last two Democratic presidents — Obama and Bill Clinton — squandering their opportunities and disappointing natural supporters through constant calibration and by pretending that it is still the 1970s, and that the political game as the establishment plays it is still somehow on the level. The Bush-Trump model is based on mobilization of natural allies. The Clinton-Obama model is based on a forlorn effort at persuasion of a dwindling group of people attracted by cautious, middle-of-the-road politics. That is why AOC in the New Yorker urged Biden to forget about congressional approval and simply cancel student loan debt by executive order…. As she evangelizes for one side of this argument, AOC is not just confronting moderate adversaries like fellow Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) She’s also confronting Obama. While she poormouths Biden’s win on public works infrastructure as small and disappointing, the former president lectured Democratic lawmakers the other day, according to Punchbowl News, to ‘take the wins you can get,’ and that ‘it doesn’t help to whine about the stuff you can’t change.’” • Shorter AOC: “Obama can’t get it up*” (heck, shorter Obama). Generally, I don’t think sexual metaphors are illuminating for the power relations in electoral politics. In this case, however, it might take something that crude to break through “the dazzle.” Can you imagine the exploding heads? NOTE * Or whatever the Millenial and pre-Millenial argot of AOC’s Tik-Tok watchers might be.

Republican Funhouse

“Is McConnell Finally Poised To Make His Move?” [Cook Political Report]. “Some see a fight bubbling up for the heart and soul of the Republican Party between former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But despite Trump calling McConnell names like ‘old crow,’ don’t believe that this feud is fundamentally personal. Rather, longtime McConnell watchers suggest the Kentuckian’s motivations are just what we learned in The Godfather: ‘It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.’ After all, McConnell is well aware that Trump’s antics after the election—even before Jan. 6—almost certainly handed Democrats the two seats they needed in the Georgia runoff elections to assume control of the chamber. This in a state where Democrats had not won a Senate seat in 20 years, since Zell Miller’s victory in 2000…. There is little if anything that is more important to McConnell than Republicans winning and holding the Senate, perhaps not even University of Louisville basketball. When it was in the Republican Senate majority’s best interests, if it helped get more conservatives on the federal bench, he backed Trump. If it’s not in their best interests, he won’t. It’s not driven by ego or pique. If the data showed that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey would have had the best chance of beating freshman Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, then Ducey is who McConnell would try to entice into the race, no matter that Ducey is one of Trump’s many sworn enemies. Republican polling is said to show Trump’s numbers are ‘upside-down’ by double digits in about half of the states with top-tier Senate races, meaning that the former president’s unfavorable ratings among voters are higher than his favorable. In each of these states, his numbers are as bad or worse than President Biden’s. Whichever party the 2022 midterm elections are ultimately about will lose. If the election is about Biden and what the Democratic majorities did or didn’t do, they will lose. But if the election is about Trump, or about Republican candidates (the kind I refer to as “exotic;” McConnell as “goofballs”) then this election will turn out very badly for the GOP.” Hence the Democrat focus on 1/6. More: “For an example, look to Senate candidate Jim Lamon in Arizona. His campaign ad, prepared to run around the Superbowl, featured him shooting at Kelly in a mock gunfight. (Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot at a constituent event.) It was a textbook case of a candidate with more dollars than sense. This is precisely what happened in the tea-party days of 2010 and 2012. Republicans came up short of a Senate majority in each of those years, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with ‘goofball’ candidates in Delaware and Nevada in the former year, and in Indiana and Missouri in the latter. One might say that the base nominated candidates based on their glands than their brains. (God knows Democrats have done that on occasion as well.)”


* * *

“GOP plunges into season of ‘self-hate’ that will rewire the party” [Politico]. “In less than two weeks, the first primary election of 2022 will take place in the nation’s second-most populous state, and it’s a blockbuster: The state’s Republican governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner all face spirited challenges, as do several GOP House incumbents. From there, fractious primaries will unfold across the electoral map in the coming months, cementing a more populist orientation for the GOP and Donald Trump’s status as the party’s lodestar, or setting a more traditionally conservative course. These aren’t simple match-ups between Trump and anti-Trump forces, or isolated intraparty feuds. Safely ensconced Republican officeholders are being bombarded by challengers from coast to coast, in many cases spurred on by Trump directly. Redistricting and retirements have further scrambled the established order in many places, opening up seats and drawing fields filled with combative candidates eager to move the party in a different direction. Combine that with high levels of energy — and anger — in the party base, and it’s a recipe to remake the party from the ground up.”

Trump Legacy

“The “Big Sort” Continues, with Trump as a Driving Force” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “More than 20% of the nation’s counties gave 80% or more of its 2-party presidential votes to either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Trump won the vast majority of these counties, but because Biden’s blowout counties are much more populous, he got many more votes out of his ‘super landslide’ counties than Trump got out of his. Trump’s blowouts were concentrated in white, rural counties in the Greater South, Interior West, and Great Plains, while Biden’s were in a smattering of big cities, college towns, and smaller counties with large percentages of heavily Democratic nonwhite voters.” • Worth noting, but white/non-white categories are so broad as to be useless.

Obama Legacy

Hope and change:

Our Famously Free Press

“Covid reaches the choose-your-own-adventure stage in America” [MSNBC]. “Over the past 23 months, the word “choice” has been wielded mostly by anti-vaccine advocates. They have repeatedly declared that their choice whether to wear a mask or their decision whether to get a vaccination should take precedence over the health of those around them. But now it is the vaccinated people who get to choose. After a terrifying spike in cases in early to mid-January, the omicron surge is in dramatic decline. ” • It’s hard to imagine a worse metaphor for an airborne disease than “choose your own adventure.” Everybody in the adventure is breathing the same air!

“Corona virus is a concern, but flu takes more lives” [Leana Wen, Baltimore Sun]. • From 2020. Wen is suddenly all over everything, shilling for the Urgency of Normal, etc. It’s exactly like Iraq: Everyone who was right is marginalized; everybody who was wrong was promoted.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Ukraine Crisis: Handle With Care” [Peggy Noonan]. Noonan was active under Bush the Elder, on whose watch the Soviet Union collapsed. The final sentences: “The Soviet republics did break off and forge their own paths, and with Western help the nukes [in Ukraine] were deactivated and sent back to Russia, where they were dismantled. It was one of the great and still not sufficiently heralded moments of the Cold War, and it was done by a political class that was serious, and even took a chance on speaking seriously.” • Left unspoken: Today’s political class is not serious. (Notice she doesn’t say “The Biden Administration.” She says “the political class.”)

“The Millions Of People Stuck In Pandemic Limbo” [Ed Yong, The Atlantic]. The deck: “What does society owe immunocompromised people?” And the text: “illions of people like Landon are walking around with a compromised immune system. A significant proportion of them don’t respond to COVID vaccines, so despite being vaccinated, many are still unsure whether they’re actually protected—and some know that they aren’t. Much of the United States dropped COVID restrictions long ago; many more cities and states are now following. That means policies that protected Landon and other immunocompromised people, including mask mandates and vaccination requirements, are disappearing, while accommodations that benefited them, such as flexible working options, are being rolled back. This isn’t a small group. Close to 3 percent of U.S. adults take immunosuppressive drugs, either to treat cancers or autoimmune disorders or to stop their body from rejecting transplanted organs or stem cells. That makes at least 7 million immunocompromised people—a number that’s already larger than the populations of 36 states, without even including the millions more who have diseases that also hamper immunity, such as AIDS and at least 450 genetic disorders…. Over the past year, as many Americans reveled in their restored freedoms, many immunocompromised people felt theirs shrinking. When the CDC announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to mask indoors, simple activities such as grocery shopping became more dangerous for immunocompromised people, who were offered no advice from the nation’s top public-health agency. When Joe Biden said in a speech that unvaccinated Americans were “looking at a winter of severe illness and death,” “I felt like he was talking to me,” Cheung said. And when commentators bemoaned irrational liberals who refused to abandon pandemic restrictions, many of the people I spoke with felt they were being mocked for trying to protect themselves and their loved ones.” • “We” don’t “owe” them anything. What’s wrong with this guy?

Less caustically, I’m pleased to see pushback against “Let ‘er rip.” Yong isn’t the only one doing it. But the hegemonic narrative it is not.


Case count by United States regions:

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I have again added a “Fauci Line” to congratulate Biden and his team — Klain, Zeints, Fauci, Walensky — for finally falling below their own second-highest peak. (Rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick; the slope of the downward curve is more or less the same as the upward curve. Previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecedented.) I wonder if there will be plateau when BA.2 takes hold. Since the Northeast has form, that is probably the region to watch for this behavior first.

The official narrative was “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet, which is even more encouraging, especially if you’re in “Waiting for BA.2” mode.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

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Continued improvement. Maine is a data problem. (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.)

The previous release:

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:

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Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Guam, dammit! From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 949,269 946,224. A dip, fortunately. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci line to show that the death rate today is at the same level as it was during the first surge under the former guy. I sure hope we break a million before Biden’s State of the Union speech. There’s still time.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Good news here too.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased by 23 thousand to 248 thousand in the week ended February 12th, compared with market expectations of 219 thousand. It was the first rise in 3 weeks with Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky contributing the most to the jump.”

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US decreased to 16 in February of 2022 from 23.2 in January and missing market expectations of 20. The survey’s current indicators for general activity, new orders, and shipments declined from last month’s readings but remained positive. The employment index rose, and the price indexes remained elevated. The future indexes continue to indicate that the firms expect growth over the next six months.”

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US fell 4.1% mom to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.638 million in January of 2022, well below forecasts of 1.7 million, and the lowest in 3 months. Pandemic-related labour shortages, high material costs and supply constraints persist, leading to lower houses available on the market and pushing prices up, even as builders ramp up production.”

* * *

Ukraine: Gold marches toward $1,900/oz as mounting Ukraine tensions lift demand” [Reuters]. “Gold jumped to an eight-month high on Thursday and was within striking distance of the key $1,900 an ounce mark after a Russian news report of mortar fire in eastern Ukraine drove investors toward safe-haven assets.”

Ukraine: “Wheat and corn prices ride the Ukrainian rollercoaster” [Economic Times]. “NEW YORK: The crisis between Ukraine and Russia, two of the world’s biggest wheat and corn producers, has sent the commodities’ prices on a wild ride — with anything from a diplomatic statement to rumor of a maritime blockade roiling markets. Usually much less volatile than stocks or oil, agricultural commodities are now often subject to spectacular spikes and drops. ‘The market doesn’t know nuance: Either it’s war and it goes up, or it’s peace and it goes down,’ said Gautier Le Molgat an analyst at Agritel. The grains’ markets turned around three times in less than 24 hours this week: First on the Russian foreign minister’s optimistic tone Monday, then on news of the United States relocating its Ukrainian embassy, and finally on Moscow’s claims of a military pullback.”

Ukraine: “Dow down nearly 400 points as Biden warns Russia invasion of Ukraine could come in next ‘several days’” [MarketWatch]. “U.S. stocks fell Thursday, as investors dealt with renewed fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as the U.S. and its allies accused Moscow of continuing to build up troop levels. Markets were whipsawed by Ukraine-Russia headlines, with NATO accusing Moscow of misleading the world over troop withdrawals, saying that country had instead moved in about 7,000 additional soldiers, though Russia still claimed it was withdrawing troops. Also, Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have accused government forces of opening fire on them. The U.S. and its allies have accused Russia of planning to use false reports of attacks on separatists as a pretext for an invasion. ‘This is likely to be the bigger concern for NATO and the U.S., if separatist forces* try and goad Ukrainian forces into a counter-response, thus creating an excuse for a Russian incursion, and for all hell to break loose,’ said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a note. ‘The bigger risk for markets is that President Putin simply leaves the bulk of his forces on the border and simply plays a game of cat and mouse for the next few weeks and months,’ Hewson said.” • So, Putin was in gold, The Blob was short, and everybody who was in grain has a very bad hangover? NOTE * I still insist that U.S. mercs and State Department-sponsored Azov battalion types are the most likely to stage a false flag operation, and the most likely to get photos/videos into the hands of the U.S. press.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 41 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 37 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 17 at 1:22pm. Back to flirting with Neutral!

The Conservatory

“Award-winning death metal band turns out to be dishwasher full of old nails” [Beaverton]. “‘I just can’t believe it, man,’ said 33-year-old Jordan Cartwright, part-time microbiology lecturer and full-time Japanese sword collector. ‘Their lyrics have gotten me through some dark times. When they sing that one chorus that goes arrrRRRRghaakklkLLIIIIII rraa9o0qqq p;jhvRRRR ngaAAAArr5, that just really speaks to me. I always assumed I was hearing the sound of a kindred soul crying out against the indifference of a heartless universe, and not the sound of old carpet nails getting swished around in a dishwasher cutlery rack.’”

Photo Book

“The Weird and Wonderful Black Hole Photographs: Censored Images From America’s Great Depression” [Flashbak]. “We’ve featured many pictures from the US Farm Security Administration’s (FSA) ambitious project to document the lives of farming families during the 1930s…. Now we can show you what the censors didn’t want you to see: the black hole photographs. These pictures each contain an inky black disc of nothing. A black sun hangs with pendant menace and mystery. But they’re neither objects nor stains, rather punch holes made by Roy Stryker, director of the FSA’s documentary photograph program, and his team of editors. The holes marked pictures as unfit for purpose. But what was the purpose of the Government program if not to show it all? The holes have become additions, extra points of interest. Why were these images killed? What is it about each image we see here that caused the editors to act as censors? Looking at the holes in the sky, we might put on our tinfoil hats and look for conspiracy, supposing the images have been redacted to remove traces of flying objects. What is the man picking up from the grass? Why is another man’s face obliterated? Who is the missing face in the crowd? At the final count, around 100,000 images by photographers like Gordon Parks, Russell Lee and Marion Post Wolcott had been ‘killed’.” • Here’s one:

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Rather post-modernist; I wonder what would happen if the technique were used without destructive intent.

Zeitgeist Watch

“‘We conclude’ or ‘I believe?’ Study finds rationality declined decades ago” [Phys.org]. “Analyzing language from millions of books, the researchers found that words associated with reasoning, such as ‘determine’ and ‘conclusion,’ rose systematically beginning in 1850, while words related to human experience such as ‘feel’ and ‘believe’ declined. This pattern has reversed over the past 40 years, paralleled by a shift from a collectivistic to an individualistic focus as reflected by the ratio of singular to plural pronouns such as ‘I’/’we.’ ‘Interpreting this synchronous sea-change in book language remains challenging,’ says co-author Johan Bollen of Indiana University. ‘However, as we show, the nature of this reversal occurs in fiction as well as non-fiction. Moreover, we observe the same pattern of change between sentiment and rationality flag words in New York Times articles, suggesting that it is not an artifact of the book corpora we analyzed.’ ‘Inferring the drivers of long-term patterns seen from 1850 until 1980 necessarily remains speculative,’ says lead author Marten Scheffer of WUR. ‘One possibility when it comes to the trends from 1850 to 1980 is that the rapid developments in science and technology and their socio-economic benefits drove a rise in status of the scientific approach, which gradually permeated culture, society, and its institutions ranging from the education to politics. As argued early on by Max Weber, this may have led to a process of ‘disenchantment’ as the role of spiritualism dwindled in modernized, bureaucratic, and secularized societies.” What precisely caused the observed reversal of the long-term trend around 1980 remains perhaps even more difficult to pinpoint. However, according to the authors there could be a connection to tensions arising from changes in economic policies since the early 1980s, which may have been defended on rational arguments but the benefits of which were not equally distributed.” • 1980… Neoliberalism? Handy chart:

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“A Vibe Shift Is Coming Will any of us survive it?” [New York Magazine]. “A vibe shift is the catchy but sort of too-cool term Monahan uses for a relatively simple idea: In the culture, sometimes things change, and a once-dominant social wavelength starts to feel dated. Monahan, who is 35, breaks down the three vibe shifts he has survived and observed: Hipster/Indie Music (ca. 2003–9), or peak Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, high-waisted Cheap Mondays, Williamsburg, bespoke-cocktail bars; Post-Internet/Techno Revival (ca. 2010–16), or the Blood Orange era, normcore, dressing like The Matrix, Kinfolk the club, not Kinfolk the magazine; and Hypebeast/Woke (ca. 2016–20), or Drake at his Drakest, the Nike SNKRS app, sneaker flipping, virtue signaling, Donald Trump, protests not brunch. You can argue the accuracy of Monahan’s timeline or spend hours over dinner litigating the touch points of each vibe era — it’s kind of fun debating which trend was peaking when, or which was just for white people — but the thing that struck fear into Ellen’s heart was Monahan’s prediction that we were on the cusp of a new vibe shift. It is unnerving because when you really consider it, you can feel people flocking to a new thing. You can see that he’s right; something has shifted.” • Simultaneously fascinating and horrifying. What do readers think?

Guillotine Watch

“Billionaire Charlie Munger: Critics of the ultra-rich ‘motivated by envy’” [Yahoo News]. “Billionaire investor Charlie Munger on Wednesday acknowledged worldwide ‘tension’ over wealth inequality but said critics of the ultra-rich are ‘motivated by envy.’ ‘It is the nature of our species that we look around us at other people and are envious of them if they have more than we do,’ added Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. ‘That envy has always been a big problem.’ Munger, 98, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Finance’s Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer ahead of the annual shareholders meeting at the Daily Journal, where Munger serves as chairman.” • I am totally not envious of the squillionaires. They’re psychos. Who wants to be a psycho?

Surprised these aren’t on Etsy:

Class Warfare

The giggiest gig work of all:

And truly international?

“‘My students never knew’: the lecturer who lived in a tent” [Guardian]. “Like many PhD students, Aimée Lê needed her hourly paid job – as an English lecturer – to stay afloat. But what her students never guessed was that for two years while she taught them she was living in a tent. Lê decided to live outside as a last resort when she was faced with a steep rent increase in the third year of her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, and realised she would not be able to afford a flat and cover all her costs on her research and teaching income. She recalls: ‘It was cold. It was a small one-person tent, which meant after a bit it did get warmer. But there were days when I remember waking up and my tent was in a circle of snow. When I wasn’t doing my PhD or other work I was learning how to chop wood or start a fire.’ She stored her books in the postgraduate office so they wouldn’t be damaged, and showered at university. She ‘didn’t quite tell her’ parents, saying to them that she was staying on an ecological farm so as not to worry them. Nor did she tell her university, which insisted this week that the welfare of all its students was paramount and that it encouraged anyone struggling to reach out for support. Lê says she led a double life, fearful that it might damage her professional reputation if people knew she was homeless.”

News of the Wired

“After disastrous performance, Kamila Valieva falls to fourth, Russian teammate wins gold” [USA Today]. • And no wonder. Valieva was a child, fifteen years old. The Olympics should really optimize the events for adult bodies. Same with gymastics, which also has a repellent factory farm system, rife with abuse.

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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 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. Today’s plant (IM):

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IM writes: “Some fall foliage. I often photograph this tree. It looks like it is trying to join the sky in this one…my 5 year old daughter loaded the film and it was not wound completely tight, so the white at the top is fog from light leak, but I don’t mind it!” I too return to the same sites again and again. And the light leak does work.

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