2:00PM Water Cooler 2/8/2023

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Red-and-black Grosbeak. Atta Lodge / Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, Potaro-Siparuni, Guyana. “4 cuts of a presumed pair. I think (but can’t be sure) that the last 2 cuts are the female.”

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

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels.” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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

Biden Administration

“Remarks of President Joe Biden – State of the Union Address as Prepared for Delivery” [The White House]. On Covid, the Ultimate Lockdown in pure form:

But we will remember the toll and pain that will never go away for so many. More than 1 million Americans have lost their lives to COVID.

Families grieving. Children orphaned. Empty chairs at the dining room table./p>

We remember them, and we remain vigilant./p>

We still need to monitor dozens of variants and support new vaccines and treatments.

So, since vaccines do not prevent transmission, we have mass infection with no mitigation. Do you see any mention of mitigation? Of non-pharmaceutical interventions? Do you see a word of thanks to those who worked to protect others and themselves with NPIs? No. Never have, never will. Crocodile tears. It’s disgusting and immoral.

“‘Dark Brandon’ shows up at State of the Union, mops the floor with lost Republicans” [USA Today]. “Preaching populism and leaning hard on his noted skill as the empathizer-in-chief, Biden bounded through a speech that acknowledged the nation’s struggles while remaining unerringly optimistic. He went off script regularly, parrying Republican lawmakers who heckled him, at one point backing the whole party into a corner and getting them to swear to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits. I’ve never seen anything like it in a State of the Union speech – they ran at him like a pack of lemmings and, with a wink and a grin, he politely directed them to the cliff.” They juiced Biden up for sure, but the old guy can still cut it. The reporter as much as says it: “Whatever the White House cooks are feeding Biden these days, I’d like a plate of it myself.” Here is Biden mingling with the crowd:

Whatever it was on Biden’s plate, it’s good for solid speech and an hour of interaction.

“5 takeaways from Biden’s State of the Union address” [NPR]. “Some of what is likely to make Democrats comfortable is the pluck he showed — the willingness and ability to spar with Republicans and depict them not as normal, but extreme. The best example of this was on Medicare and Social Security. He deftly riled up House Republicans, accusing some of wanting to cut the popular entitlements. He was careful in that section to note that ‘some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.’ That was something Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the former National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, opened the door to with his ‘Rescue America Plan.’ Democrats have run with it, even though McCarthy has said cuts to Medicare and Social Security are ‘off the table.’ Biden’s accusation enraged House Republicans, who saw the charge as false and too far. ‘I’m glad to see it,’ Biden said of the apparent agreement not to cut the programs. ‘I enjoy conversion.’ The exchange took the lid off any comity that existed earlier in the evening. From then on, Republicans shouted and heckled — with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene accusing Biden of being a ‘liar’ and others yelling out, ‘It’s your fault!’ when Biden decried fentanyl deaths. McCarthy, who took 15 rounds to win his speakership because of far-right rejection and his small majority, could clearly be seen shushing his conference at least three times. It’s precisely the look Biden and Democrats wanted to put on display for what will likely be the largest TV audience the president will speak to this year ahead of his expected 2024 reelection announcement.”


“Field Dates: January 18-19, 2023” (PDF) [Harvard Harris Poll (Not Again)]. On 2024:

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Five and eight points? That’s a lot.

Republican Funhouse

“The good and the bad of Iowa’s bill that would bring big changes to child labor laws” [Des Moines Register]. “A new bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature would rewrite Iowa’s child labor law to allow teens to work in previously prohibited jobs so long as they are part of an approved training program….. As with the existing law, the bill outlines the jobs that 14-17-year olds can do, like bagging and carrying groceries to cars, clerical work and preparing and serving food. The bill also maintains a list of jobs kids under 18 can’t hold, such as working in slaughterhouses, meatpacking or rendering plants; mining; operating power-driven metal forming, punching or shearing machines; operating band or circular saws, guillotine shears or paper balers; or being involved in roofing operations or demolition work. It makes a few modifications, such as removing a prohibition against 14- and 15-year-olds working in freezers and meat coolers…. In an entirely new section, however, the bill would allow the Iowa Workforce Development and state Department of Education heads to make exceptions to any of the prohibited jobs for teens 14-17 ‘participating in work-based learning or a school or employer-administered, work-related program.” I.e., a loop-hole you could drive a truck through. More: “The bill exempts businesses from civil liability if a student is sickened, injured or killed due to the company’s negligence. … A company could face fines of up to $10,000 for violations under the bill, but the state’s labor commissioner could reduce or waive the penalty.” • Seems…. business-friendly!

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

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.

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“Billionaire Funded Judges Who Could Decide His Speech-Crushing Beto Case” [The Lever]. “A lawsuit that could punish speech against wealthy political donors may ultimately land before judges who have accepted campaign donations from the billionaire bringing the case, a Lever review has found. The plaintiff’s fossil fuel company has also delivered money to political groups who boosted those judges’ election bids. Kelcy Warren, who controls the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and has a net worth of $5.3 billion, is suing former Congressman Beto O’Rourke over campaign comments made about him in a case that could set a new legal precedent for financially punishing political candidates who criticize billionaires’ political spending. On January 20, The Lever reported on Warren’s lawsuit, which alleges that he was defamed when O’Rourke impugned his $1 million donation to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), which was made weeks after the governor signed legislation allowing natural gas companies like Warren’s to opt out of weatherization regulations…. According to Warren’s suit, O’Rourke had defamed him by making comments like, ‘Kelcy Warren and Greg Abbott want us to stop talking about how Warren’s company made over $2 billion in profits while Texans were freezing to death, and then turned around and gave $1 million to Abbott’s campaign,’ as O’Rourke told the Dallas Morning News in March 2022. Debate in the case has focused on O’Rourke’s usage of the term ‘bribe’ [the idea!!] to describe Warren’s $1 million donation. O’Rourke’s attorney, Chad Dunn, said in a brief that it was used in ‘its nondefamatory colloquial sense.’” • “I won’t use the word ‘bribe,’ but feel free to think it.”


Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful).

Lambert here: Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. Stay safe out there!

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• On the one hand, it’s good to see some support:

On the other, how about some hearings? Say on CDC policy on non-pharmacetical interventions? Or how OSHA’s workplace protections got gutted? Or the near-destruction of the domestic mask industry in favor of cheap and hospital-friendly masks from China? It’s a target rich environment, so how about it?

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• “Understanding the Regulatory Terminology of Potential Preventions and Treatments for COVID-19” [FDA]. What is says on the tin. “The language used to describe potential therapies can be confusing, and there’s public interest around the FDA’s work to ensure access to potentially life-saving treatments. Here’s what those terms mean.” • Bookmark, perhaps.

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• Hospital Infection Control is at it again. In Canada:

See NC on HAI here; IC/ID (Infection Control/Infectious Diseases) has little to be proud of, at least in hospitals. More:

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• “Protective Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on COVID-19-Related Intensive Care Hospitalization and Mortality: Definitive Evidence from Meta-Analysis and Trial Sequential Analysis” [Pharmaceuticals] • We’ve run this in Links already, but just to point out: “U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he and his wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19, and the White House said he was given an experimental treatment designed to combat the virus as well as a small array of treatments including aspirin and Vitamin D.” Not a hill I want to die on, but nevertheless….

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 6:

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For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.

• “This winter’s U.S. COVID surge is fading fast, likely thanks to a ‘wall’ of immunity” [NPR]. See chart above. This claim is true only if you think cases don’t matter. However, it is true that the last surge was not equal to Biden’s ginormous tsunami. Why? “Several factors may have played a role. One possibility could be that people avoided crowds, wore a mask and took other precautions more than public health experts had expected they would. But that doesn’t really appear to be the case…. Another possibility is ‘viral interference,’ which is a theory that sometimes when a person gets infected with one virus, their immune response may protect them from getting infected with another virus. [Jennifer Nuzzo, who heads the Pandemic Center at Brown University] and other experts suspect instead that the main reason the COVID surge is ebbing is all the immunity we’ve all built up from prior infections, and/or the COVID vaccinations many of us have received. ‘We have what I would call now a better immunity barrier,’ says Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease [see below] specialist at Emory University who heads the Infectious Disease Society of America. ‘Between vaccinations and prior infection I think all of us are in a different place than we were before,’ he says. ‘All of us, if not totally protected, we are somewhat better protected. And that immunologic wall is real.’” • No, the “immunologic wall” is not real. It’s a metaphor, and an absurdly sloppy and stupid one. A wall is static, constructed of inorganic materials, persisent over time. However, both the virus and our immune systems are dynamic, organic, constantly adapting, in tandem or apart (for example, in reservoirs among the immunocompromised). Perhaps ID folks talk differently among themselves than they do when giving quotes to the media; I certainly hope so. If so, their professional ethics, if any, dictate that they educate the public, not talk down to them.

• “Nearly Four in Ten Say Their Households Were Sick with COVID-19, the Flu, or RSV Recently Even as Most People Say They Aren’t Too Worried About Getting Seriously Ill” [KFF (NorD94)]. “Nearly four in ten (38%) people say their households were affected by this winter’s triple threat of viruses, with someone getting sick with the flu, COVID-19, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and nearly half (46%) say the news of these three viruses spreading has made them more likely to wear masks or take other precautions to avoid getting sick, the latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey finds. At the same time, almost three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the public says they are “not too” or “not at all” worried about getting seriously ill from the virus (69%), though 31% still say they are worried. That’s somewhat more than say the same about the flu (26%) or RSV (25%).”


Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map,” which is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) The map is said to update Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

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The previous map:

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NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 8:

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-12%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.

• “Almost 1,000 people wait up to 13 hours for COVID-19 testing in Maryvale” [Arizona Central]. • Over, totally over.


Wastewater data (CDC), February 4:

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Less grey, though still too much; a lot less red.

February 3:

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NOT UPDATED And MWRA data, February 2:

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Looks to me like New England’s regional surge is winding down. No bump from the students returning.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.

• “No new variants in weeks after China ended zero-Covid: study” [Agence France Presse]. “But the new study by Chinese researchers, which analysed 413 samples from Beijing sequenced between November 14 and December 20, said “there is no evidence that novel variants emerged” during that time. Instead, more than 90 percent of the cases were BF.7 and BA5.2, Omicron subvariants which were already present in China and have been overtaken by more transmissible subvariants in Western nations. BF.7 accounted for three quarters of the samples, while more than 15 percent were BA5.2, according to the study published in The Lancet journal. ‘Our analysis suggests two known Omicron sub-variants — rather than any new variants — have chiefly been responsible for the current surge in Beijing, and likely China as a whole,’ lead study author George Gao, a virologist at the Institute of Microbiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement. Wolfgang Preiser and Tongai Maponga, virologists at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University not involved in the research, cautioned that it only covered a few weeks after China lifted its zero-Covid measures.” • Big if true. (If memory serves, we’ve seen new variants emerge from reservoirs of immunocompromised in both Kent in the UK, and in South Africa. I find it very hard to believe that the same scenario has not, or will not, happen in China.)

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 23:

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Lambert here: XBB overtakes BQ. CH not moving too fast, reassuring, because a Tweet in Links, January 11 from GM drew attention to it (“displays such a high relative growth advantage”) and in Water Cooler, January 18, from Nature: “CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 variants were highly resistant to both monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccinations.”

Lambert here: Wierdly, the screen shot about has been replaced today by data from “10/7/2022.” (It’s clearly not current data; BQ.1* and XBB do not dominate.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), January 14 (Weighted Estimates Only*):

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BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) CH.* now appears, a week after Walgreens. Here is Region 2, the Northeast:

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CH.1* appears, but slightly below the national average. XBB utterly dominates, making clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average.

Here are all the regions, in a series of uncaptioned, legend-free and confusing pie charts:

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It almost looks like, with respect to variants at least, there several pandemics, not one. The Northeast, where XBB (blue) dominates, and the other regions, with different proportions of other variants, but XBB not dominating. Odd. (Yes, I know the colors are the same as on the bar chart above. However, there are two charts, one bar, one pie, and on a laptop one cannot see both at same time. Just another example of CDC blithering at the level of the smallest detail.)

NOTE * CDC used to have a “Nowcast Off” radio button, which I used because of my bad experience with CDC models like Nowcast. CDC explains (I think) the change in the following note:

Weighted estimates (provided for all weeks except the most recent three weeks) are variant proportions that are based on empirical (observed) genomic sequencing data. These estimates are not available for the most recent weeks because of the time it takes to generate the unweighted data, including sample collection, specimen treatment, shipping, analysis, and upload into public databases.

Sublineages with weighted estimates less than 1% of all circulating variants are combined with their parent lineage. When the weighted estimate of a sublineage crosses the 1% threshold and has substitutions in the spike protein that could affect vaccine efficacy, transmission, or severity, it may be separated from its parent lineage and displayed on its own in the variant proportions data.

Nowcast estimates (provided for the most recent three weeks when the “Nowcast on” option is selected below) are model-based projections of variant proportions for the most recent weeks to enable timely public health action. CDC uses the Nowcast to forecast variant proportions before the weighted estimates are available for a given week.

Someone who can interpret The Great Runes can look at this; but I don’t have time today.

NOT UPDATED As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated February 7:

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NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data for Queens, updated February 4:

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Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,136,960 – 1,136,448 = 512 (512 * 365 = 186,880 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

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Manufacturing: “Boeing plans to cut about 2,000 finance and HR jobs in 2023” [Associated Press]. “Boeing plans to make staffing cuts in the aerospace company’s finance and human resources departments in 2023, with a loss of around 2,000 jobs, the company said.” • Next, college administrators?

Tech: “Touchability, Productivity, and Portability — Pick Two” [Worms and Viruses]. “It’s foolishly optimistic to think that Microsoft or even Apple can make pointer interfaces as touch friendly as iPadOS without also destroying the very thing that makes them more productive than iPadOS — information density. Smaller controls means these platforms can disclose more information and interactivity to their users at once. That’s why a bunch of windows on even a 11″ MacBook Air feels natural while only four windows on a “large” 13″ iPad feels ungainly. Conversely, it’s impossible to make iPadOS more information dense without sacrificing the very thing that makes it the best tablet OS — touch friendliness. iPad users want more information on screen because that will help them be more productive, but the only way to present more information in iPadOS without sacrificing touch friendliness is a larger display….. [M]acOS can’t be made touch friendly without sacrificing information density and iPadOS can’t add information density without sacrificing touch friendliness.” • Every time the iOS crowd get their hands on a chunk of MacOS, it becomes crappier locking and harder to use. (Incidentally, this trilemma in the title is why the iPad can never be a productivity tool. I use my iPad constantly to gather information, but to write? I would have lost my mind (looking at my ten open applications, one of which is the shell, and a browser with umpty million tabs. And I’m not even a power user!).

Tech: “Leaked Document Suggests Hardly Anyone Bothered to Pay for Twitter Blue” [Gizmodo]. “The Information reported Tuesday based on a leaked internal document that by mid-January, just .2% of monthly users in the U.S., around 180,000 people, have signed up for Twitter Blue. The $8 a month service gives users the ability to undo and edit tweets, read threads in a long-form format, see half the ads other users do, and a few other customization features.” • If Musk is moving Twitter toward accepting payments, I would gladly pay $8 a month. I think a lot of creatives would!

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 Greed (previous close: 77 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 8 at 1:30 PM EST.

Under the Influence

“Kim Kardashian earned $1 million dollars for speaking at a hedge fund conference” [Unusual Whales]. • That;s better than Clinton ever did. Maybe Kardashian should run for President?


“Why Gamers Are More Valuable Than Companies Think” [Morning Consult]. “Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (63%) say they play video games in an average week, much higher than the share who consider themselves gamers. Morning Consult data also shows that consumers with five or more video streaming subscriptions are more than twice as likely to spend time gaming than those with no subscriptions. Media companies should prioritize adapting console-based titles with international fan bases into TV, film and mobile games given the greater streaming growth opportunities abroad.”

“”I’m Very Self-Deprecating, But I Know What I Can Do”: An Interview with Eric Powell” [The Comics Journal]. Very long interview: “I have a lot of ideas for graphic novels that I want to do. I really loved working on the Gein book because there wasn’t a limitation to the page count. If I wanted to do some atmospheric thing that went over three or four pages, it was fine to do that. I think more and more, especially as I’m getting older and slowing down, I want to focus more on graphic novels and that format of being able to tell bigger stories and not chop them up into 22 pages. I still love having a comic book in my hand. I’ve always been a fan of short stories, and that’s what I always see comic books as. The majority of my comics are self-contained. If you pick up an issue, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if it builds up to a larger story. I think I’ll always want to do individual comics, but I think a lot of my focus will be on graphic novels. There’s a lot of stuff I haven’t done. I’ve never done a big run on superhero titles for either of the big two publishers.” • If you are a comic books fan, you’ve probably read this already….

Our Famously Free Press

“Take a Bow, Columbia Journalism Review” (excerpt) [Matt Taibbi, Racket]. Jeff Gerth’s four-part series, highly recommended here. “In retirement at the start of the Trump years, Gerth watched with growing alarm as venerable institutions like the Times and the Washington Post continually made high-stakes assertions in headlines that appeared based on thin or uncheckable sourcing. The pile of such stories was already stacked to skyscraper height, and commemorated by awards like a joint Times-Post Pulitzer, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up an investigation of the matter without indicting Trump or anyone else for the supposed conspiracy. There was no way for Mueller’s probe to have ended the way it did and for years of ‘worse than Watergate’ news reports about Trump-Russian collusion to be true, so Gerth went back to the beginning in search of the real story of what, if anything, went wrong on the coverage side. The result is a long, almost book-length compendium of errors and editorial overreach. It could have been longer.” • If ypu haven’t read Gerth’s piece, do consider it.

Class Warfare

The pink paper:

“Rent Regulation Is Constitutional (For Now)” [Hell Gate]. “On Monday, a federal appeals court upheld New York’s rent stabilization laws, striking down the argument that rent regulations represent a seizure of private property. But lest you think this is all good news—the decision now possibly paves the way for landlord groups to take their various complaints to the Supreme Court. The decision is the latest development in a series of legal battles launched just months after the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, a sweeping set of rent protections, was signed into law in 2019, protections that represented a sort of apocalypse for landlords and their allies. Since the passage of HSTPA, five lawsuits have been filed challenging its provisions that, among other things, make the conversion of rent-stabilized units to market-rate housing more difficult and make it harder for property owners to evict tenants. The laws also set caps on how much of a building landlords are permitted to use personally and set further limits on how much rent for a stabilized unit can be raised. Since the moment HSTPA passed, landlord-activists and lobbying groups including the Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program have hoped to eventually bring one of their cases against the state to a conservative Supreme Court.”

News of the Wired

“Restaurant Review: Le Bernardin Holds On to Its Craft (and Its Four Stars)” [New York Times]. “Take the sauces, probably the defining feature of French restaurant cooking. [Owner Maguy Le Coze] insists that they be applied to the plates generously, so there is enough to eat with a spoon. Six full-time cooks prepare something like three dozen sauces on any given day. [Chef Eric] Ripert told me in a phone interview that sauces are the reason Le Bernardin has never gone in for arranging food on boards, stones, logs and other objects. He prefers china because china excels at holding sauce in one small area so you can spoon it up and love it…. The china, the sauce spoons, the tablecloths, the servers in dark jackets presenting plates in synchrony, the sommeliers (there are at least four on the floor at almost all times) wearing silver tastevins on chains around their necks — it can sound oppressive. When it’s all in motion, though, it’s the opposite of oppressive. Even people who are used to eating in restaurants that are less formal and less French figure out pretty quickly that almost everything about Le Bernardin is meant to make them feel good.” • This “comfort” — not at all like American “comfort food” — is what I encountered when I finally learned to eat in Montreal. Of course, I believe that all restaurant workers should be well paid, and there should be two, three, many Le Bernardin’s for workers everywhere. It’s a simple matter of distribution…..

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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. From IM:

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IM writes: “In case you need a white snow, blue sky, plant front and center photo.” This tree reminds me of an Ent.

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