2:00PM Water Cooler 3/15/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 3/15/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

“I hate it when the sounds of my breathing are captured in birdsong clips.” Not that obtrusive. Anyhow, I like some reality: Footsteps, breathing, dogs barking, trains whistles…. The birds live in the world, after all!

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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

Capitol Seizure

“Abetting the premeditated lies that sparked the attack on Congress should trigger a 14th Amendment ban from office, plaintiffs say” [Up North News]. “Lawyers representing 10 state residents and the Super PAC of a liberal Wisconsin brewery announced the filing of a federal lawsuit Thursday intended to hold three Republican congressional politicians accountable for interfering with the election of Joe Biden as president. The repeated actions of US Sen. Ron Johnson and US Reps. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald to conspire with others–and to impede Biden’s election and repeatedly spread falsehoods that undermined public faith in Biden’s victory over Donald Trump–make the lawmakers insurrectionists who are unsuitable for public office, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit seeks to have the three lawmakers removed from ballots before they are up for election. Citing a violation by the three lawmakers of the Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, the lawsuit was filed by the Milwaukee firm of Laffey, Leitner and Goode. ‘The falsehoods of Johnson, Fitzgerald, and Tiffany about the integrity of Wisconsin’s election procedures began even before citizens were allowed to cast their ballots in the 2020 Presidential Election and continued long after their lies were disproven,’ the lawsuit states. Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC founder Kirk Bangstad said he decided to be part of the lawsuit because the US Justice Department and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul have not yet taken legal action against the three Republican lawmakers 13 months after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. ‘If we can’t do something now, there is not enough time to get these guys off the ballot,’ said Bangstad—a 2020 candidate for state Assembly—said during a press conference announcing the lawsuit. ‘If these guys broke the law, they should be held accountable.’” • Here is the Disqualification Clause:

No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

If I were a Court, I’m not sure I’d want to figure out a test for “spread[ing] falsehoods that undermined public faith in Biden’s victory.” On the other hand, if I were a trusting and naive Democrat, I’d be expecting Garland to sh*t or get off the pot.

Biden Adminstration

“Budget deal is latest sign of Democrats’ empty weed promises” [Politico]. “On the brink of gaining control in Washington, Sen. Chuck Schumer said emphatically in 2020 that ‘I am going to do EVERYTHING I can to end the federal prohibition on marijuana‘ if Democrats took back the Senate. But 14 months since winning, Senate Democrats haven’t even succeeded at changing the little things.” Don’t suburban Republicans get loaded? More: “This week offered the most dramatic example yet of Democrats’ inability to make any progress on their cannabis promises: The new government spending package released on Wednesday continues to prohibit Washington, D.C. from establishing a cannabis marketplace, more than seven years after District voters overwhelmingly backed legalization. That wasn’t the only weed provision left on the cutting room floor. The spending bill also failed to protect state-regulated recreational cannabis markets, nor did it expand medical marijuana research or protect veterans who use cannabis — two issues with widespread bipartisan backing. • As it turns out, “EVERYTHING I can” means “NOTHING, as usual.” A familiar pattern for Democrats.

Covid is so over:

Health care is so over:

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.

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Democrats run the most vile direct mail campaigns in the world. And people are starting to notice:

“Tedra Cobb explains Backroads PAC finances, personal insurance payments” [Adirondack Daily Enteprise]. “Since March 2021, the political action committee has raised over $375,000, and spent about $9,500 on direct contributions to eight candidates across the country, including two candidates in New York, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Meanwhile, the organization has paid Cobb $34,500 for consulting work and a health insurance stipend, as well as $25,701 to Mauranda Stahl-Simmons, a communications consultant. Overall, 2.5% of the PAC’s money has gone to candidates, 81.5% has gone to administrative costs for the PAC, and 16% has gone to Cobb and Stahl-Simmonds. Maggie Bartley, chair of the Essex County Democratic Committee, said she’s disappointed to see that breakdown, and feels that Backroads PAC has been taking money out of Cobb’s former campaign district — New York’s 21st Congressional District — without sowing any money back into the local Democratic field.” • Seems legit.

No mention of unions, or of Tesla’s mistreatment of workers, I assume. I mean, this is Biden’s Labor Secretary we’re talking here:

But why is Musk wearing a dead animal on top of his head?


“GOP culture war attacks ‘alarmingly potent,’ DCCC warns” [Politico]. “Democrats’ own research shows that some battleground voters think the party is ‘preachy,’ ‘judgmental’ and ‘focused on culture wars,’ according to documents obtained by POLITICO.” The Democrats? Surely not. More:

The GOP hits are most effective with center-left voters, independents and Hispanic voters, demographic groups that Democrats have struggled to attract in recent years. The solution does not lie in policy proposals, the pollsters found, because voters are not generally opposed to Democratic policies. ‘Rather, Democrats need to demonstrate they fully understand and care about stressors in people’s lives’ and focus on the issues ‘without stoking divisive cultural debates,’ one of the slides said.” • How about — hear me out — delivering something?

“Latinas Are Pushing a Political Revolution in South Texas—to the Right” [Texas Monthly]. “The world of South Texas politics was rocked in November of 2020, when Trump far surpassed expectations in all the counties along the Rio Grande, and De La Cruz came within three points of ousting Gonzalez. Long-established Democratic fiefdoms now looked like disputed territories. Progressive Democrats’ messaging about defunding the police, abolishing the Border Patrol, and promoting green energy had proven deeply unpopular.” • That’s the talking point on messaging, retrospectively. Sanders, IIRC, did very well in South Texas, and those weren’t his issues at all.

“Democrats’ Hispanic peril” [Axios]. “A Wall Street Journal poll last week found that by 9 points, Hispanic voters said they’d back a Republican candidate for Congress over a Democrat. In November, the parties were tied. … Key factors, operatives say, include skepticism among Hispanic voters about programs they view as handouts. And many Hispanics are social conservatives, with what L.A. Times columnist Gustavo Arellano has called a ‘rancho libertarianism streak.’ The national party also needs to do better with messages that distinguish among Americans whose families hailed from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Central America, several Democrats tell me…. Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha, based in D.C., told Axios his party keeps hiring political consultants for U.S. House races who know little to nothing about Latino voters: ‘They run the same [expletive] game plan every two years.’” • Of course, Rocha wants the work. That doesn’t make him wrong.

“1. The New Voting Urgency For 2022” [Axios]. “Since 2020, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations has pledged about $300 million over the next five years in support of national, state and local groups focused on caring for and protecting the right to vote in communities of color.” • Sure is odd the unions aren’t getting any of this Soros money. (This is another example of the enormous funding flowing through NGOs.)

“Why the debate over a computer scientist’s Dominion report is so heated” [Votebeat]. “Experts who have reviewed Halderman’s report, such as Juan Gilbert, the University of Florida’s computer science department chair, have not found it to be nearly as dire as Halderman has publicly suggested. As part of the suit, Judge Totenberg granted Halderman unfettered access to the Dominion voting system in order to inspect the security of the machines. Because of his access, Totenberg sealed the report, making it available to only the attorneys on the case and the expert witnesses. And even though the state on Jan. 27 asked Totenberg to unseal the document so as to clear public confusion, she seemed unready to do so. ‘I’m unhappy about the course of political treatment of the report…. it’s out of hand,’ Totenberg said in court. ‘But I’m not going to release it without seeing what is being proposed with redactions.’ Still, the general contents of the report aren’t exactly a secret. Halderman has long claimed that ballot-marking devices could be manipulated by malicious actors. Halderman made public a high-level summary of his findings in early August. Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance who is among the plaintiffs in the Curling case, then distributed this summary to every county in Georgia by email the day after Halderman filed his report. Votebeat was provided with a copy of the email. She called Halderman’s finding an ‘urgent concern,’ alarming enough for counties ‘to reconsider their use of BMDs this fall, and instead use hand marked paper ballots with voluntary robust audits.’ No county acted on her warning.” • Too many steak dinners?

“Some In GOP Want Ballots To Be Counted By Hand, Not Machines” [Newsy]. “Republican lawmakers in at least six states have introduced legislation that would require all election ballots to be counted by hand instead of electronic tabulators. Similar proposals have been floated within some local governments, including about a dozen New Hampshire towns and Washoe County in the presidential battleground state of Nevada.” • Hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, are only the gold standard for voting, globally.

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How the Democrat regulars must hate him. I hope he wins the nomination, just to see the exploding heads. Of course, if Fetterman is the Democrat candidate, the regulars will try to sabotage him, so he will have war on two fronts.

Conor Lamb:


“The Memo: Get ready for Biden vs. Trump all over again” [The Hill]. “Faced with a Biden-Trump choice, the nation could not be more evenly split, at least according to a new Wall Street Journal poll. The survey finds 45 percent of registered voters favoring Biden and 45 percent favoring Trump in a hypothetical 2024 contest between the two men. The poll is a startling reminder of Trump’s political resilience. The former president was impeached twice — once for shady dealings with Ukraine and the second time for his role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. He faces several investigative probes and has repeated his false claims of election fraud ad nauseum. He’s also been banned from the social media platforms where he once seemed omnipresent. Despite it all, he is in a dead heat to beat the incumbent president. But even amid encouraging poll numbers, some erstwhile Trump admirers wonder if his divisiveness makes him too flawed a candidate for the GOP to put up in 2024. ‘If he is in a dead heat [with Biden], imagine what Mike Pence or Gov. [Ron] DeSantis or Gov. [Greg] Abbott or Mike Pompeo must be doing,” said Barry Bennett, who served as a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Referring to the perception of Trump among Republican voters, Bennett added, “They love the fight in him. Everybody loves the policies he embodied. But they could do without some of the silliness. And he is also going to have to come up with a reason to run that isn’t just ‘I’m pissed that I lost.’” • What must they be doing? Losing, would be my guess. Pompeo? Really?

“Pence fine-tunes a message for 2024: Pro-Trump, to a point” [NBC]. “The once loyal number two has been carefully uncoupling himself from Trump as he girds for a potential presidential bid in 2024. Speaking to Republican donors last weekend as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine ravaged the democratic nation, Pence said, ‘There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin.’ That unmistakable swipe at Trump — who had recently called Putin’s tactics leading up to the invasion “genius” — came after an even more direct condemnation. ‘President Trump is wrong,’ he said in a speech last month, responding to Trump’s argument that Pence could have overturned the 2020 election results by refusing to certify the electors. It’s a marked shift from Pence’s deferential posture as vice president, when he was so wary of appearing out of step with his boss that he’d review speech drafts submitted by his aides and edit in Trump’s name with a Sharpie to be sure the president was getting enough credit, according to a former administration official.” • Obviously, Pence knew Trump well.

Oh, Beto:

“Trump EPA chief to serve as adviser to Youngkin after losing confirmation fight” [The Hill]. “Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has named former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler as a special adviser after Democrats in the state Senate voted down his appointment for a Cabinet post. Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin’s office, confirmed the move to The Hill Tuesday morning. The position, which does not require General Assembly confirmation, will concentrate on issues relating to natural resources. Wheeler, who served as head of the EPA under then-President Trump from 2019 to 2021, was Youngkin’s nominee for state secretary of natural resources. The nomination was immediately controversial among environmental groups, who are longtime critics of Wheeler due to both his history as a coal lobbyist and the numerous environmental regulations he rolled back at the EPA. In particular, Democrats, green groups and former EPA employees excoriated Wheeler for his support for a rule, introduced under his predecessor Scott Pruitt, that barred the use of scientific studies that did not make the entirety of their data public.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Supreme Court Did the Right Thing. I’m Still Worried.” [Jamelle Bouie, NYT]. “Nestled at the heart of the Republican argument is a breathtaking claim about the nature of state legislative power. Called the independent state legislature doctrine, it holds that Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution — which states that “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators” — gives state legislatures total power to write rules for congressional elections and direct the appointment of presidential electors, unbound by state constitutions and free from the scrutiny of state courts. This isn’t a new theory, exactly. In his concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore in 2000 — joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — Chief Justice William Rehnquist argued that under Article II, any “significant departure from the legislative scheme for appointing presidential electors presents a federal constitutional question.” Meaning, in short, that a state court could go beyond its authority in adjudicating state election law. The other two Republican-appointed justices on the court, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, declined to join Rehnquist’s concurrence, even as they voted to stop the counting and give George W. Bush the win. For 20 years, the doctrine lay dormant. It was resurrected in 2020 by allies of Donald Trump, who needed some constitutional pretense for their attempt to overturn his defeat.” • So once again Republicans are more serious about politic than Democrats. You can seek to give entities that you in the main control plenary power, or you can bleat about norms. (Which I don’t think Bouie is doing; this article throws a light on Republican ambition.)


Case count by United States regions:

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Fellow tapewatchers will note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” phase is done with, and the case count is now leveling down. At a level that, a year ago, was considered a crisis, but we’re “over” Covid now, so I suppose not. I have added a Fauci Line.

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. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it.

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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Flattened out, continues encouraging (and independent from the CDC). Note however that the South data is slowly incrreasing (scroll down); the aggregate data conceal this.

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.

For grins, national –but not necessarily representative — wastewater data from Biobot:

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Would I like a lot more breakdowns on that data, both geographically and by time. And while the wastewater data is current, a month time-lag on variants? Really?

“U.S. Sewer Data Warns of a New Bump in Covid Cases After Lull” [NBC]. “‘While wastewater levels are generally very low across the board, we are seeing an uptick of sites reporting an increase,’ Amy Kirby, the head of the CDC’s wastewater monitoring program, said in an email to Bloomberg. ‘These bumps may simply reflect minor increases from very low levels to still low levels. Some communities though may be starting to see an increase in Covid-19 infections, as prevention strategies in many states have changed in recent weeks.’” • So we’ve put a death cultist in charge of CDC’s wastewater program. Good news.

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

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Those notes in red at the bottom make me wonder about what else is wrong. (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.) And what’s with Idaho?

The previous release:

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

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bers aren’t jiggered.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Sea of Green. 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: 991,038 991,260. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Stats Watch

“United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The New York Empire State Manufacturing Index fell fifteen points to -11.8 in March of 2022, its lowest level since May 2020 and compared with market expectations of 7. New orders and shipments declined modestly, while unfilled orders increased. Delivery times continued to lengthen substantially, and inventories expanded. The prices paid index remained very elevated, and the prices received index reached yet another record high. Plans for capital and technology spending remained solid.”

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Shipping: “A Year After Suez Canal Fiasco, Bad Luck Strikes Again for Evergreen” [Bloomberg]. “A year after a giant container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal for almost a week and disrupted global trade for months, another Evergreen Marine Corp. vessel has run aground, this time near the U.S. capital. The Hong Kong-flagged Ever Forward got stranded after departing the Port of Baltimore Seagirt Terminal on Sunday night, according to mapping data compiled by Bloomberg. The 334-meter (1,096-foot) vessel was en route to Norfolk, Virginia, when it got stuck in the Chesapeake Bay.” • “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships….”


Note the smile when the mask comes off!

The Dollar: “Saudi Arabia Considers Accepting Yuan Instead of Dollars for Chinese Oil Sales” [Wall Street Journal]. “Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in yuan, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would dent the U.S. dollar’s dominance of the global petroleum market and mark another shift by the world’s top crude exporter toward Asia…. China buys more than 25% of the oil that Saudi Arabia exports. If priced in yuan, those sales would boost the standing of China’s currency. The Saudis are also considering including yuan-denominated futures contracts, known as the petroyuan, in the pricing model of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. , known as Aramco.” • Since the dollar is now evidently a pure form of power projection by the United States, it’s not surprising that other sovereign states would want to get out from under it, if they can.

Cash: “What a U.S. Digital Dollar Means for the Future of Your Wallet” [Bloomberg]. “A digital dollar also raises questions about financial privacy. The ledger underpinning the currency would likely be operated by the government, which would potentially give it the ability to monitor transactions, halt them or confiscate balances.” • Oh.

Tech: “Twitter rolls back users access to chronological timeline by default” [Business Standard]. “Now, the ‘Latest Tweets’ tab has been removed from the iPhone app and users will get the old Home tab back with the option to show the latest tweets at the top in chronological order. We take feedback seriously, and in this case, we heard the new pinned Home and Latest wasn’t giving you the level of control over your timeline that you want,’ Twitter spokesperson Shaokyi Amdo said in a statement to The Verge.” • The algo team must have enormous clout within Twitter, to be able to try something so stupid not once but twice.

Manufacturing: “767F faces production extinction; Boeing ponders 787F, market says” [Leeham News and Analysis]. “With Airbus for the first time in its history offering a new-build freighter that is seen as not only competitive to Boeing airplanes but in some quarters viewed as superior, Boeing’s decades-long dominance for cargo aircraft is under serious threat for the first time.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 18 Extreme Fear (previous close: 16 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 13 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 15 at 1:20pm.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

Groves of Academe

Yes, this is a parody account:

Our Famously Free Press

I wish I had a comparison to the stories on Iraq in the Bush Era. My feeling is that this barrage is more intense:

Of course, when you’re fomenting war with a nuclear power, your barrage should be intense.

Guillotine Watch

“SNL’s Pete Davidson is going to space with Blue Origin” [CBS News]. “‘Each astronaut on board NS-20 will carry a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, whose Postcards to Space program gives students access to space on Blue Origin’s rockets,’ the release reads. ‘The Club’s mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM for the benefit of Earth.’” • They’re not astronauts ffs. They’re celebrity passengers. Why doesn’t Bezos just pick passengers through sortition, if “for the benefit of Earth” is reallly the criterion?

News of the Wired

This is an absolutely amazing thread:

Parents concerned about the Jackpot would do very well to get their kids interested in these skills.

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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 (JU):

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JU writes: “Snowy Joshua tree and shrubberies on the road to Saline hot springs.”

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