2:00PM Water Cooler 5/05/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 5/05/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, I had a household debacle and got a late start. I will break my rule and add a few updates. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Warbler Week Two at Naked Capitalism. From Naryland, US.

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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 showcases deficit progress in bid to counter critics” [The Hill]. “President Joe Biden on Wednesday highlighted new figures showing the government’s red ink will grow less than expected this year and the national debt will shrink this quarter as he tried to counter criticism of his economic leadership amid growing dismay over inflation going into midterm elections that will decide control of Congress. Biden, embracing deficit reduction as a way to fight inflation, stressed that the dip in the national debt would be the first in six years, an achievement that eluded former President Donald Trump despite his promises to improve the federal balance sheet. ‘The bottom line is the deficit went up every year under my predecessor before the pandemic and during the pandemic. It has gone down both years since I’ve been here,’ Biden said. ‘Why is it important? Because bringing down the deficit is one way to ease inflationary pressures.’” • Well, the midterms are in the bag now. 2024, too!

“Biden administration expands use of Title 42 after moving to end it” [Los Angeles Times]. “The Biden administration has expanded expulsions of Cubans and Nicaraguans under a controversial Trump-era pandemic policy, even as it argues publicly that it is time to end the practice. That will include 100 Cubans and 20 Nicaraguans sent back from San Diego to Tijuana daily, a Mexican official confirmed with the San Diego Union-Tribune. A U.S. official told the Associated Press that the same numbers of each nationality will be expelled at two additional locations in Texas as well. The expulsions are part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order known as Title 42 that gives border officials the power to block asylum seekers and other migrants from reaching U.S. soil at ports of entry and expel them to Mexico or their home countries rather than processing them under normal immigration laws.”

“The Harris-Biden student debt divide” [Politico]. “Early in April, Vice President KAMALA HARRIS’ office began collaborating with the White House on a social media video to promote the administration’s extension of its pause on federal student loan payments. Harris’ office then decided against it, according to two White House officials familiar with the matter. Ultimately, President JOE BIDEN released his own video and Harris issued a statement about the policy. It was a shift from December — the last time the administration extended the pause — when Harris and Biden both filmed social media videos about the extension that came down then and worked with advocates of student debt cancellation. Privately, Harris has advocated for additional loan forgiveness. One White House source said her office seemed initially eager to participate in the administration’s public dialogue around student loans. But conscious of progressives pushing Biden to unilaterally cancel tens of thousands of dollars in student debt and that Biden is resisting such lobbying, the vice president has been increasingly wary of becoming part of the public face of the administration’s response. The delicate politics reflects the broader divisions within the administration over student debt relief, a debate that goes all the way to the top.” • “Additional loan forgiveness.” Whatever that means. $15,000 instead of $10,000?

“Senate Democrats Will Try to Save Abortion Rights. It Won’t Work.” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. The lead: “Since Democrats control the White House and Congress at the moment, one might think they would be able to take some action to protect the constitutional right to an abortion.” Well, er…. More: “But there is one huge problem with the Democrats’ plan: The bill was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate earlier this year, and despite the radically changed circumstances that make the legislation more urgent, it will be blocked by a Republican filibuster again…. Anyone hoping that the impending end of Roe had changed things quickly had their hopes dashed once again. On Tuesday, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema confirmed that they will not abandon their staunch support of the filibuster in order to facilitate passage of a preemptive abortion law (which Manchin — and for that matter, fellow Democrat Bob Casey — doesn’t support in any event). In theory, Democrats could compensate for the loss of two senators from their conference by recruiting pro-choice Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. But they, too, have indicated that they won’t vote to kill the filibuster for an abortion bill or any other legislation. And in addition, they oppose the Democratic-drafted Women’s Health Protection Act, though they do have their own narrower bill that would codify Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s “undue burden” standard for unacceptable pre-viability state abortion restrictions.” Manchin and Sinema, both installed by DNC/DSCC — DSCC actually supplied Sinema with personnel for her campaign — are the “more Democrats” they keep telling us they want to elect. So what to do? More: “But as with the failed efforts to enact a sweeping budget-reconciliation bill and to protect voting rights, you have to wonder if another doomed assault on the wall of Republican obstruction will simply make Democrats, with their alleged governing trifecta, look feckless to their own constituencies. It’s unclear whether good intentions leading nowhere will help or harm their argument for retaining power.” • It’s not a ‘wall of Republican obstruction” if “the math” tells you the only way to get to 50 is with Collins and Murkowski. We have a political machine designed to turn itself off*. Then it does. Then we look for workarounds and fail. Rinse, repeat. NOTE * After consiuming vast sums of money and political energy.

“Newsom accuses Democrats at the national level of sleeping as abortion rights are eroded.” [New York Times]. “Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Wednesday vowed to protect the right to abortion in the state he leads and issued an impassioned ‘wake-up call’ to the Democratic Party about what he described as a coordinated Republican-led effort to erode more rights that many Americans have for decades assumed were settled, such as the right to interracial marriage….. He again accused Democratic lawmakers at the national level of being disorganized, while the G.O.P. continued to show discipline. ‘Where is the Democratic Party?’ he said. ‘Where’s the counteroffensive?’” • Good question! Certainly California Democrat regulars have led extremely successful counter-offensives against Sanders supporters, #MedicareForAll, etc.


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TX: “Why Aren’t Democrats Supporting This Pro-Choice Candidate in Texas?” [Vice]. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday that the leaked draft opinion of a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade is ‘a sweeping and severe restriction of Americans’ rights,’ one that if issued, ‘would pave the way for Republicans to obliterate even more of our freedoms.’ But in a crucial Democratic primary runoff in South Texas, Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders are backing anti-abortion Rep. Henry Cuellar as he tries to fight off 28-year-old immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros’ second challenge from the left… Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn have all endorsed Cuellar. Pelosi donated $4,000 to Cuellar’s campaign in December and reiterated her support for him following the March 1 primary, and Clyburn is set to campaign with Cuellar at an event in San Antonio on Wednesday. A Clyburn spokesperson told VICE News in an email that Clyburn ‘is still planning to be with Cuellar’ Wednesday. Cisneros, who finished roughly 1,000 votes behind Cuellar in the primary out of nearly 50,000 cast, told VICE News that it’s been ‘frustrating’ seeing the Democratic leadership stand behind Cuellar—even as he’s opposed Democratic agenda items such as the bill to make Roe’s protections a federal law, as well as the PRO Act, a monumental package of labor law reforms to empower workers.” • Sounds to me like if we didn’t have President Manchin, we’d have President Cisneros. Pelosi and Schumer have really engineered defense in depth!


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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Trump Legacy

“What Is Trumpism?” [John Ganz, Unpopular Front]. This deployment of Gramscian concepts is well worth a read. “As soon as Trump appeared as a viable political force, the entire mob of the American extreme right, relatively small and disparate as it may be, flocked to Trump and tried to act as his “shock troops” or “commandos” when and where they could. Trump may not be purely fascist in the classical sense, but his style and practice of politics was close enough to excite and mobilize this section of the political fringe. This has not always worked in Trump’s favor politically, but it is not a constituency he has ever been eager to jettison. For instance, he was very careful in his wording around Charlottesville, and about the Proud Boys during the debates, and also pretty gentle about the January 6 rioters even when asking them to go home. Trump clearly views this type of group as important to him politically, and he often speaks of them in menacing terms. He attempted to mobilize this contingent during the January 6 crisis; the tactical results of that in the immediate-term “war of maneuver” were a total failure, but longer-term strategic significance is still yet to be seen. Now, his alliance with such groups may be a political misjudgment on his part, but this proximity should inform the way we think about his politics. It is true that these groups are disparate, small, struggling with police interventions, prosecutions, and internal squabbles, etc. but they nonetheless exist and have some political valence, even if it is largely negative. It was less terror than the electoral reality of Trump’s popularity within the GOP popularity that eventually cemented the Republican leaderships getting in line behind him. It’s true that they occasionally defy him and his followers, but such decisions are politically fraught and require care.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A call to arms for diverse democracies and their ‘decent middle’” [Martin Wolf, Financial Times]. “Mounk argues, rightly, not only that a strong state is essential for a diverse democracy, but also that “it is individuals, not the groups to which they belong, who are the fundamental building blocks of society.” Groups have no comparable legitimacy: the lines they seek to draw around individuals are arbitrary, far from exclusive, and frequently oppressive. The elevation of group rights above those of individuals is a huge mistake.”


Latest elite superspreading event, the WHCA, a thread:

More on the WHCA:

“Dinner had testing requirement, events did not.” ZOMG, these people. Where is the logic in that?

Joke, except not:

(Yes, the New York Times Pitchbot is a parody, to the extent parody is possible these days.)

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Lambert here: I am but a humble tape-watcher, but if some trusting, non-realist soul tells you that “Covid is over,” you can tell them that cases are up, transmission is up, test positivity is up, hospitalization is up, rapid riser counties are up, and wastewater is up, too. And this is all from data designed to support the narrative that “Covid is over,” and gamed within an inch of its life. So, if signals like that are flashing red, consider what the real signal must be like. (Note also this is all with BA.2 only, and with what the establishment considers an “immune wall” made from vaccination and prior infection. Since semper aliquid novi Africam adferre, and we’ve let ‘er rip at the airports…. Well, I just hope we get lucky with BA.4 and BA.5. “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” –Otto von Bismarck.

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If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

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Case count by United States regions:

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Looks like the train is rolling, now. Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out. Also remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. One source said they though cases might be undercounted by a factor of six. Gottlieb thinks we only pick up one in seven or eight. The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. The blue “Biden Line” shows what the case count would be if it were 61,000 * 6 = 366,000, i.e. not gamed. (I changed the Biden Line from dotted to solid because the dotted line was too hard to draw properly in my crude tool.)

Here are the cases for the last four weeks:

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Worth noting that cases have nearly doubled in four weeks.

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.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

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North is still up; South down.

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 Biobot Analytics:

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Northeast unflattened, and — hat tip to readers for pointing to this — it looks like past aggregation was adjusted up.

Cases lag wastewater data.

NOT UPDATED From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

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California slightly worse. Oregon worse. (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.) It would be nice if the falling wastewater measures in California presaged a drop in cases. (OTOH, the Biobot data is only as good as the non-representative sample it uses, so…).

The previous release:

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

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The Northeast remains stubbornly and solidly red. Now California is red as well. The Upper Midwest is moving that way, too. (The Unorganized Territories in Maine are back to red, good job.)

NOT UPDATED Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Hospitalization is most definitely up in many places. (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.)

“5th Wave? New York COVID Hospitalizations Top 2,000, Nearly Tripling in a Month” {NBC New York]. “New York COVID-19 hospitalizations topped 2,000 for the first time since late February on Tuesday, rising nearly three-fold in just a month as highly contagious subvariants of omicron trigger pleas for renewed caution from officials locally and nationally. The upward trend continued Wednesday. As of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest update, 2,119 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID across the state’s 10 regions, a 153% increase since April 3 alone though still well below the nearly 13,000 admitted during the variant’s January surge peak…. No new COVID protocol will be implemented (or reimplemented) at this point in the city, but should the alert level reach high — the highest of the three laid out by health officials — an indoor face mask mandate for all people regardless of vaccination could return.” • And speaking of New York:

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,023,513 1,021,58.Now even the death rate is up. (I can’t get the last data to pop up, but you see the curve.) I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Broadly down. (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased by 19 thousand to 200 thousand in the week ended April 30th, 2022, from a revised 181 thousand in the previous period and above the market estimate of 182 thousand. It is the highest reading since mid-February.”

Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based companies announced plans to cut 24,286 jobs from their payrolls in April of 2022, the most since May last year, and a 14% increase from the 21,387 announced in March. It is the first time this year job cuts were higher than the corresponding month a year earlier. Entertainment/Leisure led all industries with 3,675 job cuts, followed by the Services sector (3,453), Financial companies (2,772) and Retailers (2,213). So far this year, employers announced plans to cut 79,982 job cuts, the lowest recorded January-April total on record.”

* * *

Commodities: “Europe is racing to stock up on oil and natural gas before it imposes tighter sanctions on Russian energy. Liquefied natural gas import terminals took in a record amount of the superchilled fuel for the time of year in April… while oil imports from non-Russian suppliers hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic” [Wall Street Journal]. “The hunt for new supplies is a boon for energy companies and is rapidly reshaping world-wide energy transport networks. BP has sent 55 LNG cargoes into Europe over the past five months in a frenzy of activity for the firm’s gas traders, while the company’s European refineries effectively mint money as the price of fuel they sell outstrips the cost of crude they buy. U.S. LNG supplier Cheniere Energy just raised its 2022 profit forecast by some 17% after record first-quarter exports, with about 75% going to Europe.” • Give war a chance, say I.

Shipping: “The impact of China’s stringent Covid-19 lockdowns is starting to take a toll on businesses. Some U.S. companies are warning that the lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities are denting sales, disrupting operations and putting added strain on supply chains that could be felt well into the summer. … [T]he restrictions could cost Apple up to $8 billion this quarter, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services said the freight carrier’s customers are worried about deliveries scheduled for July” [Wall Street Journal]. “Even if the lockdowns lift soon, the ripple effects may be felt for months as many of the cargo ships currently outside Shanghai start heading to the U.S., where port throughputs are improving after months of congestion. Industrial supplier W.W. Grainger expects the shutdowns to hit supply lines in coming months, and the company has been increasing inventory levels since last year to maintain service|.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 34 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 38 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 5 at 1:25 PM EDT.

The Gallery

You could call this wallpaper….

… but I would not, because the sense that this is a real place is so precisely given. Not sure how he does it!

Class Warfare

Big money straightens out dug-in managers?

“Union drive in full swing at Amazon warehouse in Montreal” [CBC]. “The Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) says workers reached out to the union federation earlier this year and launched an organizing drive on site last month over health and safety issues as well as salary, which hovers around $17 or $18 per hour. Unionized workers in comparable roles typically make $25 to $30 an hour, it said. If more than 50 per cent of the 250 to 300 employees at the warehouse sign a membership card, the Quebec Labour Relations Commission can certify the union. CSN vice-president David Bergeron-Cyr says workplace health and safety is a key reason behind the push. ‘It’s like a jungle in there, a lot of people are getting injured,’ he said in a phone interview. ‘Most of them are first-generation immigrants and they don’t know their rights and don’t speak French. They don’t go to the CNESST — our health and safety commission — to get paid.’ Some employees are expected to lift up to 400 boxes an hour, resulting in unreported injuries and lack of compensation for time in recovery, Bergeron-Cyr said.”

“‘Add Personal Story Here’: Starbucks Anti-Union One-on-Ones Fall Flat” [Labor Notes]. “Starbucks corporate decided to skip to the next tactic in its playbook: “one-on-one” meetings between one barista and a manager—or multiple managers. The idea seemed to be that separating us would break our solidarity and make it easier to lie to us. But once again they found Hopewell baristas ready to see through their lies, push back, and support each other. For our first round of one-on-ones, these meetings were framed as ‘reviewing our benefits.’ Basically, they intended to tell us how great our benefits are—and that they could take them away. They want us to think we stand to lose all these ‘incredible’ benefits if we unionize. We know we wouldn’t actually, but they genuinely think we’re dumb enough to fall for thinly veiled threats. … During my own one-on-one, our manager began by saying she couldn’t find the paper she had her written questions on. Throughout the meeting she mentioned this repeatedly, and kept pausing to think. It was such odd behavior I had to assume it was some tactic the union-busting experts had taught her. What else could it be? I was wrong. I later found out that she actually had lost her questions, because she’d accidentally handed the sheet corporate had given her to the barista in the meeting before mine. This sheet had detailed guidelines on how to run a one-on-one, automating heartwarming moments through directions like, ‘Add a personal story here,’ ‘Share your favorite Starbucks memory,’ and ‘Help barista set up a benefit they showed interest in.’” • ”It was such odd behavior I had to assume it was some tactic….”

“The Librarians Are Not Okay” [Culture Study]. “The other day, I was asking people on Instagram to tell me about just how much their jobs had expanded over the last few years — how many jobs each of them was expected to do, even though they’re just one person who also, in most cases, also has significant caregiving duties. And maybe it’s because of who my followers are, but as with any time I talk about systemic problems with burnout, and exploitation, and overloaded jobs, I heard from a lot of librarians — people who really have absorbed responsibilities that were previously the work of three FTEs, if not more, and how they’re expected to just….have a better attitude about it? And when I reposted one of these stories in my feed, I put in the caption: THE LIBRARIANS ARE NOT OKAY. And it’s true, isn’t it? The nurses are also not okay, the high school teachers are not okay, the graduate students are not okay, the adjuncts are not okay, the social workers are not okay….and the librarians, you are not okay. You’re not okay because you’re undervalued. You’re not okay because you’re drowning in student loan debt. You’re not okay because there’s way too many applicants to too few jobs. You’re not okay because you’re trying to furiously tread water. You’re not okay because like all of those other professions that aren’t okay, you’re nominally essential — the most valuable parts of our society, the vaunted upholders of democracy! — but often treated as societally worthless. And that’s not okay, and I’m here to say it’s not okay, and if you feel so hopelessly bitter and resentful and lost, it’s also okay for you to say: I can’t do this anymore. That’s something you don’t hear very often in a professional development talk, but I think it’s essential to acknowledge what often goes unsaid: when it feels like the job is sucking all that is good from you, it is okay to save yourself. With that said, though, I don’t think that we’re past the point of despair. You are located at the intersection of structural and systemic failures, but there are still strategies that you can implement — as individuals, as teams, as organizations — that can make the profession more resilient, less fragile, and most importantly, more sustainable.” • How about class warfare?

News of the Wired

“CADR: Tests, interpretation and sizing” (Google Doc) [Fluid Mechanics Group / LIFTEC] (currently, Joint Center of Univ. Zaragoza and CSIC, Spain). “CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) is related to total flow rate and filter efficiency: CADR=(Air flow rate)x(Filter efficiency). So, a possible method to evaluate CADR of a portable air filter (also of filtered air in HVAC systems) consists in measuring the air flow rate through the filter and applying a correction to account for actual filtration efficiency.” • With many many tests and recommendations.

“Mechanical Watch” [Bartosz Ciechanowski]. “Mechanical watches are not as accurate as digital ones. They require maintenance and are more fragile. Despite all these drawbacks, these devices show a true mastery of engineering. With creative use of miniature gears, levers, and springs, a mechanical watch rises from its dormant components to become truly alive.” • Wonderful interactive animations!

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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 TH:

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NOTE ON PAYPAL: As some readers may know, PayPal whacked Consortium News’s account, for no justification that I can see. It’s to be hoped that Consortium News has its account restored, and that NC doesn’t come under the same ban hammer. In the meantime, until I/we can come up with an alternative, I must continue to rely on PayPal (and rely I do). I will be cleaning out the account daily, and PayPal does give a heads-up, so your risk is minimal. Please carry on as before, or, if you feel you must, write me and I will send you directions for sending a check. Please put “PayPal” in the subject line. Thank you for your support! It is much appreciated, and helps me with responsibilities. –lambert

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