2:00PM Water Cooler 5/18/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 5/18/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Evening Grosbeak Week at Naked Capitalism. Apparently, there are four types of Evening Grosbreak; this type 2. Tahoe National Park, California.

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Politics

“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’s controversial disinformation board suspended after wave of criticism” [Washington Examiner]. “The Department of Homeland Security’s much-criticized disinformation governance board is being paused following concerns it would impede free speech and complaints about its executive director. Less than a month after President Joe Biden’s administration touted the initiative, DHS has suspended the board, pending a review from an advisory council, with its leader, Nina Jankowicz, still evaluating her future plans within the department.” • Commentary:

2022

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ID: “What Went Down During The May 17 Primary Elections” [FiveThirtyEight]. “Idaho has been counting very slowly, but we finally have enough votes to say that the state’s many far-right primary challengers are mostly falling flat.”

NC: “Edwards ousts North Carolina Rep. Cawthorn in GOP primary” [Associated Press]. • I don’t understand why we weren’t centering Cawthorne’s disability….

OR: “Ballot counting issues delay results in OR House primary” [Associated Press]. “Issues with counting ballots in Oregon’s third-largest county could delay for days a definitive result in a key U.S. House primary where Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader was facing a strong challenge from a progressive candidate. Schrader was trailing Tuesday in early returns in the 5th District race against Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The race was too close to call in part because of a printing issue with ballots in Clackamas County…. Blurry barcodes made vote-counting machines reject a large number of ballots in Clackamas County and elections workers were transferring the votes by hand to fresh ballots so they could be tallied…. Teams that include both Democrats and Republicans are duplicating every ballot so they can be scanned and extra workers were brought in to help. In a statement late Tuesday, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan called the issues in Clackamas County “unacceptable,” but said she was confident the final results would be accurate.” • Things remain hopeful for McLeod-Skinner:

OR: “Despite $11 million in donations from a crypto billionaire, Carrick Flynn loses big in Oregon primary” [MarketWatch]. • That’s a damn shame. More:

The President of House Majority PAC is — and I know this will shock you — Robbie Mook.

PA: Poor Conor never stood a chance:

Remember when Biden met Fetterman (shorts, Carharts, and all) on that collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh? A thumb in the eye for Pennsylvania Democrats, assuming Biden was conscious. I’m gonna be optimistic and put this in the same category as Christian Smalls meeting Biden in the White House; Smalls won’t be knocked off course. Now, what Fetterman’s course might be, I don’t know. I watch him because: (a) his well-managed charming Jesse Ventura-like affect may open space for other non-blow-dried candidates; (b) his unheard-of concept that “Every one of PA’s 67 counties matters,” which reminds me of Dean’s (successful) 50-state strategy, which Obama and Rahm promptly strangled; (c) the entire Pennsylvania Democrat establishment hates him, a huge positive in my mind; and (d) Conor Lamb was going to be the future of the Party blah blah blah, so I’m glad Fetterman didn’t just beat him, but stomped him. And of course, anybody that the spooks aim their stroke gun at, like they did Bernie, can’t be all bad. Kidding! (None of this is about policy, I grant. We’ll have to see about that.) • Commentary:

PA: “John Fetterman Wins on Vibes” [The Atlantic]. “The campaign has been a study in the power of vibes. Lamb seems like a candidate created in a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee lab: He’s young, Kennedy-handsome, a Marine and former federal prosecutor who looks born to wear suits. By contrast, Fetterman looks like he was hacked together from spare parts in an oil-streaked Pittsburgh chopper garage. He wasn’t. Although Fetterman notes that his parents started out poor, his father became a wealthy businessman. He has a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School, as well as an M.B.A. This isn’t to say that Fetterman’s a phony—he points to a friend’s death in a car accident as setting him on a new path when he was in his 20s—but to the extent that he’s a Yinzer roughneck, he was made and not born to it. Fetterman is clearly more liberal than Lamb. (A third major candidate, state Senator Malcolm Kenyatta, came in behind Lamb.) He backed Bernie Sanders in 2016 and supports a more progressive slate of policies than Lamb, a consummate moderate. He’s been circumspect about how he conveys that, though: He loudly protested when a pro-Lamb ad claimed, falsely, that he had described himself as a Democratic socialist, and a New York Times reporter heard him demur when a voter buzzed that he could be a Squad member. Meanwhile, he has a chance to reach voters who wouldn’t typically vote for a Democrat. He is testing the idea that leftist candidates can win non-leftist voters with the right aesthetics and a platform of ‘workers, wages, weed.’” • I think that’s imputing W.W.W. to Fetterman. Fetterman’s platform will become evident in practice.

PA: AIPAC loses:

PA: “Oz, McCormick Appear to Be Headed to Recount in Nail-Biter Pennsylvania Senate Primary” [National Review]. “The Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary race appears to be headed to a recount as Trump-endorsed celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz led hedge-fund executive Dave McCormick by roughly 2,000 votes early Wednesday morning, well under the half-percentage-point required to trigger a recount in statewide elections. In the final stretch of vote tabulation, McCormick had garnered a small edge over Oz until that flipped late Tuesday night. As of Wednesday morning, each candidate had won around 31 percent of the vote with roughly 95 percent of votes counted. Populist upstart Kathy Barnette came in a distant third with 25 percent of the vote.” •

PA: “Mastriano wins Pennsylvania GOP governor primary despite party concerns” [The Hill]. “Mastriano defeated a crowded field of other gubernatorial candidates, including former Rep. Lou Barletta, his main primary rival, and had a healthy polling lead during the weeks leading into the primary. Mastriano is a staunch hard-liner in the GOP and has centered much of his campaign around the unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020. He’s also supported outlawing abortion without any exceptions and rolling back privacy protections for people who contract COVID-19. The state senator scored a surprise endorsement from former President Trump over the weekend, helping inject a late jolt into Mastriano’s bid. Still, Republicans had scrambled to try to head off a Mastriano nomination and waged a bungling effort to coalesce around an alternative candidate.”

TX: “In rematch, Jessica Cisneros faces a weakened Henry Cuellar for South Texas congressional seat” [Texas Tribune]. “The May 24 primary runoff election is a rematch from two years ago, when Cisneros fell just short of pushing Cuellar to a runoff in 2020. She is challenging him again, and once more, liberal groups are solidly consolidated behind her. Cuellar is undoubtedly formidable, with the backing of some of the party’s top national leaders. But after an unrelenting slew of bad political news for Cuellar this year, he’s never been more vulnerable…. Cuellar’s record as the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House has reignited ire from members of the party from across the nation, who are still reeling from the reports that abortion could soon be outlawed in half of the country. On that issue and other policies — unions, border security, and oil and gas — he and Cisneros are at odds.” •

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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“The Democratic Party’s Leadership Is Trying to Destroy Progressives” [David Sirota, Jacobin]. “In all, more than a dozen consulting firms that have worked directly for either Democratic Party committees or President Joe Biden’s political apparatus have been paid more than $12 million by the allegedly independent super PACs now buying primary elections for corporate candidates, according to federal disclosures reviewed by us…. aken together, the endorsements, the donor overlap, and the party ties of the allegedly independent committees show there is no real separation between the Democratic leadership and the “outside” spending. This is one large party-sanctioned operation aimed at the Left, even when corporatists are undermining the party’s agenda and its own president. Indeed, rather than amping up potential progressive primary pressure on Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Biden’s political machine actually ran ads touting her as she was killing his signature economic legislation and driving down his approval ratings. This lack of pretense, where the leadership isn’t even pretending to be impartial or progressive, represents a significant break from the past. Once upon a time (read: up to the mid 2000s), Democratic leaders typically stayed officially neutral in intraparty battles. These weren’t exactly halcyon days — the power brokers still quietly encouraged donor support for preferred candidates. However, that kind of rigging was hidden in the shadows, so as to not publicly violate the once-sacrosanct idea that Democratic voters should be trusted to choose nominees and — by extension — the party’s ideological complexion. That tradition began to change in 2006 after Rahm Emanuel bought a Chicago-area congressional seat and began handpicking House Democratic nominees through the party’s campaign apparatus. Later, the party’s political machine went all in against Sanders’s 2020 presidential primary campaign and then went in even stronger for corporate candidates in contested Senate primaries in Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado — and in the latter case, even progressives like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) participated in the scale-thumbing. All of this escalated to the DCCC literally blacklisting political consultants who worked for unapproved Democratic candidates.” • All true (not all the consulting firms won their races, though, fortunately).

“Dems question whether Maloney can run DCCC while battling freshman colleague” [Politico]. “House Democrats could find themselves picking sides in a deeply uncomfortable primary this summer: their campaign chair versus a Black freshman. And a growing swath of the caucus is blaming its midterm chief, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, for the predicament. Maloney’s decision to abandon a newly redrawn version of his current swing district — and instead run for a seat that includes most of Rep. Mondaire Jones’ turf — is raising private concerns from across the party that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief has put himself in an inappropriate scenario: leading the party’s midterm strategy while potentially battling a fellow member. While the map is not final and Jones hasn’t yet said whether he’ll take on Maloney, his other option if New York’s current maps hold is challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), another Black progressive freshman. Many of his colleagues are now bracing for the prospect of a freshman being forced to go up against the member who controls the party’s campaign coffers — a scenario they describe as completely avoidable.” • Whoops:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“BLM doled out millions to Patrisse Cullors’s family and friends, IRS filing shows” [Washington Examiner (Verifyfirst)]. Not a softball like yesterday’s AP piece. “The family and friends of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors reaped millions in lucrative contracts and payments from the charity after it received a windfall of cash amid nationwide protests in the summer of 2020, according to charity tax documents released Tuesday. Damon Turner, the father of Cullors’s only child, raked in $969,459 from the embattled charity through his art firm, Trap Heals, BLM’s Form 990 disclosure shows. An LLC run by Cullors’s brother, Paul Cullors, received $840,993 for ‘professional security services.’ Shalomyah Bowers, a member of the BLM board of directors and a close associate to Cullors, pulled in $2,167,894 to his company for consulting and management services. New Impact Partners, an LLC run by the sister of BLM operations director Raymond Howard, received $107,000 for ‘fundraising counsel activities.’ Cullors ultimately had exclusive control over how BLM spent its funds, as she was the only member of the charity’s board of directors from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, the time frame covered by the Form 990 disclosure.” • On the AP piece, when I wrote ‘I would want more detail on who, exactly, these ‘Black-led grassroots organizations’ are’ this is the sort of thing I had in mind. These people are supposed to be Democrats! Where are the lawyers, and the cutouts, and the indirection? Only the Trumps of this world put their hands right in the cookie jar! Commentary from Maine’s Shay Stewart Bouley, who runs a non-profit and knows whereof she speaks:

#COVID19

Maskstravaganza:

“I owe it to the people I’ll be around,” what’s with that? This is America! As I’ve said before, how is it that Trump’s Surgeon General is one of the few rational voices out there on layered protection?

I’ve been treating the charts as topic areas and putting relevant snippets of content under them. But I’m afraid readers miss the snippets. So I decided to put bullets in front of the snippets in the #COVID19 section, as here:

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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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The train is really rolling, now. Biden has handily beaten Trump’s first two peaks, even accepting the data, which of course nobody does. I have helpfully projected with spurious precision when Biden will beat his own first peak: 46 days, or July 4 (and I swear I didn’t game that). Just in time for a national eruption of superspreader events! (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 94,000 * 6 = 564000, i.e. not gamed.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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Worth noting that cases have doubled tripled 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. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.

• Because New York used a lagging indicator, hospitalization, as their trigger, they are implementing all their mitigations too late:

• Same logic:

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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Going vertical?

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.

Cases lag wastewater data.

From Biobot Analytics:

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What’s with the enormous upward revision for the Northeast? The other thing I’m not liking is that big time lag with the variants. April 27? I want to know about BA.4 and BA.5 (dubbed “variants of concern” by The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week, but not WHO). This is the CDC’s readable report on variant proportions:

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But as you can see, the most recent two weeks are based on CDC’s “Nowcast” model, and I don’t trust CDC models. There is a second report on variant proportions immediately below this one, which does not use the Nowcast model, but it’s incredibly poorly designed, and not readable. So, up your game, Biobot. (It has occurred to me that Biobot, as a very small company, is experiencing growing pains, and data is their last concern. It should not be!)

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

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Status quo.

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.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Orangization everywhere. So now the hospitals are affected, perhaps CDC will wake from slumber. (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: 1,027,285 1,026,899. Still down and way too high. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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Broadly down, but what on earth just happened in the UIK? Data issues, hopefully? (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US declined 0.2% mom to an annualized 1.724 million units in April of 2022, after a revised 2.8% drop in March.”

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The Bezzle: “Crypto Meltdown Exposes Hollowness of its Libertarian Promise” [Wall Street Journal]. “Bubbles are a regular byproduct of our financial system, from dot-com stocks in the late 1990s to subprime mortgages in the mid-2000s to green technology recently. Crypto was different: It sought to replace the financial system altogether with one that was faster, cheaper, less under the thumb of government and more accessible to the poor. It has had 13 years to make that case, and failed. Bitcoin comprises just 0.2% of international remittances, according to Manuel Orozco of the Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S.-based think tank. El Salvador made bitcoin legal tender last September and heavily subsidized its adoption. Usage has since plunged; only 20% of companies in El Salvador accept it and less than 5% of sales are conducted in bitcoin, according to an April study. The poor, it turns out, don’t need a new currency: They need cheaper ways to use the old one. Crypto makes day-to-day transactions more expensive, not less. Bitcoin ATM fees can range from 7% to 20%, and transaction charges from $1.78 to $62. The only businesses to truly embrace crypto are those allergic to oversight, such as ransomware and sanctions busting. Having failed as a medium of exchange, crypto survives as an asset class: Today, crypto is primarily used to trade other crypto.” • Son, those sardines are for trading….

Tech: “Facebook’s hiring crisis: Engineers are turning down offers, internal docs show” [Protocol]. “Facebook cannot find enough candidates to meet engineering demand, especially in the Bay Area, and has struggled and failed to meet early 2021 recruiting goals, according to a detailed internal memo outlining recruitment strategy and hiring pains….. Just under two weeks ago, Facebook announced that it planned to hire 10,000 engineers in Europe to help build, among other tools, its planned ‘metaverse’ (an announcement on those efforts is scheduled for Thursday). In Frances Haugen’s testimony to the United Kingdom Parliament earlier this week, she said that she was ‘shocked’ to hear that news. ‘Do you know what we could have done with safety if we had 10,000 more engineers? It would have been amazing,’ she said.” • I was hoping that the problem was that no self-respecting engineer would want to work at a scummy company like Facebook, but apparently that’s not the problem….

Mr. Market: “US Pries Into Over 100 Trader and Banker Phones in Texting Probe” [Bloomberg]. “The US is forcing Wall Street banks to embark on a systematic search through more than 100 personal mobile phones carried by top traders and dealmakers in the largest-ever probe into clandestine messaging on platforms such as WhatsApp. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been sending firms lists of key positions — in some cases pointing to around 30 people including heads of certain investment banking teams or trading desks — that are subject to the review, according to people with direct knowledge of the requests. Personnel in those roles are being ordered to hand over phones so devices can be examined by lawyers. The aim is to gauge how pervasively Wall Street professionals use unauthorized messaging platforms to chat with each other or clients as regulators decide which firms to punish, and how hard, for failing to preserve business-related messages sent via unapproved platforms. Banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc and Credit Suisse Group AG have said they’re in the midst of fielding US inquiries into messaging apps, though it’s not clear whether all are now accessing phones. The requests to access devices are so sensitive — potentially rooting through years of office banter and even personal texts — that banks are arranging for outside attorneys to help conduct the reviews, acting as intermediaries and preserving some semblance of privacy, the people said.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 12 Extreme Fear (previous close: 15 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 8 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 18 at 1:56 PM EDT. Mr. Bitcoin still sad?

Our Famously Free Press

Minimizers (1):

Minimizers (2):

Plenty of “Sociopath of the Day” candidates here.

Class Warfare

“New York Now Has More Airbnb Listings Than Apartments for Rent” [New York Magazine]. “There are now bidding wars for one in every five Manhattan rental apartments (and one in three luxury units), according to the most recent Douglas Elliman report. Inventory in all of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and northwest Queens has been hovering well below 10,000 units — as of April, the number was just 7,669. Which is several thousand less than the number of entire-apartment and entire-home Airbnb rentals available in New York City right now: 10,572, according to AirDNA, a third-party site that tracks short-term rentals. Inside Airbnb, another site that scrapes Airbnb for listings data, puts the number even higher, at 20,397.”

The culling continues:

One more reason to keep your test results a secret and gut it out at home….

News of the Wired

“This Simple Math Problem Drove Our Entire Staff Insane. Can You Solve It?” [Popular Mechanics]. • Who knew there was an ISO standard for equations? (ISO 31, in one of its parts, 31-1?)

Another “Mom’s” outlier from alert reader SG:

I’ve never eaten in a place called “Mom’s” either, but when I lived in Tokyo (coincidentally enough at the exact same time Yves did), there was a little place around the corner from my apartment named “Obanaya” (literally, “Auntie’s Place”) the food was terrific. Cheap, too. The proprietess would even nag you to “Yasai o tabete!” (“Eat your vegetables!”) if you were from the neighborhood.

Dad.

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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 EM:

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EM writes: “Hello again, this is the ‘business end’ of a Tulip, hard to beat a Tulip.”

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

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