2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Dark-eyed Junco (hat tip, MT_Wild). British Columbia, Canada. If you have a suggestion for a sparrow species, please leave it in comments. I’m surprised at how different their calls are; this one sounds more like an insect!

“Sparrow ID Guides from Macaulay Library and Bird Academy” [The Cornell Lab of Ornithology]. Free downloads. “Sparrows are a challenge to birders of all skill levels because they’re often skulky and hard to see. At first they seem like dull brown birds, but when you get a good look, they show beautiful and intricate patterns on their feathers. Because many species are hard to see, they are sought after by avid listers and those who appreciate the beauty of birds. Whether you’re at home or out in the field, these helpful four-sheet sparrow reference guides have full-color photos of eastern, central, western and widespread sparrows.”

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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

“Free US school lunches were a dream come true. Now, a hunger crisis looms for 10 million children” [Guardian]. “For the last two years, the notion that no kid should ever have to go hungry in the US has gotten closer to a reality, thanks to federal waivers that have expanded children’s access to food. The waivers resulted in a simple but revolutionary outcome: free lunch, year-round, for every American schoolchild. But that will come to an end in weeks, as Congress has failed to include an extension of the waivers, which have allowed schools to offer school lunches as well as summer lunch handouts, enabling an estimated 10 million more students to get a free meal. Now, as rising prices hit families and school food programs alike, the program’s expiration will cause a cliff that some parents, cafeteria workers and nutrition advocates say could cause a catastrophe.” • Democrats deliver again!


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“The Outlook for the 2022 Senate Elections: A State-by-State Analysis” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. Based on his model: “According to the results displayed in Table 5, only a small minority of Senate contests in 2022 are likely to be highly competitive. The most competitive races, with predicted margins of under 5 points, are expected to be in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. These contests should be regarded as Toss-ups. Three other races, in North Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire, are also expected to be closely contested. Four of the 6 contests that are expected to be very competitive are currently held by Democrats (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire) while the other 2 (North Carolina and Pennsylvania) are currently held by Republicans. These results suggest that Republicans have a slight edge in the 2022 Senate elections when it comes to potential seat swing based on the fundamentals in these races. However, Republicans are also defending seats in Ohio and Wisconsin, in which their predicted victory margin is just over 10 points, indicating that these seats could potentially be in play. The outcomes of the 6-8 contests that will most likely determine control of the U.S. Senate in the next Congress will depend to a large extent on the individual candidates and their campaigns. Based on the fundamentals of state partisanship, incumbency, and the national political environment, Republicans have a good chance to pick up at least a seat and take back control of the upper chamber. Over the past decade, however, we have seen that Republicans have blown several opportunities to pick up Democratic seats by nominating candidates who were either ideologically extreme or weighed down by personal controversies. It remains to be seen whether any of the current crop of GOP candidates, many of whom are running as staunch Trump loyalists and some of whom have endorsed the Big Lie of the stolen 2020 election, will suffer a similar fate.” • Interesting!

“‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections” [Politico]. Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys. The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts. ‘Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than [as] a poll challenger,’ said Matthew Seifried, the RNC’s election integrity director for Michigan, stressing the importance of obtaining official designations as poll workers in a meeting with GOP activists in Wayne County last Nov. 6. It is one of a series of recordings of GOP meetings between summer of 2021 and May of this year obtained by POLITICO. Backing up those front-line workers, ‘it’s going to be an army,’ Seifried promised at an Oct. 5 training session. ‘We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?’” • I ran an inferior link on this recently; this one is better. Yech. Like the Brooks Brothers riot in Miami 2000, but scaled to the national level. As usual, Republicans are more serioius about politics than Democrats.

AZ: Trump-endorsed Republican:

CA: “Congresswoman, billionaire to face off in LA mayor’s race” [Associated Press]. “Democratic U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and billionaire developer Rick Caruso breezed past a large field of rivals looking to be the next mayor of Los Angeles and advanced Tuesday to a runoff election in November. An early tally of mail-in ballots showed Caruso with 41% and Bass with 38%. A candidate needed to top 50% to avoid a runoff. Bass, who was on then President-elect Joe Biden’s short list for vice president, would be the first woman mayor of Los Angeles and the second Black person to hold the office. The race largely focused on homelessness and crime. More than 40,000 people live in trash-strewn homeless encampments and rusty RVs, and widely publicized smash-and-grab robberies and home invasions have unsettled residents…. Caruso, 63, who sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and was endorsed by the police union, has positioned himself as a centrist outsider running against City Hall’s progressive establishment. He blames Bass, 68, and other longtime incumbents for sprawling homeless encampments that have spread into virtually every neighborhood and concerns about unsafe streets…. Caruso’s estimated $4.3 billion fortune allowed him to run a seemingly nonstop display of TV and online ads. His campaign’s spending — over $40 million as of early this week, most of it his money — topped all other candidates combined…. By comparison, Bass’ spending hit about $3.3 million, though both campaigns were also supported by ads from outside groups.” • More:

IA: “Iowa Democrats hope changes help it salvage leadoff caucuses” [Associated Press]. ” In a last-ditch effort to salvage their leadoff presidential selection position, Iowa Democrats are proposing two key changes that they hope will increase participation and avoid the chaos that marred their 2020 caucuses. One change would allow Iowa Democrats to submit presidential preference cards by mail or in person before caucus night. Critics have long argued that the caucuses, held in the dead of winter at the dawn of a presidential election year, have prevented older adults, disabled people and shift workers from being able to take part. The second change would eliminate the often confusing and time-consuming process of realignment, where supporters of a candidate who does not reach a minimum threshold of support in a precinct are allowed to choose another candidate. The new plan eliminates a second choice.” • Lol, Iowa Democrats screwed Sanders out of his first victory* in 2020, and this is the thanks they get! NOTE * Of course, the Sanders campaign didn’t help itself by losing counties along the Mississippi to Buttigeig, of all people. Nevertheless.

MI: “Ballot meltdown in Michigan resets GOP race for governor” [NBC]. “Over the last 10 days, two leading contenders, former Detroit police chief James Craig and self-funding businessman Perry Johnson, were disqualified from the August ballot, their candidacy petitions rejected because of allegedly forged signatures. Conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, who had been polling in the single digits, earned the backing of Michigan’s highly influential DeVos family. And in the suddenly shrunken field, one poll showed fringe candidate Ryan Kelley — a real estate agent who attended the pro-Donald Trump rally that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — jumping into first place. Late Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court denied last-minute appeals from Craig and Johnson, whose disqualifications had been upheld by other courts this week. Many in the GOP had been proceeding as if they won’t be reinstated. Party leaders and voters are scrambling to reassess the five remaining candidates.”

MI: “Michigan high court keeps another Republican candidate for governor off ballot” [FOX Detroit]. ” The Michigan Supreme Court turned down an appeal Tuesday by another Republican candidate for governor whose campaign petitions were found to be full of fraudulent signatures. The court declined to intervene in a decision by the Board of State Canvassers to keep Donna Brandenburg off the Aug. 2 Republican primary ballot. Brandenburg, an entrepreneur from western Michigan, was one of five GOP candidates barred from the ballot. The state elections bureau told the board that they didn’t have at least 15,000 valid signatures because paid circulators submitted thousands of phony ones. There’s been no evidence that the candidates were aware of the rogue work.”

PA: “Uncommmon Wealth” (PDF) [American Promise]. “With the astounding rise in election spending and divisive dark money campaigns in America, the Pennsylvania 2022 Senate election has been, and will continue to be, dominated by outside spending groups and a national “donor class.” These donors and outside groups are spending millions of dollars to define “viable” candidates, distort facts, hype misleading attacks, and drown out the voices and ideas of ordinary Pennsylvania voters. The sheer cost of campaigning has created a “pay-to-play” system, where the only candidates with a chance are the ones with access to millions of dollars through personal wealth and/or national donor networks. The hyper-targeted ad campaigns paid for by this money will be overwhelmingly divisive and negative, and they will ignore many of the issues of most concern to Pennsylvanians. ”

TX: “Cisneros requests recount in race against Texas Rep. Cuellar” [Associated Press]. “Progressive Jessica Cisneros is requesting a recount in her tight runoff election against nine-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar that remained too close to call nearly two weeks later. Cuellar was leading Cisneros by 187 votes, or 0.4 percentage points, out of 45,429 ballots counted as of Monday night, according to an Associated Press count. The AP will not declare a winner until the recount is completed.”

TX: “Cuellar’s lead down to 136 votes, DCCC chair says he likely won S. Texas runoff” [Dallas Morning News]. “With Laredo Rep. Henry Cuellar leading by a mere 136 votes after last week’s primary runoff, and challenger Jessica Cisneros – and independent analysts – still unwilling to call the race, the head of the party’s House campaign arm said Tuesday that the nine-term incumbent probably won. ‘It appears that Congressman Cuellar has won again, and we want him coming back to Congress, if in fact, he’s our nominee,’ Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, told The Dallas Morning News during a briefing with regional reporters. ‘It’s my expectation that when the dust settles, he will be the Democratic nominee. And we are going to hold that seat,’ he said.” • They just can’t resist putting a thumb on the scale.


“DeSantis beats Trump in conservative group straw poll for 2024 nomination” [Guardian]. “Conservative activists in Colorado have again placed Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, a rising star in Republican circles, above former president Donald Trump in their preference for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination. DeSantis won 71% of the vote to the former president’s 67% in the straw poll, which was taken during the weekend’s Western Conservative Summit in Denver and means little in itself. Participants are allowed to offer multiple responses. But there is a growing perception that Trump is losing his previously impenetrable grip on the Republican party, having achieved mixed results in endorsements in recent primary elections ahead of November’s midterms.”

Here is DeSantis at CPAC:

Lots of red meat, but the cut seems to have changed. “In florida we reject the biomedical security state.” “I look back at President Eisenhower’s farewell address. Many of you remember it because he warned about the military industrial complex… He was right, but if you read that speech he also warned about the dangers of a rising scientific and technological elite. Government was funding more scientific research and he said when that happens there’s a danger that public policy can be held captive by this scientific elite.” • Stoller comments on DeSantis:

I do notice that DeSantis is speaking very much as a Florida governor. I also couldn’t listen to the entire speech, simply because his voice makes me feel I’m being hammered at (rather like Clinton, in fact, but not like Trump). Maybe DeSantis has a broader register?

* * *

“When Trump is right, he’s right — but many refuse to admit it” [The Hill]. “Trump reached out to the Pulitzer Prize administrator to rescind the 2018 prizes for national reporting awarded to The New York Times and The Washington Post for their investigative reporting of the then-alleged Trump-Russia interference into the 2016 presidential campaign.” And he was right.

“Black Voters Saved Biden’s Neck Last Time– Will They Do It Again?” [Howie Klein, Down with Tyranny]. “This morning, the Washington Post published a piece by Cleve Wootson, Scott Clement, Matthew Brown and Emily Guskin highlighting a degree of African American buyer’s remorse for the big support they gave Biden, not just in the primaries but more so in the general. There’s a strong feeling that “Biden fulfilled the campaign promise that mattered most… instant he was inaugurated: simply not being named Donald Trump. But in the 18 months since then, voters say they ‘haven’t seen Biden deliver on the myriad promises’ they believe he made to to Black voters. ‘There has been little movement on police reform or voting rights protections.’ Like everyone else, Black voters are concerned about inflation, especially in gas prices, food and rent. And he’s failed so far on gun control as well. Black voters say he’s well intentioned but not as capable as he portrayed himself in the campaign. One woman in southern Georgia told the quartet of reporters that ‘He’s not really holding up to his end of the bargain. Some things he’s promised. Some things he’s done. But we are still struggling as a whole. We are all still struggling.’ ‘Roughly 9 in 10 Black voters, they wrote, ‘supported Biden in the 2020 election, but a Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 1,200 Black Americans this spring finds what appears to be diminishing support: 7 in 10 approve of President Biden’s job performance, and fewer than one quarter ‘strongly approve.’ A 60 percent majority of Black Americans say Biden is keeping most of his major campaign promises, but 37 percent say he is not. Writ large, the poll shows much stronger support for Biden in the Black community than among most others groups. But that support is growing less intense among this loyal constituency heading into the midterm elections, and younger Black Americans are significantly less enthusiastic about the president than older ones.’” • Surely they have no place to go?

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.

* * *

The Democrats go to work on their messaging problem:

Help me.


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, wastewater detection is up, and hospitalization is elevated in many states. 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. But it’s starting to look like we won’t.

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• ”Buttigieg, at least 14 others test positive for COVID-19 after Mackinac Policy Conference” [Detroit Free Press]. “In a statement issued Monday afternoon, conference organizer Detroit Regional Chamber indicated it is aware of at least 15 people who tested positive after attending the conference. Buttigieg joined hundreds of politicians, business leaders, reporters and others at the conference Wednesday on Mackinac Island. He participated in multiple events unmasked, including news conferences and interviews, at times with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. ” • Lol, Mayo Pete is a potential superspreader (“potential” because naturally no contact tracing will be done). Elites infecting each other once again. They’re really committed to the bit, aren’t they?

• Maskstravaganza:

Walensky comes from a hospital background; one can well imagine Big Hospital and Big Pharma combining to destroy any vestige of trust in public health for profit. Either that, or culling the herd. And on the same day, June 7, that the mask guidance is deleted–

“Monkeypox Can Be Airborne, Too” [New York Times]. “‘C.D.C. removed the mask recommendation from the monkeypox travel health notice because it caused confusion,’ the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.” Oh. More: “The turnabout hints at a little-discussed aspect of the current monkeypox outbreak: The virus can be airborne, at least over short distances. While airborne transmission is [A] only a small factor in the overall spread, experts said in interviews, [B] there are no firm estimates regarding how much it contributes.” That sentence. Surely [A] contradicts [B]. And: “In previous outbreaks, a majority of cases were reported in those who had close contact with an infected patient or animal. But in some instances, airborne transmission was the only explanation for the infections.”

• Maskstravaganza:


* * *

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.

* * *

Case count by United States regions:

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The steady upward climb resumes. Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 106,000. Today, it’s 117,300, and 117,300 * 6 = a Biden line at 702,000. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes had a basis in reality. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

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The steady upward climb resumes, especially in the South, which jibes with both the positivity and Rapid Riser counties.

Here are the cases in the South:

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Hell-o-o-o, Governor DeSantis!

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

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Fiddling and diddling. This tracker does this at peaks, but also not at peaks. I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

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Both South and North 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.

Cases lag wastewater data.

From Biobot Analytics:

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Note that BA.4 and BA.5 are increasing in the South (as of May 18).

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

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Alabama much worse, Texas no worse, Florida oddlynot worse. New Mexico and Illinois, worse.

The previous release:

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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. 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. Use the community transmission immediately below.

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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East coast, West Coast, and Midwest are all red. Great Plains speckled with yellow. (As has been the case for weeks, even while people were yammering that “Covid is over!”)

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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Miuch less green. I think the hospital-centric goons at CDC started to think it’s all over. It wasn’t.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,034,284 1,033,830. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

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

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle: “Cryptoverse: The early birds betting bitcoin’s bottoming out” [Reuters]. “As the crypto winter creeps into June, the first signs of a thaw are emerging. Some investors are now betting that bitcoin is bottoming out, judging by the money heading into listed cryptocurrency funds, which represent just a slice of the market yet are popular among institutional and retail players alike. Overall flows into such funds turned positive last month, with a weekly average inflow of $66.5 million, a reversal from a dismal April when they saw a weekly average outflow of $49.6 million, according to data provider CryptoCompare. ‘It’s largely institutional, and to a degree retail investors, recognizing that the pain is already endured, and we’re closer to the bottom than we are to the top,’ said Ben McMillan, chief investment officer of Arizona-based IDX Digital Assets.” • I wanted a crypto ice age…

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 33 Fear (previous close: 31 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 8 at 1:32 PM EDT..

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

The Gallery

I don’t know what “L.S.L.” stands for:

Sports Desk

“Simone Biles, other women seek $1B-plus from FBI over Nassar” [Associated Press]. “There’s no dispute that FBI agents in 2015 knew that Nassar was accused of assaulting gymnasts, but they failed to act, leaving him free to continue to target young women and girls for more than a year. He pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison. ‘It is time for the FBI to be held accountable,’ said Maggie Nichols, a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma in 2017-19. Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to the tort claims filed Wednesday. Lawsuits could follow, depending on the FBI’s response. White noted the 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The FBI received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed at the school, but the tip was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office. The government agreed to pay $127.5 million to families of those killed or injured.” • 90 claimants!

Class Warfare

This is great:

Contracts need to be signed, though.

News of the Wired

“I’m nearly 60. Here’s what I’ve learned about growing old so far” [Guardian]. “The years from late middle age onward are also marked by a steady erosion of ambition. The cause isn’t so much a loss of drive as a growing realisation that you aren’t going to change the world after all.” • I’m not sure the loss of ambition is true for artists. Painters, writers, even bloggers. Perhaps gardeners? Now, as far as becoming a major league catcher or a bass player… Probably not. Interesting piece.

“The Turbo Encabulator’s long, weird and very funny history” [CNET]. • This is great:

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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 Carla:

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Carla writes: “Our trusty tree-peony reigned again in mid-May here in NE Ohio. Last year we feared it was a goner (after 30+ years) but it rallied and not only survived, it appears to have triumphed. The bloom period lasts only a few days, but what lovely days they are—and the fragrance!”

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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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