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Announcing 2023 Water Cooler Fundraiser!

Dear Reader,

If you are pressed temporally, this is Water Cooler’s yearly fundraiser: My goal is 375 donors, and you can help out by becoming one of them and clicking here, which will take you to the Donate button immediately. If you can give a lot, give a lot. If you can only give a little, give a little; every little bit helps! Otherwise, if you wish to follow my disjointed musings on how 2023 shaped Water Cooler, and how I tried to shape Water Cooler to help you — or if you only want to spot the typosMR SUBLIMINAL I read it twice, I swear! read on!

Stress Relievers

2023 was a hell of a year. Naked Capitalism has always provided stress relievers in the form of cute animals in Links; Water Cooler extends this principle in several ways. Thanks to your own personal contributions, Water Cooler features a daily stress reliever in the form of a plant; but this feature has branched out to provide stress-relieving projects, whether of milkweeds, metal sculptures, or balcony plantings of tomatoes and herbs. (You know who you are, but I don’t want to give names, because I cannot name everyone who helped out; there are too many.) I know how helpful readers find the daily plant because I am told immediately when I space out due to an over-hasty production cycle, and forget to include one!

Water Cooler also begins with a daily bird song (much in the style of the late Robert J. Lurtsema, who always began his Morning Pro Musica radio show that way). When I write Water Cooler, I start at the top, so my second task of the day — the first being coffee — is to go to the Macauley Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, click through the bird catalog, and listen until I find a beautiful song. That is a very pleasant way for me to initiate my workflow, and I know from your comments that you enjoy hearing from our little modern-day dinosaurs: the thrushes, the wrens, the larks, the potoos. It’s amazing the memories a pre- or post-rain robin’s song will refresh.

Finally, we know Because Science that art museums are stress reducers (reducing, for example, cortisol levels, at least according to some). I didn’t expect the “Gallery” feature to amount to much, but as it turns out, many of you are serious about ways of seeing painting and photography, and have insights to share with all of us. I just went on the Twitter to see if Elon Musk has business-modeled my main source of new art, artbots, out of existence, but apparently not. Here is a very peaceful and de-stressing painting:

At this point, you may be saying that the blogger doth de-stress too much — but if not, now is a good time to donate here — so let me move along to how Water Cooler handled the stressors of this our timeline, the stupidest ever.

Covid Coverage

Covid, covid, covid. Let me begin by thanking all the Water Cooler readers who helped each other out by providing links to Covid dashboards and wastewater sites for all 50 U.S. states and Canada. This is a uniquely excellent service provided by your actions, collectively. Look for the helpers!

Water Cooler’s Covid coverage has three aspects: First, and most importantly, my goal is to help you avoid becoming infected with a very bad and lethal airborne pathogen, and to help you help others avoid this as well. Hence, I cover as many aspects of the layered protection (“Swiss Cheese”) strategy as I can, especially non-pharmaceutical interventions (masking; ventilation; Corsi-Rosenthal boxes), and non-vax treatments (sprays, mostly), and non-muscular injection vaccines that provide some hope of sterilizing immunity. Naturally, I cover the various medical aspects of Covid’s badness as well, especially Long Covid [makes warding sign].

Second, I try to advance our collective understanding of Covid as a cultural phenomenon: Why is masking not universal? Why do medical facilities, of all places, not mask or mask carelessly? What do “mild” and “living with Covid” mean in practice, who buys into such framing, and why? When you are in social situations where such conflicts come up, what to do? (Some readers share masks; that’s very helpful.)

You can see already that this has been a lot of work. If you feel Water Cooler has helped you “live with” — better yet, live without! — Covid, then you can help Water Cooler by donating here.

Third, I cover — and there just isn’t a comfortable way to think about this; people do tend to avert their eyes — the aspects of Covid that come under the heading of political economy; how Davos Man understands perfectly well that #CovidIsAirborne, as do their tools like Walensky and Jha, but wish to keep everyone else in the dark, or rather breathing shared air; how the “labor market” of “essential workers” is affected; and how some of the “exceptional” members of the PMC, particularly in the aerosol community, are working to empower us all to breathe uninfected air and stay healthy. Understanding Covid’s political economy is helpful in the sense that it’s useful to know “where the puck will go,” so you can skate there, as opposed to skating to where the puck is right now. (Here I’m thinking of decisions having to do with location: Travel, school, workplace, home place. If Covid is going to be around for a long time, then it makes sense to take Covid’s future course and likely policy decisions into account.) Further, if we are ever to hold the “leaders” who collectively caused a million Covid deaths and life expectancy to drop two years, we need to be able to build a case, ideally at the Hague Tribunal or in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Political economy can build that case.

I forgot. Fourth. Covid data. I still manage, despite all the obstacles placed in my way by the powers that be, who wish to shut Covid data gathering down, to publish daily charts that show where the pandemic is heading; at the very least, that we are on a high plateau, and Covid is not “over” by any stretch of the imagination, not even the imagination of one of those Sociopath of the Day.

This is a lot of work (and so far as I can tell, very few others are doing it, certainly not in the mainstream). If you have found Water Cooler helpful, you can “pay it backward” — this fundraiser compensates me for the labor I have done over the last year — by clicking here.

Water Cooler, fortunately for us all, is not all Covid, even if it may sometimes have seemed so. Assuming Covid continues to plateau, I shoudl be able to devote more time in the coming year to two other topics.

Business Coverage

The first topic is “business” (although for things like manufacturing and shipping, I suppose I should say, with Veblen, “industry”). Water Cooler provides daily statistics for Mr. Market (the “Greed and Fear” index), and select official statistics for real economy measures like the employment situation and manufacturing.

Water Cooler’s business section has also been [lambert blushes modestly] good at winkling out the nuts and bolts for various incarnations of The Bezzle. We were right and early on self-driving cars. We were right and early on crypto, Bitcoin, and NFTs (remember NFTs? Good times). We were also right and early on Web 3.0, although that was obviously so stupid and non-impactful it would have been mere sadism to give it the coverage it deserved. I have every confidence that Water Cooler will be right and early on the current Bezzle: AI. We also laid the groundwork for understanding last year’s supply chain crisis by developing sources like Hellenic Shipping News and other obscure trade journals, and featuring links to containers, ports, big ships and boats, trucks, trains, warehouses, etc. (I loved writing about shipping, and hopefully I write more about it in the coming year.)

This is a lot of work.

If Water Cooler’s business coverage helped you, you can help Water Cooler in a universal and concrete material benefit: a donation (here).

Politics Coverage

Finally, we come to our second topic: politics. Covering electoral politics in 2022 and 2023 has been difficult for me, personally, Normally, I’m a pretty hopeful person — really! — but the Biden Administration’s Covid policy decisions really knocked me for a loop, and I’m one of the lucky ones (that is, I’m still very much alive). Normally, there would be at least one elected or candidate I could, in however a nuanced and reluctant fashion, support. Sadly, after the collapse of the Sanders campaign in 2020, and the subsequent evisceration of what remains of “the left” in the Democrat Party, there is nobody to support (unions are a different matter; see under “Class Warfare”).

The vacuity and decadence of what we laughingly call the “two-party system” means my politics section has lacked an animating force. I still love the nuts and bolts of electoral politics, I love the spectacle, I love the action, whether principled and heroic, or base and venal, I love the characters, I love the history, I love the language and the anecdotes. I still perform the service of weeding out disinformation and moral panics, or ignoring them altogether, and I still pull on my yellow waders and apply my critical thinking skills when the times demand it. But really, I’ve been reduced to taking the Republican Party seriously, and who wants that? I do plug away at my master theory of what the Democrat Party really is — political scientists go silent when I ask them — but I have yet to bring it home. On the bright, or possibly the garish side, 2024 already looks to be shaping up to be quite a year, and perhaps the results, at all levels, will be interesting! Since I’ve been blogging daily on electoral politics since 2003, not, I feel, without insight, you can imagine how disorienting these conditions are for me.

This is not pleasant work. At all.

If you have found Water Cooler’s political coverage helpful — or if it confirmed your priors that there was little help, currently, to be sought or found there — please encourage future coverage by clicking here!

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Enjoy your weekend! And if you go out, remember to look up at the sky, and not down at your shoes!

Thank you!


P.S. 2022’s Water Cooler fundraiser went well, and we would like 2023’s to go even better. Our goal is 375 donors, an increase of 25 over last year. Please give what you can.

Readers, I couldn’t write Water Cooler without independent funding from you; there’s no mainstream market for calling out bullshit — let alone helping people to keep their balance with bird songs and artwork and plants!

What Yves wrote back in 2017 is true in 2023:

To be crass, Lambert is making well under a living wage for his work on Water Cooler and that is not right. We need you to live up to what we hope is one of the widely-held values in the commentariat, that people should be paid fairly for their work, especially work that has already been done! That means digging into your wallets, whether a little or for a lot, and chipping in for Water Cooler.

If you can dig deep, please consider doing so. Not only is this quarter tax time for me, I have people who depend on me in the real world. Further, you will be paying me for work I have already done — unlike the Naked Capitalism fundraiser proper, which sets the budget for the following year — and so having played the fiddle, I am now passing my cap, which I hope will shortly sag with your contributions. Please click the Donate button below and contribute what you can.

Again, our target is 375 donors, and we’d like to return to our regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible. I really enjoy writing Water Cooler, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Thank you!

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To make the business relationships clear, Yves writes:

Water Cooler is a separate store front within Naked Capitalism to pay for [Lambert’s] considerable effort on it over and above all the work he already does on the site… Yes, Lambert also gets paid out of the annual fundraiser, but that is for the considerable amount of work he does besides Water Cooler, such as DJing the site, helping manage the comments section, managing a lot of the tech issues, and helping in tooth-gnashing over other “business of running the business” matters.

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Readers, you may donate here:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

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!

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor