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Dear Reader,

Welcome to Water Cooler’s yearly fundraiser: My goal is 🌡️ 400 donors, an increase of 25 over last year, and you can help out by becoming one of them and clicking here, which will take you to the Donate button on this page. If you can give a lot, give a lot. If you can only give a little, give a little; every little bit helps! (You can also pay it forward by donating on behalf of those whose circumstances do not permit them to do so, this year.)

Otherwise, read on! First, I’ll look at the editorial changes I made, based on your feedback; then, at Covid; at Politics; and finally at snark.

Editorial Redesign

Last fall, I asked some regular readers for feedback on refreshing Water Cooler’s editorial design, writing:

Are there topics I should cover that I do not? Are there topics I do cover that I should not? Is the sign-posting for the various sections adequate? How about the order? And any other feedback you have.

A surprising number of readers wrote back to say, many in these exact words, “Don’t change a thing!” In reader MC’s elegant formulation:

As one who often has opinions about how things should or could be improved, and who doesn’t usually hesitate to share those, I’m surprisingly without much substantive comment to provide here.

I find this reassuring, since NC readers are not given to glozing compliment! Nevertheless, you will have noticed I did make some changes, based on your feedback:

1) I eliminated several standing elements that had outlived their usefulness;

2) I consolidated all the Covid charts into a single table. This made that section easier to scroll past — some readers do! — while also making trends easier to spot (are the yellow highlights all going up at the same time, for example).

3) I added a list of highlights; not really a table of contents, but a list of out-of-band items that people might otherwise miss in the ginormous flow of content. (I also added these highlights to the blurb that appears in the main page, which seemed to increase clickthroughs, interestingly.)

You gave me many, many other good ideas, not all of which I could implement (for example, matching footnote markers must be done manually, which is cumbersome and error prone (though I just realized I could do something clever with the table of Covid charts (so I’m glad I wrote this))). In any case, feel free to reinforce your thoughts when you donate! Your mail will be answered.

I have not changed the stress relievers introduced last year:

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…. 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.

Contrary to what I wrote last year, however, Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter) did reduce the artbot count, which is why items in The Gallery have also decreased. But artbots seem to have make a recent comeback:

One of my favorite paintings ever, from Whistler’s Blue Period; I would always stop and breathe it in at the Fogg — strangely appropriate for this painting! — back when I lived in Somerville, the compost heap behind the Harvard Yard (and if you appreciate the jokes, or the allusions and Easter eggs, feel free to show your appreciation here).

Oh, I forgot to say: I tried out a new category — alluding to Mr. Rogers — called “Look for the Helpers.” I pulled it because I had not defined the material I sought clearly enough. But I’ve been collecting examples, and will shortly revivify it.

Covid Coverage

Readers, again this year, you were pleased with Water Cooler’s Covid content. From Alert reader SD:

Thank you, Lambert, for your superb coverage of COVID in general. The gaslighting around the pandemic is so extreme and widespread that I sometimes feel like I’m losing my marbles. NC’s/Water Cooler’s consistent, fact-based, and sensible presentation of information is both an irreplaceable source of trustworthy knowledge and an oasis of sanity for me.

And antidlc responded:

YES!! Thanks, Lambert.

(If you share SD’s enthusiasm, you may express it here). In mail, from RR:

[O]ne plea is that you do not give up on your Covid coverage. I credit NC — and Water Cooler in particular— for giving me both the fortitude (to be the weird one) and fear (of Covid) to keep up with masking at work. I am now that person in the office and it makes some people uncomfortable, but also gives other permission. (It helps that I am now visibly pregnant, and society affords— actually demands— pregnant ladies to be all kinds of paranoid and superstitious about health matters.)

And from SC:

You have provided the most useful and comprehensive COVID coverage anywhere, and I think it is important to keep foregrounding it. Perhaps when the next pandemic strikes, you can change the emphasis somewhat. Although dueling pandemics would be a true fright and you are one of the few people who still treats the existing pandemic like the crisis it remains.

Last year, I wrote:

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….

Second, I try to advance our collective understanding of Covid as a cultural phenomenon: [For example, [w]hy is masking not universal?

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 [now Cohen] and Jha, but wish to keep everyone else in the dark, or rather breathing shared a…

That editorial policy continued all last year, and will continue, with your help, through Water Cooler this year as well. I do think that most of you have your “Swiss Cheese” protocols well in place now, but I will be following new technology as it arrives. For cultural and political understanding…. I continue to remain gobsmacked at the mindboggling effectiveness and unanamity of the efforts of our governing and ruling classes to (a) suppress the idea and the logical and policy consequences of transmission through shared air, (b) destroy public health, replacing it a version of folk libertarianism, and (c) to reinforce all that by vicious social norming unprecedented in my experience. Over the last year, we have seen a staggeringly effective example of social engineering, one that makes Iraq WMDs look like a kindergarten play; even Goebbels would bow in awe. At some point, the contradictions in this policy must crack wide open; you can’t have a workforce that is constantly ill and cognitively damaged, and expect, oh, people to remember to screw in all the bolts on airplane doors. Or nurses to nurse, or teachers to teach. And when that crackup comes, I will be here for it!

There are three rays of hope, all covered in Water Cooler. First, extraordinarily good science on Covid is still being done. Second, doubts about CDC’s — there’s no other word for it — eugenicist policies are beginning to emerge in mass-market venues like People and Self. Third, organizing has started, for example at People’s CDC. I will be here for all that, too. So please help me cover the good news, too!

Politics Coverage

And so to politics (If you want to skip over this part feel free!) I recently wrote:

3240 days is a long time in politics. In the formulation of stability vs. volatility — that is, the view that the race is a “regular order” of Trump v. Biden, vs. the view that it is by no means certain that Trump and/or Biden will nominated, elected, and allowed to assume office, and further, that the means by which the parties will select their candidates is unknown, and even the nature of victory is unknown — I am firmly on the side of volatility. Hence my grimly detailed and methodical pointillist method; we need to know as much about all the players and fields as we possibly can, because we cannot know who will emerge from the pack, or even, at this point, why. The powers that be can rig the election all they want, but if the dogs won’t eat the rigging, what then? And if they will, what then? So strap yourselves in.

By pointillist — small “data points” assembled into a larger vision — I mean that I do a great deal of very close reading from as many political sources as possible, looking for small details, and watch the language players use very, very carefully. Reader SD commented:

I remember Obama’s persistent and revealing speechifying tic “mothers and daughters,” which he deployed whenever he spoke publicly about economic issues, abortion, health care, and anything that didn’t have to do with defense, intelligence, or “Terror Tuesdays.” Saying “women” aloud would have been easier, perhaps more mellifluous, and of course more accurate and inclusive. (But clearly inconvenient when discussing Terror Tuesdays, etc.)

Deep-state-approved Democrat politicians inevitably have a linguistic tell like this that would lose them their shirts in a poker game, if they ever deigned to sit down at a table and play fair. I appreciate Lambert’s close reading of these seemingly small linguistic details. They say everything.

(Perhaps the reader who commented on my “patient” use of this technique back in 2016, The Year of Trump, can pipe up. Search is failing me!) This is not pleasant work. At all. Of course, close reading skills come in handy for legal issues as well. Reader SteveD commented, on the recent effort to throw Trump off the ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment:

Water Cooler continues to provide (and this is nothing else is even close) comprehensive Section Three coverage. Bravo Lambert! I’m certain 2024 will surprise, but at this juncture Section Three will be one of the “big” stories of the year.

I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that I was right to call out Section Three as a real concern, that readers were well-served by Water Cooler’s coverage, and that I made the right call on the issues the Supreme Court found salient. Water Cooler will continue to provide the same level of coverage for campaign 2024, and whatever new narratives crop up. Please encourage me by clicking here!

Snark

I almost forgot to mention snark. Readers like it and asked for more. Alert reader Subboreal wrote:

Briefly arising from the fainting couch to write this:

“as opposed to having burnished it to a gloss of perfection” Please, “towel off his ginormous cullions” is quite enough burnishing, thanks.

To which reader Petal responded:

Lambert is a poet of the highest order. Yeats, Burns,…Strether.

It was a good thing I wasn’t drinking anything at the time or my laptop would’ve needed a towel.

And reader Iian McCormick wrote:

I don’t know how you keep it up! The black dot ⚫️ indicating impending lambert editorialization remains my favourite thing on the interwebs

One More Thought

Reader DH sent me a comment so laudatory I hesitate to include it:

So much of what you put into Water Cooler ties together the greater world (human behavior, politics, corporate behavior, medicine, supply chains, transportation, and nature); you consistently curate very diverse, high quality links (imho). The proof of your quality is reflected in the comments; they never cease to delight, inform and challenge. !]Your persistence on certain topics has forced me to stay focused where I normally would have drifted away. The greatest rewards for sticking with these topics have been the geysers of shocking revelations, malfeasance, deceptions and interconnected patterns. You are extremely gifted Lambert, in your ability to tickle out and gently tie together our constantly morphing collective human behaviors, especially our darker natures, shallowness and short-sightedness. For me, this is what gives Water Cooler its cachet. I don’t necessarily like looking at these things (as self-reflection and in historical context), but have grown so much in doing so.

Big fan of chiaroscuro here. Also, birds and plants! I would like very much to continue writing Water Cooler at the same high level. Your contributions are essential to that effort. If you have not already done so, please click here to donate.

* * *

2023’s Water Cooler fundraiser went well, and we would like 2024’s to go even better. Our goal is 400 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 400 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!

* * *

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.

* * *

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! NOTE I really, really discourage checks. The USPS does not seem able to get them into the right box, and I have no recourse (I think they are trying to close the branch to develop the real estate). PayPal does take a cut, but OTOH there’s no hassle and no loss.

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