By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
Olivaceous Siskin, 17 km WSW Rioja, above El Consuelo – LSU/ AMNH, San Martín, Peru.
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
* * *
I am with Matthews on this:
I don’t think most people outside the polling world realize how deeply, deeply fucked polls are by nonresponse bias these days. This data ends at 2018, and it’s only gotten worse since Covid.https://t.co/nZzkHi2A2Z pic.twitter.com/xs3eP3WZRm
— dylan matthews (@dylanmatt) November 3, 2022
I think the polls are interesting — as narrative! — but I have no trust in them at all. Much as my gold standard for Covid is the sort of epidemiological study with seating charts and airflows, so my gold standard on political data is the panel, the sort of thing Frank Luntz does, but in as much depth as possible (and not from Bigfoot from the Time folding up his parachute and stashing it under the diner stool, either.
As in so much else, the data — at least the data we see, but I think all data — is bad, bad, bad. (Bordieu has a lot to say about surveys in Classification Struggles, the basic issue being that pollsters as classifying subjects have as the objects of their study subjects who in turn are classifying them, based on the questions asked).
* * *
“The ‘dire situation’ confronting House Democrats” [Politico]. “[Y]ou can see what a dire situation House Democrats are in by looking at where the last-minute money is flowing — into very Democratic-leaning districts that were once seen as safe.” Actually, no. All you can see from the money flows is what a dire situation the House Democrats believe they are in. So, no, we can’t get away from understanding voters. More: “One of the big patterns, though, is that Democrats have a lot of open seats out there from retirements and redistricting. The whole election for them hinges on where their candidates are able to float above Biden’s bad approval ratings, and it’s a lot easier for incumbents to do that, especially those with their own strong brands. (That’s also a reason why the Senate landscape has looked better for Democrats, though they could lose the Senate as well.) The open seats have been a real problem for House Democrats.” Note this is a technical reason, nothing to do with “our democracy” or “tyranny” or whatever. And on the one race to watch: “Virginia closes on the early side, and Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s seat went for Biden in 2020 and then Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2021 in the governor’s race. The very definition of swing territory.” • Spanberger is — of course! — a CIA Democrat.
* * *
“Joe Biden warns of ‘unprecedented’ threat to democracy ahead of midterms” [Financial Times]. “Joe Biden said American democracy was facing an ‘unprecedented’ threat from political candidates who refuse to commit to accepting election results, as the US president made an eleventh-hour appeal to voters ahead of next week’s crucial midterm elections. ‘There are candidates running for every level of office in America: for governor, for Congress, for attorney-general, for secretary of state, who won’t commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re in,’ Biden said in a primetime speech from Washington’s Union Station on Wednesday night. ‘That is the path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful [it is?]. And, it is un-American,’ he added.” • Well…. I’ve gotta say, I don’t like the spectacle of armed goons hanging about dropboxes, or the church ladies who run elections being harassed. That’s ugly and bad. But committing to “accepting the results of elections” isn’t an argument the Democrats have any standing to make (RussiaGate + the Resitance) or Biden personally (what was done to Sanders in Iowa). The chutzpah and lack of self-reflection by liberal Democrats on this point is staggering. I agree that “our democracy” is in trouble, but solutions are not on offer from either party, sadly.
“Biden ‘is a tyrant’: Furious Republicans say President’s ‘patronizing’ speech saying democracy is ‘not the rule of monarchs’ and the midterms a battle with MAGA ‘dark forces’ won’t divide Americans and distract from his dire record” [Daily Mail]. “The president said next Tuesday’s vote is a decision on ‘whether we’re going to sustain a republic, where reality’s accepted’ or the ‘‘ and a battle between ‘autocracy and democracy’.” • “ forces that thirst for power.” Dear me. Note that if a Republican said that, the yammering about the privileges of whiteness would go on for days…
* * *
WI: Obama on Social Security:
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 29, 2022
WaPo, 2014: “Liberals didn’t kill Obama’s Social Security cuts. Republicans did.” The Republicans didn’t want to give Obama a win in the form of his long-sought Grand Bargain. And the only reason Bill Clinton didn’t cut Social Security was the Lewinsky matter, so elders owe Monica Lewinsky a debt of gratitude that persists to this day. All these people sound great until you know who and what they are.
Democrats en Déshabillé
Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert
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!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“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.
* * *
Goddamned Republicans keep giving me reasons to vote for them:
Percentage of Republicans who say we’re doing “too much” to support Ukraine:
March (WSJ): 6%
March (Pew): 9%
May (Pew): 17%
Sept. (Pew): 32%
Today (WSJ): 48%https://t.co/eX43Dfd5wZ
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) November 3, 2022
Realignment and Legitimacy
“No Consequences” [The Baffler]. “My own research on impunity and financial crises finds that impunity tends to be the result of three problems: culpability, in that elites or heads of state are seldom personally responsible for any crimes; precedent, in that the human imagination for wrongdoing consistently outstrips laws and regulations; and scale, in that most legal systems are better equipped to handle individual crimes instead of social ones. Together, these problems create extralegal or a-legal spaces where social harms are perpetrated on a very large scale, benefiting a very small group of people, but nobody is legally at fault. From the eighteenth century onward, the increasing complexity of economic and political institutions and the increasing abstraction of governance has tended to diffuse impunity from individuals to impersonal forces like “markets.” Moreover, in economic or political contexts, harms are more difficult to assess than in contexts of actual violence, and for that reason, popular perceptions of impunity can be at least as destabilizing as actual instances of lawbreaking without consequences. Since impunity and democracy tend to be incompatible, repeated episodes of elite impunity can sediment over time, eventually producing crises of political legitimacy. Hence the world around us.” • Say, how’s Rochelle doing?
“Supreme Court Allows TSA To Issue Mask Mandates” [Forbes]. “On Monday the Supreme Court left in place a ruling that allows the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to issue mask mandates on planes, trains and other forms of transport, as it had for more than a year during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court denied a California attorney’s request to overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in the D.C. Circuit from December, which found no merit in his claim and affirmed that the TSA does have the authority to maintain security and safety within the transportation system, including imposing the masking requirement.” • Good. Not that Biden will do anything about it:
“The Problem With Our Boost-Boost-Boost COVID Strategy” [The Atlantic]. “In the United States, public health is an oxymoron; individuals with access and means seek out prevention and treatment, while others are blamed for not doing so.” • Yes, the flip side of “access” — either “access” or “means” is redundant — is eugenics. Rule #2.
Good for Belgium:
This seems amazing. Belgium now requires, BY LAW:
1) public indoor spaces must display CO2 level
2) risk analysis and action plan
3) targets: level A (CO2 < 900 ppm and clean air provided at 40 m3/h/person) and level B (CO2 < 1200 ppm and 25 m3/h/person) https://t.co/ol4HyLxZp3
— Dr David Berger, aBsuRdiSTe cROnickLeR (@YouAreLobbyLud) October 28, 2022
• ”Ionizer Company Sues Indoor Air Quality Expert” [Energy Vanguard]. “One of the great things about the pandemic is that so many indoor air quality experts were very public in sharing their knowledge. Dr. Marwa Zaatari is one of those experts. I interviewed her for my article on electronic air cleaners, and she really knows her stuff. She’s publicized a lot of the research on electronic air cleaners that are in the iffy category. Unfortunately, doing so has gotten her in legal trouble with a large company that sells ionizers, one of those electronic air cleaners that I’ve said is best to avoid. Global Plasma Solutions (GPS) is suing her for $180 million. Why? Because she’s been pointing out that independent researchers have found results that don’t support GPS’s claims. This is intimidation, pure and simple. It seems the company would rather keep the results of independent research out of the public eye as much as possible. In addition to suing Dr. Zaatari for $180 million, GPS is also suing Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of peer-reviewed scientific research. Two years ago, Dr. Zaatari was doing her thing and helping a lot of people understand indoor air quality and the effectiveness of different methods to achieve it. Over the last year, she’s gotten very quiet after GPS filed the lawsuit against her.” • Commentary:
Yes, @marwa_zaatari is a hero. She is also smart, knowledgeable, professional, kind, a mother of two, capable, and a really nice person. GPS is owned by a hedge fund driven by profits. Sorry, GPS I know what side I am on. Sue me too – if you want. https://t.co/s6fBPsKqB1
— Jim Rosenthal (@JimRosenthal4) November 2, 2022
Not hedgies, private equity (Falfurrias Capital Partners). Which explains a lot. Lie down with dogs…..
“Pandemic daily update, 2 November 2022” [Eric Topol, Ground Truths]. At the very end, writing of the wastewater study linked to yesterday (“A really astonishing piece of science“) Topol writes: “Finally, a fascinating sleuth report from Marc Johnson and colleagues in Wisconsin who used wastewater surveillance and genomics to identify a cryptic SARS-COV-2 lineage coming from a a single set of bathrooms. The astounding finding that certain individuals were persistently excreting massive copies of the virus, up to 1.6 billion genomes/L, is notable and takes the concept of superspreader to a new level.” • I’m not sure Topol has this quite right. From the study: “[U]nprecedented wastewater RNA viral loads were observed in samples collected in June (~520,000,000 genome copies per liter undiluted wastewater) and August (~1,600,000,000 copies per liter), though .” If there is to be “superspreading,” there must be spreading. But I don’t think a non-viable copy of a virus can spread. The numbers are indeed massive, however.
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, November 2:
Wastewater data (CDC), October 30:
Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.
Variant data, national (Walgreens), October 19:
Lambert here: BQ.1*, out of nowhere. So awesome.
Variant data, national (CDC), October 8 (Nowcast off):
Lambert here: Most of the screenshots of CDC variants running around crop out whether Nowcast (CDC’s model) is on or off; see red box at top. The BQ1.* figure of 27% that’s running around is CDC’s Nowcast projection, three weeks out. (It’s telling that CDC would rather build a model than fund faster acquisition of real data.)
• ”A COVID BQ wave that started in New York has already reached California. It’s about to engulf the rest of the nation, experts say” [Fortune]. “When it comes to COVID, New York is experiencing a wave of highly transmissible, immune-evasive BQ infections—and it’s the epicenter of a national wave, experts say. BQ variants represented a third of reported New York cases as of Monday—and 15% of cases in California, according to data from GISAID, an international research organization that tracks changes in COVID and the flu virus…. Combined, GISAID and CDC data paint a picture of a BQ wave engulfing the nation—one that will impact available hospital beds, according to Rajnarayanan and Gregory. COVID hospitalizations are beginning to tick up in both states—dramatically so in New York. And while U.S. COVID hospitalizations remain relatively stable, the rest of the country could soon follow New York’s lead.” • I will have to dig into the hospitalization data….
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,096,717 –
1,095,646 = 1071 (1071 * 365 = 390,915, which is today’s LivingWith™ number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the LivingWith™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease.
It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to 217,000 on the week ending October 29th, below market forecasts of 220,000. The result pointed that labor market conditions remain tight, backing the hawkish policy signaled by the Federal Reserve at its November meeting.”
Employment Situation: “United States Nonfarm Unit Labour Cost” [Trading Economics]. “Unit labor costs in the US nonfarm business sector surged by 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2022, below market forecasts of a 4.1 percent increase and following a downwardly revised 8.9 percent gain in the previous period, a preliminary release showed. It reflects a 3.8 percent increase in hourly compensation and a 0.3 percent gain in productivity.” • Here for the ratio.
Services: “United States ISM Non Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI fell to 54.4 in October of 2022 from 56.7 in September, and below market forecasts of 55.5, pointing to the slowest growth in the services sector since a contraction in May of 2020.”
Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods rose by 0.3 percent in September of 2022, picking up from the revised 0.2 percent uptick in the prior month and in line with market expectations.”
Retail: “Inside the Underground Market for Fake Amazon Reviews” [Wired]. “‘I saw this ad that said I could get a robot vacuum cleaner for free in return for a five-star review,’ says Oak, a PhD student at UC Davis. He figured it was a scam, but he clicked on the ad. Over the following days, he saw a flood of similar Facebook ads, all with the same proposition: Buy a product, write a positive review, get a full refund, and the product is yours to keep. So he tried it. Oak wasn’t willing to drop $300 on a robot vacuum, so he waited for something cheaper, which turned out to be a $20 neck pillow. With Amazon Prime’s 30-day return guarantee, he wouldn’t be out the money if things didn’t work out. He bought it, wrote a five-star review on Amazon, and received a refund. A decent neck pillow for almost nothing.” • I always thought that content in the form of reviews was one of Amazon’s most important assets. It seems that Amazon didn’t think that way.
Shipping: “Hackers could re-create Ever Given grounding in Suez Canal” [Container News]. “The Great Disconnect, a report produced by maritime research firm Thetius, maritime cyber risk management specialist CyberOwl and law firm Holman Fenwick Willan, said that it is possible for hackers to penetrate a ship’s navigation system and create havoc as the vessel passes major chokepoints, such as the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca. The report stated, ‘Whether through spoofing GPS, or hijacking a ship’s control system, the ability of a nation state to manipulate the movement of maritime vessels can cause billions of dollars of disruption, shock the global supply chain, increase the cost of goods, and even instigate international conflict.’ The grounding of the 20,124 TEU Ever Given in the Suez Canal was not caused by a cyber attack but it stands as an example of the fallout of such an event. For six days, the ship remained wedged into the sides of the Suez Canal. It is estimated to have cost the global economy between US$6 billion and US$10 billion per day in lost trade. The report’s authors pointed to the detention of the UK-flagged products tanker Stena Impero as the result of a suspected case of hacking. On 19 July 2019, Stena Impero transited the Straits of Hormuz to pick up cargo in the Persian Gulf. The ship’s regular course keeps it well within the Oman waters, away from the border with Iran. But on this occasion, the ship’s crew experienced unusual deviations from their voyage plan and had to continuously adjust the vessel’s course to stay on their intended path. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard boarded Stena Impero, accusing it of colliding with a fishing boat and failing to respond to calls. Although Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk said there was no evidence of the accusation, the tanker was detained for two months as part of a diplomatic crisis between Iran and western governments. The detention of the Stena Impero was widely seen as Tehran’s retaliation for the UK detaining an Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya-1, two weeks before the Stena Impero was seized.” • Hmm…..
Tech: When quantity changes quality; thread on the “trust thermocline”:
That suddenly is important. There’s reasons for it (Science!) but it’s just a good metaphor. Indeed you may also be interested in the “Thermocline of Truth” which a project management term for how things on a RAG board all suddenly go from amber to red.
But I digress.
— John Bull (@garius) November 3, 2022
crapifying making incremental changes “because it worked the last time.” But then:
But they’ll only MOVE when they hit the Trust Thermocline. The point where their lack of trust in the product to meet their needs, and the emotional investment they’d made in it, have finally been outweighed by the physical and emotional effort required to abandon it.
— John Bull (@garius) November 3, 2022
So, watch out, Twitter. (Personally, as long as Elon leaves my neighborhood alone, I’m happy. And feckles as Jack may have been, there’s literally no other place on the Intertubes where I can call for the CDC to be burned to the ground — in the form of message others can read, at scale. That’s worth all the pissing and moaning about a “hellscape,” simply another word for the human condition as overamped by dopamine loops and other algorithms.
Healthcare: “Moderna Cuts Outlook Amid Covid-Vaccine Supply Hurdles” [Wall Street Journal]. “Moderna Inc.’s third-quarter revenue fell by nearly a third and the pharmaceutical company cut its outlook, saying as part of its earnings report that supply constraints for its Covid-19 vaccines might sap as much as $3 billion in sales this year. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company said Thursday that higher costs and a decline in demand for its Covid-19 vaccines also hit its performance. Moderna, which three months ago said it projected $21 billion in product sales of its Spikevax vaccine for anticipated delivery this year, now expects between $18 billion and $19 billion. The company said short-term supply constraints will delay some sales into 2023. The choppy results came during a quarter of transition for Moderna. Demand for its original Covid-19 vaccine and booster shot dropped, while the company rolled out updated booster shots designed to better target Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus. U.S. regulators cleared one of the updated boosters in late August, and uptake has been relatively slow.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 55 Neutral (previous close: 50 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 57 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 3 at 12:28 PM EDT.
“Hollow City” [The Baffler]. “Hopper moved to New York City to study art in 1899 and died there in 1967. He and his wife lived in the same Washington Square apartment for nearly fifty years. He fought to save historic buildings in his neighborhood and nondescript ones, too, provided they weren’t tall. His paintings are unmatched in their evocation of urban alienation, but it never occurred to him to trade urban life for something else (judging from his paintings of New England and California, he didn’t like the rest of America any better). He was a ride-or-die New Yorker, the kind who never stops kvetching about his city but never seriously considers leaving, because he probably couldn’t function anywhere else. The New Yorkers in his paintings are in a similar bind: they’re so alienated they cling to the very places that prolong their alienation, which may also be what’s keeping them alive…. There is something unfamiliar and unfinished—stark but not quite iconic—about Hopper’s New York. Early on, he figured out how to make people look like buildings and buildings look like people. Degas inspired him to create vigorous diagonal compositions, and in his cityscapes, infrastructure is always bounding into the foreground, making the people seem lifeless by comparison. Buildings—quaint as it may sound, with half-empty needle towers darkening the land below—should be made for the people who inhabit them, but Hopper makes people seem faintly askew, swept too far to one side, like the woman in New York Movie (1939), or unable to get comfortable no matter how much they squirm, like the woman in Chair Car (1965). They don’t fit in, but they’re not iconoclasts by any means—that would require a level of courage or willpower Hopper gives us zero reason to think they’ve got. Funeral-faced, dressed in dull sensible clothes: they are neither at home in NYC nor glamorously rebelling against it. They just sit and wait. It can be painful to watch, and yet these paintings never become full-on tragedies, perhaps because we don’t know Hopper’s figures well enough to pity them—the pain arises from the tension between buildings and people, not from the people themselves.”
Edward Hopper’s New York/Washington Square at Whitney Museum of American Art pic.twitter.com/jEqlK7gT7q
— Olga Tuleninova 🦋 (@olgatuleninova) October 29, 2022
The show (“Edward Hopper’s New York“) is at the Whitney. Have any New York readers gone to see it?
Apologies for the strong language, but yes:
The ambient fuckness of vibes that is generated by 9/10 of all communication being attempts to beg, sell or steal from you is … not good for the social fabric, tell you what. The amount of effort you need to spend convincing someone you’re actually going to help is a lot.
— Eric Hobsbawm’s Drafts Folder (@MGsovski) November 3, 2022
Should be “ambient f*ckedness,” I think, but with that revision, a keeper.
“Fed should make clear that rising profit margins are spurring inflation” [Financial Times]. “Broad-based inflation is normally a labour-cost problem. The rule of thumb is that labour costs are around 70 per cent of the price of a developed economy’s consumer prices. If wage increases are not offset by greater efficiency or reductions in other costs, the consumer will pay a higher price for the labour they are consuming. With normal inflation, central banks would need to create spare capacity in labour markets to push wages lower. Wages have been rising but prices have been rising faster, so real wage growth is catastrophically negative. This is far removed from the 1970s-style wage price spiral; apart from the wage and price control debacle of Richard Nixon’s presidency, US real average earnings rose for much of the decade. The US restaurant and hotel sector helps explain why wage costs have played a limited role in today’s inflation. Since the end of 2019, the average earnings of a worker in this sector have risen just under 20 per cent. But the number of employees has fallen over 5 per cent. Paying fewer people more money means that the sector’s wage bill has risen roughly 13 per cent. The real output of the sector has risen 7 per cent. So US restaurants and hotels are paying fewer people more money to work harder. The rise in wage costs adjusted for productivity since the end of 2019 is somewhere between 5 and 6 per cent. Restaurant and hotel prices have risen 16 per cent. This is the current inflation story. Companies have passed higher costs on to customers. But they have also taken advantage of circumstances to expand profit margins. The broadening of inflation beyond commodity prices is more profit margin expansion than wage cost pressures.” • Hmm.
“Why ‘The Communist Manifesto’ Still Matters” [New York Times]. “Clearly [China] Miéville’s goal isn’t merely to provide an introduction to Marx and Engels’s remarkable little pamphlet. Rather, he seeks to unify a demoralized, disarrayed left that wants badly to stand athwart the looming crises of environmental collapse, rampant inequality, rising authoritarianism and, now, nuclear Armageddon. Ultimately, A Spectre, Haunting is Miéville’s case against leftist factionalism. He wants to show how differences might be synthesized into a powerful movement without its various members having to compromise on their priorities. His final chapter, on revolutionary hatred and revolutionary love, urges readers to cultivate ‘comfort with contradiction,’ to abandon ideological certainty in favor of ‘a ‘band’ or ‘zone’ of reasonable understandings and approaches’ and, finally, to ‘hate harder than did the ‘Manifesto,’ for the sake of humanity.’ As he explains: ‘Who would we be not to hate this system, and its partisans? If we don’t, the hate of those who hate on its behalf will not ebb.’” • Sounds like an assault on our cognitive infrastructure. Is that even legal?
News of the Wired
I am not yet feeling wired. Perhaps tomorrow.
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