By Lambert Strether of Corrente
As you know, I hate to talk about money — for those direct souls who can’t stand to watch me circle round the topic, my goal this year is 325 donors, and you can click here for the tip jar; dig deep! — so I thought I would begin this year’s fundraiser by quoting some nice things you all said about Water Cooler:
Thank you ever so much for Water Cooler! –CG
Thank you for all your work this year. You are such a mensch! –HF
Thanks for your hard & quality work –ML
Thanks for all the hours you put in at Naked Capitalism –JP
Thank for all you do, you’re our main source of news links and we are very grateful. –MBH
Thanks for the excellent coverage of COVID-19. Reading the news isn’t exactly comforting, but I’d rather know what is happening than be in the dark. –k
And thanks for your work on our behalf. –SS
Thank you for all you do for civilisation and support for people who feel isolated from an intelligent and moral community. –PD
I love the pics that people send to you. –GW
I love them too! Many thanks to all the readers who send plant pictures in; the plants and their stories are very touching.
What Yves wrote in 2017 is a better description of Water Cooler than any I have ever been able to come up with:
Besides providing general business news, Water Cooler files all the scamming and grifting and phishing under the heading of “The Bezzle,” provides a contextual view of official statistics, maintains a watch on important indices, and follows shipping and supply chain news as a non-financial window into globalization. In politics, Water Cooler provides detailed, gritty coverage of important races, of sausage-making on policy, especially health care, and tracks the continuing legitimacy crisis of the political class as a whole, especially out in the “flyover states.” In addition, Water Cooler covers ecological news under climate change, and gives dispatches from the front of Class Warfare. That’s a lot of material to cover and bullshit to wade through on a daily basis!
The “gritty coverage of important races” was especially important in 2020, a Presidential election year, where the volume and elaboration of the bullshit was like nothing I have ever seen (and yellow waders don’t come cheap). Readers will recall my election eve call, on the Election Eve:
I think the polling and the reporting is so corrupted that it’s too difficult to reverse engineer facts on the ground from it (due to the “airtight consensus” referred to by Thomas Frank).
… I think a Biden victory is more likely than not. First, Covid — regardless of systemic issues that should be, but will not be, raised — happened on Trump’s watch. Voters will punish him for that. Second, Trump’s messaging has been scattered and undisciplined (no doubt due to lack of the A/B testing he did with crowds in 2016). Third, we are seeing what looks like the birth of class consciousness in the PMC, and the suburban vote + Never Trump Republicans giving the country club permission to vote for Biden will help. Fourth, none of the potential Trump October surprises panned out: No (colorable claim of) a vaccine, economy not good enough, no foreign policy deal (e.g., North Korea), [and no Durham Report]. Hunter Biden’s issues wouldn’t have made the grade even without liberal Democrat censorship.*
NOTE * Here too the Trump campaign and/or its allies failed to execute. If Hunter Biden’s laptop had surfaced in September, there would have been time to construct a proper narrative, bludgeon the platforms, etc.
I underlined the key part: “Pincer movement” captured the dynamic of the actual election pretty well, and that the election would be a lot closer than political class was saying it would be wasn’t easy to dope out from the hysteria and triumphalism surrounding the coverage, either.
Balance. Balance not in the inane concept of “balanced coverage,” but in the sense of remaining a known, stable quantity (that can be properly discounted); not a feather in the wind; not a cork bobbing on the waters. The year 2020, for me and I suspect many of you, was a matter of trying to keep one’s balance. I think I kept my balance with the “gritty coverage” of election 2020, and I think I did pretty well keeping my balance on Covid, the year’s other big story. With Covid, balance was a matter of making sure that, well, marginalized voices were heard: The voices of doctors and nurses, the voices of scientists from the Middle East, India, Latin America, and Asia, and above all the voices of aerosol scientists, whose demonstrations that “#CovidIsAirborne” were consistently shouted down and silenced by CDC and WHO — less and less successfully! I believe that our early call and relentless focus on Covid’s airborne transmission helped keep you all safe, and those for whom you are responsible safe. Then too, my “tape-watching” of the Covid numbers helped with balance, too; I could ignore all the clickbait about what was going to happen, because the tape would soon tell us. If you agree, the tip jar is here.
To help us all stay balanced, I introduced several editorial elements: Birdsong of the Day was the main one, because it’s cheering and clarifying to start the day with birdsong (and it’s fun for me to research the songs of our tiny dinosaurs when I start the day’s Water Cooler). So now, we have topped our coverage with song, and tailed it with soothing plants. I also tried to introduce more humor, with zeitgeist-y distractions like Feral Hog Watch, Sports Desk, The Agony Column, Under the Influence (of influencers), The 420, and Games. And I tried to sprinkle plenty of “Dad jokes” throughout (though granted my own Dad’s sense of humor was surrealistically dry, and I take after him).
2020’s Water Cooler fundraiser went very well, and we would like 2021’s to go just as well. Our goal is 325 donors. What Yves wrote back in 2017 is true this year as well:
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.
Readers, I couldn’t write Water Cooler — the hours and hours so many of you mentioned — without independent funding from you; there’s no mainstream market for calling out bullshit — let along keeping your balance! You are 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. Please click the Donate button below and contribute what you can. Again, our target is 325 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!
P.S. I appreciate the small regular contributions very much, and spread out through the year they really help to keep the lights on. However, this quarter is also tax time for me, and if there are any of you who can dig deep, please consider doing so!
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.
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!
If you hate PayPal — even though you can use a credit card or debit card on 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.