2:00PM Water Cooler 5/24/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I have had a confluence of administrivial events today, which I must deal with. So, today’s Water Cooler will be composed exclusively of bird songs and plants. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

A reader whose commment I naturally cannot find mentioned how much they liked crows. And who doesn’t like a corvid? We have done the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), but there are others…

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) 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. Today’s plant (LB):

LB writes: “A pic for your lichen collection. In a sunny field in East Haddam, CT. Happy spring!”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ambrit

    As Flannery O’Connor wrote: “Everything that rises must conflu.”
    A more literary version of the statement; “It’s the aerosols!”

  2. Samuel Conner

    One hesitates to mention the latest reports of Dr Fauci’s public statements.

    1. Lee

      Yes, evolutionary biologists, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, have been talking about this for some time on their Dark Horse youtube talks. In their most recent one they suggested that the only safe way to do gain-of-function research would be if it were conducted on ships out in the middle of an ocean. In any event, I’m guessing there’s some frantic cost-benefit recalculation of such research going on. Or, if there isn’t, there certainly should be.

      1. SteveD

        Interestingly, youtube’s algo suggested dark horse to me way back in March of 2020 – still not sure why, but I am very grateful, as they are an invaluable resource. No way to be sure, but I suspect they were not as heavily recommended in late 2020 given that they gave viewers plenty of reason to question the consensus. And in youtube algo land, consensus = authoritative.

        1. tgcm

          Republican cuts to public health got a great leap forward during Ted’s shutdown. And they have continued at an alarming rate.

          I think the problem for those of use who aren’t in the business if assessing viruses is that the dates for this leak are always post confirmed cases outside of China.

    2. ahimsa

      I feel like compiling a catalog of Covid cockups akin to Matt Taibbi’s “Master list of official Russia claims that proved to be bogus”.

      The Water Cooler archive should prove an excellent resource for cataloging the reversals, flip-flops, u-turns, noble lies and incompetence.

      I get the “If the facts change, I change my mind” line. However, this deja vu performace of “Ok, the facts were already known but it didn’t quite fit the consensus narrative at the time, and I didn’t want to dissent from the in-crowd, but now that popular opinion seems to be shifting, sure I’ll change my mind” is getting a bit much.

      Trust in God and the priests is long eroded. Trust in government and politicians we need hardly discuss. Trust in journalists, is at an all time low. If scientists don’t disentangle themselves from, big pharma/oil/military and their lackey politicians they will soon find themselves next up..

        1. Don Midwest

          I also am waiting with bated breath to see their status erode.

          Gallup has run a survey for many institutions since 1973. Here is their survey question:

          Confidence in Institutions
          Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one — a great deal, quite a lot, some or very little?

          The military gets the highest scores for government institutions and Congress is at the bottom. For the year 2020, Small Business is higher rated than the military after their score jumped from 2019 to 2020.

          Maybe there is some sort of a game where the worst rated government institution is able to kiss ass of the best rated?

          confidence in institutions: historical trends

    3. DJG, Reality Czar

      zaganostra: Professor Gianotti at University of Milano, a physician who specializes in dermatology, had a patient with COVID-19 on the skin, in November 2019. These two articles place COVID in the West at the same time as the report about Chinese researchers.

      It may have started off as a skin infection, it seems, just one of the many bugs living on human beings. Think of hospital-resistant staph.


      British Journal of Dermatology:

      We are nowhere near an answer yet, if we will ever have an answer.

      I do agree with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti–so much of the lying, obfuscating, derangement syndromes, and conspiracy fantasies is coming back to bite us on our collective butts:


      1. Mantid

        DJG et al, Chris Martenson had a good video the other day. Skim to apx. 17 minute mark and watch for about 5-8 minutes. Pretty damning evidence regarding the lab leak theory. He ran lots of this down in about last March but was blackballed post haste. Le video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yn1MDIBO7M

    4. zagonostra

      So if it the it turns out that a consensus emerges that CV19 came from a lab, the next question for me is how can you definitively say it was an accidental?

      That will be the next logical question though, and if it is ever reached, you know you’ll be pillared for even thinking/suggesting it and it will invariably be lost in obfuscation, speculation, over hyping by the Alex Jones types and get lost in the murky recesses of history as other concerns move to the fore.

      1. John

        Look around. Who could possibly benefit by a deliberate release of a brand new virus? That would be insanity. I doubt you could find a researcher who would do such a thing. I am not so sure about some of the geniuses in government in the nation of your choice.

        If an accidental release; show me the evidence, not the speculation, not the theories, not the if-this-then-perhaps. Viruses evolve quickly, as we are noticing with all the variants. Were I a virologist, I might be leaning toward the lab accident, lab sloppiness school of thought.
        I hope it is not so because the uproar will energize the China-is-evil-or-at-least-not-very-nice pack to go baying down the trail of whatever their version of the “narrative” might be. That is dangerous. We have people in places of influence and power who think not unkindly of war in general and display a fondness for the shiny new versions of nuclear weapons.
        I do not share their point of view.

        1. tegnost

          Look around. Who could possibly benefit by a deliberate release of a brand new virus?
          Producers of programmable vaccines, for one…
          and wall st never let a crisis go to waste,
          and people who think the poor and old need to die because SS and medicare threaten the foundations of society…and…, well bezos of course, and all the PMC who can have servants deliver their barest whim at a moments notice, and….

          1. John

            But none of those you mention would have released a virus from a lab in China or is China just the convenient scapegoat in this scenario.

        2. Mantid

          John, “the China-is-evil-or-at-least-not-very-nice pack” approach doesn’t work well because the lab in Wuhan, or at least these specific, gain of function experiments, were funded by Americans: Peter Daszak, Fauchi, Echo Health Alliance, etc. Who knows why they were doing this in Wuhan. Perhaps cheap labor? Far from prying eyes? Qui sais?

      2. km

        How…incredibly convenient.

        Just like those aluminum tubes and mysterious trips to Niger, like Curveball and his breathless tales of mobile WMD labs.

    5. Verifyfirst

      “Fauci be nimble, Fauci be quick……”

      I stole that from Lambert…however, in all seriousness, Fauci is a very slippery character indeed, and has done/is doing real damage, I believe. I do hope someone will do an incisive biography of him someday, to memorialize his lifetime record.

  3. Judith

    Rooks play a major role in Susan Cooper’s children’s book series “the Dark is Rising.” I originally read them along with my daughter years ago. I still re-read them from time to time, especially when I need to escape. Here is an excerpt, which I found online (https://humanities614.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/dark_is_rising.pdf).

    Excerpt from Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

    It was then, without warning, that the fear came. The first wave caught him as he was crossing the room his bed. It halted him stock-still in the middle of the room, the howl of the wind outside filling his ears. The snow lashed against the window. Will was suddenly deadly cold, yet tingling all over. He was so frightened that he could not move a finger. In a flash of memory he saw again the lowering sky over the spinney, dark with rooks, the big black birds wheeling and circling overhead. Then that was gone, and he saw only the tramp’s terrified face and heard his scream as he ran. For a moment, then, there was only a dreadful darkness in his mind, a sense of looking into a great black pit. Then the high howl of the wind died, and he was released.

    He stood shaking, looking wildly round the room. Nothing was wrong. Everything was just as usual. The trouble, he told himself, came from thinking. It would be all right if only he could stop thinking and go to sleep. He pulled off his dressing gown, climbed into bed, and lay there looking up at the skylight in the slanting roof. It was covered grey with snow.

    He switched off the small bedside lamp, and the night swallowed the room. There was no hint of light even when his eyes had grown accustomed to the dark. Time to sleep. Go on, go to sleep. But although he turned on his side, pulled the blankets up to his chin, and lay there relaxed, contemplating the cheerful fact that it would be his birthday when he woke up, nothing happened. It was no good. Something was wrong.

    Will tossed uneasily. He had never known a feeling like this before. It was growing worse every minute. As if some huge weight were pushing at his mind, threatening,trying to take him over, turn him into something he didn’t want to be. That’s it, he thought: make me into someone else. But that’s stupid. Who’d want to? And make me into what? Something creaked outside the half-open door, and he jumped. Then it creaked again, and he knew what it was: a certain floorboard that often talked to itself at night, with a sound so familiar that usually he never noticed it at all. In spite of himself, he still lay listening. A different kind of creak came from further away, in the other attic, and he twitched again, jerking so that the blanket rubbed against his chin. You’re just jumpy, he said to himself; you’re remembering this afternoon, but really there isn’t much to remember. He tried to think of the tramp as someone unremarkable, just an ordinary man with a dirty overcoat and worn-out boots; but instead all he could see once more was the vicious diving of the rooks. “The Walker is abroad….” Another strange crackling noise came, this time above his head in the ceiling, and the wind whined suddenly loud, and Will sat bolt upright in bed and reached in panic for the lamp.

    The room was at once a cosy cave of yellow light, and he lay back in shame, feeling stupid. Frightened of the dark, he thought: how awful. Just like a baby. Stephen would never have been frightened of the dark, up here. Look, there’s the bookcase and the table, the two chairs and the window seat; look, there are the six little square-riggers of the mobile hanging from the ceiling, and their shadows sailing over there on the wall. Everything’s ordinary. Go to sleep.

    He switched off the light again, and instantly everything was even worse than before. The fear jumped at him for the third time like a great animal that had been waiting to spring. Will lay terrified, shaking, feeling himself shake, and yet unable to move. He felt he must be going mad. Outside, the wind moaned, paused, rose into a sudden howl, and there was a noise, a muffled scraping thump, against the skylight in the ceiling of his room. And then in a dreadful furious moment, horror seized him like a nightmare made real; there came a wrenching crash, with the howling of the wind suddenly much louder and closer, and a great blast of cold; and the Feeling came hurtling against him with such force of dread that it flung him cowering away.

    Will shrieked. He only knew it afterwards; he was far too deep in fear to hear the sound of his own voice. For an appalling pitch-black moment he lay scarcely conscious, lost somewhere out of the world, out in black space. And then there were quick footsteps up the stairs outside his door, and a voice calling in concern, and blessed light warming the room and bringing him back into life again.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      I first encountered The Dark is Rising as an adult reading it with my son; maybe it hadn’t yet been written when I was young. I still remember the eerie quality that set it apart from the rest of the fantasy series. As a child I read a Scottish fable, Princess and the Goblin, that struck me in the same way, leaving me with a lingering disquiet…I don’t believe I ever reread it!

    2. Alfred

      Since we are talking about spooky dark stuff today, has anyone ever heard of the Black Hat Man? I have seen references to him in movies (not verbal, just showing the silhouette) and this excerpt kind of reminded me of it.

    3. Pat

      Always happy to find others who have discovered Cooper’s gem.

      (Do not, not, not waste time on the one film adaptation. And if you have encountered that terrible waste do not judge the books by it. At least no one has screwed it up again, unlike A Wrinkle in Time.)

    1. Betty

      Comment on Ralph’s sister:
      Why is the last sentence (or last word) published here?

      You make a great link, and then all you have to say is a comment on a woman’s looks??? Why are you on this site?

      1. Robert Hahl

        Because it was funny, or at least meant to be. Perhaps a comma after “him”would have signaled more clearly that it was a joke about Ralph. Actually she looks good for 90-something.

        1. Alfred

          Even if you meant she was gorgeous it’s condescending and patronizing, and then you went there in your second comment. “Good for 90-something.”


    2. marcyincny

      Thank you for the link. I miss letter writing. I’m just fortunate to have a great collection of family letters including those of my parents when they were serving in Europe in WWII.

      …and both Naders do look much alike!

      1. Wukchumni

        They used to have ‘ news clipping services’ back in the day before this contraption, and they would ferret the newspapers looking for particular items of interest to you, and I might have the last of the Mohecans in my mom, as not only is she a letter writer, but also a dead tree fishwrap reader who regularly sends me clippings of stuff i’d be interested in, such as old apple orchards in Wrightwood, Ca., I linked here awhile ago.

        1. marcyincny

          Oh my yes, another lost art. My mother’s dearest friend was a fabulous letter writer/news clipper and I’ve kept much of what she sent to my mom.

    3. Arizona Slim

      Interesting article. And, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to share a story from the Arizona Slim file:

      A few months after I graduated from college, my employer hosted a conference. The keynote speaker was none other than …

      … Ralph Nader.

      Since Yours Truly was the only employee with even a smidgeon of news photography experience, I was assigned to cover Nader’s press conference.

      You know those Washington, DC congressional hearings with all the photographers on the floor, running their cameras to the max while the VIP testifies? Well, that was me. The photographer on the floor, and I was shooting all sorts of shots of well, Ralph Nader’s face as seen from my spot on the floor.

      One of my photos was published on the cover of the organization’s magazine.

      1. Robert Hahl

        I have spoken to Ralph several times around DC in thirty years. His secret is, in his presence there is no doubt that he is actually doing what he says he is doing. A rare thing in Washington. It’s a kind of charisma. Paul Jay projects that vibe, as does Yves Smith, which is why I participate here.

    1. Robert Hahl

      There is a charming Ogden Nash-type poem about lichens that have been trying to find for many years. Anybody know what that is?

  4. urblintz

    Did ‘Cancel Culture’ Drive Richard Wright Underground?


    … a review of Richard Wright’s “fully restored” version of Richard Wright’s long-lost novel The Man Who Lived Underground and the following excerpts from his recently published essay Memories of my Grandmother:

    “How interesting, then, to read Wright’s own account of how he came to write the novel, and to learn there that Wright’s personal knowledge of his protagonist Fred Daniels’ condition—the condition of being falsely accused, marked with “guilt,” and subsequently “driven underground”—stemmed not from encounters with police, but from his protracted and painful experience with… the political left.

    “I shall not name any names or give any dates or any facts relating to geographical locations. I can only report that I know how it feels to be accused without cause, because once in my life I was accused without cause. And when you are a member of a minority group, or maybe I should put it this way, say, a member of a minority political party and you are suddenly and violently accused of holding notions you’ve never held, of having done something you’ve never dreamed of, I can tell you that it is one of the most agonizing, devastating, blasting, and brutal experiences conceivable…

    “There is really no way in which [the falsely accused] can convincingly defend himself. His shocked and outraged attitude toward the charges throws him into an emotional stew which makes him blind to what he is being accused of. Every word he utters can be used against him, for he is trying not so much to refute the charges as he is trying to fight for his status as a human being, trying to keep his worth and value in the eyes of others, just because he is innocent. The first thing an innocent man feels when he is accused is that those who know him have let him down. Because he is innocent, he does not really know the terms of the accusation. In order to deal with the charges or accusation adequately, he must wrench his mind loose from his innocent way of thinking and begin thinking cunningly and craftily, begin to think in terms that he has never dreamed of before, guilty terms.”

  5. Cuibono

    this post this morning is stuck in my head
    “The entire vaccine imbroglio is beginning to look suspiciously like something the Reich officials called a “Brain Buster.” That tactic was used to great effect on people being herded into the labour camps and extermination centres. One is given an impossible choice and forced to make a decision quickly. Either way, the choice is wrong and the chooser is forever after wracked by guilt, thus incapacitating them.
    The novel “Sophie’s Choice” is based on this policy and it’s aftermath.
    This is an easy and effective way to “manage” a population.”
    Incredibly trenchant

      1. ambrit

        I didn’t want to use a plain old Google Translate version for the term. I often try to look up a subject or phrase that I am considering using in a comment so as to reassure myself that I am using it correctly. “Brain Buster” was not quickly available on the necrotic Google. Not, at least, in the version used in the Third Reich. Google has become “funny” that way. I do remember reading about the term in a memoir about living through the “Final Solution” in Eastern Europe.
        I know that this entire analogy is a violation of Godwin’s Law, but, if the jackboot fits….

        1. Robert Hahl

          Godwin’s law has been repealed after the events of Jan. 6th. According to Paul Jay the military had signaled in a newspaper oped that they were not going to support a coup, but Trump didn’t listen.

          1. ambrit

            Well, there’s “the Military” and there’s “the military.”
            Many coups come from the middle and junior officer corps of a nation’s military. Often, the Generals are completely “out of the loop.” As I’ve read elsewhere, soldiers take orders from colonels and generals but they follow into combat lieutenants and captains. A coup is just statescraft by other means.

    1. Geo

      Regarding vaccines/Covid I think this analysis sounds pretty spot on:

      Speaking of the vaxx: I’m beginning to side with those who are wanting to wait. Had my second dose of the Pfizer shot over a week ago and have been a lump of uselessness ever since. Has debilitating back pain that left me bedridden for two days and still am popping aspirin regularly to deal with the pain. My brain is in a constant fog, have had a voracious appetite (I normally eat very little), and am extremely tired most of the day.

      I know the effects can last a while but the usual 1-2 days most experience is not my personal one. And, it takes a lot to knock me down. As someone who hasn’t had health insurance for decades I’m used to coping with pains and ailments. This is on another level and persistent. Really starting to wish I hadn’t gotten the shots and waited a while longer to find out long term effects.

      Oh well. Live and learn.

      1. Yves Smith

        I am so sorry. There is a theory that if you take the mRNA vaccines too close to having had a case (that includes asymptomatic cases), the mRNA can kick it into a Covid case or a close approximation symptom-wise. That means people should be tested before taking those vaccines, which we don’t do.

        Getting the J&J shot tomorrow because getting hip replacement and going into a hospital not being vaccinated seems like too much risk.

  6. jr

    Re: Corvids

    God I love the corvids. Here is a great Youtube channel about falconry that features Fable the raven:


    Apparently ravens are not pets for beginners, they are extremely intelligent, they know what they want and don’t want, and they aren’t afraid to let you know. Also, their beaks are as strong as a parrots and that’s no joke.

    In other bird news, my partner and I recently moved to Brooklyn and we have a backyard of sorts. I’ve counted eight species of birds including:

    1. pigeons
    2. 2 pair of mourning doves
    3. a clan of song sparrows
    4. a harem? of house finches
    5. a grey catbird
    6. a cardinal, only seen once unfortunately. A neighbor said he was a regular so I fear the worst.
    7. starlings
    8. robins
    9. I’ve spotted seagulls, crows, and what I suspect are a hunting pair of ospreys high overhead so they get an honorary mention.

    I don’t feed them because that can bring one of the four squirrels (all conveniently named Merlin for ease of identification) and then you know what. I’m fine with the squirrels, don’t mind helping them out, but the rats are a deal breaker. I’ll try to help the birds out in winter though.

    I have a shallow plastic tray my partner calls “The Pool” that the birds use as a bath. It became the “The Love Pool” when we witnessed two sparrows canoodling in it the other day; I’m sure to change the water a couple of times a day. Per Lambert’s advice, I have a small tray of twigs, vines, and detritus for them to use as a “Home Depot” although they don’t seem to have taken any yet. I’m considering getting some worms and putting them into the planters, for the plants and for the robins and starlings as well. The male finch fills the courtyard with his song and I watch the sparrows and finches antics in the trees with my small binoculars. Good fun!

  7. Dr. John Carpenter

    My cats always appreciate the bird songs so on behalf of them I say thanks.

    1. Wukchumni

      Yeah, we get the weirdest looks from our masters when I play the birds, and they’ve never heard from any of their songs before.

      Fright of flight…

    2. Robert Hahl

      My wife does too. After one of the earliest ones she looked the window to see who was bothering a loon. She knows better now.

  8. Wukchumni

    The only thing that can save Bitcoin at this point, is the possibility of crypto mining becoming a current event @ the Tokyo Olympics.

    1. Robert Hahl

      I bought a little BC through a mutual fund, not because I believe, but as a hedge like gold, or life insurance. Given the potential for unlimited gains, in the end times minting it might be the only rational use for electricity.

  9. Verifyfirst

    Since we are throwing out random stuff–I have been wondering how it came to be that it was “not ok” to name the original covid virus after its place of first discovery (yes, I know what Trump’s objective was)–but it is ok to call the mutations after their place of first discovery–UK, Brazil, India, etc. And not even those countries themselves seem to mind.

    The social construction of reality is a funny thing……..?

  10. The Rev Kev

    So it’s morning here and the TV is yapping in the background about getting a vaccine and you have to wince. You have a bunch of bubble-heads saying they will take a jab if they can get their overseas holiday back again and now there is talk about incentives like lottery tickets and goodies like in America. They are really pushing it in the media. And of course any stories about side-effects is just so much rubbish which Geo above will be interested to learn. At least I can scroll up and relax by looking at that image of the lichen on that rock in today’s Water Cooler. The lichen doesn’t care.

    1. zagonostra

      I saw this posted on Twitter.

      “Vox is editing it articles “debunking” the coronavirus lab leak theory. These edits aren’t being disclosed to readers,” tweeted Mike Cernovich.

  11. ambrit

    Mini Zeitgeist Report.
    I don’t know what web sites Phyl is ‘hanging out’ on, but she got a fundraising letter today from Rand Paul. Set him up alongside the DCCC, which pesters her frequently for funds and we have a clear example of “bipartisanship” in action. Roughly speaking, the two “opposite” wings of the American political class both bow down to Mammon.
    Now, if only there was an organized, effective political organization that catered to the needs of the public.

  12. fresno dan

    exas is poised to remove one of its last gun restrictions after lawmakers approved allowing people to carry handguns without a license, and the background check and training that go with it.

    The Republican-dominated Legislature approved the measure Monday, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it despite the objections of law enforcement groups who say it would endanger the public and police.
    It takes a good man with a gun to stop a bad man with a gun, so with so many more guns in the hands of bad men, you just gotta put more guns out there to stop ’em…

  13. Adrian D.

    I had a brief exchange with @GM following your piece on his CV19 comments and I speculated that Australia may be in for a bit of a bumpy ride as they approach their typical respiratory virus season – which usually starts some time in June and peaks in then and July. Very early days, but they’re already bringing in new restrictions in some States.


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