ECONOMY

Closing Hours of the 2024 Water Cooler Fundraiser. Please Help Hit Our Target!

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I’m glad to be writing this post, not only to thank you, readers, but because most of the time, with Water Cooler, I have my nose so close to the grindstone that I’m thinking about the noise and the flying sparks, rather than any larger purpose. So first I will get my report to you on the numbers out of the way. Then I will quote some kind words that readers like you wrote about Water Cooler (there are many, and I didn’t quote you, that’s probably because there are too many). Finally, I’ll look at the “larger purpose” of Water Cooler, to the extent I understand my own practice, which may not be completely! You can, of course, go directly to the Tip Jar.

On the numbers: As of this writing, we are at 328, which puts us at [allow me to break out my calculator] 82% of goal. So we are within striking distance of success, which speaks well of our mutual tenacity. I hope those of you who have not donated will do so now, so that we can reach 400 in the coming hours. Let me remind you that you are compensating me for work I have already done on your behalf (and hope to be able to do next year as well). So if you can give a little, give a little. If you can give a lot, please dig deep!

Kind words from readers:

Long-time reader MR shared this in comments, on Water Cooler’s election coverage:

I will never forget how you predicted trump’s win—based on your careful, experienced tracking (and explanation) of the actual numbers and your ear to the ground of the electorate—Your takes on Bernie from his first announcement up to now have been wise and fair, and on every other candidate extremely acute. I’m sure you’ll call it again this time.

It may be that I will make a “call” this time, even though I am no Alan Lichtman. Right now, however, my only call is volatility! However, I think it is less important that I make calls than that I share close reading and critical thinking skills with you (along with twenty+ years of anecdotes, wise sayings, and jokes.)

Reader No Spam likes my yellow waders:

I have found the yellow wader material always up my alley. When you have found a target, we at NC are beneficiaries to your excellent cognitive work—a rarity in these days of superficiality.

Also true for the coverage of covid. Dig, dig, lay open. Compare, question, if necessary denounce. Covid is now really important and hard to get the info, more appreciated. .

When you make the yellow wader efforts to parse the often deliberately obfuscatory institutionaleese of a topic it encourages my own critical and analytical thinking-it’s an island sanctuary for thought. An example of doing something harder than a lotta people would do. More of whatever draws your mind.

Reader SK:

Water Cooler consistently excels with outstanding links. I came for the politics and social examination but the covid material is life saving

Reader georgia b agrees on Water Cooler’s Covid coverage:

Thanks especially for persistent focus on covid. I’ve no doubt that you’ve saved lives, certainly lessened misery.

And reader Doug Rogers:

But all of this is completely overshadowed by your relentless efforts on Covid. Your information has kept my wife and I safe and Covid free. I am so pleased with that, if you replaced the bird songs with farting armpit noises I would not judge you harshly.

Reader longhaul shared this important comment:

I absolutely need to tell you that your coverage has meant the difference for me between suffering alone and in silence and realizing that I had to demand that my health care “providers” do something. I reached out to anyone/everyone that I could think of and eventually did find a doctor that listened and was aware enough: she diagnosed my symptoms as Long Covid. She then, sadly for me, left my provider/the practice as she was overwhelmed. No one has filled her shoes. I was eventually invited to participate in one of the NIH studies. My bodily fluids were sent to the Mayo clinic and I was registered as patient 0001. You (we) have every right to be critical — but my participation is also a blessing in that we participants have a weekly (Zoom) group session: it’s no cure but an improvement over what was otherwise a kind of isolation. I have now met a few others with stories that are at once both similar and unique. As you’re aware, a cognitive disruption plays into “someone’s” hands: we that suffer are confused and essentially unsure of ourselves. There is no better way to silence someone than to disable their cognizance/confidence. I could go on but won’t for the sake of your time — but again, your persistence and research have made me aware, my conditions more manageable, and my life better than it would otherwise be. Again, thank you.

Finally, reader Darius:

There is nothing about which I have thought, “I wish Lambert would do it another way.” I continue to find Water Cooler necessary daily reading. I also find your tone pitch perfect. It’s also entertaining, in addition to being informative. I don’t have any ideas for improvements. I suppose I haven’t really helped you here. But I appreciate your asking.

So, reader Darius says, with so many, “Don’t change a thing!” But I will, I will! And so, if any of these comments chime with your experience over the last year — and you want to send the message that Water Cooler should continue next year — please go to the Tip Jar and give what you can (perhaps, also, paying it forward for those who cannot give).

Purpose (besides snark, I mean).

I have not developed a unified theory of Water Cooler; in fact, my pointillist method almost forbids that, since I am working upward from very granular material to discover larger designs. That said, there is a Chinese word for “crisis” whose written form is much beloved by the writers of airport bookstore business books. Here it is. There are two characters:

(The Mandarin reader in the commentariat will doubtless correct me here; my knowledge here is as deep as WikiPedia.)

The typical MBA understands the first character as meaning danger, and the second opportunity (apparently JFK was the first to express this profundity). And for them, “opportunity” translates to profit (example).

However, the first character might better be translated in our context “precarity,” and the second as “inflection point” (or, perhaps, following the military art, “culmination point,” “the point at which a military force is no longer able to perform its operations,” due to some vital failure of supply, enemy opposition, or the need for rest).

A combination of “precarity” and “culmination point” seems important to the spiralling collapse of systems in the United States, and even globally, for both beats that Water Cooler covers: Electoral politics, and Covid. It is surely not a coincidence that the struggles of the PMC are marked by “predatory precarity“, and also by catastrophic failure in the case of Covid, and stasis, corruption, and alienation in the case of electoral politics (one common metric for each being falling life expectancy). And our failures in both Covid and politics feel very much like culmination points (“ESTRAGON: I can’t go on like this. VLADIMIR: That’s what you think.” –Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot).

The tension between precarity and culmination seems to me — this might change, of course — a consistent thread throughout Water Cooler. And inevitably this tension will resolve, one way or another, even perhaps in some small ways influenced by actions we may take, ideally collectively. We take our precarious stands in the midst of enormous, rapidly shifting, and protracted processes whose culmination may be predictable, but whose outcome we cannot see or know; the complexities are too great! (At this point, we might remember the argument that the fall of the Roman Empire was to an extent mitigated by the end of Rome as a slave society; I, for one, would vastly prefer to be a serf, though of course I would rather be neither, and am in fact more hopeful of happier outcomes in our own time.) All we can do is work hard to understand, and do the best we can each day, concretely to protect ourselves, those we love, and those collectivities with whom we share compassions. Water Cooler is, I hope, helpful both in understanding (theory) and concrete measures (practice). And because I have to say it: The Tip Jar is below. Now, back to the grindstone!

UPDATE Sheesh, hoping this peroration isn’t totally over the top. Never had to explain this before!

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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! 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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