2:00PM Water Cooler 12/13/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this is a bit light at present, because I got wrapped round the axle reading Trump’s appeal on immunity. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Pacific Loon, Churchill and Northern Manitoba, Manitoba, Canada
Media from this location Illustrated Checklist. “Intervals shortened a bit to remove worst insect noise.” That wierd, unmusical croaking is the loon!

* * *


“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Capitol Seizure

“Supreme Court will hear a case that could undo Capitol riot charge against hundreds, including Trump” [Orlando Sentinel]. ” The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will hear an appeal that could upend hundreds of charges stemming from the Capitol riot, including against former President Donald Trump. The justices will review an appellate ruling that revived a charge against three defendants accused of obstruction of an official proceeding. The charge refers to the disruption of Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Trump. That’s among four counts brought against Trump in special counsel Jack Smith’s case that accuses the 2024 Republican presidential primary front-runner of conspiring to overturn the results of his election loss. Trump is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The court’s decision to weigh in on the obstruction charge could threaten the start of Trump’s trial, currently scheduled for March 4. The justices separately are considering whether to rule quickly on Trump’s claim that he can’t be prosecuted for actions taken within his role as president. A federal judge already has rejected that argument.” • Gonna wait for the lawyers to weigh on on this one. That said, if Januaruy 6 was an insurrection, why wasn’t that the charge?

Biden Administration

“White House open to new border expulsion law, mandatory detention and increased deportations in talks with Congress” [CBS]. “Specifically, the White House indicated that it would support a new, far-reaching legal authority to allow U.S. border officials to summarily expel migrants without processing their asylum claims. The measure would effectively revive the Trump-era Title 42 pandemic order and allow officials to pause U.S. asylum law, without a public health justification.” • Biden is a liberal Democrat, let us remember. But anything for Israel.

“Remarks by President Biden at a Campaign Reception” [Whitehouse.gov]. Worth reading in full. This:

Bibi and I talk a lot. I’ve known him for 50 years. Some of you know he has a picture on his desk — at least when I’m there, he has it on it. (Laughter.) Eight and a half by eleven, with a picture of — where I wrote, “Bibi…” — when we were both young men, he was at the embassy here and I was a senator. I said, “Bibi, I love you, but I don’t agree with a damn thing you have to say.” (Laughter.) That remains to be the case. (Laughter.)

He’s a good friend, but I think he has to change and — with this government. This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.

You know, Ben-Gvir is not what you would call someone who — this is the most conservative government in Israel’s history — the most conservative. I’ve known every, every, every single head of state in Israel since Golda Meir. And I’ve known them because I’ve spent time with them many times.


So, those of you who have family back in Israel, you saw what happened when Bibi tried to change the Supreme Court. Thousands of IDF soldiers said, “We’re out. We’re not going to participate. We’re not going to support the military.”

That wasn’t any outside influence. That came from within Israel.

So, folks, there’s a lot to do — a whole lot to do.

First and foremost, do everything in our power to hold Hamas accountable — every single thing in our power. They’re animals. They’re animals. They exceeded anything that any other terrorist group has done of late that I — in memory.

But, secondly, we have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of option — an option of a two-state solution, because absent that — (applause) — (inaudible).

It’s probably more than you wanted to hear, but — (laughter).

That Biden focuses on domestic politics both here and in Israel is interesting. But to me, this boils down to one word: Intractable.


Less than a year to go!

* * *

“Trump immunity in E. Jean Carroll case denied by appeals panel, setting up Supreme Court battle” [The Hill]. “A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled against Trump, finding that presidential immunity could be waived as a defense and that Trump had in fact waived it.” Whoops. More: “The panel went on to reject the former president’s various arguments for why he should be able to assert the defense now. ‘[R]ecognizing presidential immunity as waivable reinforces, not undermines, the separation of powers and the President’s decision making authority by affording the President an opportunity to litigate if he so chooses. Accordingly, we hold that presidential immunity is waivable,’ Judge José Cabranes wrote in the 35-page decision.” • The 2nd circuit ruling on immunity has a domino effect on Smith’s case, and so–

“Trump’s lawyers tell an appeals court that federal prosecutors are trying to rush his election case” [ABC]. “Lawyers for Donald Trump told a federal appeals court on Wednesday that it should not speed up its consideration of whether the former president is immune from prosecution, accusing federal prosecutors of trying to rush his 2020 election subversion case through before next year’s presidential election…. The issue is of paramount significance to both sides given the potential for a protracted appeal to delay a trial beyond its currently scheduled start date of March 4…. At issue is an appeal by the Trump team, filed last week, of a trial judge’s rejection of arguments that he was protected from prosecution for actions he took as president. Smith sought to short-circuit that process by asking the Supreme Court on Monday to take up the issue during its current term, a request he acknowledged was ‘extraordinary’ but one he said he was essential to keep the case moving forward. Smith’s team simultaneously asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to expedite its consideration of Trump’s appeal, writing: ‘The public has a strong interest in this case proceeding to trial in a timely manner. The trial cannot proceed, however, before resolution of the defendant’s interlocutory appeal.’ The Trump team made clear its opposition to that request, saying the case presents ‘novel, complex, and sensitive questions of profound importance.'” • The text of Trump’s appeal–


IANAL, and I don’t love Trump, but this doesn’t seem wrong to me: “Whether a President of the United States may be criminally prosecuted for his official acts as President goes to the core of our system of separated powers and will stand among the most consequential questions ever decided by this Court.” Anyhow, this paragraph ought to bring down the temple:

Yes, Bush, Obama, and Nixon were all crooks. Impeachment would have been the answer for all three, given that in our system of party governance, the prosecutoral apparatus is “captured,” by definition (absent “norms”). Political parties are, of course, part of our unwritten Constitution. No textual warrant for them at all.

* * *

“Axelrod says WSJ poll ‘very, very dark’ for Biden campaign” [The Hill]. “Axelrod said he was most alarmed by the numbers regarding voters’ perception of Biden’s and Trump’s policies when president. About 23 percent of voters said Biden’s policies have helped them, while 49 percent said the same of Trump’s policies. About 53 percent said Biden’s policies hurt them personally, and 37 percent said the same for Trump.” • Given that the Democrats undid the CARES Act as rapidly as they could, that’s not unreasonable. But Axelrove, I assume, is running interference for The Wizard of Kalorama™. Which horse is Obama backing, as he keeps trying to trip Biden up?

“Biden-Harris Campaign Hires Brian Fallon, Prominent Dem Critic” [RealClearPolitics]. “Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive group Demand Justice, will soon join the Biden-Harris campaign as communications director for the vice president…. It was Fallon and Demand Justice who called on Biden to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court to counter the conservative majority. And later, they mounted a pressure campaign to convince liberal Justice Stephen Breyer to retire so that the president could name a younger, more progressive replacement. The White House explicitly disapproved of both measures…. Fallon also publicly supported defunding the police, something that the White House insists they adamantly oppose.” • If Harris thinks she can “pivot left,” she’s out of her mind.

* * *

“Hunter Biden will not sit for deposition by GOP, says father not ‘financially’ involved in his business” [FOX]. “Hunter Biden offer to testify publicly is a de facto rejection of the GOP demand that he appear Wednesday for the closed-door deposition he was subpoenaed for. That deposition was scheduled to take place Wednesday at 9:30 a.m…. ‘No evidence to support that my father was financially involved in my business because it did not happen,’ Hunter Biden said.” • “Financially” is doing a lot of work, there.

“By Modern Standards, Biden Should Be Impeached | Opinion” [Mark R. Weaver, Newsweek]. Ohio AG (R). “Based on modern legislative interpretations of impeachable conduct, the U.S. House of Representatives has enough evidence to impeach President Joe Biden. ‘Show me the treason, high crime, or misdemeanor’ some will shout. Here’s my reply: Go get elected to the House, where you and your colleagues alone decide what evidence meets that standard…. Richard Nixon was never charged with a crime or impeached but he was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the crimes of others. Despite his provable lies to the contrary, Joe Biden was involved with his son Hunter’s foreign influence business. Whether that makes him a co-conspirator in Hunter’s crimes is a ripe area for congressional scrutiny. The most active architect of the Constitution, James Madison, described the type of behaviors that could trigger impeachment as ‘incapacity, negligence or perfidy.’ Impeachment served as a safeguard, Madison said, against betrayal of ‘his trust to foreign powers.’ Ukraine and China leap to mind. With these facts in hand, maintaining the partisan claim of “no evidence” is like denying the daylight at dawn. Yes, things were only dimly seen for a while, but the sunlit scrutiny of hearings will almost certainly cast an undeniable beam on this conclusion: It’s time to impeach Joe Biden.”

* * *

IL: “Illinois NAACP president faces calls to quit over conference call where she branded migrants ‘rapist savages’ who are taking resources from black and homeless people” [Daily Mail]. “‘These immigrants who come over here, they’ve been raping people, they’ve been breaking into homes, they’re like savages as well,’ [Teresa Haley] said. ‘They don’t speak the language and they look at us like we’re crazy.’… Illinois Governor JB Pritzker called remarks ‘reprehensible’ and ‘extraordinarily inappropriate.’ ‘I would hope that she would apologize for the remarks,’ he added. ‘I also think that people should recognize that immigrants in this country are all around us. Virtually all of us came here from somewhere else. So remarks like that are commentary on our entire society.'”

Republican Funhouse

“Calls grow for Congress to subpoena Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs despite Democrat ‘stonewalling'” [FOX]. “Calls are growing for Congress to subpoena convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs in order to identify possible perpetrators who may have partaken in his sex trafficking ring. In a Monday letter to the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said there were still many unanswered questions surrounding Epstein’s operation, including the identities of “America’s most powerful and well-known people” who may have been involved.” • I’m all for it, but I can’t figure out what Burchett’s letter is in aid of.

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!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“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.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Claudine Gay Is Why I Never Checked the ‘Black’ Box” [The Free Press]. “[I]t was not until I applied to college in the early 1990s that I encountered people like Claudine Gay and truly saw behind the curtain of identity politics. That was when, with grades and SATs that were borderline acceptable for top-tier colleges, my high school counselor—along with most university officials—urged me to boost my chances of admission by checking the ‘black’ box on applications. And when they saw my reluctance, they routinely dismissed my misgivings with the same line: ‘Oh, it’s nothing, just check the box and you’ll get the upper hand.’ They weren’t wrong: I was once offered a $25,000 Martin Luther King scholarship, a lot of money in 1993. Checking the black box was tempting, to say the least. But it was a sham. At that time, the percentage of all blacks on college campuses who were from lower economic backgrounds had fallen to the single digits. These students had been replaced by middle- to upper-class blacks, Africans, Caribbeans, and multiracials like me. By checking the black box, I was being asked to mask the actual problems and inequities that undermine the efforts of lower-class blacks—all so university administrations could claim the pretense of racial redemption through higher enrollment numbers.” • It wouldn’t be that hard for universities to make income, a proxy for class, the driver for DEI….


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *


“Ear loop respirators/masks do not provide protection as tight fitting RPE” [Health and Safety Executive]. UK. “New HSE research has revealed that respirators/masks which rely on ear loops (including those provided with clips, ‘snuggers’ or other means of tightening the fit of the mask) to hold the respirator/mask in place, do not protect people adequately when used as tight fitting respiratory protective equipment (RPE)…. Following publication of the previous Safety Alert ‘Use of Face Masks designated KN95‘, in June 2020, the NHS took early action to exclude ear loop respirators/masks from their supply chain due to concerns over their protection. As a result, respirators with a head harness will have been supplied and fit test completed with this style of respirator.” • I think readers know this, but just in case…

Testing and Tracking

An unsettling possibility re: wastewater:

Back in the day, before the public health establishment crippled collecting actual case data, we could crosscheck wastewater data against it (and vice versa). No longer.

I can think of plenty of individuals at Stanford who are full of it, so:


“Janesville School District holding virtual classes Wednesday & Thursday due to students and staff out sick” [KWWL]. “The Janesville School District will be moving classes virtually on Wednesday and Thursday due to 127 students and 13 staff members currently out sick…. “Our staff will be cleaning and disinfecting the district over the next few days.” • [bangs head on desk].


“COVID study: 40% of children still infectious after symptom resolution” [Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy]. “A study today of viral shedding dynamics in 101 children who had COVID-19 during the Omicron surge in Toronto shows that 40% were still infectious on the day after their symptoms resolved… The median time to symptom resolution was 6 days, and 12% of participants still had symptoms at day 10. Overall, the median time to non-infectious virus load was 5 days after symptom onset, with 75% of participants meeting the non-infectious threshold by 7 days, and 90% by 10 days. …. ‘These findings support the consideration for infection prevention and control interventions for up to 10 days post symptom onset to reduce residual transmission risk around vulnerable or immunocompromised populations,’ the authors said.” • Delta Airlines said five days, so five days it is. And I’m so old I can remember when children didn’t get Covid at all!

Science Is Popping

Beautiful videos:

Beautiful and terrifying.

“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

“Neurologic Effects of SARS-CoV-2 Transmitted among Dogs” [Emerging Infectious Diseases]. From the Abstract: ” In this study, we used a canine transmission model to examine histopathologic changes in the brains of dogs infected with SARS-CoV-2. We observed substantial brain pathology in SARS-CoV-2–infected dogs, particularly involving blood–brain barrier damage resembling small vessel disease, including changes in tight junction proteins, reduced laminin levels, and decreased pericyte coverage. Furthermore, we detected phosphorylated tau, a marker of neurodegenerative disease, indicating a potential link between SARS-CoV-2–associated small vessel disease and neurodegeneration. Our findings of degenerative changes in the dog brain during SARS-CoV-2 infection emphasize the potential for transmission to other hosts and induction of similar signs and symptoms. The dynamic brain changes in dogs highlight that even asymptomatic individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 may develop neuropathologic changes in the brain.” • Ulp.

“This is bigger than COVID: Why are so many Americans dying early?” [Pierre Kory and Mary Beth Pfeiffer, The Hill]. “[T]he most pressing question for insurers, epidemiologists and health agency officials. Why is the traditionally healthiest sector of our society — young, employed, insured workers — dying at such rates? Public health officials aggressively oversaw the pandemic response, for better or worse. Why aren’t they looking into this?” • The question begging is buried in “oversaw the pandemic response.” Why do we assume that’s the only thing we should look into, and not the sequelae of Covid itself?

Elite Maleficence

Christmas cheer (1):

An outright lie from CDC; Covid vaccines do not prevent transmission (they are not sterlizing, at least the existing ones). CDC is so desperate to cram the flu, RSV, and Covid into the seasonal respiratory virus box — I assume because of bureaucratic imperatives from infection control departments, and perhaps pharma as well — that they’ll literally say anything, even if, in the case of Covid, their advice costs lives.

Christmas cheer (2):

A second case of the same brainworm. Vaccines do not prevent transmission, so masking should be universal.

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, December 11:

Lambert here: At last Biden’s beaten every one of Trump’s previous spikes, so a round of applause for The Big Guy. The slight plateauing in the national numbers doesn’t make sense to me because I can’t see an organic reason for it (unless the spread from Thanksgiving is somehow being damped out, which seems implausible). I’m guessing backward revision will make the plateau go away. Only 14 superspreading days until Christmas!

Regional data:

Hard to see why the regional split (and it sure would be nice to have more granular data). Weather forcing Northerners indoors? Seems facile. There’s snow in the Rockies (green color, West), for example.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, December 9:

Lambert here: JN.1, shown on the NowCast for the first time, coming up fast on the outside, while BA.2.86 fades.

From CDC, November25:

Lambert here: I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, December 2:

Lambert here: Slight increases in some age groups, conforming to wastewater data. Only a week’s lag, so this may be our best current nationwide, current indicator.

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections. And of course, we’re not even getting into the quality of the wastewater sites that we have as a proxy for Covid infection overall.


Bellwether New York City, data as of December 13:

Steadily up. New York state as a whole looks more like a spike. (I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive, although the hospital-centric public health establishment loves it, hospitalization and deaths being the only metrics that matter [snort]).

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. December 2:

Up, up, up!

Lambert here: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates weekly for the previous MMWR week (Sunday-Saturday) on Thursdays (Deaths, Emergency Department Visits, Test Positivity) and weekly the following Mondays (Hospitalizations) by 8 pm ET†”. So where the heck is the update, CDC?


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, December 11:

0.5%. Up. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From Cleveland Clinic, December 2:

Lambert here: Increase (with backward revision; guess they thought it was over). I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good*, and we’re starved for data, so…. NOTE * Even if hospital infection control is trying to kill patients by eliminating universal masking with N95s.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, November 20:

Turning upward.

Down, albeit in the rear view mirror. And here are the variants for travelers, November 20:

BA.2.86 zipping right along. If this data were delivered in anything like a timely fashion, it would be a pretty good predictor.


NOT UPDATED Here is the New York Times, based on CDC data, December 2:

That the absolute numbers of deaths are down, but the percentage of deaths is up, is interesting.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

Shipping: “How Does the Panama Canal Slowdown Affect Shipping Contracts?” [Maritime Executive]. “The Panama Canal significantly reduces the time and distance for vessels to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It normally operates all year round, 24 hours a day, and statistics show that about 13,000 to 14,000 vessels cross the Canal annually. However, the region has recently been suffering from its worst drought for over 70 years. As a result, and for the first time ever, the Panama Canal Authority has had to limit the number of vessels crossing the Canal. The usual average is about 36 vessels per day. This was reduced to roughly 32 in June 2023 and, as of November 2023, the number is down to only 25. It is expected that this number will be further reduced to 18 slots a day from February 2024. As well as this, the Authority has also had to reduce the draft limit from 50ft to 44ft. This imposes a limit on the size of a ship which can pass through the canal, and as a result, the amount of cargo that passes through. With the situation worsening, vessels are having to wait much longer than normal before they can pass through the Canal. The delays caused have impacted the wider global supply chain and already increased costs as a result. The delays are pushing shipping rates upwards in other regions, with fewer vessels being available for longer routes.”

Big Pharma: “Pfizer shares sink after it resets 2024 COVID expectations” [Reuters]. “Pfizer on Wednesday forecast 2024 sales that could be as much as $5 billion below Wall Street expectations, a move top executives said provided a more reliable view of its COVID-19 business than it had this year, driving shares down to a 10-year low…. Revenue from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and treatment, which peaked at $57 billion in 2022, are now expected to be $8 billion in 2024, a further drop from the $13 billion analysts’ forecast and Pfizer’s own lowered view of $12.5 billion for this year…. COVID vaccination in the U.S. have dropped sharply with just about 17% of the eligible population getting the most recent updated boosters due in part to declining concern about the virus, as well as vaccine fatigue… Citi analyst Andrew Baum said Pfizer’s management is acting with increasing urgency to address its weak stock performance. However, the absence of promising high-potential pipeline assets makes it difficult for the company with several Pfizer products expected to go off patent in the next few years.” • Whatever “vaccine fatigue” is; it gets tiring tracking the pseudo-concepts. Not a word about liabilities, though.

Tech: “X outage breaks all outgoing links, again” [The Verge]. “All outgoing links from X are currently broken. A problem with the URL redirect that captures activity before sending users on their way is currently leading people to a simple error page saying, ‘This page is down. I scream. You scream. We all scream… for us to fix this page. We’ll stop making jokes and get things up and running soon.’ If this sounds familiar, it’s because something similar happened in March.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 66 Greed (previous close: 67 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 13 at 1:54:48 PM ET. Amidst all the chaos and madness, the Greed number remembers quite stable. Volatility is good for speculation, I suppose.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Why dictionary.com’s word of the year is ‘hallucinate'” [CBS]. “There was a 45% increase in dictionary lookups for ‘hallucinate’ when compared to last year, according to the site. There was a similar increase in searches for the noun form ‘hallucination.’ Overall, there was a 62% year-over-year spike in dictionary lookups for AI-related words. Our choice of hallucinate as the 2023 Word of the Year represents our confident projection that AI will prove to be one of the most consequential developments of our lifetime,” Barrett and Nick Norlen, dictionary.com’s senior editor, said in a post. “Data and lexicographical considerations aside, hallucinate seems fitting for a time in history in which new technologies can feel like the stuff of dreams or fiction—especially when they produce fictions of their own.'” • Not just “new technologies”…

News of the Wired

“‘Biocomputer’ combines lab-grown brain tissue with electronic hardware” [Nature]. “Researchers have built a hybrid biocomputer — combining a laboratory-grown human brain tissue with conventional electronic circuits — that can complete tasks such as voice recognition…. The researchers call the system Brainoware. It uses brain organoids — bundles of tissue-mimicking human cells that are used in research to model organs. Organoids are made from stem cells capable of specialising into different types of cells. In this case, they were morphed into neurons, akin to those found in our brains. The research aims to build ‘a bridge between AI and organoids’, says study co-author Feng Guo, a bioengineer at the University of Indiana Bloomington. Some AI systems rely on a web of interconnected nodes, known as a neural network, in a way similar to how the brain functions. ‘We wanted to ask the question of whether we can leverage the biological neural network within the brain organoid for computing,’ he says.” • Oh good. “Brain Function As A Service.” I smell business model!

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) 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. From IM:

IM writes: “Some fall shots from the rim of the continent…a big leaf maple making its annual contribution to carbon recycling. By Englishman River Falls, on Vancouver Island. Note: no leaf blowers.”

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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. notabanker

    “by modern standards”… OK. So pre-modern standards, whatever that means, were ok with cash payments from foreign entities in exchange for favorable policy and legislation. Good to know. If only the German’s and Japanese were aware of this in WWII, we could have saved a lot of lives.

    1. Harold

      Um, didn’t modernity begin with Francis Bacon (1561-1626), inventor of the scientific method? Bribery countenanced at the time of Joan of Arc?

  2. ambrit

    Governor JB Pritzker’s quote about ‘badmouthing’ today’s illegal immigrants as “savages” et. al. being bad because; “Virtually all of us came here from somewhere else. So remarks like that are commentary on our entire society.’” stands as unintentional irony at it’s finest.

  3. Samuel Conner

    > Whatever “vaccine fatigue” is;

    I suspect that it’s a catch-all euphemism, with a semantic range that includes “vaccine caution”. I can’t think of anyone whose views on the subject I know who wants the latest boosters. All these people are diligent maskers, so it may be that has something to do with it. “Layered protection” is good sense, but when one is unsure whether one of the layers might have potential harmful side-effects, it may be tempting to rely on the others by themselves.


    I’m curious whether anyone knows of evidence about the effect of “sub-clinical” doses of CV. N95s, distancing, etc. reduce the inhaled CV particle count, but do not eliminate it entirely. I’m wondering what is known about the consequences of repeated exposures, over months and years, to small CV doses.

    1. c_heale

      Well politicians have spent a lot of time telling people COVID is over, and/or it’s a mild disease.

      Add to that a significant number of people who don’t trust the COVID vaccines due to the fact they don’t work as vaccines (they only reduce the symptoms), and that they have disturbing side effects – irregular periods, being the most common. If you sell a crappy product you are going to lose some of your market and you are going to lose the most important thing in business – trust.

      COVID fatigue is a euphemism for the two issues above.

  4. ambrit

    Burchett’s letter; “Calls grow for Congress to subpoena Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs despite Democrat ‘stonewalling’” could be either, if he is an Establishment Republican, in support of derailing Trump by showing Trump to have “flown” the “friendly skies,” or, if an Insurgent Republican, be in pursuit of evidence that Biden, pere or fils junketed on said Fantasy Island flights.
    My Inner Cynic says that this could be The Wizard of Kaolarmina’s way of checkmating Hillary.
    If “Creepy” Joe goes toes up before the election, then who will Harris’ Veep be? Mr. Wizard might very well be the Decider in Chief. The Republican Party perfected the modern Dominant Veep system with their Bush/Cheney teaming. The Democrat Party can do no less.
    Could Michelle/Michael Obama run as the Veep, and be the conduit for The Wizard’s behind the scenes machinations?
    Truth was, is, and always will be, stranger than fiction. Especially in politics.

    1. griffen

      My cynical thought was to think about the topic of flight logs, and cue the fictional ending court scene between one lawyer and one high ranking military official in A Few Good Men. Deep down you want Nathan Jessup on that wall !

      And speaking of a fictional ending, still not believing the Epstein suicide…but I digress ! We should not tease the gods with this Harris VEEP discussion. I just can’t imagine.

      1. Wukchumni

        Col. Jessup: Joe, we live in a world that has Wall Street, and those stock values have to be guarded by men with powerful computers. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Harris? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Hillary and you curse Trump. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know; that Hillary’s loss in 2016, while tragic, probably saved lives. And Epstein’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, *saves lives*. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that blocking committee. You need me on that blocking committee. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a pick up line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a woman who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you” and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest she pick up the nomination and stand again in another attempt. Either way, I don’t give a *damn* what you think you are entitled to!

        1. Procopius

          Col. Jessup is certainly not a man I want to be on active duty when the balloon goes up next time. He probable will be the commander, though. Another [family-blogging] incompetent making a career out of spouting bullsh*t.

    2. jsn

      I’m pretty sure Trump runs a racket similar to Epsteins.

      Roy Cohn was Trumps lawyer and he was at a minimum adjacent to the blackmail ring Bronfman and Lansky ran that J Edgar Hoover got caught in, which network Alan Dulles ended up running.

      Trumps comment about Epsteins “younger” lovelies certainly suggests Trump was fully aware of what was going on there. Trump has lots of luxury hotels which provide excellent surveillance opportunities.

      1. Feral Finster

        I’m not sure that Trump has the nous to pull off something similar. It’s possible, though.

        And to be fair, it’s not as if Epstein’s extracurricular activities were a closely guarded secret. Hell, I knew about them and I don’t exactly run in those circles.

        1. jsn

          If you haven’t met him, it’s easy to underestimate him.

          I started telling people in the summer of 2016 he was going to win because of that.

          Roy Cohen was his lawyer, Roy would have set it up for him.

    3. Feral Finster

      If the flight logs showed Trump malfeasance, Team D would not be stonewalling. They’d be throwing out wild and outlandish conspiracy theories, all dutifully amplified by the MSM in stereo.

      Axtually, I am sort of surprised that Team D would declare the absence of evidence of malfeasance to be proof that Trump is really really good at covering his tracks. Sort of like Schiff claiming to have Secret Squirrel Evidence that Russia Hacked Our Democracy, evidence which Mueller was apparently unable to find.

      That’s not to say that there is no Trump malfeasance. Just that it doesn’t appear here.

      1. LifelongLib

        Well, it depends who else is in those logs besides Trump (if he is). I’m under the impression that Epstein was very bipartisan.

        1. Pat

          Mossad generally is. They have to have their hooks in no matter who is in power. (At the time of his contact with Epstein, Trump would have been a target for financing Epstein and as a possible lever to be used in a situation where direct action would not work.)

  5. Henry Moon Pie

    “Biocomputer’ combines lab-grown brain tissue with electronic hardware”

    I smell skin-jobs.

  6. griffen

    Striking the Heisman Trophy pose, Hunter Biden just provided a stiff arm response to House Committee and to the Chair. You Shall Not Depose Me today.

    Thumbs down on the Hunter Biden saga and his own set “facts separate from reality”…I mean to say based on my reading of varied accounts it really does appear that someone called the Big Guy was at the absolute minimum involved on those end finance results in an LLC org chart. Tax fraud usually means a bit more than just paying the fine…just ask Wesley Snipes!

    1. marieann

      Thank goodness I am on the other side of the country from that woman.
      Things are not going so great on this side though.
      My son and his wife have Covid and my other son and his wife had it earlier in the year, 2 friends at a knit group have it, this is the most people I know personally who have the virus……and all I hear is “covid is over”

      My husband and I mostly stay home where it is safe…we mask when we go out….and tend to be the only ones doing that.

      1. ambrit

        It does get a little eerie being the only person masked on a City Bus. The driver one day said that she was still fighting the coronavirus, but that the company had told her that three days was the “average” that she would be ‘dangerous’ to others. So, she was allowed three days of home rest and then, no matter her symptom profile, it was back to work. I offered her a KN 95 mask, but she declined. “The company tells us that the Pandemic is over.”
        A number of the bus drivers here are ex over the road drivers for freight companies. They all say that they burned out and needed a ‘rest’ from ten hour driving days ‘on the road.’

        1. JBird4049

          She is still getting sick from Covid, and yet, she accepts her employer’s lie that the epidemic is over?

          I am quite capable of having whacked logic, but hello?

      2. John Beech

        Ditto me and my wife, marijean, we go out very little (doctor’s appointments, mostly), mask always, and hork upon return with saline/PVI 0.5% – no exceptions. Lynn lost two 1st cousins early in the 1st and 2nd year, and I lost a guy I knew. All the heads up we need to not take medical advice from politicians and doctors paid by the government. Distrusting? Us? Yes!

  7. Mark Gisleson

    But Axelrove, I assume, is running interference for The Wizard of Kalorama™.

    Lambert, if this is a typo, please don’t fix it because it makes more sense this way.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Lambert, if this is a typo, please don’t fix it

      “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” –James Joyce, Ulysses.

      Sadly for me, however, it’s not a typo, but a joke so old I can’t remember the source!

  8. clarky90

    Shark Island Concentration Camp: The Horrors of Germany’s First Death Camp in Namibia


    “The roots of the Herero revolt can be traced back to the 1890s, a period marked by increased pressure from German settlers who coveted the land, cattle, and forced labor of the ethnic groups residing in Namibia. Heightened by factors such as loss of property, mounting debts from resettling lost herds, meager wages, and racial inequalities, the tension between the Herero and the Germans escalated. In January 1904, the Herero and Nama people rebelled against German colonial rule, resulting in over 100 German settlers losing their lives near Okahandja…..”

    1. Ben Joseph

      Those pictures look doctored. I cannot fathom a hearty enough group to survive to the point of showing that much skeleton and managing to stand.

      I believe humans can be so cruel to others, however.

    2. Late Introvert

      Thomas Pynchon wove a theme of Herero suffering throughout Gravity’s Rainbow, if I do recall. Along with many other interesting themes.

  9. Vicky Cookies

    Re: Bidens comments:
    They reduce to one word for me, too, but that word is his own: “animals”, repeated for emphasis. Somehow I don’t think he means to make the point that, as humans, the people he refers to are neither vegatables nor minerals.

    1. nippersdad

      He had a lot to do with the creation of ISIS in the occupied Iraqi prisons. Hard to believe that he does not remember that, so much so that it almost has to be a diversion from attention to his own progeny. It is just projection, as ever.

    2. Otto Reply

      Ugh. One of the many comments in that horrid speech that caught my eye.

      Biden: He [Trump] called those who oppose him “vermin,” language that echoes that what was heard out in Germany in the ‘30s.

      but wait, President Intractible adds,
      Biden: First and foremost, do everything in our power to hold Hamas accountable — every single thing in our power. They’re animals. They’re animals. … But nobody, nobody, nobody on God’s green Earth can justify what Hamas did. They’re a brutal, ugly, inhumane people, and they have to be eliminated.

      With little time and crapified search engines, I still found the following:
      according to a Snopes piece comparing Trump and Hitler’s use of the term animals (verdict: Mixed) :
      Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, upon visiting quarantined Jews in the Łodz ghetto in 1939, wrote in his diary: “These are not humans, but animals”

      from a 2019 Psychology Today article: Human Beings Are Not Insects, Vermin, Parasites, or Garbage

      Using metaphors such as insects, vermin, parasites, garbage, and such elicits the feelings of disgust one has for those things and connects that emotion of disgust with the person or group of people described.

      According to psychologist David Matsumoto and his colleagues, combining feelings of disgust with contempt and anger is particularly potent. Leaders who generate these three emotions at once can engender violence against the targets of their dehumanization.

      from Middle East Eye

      “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” [Israel’s defence minister Yoav] Gallant said.

      “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,” he added.

      A Critical Thinking question from the Holocaust Encyclopedia
      “How can propaganda and the spread of harmful misinformation about a particular group be identified and countered?”

      Good question. I’m overwhelmed with grief and anger by Biden’s remarks – speaking of which, isn’t the posting of these remarks on whitehouse.gov a violation of the Hatch Act?

      1. Vicky Cookies

        Thank you for your valuable reply.
        I am not a lawyer, but, from the Office of the Special Counsel website: “Except for the President and Vice President, all federal civilian executive branch employees are covered by the Hatch Act, including employees of the U.S. Postal Service. Even part-time employees are covered by the Act”

        There is a broad definition of “political activity”, and it would seem that the use of the white house site would constitute a violation, based on common sense; the webmasters and tech people can’t all be contractors, right?

        Anyways, it’s good to know what slime is dripping from Joe’s mouth, and a Hatch act violation is likely the least harmful of the crimes he could, in a just world, be indicted for.

        1. TomDority

          “They’re animals. They’re animals.” Biden


          Thinking out loud – I guess Dems do not want to win the house, senate, or White House.
          Planned exit? before the sinking of the ship of ?

  10. Lambert Strether Post author

    Patient readers, I noticed some weird WP flex meant that my orts and scraps didn’t come through. Now fixed!

    Much more Covid material.

    No, I haven’t come up with a riposte to “Ort Cloud.” Maybe tomorrow!

    1. ambrit

      Curses! And here I was ‘counting’ on at least a Dorothy Sayers quip. “Gad, Lord Peter! Is that a Folly or a Whimsy!”
      Of course, since we are entering the Era of AI War, we are faced with the prospect of having to deal with “The Cloud of War,” no less dangerous than it’s cousin, “The Fog of War.”

  11. Wukchumni

    Police in Los Angeles arrested a group of protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after they shut down a busy stretch of freeway in the city’s downtown.

    Dozens of people assembled on the 110 on Wednesday morning, bringing traffic to a standstill during the morning commute for more than an hour. There were tense physical confrontations as commuters attempted to remove people from the road.

    The California highway patrol detained 75 people in association with the protest, NBC Los Angeles reported. The demonstration blocked all six southbound lanes of traffic, creating gridlock that stretched for miles.


    Amazingly, the LA Times has nothing on this, how is that possible?

    1. JBird4049

      Please, the news media in the San Francisco Bay Area has had a practice of downgrading or ignoring protests for at least forty years, and it is not a surprise that L.A. has the same.

  12. Wukchumni

    Benedict Donald is selling off pieces of a suit, and how do you part out a lawsuit, is what i’m wondering?

    1. dave -- just dave

      The suit counts as a second degree relic – it was something in contact with the person, but it is not part of their corporeal remains. A third degree relic is something that has been brought into contact with a relic of the first or second degree. For example – I have a St. Dymphna medal, with a small square of cloth on the back – it is a third degree relic.

    2. ambrit

      I guess you have to ‘offer’ it up through a “Big and Tall Meme’s Shop.” Ask for “Major Andre, the giant.”
      Of course, the jokes concerning “vests” and “vesting” make themselves.

  13. JM

    The WI wastewater site was updated again, though only through the 6th; hopefully they aren’t going to be another site that’s always a week or more behind. But the number has gone above everything except for the Omicron surge in ’21 now.

    So many questions about how the GI aspect interacts with things, and I wonder if we’ll ever learn much about asymptomatic infections that isn’t inference from symptomatic people in studies.

  14. Feral Finster

    Still not believing in the Epstein suicide…

    To believe in the Epstein suicide, one has to reconcile a string of ludicrous incongruences and assume a bunch of facts not in evidence. To believe that Epstein either was murdered or was encouraged to commit suicide requires far fewer such absurdities.

    Nothing about this has changed.

    1. griffen

      And to add to the above, along the same vein, still not believing that the perpetrator behind the “white substance in a small baggy” from wherever in the White House this summer could not be determined. Crickets…Zounds we will never know will we !!

      Crack or crack cocaine abusers in the White House, whocouldanode.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “How Does the Panama Canal Slowdown Affect Shipping Contracts?”

    At what point does the Arctic route being opened up by Russia became a viable alternate for some of this shipping?

  16. Will

    Lambert: “ I’m so old I can remember when children didn’t get Covid at all!”

    Perhaps with the way things are going and COVID’s affects on the brain, we should rephrase as “I’ve had no / so few Covid infections, I can remember when…”

  17. nippersmom

    They exceeded anything that any other terrorist group has done of late that I — in memory.

    Considering Joe frequently can’t remember how to get off a stage he just got on 15 minutes earlier, “in memory” coming from him means absolutely nothing.

  18. Tom Stone

    The tenants on either side of me have “Really Bad Colds”, I talked to my oldest friend and she “Seems to be” coming down with the same bad cold her daughter and grandkids have…and another friend will be flying to Europe for a couple of weeks, he and his wife are not concerned because they are fully vaxxed and boosted.
    A few more masks here and there including chin diapers at the pharmacy yesterday.
    Next year is going to be a VERY interesting year.

  19. Will

    They’re really going with salting the earth. Not that I’m surprised I guess.


    Archived link

    “Israel’s military has begun pumping seawater into Hamas’s vast complex of tunnels in Gaza, according to U.S. officials briefed on the Israeli military’s operations, part of an intensive effort to destroy the underground infrastructure that has underpinned the group’s operations.”

      1. The Rev Kev

        They don’t care. The other day they bombed the Gaza Archives building along with all its historical records and they have already hit the main library building in Gaza along with any other historical building or those with any cultural significance. This is nothing new. Israeli archaeologists when doing a dig would use a bulldozer to scrape the top layers of soil until they got down to the level where there was ancient Israelite occupation. Of course when they scrapped those top layers, that would include all the artifacts showing Muslim occupation. Then, when they were done, they would come out with a report that there have only ever been occupation by Israelites and no others to bolster their claims that this land belongs to them.

        1. LifelongLib

          Well, maybe land issues should be decided based on the needs of the living, rather than on which bunch of the dead got there first, but that’s a can of worms that a lot of people all over the world probably don’t want opened…

  20. flora

    I wonder if CJ Hopkins has read Philip Mirowski’s books or essays on neoliberalism. From Hopkins:

    The Schizotocracy

    “….I am writing about capitalism as an ideology, because it’s the ideology that has become our reality, the reality of the planet Earth, which it is transforming into one big marketplace.

    See, what capitalism does, if you turn it loose, when it isn’t restrained in any real way by any sort of dominant value system — e.g., a religious, or cultural, or social value system — what it does is, it transforms societies into markets, and turns everything and everyone within them into commodities. It strips societies of all other values — i.e., impediments to the free flow of capital — until nothing remains but the marketplace, where exchange value is the only value and nothing has any real value in itself, or any real meaning in itself.”


  21. John k

    Universities could make income a proxy for class…
    At one time I subscribed to Tnr. One month they came out with the headline ‘class, not race’. I applauded both their wisdom and willingness to buck what I thought was fake liberalism.
    They caved and, as I recall, retracted the very next month. I never renewed.
    Imo such a position would be even less welcome among dems today.
    Seems dem leaders are out of step with their voters. In ca, that bluest of blue states, we passed by pop vote an amendment that stopped teachers from teaching Hispanic students in Spanish. We need more such votes.

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