2:00PM Water Cooler 12/18/2024

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am finishing up a post where I show that RSV and the Flu are, like Covid — and I know this will surprise you — airborne aerosols. However, since Monday is Biobot Day, here are their new results:

Real accomplishment by the Biden Administration, exceeding all the previous infection peaks of the Trump Administration. Only a Democrats could have done it!

That said, as a totally “gut feel” tapewatcher, I would expect this peak to meet or exceed the two previous Biden peaks; after all, we haven’t really begun the next bout of holiday travel, or the next rounds of superspreading events celebrations. Plus students haven’t come from from school, and then returned. So a higher peak seems pretty much “baked in.” And that’s before we get to new variants, like JN.1. The real thing to watch is the slope of the curve. If it starts to go vertical, and if it keeps on doing so, then hold onto your hats. (Next week’s reading, however, is Christmas Day; there may well be a data-driven drop.) Stay safe out there!

Oh, and talk amongst yourselves. This is an open thread.

Bird Song of the Day

Gray Partridge, Baaigemkouter, Munte, Oost-Vlaanderen, Vlaamse Gewest, Belgium. “A second bird calling distantly.”

Partridges are ground birds. So why the “pear tree”? From the Guardian:

The image of the largely terrestrial partridge perched in a pear tree has always struck me as odd; and it seems that I was right. The ‘pear tree’ is actually a corruption of the French word for the species – perdrix, pronounced with a silent x, as pair-dree.

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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 CC:

CC writes: “Walking a property line a couple weeks ago, the border of which in one spot is just a little brook in a ditch. It appears that it may have undermined the tree over the years depending on the amount of water flowing. An old tree too.I find it so interesting how nature just finds a way, keeps growing along, always finding a way to survive. The roots of other trees reaching down too to get some moisture… Be well and may you and yours have a vey lovely holiday if you celebrate it.”

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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. Watt4Bob

    I could believe a Partridge in a pear tree.

    We have a large Cedar tree outside our living room window. It has a large, horizontal limb, about 5 feet off the ground.

    I came home one night to find three turkeys perched side by side on that limb, facing the window, looking for all the world like they were watching our TV.

    1. Jeff W

      “The ‘pear tree’ is actually a corruption of the French word for the species – perdrix, pronounced with a silent x, as pair-dree.”

      And, coincidentally, pears have always struck me as a very “French” fruit—think of the classic French dessert Poires Belle-Hélène and those still lifes by Paul Cézanne—in a way that, say, blueberries and cranberries aren’t. So it all fits together, well, sort of.

  2. kareninca

    I sent my relatives in Indiana lots of Xlear, and they’d been using it faithfully. About a month ago they caught covid anyway. It is true that they go out to eat all the time and do not try to avoid covid by any other means.

    I sent two elderly ladies in Ohio AirTamers. One of them caught covid (presumably at work; she is a nurse) and the other did wear the AirTamer around her after it was discovered she had it. Unfortunately the second sister has now caught covid anyway. It is likely that she had been around her sick sister for a while before knowing that she was sick, but still this is disappointing.

    I have a friend who always wears an N95 (except when eating out, outdoors). He has not caught covid yet. I always wear an N95 and I haven’t caught it yet.

    I have a coreligionist in MI who is on the equivalent of claritin, every day. She does not try to avoid covid and is very sociable, yet she has not caught it yet.

    I am going to continue to use Xlear and my AirTamer and my daily claritin and of course the mask, but now I am thinking the mask and the claritin may be the most important preventatives. Still, there is no harm in reducing the risk further.

    One of the many perverse things about this virus is that people can go for months using no preventatives, and not catch it. And then they catch it. So it may require a lot of care for long periods to avoid one instance, and missing out on many, many social events in order to avoid one instance. I loathe social events so this is not a problem for me, but it is very hard for many people.

    This is a striking chart that was just posted. I do not know if it is due to covid, but it seems very possible: https://twitter.com/jukka235/status/1735805680563658880.

    1. Karen Palazzini

      I am a high school teacher. I caught Covid twice before anyone I personally knew: Nov 2021 Delta and Feb 2022 Omicron. I thought that my 2 Pfizer shots plus a booster would protect me and I was wrong. Because I caught various long Covid symptoms after the 2nd case (or perhaps it just HUGELY aggravated the MCAS that I did not know I had), I started wearing an N95 all the time at school and pretty much whenever I go inside buildings where there are other people. Yes, I have been teaching for almost 2 years in an N95… you sort of get used to it. Well, I have not caught Covid, or the flu or RSV or any of the other numerous airborn viruses that are ALWAYS circulating at school… I occassionally use Enovid as well – I’m only on my 3rd bottle. And I owe a lot of thanks to NC and Lambert for their paranoia regarding Covid – which is why I am a happily paying subscriber. (I say paranoia in jest – but you know that it what it feels like compared to the norm in society)

      1. Carla

        Thank you so much for your comment, Karen. Seems to me any of us who so much as pay attention to Covid are considered “paranoid.” Strange and difficult times in many, many ways, including this one.

      2. playon

        I also found out the hard way that the Pfizer and Moderna shots were fairly worthless. Recently got the Novavax and I feel more confident about its efficacy.

        1. Tom Stone

          I’m wearing either a P100 or an N95 whenever I’m indoors with other people, something I avoid as much as I can due to age and health issues.
          For most the pandemic is over, 2 couples I’m acquainted with are off to Hawaii for Xmas, one is just back from a hiking tour of the Himalaya’s and another just left for 3 weeks in Europe.
          All are vaxxed and boosted and thus have no worries about travelling now that the Pandemic is over…
          I also know a few people who still have a “Bad Cold” hanging on after 6 weeks, no symptoms except fatigue and weakness.
          Nothing serious, I’m sure.

          1. NYMutza

            I find it interesting that those who are older and have less of life to look forward to are often the least willing to take risks. Logic says that the young should take fewer risks because they have more years of life ahead of them, and that the old should take more risks because they have less years of life ahead and so have less to lose. There’s quite a bit of space between being overly concerned and being reckless. I tend to occupy that space in my daily comings and goings.

            1. kareninca

              That makes psychological sense, but does it make medical sense? It only takes one momentary lapse to end up with a covid brain reservoir. So really an all or nothing approach seems rational. The people that I read of who try to be “reasonable” end up catching covid. Covid isn’t reasonable.

              I’m not knocking your choice, as your choice. I just think that the virus’s ways are not our ways, and if we don’t actually want to catch covid we have to face that.

      3. kareninca

        I thought the vaccines were not sufficiently tested for safety and efficacy so I declined them. Actually, it was mostly that I could tell that I was being lied to by stupid people, but the lack of testing mattered too. Since my preventatives have worked so far, I’m glad I did. It is great that the N95s are working for you; I love the Auras.

      4. Utah

        Middle school teacher here. I haven’t caught it yet, knock on wood. I wear my n95 and keep my air purifier on full blast. I also turn the air conditioner on, so my room tends to be colder than most. I expect to get it at some point, but I do my best to avoid it. I haven’t had a booster, and my last vaccine was January 2022, right at the height of Delta. I’ve been considering the Novavax. I might get it right after Christmas so I have recovery time.

        1. Karen Palazzini

          Yes, I have 3 HEPA’s running in my classroom on speeds 1 or 2 (just to keep the noise down) in addition to wearing my N95. (I should have added that to my earlier post.)
          Also, a doc that I sometimes listen to on YouTube recommended mixing up the vaccines and so I got Novavax a month ago. I only felt a bit of a headache/pain – nothing like the Pfizer shots where I felt pretty crummy for 24 hours. I am not a big fan of Covid shots but I might continue to get one a year until I retire in 2 years.
          Thanks for all the info on Xlear

    2. Otto Reply

      Thanks for the tip. Very interested in Xlear. Hadn’t heard of it. It’s available at my local Fresh Thyme so I’ll give it a shot, er, squeeze. Yeah, Hoosiers aren’t masking up and the side eye I get at the grocery store tells me all I need to know. So far, no COVID. Being a misanthrope has its advantages! Fortunately, I hang with people who mask up with N95s (tight fitting 2 straps, not ear loops) and insist others do too. Found my tribe and you can too! Don’t give up the fight. Meanwhile, stay safe out there.

      1. playon

        Xlear is very effective at relieving congestion and is useful but it isn’t a defense against COVID per se — I don’t think that it has any anti-viral properties. Povidone nasal inhalers which contain iodine are good at killing viruses in the nasal passager.

        1. Pat

          Xylitol nasal sprays like Xlear had some buzz, but it seems it is just helpful keeping the nasal passages clear and moist so their natural protection is as effective as possible. There is more evidence that the povidone iodine sprays provide more protection as they can act as an antiviral.
          If you don’t want to go he cheaper route and make your own (it involves diluting it to the right strength and bottling it in a sterile nasal spray bottle) there are commercial povidone iodine sprays like Cofix and Epothex. I would be careful about the betadine spray, it doesn’t clearly label that it contains povidone iodine and may just be using the name as marketing.

        2. kareninca

          Xlear has clinical trials behind it. The company ran one really early in the pandemic, and the government just hated that and went after them. So they provided more data.


          1. Karen Palazzini

            kareninca (or anyone else who has done some research) – is there a reason that you prefer Xlear over Enovid? I haven’t seen many readers in this post today discuss Enovid although it was the NC blog where I discovered it.

            1. playon

              What I didn’t like about Enovid was the expense (it ships from Israel and isn’t cheap) and that it expires, unlike the iodine sprays.

              I’m also into avoiding Israeli products these days.

            2. SocalJimObjects

              Just bought my first bottle of Virx, a Glenmark product. I believe it’s the same formulation as Enovid. Pretty expensive at 35 bucks, but beggars can’t be choosers.

            3. kareninca

              I prefer Xlear because it is cheap so I use a lot of it and often. Enovid is expensive so I would subconsciously skimp. Also Enovid has a shelf life based on how it is made, and Xlear doesn’t really. Also I have seen plenty of anecdotes re people catching covid while using Enovid.

              I didn’t mean to knock Xlear. It seems to have about a 62 percent efficacy (for the variants they tested it against; that is always a qualification with these things). I just meant that it wasn’t a stand alone. I really knew that already but my relatives were direct evidence for me.

              I tried povidine iodine but I didn’t like how it felt so I feared I would not use enough. It’s probably better than Xlear, but I want something I will reliably use.

            4. ChrisRUEcon

              I use diluted hypochlorous (HOCL) which I dispense using a handheld or regular nebulizer. The handheld one is great for traveling, and the regular one is best for getting a good dose in over the course of two to three minutes. I did some testing and commented on it here and here (via NC).


          2. Late Introvert

            Thanks. My wife and daughter use Xlear and rinse with povidone iodine (I spray with the P-I usually but sometimes use Xlear) and we are all 3 Covid free so far (and obviously, only as far as I know, without proper testing we are all running blind.)


    Tuesday had plans to go to an outdoor bar to meet an old friend – turns out that bar was closed so we wound up indoors. And I wound up with Covid. Then my family.

    All of us had managed to get this far without getting it. Stay safe out there indeed!

      1. John

        I had a J&J jab March 2021, Moderna booster November 2021, another Moderna booster October 2022. I tested positive for Covid but I do not recall when. It felt no different than any 24 hour virus. Maybe it was a false positive. Who knows. I teach. There is a portable fan/air conditioner in my classroom. It draws in outside air. I turn it on in the morning and turn it off when I leave. I have not been masking. I seldom see anyone masked. I hear of the occasional case. I live well outside of New York City, but well within commuting distance. I confess to being confused by what I read as opposed to what I see and hear in my neighborhood. It sure would be reassuring to have fully reliable information. That is not to say that what I see in Naked capitalism is not so. It seems as if trust has been deliberately destroyed. Which if any booster is effective? Do the various products touted as palliatives or anti-virals do any good? And so on and forth…

        Covid was a public health problem. Treating it as a political football on the one hand and an opportunity for a profit windfall on the other has not served any one well.

        1. notabanker

          Treating it as a political football on the one hand and an opportunity for a profit windfall on the other has not served any one well.

          Bourla made this list, as well. The pharma leader’s total compensation of over $33 million was 437 times the median employee pay of $75,536 in 2022, according to the report. Across industries, U.S. CEOs’ pay rose 7.7% last year.


  4. notabanker

    I had to take out a really nice maple tree because a small brook / ditch undercut it. It was about 40 feet tall and completely healthy, other than the fact it was leaning 30 degrees over a structure, so I had to take it down.

  5. nippersdad

    It sounds like Trump is serious about going deep this time, and it has the Blob on edge:

    “In a little-reported document published on Agenda47 earlier this year, Trump said he would establish a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” which would, among other functions, publish documents related to “Deep State” abuses of power. He would also create a separate “auditing” body meant to monitor intelligence gathering in real time.”


    That would be fun to watch.

    1. LawnDart

      A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is something we desparately needed following the Bush Jr. years, but better late than never.

      1. nippersdad

        I agree. I can date my disaffection from the Democratic party from when Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table. I can’t wait to see it.

        Kind of related, RBN commentary on Biden’s falling polling numbers and the freakout by the media.


        I love these guys. “Talk dirty to me” and “Hurts their soul”, I get a charge out of their analysis. They are having fun with it.

        1. The Rev Kev

          They keep on saying that Biden is polling about 40% but I can’t see how that can be right. Then again it is the same people that are saying that the economy is going great so there is that.

          1. Pat

            It all depends on the questions. And where they are asked. And it would probably take a full on acknowledged depression to get Joe below 30%. If there was a real battle for the nomination I would put that lower, but as the assumed nominee he gets the tribal vote that does not waver.
            That said, his support has been significantly weakened by both the economy and the migrant issue in many supposed Democratic safe areas. That may only affect the popular vote, but it has also hurt him in less blue areas. They may not want to acknowledge it, but the vote in 2020 was far closer than it might seem. It only takes a few thousand voters to switch their votes or a few thousand voters deciding to stay home or not vote the top ticket in three of the half dozen battle ground states for Biden to be toast.
            If it is right nationwide Dropping to 40% is enough to mean he is in trouble. That could mean he loses more than three swing states.

            1. nippersdad

              He is losing in all of the swing states:

              “A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll released this week had similarly sour results for Biden.

              That survey found Biden trailing Trump in several crucial swing states: by 11 points in North Carolina, by 7 points in Georgia, by 6 points in Wisconsin, by 5 points in Nevada, by 4 points in Michigan and by 3 points in Arizona.”


              And it is likely that he is losing by even more. The last few elections it has been found that closet Republicans are routinely undercounted.

              1. playon

                Biden lost a lot of Muslim donors after supporting the latest round of killing in Palestine. He’s also not polling well with other minorities. I thought his support was running around 35%, this is the first time I’ve heard 40%.

                1. NYMutza

                  Don’t under-estimate the benefits of incumbency. Biden has time to turn things around, especially if he begins handing out some goodies by mid-2024. American voters are easy to placate with a few crumbs thrown their way.

                  1. ChrisRUEcon

                    > Biden has time to turn things around

                    … but he won’t.

                    > especially if he begins handing out some goodies by mid-2024

                    What goodies? These are The Democrats … they’ve never seen a public good they didn’t want to means test. Their feral counterparts across the aisle will prepare the altar upon which a sacrifice must be made to the centers of oligarchy, and the Dems will bow respectfully while repeating the mantra that compromise is capitulation good governance. Scranton Jack has had four years … there’s no rabbit coming out of a hat next year. Even if he were to find some magic, he’ll lose and Trump will take credit for it … LOL

                2. ChrisRUEcon

                  Don’t discount the appearance of “push polls”. Nothing like polling the “donor class” the give J03yNOrdStr34M the appearance of some kind of “comeback kid”.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>Then dead man walking.

        God, I really hope not. Aside from the whole murder thing, and even worse as a politic tactic, the Orange Man is a Knight in Shining Armor for too many Americans. Then there would be the assassins, or the plausible, but yet innocent people, facing exposure and retribution. Even an apparent heart attack could trigger an explosion, which our whole security state would find difficult to suppress, as even in the United States it requires the acquiescent of the majority of Americans to function.

        Whacking a President for obviously self serving reasons is a big, flaming, red line, for the average person, which crossing is an unforgivable act. And if anyone thinks that a majority of Americans would not think paranoiac thoughts, just look at Covid, the mRNA vaccines, Ukraine, and the ongoing Palestinian genocide, which all have the United States government and elites’ extremely corrupt fingerprints all over them. Americans are primed.

        But we are being governed by stupid, or worse, foolish people with the temperament of children.

    2. NYMutza

      Trump is a bunch of hot hair. Disregard 90% of what he says. There will be no truth commission, just like there was no draining of the Swamp. As a Texan might say, Trump is all hat and no cattle. Just a run of the mill New York windbag.

      1. nippersdad

        I don’t know. The last time winning came as a surprise, but this time he has had seven years of experience in getting knifed in the back and three years to scheme a come back. The last time he had no means of draining the swamp, but this time he can fill in the blanks that don’t matter to him with Koch troops, leaving room for him to hand pick a coterie of MAGA true believers.

        This time he is going to have a posse, and it will be composed of the most feral Republicans who are all out for blood. This type of thing is red meat for his base, and I think the uni-party establishment knows it. Why else would they drag out the Liz Cheney’s and Hillary Clintons to do battle together?

  6. steppenwolf fetchit

    . . . ” Real accomplishment by the Biden Administration, exceeding all the previous infection peaks of the Trump Administration. Only a Democrats could have done it! ” . . .

    Not to worry. When Trump gets re-elected, he will have a chance to prove you right or wrong about what “only a Democrat” can achieve in terms of Covid Accelerationism.

  7. ProNewerDeal

    Does a US-based Covid expert imperative how-to knowlege podcast exist, on Callin or some similar podcast format? A professional in a relevant-to-Covid field like an epidemiologist or physician that is a curious independent thinker, and reviews the ongoing Covid-related research. An expert that understands the US-based situation of where healthcare services are not guaranteed and hard to access, but simultaneously workers often must work multiple jobs to maintain even crappy health insurance, and other life essentials like housing.

    An example of this expert would be someone with the attributes like NC’s Covid gurus like IM_Doc or KLG.

    For example, is outdoor transmission risk rare with the current Omnicron prevalent strains, even at a 10Kperson+ gathering like an NFL stadium or big protest?

    If we USians are forced into make “personal Covid-risk assessment”, it would be very useful to listen to such a podcast, and perhaps submit an occasional question.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I suspect running such a podcast would be a miserable task. Prominent voices for reason have to endure despicable harassment.

      Regarding outdoor transmission risks, I believe the two main factors that reduce risk outdoors are dilution via air movement and viral neutralization via sunlight. Outdoor superspreading is definitely a thing during nighttime temperature inversions.

      I just saw that Tara Moriarty reckons 5% of Canadians have an active infection right now. I doubt any crowded venue can be regarded as safe under such circumstances, indoors or out.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Listened to that interview with Hillary on The View and she does not have a single new idea but just repeats the old mantras while weaving in a few lies. A risible one was where she said that the Israelis left Gaza twenty years ago and Hamas went in and destroyed the infrastructure that Israel were forced to leave behind. I remember that period well. The Israelis spent untold tens of millions to destroy every building and every project that they had built in their occupation of Gaza and knocked down all the buildings. I’m surprised that they did not salt the earth as well before they left.

      1. Pat

        A few new lies, Clinton’s default mode is lying and deception. Mostly because the truth does not serve her agenda. The one good thing about her believed sure bet to be President was she stopped trying to adopt popular ideas in a manner that jives with her core positions. They are dropped in then ignored while she states her true positions and when they clearly don’t belong together just goes on. The blinders might have to come off, but once they do it is almost impossible to pretend she is interested.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      Yikes! If ever one wanted to prove that “news” organization were really just tools of the political class and had no interest in reporting the truth, that MSNBC piece could be a valid exhibit.

      But Clinton also carries a number of liabilities. At this stage, before Biden focuses on his general election pitch, the most obvious one is that Clinton embodies the Democratic establishment that angers and repels progressives needed to win the election. In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, she was an avatar of the old guard as she faced off against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ surprise left-wing insurgency against the Democratic establishment. This might seem like a strange distinction to make when Biden is also a longtime establishment Dem, but Biden’s reputation with progressives in 2023 is significantly different from what it was before 2020. Because of Biden’s first-term ambitions and policy record on issues like labor, climate policy, anti-poverty policy and his decision to stick to his guns on withdrawing from Afghanistan, he is perceived as malleable and open to input from the left.

      Ummmm … really??! LOL

      #PushBidenLeft is a punchline. What world do these people live in? Oh, that’s right … the one in which they’re trying to create a world of manufactured consent. Good grief.

  8. Ranger Rick

    The southwestern water wars reached a potential ceasefire the other day.

    I appreciate the can-do attitude, but even the task force itself admits that they’re doing everything except planning future water cuts — the one thing that would directly affect the value of real estate in the region. I anticipate more drastic interventions in the years ahead, up to and including setting strict permanent residency limits.

    1. Max

      They played Russian Roulette with a single shot revolver when they cut themselves off from the next door, cheap, unlimited natural gas supply.

      Meanwhile, Uncle Joe has cut you and I off from cheap Russian grain, fertilizer, diesel and now uranium for nuclear reactors.
      Oops, he forgot out last permitted import, Stolichnaya.

  9. Greg

    On China, militarism, tech –


    The most interesting part of a story mostly about a wargaming system was this snippet:

    “the system has already proved its worth in a covert space mission, the team led by associate professor Zhang Jin wrote in a paper published in domestic journal National Defence Technology in October”

    This may relate to the recent flight of China’s secretive space plane project –


    Very interesting development if the two are related in this way.

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