Conservative Supreme Court rules against labor

In a 5-4 decision today, with voting along political lines, the conservative Supreme Court Justices (including Trump appointee Gorsuch) ruled that workers could not file class-action lawsuits against employers if they signed arbitration clauses in their contracts that waived their right to file such suits in favor of binding arbitration. This is definitely a blow to labor; as Reuters reports:

The justices, in a 5-4 ruling with the court’s conservatives in the majority, endorsed the legality of the growing practice by companies to compel workers to sign arbitration agreements waiving their right to bring class-action claims on various disputes, primarily over wages and hours.

The ruling could apply more broadly to discrimination claims like those raised by women as part of the #MeToo movement raising awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace but the court did not explicitly address that issue.

Craig Becker, a former member of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board and now general counsel of the AFL-CIO union federation, said the decision will have a “chilling effect” on employees coming forward to complain of mistreatment.

“It will cripple enforcement of all the major employment laws,” Becker added.

Growing numbers of employers, alarmed by a rise in class-action claims brought by workers on wage issues, have demanded that their workers sign waivers. Class-action litigation can result in large damages awards by juries and is harder for businesses to fight than cases brought by individual plaintiffs.

Remember, this is about the legality of companies being able to make their employees sign waivers to prevent class-actions, which seems unfair on the face of it.

The split had Gorsuch (Trump’s flak) writing the majority opinion (see it here), joined by Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Roberts. As for the liberal Justices (Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer), the New York Times adds this:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, a sign of profound disagreement. In her written dissent, she called the majority opinion “egregiously wrong.” In her oral statement, she said the upshot of the decision “will be huge under-enforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well being of vulnerable workers.”

Justice Ginsburg called on Congress to address the matter.

Brian T. Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who studies arbitrations and class actions, said the ruling was unsurprising in light of earlier Supreme Court decisions. Justice Gorsuch, he added, “appears to have put his cards on the table as firmly in favor of allowing class actions to be stamped out through arbitration agreements.”

As a result, Professor Fitzpatrick said “it is only a matter of time until the most powerful device to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds is lost altogether.”

Will the working people who voted for Trump, thinking he’d improve their situation, be disenchanted now? Are you kidding? They won’t pay one bit of attention to this decision.

Here’s the opinion of Steven Greenhouse, former labor reporter for the New York Times:

We often ignore the fact that one of the worst things that Trump (and the Republicans) did—something that will affect the country long after Trump is out of the White House—was to unfairly block the appointment of Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, waiting out the election to then allow a possible Republican president (Trump) the chance to put in his own nominee. That would be the odious Gorsuch.

Afternoon duck report

It’s raining, and I’m monitoring the pond while trying to write a paper, so it’s been a busy day. But the news is good for the ducks. First, though, let me introduce you to the two other members of Team Duck, Dr. Anna Mueller, a professor in Comparative Human Development who studies clustered suicide, and her grad student Sanja Miklin. Anna is on the right here, in a picture taken at a meeting last weekend.

All nine ducklings are thriving and are eating crushed mealworms, while Mom eats corn and whole mealworms. Frank hangs around, and I give him corn, but he’s becoming a jerk, lunging at and even pecking at the ducklings and at Honey. Team Duck will have to figure out a way to feed them while keeping Frank away from the family. At this point, after Frank has donated his sperm but proffers no childcare, his presence serves no useful purpose (and it’s even detrimental to the family); but I still feel some affection for him.

They’re all good, and it’s still raining. Note that there are nine ducklings still.

This morning a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) appeared by the pond, and Honey went apeshit quacking. It was in fact her frantic quacks that alerted me to the presence of this bird. Normally I’d be delighted to see it, but I suspect that, along with fish, this species would snatch ducklings. (I see no other reason why Honey would become frantic upon seeing it.) Therefore I needed to prompt it on its way. I don’t like doing that, but I was fortuitously thwarted by a student who, when taking a picture of the bird, made it fly off. It is a lovely thing, but doesn’t belong at the pond.  (Please, no remarks about thwarting natural selection, which is what you do when you give your kids antibiotics.)

The good news is that Physical Plant is doing its thing. Today they put up a sturdy ramp out of the pond into the shrubbery, allowing the ducklings an egress from the pond into thick vegetation that will hide them. Here it is, and I hope they learn to use it.

They also heaped dirt around the base of the two trees in the pond, which, when it dries out, will also give Honey and offspring a dry and safe place to rest. They’re adding leaves and other things to it to make it softer and less muddy.  Thanks, Physical Plant!  More improvements to come, including a fence.

On accepting death: scientist David Goodall ends his life at 104 through self-assisted suicide; Barbara Ehrenreich gives up on preventive medical care

As we grow older (and by “we,” I mean “I”), one’s thoughts tend naturally to turn to mortality. The comparison of your age to that of those listed in the paper’s obituaries becomes a depressing habit, one gives up beloved foods and behaviors in an effort to stay alive as long as possible, and you realize that the time that has passed since you were 40 is longer than the time you have left.

So it’s somewhat heartening, then—though I can’t get there myself—to hear about older people who are sane but have just decided to either die or not engage in the usual measures to prevent getting ill. And two people have done it in different ways.

As this NYT article notes, Australian ecologist and botanist David Goodall, 104, who was working and active right until recently, grew upset at his worsening health and loss of independence, and just decided that it wasn’t worth it to live any more. Unable to kill himself in Australia (he tried but failed, and there are no laws in Australia allowing assisted suicide), he took off for Switzerland and, with the help of the group Dignitas, turned on a machine that injected barbiturates into his veins. (Another option is to drink a barbiturate containing solution). He died on May 10.

I suppose if I were that debilitated, I might just be weary of life. What keeps me going are things to look forward to, and if those are gone there’s no point in living. (I’m not nearly there yet!) At any rate, I admire Goodall for his tenacity and, especially, his complete lack of a fear of death. One quote from the Times piece:

Asked if there was anything he still wanted to do, he said: “There are many things I would like to do, of course, but it’s too late. I’m content to leave them undone.”

Pressed about what he would miss, he allowed, “I have been missing for a long time my journeys into the Australian countryside, but I haven’t been able to do that for quite a while”

He was asked about his last meal. “I’m rather limited in my culinary enjoyment nowadays,” he responded. “I don’t find that I can enjoy my meals as I used to.”

On Thursday, he received a fatal dose of a barbiturate intravenously. In order to comply with Swiss law that bans the interference of third parties in the process, he opened the valve to release the solution himself and fell asleep, dying soon after. Some of his grandchildren were with him in his final hours, Exit International said.

He wanted no funeral and no remembrance service, and he asked that his body be donated to medicine or his ashes sprinkled locally, according to Exit. Mr. Goodall did not believe in the afterlife, the organization said.

How would he like to be remembered? “As an instrument of freeing the elderly from the need to pursue their life irrespective,” he said at the news conference on Wednesday.

At one point, he was asked what tune he would choose for his last song, and he said the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Then he began to sing, with verve and vigor.

According to Mr. Nitschke, Mr. Goodall did end up choosing Beethoven, and he died the moment “Ode to Joy” concluded.

My “going out” music would be Richard Strauss’s appropriate song “Beim Schlafengehen” (“At the time of going to sleep”), with Jessye Norman’s incomparable rendition (here). Readers are invited to submit what kind of music they’d like to hear when they were dying.

Second, well known author Barbara Ehrenreich, who is 76, wrote a provocative essay that’s gotten some attention. She’s decided to give up all preventive medical care and not worry about her diet and exercise so much because she’s “old enough to die”, and sees no point in prolonging a long life with expensive medical care, or even preventive tests. It’s an essay worth pondering, and I agree with some of it. Have a read by clicking on the screenshot:

A few quotes:

“In the last few years I have given up on the many medical measures—cancer screenings, annual exams, Pap smears, for example—expected of a responsible person with health insurance. This was not based on any suicidal impulse. It was barely even a decision, more like an accumulation of micro-decisions: to stay at my desk and meet a deadline or show up at the primary care office and submit to the latest test to gauge my biological sustainability; to spend the afternoon in faux-cozy corporate environment of a medical facility or to go for a walk.

. . . I also understood that I was going against the grain for my particular demographic. Most of my educated, middle-class friends had begun to double down on their health-related efforts at the onset of middle age, if not earlier. They undertook exercise or yoga regimens; they filled their calendars with upcoming medical tests and exams; they boasted about their “good” and “bad” cholesterol counts, their heart rates and blood pressure. Mostly they understood the task of aging to be self-denial, especially in the realm of diet, where one medical fad, one study or another, condemned fat and meat, carbs, gluten, dairy, or all animal-derived products. In the health-conscious mind-set that has prevailed among the world’s affluent people for about four decades now, health is indistinguishable from virtue, tasty foods are “sinfully delicious,” while healthful foods may taste good enough to be advertised as “guilt-free.” Those seeking to compensate for a lapse undertake punitive measures like fasts, purges, or diets composed of different juices carefully sequenced throughout the day.

. . . Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and that will stave off hunger for as long as possible, like protein, fiber, and fats. I exercise—not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me. Ideally, the determination of when one is old enough to die should be a personal decision, based on a judgment of the likely benefits, if any, of medical care and—just as important at a certain age—how we choose to spend the time that remains to us.

. . . In giving up on preventive care, I’m just taking this line of thinking a step further: Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.

Well, I don’t fully agree with her; if you’re in good health, and still look forward to life, why not at least have routine tests for things that are easily treated, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

But I can understand the abstemiousness that itself makes life less valuable. I well remember that when I was younger, and could eat anything I wanted, in any amount, without putting on weight, I said, “If I ever had to restrict my diet, I’d kill myself.” Well, here I am fasting twice a week, and with my love of food, it’s no picnic. Yet I’m not contemplating suicide! A “low carb diet”, which I tried, was worse: no bread, pasta, and, especially, no wine or beer.  Is living worth living if that’s what you can’t eat or drink? I gave that up for fasting, but now two days a week I don’t get any food save a latte with Splenda.  And if I really wanted to live a long time, I’d go on one of those diets where you just eat vegetables and fruits, or simply cut down my food intake, like a rat, to near starvation.

But is that a life worth living? Not for me. In my head I sometimes hear the words of U. S. Marine Sergeant Major Daniel Daly (twice a Medal of Honor winner), who was supposed to have spurred on his men at the Battle of Belleau Wood by saying:

“For Christ’s sake men—come on! Do you want to live forever?”


Duckling report

I’m pleased to report that all nine of Honey’s ducklings survived the night, though it’s still big tsouris to feed the males and Honey and her brood, as, on land, Frank and his pal tend to drive Honey away from the corn. On the water it’s easy to give Honey and her brood good proteinaceous mealworms, as the male ducks spurn them. So everyone got breakfast.

It’s raining this morning, but I’m hoping Landscaping will still show up to do the Pond Improvements they promised yesterday.

Below: Frank drives Honey away from the corn (she got plenty, though, as well as mealworms). You can see part of the brood; repeated counting shows all nine are still there.

Anna had the bright idea of crushing some of the mealworms so the ducklings could handle them. That seems to work, and the family got a good breakfast on the pond (I’ve ordered three more bags ).You can see the rain splashing in the pond.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Mark Sturtevant has returned with a series of insect pictures that he sent on March 28. His notes are indented, and be sure to note the instances of mimicry and the weird mantidfly in the last two photos.

Here are some insect photos for WEIT. The first picture is a nice wood nymph butterfly (Cercyonis pegala). Various species are common in the local woods, but they are usually hard to approach. However, on this day it was overcast and somewhat chilly after a heavy rain, so this one was content to let me come in for pictures.

Next is a large mayfly that I had found on my car, so I transferred it to a nearby tree for pictures. It is one of the burrowing mayflies (Hexagenia), and is probably the most common species, H. limbata. As aquatic larvae, burrowing mayflies will get down out of sight into the silt and mud.

Everyone here should be fond of mimicry. One of my personal goals has been to find nymphs of a broad-headed bug since the nymphs are excellent ant mimics. Each species has a strong resemblance to a particular species of large ant, right down to very small details. So I was very happy to one day come across one such insect in a community garden, as shown in the next picture. This species looks to be in the genus Alydus, and I suspect it is mimicking the Eastern black carpenter ant—by far the most common large ant around here [Michigan]. Mimicking an ant is presumably done to avoid predation since ants taste very bad and not many things will eat them. Broad headed bugs are seed feeders, and they especially like to feed on seeds of legumes. So if I could find the preferred host of these critters I should be able to find more! This one was running fast through a strawberry patch (a feature of ant mimics is that they behave like ants), and so this heavily cropped picture is the only decent one that I have. The nymphs are good mimics, but the adults are rather ordinary looking as shown in this picture at another site.

A local nature center that strongly caters to school field trips recently built a native butterfly house, and I definitely wanted to visit that! The next two pictures shows one of the residents, which is the American lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis). This species is often mistaken for the more common painted lady (I had made that mistake as well!) So here is a handy key to tell the difference.

What do you suppose is the weird insect shown in the next picture? It took me a moment to figure out the order, and later on the family. This is a kind of wasp-mimicking longhorn beetle with very short front wings. The species is probably Necydalis mellita. I could only take two pictures before this nervous and alert insect took off.

I have a friend and colleague (we teach in the same department) who also very much enjoys doing insect macrophotography, and we often go out together to local parks. One thing that happens is that we compete a bit over who has the best ‘find’ for the day. My friend (Gary) wins this competition more often than not, but one day I saw a strange V-shaped thing sitting on a leaf. Could it be? Yes, it was a mantidfly!!! This one was a female, and we soon figured that there was little chance she would fly off since she was quite heavy with eggs. Mantidflies and praying mantises clearly show convergent evolution, but they are from completely different insect orders. Mantidflies are members of the order Neuroptera, and their familiar relatives include lacewings and antlions. The front limbs are usually held in the odd position seen here, cocked back farther than would be seen in a mantis, and they are not used for walking since they lack foot pads.  This species (Climaciella brunnea) uses bright warning colors and a wasp-like shape to mimic a paper wasp. But the mimicry is a complete ruse since this predatory insect of course does not sting. We both agreed that this was “it” this time  —  the best find of the day.

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Good morning on Monday, May 21, 2018: National Strawberries and Cream Day. It’s also St. Helena Day, celebrating the discovery in 1502 of the most remote island in the world (and the one on which Napoleon died).

On this day in 1904, the famous Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, was founded in Paris. Exactly two decades later, two very bright University of Chicago students, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr., murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks, a Hyde Park resident, just because they were confident that their planning and intelligence would lead them to get away with it.  They didn’t: Leopold left his glasses at the crime scene, and was traced readily since the style was unusual. Tried and convicted, the pair was spared the death penalty because Clarence Darrow, their lawyer (also a Hyde Park resident), talked for 12 hours in a desperate attempt to save their lives. It worked; they were sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was murdered in jail, and Leopold was released after 33 years, moved to Puerto Rico, and died in 1971. Here’s a 17-minute movie about the incident (you might look up some excerpts of Darrow’s brilliant speech):

Two aviation firsts for May 21. It was on this day in 1927 that Charles Lindbergh completed the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, landing at Le Bourget field in Paris.  Exactly five years later, Amelia Earhart completed the same feat, but with a woman (her!) at the controls. She landed in a pasture at Derry, Northern Ireland.  On this day in 1936, the Japanese sex worker Sada Abe was, as Wikipedia notes, “arrested after wandering the streets of Tokyo for days with her dead lover’s severed genitals in her handbag.” She had strangled her lover in a bout of erotic asphyxiation. This was a huge scandal in Japan, and you may remember was the subject of Nagisa Oshima’s movie In the Realm of the Senses, which, though infamous for its explicit (and genuine) sex onscreen, was a good film.  Abe served five years in prison and then went into seclusion. Here’s the trailer for the movie, which leaves out its pornographic aspects. (There is not a man alive who doesn’t clutch his crotch during the scene when Abe cuts off her dead lover’s penis.)

On this day in 1946, in a horrendous episode, Louis Slotin, a physicist working on nuclear reactions at Los Alamos, was fatally irradiated after his hand slipped, bringing two plutonium spheres together and initiating a fission reaction. (He was using the edge of a screwdriver to keep the spheres apart—a big no-no—and the screwdriver slipped.) Sloting died a painful death nine days later. On May 21, 1972, a vandal (“the mentally disturbed Hungarian geologist Laszlo Toth”) damaged Michelangelo’s statue Pietà in the Vatican, knocking off Mary’s arm and damaging her nose and eyelids. Toth served three years in a hospital and was then deported to Australia. Finally, it was on this day in 1991 that former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a woman suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt.

Notables born on May 21 included Albrecht Dürer (1471, one of my five favorite painters), paleontologist Mary Anning (1799), Henri Rousseau (1844), Fats Waller (1904), Andrei Sakharov (1921), Günter Blobel (1936), Leo Sayer (1948), Al Franken (1951), Jeffrey Dahmer (1960; killed in prison at age 24), Lisa Edelstein (1966), and The Notorious B.I.G. (1972). Here’s a series of Dürer sketches that includes cats.

Those who died on this day include Christopher Smart (1771; author of the best cat poem ever), social-work pioneer Jane Addams and geneticist Hugo de Vries (both 1935), and Rajiv Gandhi (see above).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s in the garden but wants the greater freedom of the orchard:

Hili: Let’s go to the orchard.
A: Now?
Hili: Yes, here I feel claustrophobic.
In Polish:
Hili: Idziemy do sadu.
Ja: Teraz?
Hili: Tak, tu mam poczucie klaustrofobii.

Leon’s family finally got the foundations of their wooden house poured, and, I hope, by the end of the summer Leon and Hili will live only about 10 km apart. Leon and his staff are still in Wloclawek, but not for long!

Leon: Sunbath in a favorite cardboard box—this is it!

In Polish: Kąpiel słoneczna w ulubionym kartonie to jest to!

Reader Barry sent a cat sleeping in such a weird pose that people suspect it was photoshopped. (I don’t think so.)

Reader Gethyn sent cat armor:

From Grania; what the Internet has come to:

What am embarrassing fate! This student will forever be known as “vagina man.”

Do read the short article:

An excerpt from Frum’s Atlantic piece:

More than 70 percent of Trump voters in 2016 described guns as “very important” to their vote, versus only 40 percent who described abortion as “very important” to their vote and only 25 percent who felt that way about gay rights. With the slow fading of battles over same-sex marriage and abortion, and the rapid collapse of other aspects of conservative ideology, guns may now rank as the single most important political dividing line in 21st century America.

. . . According to a Pew survey, only about one-quarter of gun owners think it essential to alert visitors with children that guns may be present in the home. (Twice as many non-gun-owners think so.) Only 66 percent of gun owners think it essential to keep guns locked up when not in use. (Ninety percent of non-gun-owners think so.) Only 45 percent of them actually do it.

Joyce Carol Oates apparently has a new cat, but, like me, doesn’t give a toss for the Royal Wedding. (Cats are, of course, themselves royalty.)

From Matthew, who thought today was World Bee Day (it was actually yesterday), we have a clear-winged moth that mimics a bee: a clear case of Batesian mimicry:

What is going on here? Invasion of the Giant Mallards? The backstory is here.

I’m no fan of the brouhaha around the Royal Wedding, but it sure brought out the termites:

The best use of Twitter is to show stuff like this:

Finally, a comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith (h/t: Phil D.)

An apology

Yesterday I wrote a post calling out a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on “The Science of Religion” offered by the University of British Columbia and, as I reported at the time, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. Further research on this course, and correspondence from one of its teachers, Dr. Edward Slingerland (the other professor is Dr. Azim Shariff), has convinced me that that the course is not meant to give any justification for the existence of religious belief.

A review of the link still shows that the course is sponsored by Templeton:

Its maintenance and update has received additional support from a generous donation from the John Templeton Foundation.

I am further told that both professors are atheists, and Dr. Slingerland informs me that the course is simply one that discusses how people come to accept the existence of a nonexistent deity; that is, what makes people become religious when there is no evidence for the tenets of faith. There is no “pushing of religion”, I’m told.

In light of this, I offer my apologies to Drs. Slingerland and Shariff for misrepresenting and misunderstanding the content and intent of this course, and I have deleted the post. I also apologize to the readers for not doing my homework properly. What I have determined, and want to emphasize, is that both Slingerland and Shariff are respectable and productive scholars in their fields, and I did not mean to imply otherwise.

What I do not apologize for, however, is criticizing those who, like the two professors, take Templeton money to fund their research and teach courses funded by Templeton. Though some of that research may not further Templeton’s aims in a direct way (i.e., using science to prove the existence of God), I continue to see the organization as deleterious to the progress of science because most of its money goes to what Steve Gould would call “mixing the magisteria.”

But I screwed up with this post, and have no good excuse except duck-tending and my lack of responsible scholarly vetting. I will certainly try hard to vet and research my posts more carefully in the future.

Duckling rescue, part two

I haven’t posted much today as I’ve spent much of the day with co-duck-tender Dr. Anna Mueller, going to Home Depot to buy bricks and then putting them in the Duck Ring of Death. This morning I discovered that, as I’d feared, one duckling got trapped in the “duck island” last night, couldn’t jump out over the high lip, and died of exhaustion or drowning (picture below fold if you want to see). Physical Plant couldn’t do anything today, so we decided to put a ramp in the island so that wouldn’t happen again, and fill it up with bricks to allow egress as well as a place to rest. To do that, I had to carry heavy bricks in very cold water up to my thighs. But I’d do that for Honey and her brood of nine. I’m very sad that she’s lost one of her babies.

Here are some photos of our modifications of the duck ring, which, as I’ll relate below, will be turned into a lovely resting place tomorrow. All photos are by Anna Mueller.

Putting bricks of various sizes in the Duck Island of Death:

That water was cold, and the pond is uneven and muddy; it’s tricky walking with heavy bricks:

After a while, a nice guy from Physical Plant came over, and despite my telling him he didn’t need to get into the water, he did—with his uniform on! He brought a small bucket of bricks with which we filled in the ring, and a long piece of stone that served as a ramp to allow the ducks to avoid being trapped.

The final appearance until tomorrow:

Then the Boss came over, and we worked out what will be done by Landscaping tomorrow morning.

  1. A ramp will go from the water to the shrubbery alongside the building, allowing the ducklings to leave the pond and hide from predators. Right now, they can get out only on the bank, which is easily accessible to people and predators like feral cats.
  2. Filling in the duck island permanently with river stone up to one inch below the top, with those topped with nice flat flagstones for the ducks to rest on.
  3. Putting more dirt in the “tree islands” so that the mud is replaced with dry cover for the ducks to rest on.
  4. A wire fence to keep people from the shore to the north, so that the ducks don’t get too bothered.
  5. A “do not disturb the ducks” sign on the fence.

If this is done, then the brood stands a good chance. I was assured these fixes will happen, so keep your fingers crossed. Right now Honey has to rest on the bank with her body and wings covering all nine cold babies.

Click “read more” if you want to see the poor dead duckling.

Read More »

HuffPo = NYT?

I’m not suggesting here that a respectable news source is completely identical to the New York Times, but I have suggested that the good gray Times is becoming—despite Bari Weiss and a few conservative columnists—more Authoritarian Leftist. Witness the opprobrium that Weiss got from her fellow reporters on a backchannel discussion group. Part of this is due to their younger journalists, educated in Control-Left colleges, and part is a reaction to Donald Trump’s election.

Here are very similar articles from today’s NYT and today’s HuffPo (click on screenshots to see why The New Era is Dawning).

The “new era” stuff is bunk, of course; Prince Charles is next in line to be ruler, and after that Prince William. Prince Harry, who supposedly ushers in the New Era, has a snowball’s chance in hell to be king. Yes, it’s great that they had a gospel choir and a shake-’em-up American preacher at their wedding, and people got all excited that Oprah and George and Amal Clooney were there but in the end Harry and Meghan will retire to one palace or another and, I hope, do some good charity work. But a New Era in royalty? What would that constitute? And how would someone who will never be king even do that?


And one reader, incensed at HuffPo’s coverage of the royalty, sent me screenshots of the site’s front page. It’s becoming a tabloid, and I won’t shed any tears when it goes away. Here’s the international breakdown of readership, and the one-month drop in viewers—part of a steady decrease:

Note how many of yesteday’s front-page articles were devoted to the royal wedding. I count 15 out of 21, or 71%. The header: celebs at the wedding (the Clooneys, of course):

Tina Fey returns to SNL season finale, playing Sarah Palin with a cast of Trump lackeys

Since I saw the first season in graduate school (was it really 43 years ago?) Saturday Night Live has become a mere shadow of its former self. But it would be impossible to replace that first cast, which included Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, and Chevy Chase. Still, there are moments of great humor, usually when former cast members return. One of those is Tina Fey, who came on at the end of last night’s season finale. As the New York Times reported on the 5½-minute sketch:

“It’s me, the ghost of Sarah Palin,” Fey said as if speaking to Palin’s fans, before clarifying that she was just kidding. “I’m still alive,” she said. “But you had to think about it, didn’t ya?” Clad in a leather motorcycle jacket, Fey explained, “One minute you’re on top, and then you’re gone in the blink of a Scaramucci.” Then she sang a few bars of “What I Did for Love,” from the musical “A Chorus Line.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, played by Aidy Bryant, soon popped in to puzzle over her relatively lengthy tenure as White House press secretary. Speculating on what the future would hold for her, she put her own spin on “What I Did for Love”: “Kiss White House goodbye, and point me toward Fox News,” Bryant sang. “I did what he said to do, and I might regret what I did for Trump.”

Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon), Stormy Daniels (Cecily Strong) and Omarosa Manigault Newman (Leslie Jones) took their turns recounting what they had done for — or, in the case of Daniels, “with” — President Trump. Fred Armisen, the “S.N.L.” alum and “Portlandia” star, joined the production number as Michael Wolff, the White House reporter behind the book “Fire and Fury.” His verse included the line, “The truth was mine to borrow.”

The sketch’s other surprise guest was Goodman, who delivered an impression of Trump’s former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. “I’m the only man ever to go into a situation scathed and come out unscathed,” he joked. “Trump was the biggest mess I’ve ever dealt with, and I worked for Exxon Mobil.”

This is pretty funny, but the humor is a bit heavy-handed, and comes nowhere near the great political bits of yore, including Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, Dana Carvey as George Bush, Sr., and Dan Akroyd as Jimmy Carter (remember when faux-Carter tried to talk someone down who was on an acid trip?) I don’t watch the show any more: now that I’m older, I need an earlier bedtime. But the bits I have seen on YouTube (supposedly the funniest bits) suggest that the show should be retired. Who watches it—younger folk, or we oldsters, hoping to recapture some of the glory of those first seasons?