Here is the complete COVID report for Thursday.

  • World-wide, cases are down 6% versus the same day last week, and fatalities are 6% lower.
  • In the USA, cases are down 17% versus the same day last week, and fatalities are 19% lower.

In the USA, new cases have declined from the same day of the previous week for 29 consecutive days, but the country is still in the red zone, as are 45 of the 47 states that filed reports. (That shows how bad things were 29 days ago!)

Romania topped every country in the world in both the rate of new cases per capita and the rate of fatalities per capita, yet Idaho topped Romania in both of those criteria.

“On June 7, 2021, NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew closer to Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Ganymede than any spacecraft in more than two decades. Less than a day later, Juno made its 34th flyby of Jupiter. This animation provides a “starship captain” point of view of each flyby. For both worlds, JunoCam images were orthographically projected onto a digital sphere and used to create the flyby animation. Synthetic frames were added to provide views of approach and departure for both Ganymede and Jupiter.”

Illusions Perdues (“Lost Illusions”) is a new adaptation of a typically prolix Balzac work. Balzac was a literary giant. If you want to know what France was like in the second quarter of the 19th century, he is your go-to source. But he was not known for being succinct or for sticking to the point. In the course of a relatively short life (he died at 50 or so), he wrote approximately a bazillion words. His works make the efforts of Turgenev and Herman Melville seem as sparse and economical as a Hemingway short story. The book is filled with digressions, and is interrupted by the separate literary efforts of one of the characters, a poet. None of those poems were written by Balzac, but by several of his literary colleagues. In other words, as an emperor is supposed to have said to his court composer, “Too many notes, mister Mozart.”

I guess there are two sides to that coin.

Here’s how an Amazon reviewer describes the book (or books – it can be published in one volume or three):

“Lost Illusions is a long and sometimes tedious novel about a young poet from the provinces.”

Here’s how Goodreads describes the same work:

“Balzac’s Lost Illusions is a massive literary undertaking, and an attempt to delve deep into the world of humanity with all its great deeds and basest desires.”

So its massive scope is either a reflection of great depth or excess verbosity, and Balzac was either an encyclopedic chronicler of his times or a guy who just couldn’t shut the fuck up.

Probably both.

Gustave Flaubert probably summed up Balzac’s strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone. He was filled with effusive praise for Balzac’s unsparing portrayal of society, while at the same time deploring his tedious prose. Flaubert once wrote of Balzac: “What a man he would have been had he known how to write!” (Quoted by Graham Robb in “Balzac: A Biography.”)

Anyway, the filmmakers managed to condense this sweeping story into a good movie of normal length, and it included some nice nudity by Salome Dewaels.

Salome Dewaels in Lost Illusions


McConnell thinks he is pretty tough and crafty.

Hell, he’s not even close to being the cagiest, toughest, slimiest guy to be a Senate leader. Here is what the real master, Lyndon Johnson, would do in McConnell’s place.

1. In a secret backdoor deal, he would make whatever promises are necessary to get Manchin to switch parties.
2. It would be important NOT to announce the move until the time is right.
3. He would then give in to Democrats on eliminating the filibuster. They would be easily duped into doing so, thinking they had won a great victory.
4. Manchin would then officially switch parties and begin caucusing with the GOP.
5. Checkmate.

At that point, McConnell, possessed by Lyndon’s ghost, would have control of the Senate with the votes necessary to pass anything his heart desires, because with the filibuster gone, all Senate votes would require only 51 votes. He would also have the ability to reject all of Biden’s judicial nominations. He would also have the ability to take over the chairmanship of all committees, effectively suppressing many facets of the Senate investigations into Trump and January 6th.

Could reincarnated Lyndon find a way to coerce or persuade Manchin to change teams? You bet. How about chairmanship of any committees he likes, and all the money he wants for his next re-election campaign from conservative super-PACs. And those are only the carrots. If he failed with those alone, the ever-ruthless Lyndon would bring out the sticks.

McConnell tough? Lyndon, wherever he is, presumably looking up from the lowest rings of hell, is laughing at Mitch and calling him a pussy, as Trump did today! Lyndon and Trump were a lot alike – egomaniacs, megalomaniacs, narcissists … dicks. Of course, as the other American Pie kids said to Stifler:

Yup, at least Lyndon was OUR dick.

It’s kind of interesting to watch the progress of these two bills.

One thing that is completely clear is that the Build Back Better Bill, the $3.5 trillion one, is absolutely not going to pass under any circumstances. Manchin has made that very clear, and he holds all the power. There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to get him to vote for that. The liberals can whine and cry about how that should not be true because 96%-97% of Democrat lawmakers support the bill, but the fact of the matter is that it is true, and they need a Plan B.

Slower than a dawdling turtle. Less powerful than a kitten. Look, on the ground! It’s a squirrel. It’s an old sock. No, it’s Wussyman. Wussyman, who can view the course of mighty rivers (with bifocals), hold steel in his gloved hands, and who, disguised as a mild-mannered peanut farmer, fights a never-ending battle against his mortal enemy – the swimming bunny!

On a more serious note, Jimmy Carter is arguably the greatest American ex-President among the post-WW2 group. He does have some competition among the exes of older vintage. William Howard Taft became a respected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Quincy Adams became a lion in the House of Representatives, where he roared tirelessly against slavery and helped to create the Smithsonian. Herbert Hoover redeemed some of his earlier missteps by helping greatly in the efforts to rebuild Europe after the Nazi calamity.

None of those great ex-Presidents were ranked among the top sixteen Presidents in the latest C-Span poll of historians. Curiously, great Presidents rarely become great ex-Presidents. Consider the top ten in that latest C-Span poll. (This is not MY top ten, but I used it just to have a starting point.) Lincoln, JFK and FDR died in office. Teddy Roosevelt should have, because he become a complete ass. Reagan was senile. Washington lived only two years, and spent most of it trying to restore a dilapidated and forlorn Mount Vernon. Ike went gentle into that good night, and was rarely seen. Truman wrote his memoirs and whined about being poor (I guess he should have kept some of those bucks he never passed). Obama is just trying to enjoy life. That leaves Jefferson as the only one of the ten who really continued to make a meaningful contribution to the world or the country.

The three-week audit has finally come to a conclusion after nearly six months. A draft of the Republican-backed “audit” of the Arizona election results in Maricopa County showed that Biden actually won by more than previously thought!

I was surprised by this result. I assumed that the Cyber Ninjas guy was both ignorant and corrupt. He did turn out to be incredibly ignorant about election procedures and laws, based on some of the bizarre statements in the report, but it seems that he did not prove to be corrupt, and did not manufacture some phony-baloney reasons why Trump actually got more votes, or Biden less.

“Proponents also say rewilding the Arctic with lab-grown woolly mammoths could slow global warming by slowing the melting of the permafrost, where methane is currently trapped.”

And the proponents absolutely promise that nothing could possibly go wrong with this idea.

His original margin of victory in 2018 was 24 points. This one is running 28 as I type this.

When he won in 2018, he got the highest number of gubernatorial votes (7.7 million) in California history. In fact, he got more than the two major 2014 candidates added together! This recall election has a chance to top that number, depending on the final count of voters and the final margin of victory.

Having noted all of that, let’s add that it is time for California to review some of its preposterous election procedures on recalls and referenda.

I wrote on September 12, 2001

There’s nothing for us to say about the events. You’ve seen it on TV, and you realize how people are reacting. If the professional wordsmiths and mouthpieces can’t find the words, neither will we. There are no precedents to help comprehend the events, nor words to summarize the grief and shock. It doesn’t seem real now. Perhaps it never will.

As any history professor will tell you, people don’t much care for the minutiae of dates. Yesterday morning, most Americans could identify only three by heart.

Now there will be four.

July 4, 1776

December 7, 1941

November 22, 1963

September 11, 2001



The relative size of the two bodies is a rarity unduplicated in our solar system. No other planet in the solar system has a moon with a diameter so large in proportion to itself. Luna’s diameter is 27% the size of Earth’s, the highest by far. No other moon’s diameter is even so much as 7% of their planet’s.

Luna would have to settle for second place if Pluto were still considered a planet. Charon is almost half the size of Pluto in diameter, a ratio so close that some astronomers think they should be considered a double planet (or, I suppose, a double dwarf planet).

Well, you can blame the right-wing pundits for some of the problem, but the full answer must include Deep Throat’s advice to “follow the money.” You can make a lot of dough selling snake oil.

McGill University has a pretty good mythbusting group that took a look at the science, or lack of it, behind the snake-oil cures in the COVID crisis.

Seth Meyers took “a closer look” at the Ivermectin phenomenon:

Last week the company said it would ban porn, starting Oct. 1, citing pressure from banks and payment companies. They just reversed that.

They apparently decided, “Fuck those guys if they don’t want our business. The money from porn is so sweet that we can BE a payment company, if necessary.” It seems that their bankers and billers backed off, presumably not wanting to eschew their share of those sweet, sweet porn bucks.

As I see it, OnlyFans facilitates willing exchanges between buyers and sellers, and everyone wins. The women who provide the content are prospering, the clients are satisfied, OnlyFans gets a nice cut, the payment companies and bankers make money and the government gets tax revenue. The services are provided virtually, so they create no public health challenges, preventing society’s high sheriffs from applying the logic they often apply to sexually-oriented transactions in the flesh-and-blood world. There may even be a health benefit from keeping the clients in the virtual world and off the streets, thus avoiding physical contact with strangers during a pandemic. Moreover, the transactions are not publicly accessible, so there is no chance that children or the general public will accidentally stumble upon XXX material. The explicit material on OnlyFans doesn’t seem to be harming anyone. I say let ’em do their thing.

“More and more Mississippians are using a horse de-wormer medication as an at-home treatment for COVID-19, and it’s causing a spike in calls to poison control.”

Mind you, this poisoning is sending more people toward the hospitals that are already at capacity in that state!

Yeah, they’re afraid of the vaccine, but they’re totally OK with filling their bodies with horse de-wormer, so they just pop down to the feed store and pick some up. Talk about thinning the herd!

I also read somewhere that Trump is now saying he was right about hydroxychloroquine, even though there are now controlled clinical trials showing that the drug not only failed to improve patient care, but actually made matters slightly worse! (One cannot fairly say that it hurt because the slightly worse rates of death, intubation and hospitalization were not statistically significant. A fair conclusion is that it did not help.)

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Notes:

1. This horse dewormer business started before the vaccines were available. See this report from Nevada. “Feed stores are having trouble keeping the medication in stock.”

2. There is some vague logic to the use of this dewormer (ivermectin). Ivermectin has been tested to inhibit the spread of the virus in vitro, but at a dosage many times that prescribed for humans for parasitic infections. Some studies show that ivermectin may also be effective in vivo, and there is a chance that it may someday be approved for treating viral diseases, although the evidence is still insufficient. Researchers have predicted a low likelihood of success against COVID at the current prescribed level for humans, but some evidence at least suggests that higher doses might have some value. But the effective dose may be so large that it might produce dangerous side effects.

The NIH says:

“Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies suggest that achieving the plasma concentrations necessary for the antiviral efficacy detected in vitro would require administration of doses up to 100-fold higher than those approved for use in humans”

Trials are still needed to test both the safety and efficacy of various doses. It should go without saying that you should not be stocking up on it from your feed store and taking a horse-strength dosage on your own authority.

“President Joe Biden called on Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Tuesday, following a report that said Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.”

On the national scene, Biden was joined by Pelosi, the Democratic governors of four northeastern states, and several Democratic congresspeople from New York.

If for no other reason, Cuomo might consider leaving before the humiliation of being removed. The NY State Assembly is now considering articles of impeachment, and that seems to have bi-partisan support.

Do you remember Dan Ackroyd pitching the Bass-o-Matic? He was sending up Ron Popeil, inventor, pitchman and founder of Ronco. Popeil’s brain children included the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, the Veg-a-Matic and many other familiar “as seen on TV” products. Through his pioneering use of 30-minute infomercials, Popeil blazed the trail that eventually led to Mike the Sweater Guy.

He gave us so much.