Even Wall Street welcomes Trump indictment

Donald Trump must have hoped that the stock indices on Wall Street would crash today so that he could claim that they were spooked by his indictment. Instead they went up sharply by about 1.5% which means that investors were pleased by the news.

I am of course being facetious and satirizing the attempts by financial analysts to ‘explain’ the rise and fall of the stock market on factors that have no immediate impact on it. I recall the time when the former Japanese emperor Hirohito, who was very old, would sometimes become ill. Any fall in the stock market would be blamed on that even though no explanation was offered as to why the health of a figurehead head of state of another country would have any impact on financial affairs in the US.

The Trump indictments dam is breached

After weeks, even months, of speculation, the first indictment against Donald Trump was finally issued yesterday by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg. Since the indictment is under seal, we will not know the precise charges that have been leveled against Trump until his arraignment before a judge in Manhattan. The DA had wanted it to take place today (Friday) but Trump’s lawyers said that because of the need to arrange with the Secret Service protection detail, it should take place next week. It is expected to be on Tuesday. Here is what is likely to happen.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have indicated that he will co-operate with New York authorities, so there would be no warrant put out for his arrest.

Mr Trump has his own personal jet, so he could fly into one of several New York area airports and then make the journey to the lower Manhattan courthouse by car.

As part of those negotiations with prosecutors, the court may also agree to grant him a private entrance to the court, instead of the more typical “perp walk” in front of the assembled media.

Once inside, however, Mr Trump will be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken like all defendants in criminal cases. He will also be read his “Miranda” rights, reminding him of his constitutionally-protected right to a lawyer and to decline to talk to police.

Defendants charged with a felony are typically handcuffed temporarily, although Mr Trump’s lawyers will try to avoid that for their client. Throughout the booking process, he will be accompanied by Secret Service agents.

Mr Trump would then wait in a holding area or cell until his appearance before a judge. The arraignment – the moment where a defendant enters their plea before a judge – is open to the public.

Once the case is booked and a judge is selected, other details will fall into place, such as the timing of the trial and possible travel restrictions and bail requirements for the defendant.

A conviction on a misdemeanor would result in a fine. If Mr Trump were convicted on the felony charge, he would face a maximum sentence of four years in prison, although some legal experts predict a fine is more probable, and that any time behind bars is highly unlikely.

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Welcome growth of Medicaid expansion

In their rearguard struggle against what they view as ‘socialized medicine’, Republicans vigorously fought to thwart the Affordable Care Act introduced by president Barack Obama that enabled many formerly uninsured people to get much needed health insurance, even though it was very much a capitalist plan, similar to one introduced by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. A real socialist plan would be a government-run single-payer plan which I hope will eventually be put in place. As part of their campaign against it, they derisively called it Obamacare but Obama and Democrats have embraced the name. Now that it has become popular, it will be hard for Republicans to do a switch and claim it for their own.

Despite multiple attempts to repeal it even when they controlled Congress, those attempts failed because Republicans simply had nothing to offer to put in its place. They similarly opposed what is known as ‘Medicare expansion’, a program largely funded by the federal government that would have enabled more low-income people to enroll in the Medicaid program that provides access to health care. That program is run by the states and states with Republican governors and legislatures refused to accept the program, since they do not give a damn about the needs of poor people and were determined to stop anything proposed by Obama that did not benefit the rich. But there were other consequences to blocking the program, one of which was that many hospitals in remote areas shut down because they could no longer get Medicaid funding for treating their poor patients. Since rural areas tend to be Republican, these states were hurting themselves and have belatedly slowly started accepting Medicaid expansion, with North Carolina being the latest, that will allow about 600,000 people in the state greater access to health care.
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TV Review: Upstart Crow (2016-2018)

This very funny BBC comedy series that ran for three seasons of six episodes each (plus Christmas specials) is about William Shakespeare. The writer is Ben Elton and David Mitchell plays Shakespeare and is supported by an excellent cast. The action shifts between three locations: His home in Stratford-upon-Avon where his wife Anne, parents, and three children live, his lodgings in London that he shares with his servant Bottom, the landlady’s daughter Kate, and his friend Kit Marlowe, and the Globe theater in which Richard Burbage’s company performed his plays.

Each episode has allusions to at least one of his plays.

The first series follows the writing and preparation to stage Romeo and Juliet after William has gained some early career recognition for his poetry, as well as his plays Henry VI and Richard III. Events in each episode allude to one or more Shakespeare plays and usually end with Will discussing the events with Anne and either being inspired to use, or dissuaded from using, them in a future work. Along with the many Shakespearean references (including the use of asides and soliloquies) there are also several references to the television shows Blackadder and The Office. There are running gags in many episodes: the casual sexism towards Kate’s attempts to become an actress, Shakespeare’s coach journeys between London and Stratford which refer to modern motorway and railway journey frustrations, and are delivered in a style that references the 1970s sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Shakespeare (and in one episode Marlowe) demanding ale and pie from his servants or family, and Shakespeare frequently claiming credit for common turns-of-phrase that predate Elizabethan times (many of them now commonly misattributed to Shakespeare).

The series takes aim at classism, racism, nativism, and sexism and much of the humor stems from anachronistic references, where current controversies and issues are woven into those times. It also pokes fun at the length of his plays, their convoluted and often absurd plots, and the fact that Shakespeare had little compunction about using ideas for stories and language that he obtained from those around him and passing them off as his own. It also pokes fun at his elaborate metaphors.

As with many satires and parodies, it is funnier the more familiar you are with the source material, in this case Shakespeare’s life and plays. But so much of that have seeped into common knowledge that almost anyone should be able to enjoy this series.

Here is a compilation of some of the funny bits.

The puzzling strategy of Ron DeSantis

Conventional wisdom seems to be that Florida governor Ron DeSantis is planning to seek the Republican presidential nomination, and that he will announce his candidacy after the state’s legislative session ends in June. That many people think he will be a candidate is clear. About three months ago, I saw a neighbor walking her dog wearing a ‘DeSantis 2024’ sweatshirt. He seems to be acting like a prospective candidate, doing all the things that candidates do, like visiting early primary states such as Iowa, writing a book, and then going on a ‘book tour’ and giving interviews which is usually just a means of a candidate getting their name out to the public without actually making an announcement.

He has raised his profile nationally by pandering to the extreme right wing of his party,. He seems to have made being ‘anti-woke’, opposing covid regulations, and pandering to racists and anti-LGBT sentiment his main platform. He is clearly seeking to outflank Trump on that side, trying to give the impression to voters that they can have the full-bore Trump hate agenda without the Trump baggage. In this he is contrasting himself with other candidates who may want to appeal to those Republican primary voters who are weary of Trump and culture war issues and seek a fresh face.

I must admit that I am a little puzzled by his strategy, mainly the one of timing. Why challenge Trump for the 2024 nomination? DeSantis is setting himself up for a brutal battle and Trump has already started lashing out at him in his typical style, giving him nicknames and mocking him. Since DeSantis and Trump are competing for largely the same culture war-loving voters, and those people tend to be loyal to Trump, how can he win over those voters without attacking Trump? He seems to think that he can be Trump without all the Trump baggage, trying to obliquely bring up the latter’s legal woes by mentioning the issue of him paying hush money to a porn star.
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The size and quality of one’s social groupings

Maria Konnikova looked at the research done by anthropologists on the sizes of social groupings. The research initially studied why non-human primates spent so much time on grooming one another but then got extended to humans.

[I]n the nineteen-eighties, the Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis (now known as the Social Brain Hypothesis) had just been introduced into anthropological and primatology discourse. It held that primates have large brains because they live in socially complex societies: the larger the group, the larger the brain. Thus, from the size of an animal’s neocortex, the frontal lobe in particular, you could theoretically predict the group size for that animal.

Looking at his grooming data, [anthropologist and psychologist Robin] Dunbar made the mental leap to humans. “We also had humans in our data set so it occurred to me to look to see what size group that relationship might predict for humans,” he told me recently. Dunbar did the math, using a ratio of neocortical volume to total brain volume and mean group size, and came up with a number. Judging from the size of an average human brain, the number of people the average person could have in her social group was a hundred and fifty. Anything beyond that would be too complicated to handle at optimal processing levels.

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Jordan Klepper goes to the Trump protest

On Tuesday, he went to the site of the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Trump had called upon his supporters to protest his expected arrest (that never happened) by the DA and Klepper found that the crowd was estimated by the police to be between three and six people. But while the numbers may be far less than the crowd that Klepper met at Trump rallies, their looniness was undiminished.

The wonderful world of caterpillars

Environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert had an interesting article in the New Yorker about the little-known world of caterpillars and other insects. I have to admit, caterpillars had not figured much in my consciousness but was impressed to learn that they undergo a dizzying array of transformations in their very short lives.

From a caterpillar’s perspective, humans are boring. The young they squeeze out of their bodies are just miniature versions of themselves, with all the limbs and appendages they’ll ever have. As they mature, babies get bigger and stronger and hairier, but that’s about it.

Caterpillars, for their part, are continually reinventing themselves. They emerge from tiny, jewel-like eggs and for their first meal often eat their own egg cases. Once they reach a certain size, they sprout a second head, just behind the first. They then wriggle free of their old skin, the way a diver might wriggle out of a wetsuit. (In the process, the old head drops off.) In the course of their development, they will complete this exercise three, four, in some species sixteen times, often trying out a new look along the way. The spicebush swallowtail, for example, which is found throughout the eastern U.S., emerges from its egg mottled in black and white. This color scheme allows it to pass itself off as a bird dropping. After its third molt, as a so-called fourth instar, it turns green (or brown), with two yellow-and-black spots on its head. The spots, which look uncannily like a pair of eyes, enable the swallowtail to pretend it’s a snake.
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