The grind goes on.

Ugh. A…not grueling day, but a frustrating one. Lots of dry holes, unreturned calls, all that stuff. And deadline is approaching like death, so double the frustration. The people you meet when you don’t have a cattle prod, know what I’m sayin’?

And yet, as you newspaper people know, sometimes everything can come together at the last minute. You just have to be patient. And then you have to panic. Because it’s important.

But at the end of the day, there is little that a grilled pork tenderloin, asparagus, roasted potatoes and a big glass of wine can’t fix. I was out last night for a bit — met a couple friends/colleagues for drinks overlooking the river, where we relaxed deeply, laughed loudly and downloaded an app to settle bets over the passing freighters. In the middle of this the Comey news landed. Truth be told, I didn’t pay attention to it until afterward, and it was like a really bad fart in the room, which perhaps explains my frustration last night. Is this ever going to end? Of course it will, but I fear not before I forget what it’s like to spend days, weeks not thinking about what’s happening in Washington, because I trust the nation is in, if not good then at least competent hands.

Times like these, we need our friends, we need our laughter overlooking the river. I hope you have something where you live — a river, a lake, an ocean, the healing water from which we all came. And friends, or family.

What do I have for you to read tonight?

There’s this, which has been around for a while, but worth your time — Laurie Penny on Princess I’s book:

Ivanka does not directly call herself a feminist; that plays badly among the base, for whom those of us who believe in justice and equality are baby-killing, castrating, terrorist-sympathising man-hating riders of the vaunted cock carousel. The word “feminism” does not appear in the book; the phrase “my father” appears thirty times, and “brand” or “branding” fifty-nine times. While we’re counting words, in a book about women balancing the demands of work and family, the word “nanny” appears only once. Ivanka has at least two of these, plus other household staff, which you’d think would make it a lot easier to attain this model of feminine self-production and reproduction. However, this book is part of a marketing strategy pitched to sell one of the world’s richest and most powerful women as everywoman—she has problems just like you do, after all. She worries about how to manage her time. “Get some servants” is not yet an acceptable motivational hashtag, but give it four years.

For your science nerds: How the Soviets turned a wary fox into a friendly dog in only 56 generations:

“How to Tame a Fox” sets out to answer a simple-seeming question: What makes a dog a dog? Put another way, how did an animal that started out as a bloodthirsty predator become one that now wants nothing more than a nice belly rub and the chance to gaze adoringly at a member of another species? In the late 1950s, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Belyaev decided to address this puzzle by taking the unheard-of tack of replicating the domestication process in real time. He and his colleagues took silver foxes, widely bred in vast Siberian farms for their luxurious pelts, and made them into friendly house pets. It was a deceptively simple process: Take the puppies from only the friendliest foxes, breed them and repeat.

When you’re feeling sad and stressed, you can hardly do better than five minutes with Tom & Lorenzo. Rosamund Pike should have checked with them before getting dressed.

Night, all.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

The never-ending crisis.

Oh, ferfuxsake, is this EVER going to end? Just…is it possible to have one. Blessed. Week without having to deal with this ongoing donkey show in Washington? This is like watching monkeys flinging poo, only more maddening.

Can anything slow this trainwreck? What’s it going to take to make this right? Can it ever be made right? Will more rhetorical questions help? We can do this all night. And all day, too.

In the meantime, I’m sure you’ll be discussing this forever. Here are some bonbons if you get bored:

First Comey, then McMaster? Sure, it could happen.

It wasn’t economic anxiety, it was cultural anxiety. Like we didn’t know that.

That’s entertainment:

And here, finally, a couple of kitty pix. First, the nice kitty:

And then, the psycho one. Cooze, a rehab job for you?

Look at those eyes.

Posted at 10:11 pm in Current events | 54 Comments
 

Aging in a new place.

Well, that was a relief. Four days away was just about exactly what I needed, even if the cottage did have wifi and I was able to read the news. Alan told me early on that he didn’t want to hear about our president or anything else emanating out of Washington, and I mostly honored that request.

I didn’t tell him about the French hack. I had a feeling it wouldn’t come to anything, anyway.

It’s weird traveling to northern Michigan these days. Passing through Cadillac, we saw a billboard proclaiming WE LIKE OUR PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! It flew by too fast to get a photo, sorry. I used to remember going up north as a series of increasingly deep exhalations, as the air cools and clears and the landscape turns green and rolling. Now I feel like I’m entering enemy territory, with so many towns looking so down on their luck, and the gas station/minimarts, all of which have some version of “family,” “America” or “pride” in their names. It occurs to me that putting “family” in a market name is a way to indicate they sell groceries as well as beer; “party store” is the Michigan jargon for a mostly likka-and-snacks emporium. Still. What’s the other side’s equivalent of the American Pride Family Market? The Diversity Emporium? (Under the name on the sign: “Bathrooms for all!”)

But it was nice to get out of town, where it rained and rained and rained; up north it was dry and sunny, if chilly. We drove over to Frankfort, on the big lake, to see what we could see. We saw Lake Michigan, and we visited a microbrewery/restaurant called Stormcloud, which I bet they’re very glad they didn’t name Stormfront. Had lunch there, and was surprised by the size of the crowd, still a good month before the season really starts. Well, the food was good, and a tabletop sign advertised a spelling bee that very night, open to all. Man, was I tempted, but we took the long way home and spent the evening reading in silence. Alan had an Elizabeth Strout novel, and I found this at the local bookstore:

I’m unfamiliar with Ian Brown, so this is one case where the cover blurbage sold me, and I’m not sorry I read it. Sixty looms for me in November, and I winced at many things between these covers. Currently, I’m ashamed to say, I’m obsessed with examining photos of women around my age and deciding whether I look older or younger. It is a supreme waste of time, un-sisterly and betrays a lack of character, and yet? I cannot stop. Ooh, age spots! She has age spots at 57, on her hands no less, and I am age spot-free at 59! #WINNING. It’s crazy; I never worried about my looks before, because one of the very few advantages of being basically average is, you never really go up or down. Oh, you can have a “makeover” at a cosmetics counter and learn that, for a mere $125 worth of products and 45 minutes every morning with brushes and paints, you can look a little bit better, but really? It’s not worth it. So why am I suddenly noticing these things? Because death is lurking just around the corner, that’s why. One of my old boyfriends recently died of liver cancer, and another has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s! For fuck’s sake, these are rattling events. My high-school class is having yet another of our endless reunions this summer, and the last one (40) was full of In Memoriams and moments of silence and all the rest of it. I’m not that old yet, at least in my head. I went surfing last summer, goddamnit.

Brown is refreshingly honest about these and many other insecurities, and the book was a nice diversion. Back to Neil Gaiman next. (Why are people so hot on Neil Gaiman? He’s OK, but I don’t understand the worship, frankly.)

This was the view from the porch:

The Betsie River, sliding on past, like the river of time itself.

Maybe this is why I pay so much attention to the news. To distract myself from my own mortality.

Now the week ahead yawns, with good news from France and the usual fuckery out of Washington. Let’s have a good one.

Posted at 7:03 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 113 Comments
 

Bleached.

I swim for exercise three mornings a week. Swimming doesn’t require a lot of equipment, but a swimsuit is essential, unless you work out at one of those old homoerotic men’s health clubs where they won’t let women in because swimming is a nude sport. (Don’t laugh. They exist.) I’ve experimented with various suits, and found one that works for me. Speedo’s list price is high, but if you watch the sales, you can find closeout discounts or, mirabile dictu, a BOGO sale.

As it happens, last week’s BOGO colors included one I bought last summer, before I headed for California. That suit is about done, but I loved the color, so hey, I’m in for round two. You want to know why swimmers have green hair and dry skin? Behold, the power of chlorine:

If you’re reading this Wednesday and I didn’t die overnight, I swam this morning. Don’t have time or motivation? You just aren’t Princess Ivanka, then:

It’s in her description of her daily life, in which she somehow — until the election, anyway — managed to run her own company, serve as an executive vice president in the Trump Organization, train for a half marathon and spend time alone with each of her three children. Absent locating a wormhole in space, there’s really only one way to find time for all of these commitments, and that is with the help of staff. Yet her household help barely rates a mention in this discussion.

That’s from the NYT review of her new book, “Women Who Work,” which sounds about as lightweight and information-dense as other books of the Trump brand. I’m glad the mommy wars are over, truly I am; as a combat vet, I’m thrilled that today’s new mothers aren’t guilted by the ones who choose a different path. I think of that time as a benefit of the Clinton economy, when expensive cigars were burning, salaries were still pretty good and a lot of middle-class women could actually quit or downshift their jobs into something that allowed them to spend more time at home with their young’uns. The next administration put a stop to that once and for all; I know lots of women wished they had a second income when their husbands were thrown out of work during the financial crisis.

So choose your path, and God be with you, but you can probably do it without Princess Ivanka’s special brand of vapid advice, I bet:

But here’s what really matters about parental leave, as far as Ivanka Trump is concerned: She seems to still believe — as she did during the presidential campaign — that Americans ought to be paid for it. She waits until the penultimate page of her book to say so. But she does. (She talks about affordable child care, too.)

These final pages were written before Nov. 8, 2016. (Trump says in the preface that she turned in her manuscript before she knew the election results.) And what’s remarkable is that she wrote them as if she thought her old man was going to lose: “We need to fight for change, whether through the legislature or in the workplace.”

Well, her father didn’t lose. Ivanka Trump now has a formal White House role, as a special adviser to the president. She has security clearance and an office in the West Wing. She has access to the ultimate C-suite. At any moment, she could walk in and demand her father put forward a plan that mirrors precisely what she provides her own employees: Eight weeks of paid maternity leave. By European standards, that may be paltry. By American ones, it’s extremely generous and a very big deal.

Don’t bet on it.

There’s also a sympathetic profile of Princess I in Tuesday’s edition. It left me unmoved.

Folks, this may be the last update for the week. I’ll be running crazy errands to get ready for our trip this weekend, and can’t commit. If there’s wifi up there, maybe some pictures. Otherwise, I’m ducking out with a clean conscience.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and I’ll likely see you Monday.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 151 Comments
 

You’ve got it all wrong.

This will be a good laugh for beb, the water-system chemist: A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official, days from retirement, gives a straight-talkin’ speech called “Flint: What Really Happened,” and claims it wasn’t the lack of water treatment that sent lead into the drinking water of thousands of low-income homes, but…pressure:

An “excessive” number of main breaks was one of several “confounding factors that you never hear anybody talk about,” argued Feighner, who said Flint had 312 main breaks in 2014 and 277 in 2015, but only 153 in 2013 and 138 in 2016.

Although cities across the Midwest experienced an elevated number of main breaks during the back-to-back unusually cold winters, Feighner argued that Flint was hit especially hard because it has an oversized water system for its population and had spent very little on water system upkeep during the previous 20 years.

The omission of phosphate corrosion inhibitor when the city switched to the Flint River as a water source in April 2014 is widely considered to be the critical mistake that caused lead service pipes to leach a neurotoxin into drinking water, thus leading to the crisis. But Feighner challenged that notion, arguing that phosphate would have had “some impact” on controlling corrosion, but “I don’t believe it would have prevented this event.”

He argued that raw Flint River water is not actually as corrosive a source as has been portrayed, but that in-system factors like the main breaks and fluctuations of plant operation as Flint workers grappled with early indications of water quality issues elevated the corrosivity in treated water, thus compounding a “complicated puzzle” of factors affecting the water in Flint’s system.

I’m no expert, but I believe this is…not true. He claims that, essentially, main breaks, but changing pressure and water direction basically blasted protective coating from the inside of water mains. It wasn’t the obvious reason — that the river was more corrosive (most Midwestern rivers are, especially if they take on agricultural runoff), and by not treating the water with anticorrosives, it allowed the water to eat away at the protective coating that years of anticorrosives had left on city water mains and service lines.

(Are you bored by this? I don’t blame you. As the Trump family has pushed us to pay attention to politics 24/7/365, so Flint made water-treatment experts of every informed resident of Michigan. We had our own water tested, after discovering our service line was lead. Good news: undetectable lead levels, so thanks, Detroit system chemists.)

Having now spoken this heresy, which is contrary to the opinion of every expert, he goes on to pull the all-purpose excuse: Blame the media.

“Certainly, there was hurt there — don’t get me wrong — but there was a tremendous amount of hype that hurt them even more than the actual event. I’m convinced of that.”

Hoo-boy. Well, then. Maybe just hop to the next bit of bloggage, OK?

The best single story about the Alex Jones business, and an entertaining read, too:

The cross-examination begins. The jury is shown a video Jones filmed in D.C. on the eve of the Trump inauguration. He’s in front of the Capitol, and he’s drunk, slurring his words and wobbling. He’s about to go to the Deploraball. “I’m gonna sneak off and piss on some tree or something,” he says. But first, he mumbles to the camera “the age of fake bullshit is over. The return of man is here. Get ready because we’re gonna run your ass over.” Offscreen, a man yells “1776.” Jones slurs: “1776, baby!”

What a world we live in. And it’s only Tuesday.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events | 40 Comments
 

Drizzles.

And justlikethat, the weekend is over. Kate is back from school, summer plans still unformed, despite her best efforts. She was literally home for 90 minutes before taking off for the U.P. with a friend, I guess because the highs are going to be in the 40s for the next few days and who doesn’t want that kind of weather in May, right? But she’s home, and it’s nice to have her here, at least for an hour and a half.

This will be a short week for me here, too — we won a weekend at a cottage on the Betsie River in a recent charity raffle, and we’re taking it, plus a couple more nights, at the end of this week because why the hell not. But I hope to have lots of pictures, too.

I don’t know how I forgot to mention Tom Thumb Donuts in the last entry, although it’s been ages since I’ve seen one. They were always a must-stop at the Ohio State Fair, and it’s been ages since I’ve been to that throwdown, too. I covered it for the paper one year, and ate a bag a day. Tom Thumbs were mini doughnuts, and half the fun was standing, mesmerized, in front of the window on the booth, watching them go through their manufacturing process – seen here – then walking around the midway, working your way through your allotment, maybe trying to spot Miss Citizen Fair or just inhaling the unique aroma of a big state fair — manure and junk food and sweat and hot pavement all mixed together and not nearly as bad as I’m making it sound.

I wonder how the fair is doing these days. It used to be the single biggest thing in a kid’s summer in Columbus, but I imagine it’s been screwed up one way or another. Too expensive, too big, too much to police. It was fun for me, both to attend and later to cover. The assignment came soon enough after my time as a teenage patron that it combined the best of both worlds – I get to go the fair and write about whatever I want, and there’s an air-conditioned trailer office and the paper is renting me a golf cart? Best fortnight of the summer.

But now it’s still springtime, and the lambs and calves that will be shown in August are new in the barn. A friend of mine here in Detroit has a duck flock in her back yard, and is so overloaded with eggs that she brought a case of them to a local bar on Friday night to sell. I bought a dozen. The eggs are thick and the yolks big and pudding-like, almost a neon orange. I recall Coozledad’s observation, some years back, that ducks will basically eat anything, and vow to cook them thoroughly, but Saturday night’s duck-egg spinach soufflé was delicious with a prime ribeye.

I’m looking over the weekend’s news, and am feeling a little numb. Another propaganda rally, another jaw-dropping foreign-affairs blunder, another enormous march in Washington against the status quo. How can it possibly have been only 100 days? What are the next four years-minus-100 days going to be be like? I think I really need this long weekend; I’m going to try to ignore the news and hope we don’t start something with North Korea. The cell service is probably pretty spotty up there, and for once, that’ll be a blessing.

Got a link to share? Feel free.

Posted at 7:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

Done in nine seconds.

I love it when a source suggests meeting for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. This means I can have a doughnut because duh — Tim Horton’s. I rarely eat doughnuts, because they are basically heroin for a sugar junkie like me. I need to detox, but before I do? One more delicious sour-cream glazed from Tim’s.

Sour-cream glazed are my absolute favorite, combining that little tang of sour cream with the sugar overload. My prejudices: Sprinkles are wrong on doughnuts, as is chocolate. Yes, I said chocolate. My mother raised me to believe you don’t eat chocolate before noon, and I’ve never been able to eat a chocolate doughnut in the morning with an entirely clean conscience.

And if you start eating doughnuts, any doughnuts, after noon, you have a problem.

What’s your fave doughnut? Beats bitching about the president, if only for one day.

I don’t have much bloggage, going into the weekend, because I’ve been working on something else and reducing my poking-around-the-internet time. Here’s an L.A. Times photo gallery of a number of national monuments the Trump administration is casting a stern eye at, because wouldn’t the American people really rather have a golf course?

Also, I used to start the day with the L.A. Times crossword, done on the laptop of course, but they changed the interface and I fell out of the habit. Then I realized that if you load the mobile site of the NYT on the laptop, I could do their mini-crossword on a proper keyboard instead of thumb-typing. I generally get it done under 30 seconds, and on Thursday? 16 seconds. I doubt I’ll ever beat my all-time record of 9 seconds, but go ahead and try.

I’m so tired I may walk into a wall on my way to bed. Hope you don’t, and have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 108 Comments
 

How rude.

What was it David Remnick wrote in that piece I linked to yesterday? “For most people, the luxury of living in a relatively stable democracy is the luxury of not following politics with a nerve-racked constancy.” To me, luxury would be one day, one stinking day, with no Trumps in it.

But how is that possible? If it’s not the president, it’s Princess Ivanka, First of Her Name, Whose Domain is Handbags, Shoes and Casual Separates, which of course qualifies her to sit down with a panel of very accomplished women in Berlin and talk about Issues.

The story here said the crowed “booed and hissed” when she told a big fat whopper about King Donald, whom she described as a friend to women and families and so forth.

I watched the video and was hoping for way more booing, frankly, something like the outburst in a town hall during Congress’ break earlier this year. It was more like a polite rumble, although unmistakably disapproving. Princess Ivanka turned her head, but for my money, the person to watch in that clip is Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who looks at the princess with a sort of scornful amusement: Who invited you, handbag designer? And she smiles when the crowd jeers, because who wouldn’t? When a person lies, they deserve to be called on it. Lagarde’s skill in dressing is well-known, and I doubt she’d get caught dead in anything branded Trump. Check out that shoulder-scarf thing. The hell with you, Ivanka.

As bad as that moment was, though, this may be worse: Chris Cillizza, defending her because:

1) He’s her daddy, and that’s a daughter’s job:

But, it’s important to remember that Ivanka is, first and foremost, her father’s daughter. As such, she is going to defend him — as would almost every daughter in any situation in which her dad is under attack.

I didn’t see the whole thing, or whatever led up to this remark, but I don’t believe he was under attack. She just spontaneously offered the whole my-dad-is-the-best-dad thing. Cillizza goes on:

2) She knows him better than we do, and who knows? Maybe she’s right:

To walk away from that view would be to abandon what she spent the last 18 months telling us about her dad based on her own firsthand experiences.

Which seems to be some combination of the mafia family-first code and a realization that when you’re caught lying, you double down.

No wonder no one respects “pundits.” Or “pundints,” as Sarah Palin likes to say.

Finally, an analysis — nothing heavy — of how the administration is failing to take advantage of imagery, which is to say, photography. Or, to put it another way, the Trump presidency is producing crappy pictures;

The Obama imagery was so powerful not just because of how artful it was, but because of its apparent candidness. Obama and Souza gave us the impression we were flies on the wall, or part of the team—even part the family. In numbing contrast, photographs of Trump are often awkwardly, even painfully posed, with Trump almost always ensconced at the center. Like local chamber-of-commerce snaps or old corporate newsletter photos, they call attention to themselves as slavish, clone-like endorsements here accented by gratuitous thumbs-up gestures.

Shudder. On to the hump day we toil.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Current events | 68 Comments
 

Catching up.

Another lazy Monday night for yours truly, as I caught up with what Alan refers to as “my programs,” i.e. the premium-cable Sunday-night stuff. We canceled Showtime after the last “Ray Donovan” season was such a disappointment, so we’re talking HBO here. Good news: “The Leftovers” is swinging for the mu’fuh’in’ fences, and it is awesome. Bad news: My bedtime is 10 p.m. Hence: The Monday catch-up, for “Veep” and “Silicon Valley.”

I love “Veep,” too, although I don’t recommend it if you’re sensitive about profanity; it really is a cuss-fest, but the cussin’ is glorious. Those of you who saw Armando Iannucci’s criminally under appreciated “In the Loop” know what I’m talking about. If, like me, you believe the best English-speaking accent for swearing is Scottish, then you probably watch this often.

A little bit of bloggage, then, and best wishes for Deborah as she briefly goes under the knife today. They’re a little old, but only Sherri and a few others will notice:

How Donald Trump’s ascent led to Bill O’Reilly’s downfall.

David Remnick on Trump’s first 100 days. A fine, towering j’accuse.

Back tomorrow.

Posted at 8:25 am in Current events, Television | 33 Comments
 

Top model.

I want you guys to know that I tried. I have tried, really tried, to feel empathy for Natasha. It’s what we owe one another as human beings, after all. How did Atticus Finch put it? “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

And so I did. I imagined myself a Slovenian girl, not poor but hey — Slovenian. She’s won a genetic lottery, blessed with height and proportions and a classic Slavic face, all cheekbones and that poreless skin that you only really find among true Caucasians, or at least Caucasians over the age of 10 or so. And she wants out, because who wouldn’t? You use what you got to get what you need. And she got a lot. For a girl like her, there’s only one way out. She becomes a model.

Her quest took her to Paris and Milan, where, in 1995, she had the good luck of meeting Paolo Zampolli – a co-owner of Metropolitan Models, a pal of Donald’s, and a gregarious playboy – who was on a scouting trip in Europe. “I told Melania, ‘If you would like to come to try the United States, we’d like to represent you,’” recalls the fast-talking Zampolli in his Gramercy Park town house. “I say very simple, ‘Please come.’” Melania was in.

Zampolli says he secured Melania’s visa. In 1996 she moved to New York City, settling into Zeckendorf Towers, on Union Square, where Zampolli set her up with a roommate, a photographer named Matthew Atanian.

That’s from the new Vanity Fair profile of the first lady, written without her cooperation, of course, nor that of her circle, whatever that is, so keep all that in mind while judging it. I’ll try to stick to the on-the-record interviews and public-domain quotes and anecdotes. But let’s just stop here and consider modeling for a moment.

Many books have been written about the sleaziness of the modeling business, which takes in girls in their teens and runs them through a sausage grinder; imagine a long tunnel where the grinding wheels consist of hypodermic needles, crack pipes and erect penises. The success-to-failure ratio is greater than for acting or music, and the few people in the business who treat models with any kind of decency can probably be counted on one hand. Most go running back to Iowa or Texas, a few hang on in hopes of, if not success as a model, maybe marriage to an actor or athlete or industrialist with two ex-wives and four houses to redecorate.

But it’s not all grim. They’re models! In New York City! Rent’s high, sure, but a model doesn’t eat, and if she wants something to drink all she has to do is show up at a club in a short skirt and it’s straight to the VIP rooms to party with guys like Paolo and his friends.

That wasn’t Natasha’s M.O. though, the next paragraph tells us:

Unlike many twentysomethings, who come to New York City with an unquenchable lust for experience, Melania, according to Atanian, had little interest in nightlife or making friends. When she went out, it seemed to be with older men, only for dinner, and she always came home before her roommate had gone out, he says. ([Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie] Grisham says that Melania did not do much dating, due to her “extensive travel schedule” as a model.) Demonstrating admirable Slavic discipline, “she wore ankle weights around the apartment and the common areas,” recalls Atanian. “She would strictly eat five to seven vegetables and fruits every day. She drank a lot of water… She was looking to make money (as a model).”

Keep in mind, by 1995 Natasha was 25, which is…49 in model years, maybe 63. For all the talk of Lauren Hutton doing an underwear ad in her 70s, remember, she’s Lauren Hutton. In fact, the story goes on to say, by 26, “time was running out” for her to make it as a model; she was pretty much doing “second and third-tier work” in front of the camera. There’s a photo of her in lingerie with another woman, from around this time, and your eye still looks at the other girl.

So here she is, dating older men, which I have to imagine drew sneers from the other girls at the agency, the ones who won two genetic lotteries, beauty and the great good fortune to be born in the U.S. What did they know of life in post-Soviet eastern Europe? Had they ever tried to make a life in Slovenia? There’s a lot you can put up with when the alternative is a ticket back to Ljubljana.

I’m not surprised Natasha married Donald Trump after six years of dating him. But even the on-the-record humiliations she’s endured for it are jaw-dropping:

Propping up Donald’s sexual prowess called for some public self-degradation, but Melania, as his girlfriend, was willing to do it. In 1999, shortly after they began dating, she participated in an on-air phone call with Trump and Howard Stern, as they discussed her chest, and whether she stole money from Donald’s wallet. When Stern asked to talk to “that broad in your bed,” Trump put her on the line, and she spoke about how they had sex more than daily, and revealed that she was nearly nude. Stern replied, “I have my pants off already.”

As Donald’s celebrity ballooned with The Apprentice, Melania was asked to tolerate even more. His public interchanges with Howard Stern, which provided a kind of Greek chorus to their relationship, went from lewdly objectifying to grotesque. He agreed with Stern that his daughter Ivanka was “a piece of ass.” He joked that if Melania were in a horrible, mangling car crash he’d still love her as long as the breasts remained intact. When asked by Stern whether he’d be up for “banging 24-year-olds,” Trump eagerly assented. Subsequent accusations suggest similar improprieties.

It goes on. You know the stories. So I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, if a woman has shown no evidence of having a red line, so to speak, what do we owe her in our attention? Is it any wonder that she’s snickered at and whispered about? I could forgive a woman like this almost anything, if she’d just demonstrate, somehow, that she has one standard beyond the preservation of her lavish lifestyle, if she cares about anything other than her son and the quality of her wardrobe and jewelry box.

I’ve heard some say she’s a prisoner, that she risks losing her child if she wants out. That’s ridiculous. If she filed tomorrow, more than half the country would have her back, and a large percentage of Trump supporters would, too. Even a half-bright lawyer could win a substantial settlement and sole custody, if that’s what she wants. Ivanka could move from half-time to full-time FLOTUS, and the president could start dating again. I’m sure Howard Stern knows some girls who’d jump at the chance to see the Lincoln bedroom.

So I have to assume she’s chosen to stay. I have to put on my empathy hat again and imagine why. Religion? I doubt it. Does she love him? Her body language and behavior suggest otherwise. So why? Money? Fear? Fear actually makes more sense than anything else. The Pepes who’d descend on her — or rather, ascend on her, crawling up from the sub-sub-sub-basement of the sewers where they live — would mark a new level of rancid cruelty, but money makes for pretty good insulation.

So what, then, do we owe her? Respect? Mmmm, that’s a hard swallow. Pity feels more like it.

I imagine what will happen in the future, when the Trump era is over and all that’s left behind of them in the White House are two oil portraits, hung in some hallway where visitors can gaze upon them and take selfies for their Instagram, they way Sarah ‘n’ Ted ‘n’ Kid did with Hillary’s portrait last week. She’ll be there until the end of the republic, until the house burns down. The flames will lick their way up with canvas, destroying her greatest gig in her chosen profession, better than any Vogue cover. Not bad for a girl from Slovenia.

Posted at 11:57 am in Current events | 57 Comments