“There are hells below this” is something Neil Steinberg says from time to time. (It seems like it’s a phrase from Shakespeare or something, but when I google? It’s all him.) It’s a more elegant flip on the one lesson I learned from the newspaper game: Never say it can’t get any worse. It can always get worse. And usually does.
Anyway, this past week has been a new, deeper hell, in term of our national situation. By the time the president was rambling, exactly like a dementia-afflicted senior citizen, about raking the forest floor? I no longer had the spirit to even grimly chuckle. The president is deferred to, always — it’s one of the perks of the job — but I can only hope that sometimes, somewhere, there is someone in the White House who is brave enough to correct him.
What am I saying? Of course no one does such a thing. They just write anonymous op-eds in the New York Times.
Happy end-of-weekend, all. Ours went pretty well. After the dinner/cake thing in A2, I took Alan out for a peaceful Saturday breakfast, since any birthday when you have to work isn’t much of a birthday at all, in my opinion. Stopped by John King Books — a five- or six-floor temple of used ones — and bought four novels, in an attempt to rekindle my interest in the concept of reading for pleasure. Cheated with one that I’d already read, but it was long ago and at least I know the author (Martin Cruz Smith) is reliably pleasing to me. I also got a hardcover of “All the Light We Cannot See” and am hoping for the best. Also, did you know Elmore Leonard published a YA novel? No? Me neither. So I added that to the stack. Simplicity and brevity will do me good in the weeks ahead.
After John King there were chicken tacos, which I mention because I know how much you guys need to know that. And then it was “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the new Coen brothers movie that premiered in theaters last week before immediately hopping to Netflix. It was daffy and funny and I recommend it, especially if you’re a Coen fan.
One more thing before I hop to the bloggage: I followed some of the discussion of My Pants over the weekend. I found McEwan’s take interesting, but maybe not entirely convincing. For My Pants to rise, phoenix-like, from Trump’s ashes is no small task. He’ll have evangelicals, of course, but even moderate Republicans are going to be put off by the montages of Pence clapping, smiling and looking his oleaginous, toadying self next to POTUS. That first cabinet meeting alone should suffice, but we’re in a different place now, bets off, but I have a feeling. He’s the only person connected to this White House who I find almost as repellant at Trump himself. And that is saying a lot. I can’t believe the same suburban women who voted for Trump hoping for the best (and flipped blue in the midterms) would fall for this guy.
OK, then: Your greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts story today is this one, about a fake-news farm that doesn’t pretend to be anything else, and the people who continue to believe what they publish, even when, for example, he publishes something like this:
He noticed a photo online of Trump standing at attention for the national anthem during a White House ceremony. Behind the president were several dozen dignitaries, including a white woman standing next to a black woman, and Blair copied the picture, circled the two women in red and wrote the first thing that came into his mind.
“President Trump extended an olive branch and invited Michelle Obama and Chelsea Clinton,” Blair wrote. “They thanked him by giving him ‘the finger’ during the national anthem. Lock them up for treason!”
Blair finished typing and looked again at the picture. The white woman was not in fact Chelsea Clinton but former White House strategist Hope Hicks. The black woman was not Michelle Obama but former Trump aide Omarosa Newman. Neither Obama nor Clinton had been invited to the ceremony. Nobody had flipped off the president. The entire premise was utterly ridiculous, which was exactly Blair’s point.
The story hits another gear when they visit one of those individuals who spends all day on Facebook, liking and sharing stuff like this because she thinks it’s true. The mournful violin strains of “Eleanor Rigby” began to play in my head, reading this:
It was barely dawn in Pahrump, Nev., when Shirley Chapian, 76, logged onto Facebook for her morning computer game of Criminal Case. She believed in starting each day with a problem-solving challenge, a quick mental exercise to keep her brain sharp more than a decade into retirement. For a while it had been the daily crossword puzzle, but then the local newspaper stopped delivering and a friend introduced her to the viral Facebook game with 65 million players. She spent an hour as a 1930s detective, interrogating witnesses and trying to parse their lies from the truth until finally she solved case No. 48 and clicked over to her Facebook news feed.
…On her computer the attack against America was urgent and unrelenting. Liberals were restricting free speech. Immigrants were storming the border and casting illegal votes. Politicians were scheming to take away everyone’s guns. “The second you stop paying attention, there’s another travesty underway in this country,” Chapian once wrote, in her own Facebook post, so she had decided to always pay attention, sometimes scrolling and sharing for hours at a time.
..She’d spent almost a decade in Pahrump without really knowing why. The heat could be unbearable. She had no family in Nevada. She loved going to movies, and the town of 30,000 didn’t have a theater. It seemed to her like a place in the business of luring people — into the air-conditioned casinos downtown, into the legal brothels on the edge of the desert, into the new developments of cheap housing available for no money down — and in some ways she’d become stuck, too.
Apologies for the long excerpt, but it’s worth breaking my three-paragraph rule for this one. If you have a lonely older person in your life, ask them to lunch. All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
There’s a guy here in Metro Detroit, a civilian who knows the Affordable Care Act better than most legislators. I follow him on the tweeter machine. He recently published a spreadsheet of the “AHCA Class of 2017,” i.e., those legislators who voted to repeal Obamacare and just ran for re-election. This is a one-stop shop to find out the electoral fate of all 217 House Republicans. Most were re-elected, but enough weren’t that it’s worth checking out.
And with that? I’m off to the gym and grocery.