Faithless.

A year or so before I signed on in Fort Wayne, the News-Sentinel ran a long investigation of a religious group called the Faith Assembly. They were a cult, I guess, with one charismatic leader, Hobart Freeman. They were at their peak in the early/mid-’80s.

Their weird kink was, they rejected medicine. All of it, from an aspirin to insulin, and even eyeglasses. It was all evil. Just pray harder! they believed, and if someone died, it was God’s will.

And they did die, a lot of them, something like 52 preventable deaths among the congregation. The diabetics went first, of course, followed by the heart patients. Indiana authorities decided hey, you can believe whatever you want, folks, enjoy the other side. Unfortunately, adherents applied these beliefs to young children, and they died, too, often of very painful illnesses like meningitis or pneumonia. That’s when the prosecutors said Enough, and began taking parents to court and charging them with negligent homicide. The trials had started by the time I joined the paper, and it seemed a week didn’t go by without a photo on Page One of crying white parents hugging one another in court one last time before being taken away to separate prisons.

After a while, Freeman died, of a preventable illness if I recall correctly. Ah, yes, here it is, and thanks Wikipedia: “Freeman died at his Shoe Lake home of bronchial pneumonia and congestive heart failure complicated by an ulcerated gangrenous leg, which in the weeks preceding had forced him to preach sitting down. He had refused all medical help, even to the removal of the bandages so his leg could be cleaned.” He was 64.

Gross. Imagine what that guy smelled like at the end.

I’d read that story before I joined the paper, months before. In a weird twist, I was working night cops on a Friday and making the rounds of the police station, which was still wide open for the most part. I walked into the juvenile division to check the reports and overheard a detective talking to a judge on the phone. They’d received a call from a woman who had just given birth at home to twins, prematurely. One was dead and the other struggling, and she wanted to know if it was legal to bury the dead one in a shoebox in the back yard. The police wanted an emergency order to take the other one to a hospital. The couple was in an Ohio offshoot of the Faith Assembly, with a different leader, but the same beliefs.

Anyway, I was reading the New York Times magazine story about the anti-vaccination movement, which has snowballed since Covid. It did not make me feel better:

Although it is convenient to refer to anti-vaccine efforts as a “movement,” there really is no single movement. Rather, disparate interests are converging on a single issue. Many reject the “anti-vaccine” label altogether, claiming instead to be “pro-vaccine choice,” “pro-safe vaccine” or “vaccine skeptical.” For some, there may be a way to make money by pushing the notion that vaccines are dangerous. For politicians and commentators, the “tyranny” of vaccine mandates can offer a political rallying cry. For states like Russia, which has disseminated both pro- and anti-vaccine messages on social media in other countries, vaccines are another target for informational warfare. For conspiracy-minded private citizens, vaccine misinformation can be a way to make sense of the world, even if the explanations they arrive at are often nightmarish and bizarre.

There was a long section on Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of course:

Kennedy’s current position has moved away from scientific claims toward an even more unsettling assertion. Vaccine mandates and government efforts to manage the pandemic, he argues, are a form of totalitarian oppression. “We have witnessed over the past 20 months,” he said in a recent speech, “a coup d’état against democracy and the demolition, the controlled demolition, of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

…“What we’re seeing today is what I call turnkey totalitarianism,” he told his audience. “They are putting into place all these technological mechanisms for control that we’ve never seen before.” He continued: “Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.” But no longer, he suggested: “The mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so that none of us can run and none of us can hide.”

And the movement’s skill with manipulating social-media platforms:

California-based anti-vaccine groups had long used the hashtag #cdcwhistleblower on Twitter, a reference to the spurious claims of C.D.C. malfeasance that would be central to Wakefield’s conspiratorial documentary “Vaxxed.” But the hashtag only occasionally traveled beyond the confines of the anti-vaccine crowd. So different hashtags with broader appeal — #TCOT (top conservatives on Twitter), #2A (Second Amendment) and even #blm (Black Lives Matter) — were included in tweets. The tactic paid off. According to an analysis by DiResta and Gilad Lotan, a data scientist, there had not been much overlap between what they call “Tea Party conservative” and “antivax” Twitter before 2015. But around this time, a new space emerged between the two realms, a domain they labeled “vaccine choice” Twitter. Its participants were obsessed with the ideas of freedom and government overreach.

These online groups, quite small in number, proved to be very adept at leveraging the viral potential of social media to make themselves seem large. Although surveys have repeatedly indicated that the great majority of parents support vaccination, these activists fostered, DiResta says, “a perception among the public that everyone was opposed to this policy.” To her dismay, some California Republican politicians adopted this new rhetoric of “parental choice,” despite the fact that SB277 had several Republican co-sponsors. They seemed to have sensed a wedge issue, she says, “an opportunity to differentiate themselves from Democrats,” who held a majority in the Legislature. “It was pure cynicism.” Many of their own children were vaccinated, she points out. But the rhetoric galvanized people in a way that previous anti-vaccine messaging hadn’t.

And I thought: We’re there, aren’t we? The Faith Assembly is no longer a lunatic church in Nowhere, Indiana. It’s everywhere. From Hobart Freeman’s gangrenous leg a thousand poison blossoms bloomed, and wave among us. I think of this bag of meat lying in intensive care for seven weeks before dying, and am awed by the patience of those who had to care for her. As I write this, four candidates for governor are on Mackinac Island, preparing for a “debate.” All oppose vaccine mandates of any kind (but all support making abortion illegal, in all cases).

It’s stuff like this that makes me want to just give up on this stupid fucking country. Instead, I intend to meet a couple of friends for dinner tonight, and de-stress a little. It’s almost Friday. And I don’t belong to the Faith Assembly.

Have a great weekend, all. Keep your sunny side up.

Posted at 4:10 pm in Current events | 48 Comments
 

Thirty years later.

When Alan was working in an office, I would get dinner ready to fire, then wait around for whenever he got home. Often I’d watch one TV show as I waited; it’s how I got through “The Americans” and a rewatch of two of “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos.”

Lately it’s “NYPD Blue,” only I watch it as Alan cleans up the kitchen after dinner. Because it was on a commercial network, it’s only about 43 minutes, so Alan can join me for the second, third and fourth act, and rarely misses anything. (Something I learned on my journalism fellowship: One-hour TV dramas have four acts, movies three.)

We watched “NYPD Blue” together when it dropped, in the early ’90s. Everybody who was paying attention to American TV probably remembers it was a pioneer in showing material previously forbidden on prime time (butts, side boob), and using spicier language. Some affiliates refused to run it, and I’m pretty sure everybody ran it at 10 p.m.

Anyway, “NYPD Blue” was a cop show, a collaboration between Steven Bochco and David Milch, and probably the only reason it got on the air was Bochco’s status as a cop-show hit machine. It’s interesting mainly as an artifact of Hollywood entertainment, as well as society’s attitudes about police.

The Hollywood stuff first: The casting precedes the era of wokeness. A transgender woman — treated by the retrograde Detective Sipowicz the way the monkeys in “2001” treated the monolith — is played by a biological one. An adult described as “retarded” is clearly an actor who is not disabled in any way. As the seasons pile up, it’s like “Law & Order” reruns, where you can always tell who the bad guy is, no matter how fleeting his or her introduction, because if it’s an actor you’ve come to recognize, yep, that’s the guy. Also, it was so obviously shot in Los Angeles. (The sunshine gives it away.)

As for the police, well. I’ve lost track of how many times one of the detectives threatens to beat the shit out of a suspect. And then gets the confession! In fact, the willingness of a “skell” to take the beating is seen as evidence he’s telling the truth. And it’s always a he, although female skells swing through the 15th Squad station house often. They don’t get beaten (although they’re often killed by the third act) and sometimes someone will peel off a few $20 bills and tell them to go straight to the Port Authority and buy a bus ticket to their sister’s place in Florida. Where is all this petty cash coming from? We don’t know.

Of the NYC apartments we will say nothing, as we all know how those are.

This is how Hollywood did Gritty Realism, once upon a time. And we wonder why cop worship is so widespread.

“We Own This City” — now there’s a realistic police show. (David Simon and George Pelecanos, HBO.) The Baltimore police beat people, steal like kleptomaniacs, abuse every regulation in the book and basically act like an occupying force. In other words, like cops we all know.

Memorial Day weekend, and when people say, “Let’s remember all those who gave their lives for freedom,” all I could think about were the kids in Uvalde. But I kept my mouth shut. Bike ride, stop at a friend’s swimming pool, then ribs on the grill. A quiet day. Hope yours was good.

Posted at 8:14 pm in Television | 56 Comments
 

Child abuse.

I was reading the story Alex posted earlier, about the Indiana pastor who confessed “adultery” to his flock, and was rewarded with a standing ovation, until another member of the flock took the mic:

The woman, now in her 40s, also added an important detail.

“I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do,” she told her longtime pastor, describing herself as “a victim.”

The dateline for this story is Warsaw. It rang a bell, and a moment or two of recollection, and it came back: Hephzibah House, a “Christian” “reform school” for girls that would occasionally attract attention from media, but, astonishingly, managed to stay open until just two years ago.

One of my colleagues did a piece on Hephzibah House, on the abuse that happened there – the corporal punishment, mostly, but also the “modest” clothing, the nutritional– I don’t know what to call it, but I recall some of the girls were given only some weird drink in lieu of food, as punishment. It had zero impact. Read the story linked above, and you can see they skated through many state inspections, even though they basically held young women prisoner for months or years at a time, while they beat the “worldliness” out of them. And they lasted until 2020. Apparently it was an episode of “Dr. Phil” that finally did them in. (Laugh, serious journalists, at your vast influence.)

Anyway, who is surprised that a preacher in the…what was it? Oh yes, that a man of the cloth in the New Life Christian Church & World Outreach would rape a teenager on the floor of his office? No one should be.

Note the comments on that story, too: I too am a survivor of this shit-hole. It was to be a 14 month program but at the end of my 14 month pastor Ron told my parents I was still to worldly to go home. I was kept there for 4 years. This place was ran by Christian slave owners who whores their own daughters out to the other pastors sons.

So that put me in a sour mood to confront the late-afternoon horror of another school shooting. Jesus Christ, fourteen eighteen nineteen kids. I just can’t, anymore.

Posted at 7:13 pm in Current events | 98 Comments
 

Some people.

When Alan was features editor in Fort Wayne, he had an intern one summer with a shall-we-say-foundational problem. She had no real instinct for a story.

One in particular sticks in my memory. A new freeway bypass was being constructed at the time, and of course it included many overpasses. When those are built, the ‘dozers pile up a lot of earth, leaving holes in the ground that become stormwater retention ponds. You’ve driven past approximately a million of these in your lifetime. In this case, one of the property owners whose land abutted this project had a dream, and worked out a deal with the highway department to make the retention pond near him just a little bit bigger, big enough to be the minimum size required to accommodate that dream: To host sanctioned water-skiing competitions. In that very pond.

I believe he had landed his first event, nothing Cypress Gardens-level, but still: A sanctioned water-skiing competition! In a freeway retention pond, the boats tracing extremely tight triangular patterns, with the traffic screaming by! Now there’s a story.

The intern could not be convinced. “It’s just a guy with a pond in his back yard,” she argued. “So he’s going to run a boat around on it. Big deal.”

I don’t think Alan won that one, and didn’t try to — any story written by any reporter who couldn’t see the humor and absurdity in that situation would be stillborn. But I thought about her when I read the comments on a short aggregation/rewrite I did for Deadline, of a charming story written for the Freep by my ottering friend Bill. He freelances a regular feature called Free Press Flashback, which is pretty self-explanatory. Sunday’s was on the time the city police department rolled out the red carpet for a Hollywood movie production, and the ensuing film, “Detroit 9000,” turned out to be a piece of crap:

A Black congressman from Detroit announces his run for Michigan governor in the ballroom of the Book Cadillac Hotel. After he collects $400,000 for his campaign in money and jewels from Black supporters, a group of masked robbers cleverly steals the loot.

That bold caper is the opening scene in “Detroit 9000,” the low-budget tire squealer that made big headlines in 1973. Hyped as the first locally filmed feature movie, it ended up embarrassing city officials and local celebrities who had fallen hard for Hollywood’s promise to splash the glories of Detroit across the silver screen.

After allowing filmmakers to use police assets from headquarters to horses, Mayor Roman Gribbs blasted the production team as “a garbage organization that produced a garbage movie.”

The police commissioner got a bit part, for which he will win no acting awards. Local celebrities got similar roles and walk-ons. And were rewarded with a film whose marketing line called their city “the murder capital of the world” — “where honkies are the minority race.”

It’s a funny story. Here are a few of the Facebook reactions:

So why bring it up?

Ya I know all about it. Do we really need to re live every one of these moments?? Certainly things are different now?

So.. Michigan is doomed, if all our media sources keep bringing up past filth and horrors. We’ve got to get past these garbage racist viewpoints. It’s too decisive and all it does is make this place slow and miserable.

Sigh. It must be terrible to go through life without a sense of humor. Like not being able to smell. Although I have to say, I’ve known reporters like that. Give them the job of writing about “Detroit 9000,” and they’d spend six paragraphs noting that a $400,000 fundraiser, in 1973, would be the equivalent of $2.6 million today, and that’s totally unrealistic for a single state-level function, plus it would be against the law to accept jewelry in lieu of cash.

I’m reading “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, because some state senator concerned about Dirty Books is hooked up with some people who want it out of school libraries. It’s a Morrison novel I had not yet read, so I thought I might see what the fuss is about. The problem is a scene depicting the incestuous rape of an 11-year-old. It made me recall my high-school English teacher assigning Maya Angelou’s memoir “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” in which the 8-year-old Maya is also raped. My teacher was a very prim and proper old-school sort, but she did not shrink from the horror of those passages, and we had a very serious classroom discussion about them.

Perhaps this is why I grew up to be a Democrat. I was forced to read dirty books.

“The Bluest Eye” is a masterpiece, step one on Morrison’s path to the Nobel Prize. I pity the idiots who see it solely as obscenity. I wonder what they read for recreation, if they read at all. I guess the Left Behind novels had to sell to someone.

Hope all had a good weekend, with lots of recreational reading.

One of the things I read, not for recreation, was the New York Times’ Haiti project:

(F)or generations after independence, Haitians were forced to pay the descendants of their former slave masters, including the Empress of Brazil; the son-in-law of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I; Germany’s last imperial chancellor; and Gaston de Galliffet, the French general known as the “butcher of the Commune” for crushing an insurrection in Paris in 1871.

The burdens continued well into the 20th century. The wealth Ms. Present’s ancestors coaxed from the ground brought wild profits for a French bank that helped finance the Eiffel Tower, Crédit Industriel et Commercial, and its investors. They controlled Haiti’s treasury from Paris for decades, and the bank eventually became part of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates.

…How is it possible, many ask, that Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, with its underground subway system, health care coverage, public schools, teeming resorts and impressive stretches of economic growth?

Corruption is the usual explanation, and not without reason: Haiti’s leaders have historically ransacked the country for their own gain, legislators have spoken openly on the radio about accepting bribes and oligarchs sit atop lucrative monopolies, paying few taxes. Transparency International ranks it among the most corrupt nations in the world.

But another story is rarely taught or acknowledged: The first people in the modern world to free themselves from slavery and create their own nation were forced to pay for their freedom yet again — in cash.

I knew nothing of this history, and I found the whole package fascinating. I checked Twitter for the reaction and found it to be, shall we say, derisive:

OK, fine. Sorry I brought it up. Man, people are so damn touchy.

I guess that’s all. Do yourself a favor and read a dirty book today.

Posted at 5:02 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Friday morning.

The involuntary manslaughter case against James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the Oxford school shooter (this was last fall, in November, and I know it’s hard to keep them straight these days), continues to grind on. Preliminary hearing after preliminary hearing, we get to see the couple, still being held in the county lockup, sit in court and hear details of the case against them.

The latest was Thursday. Here’s what they’re asking:

James and Jennifer Crumbley also don’t want the jury to hear about their alleged affairs, pot smoking or drinking habits, horse hobby or messy house — all of which has been raised by prosecutors. None of that is relevant to their case, argue their lawyers, who filed five blistering motions with the court late Thursday in which they blasted Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald over her handling of the case, accused her of trying to smear their clients and taint the jury pool by disclosing inflammatory information, and sought to derail the prosecution case.

The “also” is because the lede of the story was that their son had written in his journal — found in his backpack after the shooting — that he hoped his act would result in the impeachment of “Sleepy Joe Biden.” The Crumbleys are afraid their family’s unified Let’s-Go-Brandon politics might influence the jury.

But the “messy house” was the detail that pierced me. I’ve probably mentioned it here about a thousand times, that while my house will occasionally get more cluttered than I like, it’s very very rarely so awful that I would be embarrassed to have someone else walk through it. I vacuum and dust on the regular, and the thought of a pizza box sitting on my coffee table for longer than 10 minutes makes me shudder. I can just imagine what their place looked like, to have the prosecutor mention it in court documents. And then they bought their weirdo 15-year-old boy a handgun. GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY.

Anyway, that’s my prejudice.

Sorry for the scant updates this week. I just took a very leisurely stroll with Wendy and tried to let the calm of the morning penetrate me. I didn’t sleep well last night, and skipped the morning swim. I should do that more often — the calm-infusion part, that is. My pandemic funk deepened over the winter, and hasn’t entirely lifted, even though we’re doing more to get away from the rut we dug for ourselves in the last two years. (Not eating out as much, though — restaurant prices just keep climbing here, and the $50-plus-tip I paid for the last two-bar-cheeseburgers-and-two-beers meal suddenly doesn’t seem worth it.)

And our financial positions have taken a hit, but I’ve ridden the stock-market roller coaster long enough that I’m not too worried. We’re still taking another long trip this fall. Most likely to Spain, so tips and advice are welcome. Madrid and Barcelona will be the home bases; the south is tempting, but every day spent moving between cities is a lost day, so.

I’m an empty cup today, I know. Sorry about that. So I fall back on the Midwesterner’s old faithful parting: Gonna be a hot one today. You turnin’ on that AC?

ON EDIT: Some bloggage that won’t make anyone feel better:

A Virginia lawyer is suing Barnes & Noble for selling a book he disapproves of.

The guy who sold the Buffalo shooter his weapon doesn’t feel guilty, no, why would you ask:

Even if Robert Donald were the rare 75-year-old who watches livestreams on Twitch, he would not have known that the video broadcasting at around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday had anything to do with him. The footage was from a camera attached to a person’s head and showed their point of view as they got out of a car, made their way through the parking lot into a Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, and started shooting people with an assault rifle. Donald would not have recognized the Bushmaster XM-15 he sold earlier this year, partly because it had been modified to hold more ammo and a racial slur had been painted on the barrel. “I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” Donald told the New York Times, explaining that he did not even remember the person who bought the rifle. “But I feel terrible about it.”

Pennsylvania people: What’s going to happen in the gubernatorial race? Does Mastriano have a chance against Fetterman?

And with that, have a nice weekend. Ha.

Posted at 8:23 am in Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments
 

Mini-break.

This weekend — today, Sunday — is the Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere’s 29th wedding anniversary. While we’re beyond the “Gone Girl” tributes, it’s always nice to mark a milestone appropriately, so we had a 24-hour getaway.

To St. Clair, Michigan, previously known as the place where Nancy and her friend Bill go ottering in high-to-late summer. Just north of Palmer Park there, where we otter, is the St. Clair Inn. It was once a highfalutin vacation spot for swells (Bill spent his first honeymoon night there, once upon a time), then fell on hard times, then went through a lengthy, oft-delayed renovation, and reopened only recently as a swank hotel. We booked a room there for Saturday. River view, of course — what’s the point of going to St. Clair if you can’t watch the freighters go by?

That’s the…I forget which one that was. Wait, lemme zoom in… OK, it’s the Federal Columbia, a bulk carrier, upbound. A salty, which is what they call the ships that leave the Great Lakes for open ocean. We saw at least a dozen, a few of them thousand-footers like the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Federal Columbia is headed for Burns Harbor, in Indiana. Got a ways to go, but I bet it’s closer than I think.

The St. Clair River drains Lake Huron, into Lake St. Clair, then Erie, Ontario and out to sea. It’s blue, and it runs at a clip.

The bar in the Inn is called the Dive, and this sculpture outside pays tribute to the end-of-season tradition from the old days, where the wait staff would go for a swim themselves. My man on the right has about a second to correct his position before he does a bellyflop.

Today, it was a slow drive down the riverfront, through Algonac to the northern coast of Lake St. Clair, then the long way home. A whole trip that felt like a mini-vacation, and we used less than a quarter of a tank.

Of course you can’t get entirely away, and the news intruded. Another goddamn mass shooting, because we gotta have one of those every so often. Otherwise we might not have Freedom.

Bloggage: If you haven’t read this, from the Atlantic, about “how politics poisoned the evangelical church,” it’s worth your time.

Oh, and look — another mass shooting. This one…at a church. Kinda fitting.

Posted at 8:46 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

Travel is very broadening, part 2.

Best story from Kate’s Euro tour: The government-owned venues they played had the best food, and some even had chefs who would come in and make the artists a four-course meal before they went on. Also, they did a quickly arranged two-song pop-up at a sunglass boutique in Paris and all came away with a new pair of shades as payment. Also, Jean-Baptiste, their tour manager, knew all the best places to eat and even a secret swimming hole outside of Marseille.

They had a great time. Transformational, even.

So. The U.S. is having a baby-formula shortage. As usual, it’s complicated — a plant closed blah blah and supply-chain issues blah blah, you know the drill. Normally this is the sort of problem I’d pay polite but disinterested attention to. I want babies to be fed, but there are no babies in my current immediate orbit, so I don’t feel the urgency. I certainly don’t want any to be malnourished or die.

But it’s been kind of horrifying, given the other big event surrounding women’s bodies in recent days, to hear how many men are utterly. Clueless. About breastfeeding.

Not all of them. Those whose wives breast-fed generally get it. But a disturbing number of men have taken to social media to say, “Hey, just breast-feed!”

And this was one of the better ones. There were others that were far, far worse.

I breast-fed. It was a rough start, but we worked it out. And I kept it up. Kate weaned herself the week of her first birthday, and that was that. I didn’t realize at the time how rare that was, what a luxury it was, but let me tell you, I had a LOT of support. A long maternity leave, a breast pump, a lactation room at work, flexible hours. That’s almost unheard-of. Just having a job makes it insanely difficult for a working mother, unless you can take your kid to work, and hardly anyone can do that. Plus it requires good nutrition and, mostly, time. Newborns eat more or less constantly, which means you spend half your life sitting in a chair, nursing. Then they get a little older, and you spend a third of your time there. Then they get older still, and new complications ensue. All of which can derail something like breastfeeding.

What every parent should learn from parenthood is that no one has the perfect answer. Whatever works for you may not work for the family next door. And I remember one member of my nursing mothers’ group, who cried because she simply couldn’t make enough milk and her child was medically diagnosed as malnourished. An affluent, educated woman. She was crushed. So if you think “just breast-feed” is the answer, and you don’t support things like long paid parental leave to accommodate, take a long walk in a different direction.

God, this stupid country.

OK, then! On that cheery note, have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:55 pm in Current events | 38 Comments
 

Homeward bound.

The Shadow Show tour is over, and Alan is on his way home from Toronto with the girls. (Air Canada has far lower fares to Europe than any domestic airline.) I remember being young, cobbling together multi-connection routes to the places I wanted to go. Living in Fort Wayne, you could save hundreds of dollars flying out of Indianapolis, only 110 miles south, or Chicago, 150 miles west. The drive down at the beginning of vacation was a blip; the drive home might as well have been 500 miles of two-track road.

Crossing international borders keeps getting easier, but even Canada is still complicated. However, they’ll be home later tonight and that will be good.

I’m trying not to mainline Doom, but I read this piece earlier this week and it unhinged me a bit. It’s about Marjorie Dannenfelser, “the woman who killed Roe,” i.e. an anti-abortion pitfall who sees no color but black or white. She is…infuriating:

She soon converted to Catholicism and came to believe that full human rights are conferred upon a zygote at the moment of fertilization, rendering even a rape exception “abominable.” She tried to convince her parents of this and failed, repeatedly. “They really taught me to relentlessly pursue the truth,” she told me, “which is why it was so frustrating.”

Of Trump, the strangest bedfellow:

…Dannenfelser says she “felt ill at the prospect of defending a man who could speak that way.” Her daughters told her they could not support her if she supported him. “Ultimately,” she wrote, “I had to accept my own public argument: Trump’s commitment to the pro-life cause outweighed his offensive remarks. My daughters saw a snapshot in time and were right to be appalled. But I saw the evil that had been wrought in the decades since Roe v. Wade, which had ended the lives of more than 50 million preborn babies.”

Inside the logic of this particular nightmare, the 50 million dead, there could be no question of falling back. Dannenfelser watched the final presidential debate. Trump had, of course, been coached, but he still sounded, usefully, like a child. “If you go with what Hillary is saying,” he said, “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby … you can rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day.”

Finally! thought Dannenfelser, watching at home. Here was an answer neither avoidant nor squeamish; here was a man describing the improbable violence she wanted to be on every voter’s mind, the Gerber baby, the Nilsson baby, the visual stand-in for every routine eight-week abortion across the nation. “Trump got it right and was never even a part of it,” she tells me. “He wasn’t a part of it. But he has an instinct for how to build something.” Others had focused on “issues surrounding the act itself, paying for it, informed consent about it, parental notification about it. He’s one of the first politicians that was able to talk about what it is. Everyone else was afraid to offend. He wasn’t afraid to offend. He’s not a cautious man.”

Go ahead, nice Christian lady, get in bed with this guy. Enjoy the herpes. Although this story, infuriating as it is, is still very good, and has a great kicker. I recommend it.

Is that it for me tonight? It would seem so. Long day. Tired.

Posted at 8:46 pm in Current events | 25 Comments
 

Hu’s next.

In December 2020, a small group of Stop the Steal lunatics demonstrated outside the Michigan Secretary of State’s home. It was dark, and it was said that some were packing the usual long guns those dipshits favor, but I only saw a couple of videos and didn’t spot any. They were told to stay on public sidewalks, don’t block traffic, and do their thing. Which they did.

I wrote a column about it at the time, which no one liked. I said it was obnoxious, but entirely defensible, as long as it stays non-violent and the shits stay off private property. I think one of the demonstrators here dared to ring her doorbell, but that was it. (He should have been arrested, IMO.)

So don’t cry to me, Clarence Thomas. Tough shit, Brett Kavanaugh. If it’s the downfall of decency and decorum, hmm, too bad. As these guys like to say, over and over and over, the American Revolution wasn’t polite, either.

At least I’m consistent in my outrage. I don’t remember any Republicans hand-wringing today over the Death of Decorum defending Jocelyn Benson in 2020.

So. Not a terrible weekend, for a change. Friday night we shlepped to Pontiac to see the Hu, the Mongolian metal band. I’d put them in the Deadline Detroit newsletter in the events section, just for the novelty. Then I got a note from LAMary telling me her roadie son was going to be in Detroit “with some Mongolian musicians” and figured there couldn’t possibly be more than one. We’d actually talked about going, just to get out of the house for something different, and that settled it. So first Mexican food, then the Hu. We were supposed to be on the list, but we weren’t. “We’ll just take two tickets, then,” I said.

“Sorry, it’s sold out,” the lady at the window said. It was a nightclub, not the hockey arena, but still. Clearly the Hu has more of a fan base than we thought. And we got lucky, because just then the club owner came in, saw us standing around fretting, and waved us in. First stop: The merch table, to say hi to Pete and buy a T-shirt. We found our way upstairs and had an OK view. They put on a good show — very Metal, very loud, very tribal-sounding. They play traditional instruments (although I noticed a guitarist standing in the back, out of the light, and one of the drum kits is the conventional kind), and do a fair amount of Mongolian throat-singing. For once, it didn’t matter that the lyrics weren’t clear, because they were in Mongolian. It reminded me of George Miller, talking about the flame-throwing guitarist in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” He said every army needed a drummer boy, and that guitarist was the bad guys’ drummer boy.

The Hu could be the drummer boys for Genghis Khan. Somewhere in a central Asian grave, he is surely smiling. Of course, the band has a song about him.

I’ve always been interested in Mongolia. When I was riding, I used to get a catalog for a horse-based travel service called Equitour. Most the trips were stuff like fox hunting in Ireland, dressage in the Netherlands, etc. But there were two that I really should have done when I still could — crossing the interior of Iceland on native ponies (there was a note that you should be able to ride 20-plus miles a day and expect mutton at literally every meal), and a trip across the Mongolian steppes, also on native horses, probably with a similar physical and dietary warning. When I had amnio before Kate was born, the geneticist and I chatted about her research work in Mongolia, looking for links between central Asians and native Americans.

I’d have chatted about all this with the Hu, but they don’t speak much English, Pete said. Probably fluent in Russian, though.

OK, then, time to get the show on the road. On my “day off” I’ve already edited several stories and had no fewer than four phone calls with my editor. I’ll leave you with a picture:

Hu’s on first, but in Columbus today, I believe.

Posted at 11:58 am in Current events, Detroit life | 31 Comments
 

Cooling down for the weekend.

Warning: I am only somewhat less incandescent with rage over the SCOTUS thing. However, I also had my second booster this week, which took out most of my stuffing for about 12-24 hours. I’m Team Pfizer, but my local CVS had only Moderna. I’ve read a few things suggesting that cocktailing the two vaccines may give the recipient wider immunity, and I’m all for that. However, while I had zero side effects from Pfizer other than the usual sore arm, this Moderna made me feel like a very old person with aches, pains, ague and zero energy.

As I recall, Kate got Moderna and suffered a bit, too. Maybe it’s in our genes.

Anyway, I now feel pretty immune to everything. But I’m still bothered by the Supreme Court.

I was in high school, a sophomore as I recall, when Roe was decided. I lived in an affluent area, and the standard operating procedure for girls who got pregnant was the one-day trip to New York City. An ACLU lawyer described it to me years later: The gate at the airport for the 7 a.m. flight, full of youngish women, teens and their mothers. They’d arrive in NYC mid-morning, take a cab to the clinic of their choice and all be back at the LaGuardia gate for the 5 p.m. flight back to Columbus. Everyone knew what was going on.

You had to go to New York because the earliest states to liberalize abortion laws were Republican-led, and that was the Rockefeller era. Democratic governors were beholden to the Catholic vote then, and as others have pointed out, Catholics were pretty much the only religious group opposed to abortion then.

But not everyone could get to New York, and so one night the wife of a friend of mine told me about the abortion she’d had, pre-Roe. She, too, was from a reasonably well-off family, but she went to St. Louis, and had her abortion in a hotel room. She didn’t share a lot of details, but I gathered it was a very unpleasant experience. Just thinking about it made me mad all over again.

And now we learn the prime mover behind the J.D. Vance endorsement: Tucker Carlson. Behold the former president of the United States:

After promising Trump that Vance was with him on the issues despite the candidate’s past anti-Trump comments, Carlson — according to three sources familiar with the matter — turned to a lurid closing argument. “You can’t trust” David McIntosh, the president of the conservative Club for Growth and a top backer of Vance’s rival Josh Mandel, Carlson claimed. McIntosh had just concluded his own phone call with Trump during that same midday meeting. The reason, Carlson asserted, is that McIntosh has an embarrassing and “chronic” personal sexual habit.

Rolling Stone cannot confirm the claim and will not repeat it. But during that phone call, the twice-impeached former president spent a notable amount of time gossiping and laughing about the prominent Republican’s penis and how “fucking disgusting” and “fucking gross” he allegedly was.

Trump had already displayed a long, abiding interest in Mandel’s own sex life, having spent months privately regurgitating and spreading salacious, unverified rumors that he’s heard about “fucking weird” Mandel’s supposed debauched ongoings. Carlson’s comments about the proclivities of Mandel’s patron threw both Trump and his son into fits of laughter.

I’M MOVING TO MEXICO, CANADA OR WESTERN EUROPE ONE OF THESE DAYS AND GODDAMNIT YOU CAN’T STOP ME.

OK, time to take off the caps lock and prepare for the evening ahead. I believe we’re headed to Pontiac this evening for some Mongolian heavy metal and a potential face-to-face with LAMary’s roadie son. This should be epic. I’m getting a T-shirt.

Good weekend, all. Stay cool.

Posted at 12:44 pm in Current events | 50 Comments