Good read, gift link.

Hey, everyone. I am in Columbus, helping my brother move. It is supposed to be 86 degrees today, and I am wearing my sweat-proof underwear, to give you an idea of the glamour I’m operating under.

However! I have a great read for you today. Remember my friend Nathan Gotsch, who ran for Congress last year in Fort Wayne, as an independent? He’s been up to other stuff lately, namely producing the LGBT-themed play that got all the bigots up in their feelings. The Washington Post story about it dropped today (gift link), and it’s a great story about taking from bigots and giving it to deserving kids.

Enjoy. I’m off to sweat and clean a bathroom.

Posted at 8:51 am in Current events | 33 Comments


Well, I guess we have to say something about Tina Turner. It’s hard to do, because so much has already been said about her. Now that the top ranks in news organizations have been taken over by Gen X, the headlines and obits are concentrating on her ’80s period, i.e., post-Ike. That’s a defensible stance; her struggle to leave her abusive ex-husband was the turning point of her life and career, and we’re not supposed to give bad people like Ike Turner credit, even for the good things they did.

But the first time I saw Tina perform she was with Ike, and it left a mark. They were at the Ohio State Fair, we got in early enough to be in the first rows, and their performance was…indelible. (That means “it left a mark,” ha.) This must have been in their career bump after “Proud Mary,” and they performed as Ike and Tina Turner. I remember none of Ike, lurking in the back like the dark presence and bandleader he was. You watched Tina. The three Ikettes stood to Tina’s right, a few feet behind her. But they were all dressed similarly, in short dresses with fringe that never stopped shaking, because they didn’t, either. God knows how Tina could sing as well as she did, moving all the time; she must have had the cardio fitness of a Tour de France stage leader. They did slow songs, but Tina stutter-stepped through those, too, leaving it all on the stage, which was set up on the racetrack where harness races were held, the first rows seated on the track and the rest up in the grandstand. It wasn’t a glamorous venue; the fair director was famous for x-ing out those infamous tour riders that performers insisted on, delivering the same mediocre fair food to all the acts.

I’m sure Tina was used to it. Her memoir — most memoirs of performers of that era — was pretty clear about the tour grind they went through on the way to making the charts. Stage life is difficult, especially when your cheating husband is going through Ikettes like jelly beans, and beating you when you object. And they were black, which meant the chitlin circuit to start, until The Rolling Stones invited them to open in the ’60s, and they started reaching white audiences. It is said that Tina taught Mick Jagger to dance, and I believe it.

If you saw “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the biopic based on her memoir, you know all this, especially the dramatic split with Ike, where they fought in the back of a limousine in Las Vegas Dallas, she got out at a light left Ike sleeping in their hotel room and walked across the street crossed a busy highway to a Ramada Inn, where she told the manager she had 36 cents in her purse and a Mobil credit card, but would they give her a room anyway? He did, and she stayed at Ramadas for years afterward, mentioning the kindness in interviews whenever she was asked.

So it’s not surprising the interviews will mention the triumphant, you-go-girl part of her career first. I saw the Private Dancer tour in Fort Wayne, the shaggy-wig look, the Auntie Entity persona, and it was excellent. But you never forget your first Tina.

You guys can talk about that Tina if you want, but the record I’ll be playing in my head today is my absolute favorite, the Phil Spector production of “River Deep, Mountain High.” The story goes that Phil agreed to put Ike’s name on the recording, but only if he butted all the way out, and he did. So this is Tina-without-Ike, plus another bad man, but oh well.

One more small thing, no, two: She was really her own woman, embracing Buddhism and practicing it faithfully. And she left behind American racism, moving to Europe decades ago and settling in Switzerland. I always liked that about her, and pictured her hitting her singing bowl and chanting her mantra.

She also had the best single response to a question about whether she’d had plastic surgery, during her comeback. She replied yes, she had, because being beaten by her husband had left facial fractures that affected her breathing. And “I had my breasts put back in place,” she said. Take that, Ed Bradley, or whoever asked.

Did you ever see her? What did you think?

Posted at 4:16 pm in Current events, Popculch | 54 Comments

525,600 minutes x 30.

Last week Alan and I realized we are about to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and we should do something to observe it. So we made last-minute reservations in Stratford, where the Shakespeare festival isn’t quite up to full speed just yet, but the plays are starting to open, and still at preview-level pricing.

We drove over on Saturday and saw “Rent,” one of two musicals they’re doing this year. (The other is “Spamalot,” and as I’m only a casual Monty Python fan, the choice was clear.) It was very fine. I’m not much for sung-through musicals, but this was a good production. Just a few years ago, a 1996 play about the persecution of drag queens, homosexuals, AIDS victims, anarchist professors and others might have seemed dated. As it is, the only unrealistic thing about the show was the idea that artists could squat in a loft on the lower east side of Manhattan. The rest was pretty dead-on.

I was curious who was in the original Broadway production. I don’t follow B’way closely, but I recognized Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel (or as John Travolta called her at the Oscars, Adele Dazeem). Diggs played Roger, the AIDS-cursed guitarist Benny the bad guy, and Adele was Maureen, who gets a couple of big numbers.

Living so close to Canada, I always wonder why we don’t go more often, even to Windsor. We’re so close to Canada you can see cars driving the shoreline roads, and yet, once you get there, everything is different. The accents change, people say “soe-rry” for the slightest offense, miles change to kilometers, the roads are as smooth as glass, your chance of dying in a mass shooting drops off the table. You can pick up a little French just by reading labels and street signs. Even their vodka-and-tomato juice drink is different, the bloody Caesar instead of Mary. And yet, you’re still speaking English, the currency is still dollars and cents, just different, gaily colored dollars.

God knows what Canadians think of us.

As always when I’m in Stratford, I bought books. “Station Eleven” from the Canadian-authors rack. “Birnam Wood,” which got a rave review in the NYT today, and the text of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which I’ve never read. And a blank journal for Kate, who stepped up to watch Wendy on short notice.

Speaking of the NYT, some great work today, not only there. First, an infuriating, extremely well-documented project on how three assholes worked a number of fake charities via robocall, raising $89 million in the process, and spending only 1 percent on the issues they were allegedly raising money for. I know you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn these guys are…well, you know.

This is older, but from ProPublica, a report on the nation’s worst-funded schools, which are falling apart. It’s not where you might think. (But once you know, it makes perfect sense.)

Finally, is it past time for Dianne Feinstein to resign?

And with that, I’m going to doze and wait for my Mothers Day dinner with Kate. Hope yours went/is going well.

Posted at 4:43 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

Fishsticks the Svengali.

I don’t know why I subscribe to Axios. All that smart-brevity stuff is mainly just a news roundup at the beginning and end of the day. Skimmable = skippable, but we don’t have to keep up with everything, do we?

But start a news item this way…

Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson are joining forces…

…and OK, you have my attention. Apparently Tucker is starting a version of his show on Twitter? Fantastic idea. Take Tuck’s elderly, white, terrified viewers and try to explain Twitter to them — that’ll go well. But he’s certainly playing his Svengali role to the hilt, I’d say:

“At the most basic level, the news you consume is a lie — a lie of the stealthiest and most insidious kind,” Carlson said in a video announcing he plans to relaunch his show on Twitter. “Facts have been withheld on purpose along with proportion and perspective. You are being manipulated.”

Hello, pot? This is the kettle. You’re black.

The rest of the story is a little scare-mongering itself, but I’m not going to express confidence that truth will prevail when I can’t open a social-media app without seeing AI bullshit clogging it up, followed by credulous comments.

That said, there is also some excellent AI work going on, and you should follow this guy, who does a lot of it:

Obama looks like he maybe played bass in Sly Stone’s backup band.

The E. Jean Carroll verdict is in, and it’s a good one, if for no other reason than it sets him up for a lifetime of small-dick jokes. She’ll likely never see a dime of her award, but who cares. With a case like this, the headlines and vindication are the settlement. The pussy-grabber finally got his hand slapped. It ain’t prison time, but it’s good enough.

Finally, you may have seen this already, the FBI’s instructional video on how to survive a mass shooting. When “thoughts and prayers” don’t work, and yelling “mental health” does nothing, it’ll be, “you should have watched the video. Then you might not have been shot.”

This stupid country.

Happy Wednesday, all. I got a deadline, and have to go hard today.

Posted at 11:09 am in Current events, Media | 71 Comments

The big hat.

Many years ago, I remember listening to an interview with some British royal-watcher, and he predicted that one day we’d see two old people ascend to the throne of that sceptered isle, that other Eden, and no one would remember the troubled princess who nearly suicide-bombed the whole institution out of existence. I’d say he was correct.

I didn’t watch the coronation, alas. I stayed out until 1 a.m. the night before (fundraiser, and I was on the committee and had to stay through the cleanup), didn’t get to sleep until 2. We had the TV on as we pushed brooms and gathered trash, and the overnight news was already on its pre-coronation packages. But. I watched the video highlights via the NYT site, and found it…interesting. Charles had the perfect look on his face, a tender, somewhat-confused expression that said, “I’ve been waiting for this for 74 years. Now what?” “What,” I imagine, will be a reign of 15 years, give or take. For my money, Camilla had a more peaceful, settled look, the look of triumphant mistresses everywhere. She married a man who cheats on his wife, but late in life when the sap has largely ebbed from the royal staff. Plus, he obviously loves her.

There were a lot of anti-royal voices raised this weekend, of course, here and there. Perfectly fine — we’re both free countries, after all. Honestly, though, what’s the point? Destroy the monarchy? OK. It won’t make a bit of difference beyond a few ceremonial details in the U.K.’s self-government. Make the castles into museums. They’ll cost at least as much to run. So…sell them? OK. How will you feel when Mohammed bin Salman or some Russian oligarch owns Buckingham Palace? Sell the crown jewels? Great idea. They, too, will disappear into private hands, you’ll never see them again, and the money will go…somewhere. (Probably also into private hands, a step or two down the road.)

People talk a lot about how “rich” the new king is, but think about what that means. He holds a lot of land, and several over-large, drafty houses. True, he can go fishing and riding and gadding about the countryside in a kilt, but only when his schedule permits, and the schedule consists mainly of dressing up, showing up, shaking a few hands, posing for pictures. Same thing with Camilla, only she must also accept nosegays from adorable schoolchildren. Look at that picture of the new royal couple in their crowns; do you envy them? Do their lives seem enviable to you? Do they look happy to you? I bet Camilla didn’t even have a moment to take off that necklace and fondle the jewels in her hand for a while; someone unclasped it, boxed it and sent it back to the vault.

Face it, if being royal were a job posted on a hiring board somewhere, few people would want it.

Prince Bill and Princess Cathy looked nice, I thought. I’m used to seeing the royal men wear chests full of medals that make them look like war heroes, but we rarely see the women in their “official” finery. This was a ‘fit, as the kids say:

Love the headpiece(s), which makes her look like a superhero awaiting a ceremony on Wonder Woman’s island. And little Princess Charlotte is just a treasure. I hope she can have a meaningful life.

There was snickering about…oh god, I can’t look up all those title and spellings right now, but the something-or-other of Chumley*, allegedly William’s mistress, being seated in the crowd. She could be seated on his dick, and Princess Superhero isn’t going to act like her late mother-in-law. She knew exactly the job she was being hired to do, has done it beautifully, and won’t give it up for some round-heeled former model. There are a lot of bedrooms in those drafty houses; she looks capable of enduring until it’s her turn to wear the big hat.

* OK, I looked it up again. It’s the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

My favorite moment of my sleep-deprived viewing of the after-parade was the horse band. Seriously, it was a full band, mounted on moving horses. The joke is, of course, that it takes two hands to play an instrument and at least one to guide a horse, so…how does this work? Google explains at least the part of the drummers who lead the troupe: The riders have reins affixed to their feet. I guess the rest of them do, too.

And of course Saturday couldn’t conclude with just a coronation and American horse race in the news, so we had to have a mass shooting, too. Those of you who follow Laura Lippman on Twitter know that she walks Baltimore in the early morning and takes a photo of the Domino Sugar sign, then posts it. This was Sunday’s, and I don’t think we need to say anything more than this:

Have a good week, all. And please stay alive.

Posted at 11:26 am in Current events | 80 Comments

Cabin fever.

The weather rarely gives us a break at this latitude. We had one week — a single week — of glorious, sunny, summertime weather earlier in April, and since then? Cold garbage. Finally my reserve cracked, and I ran some errands, taking the long way there and back. For some reason, I ended up near Camden Street in Detroit, where I shot this photo in October 2008, while escorting a pair of French journalists around town on a two-day pulse-of-America visit:

They wanted to see the famous $1 houses that were flooding the market, a story written by my old colleague Ron French that went all over the world. They were going through one across the street from this one, which was being stripped of its bricks by a couple of raggedy men. Note the professionally wrapped pallet of bricks to the side; someone was making money off this project, probably pretty good money. Old bricks are in demand for new housing. Luxury housing.

In Detroit, wave after wave of foreclosure, much of it due to mortgage fraud, was leaving neighborhoods like this rapidly emptying, and arsonists and scrappers did the rest. America was about to elect its first black president, and the agony of financial-crisis Detroit notwithstanding, optimism was in the air. It was a very strange time.

This was shot with my first iPhone, and thanks to the geotagging, I was able to pinpoint the exact spot it was taken. Which is good, because on Tuesday, there wasn’t much left:

The vacant lot to the left is where the men were working. The house on the right is still standing, but barely. Spindly volunteer trees reach the second story. The porch steps are in pieces. And the $1 house the French guys were so eager to document is gone, too. The whole neighborhood is pretty much toast, but for a few stubborn hangers-on. I went around a couple blocks and found this, too:

Ah, memories.

You know what I remember most from that visit in 2008? The realtor brought along his handyman, the guy who went through these wrecks and decided whether they could be brought back. He looked around and said, “This used to be a neighborhood.” Only a year before, he said, it’d been more or less fully occupied, with poor people to be sure, but they were hanging on. Now it’s urban farmland and construction debris.

For some reason this sent my brain cartwheeling back to the ’90s, working for Knight-Ridder, the newspaper chain. The editors had been tasked by corporate with coming up with a mission statement (yes, really) and a so-called master narrative for each city. We sat in meetings for this project and asked perfectly reasonable questions: “A mission statement? For a newspaper? Isn’t it, ‘cover the news in our city?'” To his credit, the editor running the meeting seemed as baffled as we were. And Fort Wayne’s master narrative, which we were instructed was the overarching story of the city, was only a community-theater version of Detroit’s grand opera: Once-thriving industrial city struggles to find its footing in new economy.

And to think, that was probably some vice president’s quarterly project. And they kept us inside for those meetings, when we could have been outdoors, looking for stories in houses just like that.

That’s really a non sequitur, I know, but like I said: My cabin fever is bad this year.

I guess I should say a few words about Gordon Lightfoot, recently departed. He was part of the aural landscape of my youth, but I paid little attention to lyrics. In recent years, I corrected that. “Sundown” fascinates me as a song about a man who’s thinking of hurting his cheating girlfriend, and still might. The woman in question was, of course, Cathy Smith, the background-singing, drug-dealing bit of bad news who sold John Belushi his fatal speedball. I think lots of men might be tempted to hurt her, but she did the damage herself. (Went to prison, deported to Canada, died a few years back.) As for the song everybody knows, about the ore carrier known around these parts as the Fitz, well, it’s a great song. A friend and I were discussing how often people who have never been to the Great Lakes can’t believe how big they are, once they see them. Imagine being in a ship, 729 feet long, that’s losing the battle with a storm, and not only that, an ice storm, a hurricane of sorts, the lake treating it like a toy. It must have been terrifying, the waves turning the minutes to hours, and all that.

But I snickered when a journalist friend noted on his Facebook today that he once “heard a folksinger at the Old Shillelagh, weary of endless requests, abridge the Lightfoot song as follows: ‘There was a big boat, and it sank.'”

And they’re all still down there in Lake Superior. Which never gives up its dead, but you’ve already heard that, many times. Ah, well: Rest in peace, Gordon. It was a great life you had.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Media | 66 Comments

Bookazines of death.

I hate learning that I am a peddler of conventional wisdom, but apparently I am: I read the long NYT thing on Tucker Carlson and realized my belief that Tucker is on the downslope of his career is just that:

But there’s good reason to believe Mr. Carlson will be the exception that proves the rule. For one thing, unlike previous stars who have left Fox News, Mr. Carlson departed when he was still at the height of his power, making his firing all the more sudden and shocking. Three days before his sacking, he gave the keynote address at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala. Two weeks before that, he browbeat Texas’ Republican governor to issue a pardon to a man who had been convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester in Austin.

More important, at Fox, he exercised power in ways that were new and unique for a cable star. He was a sophisticated political operator as much as he was a talented television host — to an astonishingly unsettling degree, as he continued to thrive while making racist and sexist comments and earning the praise of neo-Nazis. Like Donald Trump — to say nothing of other Republican politicians and conservative media figures — he gave voice to an anger, sense of grievance and conspiratorial mind-set that resonated with many Americans, particularly those on the far right. Unlike Mr. Trump — not to mention his motley crew of cheerleaders and imitators — Mr. Carlson developed and articulated a coherent political ideology that could prove more lasting, and influential, than any cult of personality. Mr. Carlson has left Fox News. But his dark and outsize influence on the conservative movement — and on American politics — is hardly over.

Oh, well. I’ve been wrong before. I hope I’m not, in this case, because I’d really not like to see that guy’s mug anymore. And to think I felt so, so hopeful after the November elections.

Anyway. My friend who worked in publishing gave me a name for those things they sell in the checkout lines of grocery stores, the ones that aren’t magazines, exactly, but not books, either: Bookazines. One-off publications, often under a trusted brand (Cook’s Illustrated has zillions of ‘zines), dedicated to a single topic. I have no idea if Meredith, now known as Dotdash Meredith, published this, but it was on their rack on Saturday:

That guy. Why do they all look like that? For a demographic whose self-image is of rugged individualism, why do they ALL look like that? Shaved head, beard, perma-scowl. Anyway, I snapped a pic and posted it on Twitter, and as sometimes happens, a bell rang in the back of my crowded brain. I got into my picture archives and whaddaya know, March 2020:

Same typeface, same subtitle (“survival guide”), same point of sale: My local Kroger, in a safe suburb. Yes, people died of Covid here, but in far fewer numbers than in our next-door neighbor, poor, black Detroit. And if you feel you need to “prep” here, I offer this advice often offered on the internet: Touch grass. Go outdoors, feel the breeze on your face. Consider that maybe when a ball rolls into your yard, you don’t need to shoot the children who lost control of it.

Man, doesn’t that sound fatuous? Of course you need to shoot those people, just as you need to shoot your neighbors when they object to you firing you AR-15 (!!!) in your yard (!!!!) because you woke their baby:

The attack happened near the town of Cleveland, north of Houston, on a street where some residents say neighbors often unwind by firing off guns.

Goddamn, I’m downgrading Texas from “wouldn’t visit with an engraved invitation” to “don’t even want to fly over in an airplane at 36,000 feet.” The mountains of Afghanistan sound less dangerous.

Moving on, I googled the coronation date for King Charles and came up with a Wikipedia page that is truly a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the event, coming this Saturday, the 6th. The coronation episode of “The Crown” is my favorite of favorites — when all the crowned heads put on their coronets! the bitterness of the abdicated ex-king! — and while I don’t expect to be glued to whatever screen carries Charles’, I will likely watch the highlight reel. The wiki, no doubt curated by an army of regal-philes, has deets galore:

Due to Elizabeth’s advanced age, Charles’s coronation has been planned for years, under the code name Operation Golden Orb.

…Charles will be attended by four pages of honour. They are Prince George of Wales, Lord Oliver Cholmondeley (son of the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley), Nicholas Barclay (grandson of Sarah Troughton), and Ralph Tollemache (son of the Hon. Edward Tollemache). Camilla will also be attended by four pages of honour.

(I chuckled over that one, only because I chuckle every time I see “Cholmondeley” spelled out. It’s pronounced “chumley.”)

Of course, Camilla will get her due, as well:

The Queen will be anointed without a screen or canopy and then presented with the Queen Consort’s Ring. She will then be crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury using Queen Mary’s Crown. The crown was removed from display at the Tower of London for modification work in February 2023. The crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds and four of its detachable arches will be removed. It will be the first time a queen is crowned using another consort’s crown since 1727, when Caroline of Ansbach used the Crown of Mary of Modena. The decision not to use the Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother avoids a potential diplomatic dispute with Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, which have all made claims of ownership of the Koh-i-Noor diamond in the past. This will be the first coronation of a consort since that of Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) in 1937. Camilla will be handed the Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross and the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove, before walking over to her own throne beside the King, where she will sit.

OMG I can only imagine the Cult of Diana will seethe over this one! It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait.

Hope I live that long! Better get my Prepper Survival Guide to help in case there’s a zombie apocalypse before then.

OK, then, the world await us, but likely not until tomorrow. Have a great week, all.

Posted at 11:17 am in Current events, Media | 69 Comments

All about Eve Tucker.

The more we learn about Tucker Carlson, the more astonishing it is that he lasted five months at Fox, let alone however long it was. Once those texts were subpoenaed, it was all over. He called a top executive a cunt in one of them.

Also, this unpaywalled column by Jack Shafer at Politico gets it right, I think. Even superstars at Fox are just like those Fisher-Price people who can be plugged into, and pulled out of, holes in a child’s toy:

Roger Ailes, the original architect of Fox, who founded the network in 1996 with Murdoch, explained its show-making philosophy to Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard in 2017. The subject was the early evening news-talk program, The Five, which in recent months has outperformed even Carlson’s show. Ailes explained how he filled the slot vacated by solo artist Beck with an ensemble of pundits — building a sort of Archies talk show for the Fox audience. The Five would be performed by five commentators at 5 p.m. Get it?

“Go around the table,” Ailes told Ferguson. “Over on this end, we’ve got the bombshell in a skirt, drop-dead gorgeous. … But smart! She’s got to be smart, or it doesn’t work.” Next, he said, “We have a gruff longshoreman type, salty but not too salty for TV. In the middle there’s the handsome matinee idol. Next to him we have the Salvation Army girl, cute and innocent —but you get the idea she might be a lotta fun after a few pops. On the end, we need a wiseguy, the cut-up.”

When Ailes finally cast the show with his types, Ferguson writes, he summoned them to his office and had them stand in a semi-circle around his desk to explain why he was calling the show The Five. “‘I’m calling it The Five because you are types, not people. You all are about to become very famous, and you’re going to make a lotta money. A lotta money. But don’t ever forget. Right behind you I’ve got somebody exactly like you ready to take your place. So don’t fuck up.”

Tucker Carlson got too big for his britches, and by the time he started talking like an evangelist, even Rupert Murdoch knew he was living on borrowed time. By the time the texts dropped and the Dominion business reached a crescendo, he had a target on his back. This is an old story. Bette Davis made a movie about it.

Ultimately, though, I want to not think of Tucker Carlson after this week. It’s almost fly-fishing season in Maine; let him go get his lines wet and wonder if people will remember who he is when his non-compete expires.

Kate came over last night for her fortnightly laundry date and told some hilarious work stories I wish I could relate here, but they’d probably get her fired. She makes part of her living doing live sound engineering at a number of venues, and had a memorable gig recently. That’s all I can say, other than that I’m still chuckling.

I’m writing this in between gigs, so to speak, myself. Have an interview scheduled in about 20 minutes.

Would you like to se some real bullshit? How about this, Floridians?

A pair of bills making their way through the Florida Legislature could fuel a deluge of property sales and demolitions of historic properties in coastal cities, including Miami Beach and Palm Beach.

If the bills become law, Florida Senate Bill 1356 and House Bill 1317 would strip local municipalities of their authority to determine if certain structures can be demolished, and what could be built in their place.

…The proposed legislation would be a boon for developers.

It would allow owners and developers to demolish “non-conforming” properties within a half mile of the coast and within specific flood zones — regardless of whether the buildings are in a historic district. Non-conforming buildings are any that do not meet new construction requirements under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Sure, those Art Deco hotels in Miami Beach are pretty, but they’re so …short. We need to clear them out and make room for some more glass high-rises. As for Key West, I shudder to think.

Fucking Florida. It’s not going to be worth a fiddler’s damn once DeSantis and crew are done with it.

OK, nearly time for my phone chat. It’s Wednesday, and after it’s over, we’ll be on the downslope of the week.

Posted at 11:27 am in Current events, Media | 27 Comments

Five million dollars.

I’ve read several pieces in recent years about how LinkedIn has gone all soft, with people posting about their emotions ‘n’ stuff, but honestly, I haven’t seen it. LinkedIn was the first social network I joined and the first one I quit, because as far as I could tell, it was utterly useless.

Then I got fired and started looking for work, and the first thing I learned was, if you’re looking for a job in any field other than journalism, it’s essential to have a LinkedIn profile. I’d had dozens of contacts, even some nice endorsements, on my first one. Which I’d nuked. Ah well. I started a new one, and have studiously ignored it ever since.

But I finally read something there that made it seem worth having one: This account by a cybersecurity expert on going to Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium” in 2021. Lindell offered a $5 million prize to anyone who could prove his “evidence” of election fraud in 2020 incorrect, and this guy, Bob Zeidman, a Trump voter, thinks he did.

Lindell, of course, refused to pay him. He took it to private arbitration and won. Maybe you read about it.

Anyway, Zeidman writes serviceably well for a civilian, although I doubt he was going for chuckles in some passages, like this one:

I was a little surprised when Lindell called up a minister for an opening prayer that referred to Jesus multiple times. As a Jew, I was a bit uncomfortable, but more comfortable when the entire crowd rose to proudly and loudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem.

But there were laffs galore coming:

We asked to see the “proof of fraud” that had been promised to us, and were pointed to 5 files on the network. We had been told that these files showed data flowing from China and other places over the Internet to the voting machines on the day of the election. We each downloaded them, one of which was over 22 Gbytes, but found that they contained no recognizable data in any known data format. We were stumped.

At some point, I performed a simple transformation of the files and found something surprising. I quietly packed up my things, said goodbye to my fellow experts, went back to my hotel room, and called my wife. “I have some good news,” I whispered to her on the phone. “All I want to say is that you should start thinking about how you want to spend five million dollars.” The transformations I had performed showed that these files were actually simple Microsoft Word documents containing numbers and gibberish. There was no way for this to be network data or any data related to the election.

You can figure out the rest: The entire “symposium” was a shitshow, much to the disappointment of Zeidman, $5 million notwithstanding. But this graf kinda pierced me:

But the most disappointing result is that this symposium will sow even more doubt among the undecided and give more ammunition to those who hate Trump and despise Republicans and who have no desire to reform or safeguard the voting system in America.

He’s right about ammo for the Trump-haters, but maybe because his brain is so full of code and computer knowledge, he can’t see the forest for the trees: We don’t need to “reform or safeguard” voting in America because it already works pretty well. The fact it’s so atomized, covering the nation with thousands and thousands of precincts, each with their own way of doing things, does wonders for protecting it from widespread fraud. Yes, you’ll always have some isolated cases, onesies and twosies here and there, but large-scale fraud, enough to swing a significant election, is just too hard to pull off (Chicago in 1960 notwithstanding).

That’s not to say an election can’t be influenced by bad actors. Russia most surely did interfere in 2016, but as a wise man said, they didn’t hack the election, they hacked the electorate, with the help of scoundrels like Paul Manafort, et al.

So while it’s amusing to imagine Mike Lindell having to pay this nerd $5 million — and I devoutly hope he does — it’s important not to draw the wrong conclusions from his silly symposium.

In more comic news, this week the Michigan state senate voted on repealing a law that makes it a crime for adult couples to live together without being married. You can have a roommate, but no shack-up, as we used to call these relationships. Speaking against its repeal was a U.P. Republican who previously distinguished himself by chairing the committee that looked into the 2020 election and concluded no fraud occurred. He was called the usual names by his fellow party members, but held his ground, and maybe he felt he had to get a little of his own back:

Two GOP lawmakers who voted against the proposed repeal argued that keeping the law on the books would encourage marriage and strengthen families. Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said the reasons for the longstanding policy “are clearly not obsolete.”

A law that virtually no one even knew existed had to be kept in place, to encourage good morals.

Another weird thing that virtually no one knows: Ed McBroom and his brother ran a dairy farm together, until the brother was killed in a traffic accident in 2018. The McBroom brothers were married to a pair of sisters, and all four of them were/are the parents of 13 children. After his brother’s death, they took the widow and her flock under their wing. And they all live — I doubt under one roof — on the farm together. What would the law make of that? Hmm. Lotsa farm hands, anyway.

OK, then. The weekend is threatening to kick off one of these days, and I might need to pour a gin and tonic to welcome it. Have a good one.

Posted at 4:36 pm in Current events | 63 Comments

No parks for you.

I was reading this column in the Sunday paper — in an oddity of the joint operating agreement here, the Freep produces nearly all of the Sunday paper, except for one page, which is the News’ editorial page — and it’s paywalled, so sorry. But it’s so strange. Headline: Finley: Biden loots treasury for parks and trails

Finley is Nolan Finley, the News’ long-serving (as in, he’s spent his entire career there, nestling in the bosom of long-term job security, union protection and a salary that is no doubt a soft, soft featherbed) editorial-page editor. He’s local journalism’s Most Respected Conservative, which means he generally has a few more brain cells to rub together than the talk-radio clowns, and gets tapped to moderate panels at conferences, stuff like that. He’s been a pretty consistent Never Trumper, so he has that going for him, but then, every so often, he craps out something like this:

Joe Biden threw a brick through the window of the U.S. Treasury, and states and cities across the country followed him inside to cart off parks, libraries, gleaming new civic buildings and shopping baskets full of other stuff their own budgets could have never paid for.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act has created a fantasy land where local politicians can spend as much as they want on whatever they want without having to worry about waking up with a fiscal hangover.

…Canton Township is getting the downtown the suburb has always wanted. The Joe Louis Greenway is getting a leap ahead on building out 27.5 miles of trails. Taylor is getting an action park. Wyandotte is getting an upgraded post office. Melvindale is getting a boat launch and Trenton is getting rid of an old hospital. A dozen more place-making projects will sprout throughout the county.

This is, I expect, a continuation of what we talked about a few days back, more evidence that Biden is no longer trusting block grants in the hands of red-state governors and is instead writing checks directly to municipalities. To which any reasonable person who isn’t a multimillionaire might say: So? What’s the problem? Better a greenway than another tax break to buy more Porterhouses at their private clubs. The problem, Finley says, is?

And what do taxpayers get? The worst inflation in 40 years, and interest rates hikes that have been slow in turning it around largely because the furious federal spending continues.

Then there’s some blah-blah about the national debt, which is never blah-blah’ed when we’re doling out something the right wants, particularly the aforementioned tax cuts.

I no longer try to understand people like this, but I never stop wondering at the meanness required to complain about public money going to public amenities like parks and improved town squares.

But that’s just me.

OK, then! The week ahead: Fox News goes on trial, and who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky and a new park will fall in our laps.

Posted at 8:14 pm in Current events | 40 Comments