Bad people.

For the years I lived in Fort Wayne, the abortion clinic was across the street from the library. They only did procedures one day a week, and every week, the anti faction would come down and picket them, in a variety of ways.

Operation Rescue had their moment, when some dipshit preacher was leading the flock. I watched a woman come thisclose to having her hand crushed by a police horse at one of their demonstrations. Later, they settled for the usual posters and “counseling” as women approached the clinic. Thursday was procedure day, and I often had Kate with me when I visited for story time or just another couple of hours whiled away with her. She liked the puzzles and the board books and other amenities of the library, including the big globe.

I disliked leaving with her in the car seat, while these people waved bloody pictures at passing motorists. I always pointed to something of interest on the other side of the street until we were past.

Seriously, is anyone’s mind changed by these tactics? It’s intellectual trench warfare at best, cruel harassment at worst.

Recently this woman, a state senator from the other side of the state, piped up:

Tuesday, when the proposed (later-term abortion) ban finally came to a vote, LaSata’s impatience with all those godless medical experts finally got the better of her.

“Of course it should be hard!” the senator from St. Joseph exclaimed. “And the procedure should be painful! And you should allow God to take over!! And you should deliver that baby!”

…LaSata told colleagues she had delivered a stillborn baby after her own D&E procedure went awry. LaSata cited her traumatic experience as evidence “of God looking out for me,” and suggested that all women carrying medically unviable fetuses would be better off delivering their babies.

A real mind-changer, that one. I still put the over/under on POTUS’ financed abortions at five, and I’ll take the over. We know he enjoys unprotected sex with women he associates with sex — porn actors, Playmates — and there is zero doubt in my mind that he’s paid for more than a few, necessitated by his own behavior.

Of course, the abortion bills all were rammed through last week, and now we’ve moved on to a new outrage, so it all seems so, so far away. Ben Carson’s Oreo thing, another White House tantrum, whatever else happens by noon tomorrow. I notice that when Carson needed to explain not knowing what an REO is, he went on Fox Business. As insane as Fox Original Recipe is, Fox Business is 10 times crazier. Oh, and if you were wondering? He was having trouble hearing.

I see.

We’re approaching payoff on our house — down to a moderately priced Cadillac — and if all goes well (a huge if) we should be slide into retirement with that off our plates. Thank God, as the world migrates to the world’s cities. (And our cities in the Midwest? We have WATER.) This was an interesting piece on what’s become of San Francisco:

For decades, this coruscating city of hills, bordered by water on three sides, was a beloved haven for reinvention, a refuge for immigrants, bohemians, artists and outcasts. It was the great American romantic city, the Paris of the West.

No longer. In a time of scarce consensus, everyone agrees that something has rotted in San Francisco.

Conservatives have long loathed it as the axis of liberal politics and political correctness, but now progressives are carping, too. They mourn it for what has been lost, a city that long welcomed everyone and has been altered by an earthquake of wealth. It is a place that people disparage constantly, especially residents.

Real estate is the nation’s costliest. Listings read like typos, a median $1.6 million for a single-family home and $3,700 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment.

Kate applied for a job in San Francisco, which she didn’t get. The top of the salary range was $65,000. “I’ll be so rich,” she said. Um, no. You’ll be commuting an hour on the BART, or living in an apartment with three other people.

This piece was interesting, too, although I think the headline was bullshit: America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals. California may be a case apart, but this is undeniably true:

There are many threads in the story of America’s increasingly unlivable cities. One continuing tragedy is the decimation of local media and the rise of nationalized politics in its place. In America the “local” problems plaguing cities are systematically sidelined by the structure of the national media and government, in which the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court are all constitutionally tilted in favor of places where no one lives. (There are more than twice as many people in my midsize suburban county, Santa Clara, as there are in the entire state of North Dakota, with its two United States senators.)

That’s why, aside from Elizabeth Warren — who has a plan for housing, as she has a plan for everything — Democrats on the 2020 presidential trail rarely mention their ideas for housing affordability, an issue eating American cities alive. I watched Joe Biden’s campaign kick off the other day; the only house he mentioned was the White House.

Anyway, stuff to think about as we head into a holiday weekend. Hope to be back before it commences.

Posted at 9:22 pm in Current events | 61 Comments
 

Dumb guys.

Monday and Tuesday have fulfilled their early promise of being insanely busy, but now, we may be entering a bit of a glide pattern, which is to say, there’s nothing on the calendar, but I just remembered I have a Game of Thrones dinner party to host over the weekend.

Eh, not to worry — good friends, and just two of them. It’s the dragon-egg cake that I’m worried about pulling off.

Kidding.

I don’t know what else to do when state legislatures, including my own, are falling over themselves to craft the most draconian anti-abortion legislation, in hopes of getting to be the first through the door of the Supreme Court. Might as well think of baking.

One of my colleagues said the speaker of the Florida House referred to women as “the host body” several times on the floor, while professing his — you knew it was a man, right? — devotion to protecting the contents of that body, or at least what’s in her uterus. Not that he could find it with a headlamp and a Gray’s Anatomy:

This is centuries’ worth of an attitude that, though conception might be a biological miracle, it’s also a gross one, filled with pudge and sludge that — la la la la la! — decent people are allowed to run screaming from. Plenty of folks are willing to treat fetuses as precious citizens, but seem to regard the bodies that nurture them as embarrassing slums. At a party, I once saw a new father proudly call his new kid a “princess” and his wife a “champ,” but then showily cover his ears when the wife mentioned the word “placenta.” As if the placenta wasn’t precisely what had allowed Princess to thrive.

…If you view postpartum women as “fat,” then you might be inclined to see women as slightly less disciplined. If you don’t know what a placenta does, you might start to think your wife’s body is just gross.

Uh-huh. I can’t believe some of these bumpkins are writing legislation — sponsoring it anyway; I’m sure it’s written by lobbyists for the anti-abortion cartel — about women’s bodies.

So here, if you want to feel sad, at least feel sad about something beautiful — this lovely essay about the death of a beloved horse:

If there is such a thing in the world as a good death, Roany had one. It was almost as if he had heard Mike’s offer, looked at his watch, and said, Alright then, Wednesday, and how about in that stand of spruce on the other side of the hill? What I’ve always said about Roany is that he was a horse who never wanted to cause anybody trouble, and he remained that horse till the last second of his life and beyond.

Late that night, I watched the Perseids burn past my bedroom window, and imagined my old Roany up there, muscles ­restored to their prime and shining, burgundy coat alongside the white of Pegasus, both of them with their heads held high, and galloping.

With many apologies to our own Charlotte, who lives and writes there, some of these latter-day Western writers can bore me. It’s almost a formula: Some very specific observances of the natural world (a Western tanager alighted near my face, then flew off into the scrub pine, etc.), perhaps mixed in with some oblique references to personal heartbreak (the day we lost the baby, a blue norther roared down from Canada), mix, remix and go fishing. But this one is just right, Perseids and all.

Here’s something I wrote, free of Western tanagers, but there are Canada geese and a blue heron: Trash fishing in a zombie hellscape.

And that’s about it for me today. I’m so tired. Happy hump day.

Posted at 9:35 pm in Current events | 82 Comments
 

Mother’s Day. Whatever.

It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m coasting into the homestretch. I had a good one, which consisted of Kate making me breakfast — coffeecake and fruit salad — and the three of us sharing a bottle of champagne. She went off to band practice, I read for a couple hours, finished the laundry and that was that.

This to me is how a holiday like this should be observed. Apparently I am wrong.

My social-media feeds are clogged with what I think of as performative Facebooking (or Tweeting, Instagramming or whatever). Performative Facebooking is when one uses a social-media platform to produce a picture of one’s life that underlines how cool one is, how accomplished, how lovely/handsome one’s spouse and family is, how much fun you have, every day, all the time. Your Halloween costumes are the most creative, your holiday decorating the most merry, and you have nothing but a good time, all day every day. Time to work out! Time to watch a soccer game! Sunday Funday! And so on.

Behind that wave comes the won’t-somebody-think-of-the-less-fortunate posters. Before you post that picture of you and your children, think of the people who struggle with infertility. Or whose mothers are gone. Or who are estranged. Or whatever.

And then it’s over, and we all wait for Memorial Day. Thank you for your service. Honoring the dead who gave their lives so that we might be free. And so on.

How was everyone’s weekend? I worked for about half of it, which wasn’t so bad, as it was mainly outside, plus writing, which I don’t mind. Watched “Chernobyl,” the new HBO miniseries, which was horrifying. Saw my baby girl before she heads out on tour for a week with her band and new college degree. And that’s about it.

And I don’t think I have much too blog. Here’s something I wrote Friday, after going to a birthday party for the IRS. It was more interesting than I thought it would be.

I’m sure the president did something horrifying over the weekend, but I tried to stay away from the news, for the most part. Oh, wait, except for this one:

President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.

The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

I think we need to emigrate. All of us.

In the meantime, enjoy the week ahead.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

Post-its.

Woo, it’s been a minute, I guess? One day it’s Sunday, and you blog at your leisure because you’re lining up your ducks and packing your workout bags for the week ahead and all that, and the starter’s pistol goes off and the next thing you know? Thursday evening.

Right now I’m feeling like downloading all the post-it notes in my brain, so here goes:

** I no longer watch “Jeopardy!” but will start again once this James Holzhauer guy goes back to Vegas. He’s taken all the fun out of the game, at least for me, so someone let me know when he flames out. I hope Alex Trebek outlasts him, and I’m not entirely sure he will.

** I was listening to a radio show the other day that featured a state legislator, and he lied his lying ass off. Then I listened to an NPR chat show about the Georgia abortion legislation, and the right-to-lifer lied his lying ass off. I am very very tired of being lied to, and I’m very very weary of polite radio hosts who either aren’t prepared enough to say, “Buddy? You are a lying liar,” or simply won’t do it because that would be rude, or something. We need to have the entire BBC over here to do some in-service work here for their colleagues on this side of the pond. Because those folks know how to call a lying liar what he is.

** To those who wondered, in the previous post comments, why anti-abortion groups make endorsements for offices that have nothing to do with abortion, here’s why: They are playing a long game, and they want to know who their friends are before they need them. City council members may have zero impact on abortion policy, but city council members are ambitious, and may run for the state legislature when they’re ready to move on. If dogcatcher were an elected position, the local right-to-life group would send all the candidates a questionnaire about their beliefs regarding the sanctity of human life in utero. The infamously disorganized Democratic party could learn a thing or two. And I wish they would, instead of digging up old columns written for college newspapers by 19-year-olds to scour them for ideological purity. Meanwhile, these bills that are under consideration in Alabama and Georgia are horrifying. How many abortions do you think the president has paid for in his life? I’ll put the over/under at…five. And take the over.

** To you “Game of Thrones” book readers, I say this: I don’t care if the latter seasons of the show are disappointing you. The books disappointed me, and I quit midway through the third one. The series was a victim of Harry Potter Syndrome; after a taut beginning, the later volumes started to sprawl all over the place, and were terribly overwritten. But they were successful — they were a cult — and all the publisher wanted was MORE. So honestly, I welcomed the TV show, with all those subplots dropped or trimmed. Admittedly, this last-episodes wrap-up is kind of a mess, but blame your guru, Mr. G.R.R. Martin, who presumably had something to say about it. Tying up this saga is no small feat. Once it’s done, I’ll happily move on to other things.

** I count 10 eggs on this guy’s plate, and we can’t even see the entire plate. WTF, is this the Cool Hand Luke breakfast special?

** I’m going to recertify as a lifeguard this summer, because who knows when that will be my only job possibility? In the meantime, everyone should read this: Drowning doesn’t look like drowning.

Now I have to get ready to go out for a bit, so I say to you, my friends? Adieu. Good weekend to all.

Posted at 7:30 pm in Current events | 21 Comments
 

Circles.

One of the baby gifts we received when Kate was born was a pair of infant-size slippers, kind of like those puffy down-filled ones L.L. Bean sells. She was born in the fall and didn’t walk until the following summer, and I wasn’t much for shoes in those early months, but they were cute and their oversized puffiness looked silly on her wee feet, so we put them on her sometimes on chilly days.

Also, they were pink.

So in those early months, during those long stretches where you basically just sit around holding your baby, we would sometimes sing The Big Pink Shoe song to her, which as I recall, was to the tune of “Tequila” and owed a lot to Peewee Herman. I’m doing my big pink shoe dance / I’m wearing my big pink shoes / My shoes are biiiiig and pink, yeah / And I got my big pink shoes on, yeah!

(Our skill with lyrics was also seen in the Poopy Diaper song, which was mine alone.)

Anyway, in recent years I keep noticing patterns as Kate ticks off her milestones. For instance: I went to see the Rolling Stones in Cleveland Stadium the summer after my high-school graduation, and she went to see the Rolling Stones in Comerica Park the summer after her high-school graduation, made all the more remarkable by the fact we graduated exactly 40 years apart.

Anyway, this happened on Friday. Note the shoes. (Doc Martens.)

I guess the next step in these closing-circle patterns is for me to die or something, but I hope to hold that off for a while.

It was a nice ceremony. The university, like many, divides the transition into two parts — a smaller one for the school or college or major (where you get to hear your name read aloud), followed by a larger one for the whole class (where you don’t). Friday was for the School of Music, Theater and Dance, so it featured music and dance, and the performances were very theatrical – one was a piece for two electric bassoons, and it was extremely so. Christine Lahti was the main speaker, and she worked blue, in that she described a job she was offered where “all I had to do was fuck the two directors,” followed by another story of being so depressed by it that she pulled herself out by vowing to “prove every one of those motherfuckers wrong.” Some of the parents seemed a little taken aback, but their graduates were probably the ones who studied violin, which doesn’t include swearing, except in practice that doesn’t go well, and maybe not even then.

The ceremony was so nice that we skipped the Big House the next day, allowing Kate to keep her four-year streak of never setting foot in the country’s largest football stadium intact. Actually, I think she did end up going, so as to celebrate with her housemates were were graduating in other majors. But we had complications, and didn’t. That was fine. It was overcast and cold.

On Saturday, I watched the Kentucky Derby. It was a great race, made more so by Maximum Security’s thrilling stretch run, where after leading from the start, he was seriously challenged and then found another gear, pulling away to win by one and half lengths. That sort of heart isn’t in every horse, especially on a sloppy track. To see his rider giving his post-race horseback interview in clean silks (everyone who ran behind him was streaked with mud) was remarkable.

And we all know what happened next. And I suppose that by now we all know this happened after that:

It was a disappointment, for sure, and I’m not at all satisfied that the best horse won, but in my humility, I trust that race stewards and those who enforce the rules know what they’re doing. There were 19 horses in that race, a huge field. I had no idea it had anything to do with political correctness. But what do I know? Less than the race steward-in-chief, evidently.

I hate what this country has become. After the 2016 election, a philosophical friend of mine said he was choosing not to be (too) alarmed. The United States, he said, was like an aircraft carrier, which needs miles of ocean to execute a change in direction, and there were so many things that would be even harder to change — the federal bureaucracy, for one. Congress would play its part as a check and balance. We’ll look back on this era and wince, but little real damage would be done.

It helped a little. I thought he might be right. I don’t think that anymore. I think we’re in very big trouble.

But this is a joyful weekend, the sun is shining, and I plan to enjoy what’s left of it. Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 126 Comments
 

Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.

Tuesday can eat a dick. It was one of those days. But here I am, so let’s hope for better things today.

And once again, the world has rushed ahead of my capacity to think of anything to say about it. Shall we go to the links? No, one story:

We’ve been having some issues with our basement. Nothing terrible, no flooding, but seepage and some cracks that indicate it could get worse if we don’t do something about it. So a parade of professionals have been trooping through, delivering estimates. They range from $900 to $10,000, to give you an idea of how fucked-up basement work is.

Anyway, the other day one rang the doorbell. He was 20 minutes early, and Alan — whose responsibility this is — was still selecting which underwear to put on for the day, so I went down and let him in. Opened the door expecting the usual basement-company rep, which is to say, a youngish man with a logo’d polo shirt, chinos and a clipboard, maybe in one of those cases with an iPad.

This man was far older. Coal-black suit that had seen better days, and coal-black hair, ditto. The hair did not match the face, which is to say, not a thread of gray anywhere. Ronald Reagan hair.

But he was very nice, introduced himself, and I let him in, introduced him to Wendy and showed him to a seat in the living room. Went back upstairs and informed Alan that Sheldon Adelson was downstairs waiting for him.

As it turned out, he had an explanation for his startling appearance. He’s a Johnny Cash cover singer. His most recent gig was in Port Huron, and “they paid me handsomely.” He sings ’60s/’70s-era Johnny, and doesn’t care for the Rick Rubin era, although he was impressed that Alan knew about it. He left us with an estimate and his CD. We listened that night; he’s not bad at all, although we cracked up when the third track opened with, “This song is dedicated to” and the name of the basement company, which I won’t name because Google.

This town. It still cracks me up.

So! To the bloggage!

Years ago, when I lived in Fort Wayne, I met the author of this column. He was a friend of a friend, and a very nice guy. He had recently married, and his wife was sweet, notable for her amazing ginger-redhead coloring — a true coppery red and that pre-Raphaelite-angel skin that looks almost translucent. They had a baby named Henry. I saw Larry once in a while, at parties our mutual friend would throw, and at one of these events I found him sitting alone and struck up a conversation. “Where’s your wife?” I asked.

“She died,” he replied. Hoo-boy, that’s something you don’t want to hear. Later, I heard the story of what happened, which is detailed in the column. It’s a terrible story, but I think he came away with the right lesson. He doesn’t name the disease, but I heard it was malignant melanoma (that skin, so unsuited for the sun). One of the worst cancers you can get.

Anyway, he went on to become a champ single dad, adopting several more kids and appearing on “Oprah,” where his widowerhood was mentioned, but not the story behind it.

Paul Krugman gets to the heart of something that’s always been in the back of my mind, but never really moved to the front. After opening with an anecdote about Stephen Moore, the president’s nominee for the Fed board, shit-talking the Midwest, he notes:

This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. Even liberals themselves often buy into these claims, berate themselves for having been condescending and pledge to do better.

But what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.

Conservative contempt, by contrast, is real. Moore’s “armpit” line evidently didn’t shock his audience, probably because disparaging views about middle America are widespread among right-wing intellectuals and, more discreetly, right-wing politicians.

Mm-hmm, that’s right.

Finally, want to buy Patti Smith’s former house in St. Clair Shores? It’s quite something, and I totally would if I had the dough. (I do not have the dough.) Her son is the Realtor, which is amusing.

Let’s hope Wednesday fails to suck. On with it.

Posted at 8:24 am in Current events, Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

Out and about.

Thursday night I was invited to sit on a panel at a local bar/restaurant, an event sponsored by the local public-radio station, ostensibly to ask the grassroots what they were thinking about ahead of the Mackinac Policy Conference next month. I know the other panelists and the radio people, so it was a good time. Here we were; pic by my Deadline Detroit editor, who attended:

With any public radio-summoned audience, I always expect a higher level of discussion than you’d get from, say, mall walkers, but you still get the full spectrum of humanity, if you know what I mean. The No. 1 issue we discussed was road funding; Michigan’s have been neglected for years, and are at a crisis stage. This means a big tax to raise the $2 billion a year they will require for the foreseeable future, and the governor has proposed a 45-cent-per-gallon levy. That’s a hard swallow even for people who believe in it, and for Republicans? Of course it’s a non-starter in the legislature. We took a show-of-hands poll and found most in favor, with a few opposed.

“The governor has said that if you oppose this, you need to state what your solution would be, so would anyone like to offer one?” I asked, calling on one of the raised hands.

“The roads aren’t that bad,” he said, to guffaws from the room. Then he explained that the problem was people not calling the state highway authorities when they came across a bad patch, and anyway, he mostly drives on I-696, recently resurfaced, so he doesn’t see a need to pay so much for all the other roads awaiting action.

And if that isn’t the truest distillation of a certain kind of voter, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, and in line with the last thread’s comments, I was approached afterward by a woman with hollowed-out, imploring eyes. She kinda looked like Andrea Riseborough in this role (“Nancy,” in a film of the same name, weirdly enough), only with more hollowing and more imploring:

Her voice was low, but I picked out “greatest threat to health in our lifetimes” and a few other phrases. Thankfully, she just wanted a few seconds of time; the handout she pressed into mine would explain.

It was all about the radiation dangers of 5G internet.

So y’know, this stuff is going around. Put a pin in that, and then consider this:

We’re hearing a lot about civility these days, here and in Michigan, but my line is drawn: If this is the sort of rhetoric you support and cheer, I’m not going to be civil to you. And there are a lot of people who do, so where are we?

I fear there will have to be a 9/11-scale event to shake all this bullshit out of our skulls. I also fear it’s way too late for that. Although some people keep trying, like this lady; I encourage you to go over to Twitter and read the whole thread:

Oh, well. At least the NRA is suffering some public embarrassment. It’s the little things.

And now it’s a chilly but sunny day. I was going to lift some weights but instead I think I’m gonna put Wendy in the car and head over to Belle Isle for a walk along the river. Hope all have a good week ahead.

Posted at 12:00 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Fewer followers.

Hey. So how’s your week going? Mine’s OK, the usual roller coaster of I-don’t-have-time-for-this and Oops-forgot-I-have-to-do-that, but I’m maintaining. The incredibly detailed to-do list is working, for now. But messy.

So let’s just hop bunny-quick to the news. What is today’s outrage?

The president is mad at Twitter, yawn. Barack Obama has 106 million followers, Trump not quite 60 million. I’m sure that has nothing to do with his displeasure. Anyway, in a meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey yesterday:

A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private. Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.

But Twitter long has explained that follower figures fluctuate as the company takes action to remove fraudulent spam accounts. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting even he had lost followers as part of Twitter’s work to enforce its policies, according to the source, who described the meeting as cordial.

Looks like Dorsey took off the stupid hat he wears in recent pictures, but did not put on a tie:

Well, I wouldn’t, either.

One of my favorite spots in Eastern Market is closing, because the area is changing quickly, and the new landlord appears to want more money from the deli than they’re willing to pay. The dispute is officially over a $50,000 floor repair; the landlord has spent $20 million buying buildings over the last couple of years, but is balking at a $50,000 repair on one of the market’s best-loved businesses. Anyway, I wrote a thing about it. Maybe you’d like to read it.

Finally, a story this weird could only come out of anti-vax land, or whatever you call it. Goopville, maybe:

This world is full of surprises, some of them involving anti-vaccine activists, sedated bears, and the small-scale production of literal fake news. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was working on a quick, weird story about an anti-vaccine activist in Florida who was attempting to hold a rally in her hometown featuring a drugged bear. As it turns out, that’s not the story at all. Here, instead, is a story about someone who worked extremely hard to generate a news cycle involving a rally that they clearly have no intention of ever holding and a real activist who had no idea her name was being used. The bear also seems to be fake, and—despite my initial, hopeful understanding of the situation—is not named Ron.

Anyway, it’s funny. Me, I gotta run. Ciao!

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Media | 63 Comments
 

Inferno.

I guess the talk today was about Notre Dame, about which I have this to say: Very sad news. I really don’t know what else to add, but maybe this: What sort of people look at an event like this an immediately try to warp it into their paranoid world view, in which the Mooslims are responsible? I mean, have they ever read the police and fire briefs in their local paper? “Firefighters believe the blaze began in the roof space, likely started by a spark from a worker’s blowtorch” — that’s a sentence I have read approximately nine million times. As Neil Steinberg noted today: The roofers did it. The roofers always did it. Writing about another church fire, years ago in Chicago, he notes:

It’s ALWAYS the roofers. Do you realize how many public buildings burn during roof work? Two years ago, the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton caught fire. In 2002, we almost lost another Louis Sullivan building, the magnificent Carson, Pirie Scott Building downtown, when roofers set the place on fire, and exploding propane tanks sent burning debris showering onto State Street. In 1999, it was another black church, St. Stephen AME Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in the city, that was burned, destroying the roof and charring the walls. I’m telling you, roofers are worse than the Klan.

OK, that’s a bit extreme. It isn’t always the roofers. Countless roofers are reading this now, with their coffee and doughnuts, waiting for the supervisor to show up, and if there were ever a group that could tar and feather a guy, it’s roofers. So we should recognize that other trades also torch the places they’re supposed to be fixing. In 1998, the 120-year-old Barrington United Methodist Church burned to the ground when workers repairing a window burned a hole through the wall. Old churches are generally tinderboxes that could be set on fire with an ice cube.

That said, roofing is a particularly nasty, smelly, extra-dangerous business involving open flames and hot tar, which burns like napalm.

Fires are scarce these days, relatively speaking; you can credit GFCI plugs and outlets, as well as smoke detectors. Where I live, we don’t have full-time firefighters. We have “triple-trained” “public safety” officers, i.e. cops with firefighting gear in the trunk. They handle EMS, too. We have the trucks and all, and a staffing system so the garage is covered and they’re ready to roll, but fire is, blessedly, less of a concern than it once was. But Steinberg is right — old churches, and lots of old buildings, are just waiting to erupt into flames. Add cutting torches, and it’s only a matter of time.

You just hope it never happens at a place like the Notre Dame cathedral. And then it does. And you watch these crabbed, broken, twisted, awful people try to fundraise off it. Not to rebuild the church, but to stoke the fires of paranoia. It’s so repellant. If I ever have to peddle fear to make a living, just shoot me in the head.

And in just about 24 hours, I don’t want to hear any more about fires. Especially Notre Dame. I’ve looked at all your vacation photos on social media. I’m full.

Someone asked why Michigan has the highest auto-insurance rates in the nation. A few mentioned no-fault, but that’s not it. No-fault insurance is like no-fault divorce: Better. Instead of “you got hit, let’s figure out who’s at fault and recover from him/her,” it’s “you got hit, let’s fix it.” Michigan does have an unusual wild card — our catastrophic-care law, which decrees that if you are injured in a motor-vehicle collision, you can get the care you need, with no cap. A good thing! But under the law, health-care providers can charge whatever they like for that care, and the catastrophic-care fund must pay. There’s no negotiation, no agreed-upon prices. So an MRI related to an auto accident may well be billed at three times what it would be in a hospital. It’s lunacy.

So it’s not the service that’s provided, but the way it’s provided, that causes the problem. It wasn’t implemented well, and it’s quite difficult to change.

I think of cases like this when I read about all the vital functions of government that conservatives want to delegate “to the states.” Clarence Thomas wrote in one recent opinion that the states could figure out their own libel laws. Um, have you ever been to a state, Clarence Thomas? Visited the legislature? You might be surprised.

Let’s just call this Mueller Report II Eve and be done with it. It’s going on Wednesday. Hump Day, and I’m going to bed.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Current events | 89 Comments
 

Paint by numbers, but not bad.

I am absolutely not a fan of Steven Spielberg’s work, although I did like “Munich,” but that was probably because Eric Bana wore pants cut ’70s-style (with those big belt buckles that only emphasize his hard flat lower abdomen and swoon…). Also Daniel Craig and also that Irish guy, Ciarán Hinds. It started with his wildly successful early work, all those children’s faces turned up in a golden-lit closeup, blah. Work out your boring childhood neglect somewhere else, dude. But even his later, “mature” work left me barely more than lukewarm; I’m thinking about “Lincoln” here. Spielberg paints in primary colors, leads his audiences along well-trod paths with a big orange RIGHT THIS WAY FOLKS flag in hand.

I further acknowledge I am in the minority here, and that’s fine. I might not have watched “The Post” if I’d known it was a Spielberg deal; for some reason I thought Ron Howard directed it. And while it had the usual problems I mentioned, along with a few more, I liked it pretty well, even though I fell asleep for a few minutes along the way.

The story of how the New York Times and Washington Post competed to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 is established history, and is the capsule plot description, which is maybe why I avoided it – journalism movies leave me cold for the most part. It should have been called “How Katharine Graham Got Her Groove Back,” which is closer to what the story is about, just as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” should have been bundled as the Steven’s Parents Were Cold and Neglectful Collection.

What saves it is the cast. Which is, as it was in “Lincoln,” stellar to the last man and woman. Forget Hanks and Streep. There’s also Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood (in a hilarious Robert McNamara ‘do), Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, OMG it was a delight. Some of these folks got one or two scenes, but they all held their own against the megastars at the top of the bill, and even though you knew how it would end and the script was pretty much paint-by-numbers, it was still fun to watch. I may not like Spielberg, but he knows how to wrangle a cast, evidently.

:::pause:::

I wrote all of the above thinking “The Post” came out for Oscar season in 2018, and just discovered no, it was the year previous. So forgive me. I did my taxes this weekend and some work today, so it wasn’t much of a weekend. We have to pay this year, so I’m particularly happy about that, as you can imagine. America just feels greater and greater to me these days.

Starting this week, I will not be concerned with silly movies, anyway. Rather, I will be speaking in a British accent, which is actually a Westerosi accent, with occasional lapses into High Valyrian. Yes, “Game of Thrones” kicks off next Sunday, and I will be So There. If you don’t watch and don’t care, keep your yap shut, because I’m into it. And I’ve been waiting a long time for this final season.

Some bloggage to consider:

Rick Reilly on presidential cheating at golf:

And it’s not just the cheating. It’s the way he plays the game—with all the golf etiquette of an elephant on Red Bull. Trump promised to Make America Great Again. He’s definitely Made Golf Gross Again.

He drives his golf cart on greens. He drives it on tee boxes. He never, ever walks, even on the courses he owns that have banned carts (Trump Turnberry.)

…It stinks because we were finally getting somewhere with golf. It used to be an elitist game, until the 1960s, when a public-school hunk named Arnold Palmer brought it to the mailmen and the manicurists. Then an Army vet’s kid named Tiger Woods brought it to people of color all over the world. We had ultracool golfers like Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy, and pants that don’t look like somebody shot your couch, and we’d gotten the average round of golf down to $35, according to the National Golf Foundation.

We were finally making the game cool and healthy and welcoming, and along comes Trump, elbowing his way into the front of every camera and hurling my sport backwards 50 years to its snobby roots.

I’ve been indifferent to golf my whole life, having been raised in Jack Nicklaus’ hometown, and can at times be hostile to it — the overbuilding of courses near ecologically sensitive rivers in northern Michigan, to name but one burr under my saddle — so I don’t give a shit whether Trump is ruining it. But this is a good read.

My editor at Deadline Detroit was raised by Yiddish-speaking parents, so it’s safe to say that in a few months I feel I’ve picked up enough of the allegedly dead language to move into a 19th-century shtetl and at least be able to indicate that I’m a meshuggeneh shiksa from the future and would maybe enjoy a little schmaltz on a piece of rye bread, thanks so much. Anyway, I know what he’d say if he could see the photo accompanying this story: A shanda.

The animals take their revenge. In Africa.

OK, let’s get the week ahead moving, shall we?

Posted at 5:15 pm in Current events, Movies | 57 Comments