Still stepping on rakes.

Never change, Indiana:

The Indiana governor’s race should not, under normal circumstances, be remotely competitive. In 2020, Donald Trump won the state by 16 percentage points, and the current Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, won by more than 20. All the state’s leading officials are Republicans, and the party has supermajorities in both legislative chambers.

But after the Republican convention this weekend, the influential conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr. wrote, in a confidential memo obtained by Politico’s Adam Wren, that there’s a “serious threat” to the party’s nominee for governor, Senator Mike Braun.

That threat is Micah Beckwith, a Pentecostal pastor, podcaster and self-described Christian nationalist who was just chosen, despite Braun’s wishes, to be his running mate. Ordinarily, The Indianapolis Star reports, convention delegates rubber-stamp their candidate’s choice of lieutenant. But this year, they rebelled, rejecting Braun’s selection, a state representative named Julie McGuire, for Beckwith, who embodies the combative spiritual fervor ascendant among the party’s grass-roots. As a result, wrote Bopp, “Democrats have a real opportunity to launch a serious campaign in the fall because of Beckwith’s nomination, and it has already begun.”

That’s the top of Michelle Goldberg’s column in today’s NYT, and that sets up the problem nicely: Rather than allow their own nominee to choose his lieutenant, the delegates chose one who has basically promised to oppose him much of the time, who claims God speaks directly to him (and told him January 6 was part of His plan), who… well, you know.

Goldberg connects this to other hand grenades waiting to explode in races all over the country, but she might also have cited Michigan 2022, when the state GOP put up candidates for the three executive positions (governor, attorney general, Secretary of State) who were either ludicrously unqualified (governor) or just plain nuts (the other two). And then, after the rout they suffered, made one of the nuts head of the party. And why did they do that? She had integrity! The other nut conceded his loss after the election, but not her! She went down by 14 points, but with her flag nailed to the staff.

Great job, GOP. Long may your incompetence reign.

BTW, a certain commenting member of this community says Beckwith pings his gaydar, but of course Beckwith is married to a lovely blonde lady who is surely very very happy being married to a religious hysteric who has given her … checking … two children.

Hi from under the heat dome. Current temperature: 90, but the humidity is 55 percent, so: Feels way hotter. This morning it was in the high 70s, humidity at 90 percent, and it was a little difficult to breathe. But I swam anyway, because swimming is one exercise you can do in weather like this and not want to die. I’ve been watching the Olympic trials from Indianapolis and thinking how boring swimming can be to watch, especially from the arena seats. You need multiple camera angles and color commentary to get any sense of it. But I’m still watching, just to marvel at everyone’s upper-back muscles.

Nearly midweek. I’m looking forward to this ending.

Posted at 4:58 pm in Current events | 12 Comments

A bad few days.

Jesus Harold Hughes Christ, what a shit-tastic weekend here in the D.

First, Turning Point Action came to town, to hold a three-day convention at Huntington Place, formerly the TCF Center, formerly Cobo Center, aka the vote-counting venue that all these morons believe was the site of “the steal,” as in Stop The, etc. No, I don’t know why they came to a blue city in a purple state, but I suspect it was to rub the Dems’ noses in their recent alleged gains with young people and black people. Anyway, that’s how it turned out. They picked up endorsements from ex-mayor and federal prisoner Kwame Kilpatrick (given clemency by Trump in the final hours of his presidency), as well as a couple of rappers. They also held a “roundtable discussion” in a black church, although from the photos, there sure are a lot of very light-skinned black people in that church, if you know what I mean.

I’m watching Twitter reports from the final day now. Jack Posobiec brought out a special guest — Alex Jones. I know I may be offending a few of you when I describe Republicans as across-the-board bad people, but when a suppurating infection like Jones gets a big welcome anywhere, there is simply no other way to describe the people cheering. A man that every decent person, of any party, of any political persuasion, should want to see standing on a corner wearing a barrel and holding a sign reading WILL CLEAN TOILETS WITH MY TONGUE FOR FOOD getting a standing O? There’s no other word for people who would clap for him.

But it wasn’t all sweetness and unity downtown. Nick Fuentes, the racist antisemite and blah-blah-blah, tried to hold his own convention, at the Russell Industrial Center in the city’s North End. It…didn’t go well:

The leader of a controversial rightwing group canceled their conference in Detroit, alleging they were kicked out of the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, where he said they had plans to hold events. The move comes after Detroit police had responded to a dispute involving the group on Friday.

Nicholas Fuentes of the America First Political Action Conference said Saturday on social media that, on Friday, the group was setting up the stage at the industrial center when people with the center told them they would not be allowed to proceed. Fuentes says they had a contract for the venue.

The story has no details on what might have happened, but my guess would be the venue realized too late who had booked their facility and pulled the plug. It’s not a convention center like Huntington/TCF/Cobo — more of a raw post-industrial factory-type vibe — but it is in Detroit, its main users are artists, etc., and if I were one of the paying tenants, I’d be dropping Molotov cocktails into that den of racists. Although it might have been fun to see it play out; a history blogger recently surfaced a quote from a long-dead but not forgotten Detroit city councilman, Ken Cockrel:

Now that would have made the weekend worth saving.

Fuentes went over to the other rats’ nest and did this before he was kicked out:

On Saturday evening, Fuentes was seen on a livestream with a megaphone addressing a crowd below him outside Huntington Place. Fuentes said “this is not a free country any more.” He railed against what he called the “Jewish mafia” and heaped praise on Henry Ford, calling him a visionary who was attacked for his antisemitic views. He again slammed Israel as the crowd chanted “Christ is King” and “Down with Israel.”

OK, then. What could make this worse? Well, Trump showed up, but for once didn’t make much news, because then we had…a mass shooting. At a fucking splash pad.

Nine people were hit. One 8-year-old boy, shot in the face, is fighting for his life, and his mother, 29 weeks pregnant at the time, was hit in the abdomen. The fetus died. Another couple was there with their two children, 2 and 7 months, and both parents were hit. It was a terrible, terrible scene in Rochester Hills, an Oakland County suburb, where people move to get away from the violence in the city. No chance in these United States, sorry about that.

The gunman? Dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the trailer where he lived with his mother, who was not home at the time. Paywalled, but the gist:

Shelby Township — The semiautomatic rifle found on the kitchen table of the alleged gunman who shot nine people at a Rochester Hills splash pad Saturday was weighing on the minds of residents in the Dequindre Estates mobile home park as they wondered Sunday if they could have been potentially his next victims.

The gunman was Michael William Nash, 42, Oakland County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Huber said Sunday.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a late Saturday night press conference that the gunman was a Shelby Township resident who lived in a mobile home park and had a history of mental health issues, but he didn’t identify the suspect. The gunman was found dead by law enforcement with a self-inflicted gunshot less than two miles away from the splash pad, Bouchard said, and had an “AR platform” semiautomatic rifle on the table.

You know this story: “Mental-health challenges,” etc.:

“His mom was super friendly and nice and talkative and kind to everyone she saw,” Roser said. “We never really saw him. He never came out of the house. And when he did, he didn’t even say hi back to us when we would acknowledge him. … We’re a very friendly community. He was just to himself. He was very quiet and didn’t want to be a part of our community.”

But it’s OK. The head of the state GOP said he was praying for everyone involved. I’m sure that will help.

Now we’re looking at a solid week of above-90-degree temperatures. It’s just gonna get better!

Posted at 3:10 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 28 Comments

Let’s clear the wires.

Back when wire-service copy arrived in newsrooms via chugging teletype machines — a great white-noise generator that someone should make a sleep-sound loop for, and probably has — it was the wire editor’s job to gather it all up, read it, sort it, and bring it to the attention of various departments. This practice was known as “clearing the wire,” and that’s what today’s blog is. Stay tuned for wire-service humor at the end.

This story that broke over the weekend probably didn’t travel much beyond the Great Lakes, but it certainly caught my interest: A 700-foot ore freighter, the Michipicoten, reported it “struck something underwater” on Saturday, about 45 miles south of Isle Royale in northern Lake Superior, and began taking on water. Disaster was averted — it was able to pump out enough to mitigate the 15-degree list and limp into port, to use a journalese phrase I’ve been waiting my whole career to deploy. The port was Thunder Bay, Ontario, if you’re interested.

It was the “struck something underwater” that caught my eye, as they were in some of the deepest water in North America at the time, far from any shoals or suchlike. What could an ore carrier possibly collide with to penetrate a steel hull? Short of a submarine or maybe a freshwater Godzilla, hard to imagine. But I did so all weekend.

The investigation is only getting started, but the cause is looking clearer — the hull just cracked, opening a 13-foot-long seam. A stress fracture, basically.

Disappointing. I was hoping for Godzilla.

Nothing truly ground-breaking in this next item, but it caught my eye: Axios reports that is using AI to find old newspaper stories with news about enslaved individuals, and the institution itself, to help black families find their family histories. This is the part that grabbed me:

Charles Nalle, of course. Charles Nall was my father’s name, is my brother’s name. I’m aware that slaves were generally named for the families that held them in bondage, so no, I’m not claiming blackness for myself. A genealogist who found me via this blog, years ago, had traced the entire family tree and said we went back to a single ancestor, whose name was (I think) John Nall, and who immigrated from England to Virginia. Dunno about the Nalle family; could be an entirely different outfit, or a shirttail relation to ours. Still think it’s interesting.

Some of you may recall my friend Nathan Gotsch, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress as an independent in our old district in Indiana year before last. He’s now dedicated to covering local politics on a Substack newsletter, in part because virtually every media outlet in town no longer does. His latest entry, about a religious lunatic in the running to be lieutenant governor, shows that the Hoosier state will never run out of right-wing idiots. Here’s this one, Micah Beckwith, on Covid:

“I wish we would have had a check and balance [on the governor] in 2020,” he told the delegates in Nappanee. “Because I have family members that are dead today because they took their own lives. Because they were locked in their house. And they felt that they could not go out of their house because the government was giving them an unconstitutional order.”

Beckwith later admitted to me that only one family member — a cousin — died, and she did not live in Indiana. Citing privacy concerns, he declined to provide any further details.

Since COVID vaccines became available in 2021, Beckwith told both groups he has written “over 4,500 religious exemptions for people in Indiana” who did not want to get vaccinated.

He also said he was firmly against masking. “The masks were more than just masks. There was the demonic assault trying to cover up both physically and spiritually the voice of God’s people.”

So, another lying sack of shit speaking for God. I’m reminded, again, of Max von Sydow’s line in “Hannah and Her Sisters:” “If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

Finally, the jaw-dropper of the week is from The New Yorker, about how Kanye West — or whatever the fuck he’s calling himself these days — bought (for $57 million) a Tadao Ando house in Malibu and destroyed it. Tadao Ando, if you aren’t up on your architecture figures, is a Japanese architect who doesn’t work a lot, but what he does is considered art even before you move your furniture in and tack the “home sweet home” sampler in the foyer. West admired Ando, and coveted a house designed by him. But, the story says, he “didn’t like the interior.” So he destroyed it.

The New Yorker allows for one or two freebies for non-subscribers, but even if you’ve already limited out, you can probably see the drone video of the house at the top of the story (although only on laptop/desktops; my phone didn’t show it). It’s horrifying, and the descriptions of the house before West took possession will break your heart:

Saxon [a construction worker hired to do the early demo work] was let into the Malibu Road house by Bianca Censori, the woman who had texted him; she was in her twenties. The house is a box partially embedded in the continent’s last, low step of land. The structure then stretches over the sand, propped up by four pillars at about the high-tide mark. (The beach here is narrow.) Although the house appears from the street to be two stories, the front door is on the middle of three floors—the main floor. A short corridor leads from the gallery to an open living area where the house delivers its vast, binary view of sky and ocean, through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Censori mentioned that the house, which was empty of furnishings, had a new owner, but she didn’t name him. A few other people were around; they had ladders and tools. One or two were identified as co-workers of Censori’s and, like her, were dressed all in black. Others, like Saxon, had been summoned that day. Walking around, Saxon registered bathroom walls lined in marble—“gorgeous black-and-white marble, like something in a New York hotel in the nineteen-twenties,” he told me—and custom wooden cabinetry that, he estimated, had cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Downstairs, the ceilings were lower than on the main floor. Three rooms, each with a little bathroom, had ocean views. There was also a laundry, and a room where Saxon saw devices that controlled the house’s heating and other systems. On the upper floor, two extravagantly wide staircases—more suggestive of a college library than of a beach house—descended to the main floor. One staircase was inside, one was outside: they ran alongside each other, separated by a wall built partly of glass. At the bottom of the outdoor staircase was a courtyard with a fire pit. At the top was a concrete hot tub. The top floor was mostly terrace, with the primary bedroom opening onto it. [Previous owner] Sachs once kept a sculpture of the Incredible Hulk, by Jeff Koons, midway up the indoor staircase. In this area, Saxon noticed, Censori’s black-clad colleagues were doing something involving large blocks of foam. He remembered being told that they were turning the stairs into a slide.

First he tore out all the custom wooden cabinetry, then the marble baths, then all those glass walls, and on and on it went, all on West’s orders, as the rapper pursued something he seemed to consider the absolute purity of minimalist design, but is more likely the result of West being an unmedicated manic depressive who seems to be mostly manic, most of the time. When the glass and tile and wood was gone, they tore out plumbing, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the HVAC systems and even electricity, all without permits; Saxon tried to hide the porta-potties brought in when the toilets were brought out. In this sense, at the end it resembled a scrapped-out Detroit ‘bando, only one that started out costing $57 million.

After West essentially set fire to his net worth — not with the house, but by being dropped by Adidas for praising Hitler, etc. — he put the destroyed shell on the market for $39 million. And he has married Bianca Censori. When the two go out on the town, she is frequently as nude as public-decency laws allow, or maybe they don’t — the last pic I saw of her she was wearing a tiny G-string and a clear plastic coat, and that’s all.

Now for the wire-service humor: I have told this story before, but the search engine tells me it was in 2006, so let’s roll it out again. On Fridays, when little news was breaking and most Sunday papers were already pretty much done, the wires used to move fillers, the little one-sentence not-stories that used to fill out columns that came up short. The two I remember most vividly were one about a Matisse painting that was mistakenly hung upside-down and the error not discovered for some years. Headline: Matisse hung wrong. Another read, in its entirety: Jaguars are afraid of dogs. Headline: Jaguars fear dogs. Newspapers used to be fun places to work.

OK, then. The heat is coming — supposed to be 90s by this weekend. Summer is fully here.

Posted at 11:57 am in Current events | 73 Comments

All the lonely people.

My high school graduating class has a Facebook page, which I follow. The admin keeps it current by posting birthdays and stupid oh-I’m-so-old memes, and occasionally I’ll stop by to see who’s celebrating, but in a class of roughly 750, it’s comical how few of these people I remember. Even their names don’t ring a bell. But the other day I saw someone who I kinda-sorta maybe sat near in a class once, which prompted me to click on one of our mutuals, whose current profile pic is an upside-down flag.

OK, then.

I waded into that person’s page, and hoo-boy, it’s exactly what you’d expect, but even more disappointing, because I went to an excellent high school and want to assume my classmates are mostly college-educated and not stupid. Reader, they are not. There were reposted memes about how great you-know-who is “because he didn’t take a salary,” etc. (Yep, the best $450,000 investment I ever made, he thought, running a tiny forefinger down the invoices for making the Secret Service stay in his various homes/resorts, paying the rack rate, etc.) Anyway, there was one post that wasn’t about politics, and it indicated a rather piercing personal disappointment, the sort of thing no one wants to deal with at any age, let along ours.

And I mention all this because I read another typically fantastic NYT Eli Saslow piece on our American scene today, this one about the turmoil being inflicted upon the country’s election clerks by MAGA lunatics. This is happening, big-time, in Michigan, but this piece was about Nevada, and here’s a gift link. Well worth your time.

Anyway, the core of it is the conflict between two women, one a MAGA choad, the other her county clerk, and this phrase, a description of the former, caught my eye:

…She was recently retired and widowed, …

OK, let’s read on, about how these two women know one another, and once liked each other, until the 2020 election and its related conspiracies swept one up:

She believed it only because she had experienced many similar revelations during the last few years, ever since she heeded Trump’s warnings about the “corrupt, lying mainstream media” and decided to disconnect her television. Her friends introduced her to far-right media platforms online like Mike Lindell’s Frank Speech and The Elijah List, where each day she listened to a rotation of self-proclaimed patriots, biblical prophets and also sometimes political figures like Lara Trump. They offered Zakas not only conspiratorial ideas but also the promise of a community that extended far beyond the loneliness of her house, with a grandfather clock ticking away in the living room and views out the window of an emptiness that stretched clear into California. Each day, something urgent was happening in the far corners of the internet — something big and dark and secret, and that knowledge fueled her days with both purpose and agency.

She came to believe, along with millions of others, that Covid was a creation of the federal government used to manipulate the public and steal elections; that two doses of the vaccine would make men infertile; that Trump had been anointed to lead a “government cleansing”; that fighting had already begun in underground military tunnels; that Trump’s election in 2024 was preordained by God; that he would return to power with loads of gold collected from other countries that had capitulated to his power; that, during his next term, Americans would have free electricity, zero income tax and “medbeds” powered by a secret technology that could harness natural energy to heal diseases and extend human life; and that the only thing standing in the way of this future was a deep state so malicious and vast that its roots extended all the way into tiny Esmeralda County.

As I’ve said more than once, I am no longer interested in meeting these people in the marketplace of ideas to reason together and find our common ground. I’ve had it. They are leading the country over a cliff in the name of spite and petulance, egged on by some of the most transparent phonies ever to stand before a microphone, and I am done with every last one of them. They are bad people, or at the very least stupid people, dangerously stupid, and the fact this woman can’t understand that she’s grieving and lonely, not the victim of a ludicrous conspiracy, only confirms it. I think my old classmate is entering the last few chapters of her life with the same misery and disappointment, and climbing aboard this bus makes her feel less alone. This doesn’t make me feel any less angry about the movement; it just offers some fresh insights.

There’s an internet one-liner that goes something like this: A photo of a man doing or saying something ridiculous, followed by, “The things men will do instead of therapy.” Add this lady in Nevada, too. All Eleanor Rigby did was pick up the rice in a church where a wedding has been. She didn’t do her best to overthrow democracy.

OK, then. Rant over.

How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was fine, and a lovely day is in progress right now, so I should go outside and leave vacuuming dog hair off the rugs for another day, right? Guess that’s what I’ll do.

Photo from Friday night, seeing Kate play in a still fairly raw Detroit space, quite the palate cleanser after the Michigan Central Station triumph a day earlier. Photo from inside:

Posted at 1:46 pm in Current events | 37 Comments

Guilty, guilty, guilty.

I was minutes into my last shift as a lifeguard (this school year) Thursday when the verdict came in. My phone gets zero service in the pool, which is below ground level and in a generally shitty cell-coverage area to begin with, so I had to wait a couple hours to get any details beyond GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS, MOFOS. We had plans Thursday night and a busy Friday morning, so I just decided to stand in the firehose of reaction for a while before weighing in.

And having done so: I’m allowing myself to be happy about this. I know it won’t change many votes, that MAGA is too far up their own asses to even consider changing their minds, so I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the sight of Rumpelstiltskin stamping his foot into the earth. I know we may well see — probably will see — violence before this is over, but how else are you supposed to respond to good news? This is good news. Enjoy it.

So far in this national nightmare, it’s been the courts that have held the line. I have a feeling SCOTUS will fuck everything up, but voters + courts may actually save democracy. This time. Or they might not.

Which isn’t exactly a stimulating take, I realize. Sometime Sunday morning I realized I was done taking it all in, having made the mistake of reading Maureen Dowd:

I called my Republican sibs Friday to see if hearing the word “guilty” ring out 34 times in a New York courtroom had finally severed them from Trump; they are, after all, children of a police detective.

My sister, Peggy, said she couldn’t sleep all night.

“You decided you can’t vote for a felon?” I asked.

“I wasn’t going to vote for Trump,” she said. “But now I am because I thought this whole thing was a sham.”

My own family is far from perfect and has vexed me on occasion, but at least none of us are this goddamn stupid.

On Saturday, Kate and I saw “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” sort of a belated uber-feminist Mother’s Day outing. It was…awesome. Yes, basically two hours plus of chase scenes, but such memorable chases, with stunts I couldn’t wrap my head around and frames — just frames in a movie — that I wanted to freeze so I could examine the costuming, makeup and other details on every character in it. It was too loud, granted, in Dolby BLOW YOUR HAIR BACK sound, but it worked. If you ever get a genetic menu to select from for the children in your future, choose “cupid-bow mouth” and “wide-set eyes.” It’s a killer combination on Anya Taylor-Joy.

Now, off to smear axle grease on my forehead and embrace Monday.

Posted at 7:44 pm in Current events, Movies | 34 Comments

The starting gun.

If this is the first weekend of summer, I’ll take it. ‘Twas a good one.

Friday, we went to see Don Was and the Pan-Detroit Ensemble at Orchestra Hall. It was a tight update on Was (Not Was), and a fine way to kick things off.

Saturday: Laundry and groceries, but also a lovely piece of salmon for dinner, with sautéed rapini and key lime pie for dessert.

Sunday: A sunrise rave, part of Movement weekend, i.e. the techno fest. I’ve come to enjoy techno, at least in connection with Movement. I associate it with spring, and the promise of summer. I met up with a friend there. We talked drugs and real estate and related matters. Went home, chilled and did a writing group later that day, then finished it out with a prime New York strip, grilled asparagus, morels and an excellent red.

Tomorrow? Ribs. Even though it’s raining buckets now. It’s not tomorrow yet.

A few notes before we let the weekend go, however:

For the last few years, we’ve bought a couple cases of wine for summer, roses and whites from a vineyard we visited in France when we were there. It comes through a wholesaler in Chicago. We could probably get the same thing here, but every time we open a bottle of summer wine from the vineyard, it reminds me of France, so who cares? It’s not that much money. And I get added to the mailing list, which means I regular receive emails that describe certain vintages thusly:

“Really perfumed nose, highly scented with purple flowers and dark ripe fruit – black currant, damson plum and black cherry. Deep aromatics with lots of tobacco and clove spice on the nose. It’s heady, strongly scented and alive. Cool and crisp on the palate, smooth, so silky, really effortless in the tannin presentation. Juicy and clean, so bright, but not sour or tart, just the right side, so it’s lifted but not overly austere. Once the acidity calms down in comes the salty, mineral base giving lots of liquorice, wet stone and graphite tones, putting you squarely on limestone.”

Or like this:

“Medium intensity ruby, this is a little reserved at first, in the best way, in that it has the hidden depths that are just so promising during En Primeur, real sense of sapidity, squid ink, violet reflections, extremely vibrant, really like this, blueberry, sage, slate, lift on the finish, delicious.”

I’m sorry, but this is hilarious. I ate squid ink not long ago, but can’t tell you what it tastes like, much less violet reflections. But I enjoy reading it.

Finally, there was a would-be mass shooter in Fort Wayne last week. A young man live-streamed his declaration of intent to murder, then carried his phone with him through a local Kroger until he fired off a volley at someone standing at the deli counter. He somehow, miraculously, hit no one, but not for lack of trying. I heard about this on Reddit, where I was able to watch his livestream. (It’s since been removed.) So I went in search of a legit news source story about the incident. All three — two from TV stations, one from the remaining newspaper — read the same, all having been written from police press releases. This is inconceivable to me; when I was there, we’d have flooded the zone with people, and dug up everything about the shooter within hours. Today? Why bother? We have no staff.

OK, then. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Posted at 9:18 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 25 Comments

The last good year.

I’ve told you about my friend Ryan’s Last Good Year theory, haven’t I? Can’t find it in search, but the idea is simple, and this: 2024 is the United States’ last good year. If Trump wins, it’s all over — this we know. If Trump doesn’t win, it’ll be all over, but in a different way: Likely violence, even more yammering about election fraud, even more screeching from the Halls of Congress, etc. Perhaps Marge Green will show up in a lucha libre mask next January. Maybe Lindsay Graham will get a Trump tattoo on his chest. (Probably he already has one, but on his butt.) Either way, 2025 will be worse than 2024.

So enjoy 2024. Might as well.

I came home from lifeguarding last night to learn that Justice Samuel Alito has been flying yet another problematic flag at his multiple houses, this one the Appeal to Heaven banner:

Also known as the Pine Tree flag, it dates back to the Revolutionary War, but largely fell into obscurity until recent years and is now a symbol of support for former President Donald J. Trump, for a religious strand of the “Stop the Steal” campaign and for a push to remake American government in Christian terms.

Three photographs obtained by The New York Times, along with accounts from a half-dozen neighbors and passers-by, show that the Appeal to Heaven flag was aloft at the Alito home on Long Beach Island in July and September of 2023. A Google Street View image from late August also shows the flag.

The photographs, each taken independently, are from four different dates. It is not clear whether the flag was displayed continuously during those months or how long it was flown overall.

But oh my, Nina Totenberg was friends with Ruth Bader Ginsburg! Oh my oh my oh my liberal bias in the media!

I should note that I disapprove of Totenberg having such a personal relationship with a person she covers. But Alito and his openly displayed political opinions are worse, by far.

So now we have two utterly, thoroughly corrupt justices, a probable third (Kavanaugh), and lord knows what fun Amy Barrett has in store for us.

Enjoy 2024! It’s the last good year!

It’s been hot this week, too hot for May, mid- to upper 80s all week. But it’s better here than it’s been in the South and central Plains, scoured by tornados this week. And at least rising sea levels aren’t flooding septic systems in Michigan. So for a Last Good Year, it won’t be a terrible one.

Meanwhile, I just opened the Axios Detroit newsletter to find they linked to my 2020 column on Mitch Albom for Deadline Detroit (it’s his birthday). STILL RELEVANT, MOFOS. As it turns out, I cannot get my phone to stay linked to my car’s sound system, so I’ve been listening to the radio far more than in the past. My 8-minute drive to lifeguarding coincides with NPR’s dreariest segment, and so I migrate over to WJR, and often catch a bit of Mitch’s talk show. It’s easy to see how his op-ed column became 800 words of blather; he’s just imitating the standard midrange talk-radio “discussion.” You say something anodyne and dull (“I’m no fan of Donald Trump, but Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen are bad people, too”), then say it again in different words, listen to your co-host/producer agreeing with you — because no one disagrees with Mitch — say it again, etc.

But he’ll be there until they dynamite him from his seat. Maybe it’ll happen in 2024, and then it’ll really be the last good year.

OK, then, Thursday awaits. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 8:51 am in Current events, Media | 55 Comments

A nice weekend.

I have a friend who ignores the news. Seriously. Me, friends with a person who doesn’t know that a second bridge is being built across the Detroit river as we speak. She relies on me to keep her up to date, and I try. Sometimes I also try her coping strategy, like this weekend. I simply could not march into summer with That Shithead on my mind, so I didn’t, only to be bombarded with Barron’s graduation photos, along with the news he’s reconsidering his college choices. You ask me, NYU seemed like a good fit for him, but what do I know? Then, on Sunday night, the president and foreign minister of Iran die in a helicopter crash. Which is one of those things that could end up being very bad, but whatever it is, it’s back to the news mangle for me.

On the other hand, I still have no idea what the Kendrick Lamar / Drake beef is about, so I guess I’m doing something right.

How was your weekend? Mine was great — nice and warm, but the house hasn’t turned into a brick oven yet, so I could throw the windows open and still be comfortable. This morning I thought I’d clean the kitchen while I was rested and caffeinated, and put on some loud tunes to keep my energy up. My neighbor responded by firing up his gas blower. It reminded me that we never heard one of those machines, not once, the whole time we were in Italy. We did see this, in Rome:

Bad photo; I apologize. But you can see that’s a twig broom, like you might see in a Halloween display. At first I thought it was a one-off, something a single garbage-truck driver accepted from his old nonna and carries to please her, but there’s one on every garbage truck we saw, which either indicates a lot of nonnas or a belief that the old ways are the best ways. They’re at least a lot quieter.

So, since I’m an empty cup at the moment, some bloggage:

I feel like all I do here is recommend pieces from The New York Times, and this is not only very long, it’s vegetables, which is to say, there’s not much dessert here. But if you have the time to take a bite out of it over the next few days, you can learn a lot about how Israel found itself in the state it’s in now:

(Settler) violence over the decades in places like Khirbet Zanuta is well documented. But protecting the people who carry out that violence is the dark secret of Israeli justice. The long arc of harassment, assault and murder of Palestinians by Jewish settlers is twinned with a shadow history, one of silence, avoidance and abetment by Israeli officials. For many of those officials, it is Palestinian terrorism that most threatens Israel. But in interviews with more than 100 people — current and former officers of the Israeli military, the National Israeli Police and the Shin Bet domestic security service; high-ranking Israeli political officials, including four former prime ministers; Palestinian leaders and activists; Israeli human rights lawyers; American officials charged with supporting the Israeli-Palestinian partnership — we found a different and perhaps even more destabilizing threat. A long history of crime without punishment, many of those officials now say, threatens not only Palestinians living in the occupied territories but also the State of Israel itself.

And as a companion piece, another long — but not as long — story, about Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s widow and very likely to be Trump’s biggest single donor (at least in the running):

October 7 had been Adelson’s nightmare — the event itself, of course, but also the world’s response to it. The attack confirmed the existential burden placed on every Jewish person of Adelson’s generation: No one could be counted on to care about the Jewish people; the duty to protect and safeguard Israel rested on them alone. On November 21, 2023, Adelson published an essay in Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper she and Sheldon launched in 2007. In the piece, entitled “Dead to Us,” she discussed the “ghastly gatherings of radical Muslim and BLM activists, ultra-progressives, and career agitators” who, in the aftermath of 10/7, sprinted right past Israel’s grief and sympathized with Hamas. “These people are not our critics. They are our enemies. And, as such, they should be dead to us,” she wrote. “Indeed, we must disavow and shame them, deny them employment and public office, and defund their colleges and political parties. Doing all this will be easy, because the stakes in Israel’s war of survival have never been so clear … If you quibble about how many babies were beheaded, or how many women were violated, in the October 7 pogrom, you’re dead to us … We Israelis, we Jews love life. And we are done with meekly counting our dead.”

I should put my head back in the sand. Instead, I’m going to the gym.

Posted at 10:52 am in Current events | 36 Comments

The most insecure man in the world.

While the rest of the world was paying attention to other details of Michael Cohen’s testimony in the Trump trial yesterday, I was struck by a smaller one: That among the payouts for this and that after Stormy Daniels was silenced, etc., there was a smaller, $50,000 payment for “tech services.”

The services?

At least in part, the services were Cohen getting a computer programmer to buy IP addresses in order to rig an online CNBC poll to make sure Trump ranked among the most influential business leaders alive.

Ladies and gentlemen, the former president of the United States, and maybe the next one.

This is why, despite everything I know about people and their foibles and complexity and all that, I simply cannot find it in my black heart to give Trump voters a break – on anything, ever, from now until the end of time.

And in a busy week, I feel like I just want to leave this here and let things go at that.

Posted at 2:44 pm in Current events | 54 Comments

She tried.

Back home again. It’s been a week of jet lag, held-mail sorting, and of course re-immersion in the toxic politics of the Land of the Free. Congratulations to all who voted for Nikki Haley in Indiana. Pulling 20 percent when you’re not even in the race bodes well for the Dems in November, but I’m not in the prediction business. The Politico piece on the primary that you guys have already chewed over underscores something that’s happening everywhere, i.e. the nationalization of every election, no matter how small.

I noticed one of the candidates for Indiana governor led with her proposal to eliminate all propertyincome taxes. Which is already laughable, as Hoosier property owners pay pocket change in property taxes. In the olden days, say 10 years ago, someone would have asked her how she planned to pay for such a drastic policy change, but given the diminishment of local and even statewide news coverage, that won’t happen. It doesn’t matter now, because she lost, but still. There’s a movement to eliminate property tax in Michigan, but they need to get a shitload of signatures to get that one on the ballot, and I doubt they’re having much luck, the movement being mainly comprised of MAGA goobers.

Speaking of diminished local media, here’s a great but unfortunately paywalled story about Gannett’s firing of a west-Michigan journalist, an editor, who led the way on coverage of Ottawa Impact, the right-wing group that took over Ottawa County’s commission, making national news in the process (free link). The oafs who roared into office have behaved like the Three Stooges, unable to conduct the simplest government business without poking one another in the eye, etc. They hired a losing congressional candidate to be county executive, and fired him a year later. The health director dug in her heels when they tried to defund the entire department, and they threw money at her to leave, but when the amount was made public ($4 million), the public objected, Larry stepped on Moe’s foot, etc., and they eventually retreated. (They wanted to replace her with a COVID nut, whose public-health qualifications consisted of being a health and safety officer for an HVAC company, with the online degrees to prove it.)

Anyway, this woman, Sarah Leach, covered it all. And get this:

Leach oversaw news operations at the Holland Sentinel and 25 other newspapers across four states — 15 in Michigan, eight in Wisconsin, two in South Dakota and one in Minnesota — the largest group within Gannett’s Center for Community Journalism division.

She handled budgeting, hiring, goal-setting and managed overtime. Short-staffed on local editors, she was also editing and managing reporters at three of the newspapers herself: the Daily Telegram in Adrian, the Hillsdale Daily News and the Monroe News.

This is Gannett these days. Many of these papers are entirely ghost ships, assembled remotely with wire copy and press releases. Leach had complained about Gannett’s empty promises to increase staffing to a writer for the Poynter Institute, a journalism nonprofit that tries to hold the industry to account. She wasn’t quoted by name, and she suspects the suits accessed her work emails to find out she was the whistleblower. She was fired over Zoom:

“I was asked, ‘Why did you do this?’ And I just stared at the screen for a long time because it was difficult to process what this moment was,” Leach recounted.

“I admitted that I had a phone call with this person, you know, because I am dying. I have been asking for resources, and I’m doing my best to try to serve these communities to the best of my ability, and I feel like I can’t. … Then I was informed that was my last day.”

I wonder about the person who swung the sword. Traditionally, publishers and executive editors start as reporters or other low-level employees. Anyone old enough to have that kind of job today probably has at least a dim memory of what it was like to work in a newsroom that wasn’t an echoing space. And today they’re the goon tasked with firing a good employee. One who did this:

Leach jumped in last January to help cover the crush of Ottawa Impact news when the Sentinel was down to just one full-time reporter. She soon became the face of the paper’s coverage, striving to explain to the community the unprecedented nature of the board’s sweeping new decisions and their potential effects.

A trio of retired journalists in the community elevated Leach’s work for the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting last fall, with the nomination citing the 130-plus stories she’d written. The nomination letter also noted the Sentinel’s subscriptions had surged 38% at that point in the year, making it the fastest-growing website in Gannett’s division for small newspapers.

One significant obstacle noted by the nominating committee is that Ottawa Impact commissioners generally refuse to answer questions or be interviewed by mainstream news reporters, though Leach tried to fairly represent their views anyway, according to the committee.

“More than any other journalist she has held our local elected officials accountable. We need her to preserve democracy in this town,” said Milt Nieuwsma, a retired journalist and author who was part of the nominating committee.

Well, too bad, Milt.

Which leads us to this:

We laugh to keep from crying. Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 8:26 am in Current events, Media | 38 Comments