Mixed signals.

When I was a girl, rape was what happened when a man brandished a gun or knife, dragged you into a dark alley, and had sex with you. That was easy to understand.

Then, when I was a young adult, the concept of date rape was introduced – that it could be someone you knew, and there might be no weapon involved, just a stronger man holding you down. Also easy to understand. There was also a brief pass through the concept of marital rape, with John and Greta Rideout suddenly everywhere, testing the idea that a man didn’t have an absolute right to sex with his wife whenever he wanted, and that cause was strange, then righteous, then infuriating (with the Rideouts reconciled after his, guess what, acquittal).

Date-rape drugs were next. Remember roofies? Where do you get roofies? I am not deeply immersed in drug culture, but I know my way around a little, and I’ve never seen or been offered a roofie. A third, fourth, sixth or ninth cocktail? Now there’s a date-rape drug that doesn’t get its due.

Then, in the ’90s, Antioch College instituted its widely ridiculed sexual consent policy, and by widely ridiculed I mean it was an SNL sketch that very weekend. Antioch eventually went out of business, but that was a hardy seed it planted, because it flowered into how we now talk about sexual encounters: They must be consensual, and they must be consensual at every step of the escalation, and that consent can be revoked at any time. Already stuck it in? Sorry, guys, if she tells you to take it out, you have to. No one cares about your sexual frustration; that’s why your hands reach all the way down there.

This is where I began to step off the train. I like sex, but I don’t like sex that proceeds like a contract negotiation. Once the clothing starts to come off, I think it’s safe to make some assumptions. If I don’t like what you’re doing, I’ll speak up. I don’t want to answer “is this OK? Is this OK?” every few minutes. But at the same time, I see where that might be a useful framework, especially for college students who are still figuring this stuff out. Sex and navigating intimate relationships are skills you have to learn, and if these policies are essentially training wheels for the early years, no harm done.

Which brings us, as you knew it would, to Aziz Ansari, who is probably pacing his apartment rage-smoking, or maybe in a Xanax haze, or otherwise coping with the agony of being revealed to the world as a lousy hookup at best, and a near-rapist at worst. And here is where I step all the way off the train. Because the next stop is Pencetown, and I ain’t going there.

Either women are strong, independent individuals with the capacity to say what they do and don’t want in an intimate relationship, or they are delicate flowers who put out “cues” that men must decipher, and woe betide if they get their signals crossed.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. Or read up. A lot of us have been talking about being older lately; never have I thanked the fates for my arthritic knees and wrinkly ass more than this week, when the thought of having to navigate this dating moonscape made me quake with fear. Because evidently you can go back to a guy’s place, take off your clothes, perform oral sex on one another, change your mind because “things are going too fast” and also because he’s a lousy kisser, and still feel you were wronged somehow, because he also served you the wrong wine and he did that thing with his fingers and, and, and…

This young woman sounds, at the very least, deeply confused. It’s also possible she’ll grow into the sort of woman who gives her husband the silent treatment, and when called on it, says, “If I have to tell you what you did, then you’re even more wrong!” Maybe these two deserve one another, come to think of it.

I’m with Gene Weingarten. This was a terrible piece that should never have been published, and could do significant damage to an important cause. But I guess progress is rarely linear. We’re still figuring out how to get along with one another. I expect we always will.

So. Nearly the midweek. And the decline of facts continues apace:

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — When truck driver Chris Gromek wants to know what’s really going on in Washington, he scans the internet and satellite radio. He no longer flips TV channels because networks such as Fox News and MSNBC deliver conflicting accounts tainted by politics, he says.

“Where is the truth?” asks the 47-year-old North Carolina resident.

Don’t have much to say about that, just throwing it out there. There might be hope for journalism yet, but I’m not sure how.

Finally, this horrifying thing from an English-language Russian news site. It’s easy to say “nothing will come of this,” but that requires ignoring history, in which genocides and purges always start with this sort of propaganda, and rarely end well.

But now it’s Wednesday, or nearly so. Over the hump.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events | 111 Comments

Always look ahead.

In honor of his 60th birthday, Eric Zorn published a column called, I hope at least somewhat ironically, “My 14-point plan to be a good old man.” I reached that milestone a few weeks ahead of Eric, and never even considered such a thing, but admittedly, I no longer have a column deadline, and might well have if I did.

For the record, I don’t even consider myself close to being old. I get what he’s saying, though — at this age you can see senescence on the horizon, maybe closer. People you know are starting to die, sometimes of aggressive cancers that just show up one day, announcing time’s up.

On Tuesday you’re fine. On Friday, you have a few weeks left. It happens.

I read Eric’s list, and I approve of it. The tl;dr might be: Your body is one thing, but you can always be young in heart and spirit. I have young friends, real friends, not just my friends’ adult children. I listen to new music when I can. I respect a lot of their art, popular and otherwise. I consider that younger people as a group have many things better figured-out than my generation did at their age. I have hope for a better future, which I further hope will arrive before a totally horrible future comes beforehand. I’m sorry that the boomer generation, of which I am a part, is going out so disgracefully, even though the president is way older than me and I consider him part of a different subset. Unlike lots of young people, I don’t think my generation is the worst ever, or, in the current slangy parlance, Worst. Generation. Ever. Can’t we all get along? We need our confederates.

I was thinking this while reading a piece by a former colleague, a man I once liked very much, who seems to have taken a different path, desiccating into a bitter husk. It’s possible it was written on a bad day – we all have them – but it made me sad. I won’t link to it, in the interest of keeping a certain peace. Practicing kindness seems the best option here.

The other day I was sweating through the final moments of my weight workout when an old man started…I guess he was flirting. It wasn’t anything serious or creepy, just a semi-obvious I see you and I like what I see exchange. At first I was baffled, as he seemed to be much, much older. Then I realized he’s maybe 5-6 years ahead of me, so entirely age-appropriate if I were into it. He picked himself up off the mat where he’d been doing crunches and walked off to the locker room with the step of a far younger man. Here’s to you, you spicy geezer. I hope I have that confidence when I’m…your age.

Bloggage: A pretty good take on Facebook, what ails it and how it should be fixed. And it should be fixed.

The Case of the Infamous Dossier gets more complicated. Still sorting through this one.

Finally, from the comments, I know a lot of you have been getting junk phone calls lately. Me, too. I have a 734 area code, a souvenir of my first cell phone being purchased in Ann Arbor. I make a lot of calls to people who aren’t in my network, so I answer them all, but lately when I see not only the 734 area code but the first three numbers of my own, I let it go, then immediately block it. Lately, I’m starting to get weird email, too, and I wonder if it, too, is a new scam.

One of my private email addresses is first initial/married name -at- a popular domain. And a couple months ago — about the time I started posting my resume on job-search sites, a huge mistake I regret — I started getting email for Norma MyMarriedName, who also uses first initial/last name. She appears to be a very busy lady, buying stuff online and signing up for gym memberships and all sorts of stuff. One included her street address, which I figured had to be a fake, but I G-mapped it and lo it exists, and in Newark, Ohio, no less. We don’t yet have your down payment, Norma, and without it we can’t guarantee delivery by Christmas, wrote someone at Montgomery Ward. (It still exists, yes!) It doesn’t seem exactly…legit.

It keeps happening. I’ve started hitting Unsubscribe on some of them, and by doing so I’m wondering if I just delivered the full contents of my inbox to the Russians. If so, have at it! It’s the address that I mainly use for crap, so enjoy my utility billing notices and unread New York Times Cooking newsletters, Boris.

But who doesn’t know their own damn email address?

Time to punch down the pizza dough and consider toppings. Good midweek to all.

Posted at 6:40 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 123 Comments

I’m not with her.

No. Oprah Winfrey should not run for president, no no no no no. No. Don’t even pretend it’s a good idea. Don’t take it seriously. DO NOT DO THIS, AMERICA.

I want our next president to be a quiet, hard-working, younger-than-me-or-at-least-not-a-lot-older policy nerd. Charismatic, yes, but not goddamn Oprah. We shouldn’t even be talking about it, because talking about it makes it sound possible, and you know how that’s worked out so far.

So let’s stop this silliness right now.

Then you might consider reading this very sad story from Politico, about the widening divide between neighbors in little Pepin County, Wis., which went 58 percent for you-know-who in 2016, bewildering and baffling its many Democratic residents. Both factions have used the results as a pretext to stay angry and divided from the very people they live, work, shop and perhaps even worship next to on a regular basis.

Trump is surely not the only reason for America’s worrisome and worsening partisan strife, with 80 percent of people in recent polling saying they see the country as “mainly or totally divided.” But his election framed that chasm in stark terms, an emotional choice that felt bitterly personal on both sides. And since taking office, the 45th president has only stoked the discord with his comments about “ungrateful” blacks, the criminal propensities of immigrants, his anti-Islam rhetoric and his equivocations on behalf of white supremacists. People here, in this demographically homogeneous, almost entirely white community, have plenty to say about all this—they just have chosen not to say it to each other. If there is a wall that Trump has built, it’s not the “big, beautiful” one on the Mexican border—it’s the figurative wall that has risen in places like Pepin County, Wisconsin.

I sat at a bar in Durand called the Cell Block one afternoon and listened to Bill Ingram, a GOP member of the county board, bluntly describe Republicans as “good” and Democrats as “evil.” I spent another evening in a cabin on a dark hill as deer hunters downed cans of Keystone Light while discussing what they viewed as a Trump-boosted economic surge—and the next night at a cozy, artsy concert venue where aghast liberals drank $4 bottles of craft beer and lamented the “erosion” of democracy. Myklebust characterized Pepin County as a Venn diagram with two circles that no longer touch.

Not surprising, really. I found myself nodding along to much of it.

Sorry for the late update today. Just got jammed up after a bitter-cold weekend when not much happened, other than seeing “I, Tonya,” which we both enjoyed very much. I recommend it.

Posted at 4:12 pm in Current events | 39 Comments

The wrong person for the job.

The rest of you are talking and thinking nonstop about you-know-who, but I’ve been woolgathering on Karen Spranger today.

Chances are you don’t know her, although I know we have some journalists reading today, and if you’ve ever covered a small-city council and one of those people inevitably described as “a local gadfly” shows up, you know her. Spranger once attended a Warren city council meeting in a suit made of aluminum foil, to make her point that something – smart meters or chemtrails or one of those boogiemen – was poisoning local residents. She filed multiple petitions to recall a politician she disliked. And then she threw her hat in the ring as a candidate for Macomb County clerk, just north of where I live, and in one of those weird planetary alignments that happen from time to time in politics, last November she won.

It became evident almost immediately that she was unqualified and unprepared for the job. The office had run efficiently for years under a safe incumbent, who waited until the last minute to retire and tried to pass the position off to a hand-picked successor, but a party squabble broke out that allowed Spranger to surf into office on the Trumpian wave. And from there, it hasn’t gone well.

The biggest problem was Spranger herself, who appears to have mental-health issues. Her address of record is a blighted wreck that only a family of raccoons would find hospitable. She must live somewhere, but no one knows exactly where, and she won’t say. She’s never held a job like this before, and her actual employment record is sketchy – she was on public assistance before she started earning $109,000 a year as county clerk.

Needless to say, the existing staff hasn’t taken well to her. Key deputies were fired almost immediately, and the place has sunk into dysfunction, with filing backlogs, staff shortages and, of course, lawsuits.

Does this sound familiar? Spranger is Donald Trump, writ small. (This Free Press story from last summer outlines it all, with the bothsidesiest bothsides headline ever.)

It’s been fashionable for decades now to run for office on the claim that one is not a career politician, but if Trump and Spranger are what non-career politicians do? Bring on the people who know what they’re doing. Please.

Which brings us to the Michael Wolff book. Not a fan of Wolff, but not too proud to say this one landed like a daisy-cutter, and probably should have. The Real Journalists ™ over at Axios had this to say:

There are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence. But there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.

There follows a long list of things Wolff got right, and it’s all the important stuff. So. Make of that what you will. Meanwhile, Wolff’s column yesterday in his employer’s publication, the Hollywood Reporter, winds up like this:

Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

Terrific. This is the fix we’re in. I see someone yesterday posted James Fallows’ comment on all this, something I’m in full agreement with. Everybody knows. And no one in a position of power is doing anything.

Have a great weekend, all. And brace yourselves for the rest of 2018.

Posted at 9:02 am in Current events | 94 Comments

Something’s brewing out to sea.

Hello from the deep freeze. Drove to the pool at 6:20 a.m. to find it closed. If there’s anything worse than venturing out in 2-degree weather for a predawn workout, it’s having it cancelled, after you’re dressed and your contacts are in.

Oh, well. Compared to some of you guys, I have it easy. For some time now, I’ve thought that weather reporting, especially TV weather reporting, is well into boy-who-cried-wolf territory; the other day, I watched an entire TV weathercast that failed to mention the actual forecast temperatures, so fixated they were on the wind-chill numbers. If you wear clothing, and enough of it, wind chill shouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of us who don’t have to work outdoors in cold snaps like this.

And then I go on the WaPo last night and read the news of a “bomb cyclone” forming as we speak off the eastern seaboard. A bomb cyclone, if I understand it correctly, is the new, sexy name for a bad blizzard:

Forecasters are expecting the storm to become a so-called “bomb cyclone” because its pressure is predicted to fall so fast, an indicator of explosive strengthening.

Yep, it’s 1978 all over again:

The third lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the mainland United States occurred as the storm passed over Mount Clemens, Michigan, where the barometer fell to 956.0 mb (28.23 inHg) on January 26.

So I guess those of you in the midst of that soup have it worse. At least the roads are clear here. For now.

Man, does the dog hate this crap, though. Even in her fetching winter coat and with mushers’ wax on her paws, all she wants to do is get the job done and go back to standing in front of the furnace vents.

As for me, I ate very lightly yesterday, abstained from alcohol and feel much better today. Even with my aborted workout.

For today, a rich banquet of linkage.

From Politico, an analysis of the Trump administration’s foreign policy that will not make you sleep well tonight, particularly in light of the dick-measuring button tweets last night. Here he is, meeting with leaders from Latin America:

After the photo op was over and the cameras had left the room, Trump dominated the long table. His vice president, Mike Pence, was to his right; Pence had just spent nearly a week on a conciliatory, well-received tour of the region, the first by a high-ranking administration official since Trump’s inauguration. To Trump’s left was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. “Rex tells me you don’t want me to use the military option in Venezuela,” the president told the gathered Latin American leaders, according to an account offered by an attendee soon after the dinner. “Is that right? Are you sure?” Everyone said they were sure. But they were rattled. War with Venezuela, as absurd as that seemed, was clearly still on Trump’s mind.

A thesis statement, after a couple more disturbing anecdotes:

So what the hell is going on? I’ve come to believe that when it comes to Trump and the world, it’s not better than you think. It’s worse.

How comforting.

Not that things are better on the domestic front. The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation may well produce two reports:

In an interview with me, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut — the No. 2 Democrat on the House intel committee — said that Democrats are seriously exploring the possibility of issuing a minority report that details (among other things) the degree to which Republicans tried to impede a full investigation, should that end up happening. In this scenario, the public would at least have a clear sense of just how far Republicans went to protect President Trump and his top officials from accountability.

“It’s in both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ interests to … write a report based on a common set of facts,” Himes told me. “It would be a tragedy if the report has a minority section that says, ‘Look, we wanted to talk to these two dozen witnesses and weren’t able to do so.’”

But I don’t want to bum you out on a day when just stepping outside is…trying. So here’s this: The year in weird Florida news, a veritable Whitman’s Sampler of giggles:

When a SWAT team raided a home in the retirement mega-community of The Villages, police found more than just the meth lab they’d expected. They also discovered it was a chop shop for stolen golf carts. …A Plantation police officer giving a gun safety lesson to schoolchildren warned them that his Taser was not a toy, then accidentally Tasered a 10-year-old. …Police in Fort Pierce said a man jumped into a burning car, drove it around the block, stopped, jumped out, then fired several shots into it.

PS: It wasn’t his car.

Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:22 am in Current events | 46 Comments

Into it we go.

I believe it was another blogger who once said that she enjoys Christmas as much as the next girl, but dragging that tree to the curb is like getting another room on your house. Seconded. Every time I sweep up the pine needles, I think how a pre-lit artificial tree is definitely not selling out. Things are complicated this year by the snow on the walks and a serious deep freeze, which means we’re going to be tracking those fuckers back into the house for days and weeks yet.

Yes, I just referred to pine needles as fuckers. I go on a jihad about cleanliness at this time of year.

Otherwise, it was a pleasant new year’s weekend. Prime rib was prepared and served, as was spinach soufflé and a disappointing potato dish, bailed out by a wonderful sorbet. I may make sorbet every weekend for the rest of my life, if it’s as good as the kir royale sorbet I made for dinner yesterday. Glad I bought an ice cream maker at a garage sale a few years back. (“Does it work?” “Oh yes. It’s just that I have two of them.” #GrossePointeProblems)

Now for dry, abstemious January. I’m pretty damn ready for this one, gotta say. But I’ll eat the rest of the sorbet first.

I can say with confidence that my New Year’s Eve was better than young Barron Trump’s:

When I was 11 and my parents had plans for NYE, I could sleep over at a friend’s house, or have someone over, or otherwise do something that an 11-year-old might consider fun. I was never dressed up and required to go to their party with them. Just looking at the random crowd shots gives me the heebie-jeebies on his behalf:

Have we ever speculated on whether Barron is on the spectrum? I’ve thought so for a while now. Those of you experienced with these kids are encouraged to weigh in. His may be the only book out of this administration I might look forward to reading.

Speaking of which, this is required reading for those of you keeping up. And that’s all from me for now. I’m going to try out my new meditation app. Happy new year to all of us.

Posted at 4:55 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments

An MBA falls in the forest.

I know I may be the only person who cares about this, but hey, whaddaya know, Bill Agee died. He was 79. Complications of scleroderma, although it sounds a broken heart may have been a complicating factor.

We talked about the Saga of Bill and his second wife, Mary, right here on this blog, man, seven years ago. (The post makes me sad, because I was much freer with my opinions then, before I had to start curbing my tongue in public. Maybe one day I’ll be that crazy and free again.) You can read that blog to realize why I took a special interest in them, but I didn’t know this about him:

William Agee was 38 and a rising corporate star in 1976 when the Bendix Corporation, a large auto parts maker, made him one of the youngest chief executives of a major American company.

Handsome and articulate, with an M.B.A. from Harvard, Mr. Agee personified a new, more fast-moving, less bureaucratic management style that was starting to take hold. He got rid of Bendix’s boardroom table as a stodgy artifact of the past, banned executive parking spaces and often dressed in a style now known as business casual.

Three years after he took the reins at Bendix, Time magazine featured him in a cover article with the headline “Faces of the Future.” He was personally appealing, and so was his message: Success at his company should be based on merit rather than seniority or tradition. He acted on that notion by recruiting and promoting young managers.

The cover of Time magazine, at 41. Running a major auto supplier. Shakin’ things up. And then he hired Mary Cunningham, and both of their lives were never the same. The tl;dr of his career: He ran Bendix into a ditch. Then he went to Morrison Knudsen, and ran it into a ditch. Then he more or less retired to California with Mary, where he “managed his investments, consulted for businesses and worked as a local philanthropist and volunteer, reading once a week to the youngest students at a Roman Catholic school.” Washed up at 57, basically. Cunningham never amounted to much after she met him, either, at least not career-wise. After having her mentor promote her to a vice-president position at Bendix, and leaving under a cloud, she sidestepped to a similar spot at Seagram, washed out there, and hitched her wagon to Agee’s star. I’m sure California and a couple of serial buyouts provided a comfy cushion, but man, if that isn’t ’80s business-worship madness in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

And we’re still doing it. Business people run for public office on platforms that extol how they’ve “met a payroll.” As someone who receives a paycheck, I certainly appreciate that skill, but it bears little relation to what you want in a senator.

I wonder what Bendix’ boardroom table ever did to hurt anyone. It’s the people who sit around a table that are the problem, but getting rid of the table makes for better PR. Stand-up meetings were a thing for a while, but as someone who likes to spread out papers and look at them, I doubt they’d be for me.

Anyway, back to Bill. Note these final three grafs of his obit:

Mr. Agee’s second marriage caused a break with his children from his first, and even from his mother. She refused to speak to him, prompting him to legally change his middle name in 1990, after she had died, so that it was no longer her maiden name.

The estrangement between the two families lasted for decades. But in October, Suzanne Agee said, her father, in frail health, contacted the children from his first marriage, all of whom live in Seattle, and went to stay with them.

“That was the great gift of these last two months,” she said, “all of us spending time with my father.”

He died in Seattle. Did he leave Mary to do this? Did she come with him? Bless his journey? Suzanne was the one who announced his death.

Oh, and he changed his middle name from McReynolds to…Joseph. Husband of Mary. Hmm.

Enough about that guy, though. Glad to hear everyone had a wonderful holiday, or at least a peaceful one. We certainly did, although driving back from Ohio on Christmas eve was no picnic – winter storm, and on nearly untouched roads. It took hours, but we made it OK. Then hot chocolate on the holiday, presents, snow-blowing and a late-afternoon screening of “Lady Bird.” It all worked for me.

Just one piece of bloggage, a couple days old, but absolutely worth reading and absolutely chilling: How the Kremlin played its long game on hacking. And we’re not ready for 2018.

Maybe one more post coming here before 2018, though. Resolutions, anyone?

Posted at 10:10 pm in Current events | 24 Comments

Fear of everything but God.

Alan grumbles over his newspaper from time to time, but seldom says, “This is really good,” so when he does, I pay attention.

He said this is really good. I agree. It’s about how evangelicals have sold their souls, ha ha, to a new kind of religion, which the author, Amy Sullivan, calls Fox Evangelicalism:

But if the conservative media has created a category of Fox evangelical converts, it has also influenced the way a whole generation of churchgoing evangelicals thinks about God and faith. On no issue is this clearer than guns.

In fall 2015, I visited Trinity Bible College, an Assemblies of God-affiliated school in North Dakota, to join the conservative evangelical students there for a screening of “The Armor of Light,” a documentary by the filmmaker Abigail Disney. The film followed the pastor and abortion opponent Rob Schenck on his quest to convince fellow evangelicals — the religious demographic most opposed to gun restrictions — that pro-life values are incompatible with an embrace of unrestricted gun access. I found Mr. Schenck compelling, and my editor had sent me to see if his target audience bought the arguments.

It did not.

As two dozen of us gathered for a post-screening discussion, I was both astonished and troubled, as a fellow evangelical, by the visceral sense of fear that gripped these young adults. As a child in the Baptist church, I had been taught to be vigilant about existential threats to my faith. But these students in a town with a population of some 1,200 saw the idea of a home invasion or an Islamic State attack that would require them to take a human life in order to save others as a certainty they would face, not a hypothetical.

These fears are far removed from the reality of life in North Dakota, a state that saw a total of 21 homicides in 2015. Of those deaths, seven were caused by firearms, and only three were committed by someone unknown to the victim. Yet the students around me agreed unreservedly with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, who was seen in the film asserting that “in the world around us, there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”

Imagine living in a state – not a city, a state – with 21 homicides in a year, only three of which were by an unknown assailant. I’m subscribed to a number of Facebook groups about various communities in the Grosse Pointes, and I’m amazed at how many people talk wildly about using guns to remedy petty-crime issues like theft from unlocked cars or package thefts from front porches, a common crime at this time of year. Imagine somehow catching a person trying to abscond with an Amazon box containing a Bluetooth speaker or pair of pants or whatever, and putting a bullet into their body.

Also imagine being the person who fans that fear, and uses it to gather power, or make money. I shudder to think.

But as the recent election in Alabama indicated, this particular segment of the electorate is willing to go very very far afield of their stated principles. From Politico, another rather alarming dispatch, about Jen Hatmaker (great name), an evangelical leader who went on the record as a never-Trumper and a supporter of same-sex marriage:

That’s when the full weight of conservative Christian outrage crashed down on Hatmaker. There were soon angry commenters and finger-wagging bloggers. She says people in her little town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, pulled her children aside and said terrible things about her and her husband. She was afraid to be in public, and she wasn’t sleeping or eating well. “The way people spoke about us, it was as if I had never loved Jesus a day in my life,” Hatmaker recently told an audience in Dallas. The gilded auditorium was quiet, its 2,300 seats filled to capacity with nearly all women. “And I was just an ally,” she said. “Think about how our gay brothers and sisters feel.”

Such a strange time to be alive.

It was a strange weekend, too, here in Detroit. A prominent journalist, Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press, Pulitzer winner, host of a daily public-radio show and with fingers in many other pies, became the latest man to fall to you-know-what. However, it was handled about as badly as these things can be handled, with the paper declining to release any details to their readers whatsoever. I’m not the only person who was shocked to hear this, and I have doubts as to the nature and seriousness of these unspecified incidents. This has led to a social-media frenzy, as you might imagine, with uninformed readers speculating as to the nature of these offenses, whatever they may be.

There’s a time when it’s best to shut up, and best to come clean. There are also times when you should talk to a lawyer. This was a big career to fall without a single justification being publicized.

Finally, I mentioned I’m back to work. I’m the new — and founding — director of communications for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a policy-research nonprofit with roots dating back to the progressive era. It so happens I wrote the story for Bridge on the group’s 100th anniversary, in which its president emeritus described it as the best-kept secret in Michigan. My job, which is funded by a capacity-building grant, will be to raise their profile. I’m not doing any of the research, just helping them spread the word. It’s a new role for me, and a challenge – they’re scrupulously factual and nonpartisan in a time when that approach is both more necessary and less common than ever. Not much will change around here, but I feel like I could host an ask-me-anything about Medicaid expansion right now.

The homestretch to the holidays is on.

Posted at 5:21 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 65 Comments

Snow day.

We had about eight inches of snow yesterday and overnight, which explains my scarceness around here. Nothing like having to push these packets out under a heavy snowpack to slow you down. Now that net neutrality’s been repealed, it’s only going to get harder, you know.

And, as usual, everything has been overtaken by events. But I want to bring some links to your attention:

This Washington Post piece on the very perplexing situation the White House staff find themselves in – dealing with a chief executive who doesn’t believe his own intelligence services, but does believe the president of Russia. It is, frankly, terrifying:

Current and former officials said that his daily intelligence update — known as the president’s daily brief, or PDB — is often structured to avoid upsetting him.

Russia-related intelligence that might draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written assessment and not raised orally, said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter. In other cases, Trump’s main briefer — a veteran CIA analyst — adjusts the order of his presentation and text, aiming to soften the impact.

“If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the PDB off the rails,” said a second former senior U.S. intelligence official.

There’s also the old keep-talking-I’m-listening scene, when Trump walks into the adjacent bathroom and out of a conversation about Angela Merkel. Jim Rhodes, the former governor of Ohio, pulled that trick on the president of Kent State not long after the shootings there. Or so I was told once.

One of my old Fort Wayne colleagues is the lead byline on this piece on the popularity of the AR-15, on the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings. Haven’t read yet, but will.

Finally, I saw some people posting clips to a morning-show interview with Omarosa what’s-her-name, who was frogmarched out of the White House in the course of her firing, but of course denies it. I couldn’t watch more than 30 seconds, because my brain begins to boil at the thought of this profoundly unqualified individual being employed by the country I love for even one day, let alone nearly a year. There’s talk of a book coming down the road from her. I know the president ties up his private-sector employees with NDAs, but is that even possible once they’ve gone to the public payroll? I don’t think so, but I don’t know everything. Anyone?

Posted at 1:35 pm in Current events | 40 Comments

The litterbox is full.

Because life can’t be all despair over the country or the weather or one’s lack of preparedness for the upcoming holiday, I devoted a small bit of time today to absorbing Art in the form of a short story that evidently has half of men’s-rights Twitter running around with their hair on fire and their butts extremely hurt.

It’s called “Cat Person.” Go ahead and read it; it’s pretty good. Not to spoil, but it tells the story of a doomed kinda-relationship that’s mostly carried on via electronic devices. It doesn’t end well, and features an explicit – for the New Yorker – sex scene that should ring true to anyone who’s ever had bad sex, which I assume = pretty much everyone. It also touches on a number of ripped-from-the-headline themes. Which explains the butthurt.

The reaction to the story has its own Twitter account. Don’t look before you read the story. And if you read it, be sure to read the Q&A with the author, too.

Man, pop culture lighting up over a piece of fiction that isn’t “Gone Girl” or “50 Shades”? This is a banner day. And it’s only Monday.

And Mario Batali is the first sexual harasser of the week to go down in flames. I don’t watch cooking shows, but I know who he is – the ponytail guy who has a house in northern Michigan and hung a lot with Jim Harrison before he died. I am, how you say, not surprised. Isn’t this sort of the culture of commercial kitchens? An old boyfriend of mine used to be a server in a white-tablecloth place, and told stories that curled my hair, one involving a chef throwing knives across the kitchen at some waiter who’d displeased him. Sex shenanigans would seem to be an improvement.

And tomorrow (today if you read this Tuesday) is Roy Moore’s fate. That’ll be a fun one to bat around. Or maybe consider emigration/suicide over.

What am I talking about? He’s going to win.

It’s snowing where I am. May it cover all of our sins.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Current events, Media | 47 Comments