Kate returned from Cuba late last night. Her flight didn’t arrive until close to 1 a.m., so her night-owl father did the airport duties. Found this on the kitchen counter this morning:

Well, OK then. Looks like she’s already absorbed the first rule of adulthood: When in doubt, a bottle makes a fine gift. Those ripe bananas may find their way into a round of daiquiris this evening.

Although I kinda hope I got a T-shirt or something, too. Maybe something with Che’s face, so I can remember this week in which the NFL caved to a petty tyrant the very day yet another appalling video emerged of police behaving like thugs toward a professional athlete.

Thuggishness is all the rage these days, of course; security physically hustled a reporter from the Associated Press — the steadiest Eddie in today’s media environment — out of a public hearing. That was Tuesday.

And it’s only Thursday.

Can you tell I’m watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” these days? I am. This week’s episode is the best of the season so far, which is the first to extend the story beyond Margaret Atwood’s novel. It had everything I asked for, after one too many shots of Elisabeth Moss reacting to outrage entirely through her buttoned-up facial expression — serious plot action and flashbacks featuring the previous life of its primary female villain. I won’t go into a lot of detail; if you know “Handmaid’s” you already know them anyway, but I’ll just say that this episode posed a question: Is it abusive to scream FASCIST C*NT at someone who actually advocates fascism and wants to take your rights away?

But that would never happen here, right?

Another show doing interesting things with current events — while not actually about current events — is “Westworld.” I have to admit my fandom is pretty much gone now; I don’t mind challenging television, but this one isn’t my cup of tea. However, in the second season the writers have teased out two plot lines that reflect on today. Westworld, if you didn’t know, is a near-future theme park populated by very advanced robots that are indistinguishable from human beings. They live in a standard Hollywood version of an Old West town, and visitors interact with them. Most of the interaction, as you might expect, is sexual and violent and sometimes both, because when humans are turned loose with “humans” and permitted to do whatever they want, they mainly want to fuck and kill. This season, it’s revealed what makes this park so valuable — the user data, of course. “Where else can you see people being exactly who they are?” one executive, whose name is not Mark Zuckerberg, asks.

The other thread is another Silicon Valley obsession, i.e., whether eternal life might be possible, via downloading one’s brain into one of these better-than-real vessels. It’s not going well, as we see with a particular executive, whose name is not Peter Thiel, who keeps getting rebuilt and rebooted but is still really glitchy.

And now here we are at Memorial Day, almost — the start of the weekend. Less TV, more outdoors. Bring it on. Before you head outside, read this piece from a few days back, advising Democrats on how they might win over Trump voters. Spoiler: THEY CAN’T. So stop trying. Register your voters, then turn them out. It’s the old-fashioned way.

I’ll try to be back here and there over the weekend, but no promises. A lot going on. So let’s leave this thread open until the next one, and have a happy long weekend, all.

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 71 Comments

Volcanos everywhere.

By request: A new post to replace the one about barf at the top of the page. Also by request:

It’s one of those days when I kinda want my browser to crash, if only to dispense with the three windows and 2,000 tabs I have open between them, because people, I am exhausted and it would help clear the decks. Been reading all the Trump news, periodically going to the window to see if a mob with torches and pitchforks has gathered for the long march to Washington, or even to the corner, to express howling disapproval. Zilch. This is a familiar feeling. I remember during the financial meltdown, closing my laptop in sheer panic and wondering why people weren’t out on my lawn screaming or setting their houses on fire or whatever. But life goes on in its petty-pace details of making coffee and taking showers and letting the dog out to pee. It just does.

Thursday, I went to Lansing. A lovely, lovely day. There was a crowd gathered on the Capitol lawn for some reason I would have liked to investigate, but I was headed the other way, for a lunchtime panel on workforce development. Michigan is not doing well at this, because our schools are underfunded and the population is still residually shellshocked by the reality that a high-school diploma isn’t enough anymore, unless you want to sell french fries in a paper hat. At the Q&A, my boss summed up the panelists’ big theme — that if we want more people in post-secondary education, we need to remake secondary education. Hear, hear. I’ve thought this for a while, and yet, the hold high school has on American life is strong. I’ve known many homeschoolers who stopped at 9th grade, not because they couldn’t go on but because their children wanted a high-school experience, and not the education but the rest of it — proms, football games, swim meets, all-night graduation parties, the opposite sex violating dress codes, all that stuff.

Also, with per-pupil funding the norm in most states, every kid who bails out of Everytown High a year early for early/community college takes their backpack full of cash with them, so schools have no incentive to encourage it. But the fact remains, the student body of almost every school is becoming more diverse in every sense — learning dis/abilities, income, family background, all of it. One size doesn’t fit all in anything other than caftans.

Common Core was supposed to address this. People forget CC was born in the business community, so personnel managers knew that a high-school diploma in Arkansas knew roughly the same as one in California. Alas, it was shortly revealed as a Satanic plot, so pfft on that.

And now I am tired and about to order a pizza, so have some fun with this bloggage:

Thanks to whoever posted this ultimate yanny/laurel explainer in the comments on the previous thread. I had to go almost all the way left to hear laurel. Team Yanny all the way here.

Great photos of the volcano erupting in Hawaii. It’s times like this I don’t mind Michigan at. All. Five months of winter, yes, but no wildfires (not around here, anyway) or volcanos, and the earthquakes are just li’l ol’ things.

Face it, the only thing worse than the current presidency would be the likely next presidency. Shudder.

Let’s start that damn weekend, shall we?

Posted at 7:23 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments

Slipping away.

I could tell you I was totally busy early this week, which would be the truth, but the truthier truth is, sometimes you gotta lay your burden down, and sometimes it’s just nice to get out in the sunshine, and sometimes you have to do it without your laptop. And that’s what I did Sunday: Went for a longish bike ride with an old friend, followed by some Little Kings at a bar, and as Detroit Sundays go, that’s a pretty good one.

We went down to Delray, one of the most shat-upon neighborhoods in the city, for a variety of reasons I don’t want to explain here. (It often smells literally so, thanks to the sewage treatment plant there.) But we went mainly because things are changing fast there; the new bridge to Canada will begin construction eventually, and the customs plaza and various other infrastructure will be there, so I wanted to see how the land clearing was going. In a word: Apace. We rode past a building my friend was always curious about, and lo, the door was open, so we stopped. Inside was an old man who told us many stories about the place, about his life, about Delray, and about the building, which was once a bar.

“There’s a tunnel that runs under the road and comes out in the building over there,” he said. “The Purple Gang used to use it.”

Now. If you laid out all the Purple Gang-used-to-hang-here stories in Detroit end to end, there wouldn’t be a building left for a legit business. But in this case, I think it might be true. The bar is smack on the Rouge River, near where it flows into the Detroit River, and there’s a boat slip/house and dock out back, with not one but two basements. It would be a perfect place to offload liquor in the middle of the night, in the middle of Prohibition, and the neighborhood was never really known for its saintliness. We saw one basement but not the other, because it’s flooded, and that’s where the tunnel would have been. Meanwhile, the old man told story after story after story, some of them surely apocryphal, but maybe not. He was old and a little raggedy, and the bar had been closed for years. He said he was aiming to get his liquor license back, something I doubt will ever happen. But it was a nice interlude on a warm day.

This was the building. The garage just out of the frame on the left is now a pile of rubble. Here’s one man’s story about taking liquor deliveries to the bar. A boy who could ferry a boat over from Canada could make $5 per trip, big money in the 1920s. All soon to be gone, gone, gone. The new bridge will have a bike lane, we have been promised, so maybe someday, an international crossing for me on my two-wheeler.

Monday and Tuesday passed at a gallop, though. Gallops are good; they make the days fly. We’re whoa-ing to a trot Wednesday and Thursday, and may amble into the weekend at a relaxed walk. Time will tell.

Time will tell about a lot of things. The Iran deal cancellation, for one, although I think the time has already told: What a bonehead move. Our genius negotiator-in-chief.

The weekend’s WashPost story about the president’s real-estate financing during the before-he-was-president era is very interesting, too. It doesn’t actually say m – – – – l – – – – – – ing, but it’s certainly an unavoidable conclusion a thinking person might draw from the facts at hand. Some of you smarter people will have to explain how Deutsche Bank plays in all of this. I’m listening.

Oh, and this story is breaking as we speak:

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

And this was the big overnight read:

To many in Albany, New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, seemed staid and somewhat standoffish: a teetotaler who favored coffee shops over bars, liked yoga and health food and preferred high-minded intellectual and legal debate to the hand-to-hand combat of New York’s political arena.

But that carefully cultivated image of a caring, progressive Renaissance man came crashing down on Monday night after the publication of an expose by The New Yorker, detailing allegations of a sordid and stomach-turning double life, including Mr. Schneiderman’s physical and psychological abuse of four women with whom he had been romantically involved. The attorney general’s behavior, the article said, had been exacerbated by alcohol abuse and punctuated by insults of the very liberal voters and activists who had held him up as a champion willing to deliver a fearless counterpunch to President Trump.

Well, OK then.

Charge on into the week, guys. For the millionth time, I miss the olden days, don’t you?

Posted at 7:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 64 Comments

Two links and a snap for the weekend.

I promised myself no more two-post weeks, so here goes, because I’m a woman who only breaks promises to herself three, maybe four times a day, and today I’m going for only two. Overslept my alarm and arrived late to the pool, but I got in a solid 50 minutes, so that promise? Kept! Let’s see how this one goes.

Let’s start with a couple of good reads from Politico today.

You might have heard that Michael Cohen’s legal alma mater, Cooley, is routinely branded the worst law school in America by the legal profession itself. It’s a well-known Michigan business, so I’m pretty familiar with this rep. I wasn’t, however, familiar with some of these key details, laid out in a not-too-long, very readable Politico piece:

Recent, publicly available tax records show that the school’s president, Don P. DeLuc was paid $432,000 in 2016. His daughter Laura is one of the school’s associate deans. (The school would not provide the current salary figures for either President DeLuc or his daughter, nor make either of them available for interviews.) The recent tax records show that school’s 88-year-old founder, Thomas Brennan, a former Michigan state Supreme Court justice who stepped down as Cooley’s president in 2002, has continued to be paid more than $329,000 a year as an emeritus professor even though he works only five hours a week. An audit released last year revealed that under his contract, Brennan is entitled to receive a salary “based on two times the salary of a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, plus certain other benefits, until his death.”

The school said Brennan was also unavailable for an interview. He has continued to speak out publicly, however, through his “Old Judge Says” blog, in which he offers commentary that might easily be perceived as anti-Islamic, homophobic and radically insensitive. In a 2016 post, he remembered with affection the blackface minstrel shows of his youth. He recalled how he and his brother performed in local minstrel shows in the Detroit area, “our faces blacked to the teeth.”

“In these days of political correctness, the whole idea of minstrelsy seems preposterous,” he wrote. “But the truth is that minstrelsy was fun.”

Holy shitballs. How did I not know this?

Also in Politico today is a profile of James O’Keefe, the Project Veritas guy. He’s feeling whiny:

Aboard a cramped commuter train heading north, O’Keefe bemoans what he believes is a double standard. Critics consider him a villain for “allegedly” making misleading edits to videos, he says, but why hasn’t Katie Couric been branded with a scarlet letter for the deceptive editing in her 2016 documentary about guns? People still read Rolling Stone, O’Keefe complains, even though it published a 9,000-word account of a campus rape that never occurred. People trust the Post, he notes, but it was forced to print a correction after its ACORN coverage initially stated that O’Keefe had targeted the group because it helped African-Americans and Latinos. “Yet because I selectively edit,” O’Keefe says, using air quotes, “I am the most despicable person on the planet.”

This argument would elicit more sympathy if the critics were wrong about O’Keefe’s editing—it has, at times, been misleading—and if O’Keefe weren’t nurturing a double standard of his own. As our stop nears, he shakes his head and shows me a CNN story on his iPhone. Reporters have contacted advertisers for Alex Jones, the demagogic and conspiracy-minded radio host who is best known for claiming that the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 were faking their deaths as part of a government hoax. “Speaking of accuracy,” I say, glancing up. “Haven’t you been on his show?” O’Keefe stiffens. “Yes,” he replies. “And I’m not going to say a negative word about Alex Jones.”

Yummy yummy yummy. I’d also add that when Rolling Stone knew its rape story was false, they asked none other than Columbia Journalism School to investigate its processes, then published its report. Has O’Keefe ever done anything like that? Is that crickets I hear? OK, then.

(You know what has always bugged me about the Rolling Stone story? Even after it was determined that its fake victim, “Jackie,” was lying, almost all media sources continue to refer to her by her first name only, as rape victims are traditionally ID’d by media in these cases. Only the Breitbartian right has called her by her full name, Jackie Coakley. She’s not a mental patient or otherwise worthy of protection, is she? I don’t get it.)

I don’t have much more to report, but this and that:

Heard from Kate, who appears to be having herself a great time in Havana. She texted us a picture. I think my dad use to drive that Ford Chevy in the background. Maybe the same one:

“It’s so colorful,” she otherwise reports. After the five-month slog of a Michigan winter, I bet it is.

And with that, I’m outta here. Have a great weekend, all.

Late edit: Also read this NYT story on the courting of the Obama voter who flipped for Trump, if only because its through line is in Medina County, childhood home of Jeff Borden.

Posted at 10:47 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 79 Comments

All wet.

“Flint still doesn’t have clean water” was how Michelle Wolf closed her now-notorious set at the White House correspondents’ dinner Saturday. I hear that a lot. The other day I saw a Facebook post featuring the brother of a friend, who lives in Indiana, thanking him for contributing to some church’s bottled-water drive, “for the people of Flint, who still don’t have clean water.”

As someone who lives about an hour away from Flint, this puzzles me. Flint has been receiving clean, treated Detroit water since shortly after the lead-poisoning scandal was fully revealed; the source was switched back from the Flint River. Of course, the damage had already been done, but in case you’re not up on all the deets, here’s what happened, in a nutshell:

The city, under emergency financial management, made the decision to make the switch from expensive treated Detroit water to the far-cheaper local source in 2014, restarting a riverfront treatment plant that had been mothballed for decades. This was done to save money and bide time until another source, a separate and brand-new water authority drawing from Lake Huron, came online. However, the people in charge of making the switch and running the utility didn’t properly treat the Flint River water.

We have known that corrosive water can eat away at lead pipes and leach the neurotoxin into drinking water for decades. Did we dig up every lead pipe in the country as a result? No. We started treating water with corrosion-control chemicals that, over time, build up a protective layer on the inside of pipes. When all this started, I had Alan check our service line, installed in the 1940s when the house was built. As far as we can tell, it’s lead, so we had the water tested. Lead levels were undetectable; Detroit water is treated properly. (Thanks, beb!) But in Flint, the plant had been out of service so long it didn’t even have the equipment necessary to inject these chemicals. They made the switch anyway. To save money.

And the rest, as Mitch Albom might say, using a cliche in a one-sentence paragraph, is history.

This is about as far as even a well-informed non-Michigan-residing American’s knowledge likely goes. But here’s some more: Besides making the switch back, the city began providing free water filters and bottled water to all residents. Experts advised letting the treated Detroit water flow freely, so the pipes could begin to “heal,” so to speak. As you can imagine, the residents of Flint had, shall we say, lost faith in expert opinion and most other forms of civic authority. Some stopped paying their bills. The public consensus was screw healing these pipes, tear them out and put in new ones. Cases of bottled water sat stacked on porches all over the city. The forces began to muster to start the slow process of pipe replacement.

When I went over there about 18 months ago, it was to watch a typical replacement process for one house and describe why it’s taking so long to accomplish. You can read the story I wrote then, or accept this summation: Because it’s amazingly complicated.

Flint is an old city fallen on hard times, and it has many of the same problems Detroit does with blight and abandonment. So when people elsewhere use “Flint doesn’t have clean water yet” as some sort of virtue-signaling catch phrase, I get a little peevish. Because before anyone turns one shovelful of dirt, about a million questions have to be answered: How do we prioritize? Who goes first? Who’s the owner of this property? (Often a difficult question to answer with so many rentals.) And so on. And that’s before money even enters the picture.

I don’t like to quote my own work, but I liked this passage:

It turns out that digging a hole in the ground in an older city like Flint is a lot like doing surgery in the 19th century. You never really know what you’re going to find in there.

What sounds simple – dig a hole, find the line, replace the line, fill the hole – rarely is. Once lines are laid, few clues on the surface hint at what might be underneath. People plant trees, gardens, live their lives in the houses above. Years pass, decades. The trees stretch their branches to the sun and roots deep into the earth. The city prospers and grows, falters and contracts. Residents move in and out.

And then, one day maybe 90 years after 1410 Ida and its neighbors were new, a bunch of guys in hardhats, mud on their boots, stand staring into a hole at the curb.

And this part:

Every pipe replacement starts with paperwork, because the city isn’t just replacing the lead service lines that run from the water main to the curb, i.e., the part of the line that is city owned. Because the entire system was damaged, they’re replacing the private portion as well, the lines that run from the curb to each house, and that requires written permission from homeowners, who may be absentee.

The houses on Ida Avenue were built in the 1920s. Part of the street is brick, laid in a herringbone pattern. Old street bricks are valuable, and must be preserved at the request of the city’s street department. Sometimes a sidewalk has to be destroyed to get to the line, and that requires repair, as does the street where the hole is dug.

But the main problem is, this is an old neighborhood in an old city. And the city did things differently decades ago.

Oh, and another complication: Winter, which regular readers know lasts for-goddamn-ever in Michigan. Asphalt can only be laid in warmer weather, and the holes created by this process are not suitable for the emergency winter pothole filler known as cold patch.

So you can see why “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” is a little glib. There is no magic wand, no hurry-up process, to replace thousands of service lines. In the meantime, state officials say (and I believe them) that a house with a properly installed water filter has safe drinking water. Again, you can’t blame residents for being suspicious, but chemistry is chemistry. Between the treated source water, filters and bottled water, even a poor resident of Flint in a lead-service-pipe house should be OK. (The state recently announced it was suspending free bottled water for Flint residents, in a move that should be in a dumbass-PR textbook eventually. But that’s a side issue.)

Meanwhile, lead levels are rising among children in? Anyone? Yes, Detroit. Why? The usual suspects — paint, mostly — but in a new delivery system: Dust. Demolitions of the city’s infamous oversupply of vacant and blighted housing have picked up in recent years, and even with a firehose spraying over the wreckage as it comes down, a certain amount of lead is aerated, and kids living within 200 feet of these demos are at risk.

Basically, it sucks to be poor. Or, put another way, they don’t call it “poor health” for nothing.

Man, I am running slow this morning. Barely slept last night, thinking about the approaching 4:30 a.m. alarm. I had to take Kate to the airport, where she left for three weeks of study abroad in Havana. I’m so envious, as I’d hoped to go to Cuba sometime this year, before the door slammed shut again. (I know, it’s possible. It’s just more of a pain.) She’ll be exploring the roots of native music and dance for two credit hours before commencing the rest of her summer break. I tried to shove all the knowledge I have of travel in places that aren’t modern Western democracies into her head; we’ll see if it takes. I just want her to have a good time and learn the rumba.

But now she’s laying over in Ft. Lauderdale, and will be officially overseas by mid afternoon. She’s carrying my vintage Nikon SLR, and I hope to see it again, but who knows. Alan packed her off with saxophone reeds and guitar strings as gifts for the native musicians they’ll be encountering; I expect new ones are hard to come by. She’s also carrying little Dove chocolates and Twizzlers to share with kids. I expect she’ll make some new friends.

Me, I gotta get some chores done.

Posted at 10:32 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments

Terrible people, terrible enablers.

Guys, I had this mostly written and thisclose to being ready to post on Friday, then Friday slithered out of my grasp. Yeah, I know. Excuses, excuses.

Remember when we all first discovered the internet? Whether you came aboard in the Compuserve era, or with America Online, or after that, or before, we probably all had our aha moment, when we realized this vast network of souls connected by keyboards meant we are not alone.

For years, I felt like the only Warren Zevon fan in the world. Of course I wasn’t the only one at the shows, but the fellow Warren fans I actually knew were few, far between, and could mainly be counted on one or two hands. Then I went on AOL and found…a community! Warren Himself sometimes came into the chat room, or the bulletin board, or whatever it was, and would say a few words. It was thrilling. It was amazing. The world felt smaller, and in an entirely good way.

Of course, sooner or later I realized that not everyone looking for a community wanted to celebrate the work of an underappreciated singer-songwriter. I recall a letter to Dan Savage, a guy confessing a terrible secret lust for pornography featuring women in snow-white Keds sneakers. Where can I find my tribe, he asked. Savage’s reply: Duh. The internet. When I turned 40, I told Alan he was permitted to buy me an Hermes scarf for the next significant gift-giving occasion, and went online to see what I might find under the tree. It turns out Hermes-scarf bondage porn is a thing, too, and I’m sorry to say that I am so bougie about these expensive accessories that the thought of some dude ruining one forever made me shut down my browser in horror. Shudder.

We all know how it went from there. The internet makes social movements easier to organize. It helped spread the early word about Barack Obama. It’s given us YouTube stars, and journalism stars, and generally freshened things up by elevating and amplifying new, interesting voices.

But because there is literally nothing we can’t fuck up, things took a turn. We once thought television would bring a university into every living room, and we got “The Apprentice” instead. And so the same internet that brought me together with new nursing mothers and Zevon fans also now provides you-are-not-alone cover to pedophiles, anti-vaccine lunatics and, we now know, so-called incels, or “involuntary celibates,” colloquially known as guys who can’t get laid.

You know all this, but here’s what bugs me: You know how newspapers are always on about their ethics, which invariably leads someone to roll their eyes and say, whoa, there’s an oxymoron? Well, it’s not. Journalists — traditional-source journalists, anyway, and most of the others — do have certain ethical standards, and most of them are based on a single principle: You are responsible for what you publish.

This is another idea that the internet’s creative destruction has done away with. Facebook isn’t responsible for allowing Russians to sow lies and confusion. Google isn’t responsible for its blogging platforms. Hey, don’t look at us! To them, they’re Goss, the company that makes printing presses, not publishers. Meanwhile, it’s hard to get them to even shut down websites that turn a mass murderer into a hero. What? You don’t like free speech?

A former state representative I once wrote about now spends significant chunks of time online, posting tinfoil-hat stories about crisis actors and chemtrails and government schools. He believes the UK’s National Health Service killed that sick little kid in cold blood. He is carrying on. He is nuts.

Here’s an article about the founder of 4chan, one of the most notorious sites for the sort of content that seeks to wound, to spread lies, to foment violence. The reporter describes it as “controversial.” The story is about this guy joining Google, where presumably he isn’t regularly pelted with rotten fruit, as he deserves.

The world is an awful place sometimes, and the worst among us are celebrated.

While you can read about incels at dozens and dozens of places, this skimmable piece from a fashion site does offer a helpful graphic. This more serious piece — HT to Sherri — is good, too.

On to the White House correspondents dinner, of which I have only this to say: If people don’t want a comedian to make jokes, don’t hire one. I actually saw one tweet that claimed this evening is about showcasing “decency and purpose.” O rly? Coulda fooled me. I thought it was a mutual-congratulation schmoozefest with a comedy routine thrown in. I watched Michelle Wolf’s set, and I dunno, maybe I watch too many comedy specials on Netflix, but it didn’t seem that bad to me. From the advance whining, I thought she’d called Sarah Sanders something horrible. She called her “Aunt Lydia,” a Handmaids Tale joke, and said something about her eye shadow. BFD.

OK, enough.

How Trump trickles down to the local level, in Michigan. Both the candidate featured here and the opponent he’s attacking are polling way, way below other candidates in their respective primaries, making this fight something else entirely, i.e., a sort of far-right virtue signaling to the base.

And with that, I’m wrapping and getting outside, because it’s a beautiful day. A bit chilly, but nothing terrible. A fine week ahead to all.

Posted at 12:39 pm in Current events, Media | 81 Comments

Milked dry.

I see someone posted this Rebecca Solnit essay yesterday, and someone else — Pilot Joe, I believe — sneered at it. Hmm, I wonder why? It made a lot of sense to me:

The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who. It’s white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing. The history of this country has been written as their story, and the news sometimes still tells it this way—one of the battles of our time is about who the story is about, who matters and who decides.

It is this population we are constantly asked to pay more attention to and forgive even when they hate us or seek to harm us. It is toward them we are all supposed to direct our empathy. The exhortations are everywhere. PBS News Hour featured a quiz by Charles Murray in March that asked “Do You Live in a Bubble?” The questions assumed that if you didn’t know people who drank cheap beer and drove pick-up trucks and worked in factories you lived in an elitist bubble. Among the questions: “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college? Have you ever walked on a factory floor? Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?”

The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who’s not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America. More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

I’m perfectly willing to step into the shoes of Real America and see the world the way they do; I lived in Indiana for 20-damn years, and think that qualifies as pretty much the capital of Real America. But when was the last time any of these country mice were exhorted to do the same, to suck it up and get an Airbnb in the big city for a week, and take a look around? As Solnit rightly points out, most people in the U.S. live in its urban areas, because that’s where the jobs are. So why is it on us to understand them, but not vice versa? I ask you.

Alan and I drove over to Ann Arbor Tuesday afternoon, to see an installation Kate did for a final project in some interactive media class. It was interesting — a two-person curtained hut with a fabric panel down the middle, separating the occupants. Each person puts one hand on a set of sensors, and one person’s circuit controls music, the other’s lights. When they join their free hands through a hole in the dividing panel, the lights change colors, and if they touch one another in a different place, like an arm or head or whatever and don’t get any filthy ideas, even though the artist’s own mother referred to the opening in the panel as a “glory hole — when they touch in a different way, the lights change colors. It was an interesting exhibit, and in walking around the music building before and after, I spotted a couple of cultural markers that reliably drive at least some of my conservative acquaintances right up the wall. Like the restroom marked “non-gendered,” and even stuff like this:

(Yes, I’ve known conservatives who simply refused to recycle. Because freedom, dammit.)

It was such a…normal interlude. I didn’t see any pervs waiting around the non-gendered toilets to molest little girls, and if you wanted to pee with your own kind, the traditional M/F pair were right down the hall. Why is this stuff so threatening? Any of us can walk into a red-state truck stop, make our way past the MAGA merch to the lunch counter and eat eggs in peace. But I have a friend with a standard-issue Fox News-watching mother. Daughter told mother she and her husband were taking a long weekend in Chicago soon, and mother reacted as though she’d declared they were going to Syria for a little R’n’R.

“Are you sure that’s safe?” mom fretted, having fully swallowed the Fox picture of Chicago as a bullet-strewn battleground from the lake to the suburbs.

On the way home, we stopped at a Culver’s — a regional fast-food chain — for a bathroom break, and I decided to allow myself one of the few milkshakes I consume in a year. There was a video loop playing on a TV behind the counter, with the founder of the chain saying his restaurants wouldn’t be what they were without “family farmers.” Oh, really? How many “family” farms are left in this country, anyway? Five’ll get you 10 that business buys its dairy products from the lowest bidder, which in this part of the country is currently? Anyone?


The mega-retailer opened a 250,000-square-foot dairy operation in Fort Wayne, and it is steadily doing to the family dairy industry what Godzilla does to Tokyo. Of course, milk is dirt-cheap in the Midwest these days, for this very reason.

Real America ™ is circling the drain in many important ways, but they don’t get that the people stripping the wealth from its people are not, by and large, city slickers who don’t turn a hair at a non-gendered bathroom, but their “friends” from Bentonville and other red-state redoubts.

Of course, Hillary was on the Walmart board for a while, so it’s probably all her fault.

Anyway, that’s a good essay. You should read it.

Not much bloggage today, but this: The Toronto van killer is a real piece of work, and of course, part of the men’s rights movement, although admittedly, on its fringes. If he hates women so much, he’s going to the right place to process those feelings.

It’s almost Wednesday. Where do these days go? See you back here in 48 hours or so.

Posted at 8:37 pm in Current events | 109 Comments

A wait for waffles.

People, you get 32 minutes of my time tonight. “Westworld” starts in …31 minutes now, and I’m committed to enjoying a little more entertainment in the form of fictional stories on page and screen. It really helps me relax more than just scrolling Twitter all weekend.

Still, reality intrudes.

By the time you read this, the latest development in the Waffle House shooting in Tennessee will be old news — that the gunman was enough of known lunatic that he’d actually been disarmed by the police after he tried to enter the White House, then re-armed by his father, to whom police had given the guns. Y’all can discuss that along with every talking head on cable news, but what I found most striking about the story is this: That the hero, James Shaw Jr., the man who tackled and disarmed the shooter, was at the second Waffle House he’d visited in the wee hours. His first choice, the Bell Road Waffle House, was full. At 2:30 a.m. So he and his friend walked to the Murfreesboro Pike Waffle House, where the shooting occurred at 3:20 a.m.

The Waffle House: Where the South Goes to Sober Up.

Every member Most members of this family is are filth awful people.* *Edited to exclude children, from whom hope for change springs eternal. I mean, every last one of their lazy, lying asses. Today, it’s Ivana:

She, too, is “very sad” about (Donald Jr. and Vanessa’s) split, but thinks her son will be fine. “Donald Jr. is a good-looking guy. He is successful. He is not going to have a problem to find a girl,” she said. “Maybe Vanessa might have a little problem because she has five kids… who is going to date and marry the woman who has five children? Especially since she is young [40] and she might want to have more.”

Ivana, the story later notes, has been married and divorced four times.

We haven’t had an OID story for a while, but this one is pretty-pretty OID:

A 34-year-old man was shot in the face early Sunday morning during a home invasion on Detroit’s east side, but managed to hit the suspect in the head with a two-by-four, Detroit police say.

Officers arrested the suspect as he was receiving medical attention at an area hospital.

Shot in the face, but still manages to brain his assailant with a two-by-four, whom the police arrest while he’s seeking treatment. I was hoping the shot guy spit out the bullet and refused further medical attention, but no. Still. That’s pretty damn tough.

Time’s up! Westworld awaits. Enjoy your week ahead, all.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events | 73 Comments

The earth moved.

So I’m sitting here, wondering what’s become of my life, why I just ate that cheeseburger, if anything super-good is ever going to happen to me again — you know, just basic end-of-winter self-pity — when what sounded like the world’s biggest truck went down the street. Like, GEM of Egypt big. Wendy popped her head up, the beams creaked, and the truck rumbled on down and, from the sound of it, blew the stop sign on the corner.

Ten seconds later, I got a text from a friend who lives two miles away. “Did your house just shake?”

It wasn’t a truck. It was an earthquake. A 3.6, to be specific. Epicenter was just across the river.

So the moral of the story is: Don’t sit on the couch feeling blue, because even the earth under your feet isn’t permanent. We never get earthquakes here. Except when we do.

Interesting bloggage today.

Not bragging, but I caught this video in the first few seconds; Jordan Peele gets the speech rhythms, but not quite the voice. Still, it’s funny, and the surrounding post is a good lesson for the coming era of fake everything.

Just another stop on Sarah Palin’s ongoing slide into the melting permafrost of Alaska. Soon she’ll be selling time shares.

A lesson in American election law:

With little fanfare, federal regulators took steps two weeks ago to kill a super PAC supporting former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

The Federal Election Commission’s letter of “administrative termination”—the formal process by which it shuts down a group’s operations—received no media attention whatsoever.

That’s because the super PAC was a joke. Perhaps the name gave it away.

“Blaze It for Delegate Jill Stein” didn’t spend a single cent during the 2016 election. If that wasn’t proof of its less-than-serious intentions, consider its origins.

On September 30, 2016, Charlie Baker of South Orange, New Jersey, took out a piece of lined paper, with hole punches in it, and wrote a handwritten application to form the committee. He was 14-years-old, in the middle of an 8th grade social studies in which the teacher had divided students into camps representing various presidential candidates.

Finally, we didn’t see Stormy last night. It started to sleet around showtime, the cover was $20, and if we wanted to sit down, another $40. Fortunately, the News sent one of their best writers.

Enjoy the weekend, all.

Posted at 9:47 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 68 Comments


I wish I could tell you the headline for this piece is about a new exercise habit, but no. We’ve been imprisoned for most of the weekend by the weather, which can’t even be called the typical late-winter Michigan sucker punch, as we’re nearly a month into spring AND THIS SHIT IS RIDICULOUS. If you live east of the Mississippi, chances are you are, too — the storm runs from Florida to the upper Midwest, and depending on your latitude, you can enjoy tornadoes, drenching rain, freezing rain, piles of snow, gusty winds, all of it.

We avoided the snow, but northern Michigan was buried. RainrainrainrainRAIN here all day Saturday, freezing rain overnight, then more RainrainrainrainRAIN all day Sunday. I should have gone to the Schvitz, but I baked bread and did laundry and read Laura Lippman’s newest via the Kindle app. The world’s critics speak as one: It’s very good. And I agree.

In between there was a wedding:

The groom is on Alan’s staff, so I was the plus-one, although I’ve met the couple earlier. The bride is a flight attendant, and was the first to tell me about the emotional support turkey she flew with. I post the photo because I’m so impressed by their wedding photographer, even though I suspect she may have been inspired by this earlier execution:

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

But choosing the Detroit Public Library, and its magnificent murals, as a setting was pretty great. It bookended how the weekend started, with a screening of “Beauty and Ruin” at the DIA, part of the Freep Film Festival. It was very good, not perfect, but far from terrible, a documentary about the battle over the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts during the city’s bankruptcy.

In between reading a new mystery, dolling myself up for the wedding, kneading bread and scowling at my flooded street, of course I tried to keep up with the news from Washington. I read the Adam Davidson piece in the New Yorker that someone posted, and I wish I could agree with it, but let’s face it — too many false alarms. He concludes:

Of course Trump is raging and furious and terrified. Prosecutors are now looking at his core. Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its partners around the world; he was chief consigliere and dealmaker throughout its period of expansion into global partnerships with sketchy oligarchs. He wasn’t a slick politico who showed up for a few months. He knows everything, he recorded much of it, and now prosecutors will know it, too. It seems inevitable that much will be made public. We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.

We’ll see.

Onward to the week, eh?

Posted at 5:43 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments