So, so done.

Great googly moogly, what a week. Illness, lots of work and here, at week’s end, my lovely daughter in the house, for band practice. She’s just staying the night, leaving in the a.m., but it’s nice to see her. We’re going to Ann Arbor this weekend to hear a brief bit of her original composition, which is on my calendar as “frog music.” Formal name: “The River in Our City, the River in Our Veins,” which the Facebook event page informs me is “processional puppetry.” Kate wrote 10 minutes of electronic music for the frog portion, which was supposed to play behind puppets depicting the lifespan of a frog, but not all the phases got made, so the piece got trimmed. I hope I get to see a tadpole puppet at the very least.

I’m looking forward to this.

The weather is supposed to cooperate, and IT FUCKING BETTER. We’re currently dodging a major snowstorm in northern Michigan, but enduring chill sideways rain that really sucks ass and I for one am so done with winter. The Tigers opening day is Friday, so all the happy baseball drunks will likely be enduring what’s known around here as “wintry mix.”

Fortunately, if you choose to stay in, there’s plenty to read. Shall we begin?

Mike Pence, gutted and filleted:

He began as a talk show host in 1994 in small-town Indiana, fulminating about the global warming “myth,” the perfidy of Washington, and the verities of an evangelical Christianity menaced by cosmopolites. Piety swiftly merged with pragmatism: ambitious for office, Pence learned what worked — an antichoice, antigay agenda served up with reckless rhetoric couched in a pose of rectitude. He informed his audience that Clarence Thomas was being “lynched,” and that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” A quarter-century later, Pence remains as small as his beginnings.

The flexibility of his conscience surfaced in his first race for Congress. He used campaign funds to pay for his mortgage, car, credit card, golf, and groceries. To smear his opponent, he sent a mailer depicting lines of cocaine; ran an ad portraying an Arab sheik; and spread a story that the Democrat was selling his farm to a nuclear waste facility. Only after losing, did Pence deploy an ostentatious show of guilt.

Only Richard North Patterson, who divides his time between Martha’s Vineyard and California (according to his Twitter bio) could call Indianapolis a small town, but we’ll give him that. Because otherwise, he’s dead-on.

A truly weird and dispiriting Columbia Journalism Review piece about a recent panel on “the new White House correspondents,” i.e., the alt-whatever freak show that Sean Spicer is making room for in the briefings:

(Gateway Pundit’s Lucian) Wintrich played the ringleader of his own one-man circus. He boasted of his big recent scoop, a supposed run-in with Malia Obama at a Manhattan club, where the underage former first daughter allegedly accosted him. “As a black belt, according to the American Taekwondo Association, I will never refuse a fight,” Wintrich said. The event moderator, Columbia Journalism School Professor Ari Goldman, pushed back that Wintrich’s culminating report, which included a picture of a woman’s shoulder, wasn’t matched by other news organizations.

“It was picked up by every major gossip site, thank you very much,” Wintrich said. “That picture of Malia Obama’s shoulder was shared over 100,000 times. That’s why I’m a good reporter. I will publish those Malia Obama shoulder pics. Whatever pics sort of enter into my peripheral, I will publish.”

Are you nauseous yet? No. This audio clip will take two minutes of your time — or you can read the transcript — and should do the trick: A couple of companies eager for that border-wall contract pitch what makes their wall plan great enough to be part of great-again America. I don’t want to spoil the punchline but what the hell, here you go:

Then there’s a Pennsylvania company which proposes a nuclear waste wall. Wall jumpers would encounter a 100-foot deep trench with the waste at the bottom.

I was screaming by that point. I need me this weekend, and I need it bad. I hope yours is lovely.

Posted at 8:33 pm in Current events | 111 Comments
 

Step into my bubble.

Gotta love a sick day when you barely leave your bed, but still get as much done as you would on those when you shower, get dressed, make up your face and interact with your co-workers in the flesh, rather than via the various electronic channels. And now more stuff awaits, a rewrite I would happily suffer a broken collarbone to get out of, but OK, not really.

Anyway, I put together a couple of links I hope you like, and I’m timing this to publish after they go live in the early morning hours Thursday.

As you may have noticed, Bridge is doing a yearlong Divided Michigan project, and Thursday’s installment is entertaining, if nothing else: We persuaded two parties, a gay couple in Ann Arbor and a rock-ribbed Trump voter in Troy, to switch their news bubbles for a week. The gay guys agreed to read the Drudge Report and listen to a talk-radio station called The Patriot, and the Trump voter was subjected to NPR, the New York Times and Jezebel. (Yeah, I know — a couple of dudes who read Jezebel? It is entertaining, I guess.)

I’ll let you ponder how it turned out. Spoiler: Not well. But it’s a good read.

And in the same spirit, there’s this Alex Pareene essay from one of the former Gawkers — Fusion, I guess. He points out the obvious, which anyone who’s had an older relative skate off the cliff will recognize:

If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.

Because there was a lot of money in it for various hucksters and moguls and authors and politicians, the conservative movement spent decades building up an entire sector of the economy dedicated to scaring and lying to older white men. For millions of members of that demographic, this parallel media dedicated to lying to them has totally supplanted the “mainstream” media. Now they, and we, are at the mercy of the results of that project. The inmates are running the asylum, if there is a kind of asylum that takes in many mostly sane people and then gradually, over many years, drives one subset of its inmates insane, and also this asylum has the largest military in the world.

Long, but absolutely worth your time. Gotta get on that rewrite at this end. Enjoy.

Posted at 6:30 am in Current events | 50 Comments
 

Dispatch from bed-desk.

I should have known this week was cursed on Monday. It took forever to get out of the house — forgot this, oops I need to put something in the crockpot, etc. And I lost my wallet. It fell out of my pocket as I was putting the dry cleaning into the car, part of my super-efficient early-Monday, after-workout routine. The good news is, it was found by a nice older man who was trying to find me in the White Pages (HA HA HA HA HA) when I realized what I’d done and raced back to the dry cleaner.

Some would see that as a glass-half-full good omen for the week, along with the chicken soup that turned out fine after I threw it together in the crockpot practically on my way out the door.

But I woke up Tuesday sick, and remain sick. Half a cold, kinda-fever, GI discomfort, nothing specific, just general malaise. (I’m the only person in the world who gets sick after eating chicken soup, evidently.) I relocated to Kate’s bed when Alan woke me at 3 a.m. to inform me I was snoring loud enough to wake the dead in cemeteries miles away. It was Kate’s bed instead of the guest room, because that bed is still strewn with tax documents, for the returns I have yet to finish.

So not a great week. so far. I have hopes for the remainder, as soon as I get this little mixed salad of bloggage served:

The Trumps — and the U.S. government, because who are we kidding about who paid for this — have access to the greatest photographers on the planet, and this is what some Belgian guy woman serves up for the first lady’s official portrait:

Of course Twitter is beside itself over this. Glamour Shots has been invoked, as has Olan Mills. I keep looking at it, wondering why a 46-year-old woman with classic Slavic bone structure and piercing blue eyes, not to mention access to the finest makeup and makeup artists in New York City, would approve a soft-lens product that you’d use on a pimply 17-year-old for her senior picture. I wonder if that’s a layer of subtext, the fogging of the lens that symbolizes her fundamental iciness and, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm for her new job. I’m fascinated by the background, which doesn’t say White House at all. (Although I think it is the White House; that looks like the window over the door on the Pennsylvania Avenue side.) And of course I see that Natasha always puts her hands in show-the-diamond position, her way of saying it was all worth it, all the humiliation, all the cheating, all the nights spent next to an old man who, having caught you, now barely acknowledges your existence, because this is her ring, and not yours.

Like I said, I’ve been sick. My mind gets sorta weird when its feverish. UPDATE: As usual, Robin Givhan has something smarter to say.

Also, there is this, and it is funny.

Back to work. Yes, I’m working. You think a sick day means couch time and Netflix? Ha ha ha ha ha.

Posted at 10:57 am in Current events | 44 Comments
 

Pratfall.

A glorious weekend, gloriousness mitigated only somewhat by having to spend 50 percent of it at workish activity, but oh well. I’ll just have to finish my taxes during the week sometime. But I got in the first bike ride of the season, which was preceded by a humiliating fall.

I pumped up the tires in both bikes and took them for around-the-block spins, just to see if there was anything that required immediate attention. Both were fine, but as I brought the road bike in for a landing, I realized too late that I’d clipped in, which meant my feet were attached to the pedals and I couldn’t twist them free in time to get one down. When this happens you basically fall over on your side, which is not as scary or disaster-tempting as going over the handlebars, but still hurts, especially when you fall onto your garage floor. I’m going to have at least one bruise tomorrow, maybe a few.

No one was there to witness my humiliation except Wendy. And she can’t talk.

Let’s hope that’s the worst the season has to offer me. I went down to the river on my usual one-hour circuit and checked out the creeping gentrification in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. A co-working space opened over the winter, a sure sign that the hipsters are coming. But there’s still a great bar I discovered only recently, so fingers crossed all is not lost yet, even if they now have a coffee shop and bike lanes.

And on the drive to Lansing, I started the S-town podcast, about which I will surely have more to say, eventually.

But not before I say something about Bill O’Reilly, serial sexual harasser, whose sordid history with female underlings was covered rather comprehensively in the NYT over the weekend. I will say what I’ve been saying a lot lately: These are repulsive people, and seeing O’Reilly’s smug face on the same page with Roger Ailes’ jowls only serves to remind me what these guys’ world is: Powerful, rich, awful men and their cocktail-dress brigade of sweet young things, mostly mistresses and side pieces. Reading it made me mad at everybody — O’Reilly, Ailes, every lawyer involved, the women who walk willingly into these jobs for whatever reason. May they all fall into the abyss.

Things aren’t going so well for the young and used-up down in Trump country, but they have their fingers crossed they can get on disability. A sad story.

With that, our day begins…with rain. Fine. At least we got two days of sun, going into it.

Have a good one, all.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events | 65 Comments
 

Until death do you part.

The other day I told Alan that if I opened a dog restaurant, I’d call it The Bowl. Or maybe just Bowl. More modern, that one. He replied that if he opened a dog restaurant, it’d be fine dining, and he’d call it Squirrel.

We will have been married 24 years in May, ladies and gentlemen. This is what we’ve been reduced to. Dog restaurants and complaining about the president.

What would a cat restaurant be called? Can Opener.

Doing better today, thanks. Got more sleep last night, for starters, and had a great swim this morning. My insomnia is worse than it’s been in a long time, and I’m not sure why. However, I do know that the first way you treat it is to get your shit right, your ducks in a row and just take better care of yourself. (A little melatonin can help, although it didn’t this week.) Do that before you call the doc for sleep meds. So, lentil soup for dinner, just one glass of wine, and all was better.

And then I woke up this morning and read all about Karen Pence, America’s second lady. He keeps a separate landline phone on his desk that only she has the number to. They exercised in the Indiana governor’s mansion on side-by-side treadmills (ugh, treadmills — go for a run outside, Pences!). And this startling detail:

In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.

I recognize this as a cornerstone of the “marriage retreats” someone in Indiana was always throwing. The takeaway from these is always to concentrate more on one another, and avoid even the occasion of sin by not having separate lives beyond what is absolutely necessary. While on the one hand I understand the impulse — one of the few beliefs I hold in common with most evangelicals is to focus more on your marital relationship than your children — I don’t believe this python-like, wrapped-together model is healthy, either. As the great Esther Perel counsels, if you don’t get some distance, even just psychological distance, you will absolutely lose your fire. It’s a paradox, yes, but true.

And pro tip: If just sitting across a lunch table tempts you away from your marriage, man, you have more problems than I can advise you on.

Yesterday I told you about Dustin and the Olds, aka all his favorite bands, not one of which has an average age younger than Medicare eligibility. So enjoy this story about adjacent demi-celebrity Old wife that he passed along today:

Donna Betts, wife of founding member of the Allman Brothers Dickey Betts, was arrested after deputies claimed a video showed her standing on her dock, aiming a 30-30 Winchester rifle at a high school rowing crew threatening to shoot them.

What I found most alarming was the mugshot:

Ever since I started covering my gray hair with color, I knew the day would come when I would tip into Ronald Reagan territory, where the hair was such a mismatch with the face that it would be jarring. Every time I get a touchup, I ask my colorist: “Is it time to start transitioning to silver? Soon? Next year?” She always says no. I suspect she’s starting to fib a little. Hey, we can’t all be like Deborah with her icy-white fabulousness.

Back to brainstorming dog restaurant names. Or horses! How about Hay, Baby?

Posted at 6:28 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 96 Comments
 

Scraps and notes.

An all-links piece tonight, sorry. I had a full, long and busy day, and am working on a story, and it’s going …fairly well. Y’all might even like it. But right now it’s after 9 p.m. and I just want to shovel some links out and go to bed.

Hoosiers! Remember when the state didn’t observe Daylight Saving Time and every year we talked talked talked it to death? And how perhaps one good thing Mitch Daniels did was ram it through the legislature? Well, Michigan is regressing in that direction, or at least there’s a bill in the legislature and it’s getting a little attention. I don’t think it’ll pass, but reading my colleague’s story about it? It made me feel…12 years younger. Because stories like this ran every year.

My young friend Dustin loves to see “the olds,” as he calls the music stars of my youth, and I am old enough to be Dustin’s mother. In fact, I am older than Dustin’s mother, and now that we have that out of the way, Dustin! Someday an experience like this will happen:

Few concert experiences are more dispiriting than watching a proven artist flounder onstage. Especially when the performer happens to be an icon. His glory days behind him, Kris Kristofferson played a 95-minute show Wednesday at a sold-out City Winery that engendered feelings of pity, discomfort and bewilderment. Witnessing the 80-year-old singer-songwriter/actor struggle to get through even a single verse without mistakes raised the question of why he chose the solo route — and put his dignity at risk.

This weekend he spotted Exene Cervenka in Detroit, and chatted her up. It’s like Pokemon Go for him.

The semiotics of the all-male Trumpian photo op. Disturbing:

At some point, we have to ask: Is this really a pattern of errors? Maybe these aren’t tone-deaf mistakes at all, but intentional messages to right-wing supporters.

…Of course, the reality behind the photo is nearly as disturbing as the image itself. There weren’t many women in that room because the Freedom Caucus appears to be almost entirely male. Women make up less than nine percent of congressional Republicans. President Trump’s cabinet is the most white and male in 35 years. Among his top staff members, men outnumber women two to one. From the top of the Republican Party on down, men run the show; there just aren’t enough women for every photo.

Yet this, too, is a choice, and it also sends a message about the party’s values and to whom it appeals. Republicans bank on a white male voter base that is shrinking demographically, yet they are making no real effort to broaden their appeal, perhaps counting on voter suppression to make it harder for likely Democratic voters to cast their ballots, and simultaneously throwing red meat to the men they need to turn out to carry them to victory.

Finally, Dexter is fine! He writes:

…just busy here with a massive spring cleaning, for which we had to hire two cleaning ladies as Carla Lee has cataract surgeries (one tomorrow) and next month her second knee replacement. This is the total job here, from wall washing to carpet scrubbing to emptying and sorting every shelf and cabinet and donating ten big garbage bags of out-of-date clothing, coats, boots and such. I am just going to wait until next year to do the same to the garage.

We care about each other at this blog, folks.

Posted at 9:40 pm in Current events | 65 Comments
 

No sleep until 46.

I swear, when this presidency is over, I’m going to turn off Twitter, turn off Facebook, turn off this damn blog (for a while, anyway). And I’m going to go to a cabin in the woods with a nice wood stove or fireplace. I’m going to bring a stack of novels and Vogue magazines. And you won’t see me until I’m damn good and ready.

This shit is exhausting. Even on a “good” weekend, it’s almost impossible to keep up with everything. The analyses. (Very good one there.) The outrages. (Very outrageous one, yes.) The WTF-we-are-doomed / thanks-deplorables reports from the field.

This was a wonderful read — a dispatch from Trump country that somehow wasn’t about politics — but of course you couldn’t help thinking about whether this event, a free-for-all amateur boxing…thing, would even exist if the whole county wasn’t poor as dirt and has nothing better to to:

One weekend every March, almost every resident in this town crowds the tan-and-gray bleachers of the local armory to watch their friends and neighbors beat each other bloody. The boxing-brawling event — known as “The Rough N Rowdy” — draws more than 2,000 spectators a night in a 3,000-person city nestled so deep in the mountains that your cellphone won’t ring. The winners leave with a trophy, a jacket and a check for $1,000 — the same take-home as a few weeks of soot-covered work in the local mines.

“People love violence. You’ve got a bunch of people down here who just want to show they’re a badass,” said Breyer Morgan, 21, who has been coming to the fights since he was a little boy and has worked the bell at the event for the past three years. “They see that $1,000, and you’ve got people coming out of the woodwork. There is nothing else to do out here … and that $1,000, that’s a whole lot of beer, man.”

And the above is only a fraction of the reading I did this weekend, very little of it recreational.

Gray and overcast, and I’m starting to get peevish about it. But the financial well refilled with Friday’s payday, Kate blew through for a quick visit/practice sesh with her band, we had Chinese takeout with friends in their brand-new house and so there was very little to complain about, all things considered. A few pounds found their way back into the house over the long winter, and I’m setting about shooing them back out. I’m finding the question, “What am I really hungry for?” is useful. Sometimes I just need a glass of water and 15 minutes of quiet time.

Any other bloggage? Well, let’s see here…

You could read Mitch Albom’s modest, self-effacing column marking the 20th anniversary of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” if you like. I don’t recommend it, but maybe, like me, you enjoy a good hate-read.

Tanned, rested and ready, the Obamas enter their next chapter. Not a minute too soon:

…While other recent ex-presidents have devoted their retirement years to apolitical, do-gooder causes, Obama is gearing up to throw himself into the wonky and highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines Democrats experienced under his watch.

Both the continued interest in Obama and his desire to remain engaged in civic life place him in an unusual position for a former president. George W. Bush left office with low approval rates, retreating to Dallas to write a memoir and take up painting. Bill Clinton decamped for New York on a somewhat higher note politically but downshifted to a mission of building his family’s foundation and supporting his wife’s political career.

Can the Obamas put their heads down and build their ambitious presidential center while living only blocks from the White House? Or is it inevitable that the former president will get pulled back into the political swamp?

Time to make dinner, make a to-do list, maybe watch some Jack Russell videos.

Posted at 5:42 pm in Current events | 46 Comments
 

Sorry for scarcity.

My week usually starts at a gallop and slows to a trot, but this was pretty much a good brisk canter Monday through Friday. Last night was a Thing, a dinner, and early this morning was another Thing, and now it’s the almost-weekend, and you guys need, if nothing else, a fresh comment thread.

The debate over the health-care bill is still going on, although it appears pretty much dead in the House. Some Republicans think it punishes too many people, and a significant number think it doesn’t punish enough. Now that’s what I call a winning coalition, but hey — whatever works.

And things are not likely to get any better from here on out.

I interviewed this author on another matter, but in the course of poking around his website for a photo I found this piece, about the launch and almost immediate failure of Melania Trump’s skincare line. Of course I was entranced when I realized the story included the Hilberts, the Indianapolis version of the Trumps, if Melania had been an exotic dancer at Eric or Don Jr.’s bachelor party.

So that’s worth a read. A good weekend to all, guys. I have yet more work to do.

Posted at 3:45 pm in Current events | 47 Comments
 

The end of the rope.

I am having a moment of ass-chapping here, in that my ass is feeling rather chapped. Why? Because Princess Ivanka is moving into the West Wing, and I’m cocking my head and holding my hand to my ear to hear the screams of protest from conservatives, and whaddaya know? Nothing. None of the people who howled when Hillary Clinton was occasionally stopping into the Oval for a reason other than to ask the POTUS’ opinion on upholstery swatches are saying a word today.

Many of these same people were all over the media at the time, similarly up in arms at the idea that a mother who wasn’t an actual welfare recipient might want to work for a living. “Cut out those manicures and pantyhose, and you won’t need a second job,” they’d say. “Kids love macaroni and cheese.” Admittedly, the 2008 crash crushed the idea that any person who puts a career on hold isn’t risking a terrible financial setback down the road, or that a one-income family can just float along forever as though they haven’t gotten rid of their safety net, and that more or less crushed the mommy wars, but I’m still pissed. If there’s one person who should feel completely secure in delegating a career to an underling and going home to raise one’s three small children, it ought to be the rich daughter of a rich man, whose husband is also rich and whose fashion empire is basically just Chinese crap and not exactly haute couture.

And now one is going to the White House, but hey, freedom. And it’s 25 years later. We’ve evolved.

I shouldn’t hold a grudge, but I do.

And I can’t even with these people anymore.

David Ignatius on a reality we can only hope to see:

The House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday marked the end of the opening installment of “The President,” the must-watch reality/horror show that has transfixed the nation and the world. Now the plot gets more serious, perhaps darker, with some new characters likely to emerge in key national-security roles.

President Trump should be less of a stage hog going forward, and his Twitter storms less intense. He is often described as a narcissist, but he’s not suicidal. He knows he has been rebuffed in a public hearing that he can’t ridicule as “fake news.” With his approval rating below 40 percent, he needs to broaden his base. Trump wants to disrupt, but he also wants to succeed.

John Hinckley is out of prison, but don’t read anything into the juxtaposition. I just thought it was interesting. Hardly any mental patients get serious inpatient care anymore.

Happy Wednesday, then.

Posted at 9:01 pm in Current events | 81 Comments
 

Stuff happens, some of it big.

What do you call a day with three hours of meetings? (With an extra hour for management, plus driving, plus some of another meeting?) Long, that’s what. So here I am at the keys, thinking: I’m not into this.

On the other hand, so much news today. The big news! More news: Right-wing Barbie suspended for thinking independently. And then, of course, the SCOTUS hearing process began.

Isn’t that enough to discuss for 24 hours? I hope so, because I don’t have much more.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events | 45 Comments